It’s hard to find a conversation in the Bible between two women. Sarah and Rebecca never speak to another woman in Genesis. Rachel and Leah speak with one another just once. Deena, Jacob’s daughter, never speaks at all. In the Book of Esther, Esther speaks often, and with power, but never to another woman. Against this background, the Book of Ruth stands out as a celebration of female friendship.
My 8-year-old daughter and I are having a little bit of a God problem lately.
It’s not that we’re unsure whether or not to believe in him; I’m satisfied with leaving it unresolved by being agnostic, and Ellie’s OK with that as well.
It’s not even the “why do bad things happen to good people” issue, because, while the world is outrageously unfair, I don’t think God, if he exists, is micro-managing the daily lives of the world’s almost seven billion people.
In our secular, liberal age, the Bible and the classics often get a bad rap. The Bible represents everything modernity is not—free inquiry, divested of hoary beliefs—while the classics are often snidely dismissed as the hubristic fantasies of aging, if not already dead white males.
After the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a cave in Qumran in the winter of 1946–47 by Muhammed edh-Dhib, a Bedouin boy, and his cousin, it still took two decades until they were placed on display in a museum.
It is often said that if it were possible to remember pain, no family would have more than one child. And yet, year in and year out, we Jews engage in this annual ritual of completely subverting the normal order of our kitchens, and often our furniture, and willingly subject ourselves to the very arduous task of preparing for Passover.
By the way, it is also often said that if the ancient rabbis ever set foot in their kitchens, such that they were, the laws of Passover would look quite different. But we won't go there…
Each and every year, at precisely this time of year, I find myself struggling with the question of who owns Jewish history.
It sounds like an odd question, I know. In a sense, it is. But what I mean is that there are some chapters of our history that are so imprinted on the broader consciousness of western civilization that it often feels as if we have handed over our historical experience to the rest of the world, to use as it pleases.
Israel’s smallest religious minority offers Jews a glimpse of what might have been.
What would the Jews look like had they not been exiled to the four corners of the earth, had they gone untainted — but also unenriched — by the cultures in which they tarried? Imagine Jews who retained their fierce attachment to the Torah and the faith of their fathers, but without the rabbinic response to displacement.