Episode 2: Genesis II

Genesis serves in many ways as a book of "pre-history" for what would become the Israelite/Jewish nation. In this episode of Judaism Unbound, therefore, we think about the past. First, we look back at the ways in which their own upbringings shaped our respective outlooks on Judaism. We then mine the rich corpus of Jewish history for lessons that have the potential to instruct and inspire us today. Give it a listen, and feel free to comment on our facebook page with your take on the issues we discuss! 

Dan and Lex's Jewish Narratives (0:01 - 12:27 ): Our two co-hosts discuss their own Jewish upbringings, along with how it shaped their present-day outlook on Judaism. 

What's Working? What's Not? (13:13 - 27:50): Using Richard Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? as a springboard, we discuss the extent to which non-Orthodox Jewish individuals and institutions have defined themselves in terms of what what they do not believe, as opposed to what they proactively support. [1] We also consider the extent to which bottom-up, non-institutional forms of Jewish life are succeeding, along with reasons that Jewish institutions often find it difficult to adapt to today's rapidly changing Jewish realities.

Credit: www.harpercollins.com

Credit: www.harpercollins.com

Jewish and Non-Jewish "Vitamins" (28:36 - 35:40): Lex introduces the Jewish Renewal framework of "vitamins" -- the idea that different religious traditions (Judaism included) can be a source of particular "vitamins" that help us become psychologically or even physically healthy. Dan adds to that, stating that the phenomenon of sharing ideas and practices with surrounding religious traditions is not unique to contemporary Judaism, but rather a historical fact of Jewish life for millennia.

A Time of Wandering (36:26 - 43:57): We outline the premise that right now we are living in a time of wandering, perhaps as a lingering result of the European Enlightenment, Jewish emancipation, and immigration to the United States. In other words, we are still in the midst of determining what Judaism will look like in a profoundly new era. We compare this contemporary point of transition to other shifts in our Jewish past, including the Babylonian Exile and the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. [3]

[1] Who Wrote the Bible? is a landmark book, initially published in 1987, that helped popularize the idea of the Documentary Hypothesis beyond the scholarly community. The Documentary Hypothesis proposes that the five books of Moses (the Torah or Pentateuch) were not written as one unified source but instead was redacted from a variety of sources, written by different people over the course of centuries.

[2] For an interesting article discussing some of the opportunities presented by a framework of Jewish and non-Jewish "vitamins," check out Zack Lodmer's "Yoga and Judaism," featured at jewishyoganetwork.org.

[3] In this segment of the show, Lex mentioned Rabbi Arthur Blecher's theory that the 20th Century marks the biggest shift in Jewish history -- bigger even than the destruction of the Second Temple. You can read more about his theory in his book The New American Judaism.