Posts Tagged ‘ Torah: Output ’

Midrash Beshallach

2017.02.06
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WORF: These are our stories. They tell us who we are.
BA’EL: …Are they true?
WORF: I have studied them all of my life, and find new truths in them every time.
– “Birthright,” Star Trek: The Next Generation

Here’s a radical thought: does the story of the Exodus and its miracles — including this week’s splitting of the Sea of Reeds — need to be true in order to be meaningful?

Biblical literalists, who take the Torah to be G?d’s word, see the text as the ultimate truth and the miracles as G?d’s handiwork. Modern critics see the Torah as a unique document compiled from numerous sources, and explain the miracles in terms of natural events. But both may be missing the point.
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Happy 5772!

2011.09.28
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THIS PHOTO FEATURES PEOPLE SPELLING out in Hebrew the words “Shanah Tovah,” or “good year.” I like it because it shows us that the year is ultimately made up of the people who live it — of every moment and every second that lives in human consciousness and memory — that everything within eyeshot is to some extent a human creation, even if only through the act of its being perceived. Live it well, live it fully, live it with joy — but live it.

Happy New Year from The Metaphorager!

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Slouching Toward Tishrei

2011.09.01
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TODAY IS THE SECOND OF Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashana, and that fact lends the period an air of expectancy and overhaul.

The Jewish New Year is less a time for partying all night and more a time for reflection and making right, especially of our relationships. Have we wronged anyone? Hurt anyone? Been less than true or right or kind? Now’s the time to fix that.

So if I have in the past year treated you less than you deserve, or been blunt or flip where tender seriousness would have been better, please let me know. Life is too short not to live it fully, and it’s hard to live it fully if there’s an interpersonal problem sticking things up. As Elwood P. Dowd would say, “I’d rather be kind than right.” (I’d actually rather be both, but sometimes you can’t have everything.)

May your own annual journey to renewal and rebirth go as smoothly as it needs to be, and, to paraphrase Ecclesiastes, may you become no wiser than necessary.

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O G?D, DEAREST AND WISEST One, Maker of mercies and miracles, Describer in line and form, please: Save us from those sincere souls who know what You really meant.

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Another Definition Of Judaism

2011.08.05
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ETHNOTHEOLEGALITY. (IF YOU WANT TO get more specific, then Levantine ethnotheolegality. Or pedantically: a Levantine people’s god’s code.)

Eh?

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Fable, With Apocalypse

2011.07.30
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IN THE MIDDLE OF A flat grey wasteland, under a grey streaky sky, a handful of figures warmed themselves at a snapping fire.

“Hey! What are you doing?”

One of the figures had turned to stare across the waste — a vast landscape of broken dryers and tumbledown swingsets, with here and there half a gas station or bowling alley.

“Don’t do that.”

He takes the gaping figure and turns him tenderly toward the flames to warm his hands again.

“Thanks.”

“It’s why I’m here. And that” — a sweeping arm — “is why that’s there. The wasteland is only for wasting you.”

“Thanks again.”

“Don’t mention it. Just keep your hands warm. Even when you’re the last one here.”

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Slake The Bitterness

2011.07.20
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FOR MY NEXT TRICK, I will attempt to adapt 1st-century Judaism for 21st-century Americans.

Fig. 1.

Yesterday, the 17th of Tammuz, marked the 1,941st anniversary of the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls by the Romans (and the 2,597th anniversary of the same action by the Babylonians). For traditional Jews, 17 Tammuz begins the annual semi-mourning period of the Three Weeks, which culiminate in a commemoration of the Temple’s destruction on the 9th of Av, colloquially known as Tisha B’Av (this year, August 9).

