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The Unbinding of Isaac

A Phenomenological Midrash of Genesis 22


Stephen J. Stern

In The Unbinding of Isaac, Stephen J. Stern upends traditional understandings of this controversial narrative through a phenomenological midrash or interpretation of Genesis 22 from the Dialogic and Jewish philosophies of Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and, most notably, Emmanuel Levinas. With great originality, Dr. Stern intersects Jewish studies, Biblical studies, and philosophy in a literary/midrashic style that challenges traditional Western philosophical epistemology. Through the biblical narrative of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca, Dr. Stern explains that Rosenzweig, Buber, and Levinas Judaically exercise and offer an alternative epistemic orientation to the study of ethics than that of traditional Western or Hellenic-Christian philosophy. The Unbinding of Isaac makes the works of these three thinkers accessible to those outside philosophy and Jewish studies while also introducing readers to the playfulness of how Jewish tradition midrashically addresses the Bible.


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Acknowledgments xix


Acknowledgments would not have written this without the support and friendship of Laura Stahman. I am forever in the debt of Cheyney Ryan for introduc- ing me to Levinas and Derrida, not to mention for his friendship. With- out the editorial help and friendship of Cyndi Phillips, I would not have completed a sentence. Charles "Buz" Myers has been a source of strength in writing this, not to mention he gave me all the room and departmental support needed to complete this work. I also give thanks to Carol Priest. Sandor Goodhart and Claire Katz's influence on my style/method is throughout this book. Their approach and style-along with Avivah Zorn- berg's work - showed me that philosophical midrashing is not only doable, but important. Temma Berg is always on my list of those for whom I'm grateful. As is Don Levi. And Daniel DeNicola. I am more than grateful to Yudit Greenberg for her work, editorial guidance and friendship. Most im- portantly, I owe more than gratitude to Rachel Kirtner. But for now, I say, "Thank you!" Most importantly, I am grateful to my three older sisters and parents: Beth, Lora and Ellen; my mother Carol; and my father Alvin. The women of my family truly exposed me to the spirit of Sarah and the wisdom and hos- pitality of Rebecca. My father taught me to listen to them. I

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