Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What, another one?

Yes, dear readers, I have fallen into blogging. My hopes is that this will allow me to maintain a connection with my friends at Shir Ami and build new connections at Congregation Beth Emeth, my new spiritual home, as well as those who might stop in along the way and those who've journeyed with me in the past.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The first question is: who am I, and what is this all about?

Well, I suppose I could point you to my Facebook (look to the side) or linkedin profile, or point you to my new congregation's website (again, elsewhere on this blog) or the website of my soon-to-be former congregation, Shir Ami. Heck, you could probably just Google me, if you were so inclined, and come up with all kinds of interesting and not so interesting things about me (including some random t-shirts at Amazon. We are not amused).

But each of these social networking and internet utilities only tells you so much about me, and doesn't really answer the question posed in a meaningful way, though it does point to how these social networking tools and the internet in general is shaping identity. What network am I in, and does it define who I am? Am I really from Philadelphia, or am I still a Cape Codder at heart? Am I defined by my 'friends' list, and what does it say about me not only to my small, realspace community, but to the world? Just because Google finds five pages of stuff about me, does that make my words and actions significant in any way (or any thoughts worth blogging about)?

The third book of the Torah, Bamidbar (Numbers) , also struggles with this question of identity for the people of Israel. Throughout the book, they are counted, sent to spy on the land they are meant to 'inherit' (that is, take by force), divided up into roles, asked to wear special garments, divided again between rebels and observers, time and again trying to define what it really means to be Israel in the wildnerness and once they've settled the land. For us as Jews living at the end of the 58th century (or beginning of the 21st, if you prefer), that question of identity is even more important. We as a people are at a crossroads, experiencing greater freedoms and creativity than ever, while that very same freedom and creativity are calling us to question whether being Jewish is even relevant in the world today (much hay has been made of these issues by people smarter than me. To start your exploration, look for Stephen Cohen's article on the changing shape of Jewish life, Douglas Rushkoff's book, which asks all the right questions, and Hayim Herring's blog. The rest is commentary; go and study). Transitional moments can be exhilerating as we look to a new direction, or they can provoke anxiety as old assumptions and relationships fall away.

That's why I'm starting this blog. I personally am in a moment of transition, from associate rabbi of one congregation to senior rabbi of another, which of course has implications on my family life (aside from new house, school for the kid, etc.), social life, theological and spritual life, etc. At the same time, both my congregations are in moments of transition (though I'll most likely focus on transitioning into the new shul), calling their entire identity into question, at least on certain levels.

So enough already. Who am I? I'm a father, a husband, a son and a brother. I'm a friend. I'm a student and a teacher. I've been blessed to serve Shir Ami for 6 years as a rabbi, and am further blessed to go serve Beth Emeth for however long God allows. What is this about? Transitions, my thoughts on the world and how I relate to it as Jew, the Torah I explore, wacky ideas about pop culture, our conversations and the Torah that comes from them.

Mostly, it's about questions. The questions we ask each other, that we ask of the tradition, that we ask God, that God asks of us. Sometimes it'll be about the answers we create, and sometimes it'll just be about the exploration of those questions.

So, here we go!


  1. To clarify: I was referencing Douglas Rushkoff's book "Nothing Sacred", which is a great, insightful and incite-full read, but my friend, classmate and colleague Rabbi Debra Kassoff pointed out that he blogs as well. I haven't read the blog, only the book, so I can't comment, but he's a good writer, so it should be worth checking out. Thanks Debra! Rabbi Kassoff can be found at www.emanu-el-stage.org/categor/reading/rabbi-kassoff.

  2. nice post. welcome to the fun of blogging! (oh, and thanks for the link!)

  3. I concur with Rabbi Sommer. Though I noticed the t-shirt is out of stock. What is up with that?

  4. Heh. My legions of followers are everywhere, bwah hah hah!

    Yeah, I have no idea.