Rabbinic student retreat

This week's portion: holiness and bugs

There's something distinctly funny about listening to Robyn Hitchcock's Olé! Tarantula while studying and writing about this week's Torah portion, Shmini -- specifically, the verses about the tum'ah (impurity) conferred by "swarming things."

In writing this week's d'var for Radical Torah, I found myself musing on kashrut, the upsides and downsides of structure, and -- perhaps thanks to my listening material -- insects. Also the priorities which undergird Torah's instructions about which animals we should, and shouldn't, touch or consume:

This is a text, in other words, which likes its boundaries to remain intact and its categories to be clear. For those who resist the binarism of these kinds of boundaries, this week's portion may pose some challenges. The structure Shmini suggests seems to teach us to pigeonhole everything we encounter into "permitted" and "forbidden," although many of us might argue that this black-and-white thinking fails to notice or grapple with reality's many shades of grey.

Read the whole thing here: Holiness, wildlife, keeping awake.

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