Why Aleph (part 1 of ?)
The strange soap opera of Vayeshev

Worth a read

Thoughts are swirling around my head which I hope will coalesce into blog posts shortly. Meanwhile, here are some treats from my aggregator, posts I found especially resonant or interesting today.

Naomi Chana hits one out of the park with Redeemer of Israel. She has smart things to say about why it's fun to lead prayer services, why it amuses her when people say she's become "more observant" of late, and especially about redemption:

The nouns "redeemer" and "redemption" are almost impossible to use in English without evoking Christian imagery, but the original Hebrew goel was a redeeming kinsman, responsible for continuing a lost bloodline or buying back lost ancestral land. God becomes Israel's goel only by an extension of this very human example. And so I need to speak very precisely when I say that, for me, there is something redemptive about leading prayer.

Those of you for whom this week is the lead-up to Christmas, or who just enjoy incarnational theology, should read the latest post over at Dylan's Lectionary Blog, which is called  Christmas Day: the Feast of the Nativity. She makes a really interesting point about what Christmas is -- and what it isn't:

Many times in my youth, I heard that Christmas is the time when God bridged the gap between heaven and earth, or between spirit and flesh. But that's not what the Incarnation did for us. Creation did that for us.

Also fascinating, on the Christmas front, is Feminarian's post Updates. The first part is a kind of personal miscellany, but then she starts talking about the whole question of whether churches ought to skip services on Christmas Day this year:

We need to let go of our biases about it being a day of family, a day of presents, a day of celebrating peace and goodwill. Guys, it's a festival celebrating the most holy of occasions: the incarnation of the living God. It's not about us at all, remotely. It's a day when we should be coming before the throne with fear and trembling, not able to fathom what great love caused this God to do this thing for us.

So I am sorry that it is inconvenient, tiring, and anti-family. But it's Christian. Jesus didn't want us to spend time with our families. Jesus did plenty of great work while he was exhausted. Jesus freaking incarnated.

It's not my theology, for obvious reasons and in obvious ways, but I love the phrase "Jesus freaking incarnated."

In other news, Hasidic Rebel is back, which is very exciting. He was one of the first J-bloggers I read (you should pardon the phrase) religiously, and when he stopped blogging I worried that perhaps he had been "outed" in his community or that something had gone amiss. Fortunately for him and for us, those fears were unfounded, and he's back with his usual terrifically trenchant commentary on Hasidic life. In Journeys of Faith part III, he writes:

[W]hen a Chasid is presented with challenges to his faith to the point that it makes sense to discard those beliefs, one of the greatest traumas through which he has to pass, is how to fill the vacuum of uncertainty. It's not a simple matter of substituting non-belief for belief. For the Chasid there needs to be an alternate reality, one that can provide equal security about one’s purpose, and provide a plausible and satisfying description of how the universe and beyond functions, if it's to take the place of traditional Judaism.

It has taken me years to finally accept that I will most likely never find those certain answers. And to be okay with that.

Another long-lost blogger who has returned, however tentatively, to the blogging fold is the Soen Joon, the woman behind One Robe, One Bowl -- formerly Andi of Ditch the Raft. She's blogging cautiously, slowly, from her new vantage point on the road she hopes will lead her to Buddhist ordination. In her latest post, Weight I, she observes wisely that though words can be a lifeline, they can also get in the way.

There is a reason why, despite the restriction of silence on Zen retreats, the Zen Master is always available for a conversation. Words have power. Words, when used correctly, have a counter-weight equal to silence. The right words can keep us from falling over the wrong edge.

But the catch is that the words we need are not necessarily the words we want.

It makes me endlessly happy to be surrounded by so many thoughtful people, who say such thought-provoking things. Enjoy their words.

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