Student Teaching in the New Millenium

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Eaten Alive

In Exodus, ReBlogged on January 24, 2012 at 8:53 am

I see the people,
eyes gray, skin pale, like the sky
Eating and sleeping

What do they have? Their
clothes, their beds, their food, their wives
eyes gray, and skin pale.

Parsha Bo

They shall devour the surviving remnant that was left to you after the hail.

Exodus 10.5

Ultra Orthodox Jews and the Modesty Fight (link)

A wonderful article by a courageous orthodox (male) rabbi. Responsibility for ourselves is in our own hands, no one else’s. Don’t the people he discusses have better things to do? Shouldn’t they be studying? Have they not learned anything?  Who are these people, really?

Take Pharoah in our parsha. He’s been through seven plagues already. Why does he invite an eighth?

God hardens his (Pharoah’s) heart and the hearts of his courtiers (Ex. 10.1). Yet the courtiers disagree with Pharoah’s established policy, saying “How long shall this one be a snare to us? Let the men go to worship the Lord their God! Are you not yet aware that Egypt is lost?” (Ex. 10.7) Jeremiah, our prophet this week, says:


He made many to stumble,
they fell over one another.
They said: “Up! let us return to our people,
To the land of our birth,
Because of the deadly sword.”
There they called Pharaoh king of Egypt:
“Braggart who let the hour go by.”

Jeremiah 46.16-17

What were the courtiers doing here?  Were they trying to protect Pharoah? The Egyptian people? The Israelites? Or their own necks?

Is Pharoah serving Egypt’s interests? Or his own?

When we become our unbalanced selfish interests, do we lose ourselves? Are we eaten alive by locusts?

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On The Agnostic’s View of the Ten(Twelve) Commandments

In Exodus, ReBlogged on January 19, 2012 at 8:00 am

I chanced on two interesting articles the other day at The Tattered Thread  and RemotelyNowhere, written by two friends, Rob Slaven and Grant Dawson, blogging their impressions of the Ten Commandments.  The first is agnostic, the second is Christian.  This is my contribution to their discussion, with some editing.

The name “Ten (Twelve)” commandments is from Rob, who aptly points out that the Ten Commandments, in the strictest sense, discuss more than ten specific things.  I’ve opted to stick to the Ten Commandments formula here.

On The Agnostic’s View of the Ten(Twelve) Commandments

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Moses with the Tablets, by Rembrandt

1. I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

The plain meaning of the pesuk (phrase) means as you have said, God says “I am God.” Now, what other gods exist in the world today? Money? Sex? Power? Certitude? What happens when people chase after them? Everyone gets hurt, and everyone is enslaved.

The purpose of this commandment is to encourage appreciation for the ineffable, as Abraham Joshua Heschel puts it, and discourage the worship of bad ideas. It also affirms God’s oneness. God appears in Torah in multiple guises including: love, justice, compassion, mercy, the elements, father, and (hey feminists!) mother. If God is a God of infinite possibility, imposing limits on God reduces Her splendor.

It also reminds us of something more important than ourselves. What is this?  An excellent question.

“And the LORD repented of the evil which He said He would do unto His people.” (Exodus 32.14)

Human dignity is precious.

 

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image…thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them.

The previous commandment discourages the worship of bad ideas. This commandment discourages the worship of man-made things. So, I cannot say: my rock says I should kill you because your rock’s butt ugly and you smell.

In other words, bowing to a rock and giving it my lunch money equals bad ju-ju….even if it is damn funny. Bowing to the rock and going Son of Sam on people…not so much. Is this serving the rock, or savage impulse?

Man-made gods embody the ideas we give them. When this was written, children were sacrificed to fire…by their parents. Is this commandment redundant, or does the repetition teach that idolatry, in any form, is a really, really bad idea?

If we worship man-made things, does that mean we worship man?

God tired of sacrifice long, long ago.

 

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.

Do not make false oaths in God’s name. Since we run the risk of not fulfilling every oath we make, don’t swear in God’s name at all. Why? To avoid an error.

It’s our responsibility to fulfill our oaths, not God’s.

Better yet: don’t make false oaths in YOUR name, or anyone else’s.

 

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

We spend six days a week creating, acquiring, building, and molding existence to suit our needs. Shouldn’t we take some time for ourselves?

We should all take a break from chasing money.

A holiday every week. A beautiful thing.

 

5. Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

How do we live long and happy lives on our land? By honoring our parents. What do our parents want for themselves and their children? Peace. How do you make peace? By honoring everybody.

