Archive for the ‘Jewish’ Category

Prince-William-Kate-Middleton-Preparing-Baby-BirthOh I so love this creative wedding processional, with all the bridal party dressed up to look like the different members of the royal wedding. Can you spot Pippa? Prince Harry?

What a fun way to get a marriage started! Do you have the guts to totally cut-up during your wedding processional?

Oh, lest we all get too hopeful, it turns out the whole thing was staged as a T-Mobile production. But hey, I’m still waiting for that cool, gutzy innovative couple to come to me and say “Ya! Let’s ROCK that processional line!”

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The following poem, called “Miriam’s Song,” was written by contemporary American poet named Eleanor Wilner. Born in Ohio in 1937, Eleanor was on the faculty of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She lived part of her life in Philadelphia. It strikes me as a beautiful addendum to my previous post, on women’s role in the Exodus.

Miriam’s Song by Eleanor Wilner

Death to the first born sons, always —
The first fruits to the gods of men.
She had not meant it so, standing in the reeds,
back then, the current tugging at her skirt
like hands, she had only meant to save
her little brother, Moses, red-faced with rage
when he was given
to the river. The long curve of the Nile
would keep their line, the promised land
around the bend. Years later
when the gray angel, like the smoke trail
of a dying comet, passed by their houses
with blood smeared over doorways, Miriam,
her head hot in her hands, wept
as the city swelled
with the wail of Egypt’s women.
Then she straightened up, slowly plaited
her hair and wound it tight around her head,
drew her long white cloak with its deep blue
around her, went out to watch the river
where Osiris, in his golden funeral barge, floated by forever …
as if in offering, she placed a basket on the river,
this time an empty one, without the precious
of tomorrow. She watched it drift a little from the shore.
She threw one small stone in it,
then another, and another, til its weight
was too much for the water and it slowly turned
and sank. She watched the Nile gape and
then heal its own green skin. She went
to join the others, to leave one ruler
for another, one Egypt for the next.
Some nights you still can see her, by some river
where the willows hang, listening to the heavy
of armies, whose sons once hidden dark
in baskets, and in their mind she sees her sister,
the black-eyed Pharaoh’s daughter, lift the baby
like a gift from the brown flood waters
and take him home to save him, such  pretty
boy and so disarming, as his dimpled hands
reach up, his mouth already open
for the breast.

To hear an NPR podcast about Exodus and Wilner’s poem “Miriam’s Song,” click here! This interview first aired On Being in 2005 and includes an interview with Aviva Zornberg. Zornberg is a scholar of Torah and rabbinic literature, and author of several books including The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus.

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This year, I had the honor and pleasure of delivering the following d’var Torah for a women’s seder hosted by the Women of Reform Judaism at Beth David Congregation of Philadelphia. I was asked to speak for about 5 minutes on the topic of women in the Exodus story. This is what I shared:

Original artwork for sale at the Reiss Gallery in Greenwood Village, Co. http://rreissgallery.com/mishory.html

Death. Water. Rebirth.

Death. Water. Rebirth.

This is the pattern we see in the famous story of the Exodus. Each is a stepping stone in the great circle of life.

First we have the Pharaoh of Egypt, a powerful yet fearful man who has grown paranoid that the population of his Hebrew slaves is becoming too great, and might one day overpower him. So, he issues a decree that all firstborn sons be killed. Death.

A loving sister named Miriam takes her baby brother and releases him to the fates of a raging river, in the hopes he will survive. Water.

He does survive. And it is Moses’s survival that will make possible the transformation of the Hebrew slaves into the Israelite people — a free people on their own land. Rebirth.

But even within this story’s mega-journey from Death, Water, to Rebirth, we also witness smaller inner-journeys that mimic this same pattern. The Exodus story begins with God deciding that enough is enough; he will no longer tolerate Pharaoh’s cruelty against his people. Through Moses, God sends 10 plagues. The plagues culminate, each more horrible than the last, until the final plague. Death to the Egyptians! But it not just death to firstborn sons. (You might have thought this. This is how it is depicted in the famous Charlton Heston movie about the Exodus.) But the movie was wrong! That is not what the texts say. The Torah says that the edict of death was for the firstborn of all the people and even of all the animals in the Egyptian kingdom.

Did you know? Pharaoh’s daughter was a first-born child. The woman who plucked Moses from the reeds and raised him as her own son, she was destined to perish in the 10th plague.

