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 halachic Jew. That is to say I am a Jew for whom story (midrash) matters more than law (halacha), and Torah Turning, the creative investigation (drash) of that story, matters more than the observance of the law. This doesn’t mean I am not a practicing Jew—I am, but it does mean that my central practice revolves around Torah Turning, while my halachic observance is filtered through my own very liberal bias.
As a midrashic Jew my fear is that we Jews are forgetting how to Turn Torah and make midrash. I fear our text is becoming fixed because we Jews are abandoning it to the past rather than imagining it anew in the present. We read Torah but we don’t create Torah. We look in Torah for glimpses of our past rather than look through Torah to imagine our future. We no longer learn the art of creative destruction that marked the Torah Turning of our greatest rabbis and mystic sages. We no longer teach our children how Jews think, and focus instead only on what some Jews do. We are flat Jews who make a fetish of a flat Torah, and teach a flat Judaism to even flatter generations to come. And because this is so, I worry about the future of Jews and Judaism.
My dream is to create a Torah Turning academy training Jews to use their imagination and Yiddishe Kop (Jewish mind) to read new wisdom into and out of Torah. Since achieving this dream is doubtful, what I plan to do in the blog posts that follow is to turn some of the Torah texts I find most powerful not simply to share the results of my turning, but to invite you to start turning Torah yourselves.