Judaism Unbound Episode 154: Ten New Commandments

Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg get a bit revolutionary, introducing (and debating) 10 New Commandments for contemporary Judaism. [1]

Dan and Lex Ten Commandments.png

(0:01 - 15:57): To begin the episode, Dan transports us to a hypothetical conversation happening in the year 30 C.E, in which someone proposes a new vision for the future of Judaism — without the sacrifices that had been the defining feature of Judaism to that point, and having replaced them with prayer — and promptly gets laughed out of the room. Comparing that moment to our own context in American Judaism, Dan proposes ten new “commandments” that would establish (or re-establish, as Dan argues that these commandments constitute the tried-and-true Jewish way of re-imagining Judaism) a process for helping us make some of the hard decisions associated with discarding elements of Judaism that we have inherited and experimenting with new ideas and practices that will be part of the Judaisms of the future. In exploring these issues, Dan and Lex also ask what it would look like to more consciously “archive” and study rituals from the Jewish past that may not continue as part of the lived Jewish experiences of Jews in future generations. [2] They also consider the role of two groups — first, Jews who were not born as Jews, and second, people who were not born Jewish and are not currently Jewish either — in shaping Judaism(s) of the future.

(15:58 - 30:21): Dan and Lex model a process they endorse for contemporary Jewish communities — debate around which pieces of received tradition should be retained into the future. In particular, as an example of the application of this process, they look at the practice of Mincha, the afternoon prayer service, and whether it merits inclusion in the Judaism that will be practiced in future generations. To deepen this conversation, Lex proposes that we apply lessons from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life to our Jewish futurism. [3]

(30:22 - 48:36): Dan compares the It’s a Wonderful Life conversation to the hit Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (and, earlier, her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). [4] He compares the process of saving and discarding Jewish practices to that of identifying which objects in your house spark joy in you (one of Kondo’s hallmark practices). Dan then hones in on the latter five “commandments” that he proposes for the future of Judaism, and Lex responds to one of them in particular — the idea of "putting artists in charge.” Lex then calls for a centering of those groups who have historically been marginalized from Jewish leadership, citing the famous phrase “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” [5] Dan then calls us to focus on elements of Jewish history that resemble our own contemporary time of transition. To close the episode, Lex asks us to hold — equally — the memory of our grandparents and the future realities of our grandchildren, as we craft Judaisms for today and for coming generations.

[1] This conversation continues many threads from the most recent “guest-less” episode of Judaism Unbound, #150. Access it by clicking here — Episode 150: “Jews” of “No” “Religion.”

[2] Lex shouts-out to Mordechai Kaplan in arguing that the past should get a “vote, not a veto.” Learn more about Kaplan, and what he meant by this aphorism, by clicking here.

[3] For another take on some of the key lessons of It’s a Wonderful Life, click here.

[4] The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can be purchased here. Watch the show based on it on Netflix by clicking here.

[5] Learn more about the over-100-year history of this phrase, frequently invoked in Jewish contexts, here.