ezekielsdaughter: (BookShelf)
 Some familiar themes are revisited in this book by James Kugel. We are treated to his gift for setting Biblical narratives in a context that moderns will appreciate. We return to revelations in his book “The God of Old”. I think that he is willing to go outside the comfort level of many: he compares and contrasts the early view of God in Genesis -- a God who does not know everything and is not everywhere and yet shows up at the ancient’s doorsteps at times--with the Greek gods who also sometimes disguised themselves as humans. He invokes Julian Jaynes’ “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” (And I finally read why that theory fell out the favor even though the meme still chases us around.) There are few religious and Jewish writers that wrestle with scientific theory and handle midrash and biblical poetry like a surgeon.

This book was written after the author wrestled with cancer. In it, he looks back at the shadow and ponders the the topics of why religious belief persists, what the “smallness” was that he felt when ill; can the sickening question be answered (why does human suffering exist?). During the brief book, he revisits both Job and the aforementioned Julian Jaynes. He traverses Ecclesiastes and Philippe Aries, Augustus and Boethius. His answer is different from Harold Kushner. In truth, I don’t know if he does answer it. I think that he finds the exploration more interesting; I agree. In the end, we read that he is 10 years free of cancer, but obviously the people that he met during his travails are still with him. He ends the book with memories of people that he left in that shadow.*




*And not in the shadow of death. Early on, he explains that the famous 23rd psalm does not read “the shadow of death”. There’s only one noun in the hebrew phrase. “To begin with,” he writes, “in the ancient Near East -- shadow generally had no negative connotations. The sun was hot, sometimes fatally so; shade or shadow saved you from its dangers. These words therefore generally had positive associations; often they were used metaphorically for ‘protection’.” Loved that!
ezekielsdaughter: (writing)
I see these flyers for “classical” Reform at my synagogue and a shudder runs down my spine.  It sounds so much like the reaction during the period of the Jewish Enlightenment.  Some people are so afraid of change that they are jumping in the hole and pulling the darkness behind them.   What is the point of Reform if you are not prepared to change?   I suppose if they go that way explicitly, I go elsewhere.  That would be a sad day.  Most of my friends are there. 

SJBF

Jul. 26th, 2009 10:18 am
ezekielsdaughter: (babyWriter)
Yes, I've neglected the blog.  And I was going so well there for awhile.  Facebook drew me in.  Sigh.  Here is a more thoughtful entry than facebook allows.  (You can't seem to edit there.)



A month or so back, a blog that I occasionally read wondered aloud where all the Jewish men of color were.  I put in my two cents, but I’ve continued to consider the question.  I responded, even though the U.S. South is out of the Jewish mainstream.  New Orleans itself is even more of an anomaly in the South. So the question of ‘where are the Jewish men of color’ is different here.  Some of my other single friends might well say, where are the single Jewish men at all?   Many leave town for larger and more prosperous cities.

[Occasionally, I am thankful when I read the postings at some of my northern sisters blogs and lists.   It’s true that when I sashay into an Orthodox shul, they may not legally accept me as Jewish since I’m Reform.  But I’m a body in the seats that can read Hebrew.  I am welcomed.  I’ve been given an aliyah in the local Conservative synagogue.  And, of course, the three Reform synagogues here know me.  There are no doubt some that consider this Black Jew an interloper, but they keep their mouths shut.]

Realistically, the synagogue area may not be the right gateway.  After all, most young Jews are not in the synagogue.  That’s what I found when I converted.  I was sitting in service with people thirty years older than I was.  Which is fine on one level, but not fine if you ever want to find a partner or friend. 

[I remember joking that instead of attending a Sisterhood meeting on a Saturday night, I should have been out on a date.  Another member commented that she didn’t know that I was interested in that type of thing.  That hurt!  Why should involvement with Judaism be the opposite with real life?]

I wonder if you might see more Black male Jews if the gateway was the university, or the gym?  Certainly, I would have liked to know where my Jewish peers were congregating on Saturday nights.




ezekielsdaughter: (writing)
I am still tired.  I tried to sleep but instead I want to write.

Last night was exhilarating.  You have to understand that I was nervously perched on my chair in an orthodox shul.  I sat next to friends who welcomed me, but I was again walking into a situation where I was sure that some people were turning around and thinking what? who?  I didn’t know the minhag.  I know that the Rabbi is welcoming, but the people?  Nevertheless, I wanted to attend a real all night shavuot session.  This one was well advertised in the Jewish News.  I was determined to hold my tongue if necessary.

There was once when I was tempted to speak (other than ask questions).  The subject was “Who Wrote the Bible?”  A person raised their hands and prefaced his remarks with the comment that Reform Judaism does not regard the Bible as written by God or even inspired by God.  And I sat there biting my tongue; Reform Judaism is not that monolithic.  The Rabbi speaker did gently correct him.  Without using the usual Reform phrase, “a vote, but not a veto”, he said that Reform does put Torah squarely in the center.  Thanks!  The question in some peoples’ minds was how to resolve these differences in viewpoint.  

I wanted to explain my (Reform) viewpoint by jumping to a different metaphor altogether. 
Fresh Air did a story on a scientist who had a stoke who could describe what happened to her in detail.  Suddenly, she became aware how both halves of her brain operated.  There was the right brain that lived in the eternal now and there was the left brain who told the narrative, who lived by the clock.  The stroke took the left brain out of the equation briefly.   She was like the driver who looks up and sees a rainbow --right brain-- oh how lovely!  Blessed be...  Then the left brain has to slam on the brakes before she hits the car in front of her.

How does that correlate?  I don’t have a problem with the Documentary Hypothesis.  I am perfectly happy with J, E, P, R.  Being in Kalamu’s workshop has made me more comfortable with tearing a piece of literature apart.  That’s left brain.  But my right brain is still there and I can still enjoy the finished product.  At times, a poem is so perfect that I can’t do a reasonable job of tearing it apart.  Knowing that the Torah is an amalgam of voices doesn’t destroy the finished product for me.  Every human being is an amalgam of voices.  And isn’t it marvelous that that same human being can (a) study humanity in a microscopic way and (b) enjoy the macroscopic result!  I can say that the redactor (R) did a good job, or I can say that God guided his hand--just as the scribe helped me write a letter in the WRJ Torah.  For that matter, I can say that the redactor did an occasionally sloppy job. 

The 23rd Psalm is still pretty good.  (smile)   My writing workshop would claim that the writer has changed metaphors mid-stream: “what? you started with a shepherd and suddenly we are talking about a set table?”

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