Start With The Facts
Genesis: The Untold Story
By: Dr. Lisa Aiken and Dr. Ira Michaels
Cloth Bound, 6x9,
265 pages, includes chapter summaries
Published by: Rossi Publications
1 - How did you get interested in the topic that's featured in your book?
Like many Jews, I read the Five Books of Moses when I was young. When I grew older, the stories about a talking snake in the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the like no longer made a lot of sense to me. By the time I was in graduate school, I realized that I had a grade school education in Judaism, and I wanted to be as informed about Judaism as I was about psychology and other secular topics. There were no good books in English that reconciled reality with the stories in the Torah, and which explained how these stories spoke to us as modern people.
The stories in the book of Genesis seem especially simplistic or enigmatic. Why does Genesis say that God created the world in 6 days, when science shows that it took billions of years? Can we believe Genesis' account of Creation in light of evolutionary theory? Was there ever a couple named Adam and Eve, from whom all people descended? How do thinking people understand a Garden of Eden with a tree of life, another tree of knowledge of good and evil, and a talking snake? How do we know if Abraham really existed? If he did, what kind of a world did he live in? Did anyone write about him besides the Jews? Most importantly, can a rational person really believe that a Divine Author wrote Genesis and the other Five Books of Moses?
Many people simply dismiss Biblical stories as outdated or ridiculous. I believed that there must be great beauty and wisdom in them, and I tried to uncover it by learning from teachers who had studied ancient commentaries and understood how to explain them.
I believe that if Torah is the Owner's Manual for every Jew, it had to make sense and be relevant and accessible to people who were not scholars. Most Jews can't understand the original Torah, because it was written in ancient Hebrew, and in a kind of shorthand. Its Author did this so that we would have to rely on spiritual mentors who had studied traditional commentaries who could explain what the Five Books of Moses really mean. They would also guide the person who studies Torah to put it into practice in their daily lives.
Judaism teaches that understanding the Five Books of Moses is critically important to our spiritual development. If so, I wanted to understand these books better myself, and be able to share that knowledge with others.
Around 25 years ago, I started listening to audiotapes of lectures given by rabbis whom I had never met. They explained the Torah (Five Books of Moses) in such amazing ways that it made me want to learn more and more. Their explanations of these stories were so wise, so insightful, and so relevant, I wrote down their ideas so that I could share them with others.
In time, I convinced my husband to listen to these tapes as well. He was so moved and excited by what he heard that he took over writing down the ideas instead of me.
Over the next 14 years, I reworked the original notes. My husband and I each added our own understanding and insights about the various topics brought to light in the Genesis stories, based on our research and knowledge of many fields. These included biology, physics, archaeology, history, psychology and modern life. The result was a book that integrated the wisdom of Genesis with modern knowledge. Every chapter also tells us how we can apply the moral and spiritual insights of each story to our daily lives.
2 - Tell us a bit about your background. What have you done in the past that relates to your book and that topic?
I am a psychologist, Israeli tour guide, author of 8 Judaica books, and am an international speaker on topics of Jewish interest. My husband has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry, is a medical doctor, and studies Torah, Talmud and their commentaries. We have traveled the world and have studied many fields, including art, music, history, political science, literature, languages, world religions, and biology—to name a few. Together, we blended our knowledge in these many areas to draw out insights from the stories of Genesis, and suggest how readers can apply those ideas to our spiritual growth.
3 - What advice would you give to someone who is interested in your topic?
The best way to become informed about the Torah is to study it with a guide that knows how to understand its deeper meanings. Today, people can study Torah in online classes, download audio lectures or MP3s, attend local Judaism classes, or study more intensively in a yeshiva or women's seminary.
After reading my book, people can also contact me on my blog if they want to ask questions, or seek further information about resources. [ADAM, PUT THE BLOG INFO HERE]
4 -Who is the ideal person to read your book?
Someone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the book of Genesis. Someone who is interested in putting aside simplistic ideas that they might have learned in Sunday School or even in university, or who wants to gain deeper insights even though they are knowledgeable about traditional commentaries.
Judaism teaches that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people, and Christians also accept the Five Books of Moses as divine. God is able to speak to every person--children and adults, intellectuals as well as people who learn with their hearts. Readers of our book could include observant or non-observant Jews, totally secular people, and non-Jews. They would all be curious and want to expand their knowledge about how God's Book is eternal, and still speaks to us today. Readers will be able to see how science, archaeology, history, and the like inform our understanding of Genesis, and how Genesis deepens our understanding of ourselves, the world and its Creator.
5. If each person who reads this was going to recommend your book to one person, what sort of person would they want to chose?
Someone who likes intellectual stimulation and who wants a deeper relationship with God, who seeks moral or ethical guidance, or who is interested in spiritual growth.
6 - What have you found to be the biggest stumbling block for people who want to start writing?
They either don't believe that they can do it, or they aren't willing to invest the hard work that is required to write and rewrite a number of times before they write well enough to get published. Many people don't want to make the effort if they aren't sure that they will succeed. The thought of failing keeps many people from trying.
7. How would you suggest they can overcome that?
Read and practice the exercises in The Artist's Way. (My sister gave me The Artist's Way a few years ago, and I started to read it. I never finished because I was too busy writing.)
Find a mentor who will encourage and help you. Work with a therapist or coach who can help you believe that you can do it.
My first book was never published. I wrote a novel, and sent two chapters to an English professor who taught how to write novels. He read the chapters and told me that it was a terrible book, but that it would make a great expose if I would rewrite it. I never rewrote the book, but he taught me a valuable lesson. I can't write fiction, and I don't waste my energy trying. I try to concentrate my efforts on writing a broad spectrum of Jewish non-fiction works.
8 - What do you find is the biggest motivator for people to succeed? Is it money, security, desire for fame or something else?
People define success in many different ways. Some people are motivated by money, others by a desire for admiration or acclaim. Western society defines success by how visible someone is, how much money they have (as in "how much is he worth?"), how many degrees they have, and so on.
Many people who define success based on their emotional wants are motivated by material comfort, getting physical pleasure, and/or getting validated by others.
Many women are motivated by a desire for popularity, acceptance and/or nurturing in personal relationships.
Truly religious people are motivated to do what they believe is God's will for them. They tend to define success far more by what they give than by what they get.
Many people, whether they are overtly religious or not, feel that success is fulfilling their potentials. They are motivated by finding meaning. They feel that they have talents or resources that they need to express or share with others.
9.- Who is the "perfect" person to read your book?
Someone who appreciates an easy-to-read book that provides a deeper understanding of the world and our role in it, that gives guidance about to how to live a meaningful life, and who seeks the divine wisdom in the stories of Genesis.