Archives for May 2014

4 Arguing for the Sake of Heaven

4 ELU V'ELU and Arguing for the Sake of Heaven Given the open ended nature of Turning Torah how is one to know which meaning is the right one? This is an excellent question, but not a Jewish one. For us there is no one right reading of Torah. There is only the next reading. Of course different Jews will have their preferences, claiming one reading to be superior to others, but this is personal bias rather than a system of right and wrong readings built into the process of Torah Turning. … [Read more...]

3 If We are to have a Future

It is almost cliché to say Judaism is dying. Judaism has been around for over 3000 years, and concern over its dying goes back almost as far. Chances are it will survive a bit longer. But that doesn’t mean that those of us who love Judaism, and take great pride and find deep meaning in being Jews shouldn’t concern ourselves with her future.For me the future of Judaism rests in the capacity of Jews to Turn Torah: to tell and retell our story. I am what one might call a midrashic rather than a … [Read more...]

2 Print is Dead(ening)

Our story was originally oral, and made fresh with each telling. Storytelling is intrinsically anarchic, creative, and liberating. Print is fixed, and when an oral story becomes trapped in print it often falls under the control of authorities—often terrifying, demanding, and life–smothering authorities. To keep this from happening to our story we Jews invented the art of deliberately misreading our story: filtering the text through our imagination to help the story speak to us in new ways. While … [Read more...]

1. Turning Torah

Embracing our story means taking it seriously, though not necessarily literally. To quote the third century Rabbi Ben Bag Bag (seriously that was name; middle school must have been hell), "Turn her and turn her for everything is in her," (Pirke Avot 5:26). By "her" he means Torah (Torah is a feminine noun in Hebrew). Turning Torah is the central spiritual practice of our tribe, and refers to the art of creatively misreading Torah in ways that yield new meanings generation to generation.We … [Read more...]

A Quick Reminder

Let me remind readers of this blog that what you are reading is a very rough first draft of what I hope will become a book some time in the next couple of years. I am serializing it here to test the ideas. I doubt the final book will read like a blog, though I am aiming at something extremely simply and straightforward.I’ve taken the God material as far as I can at the moment, and while I expect to revise this many times before being satisfied with it, I feel like it is time to move on to t … [Read more...]

16 Some Proof Texts

Judaism always reaches into its past even as it forges ahead into its future. We do not relinquish what was but adapt to what will be. The texts we adapt are called "proof texts" citations from TaNaKH or Talmud or Zohar or rabbinic sages of one generation or another who we read in ways that support our own positions. Here are some of the texts that speak to me in this way. I am by no means the first to speak of God this way. Let me share some of the wisdom of my … [Read more...]

15 Anokhi

“I am YHVH your Elohim who brought you out of Mitzraym (literally the “Narrow Places,” Egypt), out of slavery. You shall worship no other Gods but me,” (Exodus 20:2–3). We looked at this passage of Torah earlier in our discussion of YHVH as the process of creative liberation. Now we will look at again focusing not on YHVH but on Anokhi, “I.” Here we aren’t talking about the egoic “I” of the Ain/Ani paradigm, but the divine I that is all reality. The manifest and manifesting universe, … [Read more...]

14 Ain and Ani

Judaism, perhaps more than any other religion, is a system rooted in language. Word–play is among our deepest spiritual practices. While some contemplative systems speak of ending thought, Judaism seeks to deconstruct thought by subjecting it to endless gaming. Earlier I mentioned the Gematria game where we read Hebrew letters as numbers, and Hebrew words as numeric sums. Another of our games involves playing with the letters themselves. My favorite example of this game is A … [Read more...]

13 HaMakom: Beyond Figure and Ground

One way to look at the relationship between El and YHVH is that of figure/ground. You know these images: a graphic that looks like a goblet one moment and then two people looking at one another the next (to use but one example). It all depends on how your brain is processing the information you get from the graphic. What you see—goblet or people—is figure, what you don’t see is ground. El is what you see; YHVH is what you don’t. El is figure; YHVH is ground. But what is the graphic when no one is … [Read more...]