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December 2006
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February 2007

This week's portion: carrying our bones

In this week's portion, Vayehi, we spend time with Jacob on his deathbed, listening as he exhorts Joseph to bury him in the Cave of Machpelah and watching as he offers final blessings to his grandsons and to his sons. At the end of the portion, which is also the end of the book of Bereshit, Joseph -- by now an old man -- seeks a promise that someday when God takes note of the Israelites, they will bring his bones with them out of Egypt.

These parallel promises caught my attention, and sparked this week's d'var at Radical Torah. Here's a taste:

Surely Joseph impressed his instruction upon his descendants because he wanted to be brought out of Egypt. But maybe he also impressed it upon them because he didn’t want them to suffer the sadness of being distant from their history. If they had left their ancestors’ bones behind, that would have been just one more excuse for them to bemoan their departure, to wish they had never left. They might have felt impossibly lonely, disconnected not only from the only home they had ever known but also from those they had buried there. Carrying his bones allowed them to feel they were bringing their history — their story — with them on the journey toward unknown freedom.

Read the whole thing here: Carrying our bones.

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Interviews with smart people

Happy (secular) new year, all! I hope everyone had as delightful and restorative a New Year's weekend as I did.

Here's a neat way to start the year (at least, for me) -- the premiere of a new series of interviews in  Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. I get to have conversations with interesting people who are doing valuable, thought-provoking work, and then I get to shine them up for publication; what's not to like? We hope to run one of these every other month, so look for the next one in March; meanwhile, the first one has gone live.

The piece is a profile of Ari Weller, the executive director of the new Elat Chayyim. Here's a teaser:

Picture the executive director of a retreat center. Specifically, a Jewish retreat center that, depending on who you ask, is either the heart of a transdenominational revitalization of Judaism or the kind of hippy-dippy groovy place that engenders eye-rolling. You're probably imagining a guy in his fifties, earnest but harried, maybe soft around the middle -- wouldn't be out-of-place at a Grateful Dead show, if there were such things anymore. Right?

Not Ari Weller...

Read the whole thing here: Ari Weller is in the happiness business. (And while you're over there, consider taking the time to read the rest of the issue -- unsurprisingly, everything in it is really good.)

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