Listening to the
Heart of Genesis

by Rabbi Leila Gal Berner

For those seeking a fresh, contemporary approach to the stories and themes of Genesis, this book offers an inspiring gateway into the heart of the ancient text. Both newcomers and seasoned readers will benefit from Rabbi Leila Gal Berner’s invitation to personal contemplation. Basing her work on a Christian method of reading Scripture – lectio divina (reading the holy) – Rabbi Berner’s adaptation for Jews as kriat ha-kodesh (reading the sacred) is welcoming and accessible to readers of all faiths.

After retelling each story from a very human perspective, Rabbi Berner advances rabbinic perspectives that have illuminated each biblical saga over the centuries. In addition, she brings the text to life with contemporary stories of real people whose experiences echo the biblical stories. A final section to each chapter suggests probing questions for personal contemplation and meditation, which can be used both by individual readers as part of a spiritual practice and also by groups of spiritual seekers. Group leaders will find a helpful facilitator’s guide to structure their sessions. Beginning with Rabbi Berner’s own classes, groups have formed throughout North America using her method.

“Rabbi Leila Gal Berner invites seekers of all faiths to engage their hearts and minds with the endlessly intriguing narratives of Genesis. Guided by her innovative approach, we discover how the struggles of ancient Hebrew Bible characters can directly inform our own contemporary life challenges. These stories, accompanied by probing questions for contemplation, will touch the hearts of anyone wishing to enrich their own spiritual journey. Readers will welcome the opportunity to encounter Genesis with fresh eyes.”
Rabbi Marcia Prager

Dean, ALEPH, Alliance for Jewish Renewal Ordination Program

“Rabbi Leila Gal Berner’s book makes a lovely contribution to opening the Torah contemplatively to people of all backgrounds and levels of  belief. Her writing reveals the depth of her spirit and the breadth of her erudition.”
Rabbi Howard Avruhm Addison, Ph.D.

Author of Show Me Your Way: The Complete Guide to Exploring Interfaith Spiritual Direction.

“Rabbi Leila Gal Berner guides us – believers and non-believers alike – on a deep contemplative journey through the Book of Genesis, opening gateways of heart, spirit and soul to surprising discoveries of profound personal meaning. This is a book for all who seek to explore their own inner ‘text’ through words of Torah. As you walk this path with Rabbi Leila, your heart might just gently open! What a blessing!”
Rabbi Dr. Zalman, Schachter-Shalomi z”l

Founder of the movement for Jewish Renewal, author of The Geologist of the Soul and Gate to the Heart: A Manual of Contemplative Jewish Practice

“Wherever we are on our own journeys, Rabbi Leila Gal Berner welcomes us to join her into a deep, spiritual consideration of how biblical texts can open new and challenging paths in our lives. Berner’s scholarship illuminates every page of this accessible volume, which presents a unique and innovative approach to reading and living Jewish text.”
Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell

Co-editor of Chapters of the Heart: Jewish Women Sharing the Torah of Our Lives and The Open Door: A Passover Haggadah

“The process that Rabbi Leila Gal Berner offers in her book – the text, midrashic teachings and guiding questions helped me reflect and focus attention on what is most important in my life. I recommitted to slowing down, listening more carefully and concentrating to appreciate the good that surrounds me.”
Rabbi Julie K. Gordon

“We live in a moment of interspirituality where contemplative practices rooted in one faith are shared among seekers of all faiths and none. Rabbi Leila Gal Berner’s Listening to the Heart of Genesis brings the magic of Ignatius’ Lectio Divina to the deep mystery of Torah revealing new dimensions of an ancient text. This book is an invitation to discover your own way into the Bible. Accept it; you will not be disappointed.”
Rabbi Rami Shapiro

Author of Embracing the Divine Feminine: Song of Songs Annotated and Explained

“For Jews who long to enrich their daily life with the depth and wonder of Torah, for fellow travelers who have long felt that there is a life-changing power in the stories of the Hebrew Bible, these pages are your guide. Rabbi Berner introduces us to kriat-ha kodesh – “reading the holy” with a mixture of autobiographical, rabbinical, and midrashic wisdom. The result is a book that gives insights on every page, and a deep practice that can inspire and carry us.”
Laurie L Patton

President, Middlebury College

“Rabbi Berner’s Listening to the Heart of Genesis breathes life into Torah and into sacred texts. from all traditions. With a method of reading the holy into the text of our own lives, this book teaches its readers and practitioners through a process of illumination, self-reflection, deeper wholeness and integration. It is an essential tool for spiritual leaders, clinicians, and educators. For those of us who are committed to moving into a rich landscape of personal reflection and repair via the Bible, Rabbi Berner provides a clear and engaging path.”
Rabbi Rochelle Robins

Dean of the Chaplaincy, School Director of Clinical Pastoral Education,The Academy for Jewish Religion, CA

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Rabbi Leila Gal Berner

Rabbi Leila Gal Berner

Rabbi Leila Gal Berner was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and holds a second ordination from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (of blessed memory). She received her doctorate in medieval Jewish history from UCLA. She is Dean of Students of the ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Ordination where she teaches biblical and medieval history, feminist thought, and midrash. Dr. Berner has taught in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at American University and George Washington and Emory universities, and Swarthmore and Reed colleges.

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