Midrash

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

Unplug: Can You Do It?

2011.03.02
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LAST NIGHT I DREAMED I was drunk, belligerent and enjoying myself — not a good combination, nor one which I experience (or wish to experience) in real life. The subject of my tirade seems to have been the apologetic and paralyzing self-consciousness of the modern Jewish stereotype, and while I don’t remember exactly what I said I was truly “all het up” about it. (Which I occasionally am in real life, and maybe why it felt so good to express it.)

But that sense of muddy frustration evaporated when I discovered http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/ and their call for a National Day of Unplugging from sundown March 4 to sundown March 5. Wondering what to do with your time? Ten suggestions are right here (from “Avoid technology” and “Get outside” to “Find silence” and “Give back”), but participants are also encouraged to create their own.

The basic idea is this: No one can run 24/7 without burning out, even someone as necessary and busy as you. So take a regular day off. See what’s within arm’s reach, and maybe rediscover who you are and what you’re doing here — or at the very least, take a well-earned nap. (Remember naps?)

(And if you found this via Facebook during one of many five-minute “just checking” sessions, you might just want to unplug right now.)

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My Plan For Jewish World Domination

2011.01.26
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(YOU MAY READ THAT TITLE as either “domination of the world by Jews,” or “domination of the Jewish world.” Either way, it may be better than what we have now, or at least more entertaining. Certainly more well-fed. But.)

The point is this: Build fewer Museums of Tolerance and Holocaust Memorials. In fact, stop building them altogether, and instead build more Jewish schools/centers, for both kids and adults to interact face-to-face with well-trained Jewish teachers. We cannot help but carry the past, of course — but with our hands full, who will build our future?

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The Yad In The Kitchen

2011.01.17
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IN ONE OF OUR KITCHEN cabinets is a knot shaped like the Hebrew letter “yad.” It’s something we’ve lived with for 11 years but only pondered tonight.

Fig. 1.

According to some of Judaism’s lesser-publicized traditions, “yad” as the first letter of the yad-heh-vav-heh — God’s most holy name — is associated with the element of fire, the tongue of the flame of holy generation and inspiration, which is also the Godhead (that concentrated chunk of God located in the human soul). “Yad” also literally means “hand.” It is also the little sculptured wand (tipped by a hand and pointing finger) which indicate passages in the Torah, itself considered as one long Name of God.

Fig. 1.

So: Yad is the seat of intuition; it is also the hand guided by intuition, and which points to the Sourceless Source of that intuition (and everything else). In orbis veritas. That it’s on the flour cabinet, proves the divinity in food — and ingenuity.

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Sorting Debbie

2011.01.10
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IN THE WAKE OF SINGER and prolific synagogue-music innovator Debbie Friedman, I find myself mourning her death but ambivalent about her legacy.

The mourning: If you worship at most “progressive” (i.e., non-Orthodox) North American synagogues, you’re familiar with her work (particularly the Mishebeirach, a prayer for healing which was recently (some say “at last”) canonized in the new Reform prayerbook). But if you ever saw Ms. Friedman in concert, you really saw her. The woman fairly glowed. Not literally, but in the eyes of the mind: huge radiating love-and-wonder vibes not really all that different from a Grateful Dead show, and from which people depart laughing, woohooing, and singing to themselves for days afterward. She was a great and phenomenal talent who brought a lot of joy to this end of the universe and, as is so often the case, the world seems a bit darker for her absence.

The ambivalence: While introducing folk music to the service makes the service, or rather the joy inherent, more accessible, it can also turn the service into a sing-along. And, even as a happily compulsive singer-along, that’s not why I attend services. At one time or another it has been my pleasure to attend Grateful Dead concerts, coven circles, Mass, church, a Buddhist shrine and various other experiential constructs. I found each of them beautiful and, in a sense, useful. But none of them move me in the way of a book-and-dream-fragrant silence, woven through with wordless murmurings and solemn chanting of the ancient heart-known Hebrew. It is, to me, authentic, which is to say familiar and challenging in a way that singing along not quite is.

“One man’s meat” is a proverb in many tongues and times. But when someone like a Debbie Friedman passes out of the world, it makes many other things feel small. Thank you, Ms. Friedman, for making Earth a bit bigger for a while.

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365 Names No More

2011.01.05
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THOUGH IT MAY REINFORCE MY reputation as a non-finisher, I must suspend the 365 Names project.

It just doesn’t feel right to exploit God in the name of ratings.

