Archive | March, 2008

Articulating a problem of language

I want to be Reform Rabbi. I also want to be an expert liturgy. I also want to be a reforming Reform Jew.

Steps previously identified:

1. Finish college

2. Master’s in liturgy

3. Rabbinical school.

Problem: I believe that a Rabbi ought to be able to pick up a sidur, a tanach, a page of talmud and be able to make sense of them. I also believe Rabbis should speak Hebrew ably.

I’ve been thinking lately that the real problem in our movement is an inability to take ourselves seriously. We complain that more traditional streams of Judaism don’t take us seriously, but we don’t even take ourselves seriously. We don’t take liturgy seriously, we don’t take education seriously, and we certainly don’t take Reform ideology seriously.
What I mean when I say that I want to be a reforming Reform Jew is that I want to reverse this. I want to make myself an example of what a Reform Jew who takes being a Reform Jew seriously looks like. I feel that to do any less than learn to speak Modern Hebrew, and learn to translate sidurim, tanachim, and talmud would be to do less than take myself, as a future Rabbi seriously.

Problem: I’m gonna guess that to do a graduate program in liturgy will require me to do three of those things (talmud, sidur, tanach). And I just don’t when I’m gonna learn to do those things. I’m concerned that I there’s no way for me, here at Drew, to learn to do these things.

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Mishnah Day!

BZ, author of Jewblog Mah Rabuwrites today at Jewschool to point us to a quite amazing new development in the Union for Reform Judaism.

For a few years now, the URJ has offered a daily e-mail (or RSS feed, as I prefer) called Ten Minutes of Torah. Each day of the week has a different theme and every entry is written by a different Reform rabbi or scholar on a different topic. Some of them are good, some of them are rather not.

Tuesday, formerly Hebrew Connection-themed, is now Mishnah Day at Ten Minutes of Torah! This is pretty remarkable. The Reform movement has been traditionally pretty allergic to Talmud, excepting catchy aggadot (for which we needn’t turn to Talmud anyway because of Sefer Ha-Aggadah).

I’m excited for us. I think that this is a 100% good thing for Reform Jews and that it will help us connect to a part of our tradition which has been traditionally shunned by our movement.

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Persian Lag Ba-what?

Failed Messiah points us today to Fox News, that always well-researched news outlet, which has this lovely news item for us. What’s wrong with this?

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Thought Vomit

I haven’t posted in a while, but here’s some thought vomit for y’all. A summary of what’s been happening in my brain of late.
I’m going back on the idea of saying Avot V’imahot all the time. It doesn’t make grammatical sense. Avot means Avot V’imahot already. Possible alternatives:

1. Just say Avot
2. Horim (parents, but is that just a Modern Hebrew thing?)
3. Dorot (makes larger implications about not just previous generations, but includes this generation and generations to come. Is that even a problem?)

I’m taking Miryam back out of my G’ulah. I actually arrived at this conclusions while thinking about Kos L’Miryam, Miraym’s Cup, a modern addition to the seder. (For those who have never experienced a seder with this cup, it is a cup of water in honor of Miraym’s well.) The idea is to become inclusive and put a female character on the same level as Mosheh, I suppose. But, that’s a problem for me.

Mosheh is an extraordinary character. To set Miryam up on the same level is absurd. Rather than artificially pumping up female characters, shouldn’t we begin to recognize female characters who have made significant contributions? Where are D’vorah and Yehudit and other strong female characters? I don’t mean where are they in the seder. Obviously they’re unrelated, but so is Miryam’s well! The well has nothing to do with the Exodus and everything to do with wandering in the desert, a topic with which the seder is not concerned.

Mosheh is a big deal character, yet he only gets one line of text in the Hagadah referring to him. If he only gets one line, how disingenuous are we to the text if we create a whole new item for the table settings to represent Miryam.

And I leave you with this: There are supposed to be two cooked dishes on the seder plate, now usually a lamb shank and an egg, to represent the two types of sacrifices that were to be given on Pesach. My People’s Passover Haggadah, Vol. 1 has this to say on page 39:

“Sheira Gaon (Gaon of Pumbedita, 986-1006) noted a custom of including a third symbolic cooked food—in addition to the chank bone and egg—“in memory of Miriam, as it says, ‘I brought you from the Land of Egypt, I redeemed you from the house of bondage, as I sent you before Moses, Aaron, and Miriam’” (Mic. 6:4).

There you go. Some brain vomit to chew on.

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Every Monday at 3:45 p.m., I lead a tour of campus. One of the downsides of doing this is a monthly tourguide meeting, in which we all get filled in on the latest in the exciting world of campus tours and admissions over dinner.

I just came from one such meeting. In this meeting, the woman from the admissions office was going on about this upcoming open house on April 19 and she was explaining how important it is that everyone sign up for a tour. Some girl is looking at her calendar and realizes, “Oh, that’s the first day of Passover.”

Damn. So then the lady from admissions says, “Why did they schedule this on top of Passover. That’s weird. You know they schedule these open houses five years in advance.”

So I said, “You know, we schedule our things like thousands of years in advance.”

A post of substance tomorrow or Friday.

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