Writing this book has been a return, with a difference, to a subject that has always fascinated me. In the context of the larger biblical narrative, Moses as both “man of God” and, simply, as “the man Moses” has been with me throughout my teaching and my writing life. The difference in approaching this project is the challenge of confronting the “biographical” dimension of the subject. A “life of Moses” is, in the usual sense, impossible. Moses looms too large in traditional Jewish thought, veering often toward the allegorical, the irreducibly Other. Writing a “human life” of this unknowable figure seemed to brush against the impossible.
I therefore owe a special debt of gratitude to Steven Zipperstein for inviting me to participate in the Yale University Press series of Jewish Lives and, more importantly, for persisting in his invitation in the face of my hesitations. His warm support of my unusual approach to biography made it possible for me to conceive of this book. Anita Shapira added her voice in encouraging me to write about Moses. As coeditors of the series and outstanding scholars, Steven and Anita honored me with their openness to my work.
I am grateful, too, to the many friends and students in Jerusalem and abroad who expressed interest and shared ideas as I was moving ahead with the writing. I want to single out Betsy Rosenberg for her deep readings of the chapters as they emerged—in fine exchange, she offered me her newborn poems; and my agent, Sharon Friedman, whose vivid intelligence mirrored my work back to me. I also want to acknowledge the patient and expert guidance of Ileene Smith and the editorial department at Yale University Press. In particular, I am grateful to Paul Betz for his careful copyediting. And, as always, I want to thank my good friends, Adele and Ron Tauber, for their warm hospitality during my lecture tours in the United States: they have given me a hub for my many flights across the American continent. In Jerusalem, the Matan Institute, the Israel Centre, and Beit Avi Chai have hosted my lectures; while the London School of Jewish Studies has graciously invited me, year after year, to address its students. These lectures and the connection they offered with varied audiences have stimulated my thinking on Moses the man.
Above all, I am grateful to my husband, Eric, for his daily presence in my life. Through his constant loving companionship (not to speak of his inspired cooking) he gives me time and space to absorb myself in learning, teaching, and writing. Eric and our children, Bracha, Yarden, and Avi, together with their partners, Paul, Yael, and Tali, and their children, Miriam, Aluma, Zohar, Shuvi, Yasmine, and Amir, form an abundant world; they each bring their vitality, wit, and beauty to bless my life.