But, she did not perish. P’sikta D’rav Kahana 7:7 — a 5th century rabbinic text — tells us that Moses prayed for his adoptive mother. The text gives her the name of Bithiah. Moses’s prayer invoked a passage from Proverbs 31:18 about a “woman of valor.” According to this passage, the lamp of a woman of valor never goes out at night. P’sikta D’rav Kahana understands this to be a metaphysical reference to Pharaoh’s daughter, whose soul was not extinguished on that terrible night.

Color pencil drawing inspired by the songs of Debbie Friedman. For sale at Soulworks Studio. http://www.soulworksstudio.com/SongMandalas.en.html

Color pencil drawing inspired by the songs of Debbie Friedman. For sale at Soulworks Studio. http://www.soulworksstudio.com/SongMandalas.en.html

But, let us return to our circle.

We have Death — again — of innocents, of children. Just as Pharaoh decreed, so decrees the Hebrew god.

With the plague of death unleashed upon his empire, the exhausted Pharaoh finally relents and let’s his people go. So eager is he to see the Hebrews leave, Midrash tells us, that he leaves all of the slain first-born of his kingdom, unburied, broiling, sweltering, left to rot where they had died. He did this not out of callous indifference, but rather because he ordered the Egyptians to help the Israelites pack up their belongings and get out — lest there by any further delay in their departure.

After Death comes Water. The Israelites collect their sheep and their ox, their blankets, and their bread — which had not had not even had time to rise — and they flee for the relative safety of the desert. Eventually, they arrive on the shores of another mighty river. No longer the River Nile, they are now on the banks of the Sea of Reeds.

But, the story tells us, Pharaoh had a change of heart. He let the people go — but then he sent the Egyptian armies out after them. As well-armed chariots and soldiers were advancing upon Moses’s bedraggled bunch, the waters of the great river miraculously part, enabling the entire Hebrew people to walk through its waters. Just as the last of them has cleared the way, the waters come crashing back down, drowning every last one of Pharaoh’s men. Pharaoh is the only survivor, and he left to hear the death cries of his entire kingdom.

The Israelites break out into song, celebrating their deliverance. It is one of the most famous poems in the Bible, known as the Song of the Sea. And it is here, at this moment of Rebirth, that we see Moses’s sister Miriam again taking center stage.

Death, Water, Rebirth. Miriam has been a major actor in every step of this circle of life and redemption.

Shared on Flickr.com. If you know the artist, please email me!

Shared on Flickr.com. If you know the artist, please email me!


What I am about to tell you is a secret. It’s a secret because it isn’t told in the Torah, or in the Maxwell House hagaddah you grew up with, and is probably not found in many of the other dreadful hagaddot you have seen or read in your life. They were all written by men, for men, about men.

The Torah’s Song of the Sea begins at Exodus 15:1 and says this: “Az yashir Moshe u’bnai Israel et Hashira Ha-zot l’Adonai, v’yom’ru …” In other words: “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to Adonai, saying,…”  What follows is a victory poem cheering the Hebrews’ deliverance over Egypt, and hailing God as the ultimate warrior.

What the poem doesn’t tell us, but what modern-day scholars know, is that it was usually the women in a society who create the victory songs of war, not the men. The men are the ones off fighting the battle. It is the women, nervously waiting back home, who craft the melodies and the words that impassion this style of poetry. Victory songs belong to a genre of literature composed by women and used to greet victorious troops after battle.

Indeed, there is at least one ancient Jewish text we have found that gives a tantalizing hint to this historical fact. One ancient scroll titles the Song of the Sea as “Miriam’s Song.”

It was probably a mistake. I can so image in the poor schlub — the professional scribe — who may have lost his job over it.

But, maybe not. Maybe, this “mistake” was intentional after all. Maybe what this text reveals is a tantalizing, almost maddening clue that somewhere deep in our collective subconscious, in the verbal traditions of our people, we knew all along that it was Miriam — and not Moses — who led the people in song after the redemption.

Death. Water and Rebirth. It turns out that the Exodus story begin and ends with a woman. It began, and ended, with Miriam.

Image shared on Flickr by tbabchak.

This is why, today, more than 1,500 years after the Passover seder tradition evolved in Palestine and Eastern Europe, we women gather to have what we call a “women’s seder.” Because it is here, with the love of sisters, mothers, and friends, that we may relish the joy in sharing the rest of the story.

