Sandy Eisenberg Sasso is the best-selling author of many classic books for children, including In God's Name and God's Paintbrush, each of which has sold 100,000 copies, and most recently Butterflies Under Our Hats. Sasso was ordained from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia in 1974, becoming at that time only the second woman in the world to become a rabbi, and she earned her Doctor of Ministry degree from Christian Theological Seminary. She co-leads Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis with her husband, Dennis.
The ancient rabbis believed that the Torah was divinely inspired and filled with a diversity of meanings. Their commentaries on Genesis and other books are open to many interpretations. In this edifying resource, Sasso takes a cross-cut of stories from the Torah and examines their multiple meanings. She notes: "God delights in the human imagination. No one person can claim to hold the key to unlock what God intended, because what God intended was for each generation to read its story into the text." The author invites us as readers to savor the words of the rabbinic sages and then to enter into dialogue with them to probe the meanings of these stories.
In a chapter on God's revelation of the Ten Commandments on Sinai, Sasso delves into the idea that revelation takes place all the time. Then she examines the Creation story, Cain and Abel and blame, Abraham and Isaac and angels, Abraham and finding holiness in unexpected places, the miracle of the Exodus and taking risks for freedom, the Pharaoh's daughter and loving the stranger, Adam and getting through the night, and Miriam's dance and the sound of hope.
Sasso adds her own personal stories to these accounts. Here is one she relates to the revelation at Mt. Sinai:
"We expect revelation to come from mountaintops. Amidst the audiovisual fireworks of Sinai, it is hard to miss the divine. But the rabbis wonder about the less-than-spectacular landscapes, ordinary moments, events of everyday life. When the sacred doesn't shout, how do we notice it?
"I once visited the rain forest in Costa Rica. During our forest tour, the guide introduced us to a variety of birds, butterflies, and plants. At one point, he stopped to point out an exotic bird, the quetzal. 'I can't see it!' I exclaimed. He extended a hand to direct my vision and said in a whisper, 'Look right over there.'
"I still couldn’t see it. I was growing irritated and frustrated, since it seemed that everyone around me did see it and were saying things like, 'Wow! Incredible!'
"The guide placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. 'Stay very quiet, don't move, be patient, and keep looking straight ahead.' I finally did as directed and then I saw it an extraordinarily beautiful bird with iridescent colors hidden among the dense growth of the trees."