Like any writer, I am obsessed with being read. If you blog for more than pleasure — for pleasure, yes, but also to Get Your Name Out There, to build a body of work and reinforce or spark a readership also pursued through more traditional publishing fora — freelance writing, say, or fiction — you will find yourself trying to drive traffic. Nothing wrong with that on the face of it, but I’d rather do that on my own merits and not drag the Source Of All Knowing into it.
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365 Names: Great Magnet

2011.01.05
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THE GREAT MAGNET is what conceptual journalist Hunter S. Thompson called our mysterious Subject in his Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. Typical of Thompson’s grim, savage outlook, the Great Magnet is mentioned only indirectly. It may be neither prayed to nor appeased; only its workings observed with scalpel-tongued irony.

Each day of 2011, Metaphorager.Net will feature a different name for that-which-some-people-call-God. Some will be original, others traditional. If you want to see your favorite here, send it to scoop@sonic.net with the subject line “365 Names.”

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David Mamet’s Christmas Wishes

2011.01.04
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From our Wish-We’d-Found-This-Two-Weeks-Ago department: Over on Tablet, playwright David Mamet literally pens a Christmas card to the Jews from the Chinese “who do not completely understand your dietary customs.” To say more would sound horribly post-facto; let’s say instead we’re being early for next year.

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365 Names: The Immensity

2011.01.04
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“THE IMMENSITY” is what Monsieur Ibrahim calls Whatever we’re now in our fourth day of naming. M. Ibrahim calls It that toward the end of the film, after spending much of the time answering his young protege’s questions about God with an enigmatic, “I know what’s in my Quran.” (If you want to know what’s in his Quran too, see the film.)

Each day of 2011, Metaphorager.Net will feature a different name for that-which-some-people-call-God. Some will be original, others traditional. If you want to see your favorite here, send it to scoop@sonic.net with the subject line “365 Names” and whether or not you want to be credited.

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Why 365 Names of God?

2011.01.03
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Why not? Well, the folks at Make Something Every Day And Change Your Life (http://makesomething365.blogspot.com/) crossed my path, and where the whim goeth, goeth I. Names are sourced from:

1. Traditional religions
2. Science fiction, fantasy, autobiography or other literature
3. The author’s brain and/or territories thereof
4. Reader submissions (send with attribution to scoop@sonic.net, subject “365 Names”)

Among other things, I hope to show the universality of the God-concept: an individual or cultural belief in or knowledge of Something or Someone transcendent, creative, monistic, final and above all Mysterious. Partly, I hope to dissolve walls by making them more distinct; also, as Lower North America seems to be calling for a new Dark Age, I want to show that no one has a monopoly on “God.” (Better still: that everyone’s an expert.)


Follow this project at http://metaphorager.net/tag/365-names-of-god/.

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365 Names: Elohim

2011.01.03
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ELOHIM. Hebrew for “gods,” “divine beings,” “judges.” In the Torah, this Name denotes God’s judgmental aspect. It’s also the first one given in the Torah, and as it’s associated with the first creation story some consider that tale a metaphor for the dawning of consciousness: that Reality is not created from Nothing so much as it’s distinguished from Chaos.

Each day of 2011, Metaphorager.Net will feature a different name for that-which-some-people-call-God. Some will be original, others traditional. If you want to see your favorite here, send it to scoop@sonic.net with the subject line “365 Names” and whether or not you want to be credited.

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365 Names: The Self-Evident

2011.01.02
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THE SELF-EVIDENT is That which does not need to justify Its existence. An analogy is found in the answer to the question, “How do you know you’re reading this?”

Each day of 2011, Metaphorager.Net will feature a different name for that-which-some-people-call-God. Some will be original, others traditional. If you want to see your favorite here, send it to scoop@sonic.net with the subject line “365 Names” and whether or not you want to be credited.

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365 Names of God: YHVH

2011.01.01
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Fig. 0.

This name of God, the most holy to Jews, is that by which God asked Moses to introduce Him to the Israelites in the Book of Exodus. Lacking vowels, it is literally unpronounceable; the transliterated spelling is YHVH. Where it appears in Torah or prayer, hardcore Jews instead say “Adonai” (my Lord) or “Hashem” (The Name) and associate thsi name with God’s merciful (as opposed to judgmental) aspect. Those qualities seem apropos for our first installment in the 365 Names Of God Project. May the MultiMonickered please bless my efforts.

Each day of 2011, Metaphorager.Net will feature a different name for that-which-some-people-call-God. Some will be original, others traditional. If you want to see your favorite here, send it to scoop@sonic.net with the subject line “365 Names” and whether or not you want to be credited.

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