June 10, 2014

Dear Rabbi Rami,  As a Christian, I have always wondered why you Jews killed Jesus? I hope this isn’t a rude question to ask, but I am really curious.   The question isn’t rude, and the answer is simple: we didn’t kill him. While the Hebrew Bible doesn’t shy away from capital punishment, Judaism never sanctioned crucifixion. The Romans killed Jesus, and they did so for the same reason they crucified thousands of others: to intimidate people and keep them… Read more

June 4, 2014

Dear Rabbi Rami, I’m a sixty–something Reform Jew whose faith is crumbling. I don’t believe Torah is the word of God, or that mitzvot are divine obligations. The more I delve into this the more disillusioned I become. How do you handle this? ****** Mazal tov! How wonderful to become dis–illusioned! Illusion is a misreading of reality that happens when a magician (priest, guru, rabbi, pastor, politician, marketer, etc.) distracts you from reality. Seeing through illusion—becoming dis–illusioned—allows you to engage… Read more

June 4, 2014

As those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning know, Judaism Next was intended to be a book in progress. Sadly, the progress has stopped. So has my enthusiasm. While I still intend to write a book setting forth my ideas on God, Torah, and Israel, the standard book format speaks to me less and less. I want to create a new way of communicating these ideas, and I have yet to invent one. So, this… Read more

May 29, 2014

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… Read more

May 28, 2014

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… Read more

May 28, 2014

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 it is… Read more

May 26, 2014

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… Read more

May 21, 2014

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… Read more

May 20, 2014

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… Read more

May 20, 2014

“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… Read more

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