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In Judaism, we don’t have a tradition of mothers or fathers giving a speech after they walk their daughter or son down the aisle. Here, however, is an example of how it can be done so beautifully, with the right person and the right words.

The video clip is a few minutes long, and really worth watching — especially if you want an example of a perfect way to deliver a speech during a marriage ceremony!


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Why is it kosher to eat beef but not pork?

Why is it okay to eat locusts (!) but not lobster?

What’s so wrong with eating a vulture or an eagle?

The origins of the Jewish dietary laws are found in Leviticus 11 and are repeated in Deuteronomy 14. For one of my rabbinical school courses, we spent several weeks studying the biblical origins and theological ideas behind these laws, and what makes some foods kosher and others treif.  For class, we translated them, made comparison lists, and tried to notice patterns in the categories – as well note differences between the two texts. Then, we read some of the top theological/sociological/historical theories on these laws.kosher 1

What the rules of kashrut “really mean” is one of those topics people have debated for centuries. Everyone has a theory of what they really are about, and the most popular explanation is that they were primarily about hygiene. According to this line of thought, the ancient Israelites somehow figured out that meats like pork and shellfish were prone to food poisoning, and unlike our less-savvy neighbors, the Israelites wisely decided to ban them.

It’s a nice idea, I’ll admit. It makes us sound smarter than the rest of the world. The truth though, is that there is very little truth to this theory, and in fact it is one of the more weakly supported theories out there.

After our studies on this topic, what I walked away with was an appreciation for how difficult it is to grasp what these laws were about without understanding Jewish theology at the time the laws were written — and that is no small feat. It isn’t that it’s rocket science; rather it involves a whole way of looking at the world that is so alien to how we think today, it’s simply hard to wrap your mind around it!

That said, I’m not copping out! Here is the extremely abbreviated version of the origins of the dietary laws, as I understand them. My sources are three fine pieces of scholarship by three leading thinkers in the field. While they disagree with each other on some subtle areas, in the bigger picture they are largely in agreement.

Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus. Philadelphia: JPS, 1989, pp. 243-248.

Milgrom, Jacob “Ethics and Ritual: The Foundations of the Biblical Dietary Laws.” Religion and Law: Biblical-Judaic and Islamic Perspectives. 1990. pp. 159-191.

Wright, David. “Observations on the Ethical Foundations of the Biblical Dietary Laws: A Response to Jacob Milgrom.” 1990. pp. 193-198  

1) In a word, the Jewish dietary laws come down to holiness: the belief they made the Jewish people holy.
In biblical Judaism, and unlike the widespread animism that existed in surrounding pagan communities, holiness was not an innate quality.
It was something assigned by God alone.image

“The emulation of God’s holiness demands following the ethics associated with his nature. Since the demand for holiness occurs with greater frequency and emphasis in the food prohibitions than in any other commandment, I conclude they are the Torah’s personal recommendation as the best way of achieving this higher ethical life.” (Milgrom)

2) The laws set the Israelites apart from non-Jews, as they believed they had been specifically selected for a special and unique relationship.

“Israel’s attainment of holiness is dependent on setting itself apart from the nations and the prohibited animal foods. The dietary system is thus a reflection and reinforcement of Israel’s election.” (Milgrom)

“The main reason for their formulation is to provide a means of making and maintaining Israel as a holy people, setting them apart from other nations.” (Wright)  

“Pure creatures are to impure creatures as the Israelites are to the other nations. A pure people eats pure creatures in a pure state.” (Levine)

“The Israelites must adhere to this ideal way of life although other nations do not. Required along with avoidance of improper sexual unions, which would corrupt the family of Israel, the avoidance of pagan worship, which would alienate Israel from God, is the avoidance of unfit food. By such avoidance, Israelites are kept from bestiality, their humaneness is enhanced. Such a pure people deserves to live in its own land, unmolested.” (Levine)

3) It is no accident that one of the first acts of Christianity was to abolish the dietary laws. 

