Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cyber Judaism! Electronic Media as the newest frontier of our ongoing experience of "revelation."

Dear Friends,
The Festival of Shavuot which is observed this week (begins Thursday at sundown; in Reform communities concludes Friday at sundown; in many diaspora Conservative and Orthodox communities continues until sundown Saturday) is both a Spring harvest holiday and the time associated with the giving of Torah in Jewish tradition (Z'man Matan Torateinu).

In the video and links below, I invite you to consider how electronic media represent the latest frontier in the ever-evolving Jewish notion of "revelation." Do you believe that "revelation" describes a moment isolated in history? Or could "revelation" refer to an ongoing encounter with our sacred tradition of text and interpretation? How can new electronic media and online social networking enhance our encounter with "revelation?"

Your comments, as always, are encouraged.

Chag Shavuot Sameach!
Rabbi Jonathan Blake

Here are the links to the articles of which I spoke, from the forthcoming issue of Reform Judaism Magazine:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Spirituality of the Wilderness

Cultivating a "Spirituality of the Wilderness": A Gentle Challenge for the Week of Parashat Bemibar.

When was the last time you spent at least a half hour outdoors, without speaking to anyone? That's my "homework" for this week, the week of beginning the book of Numbers (Bemidbar). View this week's video message for an elaborate introduction to the "assignment."

Rabbi Jonathan Blake

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is the Torah a Democrat or a Republican? Thoughts on Behar-Bechukotai

A minor correction to something I say at 5:35: "It's not to say that I believe the Torah is a 'Republican'"; I meant to say, "It's not to say that I believe the Torah is a 'Democrat.'" I apologize for any confusion! Enjoy! - RJEB

It was first brought to my attention in the World Jewish Digest out of Chicago (and not The Jewish Week out of New York City, as I mistakenly spoke).

Happy Studying!
Rabbi Blake

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jews, Tattoos, and You! A Few Thoughts on Parashat Emor

Let's consider Leviticus 21:5 from this week's portion, Emor:

"They [the male members of the priestly family] shall not shave smooth any part of their heads, or cut the side-growth of their beards, or make gashes in their flesh" (JPS Translation). This verse about priestly differentiation has been understood as part of a constellation of Biblical teachings about the impermissibility of ritual scarification and tattooing within Jewish tradition (cf. especially Lev. 19:28, "...You shall not gash yourselves for the sake of the dead, or incise any marks on your body.") How can we Reform Jews make sense of these teachings today?

As you view this little video, I would also recommend this provocative article from the New York Times of July 17, 2008.

Rabbi Jonathan Blake

CORRECTION: Please note in the video that I intended to reference Leviticus Chapter 21, verse 5 and not verse 6 as stated. I apologize for the error.