Category: Midrash

Hebrew for “delving,” specifically of a religious text. In this context, the text is also life.

Four Points of Contact

“IT IS THE NATURE OF religious belief knowledge to be compelling only to the believer knower.” So said Rabbi Micha Berger some years ago on Usenet’s soc.culture.jewish.moderated, and I have yet to see a better argument for pluralism and against…

Leaving room for silence

Of all the apparent opposites which Judaism wrestles to reconcile — free will v. predestination, universalism v. particularism, applesauce v. sour cream — one of the most paradoxically fertile is words v. the Wordless. Maimonides, the great 12th century rabbi…

An Apology to Douglas Rushkoff

In my previous, I made a cutting remark about Douglas Ruskoff’s “Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism.” While my opinion remains that the book is deeply flawed, as noted by, among others, Zeek.net), I didn’t intend to be dismissive. For…

Hiding the Hidden

Last week, we read in Parsha Beshallach about the departure from Egypt (Heb. “Mitzrayim”, or “narrows,” which the mystical tradition identifies with the forces of constraint and bad-habitry). Among the other nifty details is this one, from Exodus 13:21: “And…

Torah Nerds, Unite!

Some people say that the Torah can only be meaningful if the events depicted therein are true. In other words, if 600,000 people didn’t march through the Sinai Peninsula; if the plagues were just a mythologization of natural disasters; if…

Mapping God

Like any Torah Nerd, I’ve never met a commentary I didn’t like — the more abstruse and seriously-taking the better — but I’ve always had difficulty with the traditional view of God As Punisher and Rewarder. Perhaps that stems from…

Posse Commentatus

IN THE BEGINNING was the Text. But not for long. The Text – definer and exemplar, authority and comfort, platform and trampoline – was no ordinary collection of words. It spoke of history and possibility, treated miracles as though they…

In the spirit…

… of its content, this might have been posted 12/28/6, the day I wrote and sent it to my coworkers. But it wasn’t: Friends, If you can imagine a universe-sized sponge made of galaxies surrounding bubble-like voids, congratulations: you’re hip…

Der Apikoyrus Rebbe

RABBI AKIVA TATZ IS A turned-on guy whose shiurim (lectures) are ripe with mystic but rational Torah learning. R’Tatz tells a wonderful story about apikorsim (singular “apikorus,” from the Greek “Epicurean;” one who disbelieves the divine origin of Torah and…

Contradicting the Paradox

“Most people don’t worship God. What they do is make an image of what they think God is, and worship that.”— James “Sputnik” Gjerde The biggest problem with Aristotelianism is that it posits false dichotomies (good/evil, up/down, is/ain’t, tastes great/less…

Message From Beyond

Not all mitzvot turn into ghost stories — but when doing holy work, it’s always a good idea to expect the unexpected. My wife Ann and I are members of the Sonoma County Chevre Kadisha. “Chevre Kadisha” literally means “holy…