 “Historians have claimed that the purpose was to ease the process of converting to Gentiles. This explanation is, at best, a partial truth. Abolishing the dietary laws, according to Scripture, also abolishes the distinction between Gentile and Jew, and that is exactly what the founders of Christianity intended to accomplish — to end once and for all the notion that God had covenanted himself with a certain people who would keep itself apart from all the other nations. Further, it is these distinguishing criteria, the dietary laws (and circumcision) that were done away with. Christianity’s intuition was correct: Israel’s restrictive diet is a daily reminder to be apart from the nations.” (Milgrom)

4i want one of thse mezuzahs!) The Jewish value of reverence for life was something fairly unique in that time and place in the world, and that value was reinforced by a myriad of laws, of which the dietary laws are just one of them.  “The list of prohibited animals forms a unified and coherent dietary system with the blood prohibition and the prescribed slaughtering technique whose clear, unambiguous purpose is to inculcate reverence for life.” (Milgrom)

5) Those rabbis didn’t like boundary-crossing: As for the exact nature of the categories of what is or is not forbidden, they actually follow a subtle but clear pattern.  

“In Genesis I, there are three elements of creation; water, air and earth. Each sphere has a peculiar mode of motion associated with it. However, creatures that cross boundaries are anomalies. Insects that fly but have four or more legs are an abomination, but if they have two legs to hop with they are edible. Birds that are carnivores are taboo because carrion contains blood and creepers engage in an indeterminate form of locomotion.” (Milgrom)

Creepers are neither fish, flesh nor fowl, and those that walked on the sea floor were viewed similarly as scavengers who ate the ‘life blood’ of other animals.

6) Forget the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ : Most interestingly, the theory most often recited in lay circles — that the dietary laws are mostly about hygiene — is the theory that holds the least water, although it’s not hard to see why it is so popular. Famous Jewish theologians of the Middle Ages, including Maimonides, wrote in support of that position.

“The hygiene hypothesis says that the forbidden animals are carriers of disease. The ancients discovered the harmful animals empirically and modern science has verified their findings: the pig is a bearer of trichinosis, the hare of tularemia, carrion eating birds harbor disease and fish without fins and scales attract disease because they are mud burrowers. … But there are weighty objections to this theory. For example, a camel, a prohibited animal, is a succulent delicacy for the Arabs to this day and there is no evidence that they suffer gastronomically. Also, if hygiene were the sole reason for the diet laws, why were they restricted to the animal kingdom? Why were poisonous plants not prohibited?” (Milgrom)

“There is no evidence of a broad nutritional or health-related basis for the specific dietary classifications of the Torah. It is more reasonable to assume a socioreligious basis for them.” (Levine)

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but these scholars completed convined me.

What do you think? If you disagree, what is your “proof”?

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convertsOne of the great schisms in Judaism today is what “rules” we follow to define or identify who is Jewish. This may come as a surprise, but this is actually nothing new. We have been trying to keep people out of the tribe for as long as we stopped actively trying to bring people into the tribe.

When and why did such an enormous ideological change happen?

About 2,000 years ago, under the Roman empire and then the early Christian empire, where conversion to Judaism became a crime punishable by death. Up until then, we have evidence that conversion to Judaism was widespread and indeed very simple to do. No one in the Jewish community was trying to make it “difficult” for a person to self-identify as Jewish.

But let me start this story from a different angle: This post is meant to be a passionate argument in favor of a simple idea: Any person who has ONE Jewish parent (mother or father … doesn’t matter which), and who chooses to identify Jewishly, has a right to call himself or herself a Jew. The notion that a person can inherit Judaism through either matrilineal or patrilineal descent is known as bilineal descent, as in the Latin root bi = two.

Organized Jewish movements have different official opinions on this matter. Orthodox groups (and there are many different types of orthodoxy) maintain the post-Roman idea that Jewishness only happens through the mother. The Conservative movement also supports only matrilineal descent. Mixed-marriage families who belong to their movement must give their children an official conversion, in the mikveh, if it is the father, and not the mother, who is Jewish.

On the other side of the debate are the Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal and Secular Humanist movements: All recognize patrilineal descent, and hence, are in support of bilineal descent.

What do you believe?

Here is the logic I offer to people who are trying to sort this out. And as you enter the realm of this debate, I have just one request: It doesn’t matter “how you were raised” — what movement you attended as a child, or what the official position of your current movement is. I would like to ask you to think for yourself and make your own decision.