Or:  how do we live long and happy lives on our land?  By honoring our neighbors.  When we bring honor to our neighbors, we bring honor on ourselves, and thereby honor our parents.

What’s the alternative?  Theft.  War.  Death.

“Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Leviticus 19.18)

 

6. Thou shalt not murder.

The plain meaning of the pesuk is as you’ve described. Consider this: slander is a form of murder.

God tired of sacrifice long, long ago.

 

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

The Sages in the Talmud say that marriage was established in three ways: exchange of money, the signing of the contract, or sex. Sacred prostitution was all the rage in biblical times.

Another interpretation: let’s borrow from the Catholic understanding of the married couple as a new life. Is this murder?

 

8. Thou shalt not steal.

Not only don’t steal, but don’t think of stealing. Why do we think of stealing? To acquire what others have that we do not: money, power, things. More idols.

When we conceive the theft, and follow through, where does the theft occur?  In the word, or the deed?

 

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Don’t make false oaths in your own name, or anyone else’s. Honor everybody.

 

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife…nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Intention is everything. The Sages ask why the Torah demands fourfold or fivefold reparations are required for certain crimes of theft. Some interpret the number of steps in the act into the reason. Conceiving the crime is the first step.

We are already told not to steal.  What does the repetition teach?  That theft is a really, really bad idea?  How about, don’t tempt yourself?

***

I leave you with a midrashic interpretation.

Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife
bearing false witness to have him put away
so you can steal his money
and have sex with his wife
motivating you to murder him
and make your parents feel shame
because you don’t make peace
and lie
and chase idols
and don’t know what is good in life

Commmmmunication (Article)

In Exodus, ReBlogged on January 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm
moses

Moses Sleeping, by bobbyfiend @ Flickr

Commmmmunication, by Rabbi Label Lam

An insightful article about the importance of communication and the art of listening. But, does Moses’ insistence at reminding God of his own limitations teach us the importance of listening without surrendering our interests?

Oy!Chicago – For this, I got ordained? (article)

In ReBlogged on January 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Oy!Chicago – For this, I got ordained?.

The funny thing is, in A Serious Man, the rabbi gets the lyrics wrong.

The data says its time to fix things. But, what?

Pharaoh Didn’t Know Joseph And Perhaps We Forgot Him Too (Article)

In ReBlogged on January 10, 2012 at 9:00 am

Rabbi Daniel J. Moskovitz

Pharaoh Didn’t Know Joseph And Perhaps We Forgot Him Too – My Jewish Learning.

A fascinating trip through the parsha by the rabbi. I want to question some of his questions though.

Does the text mean to suggest that it was the memory of Joseph that had kept the Israelites safe from oppression in Egypt? In other words, was the hatred always there just below the surface, waiting for the opportunity to arise?

How were the Egyptian people complicit in Pharaoh’s evil scheme? Why did all the people of Egypt go along with it?

Why jump directly to hatred and evil? Why not start first at fear? Or are hatred, evil, and fear the same thing?

A New Stage For The Torah Service (article)

In ReBlogged on January 8, 2012 at 8:00 am

A New Stage For The Torah Service.

Fantastic! New presentation, new insight! Why shouldn’t we treat Torah as theatre?

Rediscovering Religious Values in the Market Economy (article)

In ReBlogged on January 8, 2012 at 5:24 am

Rediscovering Religious Values in the Market Economy

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks writes about the state of the global economy and Judeo-Christian values @ Huffington Post.  It’s a wonderful article and delves into a central question we should all ask this year:  what is the purpose of the market?

Rabbi does say something curious.  Besides this, says [David] Landes, the Bible introduces the idea of linear time, rejecting the idea that time is a cycle in which nothing ultimately changes.   Is this the case, or does the Tanakh illustrate that the more things change the more they stay the same?  Is this pessimistic, or a message of profound hope?

Reconstructing Yiddishkeit (Article)

In ReBlogged on January 7, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Reconstructing Yiddishkeit.

This article elucidates on refreshing Jewish identity in the 21st century, and discusses the Liberal Jewish push to conservatism in religious expression. I disagree with the author’s idea that the Reconstructionist Synagogue is the answer, but he says valuable things that all Jews, and all people for that matter, should do and hear.

Thoughts on Prayer: How Do You Pray?

In ReBlogged on December 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm

A fantastic discussion started by a talented English student, begging the question, what is prayer?

NASA discovers Kepler B-22. So what? (aish.com)

In ReBlogged on December 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Watch to the end. Rabbi Salomon asks us three questions. The last is in the form of a statement, and is the one we all face.