Created from Man: The Challenges of Bereishit – And How to Teach Them to High School Students

By the time Simchat Torah rolls around each year, I usually find it refreshing. Back to the beginning: creation and all of the lovely and (comparatively) simplistic themes following the weight of Devarim. Last year, however, I had been teaching Bereishit to ninth and tenth graders at a Jewish high school in Chicago for the eight weeks leading up to the holiday, and by that point, I could barely look at the Torah’s introductory story. It’s not that the beauty of the beginning had been lost. But the perceived simplicity had certainly been ripped out from under my previous romanticism of it all.

Both Wilderness and Promised Land: How Torah Grows When Read Through LGBTQ Eyes

B’reishit—in the beginning of the Torah, and the beginning of the world—there was God, a very queer God. Unlike other deities described in Iron Age texts, this God didn’t have a form or face or identifiable role in the natural world. In other Iron Age creation stories, deities are action heroes, creating order out of chaos by slaying monsters, other deities, and occasionally their parents. In Genesis, God brings order out of chaos simply by speaking. No blood, no pantheon, no rivals, no triumphs to portray on temple walls, nothing to visualize or imagine.

A Psychoanalytic Guide to Kabbalah

Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah have a lot in common, not the least their ability to profoundly alter our mind-states and influence our actions. In his modern Guide for the Perplexed, renowned psychologist Michael Eigen breaks down the connections between psychoanalysis and Kabbalah, and how they might be used together for our benefit.

Blessings and Textual Operations

I will have to confront a bias right at the start. In any reading, this portion of the Torah raises several issues which are difficult for us to confront. “Confront”, as in “confrontation”, for there is not an element in this narrative that is not problematic at a very visceral level.

Lekh Lekha: Trials and Reward

The concerns of the book of Bereishit now seems to shift. Perhaps having given up on the expediency of world shaking totalizing cataclysmic events as a way to improve or even impress humanity, the narrative becomes more local, away from grandiose spectacles, more concerned with the daily life of individuals . . .

Perashat Breishit: Being and Prayer

The problem with the opening passages of the Torah in a sense is the problem of being. As Rashi points out from the outset with the teaching of R. Yitzchak, the narration of the creation is meant to teach us not basic lessons in science and cosmology, but rather something about our being in the world (the fact that all through my early Jewish Day School years all the Rabbis seemed to be concerned with was attacking “evolution” is, I believe, a phenomenon of the internalization of certain Protestant agendas, but that’s a subject for some other discussion). At any rate, as this question of “being” is so fundamental an aspect of contemporary discourse, it is worth addressing, right at the Beginning, as it were.

Making Space in the Sukka: Social Justice and Joy

The period of time in the Hebrew calendar reaching from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur is thought of generally as one unit, in English commonly referred to as the High Holidays, whereas Sukkot, the festival which follows four days after Yom Kippur, is generally thought of as a festive holiday, one of the three biblical Temple festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot), entirely distinct from the Days of Awe which happen to precede it. The mystics, however, view the period from Rosh Hashana until the end of Sukkot as one long arc . . .

Yom Kippur

In the shiur regarding Rosh Hashana, we saw how the shofar connected us to a moment unlimited by, or outside of, time. This radicalization of the perception of time bears an even more immediate relationship to the concept of Yom Kippur and its central component, Teshuva, or repentance, as the word teshuva is roughly translated.

Behave! Don’t you know that the Book of Life Is Open?

The liturgical and ritual richness of the High Holiday season has produced a number of vibrant symbols which seem to maintain their ability to reverberate in consciousness repeatedly through the ages. After all, the theme of the period is the interplay of creation and judgment, reflection and repentance, concepts at the core of human existence; after all, it is traditional to look at Rosh Hashana as the day which determines life or death, as it were, for the coming year.

Ha’azinu

After the long speech by Moshe, a summation of the exodus and the wanderings through the desert, which constitutes the Mishne Torah, the fifth book of the Torah, Moshe decides to wrap things up with two things, a lengthy poem, which makes up the bulk of Perashat Ha’azinu and a set of blessings to the tribes which brings the book of Devarim to an end.

Rosh Hashana

Central to, or lurking behind, if you will, any discussion appropriate to Rosh Hashana is the problem of time. For while we all talk of Rosh Hashana as a celebration of the “New Year”, the texts, biblical and talmudic, are rather ambiguous as to what the actual date of creation is. One thing is certain– Rosh Hashana is not meant to be the date of the creation of the world per se.