Judaism Unbound Episode 80: Feeling the Burn


Dan and Lex deepen their exploration of how Burning Man might expand our thinking about 21st century Judaism. They look at the concept of pilgrimage as it manifests at Burning Man and in Jewish life, and they return to the question whether Judaism is best compared to an operating system or an app, as well as exploring other potential analogies. [1]

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(0:01 - 16:17): To open the episode, Dan and Lex connect their conversations about Burning Man in Episode 78 and 79 [2] to prior conversations on the podcast, emphasizing ideas from Episode 18: How We Gather and Episode 21: jOS 4.0. [3] They also take a look at the concept of pilgrimage, embodied in the annual event of Burning Man, and ask whether the experience could represent a new form of observing the holiday of Sukkot.

(16:18 - 30:14): Carrying forward the question of Burning Man's relationship to Sukkot, they explore the extent to which the shared hardship of being located in the middle of a desert plays a role in the value of Burning Man. They also dive deeper into the human need of pilgrimage (being part of a really large group that feels "bigger than myself"), and they ask what it is about large-scale gatherings that seems to consistently provide meaning for human beings. They also ask why it is that, of all the various "pilgrimages" people could choose, tens of thousands of them have chosen to meet that need through Burning Man. [4] Relatedly, they ask if the large-scale gatherings that manifest through services on the High Holidays are meeting a similar need for some Jews.

(30:15 - 48:05): The two co-hosts wrestle with a basic fact of religion: it is impossible to fully preserve or replicate rituals of the past without a process of natural change occurring. How would it look if, instead of trying to preserve every element of Jewish life, we identified particular ideas, practices, and teachings that are most important to preserve, and permitted some of the tertiary pieces of Judaism to fall by the wayside, as they have in past eras? To close, they re-visit the question of whether Judaism is (and whether Judaism will be) an operating system or an app in people's lives. To do so, they play with an analogy comparing clothes you put on in the morning and take off at night to glasses through which you see the world at all times.

[1] You can now access Judaism Unbound on Amazon Echo, through TuneIn.

[2] Access the previous two episodes at the following links: Episode 78: Burning Man, Episode 79: Burning Mensch

[3] Access Episode 18 and Episode 25 at the following links: Episode 18: How We Gather, Episode 21: jOS 4.0

[4] For an article providing an in-depth look at Jewish life at burning man in 2009, we recommend this piece featured in JTA.