Home and Exile, Center and Periphery: Ambivalent Journeys in the Torah

By :  Benjamin D. Sommer Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages Posted On Jun 14, 2021 / 5781 | A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined Monday Webinar

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Part of the series, “A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined”

The theme of the journey—to home, and from home—plays a prominent role in the Torah. But repeatedly, these stories force us to wonder what is home and what is exile. Join Dr. Benjamin Sommer to read narratives from Genesis and Exodus that present a tangled-up view of center and periphery. This persistent ambivalence about the nature of a journey carries weighty implications for biblical understandings of God as nearby but hard to grasp, and about authority and autonomy in religious Judaism. 


As the pandemic surged and forced us into our homes, many of us dreamed with new intensity of being elsewhere. For Jews throughout the ages, the promises and perils of travel have been central to shaping the individual and collective experience. Notions of home and homeland have been redefined by Jewish wandering. Drawing on literary, spiritual, and historical sources and responses, JTS scholars explore what happens when Jews—whether by force or voluntarily, whether in reality or in the imagination—travel from one place to another. 

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