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Group Read Selection

Masking and Unmasking Ourselves

Interpreting Biblical Texts on Clothing & Identity

Dr. Norman J. Cohen

6 x 9, 224 pp, Hardcover


Large Print edition also available from



Our clothes conceal our naked bodies but what do they reveal about our souls?

“Clothes assume a primary importance as a vehicle that suggests character, provides insights into a person’s identity and even governs it…. But the problem is that if Oscar Wilde is correct that ‘if you give a man a mask, he will tell you the truth,’ then what exactly conveys the truth? Is it the person him or herself or is it the mask, the clothing that he or she wears, that reveals deeper images of self?”

—from the Introduction

In this highly engaging look at clothing and identity in the Bible, renowned teacher and scholar Norman Cohen presents ten Bible stories that involve clothing in an essential way, as a means of learning about the text, its characters and their interactions. But he also shows us how these stories help us confront our own life dramas, our own stories, ourselves. In doing so, he once again presents the Bible as a mirror, reflecting back to us our own personalities, ambivalences, struggles and potential for growth. By helping us uncover the garments of the Bible, Cohen shows us how to shed our own layers of insulation to reveal our authentic selves.

“With eye-popping surprises on almost every page, Cohen invites us to reconsider our own disguises (and any visit to the tailor)!”

Lawrence Kushner, Emanu-El Scholar, Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco; author, I’m God; You’re Not: Observations on Organized Religion and Other Disguises of the Ego

“A compassionate meditation on the human condition … Cohen again demonstrates that Torah is the appropriate dressing to cure the ailment of Adam’s mortality.”

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, The Jewish Theological Seminary; author, Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder from the Rabbis of the Talmud

“Succeeds in offering a psychological approach to the biblical stories.... Will appeal to those interested in learning how biblical and rabbinical tales can teach contemporary lessons.”

The Reporter

“Long have we waited for an illuminating study of the biblical mystique of clothes. Thanks now to the lively and thoughtful prose of Cohen, we wait no more.”

Phyllis Trible, Baldwin Professor of Sacred Literature, Emerita, Union Theological Seminary

“Brilliantly informative…. Holds up a mirror and prompts us to reflect on whether the world sees us as we see ourselves.”

Peter J. Rubinstein, senior rabbi, Central Synagogue, New York City

“From Scripture to Shakespeare, Cohen weaves an extended creative midrash ... covering and uncovering layers of meaning in ancient texts.”

Rabbi Judith Z. Abrams, author, The Other Talmud—The Yerushalmi: Unlocking the Secrets of The Talmud of Israel for Judaism Today

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