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Dreams of Being Eaten Alive, subtitled "The Literary Core of the Kaballah", is a book by American Jewish writer David Rosenberg. It is, as the title suggests, a book on Kabbalah, mostly on the Zohar. The book consists of an introduction, some translations that Mr. Rosenberg made from sections of the Zohar, and then a conclusion.

In many ways, I found this book a mess. Which, for books on Kabbalah, is about par for the course, although each one tends to be a mess in a different way. The author makes lots of asides about Oprah, and alligators, and the basic thesis of the book, unveiled in steps, and especially in the middle translations, is that the Zohar has a central theme of oral sadism and sexual guilt and shame, which of course is also a metaphor for our relationship with divinity. I personally don't hold to such a Freudian reading of spiritual texts, and Mr. Rosenberg doesn't seem to explain how his selection of Zohar texts relates to the whole, since there are many texts to choose from.

But I still find this book valuable for one reason, which can be told from the subtitle. This is a book about the literary reading of the Zohar. This is best explained by the author himself when he says, "Imagine that Dante's great work was known primarily for its medieval theology while the power of its poetry was ignored" . In other words, instead of reading the Zohar merely to extract the myriad diagrams from it, rather than reading it as a story. The book is about one particular reading of the Kaballah as a literary story, rather than as a book of secrets. It is a nice change from the many books on Kabbalah which I have read which try to suggest, for example, which Sefira is meant to represent which Greek God, or color, or sign of the zodiac.

Even though the particular somewhat Freudian subject matter he chooses to describe is not what I might describe, and even though his writing style is somewhat haphazard, I still think it is a very good idea that the Zohar should be read as literature, not as a secret manual.

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