The oldest historical way of identifying Jewishly was through the father. Just look in the Torah. Who is Jewish? Moses is Jewish, but his wife is not. Would anyone say Moses’ grandchildren weren’t Jewish? Of course not. What a crazy thought! What about King David? According to Jewish tradition, one of his descendants will be the messiah — not a descendant of his wife. Would anyone today say HIS children aren’t Jewish? Of course not! So, why then, would we say that the child of a Jewish man living today is not Jewish, if that person is choosing to identify Jewishly?

The question of whether we wish to honor patrilineal descent boils down to a simple question: What do you think should determine Jewish identity — Jewish law (halacha) or Jewish history?

Which, do you believe, carries more weight?

A halachic Jew, in essence, the orthodox and Conservative movements, would argue the former. I would argue the latter.

Halachic Judaism — the legalistic Judaism that came up with kazillions of rules such as the Jewish dietary laws and the prohibition of driving a car on Shabbat — was one of many Jewish manifestations that have evolved over the millenia. For a variety of reasons, many of them flukes, this just happens to be the strain of Judaism that those of us living today descended from.

But we have evidence that there have been MANY different expressions of Judaism around the world and over the ages, and in most of those examples, Jews were not obsessively focused on the nuances of arbitrary rules.

Orthodox Jews like to believe that the more you study halacha, the more “observant” you become. For me, education has had the opposite effect. The more I have studied and learned about halacha, the more I have realized the arbitrariness of its logic, and thus the less weight I am able to give it intellectually. Therefore, the less impact it has on any of my personal practices. Becoming learned in halacha has made me LESS halachic, not MORE.

jewHistorically speaking, the shift from patrilineal to matrilineal descent happened around the year zero — in the Second Temple period, the time period when Jesus was living. The Romans were in power and they identified their own citizenry based on the identity of the mother, not the father. At that time period, we see a shift in how Jews began calculating their own people too. Then, when the Roman empire converted, en masse, from paganism to Christianity in 325 CE (by an official edict of the Pope in power), conversion to Judaism became a crime punishable by death. Suddenly, we Jews had a vested interest in NOT letting people willy-nilly join our tribe. Prior to that, we have evidence that Greek pagans were frequently converting to Judaism, and that we were even a proselytizing religion.

To put it bluntly, our switch form patrilineal descent to matrilineal descent is a direct result of anti-Semitism. Why would we, as a people, continue to advocate for ANY position that is a reaction to Anti-Semitism. Isn’t it an obvious act of reclaiming our roots and our power to say: No, YOU people are not defining us. WE get define who we are!

Here is yet another reason to accept patrilineal descent: We are a tiny, ever-more tiny group of people. As one of my professors of Jewish history once said: There are more non-Jews walking on the Earth today who have a Jewish ancestor in their past than there are Jews. Take a moment and think about that.

SO many Jews have been lost to history due to the pressures of assimilation and forced conversion that today’s world Jewish population of 13.3 million is a mere fragment of what it could have been, had circumstances in our past been different.

Jewish population growth worldwide is close to 0 percent. From 2000 to 2001, it rose 0.3%, compared to worldwide population growth of 1.4%. (An aside: About 37% of worldwide Jewry lives in Israel.) There are so few of us in this tiny tribe.

What I don’t understand is why in the world any of us would be trying to make our tent smaller rather than larger?

You have a Jewish parent and you want to come break challah with me at the oneg after Shabbat services? I have just two words for that: Welcome, friend.

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Why am I a Jew?

What does it mean?

Is a Jew who converts to Christianity still a Jew?

Is a Jew who gets dunked in a mikveh that isn’t properly heckshered — are they a Jew?

Is a Jew who really likes hummus still a Jew? Does it have to be Sabra, or is it sacrilege to like saving a shekel and going for the Trader Joe’s brand, which is clearly inferior from a gastronimic perspective? Or does buying the Trader Joe’s brand provide just further proof of just how Jewish you are?

I only know the answer to last of these vexing questions, and the answer, apparently, is No: a hummus-loving Jew mustn’t really be Jewish. They must really be a Muslim.

Oh, I don’t know who came up with this flowchart, but thank you for giving me a hearty laugh over my Froot Loops this morning.

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One of my small daily delights is reading an email called Jewdayo that comes out each morning by Jewish Currents editor Lawrence Bush. In it, he writes a brief summary of a person or event significant in Jewish history, that has a connection to this particular day. He usually closes with a quotation.