For untraditional Jews, it’s a time of wondering why traditional Jews are so upset over something that happened so many years ago — and deprived us of nothing more than the old-time religion of animal sacrifice. But let’s look past the sheen of nationalist memory and peer into the realm of psychological function.
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“Judaism As Art”

2011.07.14
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or, There and Back Again Without Leaving

(BECAUSE OF WORDPRESS, I’M REPUBLISHING this 2002 piece — it works better as a “post” than as a “page” — and although my kippa-wearing has become a bit less pronounced of late it still reflects my approach to finding a place in Judaism. If you’re not hot for apologetics or manifesti, you have my permission to read something else.)

Despite that I’ve worn a yarmulke most of the time since 2000, I don’t define myself as Orthodox. Or Reform. Or, for that matter, as Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal or otherwise adjectivally Jewish.

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Torah Study: Spelling It Out In Balak And White

2011.07.09
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(I’m leading services today, but here’s the dvar Torah I’m delivering this morning (and posted yesterday).)

THERE’S AN OLD SAYING: “IF you don’t look closely at every detail, you miss most of the jokes.” Although there are few obvious jokes in this week’s Torah portion, Balak, an admitted burlesque about a Jew-hating king and his bumbling wizard, we are missing one of the more interesting details.

In a classic Torah service, we divide the portion into seven pieces, or aliyot, each one framed by blessings. This gives us a different relationship to the text than if we just read the story straight through. Among other things, it gives us time to reflect; for the words to reach their mark; for repetitions and patterns to show us something new.
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OUR WEEKLY TORAH STUDY SHIFTS this week, as I am honored and privileged to lead Shabbat services tomorrow morning (Sat., 7/9/11) at Sonoma’s Congregation Shir Shalom. We will begin by looking at one of the Book of Numbers’ most action-packed portions: the tale of Bilaam the Evil Wizard. (Just typing “Evil Wizard” is a...

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Torah Study: Chukat and the Passing of the Cohort

2011.07.01
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WHEN JERRY GARCIA AND GENE Roddenberry died, I shed actual tears. Although I didn’t know either of them personally, they had both played important roles in my life — Jerry taught me to dance, Gene taught me to dream — and because of their role in the culture at large, their deaths were like the shutting of a communal door.

There’s a similar circumstance in this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, which notes — among other incidents — the deaths of Moses’ siblings, Miriam and Aaron, themselves beloved by their community. Think what it must have been like for the Israelites: smacked out of Egypt by the back of God’s miracle-hand, given a new constitution beneath a thundering mountain, then doomed by ingratitude to wander the desert for 40 years. Moses, Aaron and Miriam were all the leadership they knew: Moses the mysterious, whose face glows when he talks to God; Aaron, who loved peace so much he’d even tell fibs to achieve it; Miriam, the wise woman whose portable well enabled life in the desert.
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Reb Nachum to SF: Keep Your Laws Off My People’s Body

2011.06.06
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THERE’S A PLACE — CHELM IS its name — where all the inhabitants are so open-minded that they tolerate any behavior whatsoever from anyone they deem open-minded as themselves. It’s a nice place to visit, but I hope never to have to live there.

From the post title, you can guess where I stand on San Francisco’s proposed anti-circumcision measure, which would criminalize the act if performed on anyone under 18 and disallow religious exemptions. But considering that Matthew Hess, the fellow behind it, is the same fellow behind the eye-washingly anti-Semitic “Monster Mohel” comic book, I feel I know as much about his motivations — and defenders — as I need to.
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Recent Tales

…And We’re Back

IT FEELS GOOD to write again. It has been just over six years since I last added to this blog (which once boasted a...

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Prosatio Silban and the Starving Survivor

A BUOPOTH IS A STRANGE beast: some say it is half-composed of men’s dreams, others prefer not to speculate. But of the little that...

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Prosatio Silban and the Visitor From The Sands

PROSATIO SILBAN WAS NOT KNOWN for nothing as “The Cook For Any Price.” He had long ago foresworn the Sacreanthood and serving people’s souls...

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The Poet

HE COULDN’T TELL WHETHER HE loved beauty or women more until the day he called his mom and said “Guess what? I’m marrying a...

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Storyteller’s Knot

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF any story is the point at which it’s attached to the reader.

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