Book Review: The Secret Legacy of Biblical Women, by Melinda Ribner

The Secret Legacy of Biblical Women: Revealing the Divine Feminine, by Melinda Ribner. Melinda/Ribner, $16.57 USD (276p) ISBN 978-0-98546-830-9

Spiritual psychotherapist and New Age kabbalist Melinda Ribner (Everyday Kabbalah) undertakes a feminist tikkun from a religio-mystical perspective. Her literary reparation gives voice to the foremothers of Israel – the Matriarchs and more – whose presence and expression were downplayed in scripture. Using the writerly conceit of the catechism, Ribner ‘interviews’ Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, Dinah, Miriam, Batya, Hannah, and Esther each in turn, channeling their personae and offering them the floor to recapitulate their famed stories from their own perspectives. These testimonies are then supplemented by prayers invoking the foremothers’ memories, kabbalistic and midrashic commentaries, meditations on the Shechinah (divine feminine), and concluding blessings.

A disciple of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Ribner’s intention is to foreground the power and beauty of feminine models “needed to restore harmony and balance in our world today.” The desire to broaden the Jewish chorus to include feminine voices is laudable, and the recognition that male and female responsibilities are distinctive within Judaism will be appreciated by many among the book’s target audience of traditional Jews. As an “instructional guidebook for the rise of the feminine,” The Secret Legacy will help empower Jewish women who have felt marginalized while nuancing the reasons for separate roles.

Reminiscent of Alice Lehrer’s If We Could Hear Them Now: Encounters with Legendary Jewish Heroines (2009), the work will especially appeal to Orthodox Jewish women and men, and any with an interest in recondite kabbalah. For those less inclined to mysticism and New Age spirituality, value will still be found in the characters’ viewpoints and insights which collectively serve as a complementary midrash to the biblical narrative, subtly reminding readers that there are at least as many sides to a story as there are individuals involved. (October 2012; 2015)

About the Author
Brandon Marlon is an award-winning Canadian-Israeli author whose writing has appeared in 300+ publications in 32 countries. He is the author of two poetry volumes, Inspirations of Israel: Poetry for a Land and People and Judean Dreams, and two historical reference works, Essentials of Jewish History: Jewish Leadership Across 4,000 Years and its companion volume Essentials of the Land of Israel: A Geographical History.