Author:  Heather Mendel
Publisher: 0-Books
ISBN: 978 1 84694 246 4

Every once in a while, a book lands on my desk that transcends expectation.  This is such a book.  Gifted writer, theologian, mystic, artist, rebbetzin, perennial student and questioner of all things, author Heather Mendel approaches her subject with solid research, personal story, and a depth of spiritual wisdom.  She invites readers to realize that all are part of a grand and connected whole and that ‘dancing in the footsteps of Eve’ can bring about a (re) discovery of the power of the feminine aspect of the divine (Shechinah) in a patriarchal world.

Raised in South Africa, Mendel was aware of what discrimination could do to both the oppressor and the oppressed.  As a cognitive shift from racist to sexist-discrimination within her began to emerge, this book also began to emerge. A biblical text about the “father’s house” (Genesis 12) inspired its writing and the link with Eve resulted in the author’s personal statement that “Humanity is in the midst of leaving the “father’s house”, leaving behind what was believed to be factual in the patriarchal era and moving into an unknown future.  We are uncomfortable with its unfamiliarity. It takes the courage of Eve to leave the known, armed only with faith.” (page 11)

And so, “armed only with faith”, Mendel assumes ‘the courage of Eve’ to leave the known, explore ‘change’ and ‘becoming’ and invites the reader to look at the names and labels for God through lens of the kabbalistic concept of The Four Worlds of the Sacred Feminine by dividing the book into four parts representative of those Four Worlds … Intuition (The Sacred Feminine Revealed). This first part of the book begins with a creative look at the Greek words for “time”

Thought (The Sacred Feminine Concealed). Part Two opens with the words of Pirkei Avot (a compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis of the Mishnaic period):“Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone” and offers a unique look at left-brain leanings

Feeling (The Sacred Feminine Revisited) The third part of the book serves as a reminder of the importance of right-brained reminiscences and offers a powerful introduction to the concept of women and the Goddess)

Action (The Sacred Feminine Restored) Part Four challenges the reader to recognize the call of the Sacred Feminine in ushering in the messianic age of peace and explores the Ten Portals to Symbolic Living (aka “Becoming” … inspired/inspiring … intuitively wise … understanding … compassionate … strong … beautiful … futurists … herstorians … dreamers … sacred activists).

Words of wisdom permeate the pages of this book such as these about spirituality: “Spirituality is the light from the flames of life that warms our existence and connects us to each other and the centrality of the fire that is Divinity (page 16) … and “The opening to spirituality does not come with the light of intellectual surety but from the darkness of not-knowing, a recognition we feel rather than think.”  (p 129)

Being Jewish” writes the author, “I ask questions.”  It is in the author’s “asking questions” that the reader is unwittingly drawn into asking questions of their own. It is in the asking-questions-process that can ultimately lead to ‘change’ and ‘becoming’.  And, if the reader needs questions to begin the journey, Mendel offers suggestions in the Study Guide and Discussion Topics at the back of the book, demonstrating her giftedness not only as a scholar and writer, but as an educator as well.

While written from a Jewish perspective, this book will appeal to a broad readership as literal assumptions about God are gently, yet firmly, replaced by a penetrating examination and interpretation of sacred texts.  A gentle book, a learned book, a book written in both a scholarly and conversational tone, Dancing in the Footsteps of Eve may surprise you. It may challenge you. It may disturb you from a complacent and/or literal interpretation of scripture.  Then, just when you think the book has ended, Mendel offers an unexpected gift to the reader in the Appendix: two midrashim (creative stories that flow from the gaps in the biblical text), as well as an imaginary tale based on Jewish feminist history.

This reviewer is not Jewish, but like the author, she is a questioner-of-all-things and so asks the author: “When will you write more midrashim for publication?” for Mendel can easily add gifted story-teller to her list of accomplishments.

Click Here To Purchase Dancing in the Footsteps of Eve: Retrieving the Healing Gift of the Sacred Feminine for the Human Family through Myth and Mysticism