A “Subversive” Commitment

Following a very fruitful year as Interim Rabbi in Madison WI, teaching a weekly group on “Subversive Prayer” I plan to commit to this arena of exploration, and look forward to lively discussion and reflections.


Drop in the Ocean

We speak of water as a metaphor for Torah – and for the encompassing world of the Talmudic literature – and the metaphor is apt for me personally, residing on the Island of Cape Ann, with a life-long love of the water.  In her elder years my mother (Miriam/May) was always content to sit and look out at the ocean, recalling her girlhood overlooking the Firth of Forth (Edinburgh, Scotland) – leaving me to seek out more adventurous ways to fill a few hours.  She would recall her “aliyah” (journey to Israel) in 1947 with my father on a boat from Marseilles filled with illegal immigrants who would once again break the blockade of the British Mandate.

These are turbulent profound and challenging times for the Jewish People. Many of the structures and expectations that may have held good in past generations are dissolving and there is no real clarity on what will emerge in the coming generation.  As a congregational rabbi in Brooklyn, Texas and Cape Ann I have consistently seen a growing thirst for engagement with Torah; so many people are interested in the chance to explore the meaning of the Torah – what it might have meant in previous eras – but even more how the ancient words of Torah and our Sages might speak to them as children of modernity – or even post-modernity.

This blog will be a place for all who are drawn to swim in the ocean of the Torah, sometimes to examine the beautiful vistas, and sometimes to shoot the class V and VI rapids which are no less an integral part of the ancient wellsprings of our People.  I hope to offer my own small “Drops in the Ocean” of the Torah, and I look forward to an engaged discussion and further reflection with anyone moved to share response, critique or questions.

I also plan to share with this on-line community the teachings and reflections of anyone with valuable insights – no matter their background or affiliations. Please extend a little indulgence for the fluidity of the appearance and structure of this blog; mastering the technology will take a little while.

My work as a member of he faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) is based in the fields of Liturgy, Prayer, Ritual, Worship;  I will soon set up a blog (“Liturgy Through the Looking Glass”) specifically devoted to those fields.  Those occasional posts will also appear here.

This coming Shabbat we read the Torah portion “Devarim”, beginning Deuteronomy/Devarim, the final book of the Torah.  Except for the final chapter, this book records the final speech / teaching given by Moses to the Children of Israel.  The haftarah, always read on the Shabbat before the Fast of Tisha B’Av is the opening o the Book of Isaiah – “Hazon Yishayahu”  (The vision of Isaiah).  It is interesting that “Hazon” the word for “vision” shares the same Hebrew root as “Hazan” the term used for the Cantor – the gifted individual who leads the music of our prayers.

More and more I believe that it is in carefully exploring and understanding all facets of the realm of music / melody / chant that our pathways forward will be found.