This morning, for example, I learned the origins of that famous song Jerusalem of God (Yerushalyim Shel Zahav). Surely you know it … the soft, almost mournful song about that majestic white city up on a hill. It turns out it was written by a famous Israeli songwriter named Naomi Shemer. She was born on this date in the Galilee in 1930.

What I especially love is Naomi’s explanation of how she wrote the song:

“The idea I started with was the Talmudic legend I remembered from my school days about Rabbi Akiva, who lived in poverty, in a hayloft with his beloved wife Rahel, who had been disowned by her father. As he plucked the hay out of her hair, he promised her that one day he would become wealthy and buy her a Jerusalem of Gold [a tiara]. . . . The phrase ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ suddenly shone in my memory as if to say, ‘Here I am,’ and I realized it would be the cornerstone of my song.” — Naomi Shemer

JEWDAYO, the Book, a date book with entries for every day of the year and lots of interesting illustrations, is available at the Jewish Currents Marketplace for $21.95, shipping included. Comment or read past Jewdayo entries at the Jewdayo Archive.  Or you can Subscribe to Jewish Currents.

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Here is a fun piece of news I came across today by the Israel Project, a nonprofit educational organization based in Washington DC and Jerusalem:

Within hours of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, U.S. gymnast Alexandra “Aly” Raisman already has attracted international attention because of the music she’s using for her floor routine: the classic Hebrew folk song Hava Nagila.

More often associated with bar mitzvahs and Jewish weddings, the 18-year-old from Needham, Mass. chose the piece to pay homage to her Jewish heritage and showcase her playful spirit.

Raisman’s powerhouse tumbling and technical skills led her to win the top spot at the Olympic trials July 1 and clinch one of only five spots on the women’s Olympic gymnastics team, alongside Olympic veterans such as Jordyn Wieber and Alicia Sacramone.

— By Dena Weiss, TIP Media Fellow

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Ahhh, it’s that time of year again; time for me to struggle with that oh-so rabbinic of holidays, Shavuot.

I love the original Shavous — a holiday celebrating the first fruits and vegetables to appear in the season, and a reason to travel long distances to share one’s bounty with neighbors and priests. That’s what the holiday was all about in the Torah. It was a spring harvest holiday, the yin-yang twin of the other harvest holiday that takes place in the fall: Sukkot. On this day, the Torah tells us, people would pack up the First Fruits of their harvest and make the long pedestrian trek to Jerusalem.

Take a moment and picture what a rag-tag scene that must have been. Donkeys and babies. Food and water canteens made, I am imagining, from the bladders of animals.

Then the stodgy halachists of the rabbinic era (c 300 CE) got ahold of Shavuot. Now the holiday has become burdened with the (much later) story that Shavuot was the day that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. It’s a nice story, a nice myth. The problem is that so many generations of Jews have turned this myth into “history.”

When a story like this becomes “history,” the inevitable question becomes who has the right (and power and authority) to interpret these Mosaic laws “given by God.” The rabbis of the rabbinic era made the holiday about the passing of law (and their right to interpret it) rather than the passing of rains and seasons. An entire system spanning 2,000 years of Jewish history has been built on the idea of rabbis declaring human laws as “coming from God.”

It’s not any different than the power-grab done by every other major world religion (and probably every minor religion too.) But as a post-Enlightenment human being blessed to live in a relatively free world, I’d love for my religion and my people to just speak honestly about why things are the way they are.

I wish to keep my myths restricted to the reading of JRR Tolkien. And the holodec on Star Trek.

Sigh. I could use a little Rabbi Rami Shapiro at a time like this, and indeed, a quick google search led me to one. Rabbi Shapiro can always be counted on for breathing fresh air, insight, spirit, and soul into every last creaky nook of our tradition. And on the topic of Shavuot, he does not disappoint. Here is a prayer R. Shapiro offers as an alternative aleiynu, for a Friday night Shavuot service. (The aleiynu is a standard prayer that appears in different versions throughout Jewish liturgy.)

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

It is up to us to hallow Creation, to respond to Life with the fullness of our lives. It is up to us to meet the World, to embrace the Whole even as we wrestle with its parts. It is up to us to repair the World and to bind our lives to Truth.

Therefore we bend the knee and shake off the stiffness that keeps us from the subtle graces of Life and the supple gestures of Love. With reverence and thanksgiving we accept our destiny and set for ourselves the task of redemption.

— Rami Shapiro

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