Student Teaching in the New Millenium

Desert Flower

In Numbers on May 27, 2012 at 11:31 am

red flower, israel.

Israel is the flower that flowers in the wilderness.
His pennants, his petals. His G-d, his bud.
What lies at the center of His children?
Sexuality? Creativity?

Israel is the flower that blossoms in the nighttime.
His sons sleep soundly. His G-d rests with them.
When does the the real Meeting begin?
A wind over the face of the deep?

Israel is the flower that goes on the breeze.
Where’er God goes, they go. Where’er they go, God goes.
Is it all holy ground?
Is it where we go, or where we are going?

Destroy strange bodies?

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  1. That you keep wrestling?

    • This is my response to the opening parsha of Numbers (or Bamidbar, “In Wilderness” or “With Wilderness. Midbar is “wilderness.” The opening bet is “in” or “with.”). Many people from liberal traditions outside of orthodoxy look at the lists and say “this is boring.” A popular commentator opinion is that the census is meticulous to the point of each individual man’s name, house, and standard, to express God’s love of Israel, and all of His people. So I asked myself “how, then, can the numbers be boring?” And while I don’t generally feel that God is an old dude in the clouds with a beard, He is expressed as the cloud, so how would the Israelites look from the cloud’s perspective? This is what came out.

      “Destroy foreign bodies” is the prickly pear, the center of my tradition, or perhaps the hedge, or a combination of the two, that casts out the unfamiliar and, therefore, strange. The irony is, at the end of the day, we’re all fruit.

  2. From here, the “center” looks like: “Remember you were strangers.”

    Trying to cast out ‘the strange’ looks like the all-too-familiar, generic-human way. One of the ways your people serves so well for examples of what not to emulate…

    While “Welcome the stranger” is a big part of what we need to remember and emulate!

    — — —- —-

    The “center” of my Quaker tradition?

    Really, God should be the center, but some of us lately don’t even like the word.
    Here’s one pretty good take on what we actually are, which in many ways isn’t all that different: http://www.quaker.org/quest/peoplehood-1.htm

    But one central theme is a certain tension between individuality and group ‘authority’:

    My wife & I were visiting my father, then alive & in Massachusetts. We went to the nearest Meeting, not the first meeting house in the area — where there’d been a burial ground, but no tombstones — the second place, where they’d moved in the 1700’s. The burial ground in the back yard consisted of many neat straight rows of identical little stones… and near the center (the reason this suggests itself as ‘a center’!) there was one stone askew, out of line, comfortably under a tree. When we asked one of the members: What about that one? — He said: “She wanted it that way. She was always like that.”

    • That is a wonderful story, and illustrates my experience to a great extent. I’ll be the last to argue that my people can be that way. Nobody’s perfect. And hey…..read the bible lately?

      The tension between individual and group exists here as well. Our manifestation is the relationship between the Jew and the community but, on a larger level, the relationship between the Jew and the burden of the minhag (Tradition). How does one reconcile this? Build a hedge about the Torah? Or reap what you sow by revising?

      That raises and interesting question in itself: what is strange? The human impulse to cast out the unfamiliar? Or, God? The invisible God was a huge innovation. The original peculiar family, Abraham’s family, tried something new (the parsha where God makes contact with Abraham and tells him to leave is called Lech Lecha, or “get you out.”) But not everyone is as progressive as the guy who took “take my wife…please” literally. Israel’s more mainstream-human nature plays itself out throughout the book. But which is stranger: Israel’s intransigence, or Israel’s God?

      The divine ideal, of course, is welcome the stranger. In the sense of “strangers,” other people, and the “stranger,” which is to say, strange behaviors for us that aren’t “alien(ating)” to our neighbors. Such is the divine ideal, which requires a huge leap for us, such that there is a constant tension between the divine ideal and the human real. And you know us humans, we love our real.

      • It looks to me as if every religion on Earth is currently having similar struggles between the inherited tradition and the need to keep the tradition alive by following the Spirit that produced it. What I read by Rodger Kamenetz & Alan Lew certainly sounded familiar, likewise some remarks by the Rector at my wife’s church, about their difficulties.

        “Stranger than that: We’re alive!” [Incredible String Band]

        That is, “Israel’s God” would be a strange invention. But when I consider what’s implied by inventing humanity… giving us life by living as each human being —

        then a certain tension between God being “transcendent” and “embodied” is inevitable. You can’t produce “individuals” without imposing limitations. And yet you can’t make them alive without delegating some of your own creative power. [Think of the constraints that any novelist labors with!]

        It’s all just strange! http://www.quakerquaker.org/forum/topics/the-belief-factor

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