Monday, May 28, 2012

Shavuot and Ruth: Chesed and the Letter of the Law

In today's Huffington Post, a wonderful midrash (interpretation) of the Book of Ruth and why we read the book at Shavuot, discusses an obvious contradiction in pairing the two together.  In Judaism, there can be as many midrashim on one portion of Torah, as there are people reading Torah.  

Rabbi Laura Geller, Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, California, begins with the following:
It is the anniversary of the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai. Strange, isn't it, that on the holy day we celebrate the Giving of the Law, we traditionally study a book about breaking the law! We read the Book of Ruth, the most transgressive of the Bible, the book that explicitly defies a Divine command.
 Deuteronomy 23:4-4 says explicitly: "No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the Lord; none of their descendants even into the 10th generation shall ever be admitted into the congregation of Lord because they did not meet you with food and water after you left Egypt.
Yet the book of Ruth is a story about a Moabite woman who was the great-grandmother of King David, from whose family will come the Messiah. 
After a discussion of the story of Ruth and her many kindnesses, Rabbi Geller asks what would happen to Ruth in America today if she were an illegal immigrant as she was in the story.

I would ask:  What if Ruth was the Lesbian wife of Naomi's daughter.  What if the child she bore, from a donor seed was Oved, father of Jesse, father of King David from whose family will come the Messiah?

 Rabbi Geller concludes that Ruth's acts of kindness transcend the law.  
The Book of Ruth teaches, something that gatekeepers of the law often miss: God wants us to act out of kindness and empathy; God wants us to challenge convention because we see divinity in the faces of other people.
We are given challenges along the road of life.  Moral challenges that test our very souls and our beliefs...our faith.  And yet, within the confines of the strictest laws, Judaism gives us a way to challenge the challenge God, as Abraham did, as Moses did.  It is our heritage.  It is the way we participate in God's creation.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Tonight is the beginning of Shavuot (Weeks) and the end of the counting of the Omer.  We have counted every day from the first day of Passover until the day before Shavuot.  This period of time is 7 weeks or 49 days.  It signifies the 49 days it took the emancipated Hebrews to get to Sinai for the receipt of the Torah, represented by the Ten Words that were written in stone.  We now call these Ten Words the Ten Commandments.   The rest of Torah was written on animal parchment over a period of time in the desert, according to Orthodox belief.  Archeologists believe Torah was put on parchment during the Babylonian exile, after the destruction of the First Temple, approximately 600 -515BCE.  It was, at that time when the current Hebrew script and scribes were developed and the study of Torah began to take the place some of the rituals reserved for the Temple. It wasn't until the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) that the  sacrifices and rituals surrounding the Temple were postponed until the building of a third Temple, which has not happened, to date.

Shavuot also marks the time of the late harvest in Jerusalem and is one of three major festivals in Judaism.  It's purpose is to give thanks for the Torah and the harvest and to have a period of intense study.

But the story of Shavuot, as told in the Talmud, is about the beginning of a nation of laws, it tells the story of the human resistance to obeying an authority, the fear of accepting responsibility for our actions and a kind of resignation with which the Hebrew people accepted a great responsibility - The Law of God.

By the time God offered The Law to the Hebrews, it had been offered to all of the other nations of the world, who had rejected it, out-of-hand.  The Hebrews didn't want it either, to tell you the truth.  God had to use a little technicolor persuasion.

But eventually, the people came to understand the message God was trying to send.
They would understand the significance of The Law and its Holiness, by following the law.  It's a process and a partnership with God. Doing without understand why is following a commandment.  The understanding will come in the doing.

Na'aseh v'nishma -  We will do and we will hear (understand) is what the Hebrews said.  And that is how the Hebrew people became the chosen choosing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


So, April was a month of forced reflection and contemplation due to the unfortunate exposure to two different viruses.  My studio has been left untouched, and but for one very small firing, no work has been done.  However, several decisions have been made which, I believe, will improve production and leave me with time to be more creative and improve my product.

I have hired a part-time assistant, Andrew, whose experience and enthusiasm will be a great addition to my studio.  I have not seen his work, but he's a student at Warren Wilson, in his last year this Fall, and will be a summer resident at Odyssey.  I am looking forward to his help.

I have also acquired a small jewelry kiln, from Dawn, and fully intend to create a PMC Judaic line of pins/pendants, together with porcelain jewelry boxes for Pots & Pins.

Following up on one of my prior posts, my office/jewelry workshop/guest room is just about finished, and is looking really cool.  Just some finishing touches and clearing out of my daughter's things will complete the project.

My studio, as well, should be completely user friendly with the addition of a Scott Creek 4" extruder and an assistant to help organize, organize, organize!!!

On a personal note, my sweet Sophia became a 4 year old in April.  Aly-Rose was accepted into the nursing program at AB Tech, and Dean is two tests away from his GED and classes at AB Tech in Digital Graphics.  

Until next time, be kind, study and pray with your legs.  There's work to be done!