Guest blogging at BAP

I'm guest-blogging at the Best American Poetry Blog again this week.

Last time I blogged there, I posted daily poems, many of which were sparked by lines I asked other poets to donate. The time before that, it was poems from Israel, since I was wrapping up my summer in Jerusalem.

This time I'm planning a week of posts about poetry, music, Torah, and more. The first two posts are live: motherhood poems (about that Heid E. Erdrich book I wrote about here a few weeks ago) and Dave Bonta's utilitarian odes.

Anyway, if you're interested, feel free to pop over there and check out my guest posts, or to subscribe to the BAP blog and get a regular infusion of poets rambling about life, the universe, and everything delivered to your aggregator or inbox!

Here's a link to all my BAP posts if you want to see them all in one place. Thanks, BAP editors, for inviting me onboard again.


Welcome, new readers!

To all who are here via the very kind mention in Nick Kristof's Sunday New York Times column Is This America? (the online edition links to my post A gesture of repair, about raising money for new prayer rugs for the Al-Iman masjid in Queens) -- welcome. Come on in, make yourselves at home.

If you're new to Velveteen Rabbi, here are a few links by way of introduction. First of all, you might want to start with About Me -- a page which aims to offer a general introduction to who I am and what I'm doing here. (While I'm at it, allow me to point you toward my comments policy.) If you'd like to get a sense for who I am and what kinds of things I post here these days, here are five links to check out:

  • Roundup of JStreet conference posts -- I liveblogged the first JStreet conference last fall, shortly before my son was born. This post contains links to my eight writeups of different panels and sessions, plus a concluding essay about the experience overall.

  • The Akedah Cycle: a sermon in poetry for the second day of Rosh Hashanah -- This is the sermon I gave at my shul this year on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, when we read the story of the binding of Isaac. It's a series of ten linked poems which offer a variety of midrashic interpretations of the story. This is the sweet spot where my MFA and my rabbinic education overlap!

  • The Velveteen Rabbi's Haggadah for Pesach -- My own haggadah for my favorite festival of the year. Features traditional texts alongside contemporary poetry and illustrations.

  • Jewish/Muslim retreat chronicled at Zeek -- This post offers an outtake from the essay I wrote about a retreat I spent with emerging Jewish and Muslim leaders last year, and then points to the published essay in Zeek magazine.

  • Through -- My self-published collection of miscarriage poems, which I've made available for free in hopes that the collection will speak to the experience of the many other women who've endured this sorrow. For the other side of the coin, you might also enjoy my weekly mother poems which I've been posting since last November when my son was born.

Anyway: welcome! As an FYI, I moderate comments here, and sometimes it may take a while before your comments appear, so thanks for bearing with me. I hope you'll stick around a while.


Velveteen Rabbi on the Woodrat Podcast

My friend Dave Bonta is involved with all sorts of literary projects. He's one of the founders and managing editors of the literary journal Qarrtsiluni; he used to co-edit Postal Poetry, and he's also the guy behind The Morning Porch (daily micropoetry), The Woodrat Photoblog (photos and haiku), and of course his terrific personal blog Via Negativa.

Dave's latest project is a weekly 30-minute podcast called The Woodrat Podcast, which debuted two weeks ago. I've listened to the first two editions while nursing Drew. They've been thoughtful, eclectic, and interesting -- not surprising to anyone who knows Dave or reads his work.

Recently I strapped young master Drew to my chest in a Didymos wrap, walked around the house to lull him to sleep, and then stood in front of my computer (swaying gently from side to side to keep Drew dozing) and chatted with Dave via Skype. We talked about poetry, liturgy, the intersection of MFA and rabbinic school, beginner's mind, names for God, liturgical creativity, good religious poetry, writing habits, and more -- and now you can listen in, because our conversation has been excerpted in the Woodrat Podcast, episode 3:

Woodrat Podcast Episode 3: Embodied Miracles

(That link goes to Dave's blog, where you can stream the episode or download it; you can also opt to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.)

Thanks for including me, Dave; it was a real treat to spend some time talking about a few of my favorite things. Maybe especially now, two months in to this parenting adventure, when it has become a delicious novelty to go an hour without discussing sleep or crying or bodily effluvia. And to everyone else: if you listen, let us know what you think!


Top ten posts of 2009

Each year I like to post a round-up of my top ten posts from the (Gregorian) year now ending. (Here's the list I posted at the end of 2008; here's the one from 2007; and here from 2006; and here from 2005. I didn't yet have this practice in 2003 or 2004.) This isn't a Letterman-style top ten list, with my least favorite post coming first and my most favorite at the end; the ordering is chronological. With no further ado, I present ten of my favorite posts from 2009. Here's to 2010! May the secular new year bring blessings for us all.


The Gaza war: so many worlds destroyed

I've been trying to figure out how to write about the crisis in Gaza. Watching it unfold has been heartbreaking. Spending last summer in Jerusalem gave me a clearer sense for how small the country is, and how interconnected. As I talk to my Israeli friends whose friends and family are called up to serve in the army in times like these, I feel afraid with them. I feel compassion as I read the stories of those who live in Sderot, who spend their days under constant fear of rocket fire. And I feel devastation as I read the stories of those who live in Gaza, whose lives have been upturned or destroyed by the war.

Unwrapping the body of Torah

First of all, the rabbis who wrote these texts spoke to an audience who would have recognized the quotations. They didn't have to puzzle over references as the modern reader might. (Imagine someone 500 years from now trying to read a 20th-century text which makes use of poetry references ranging from Chaucer to Mary Oliver, alongside quotations from widely-known tv shows, the kind of things that are so embedded in our pop culture consciousness that we hardly notice they're references anymore.)

Miscarriage poems: Through

In January, at Ohalah, I had a miscarriage. Every pregnant woman knows it is possible, but I doubt anyone feels prepared when it happens. // I was amazed by how many women came up to me, as word quietly spread, and said that the same thing had happened to them. Having tangible proof that I was not alone -- that this was survivable -- helped me through. // My mashpi'a (spiritual director) suggested that I consider writing poems as I moved through the experience and its aftermath. Writing offered me a way to externalize the roil of emotions. I wrote my way through the experience, and then as I felt ready I began to revise the drafts. To take the raw outpourings of my heart and turn them into poetry.

Continue reading "Top ten posts of 2009" »


[JStreet] Unofficial Israeli-Palestinian Blogger Lunch Session

I'm blogging this week from Driving Change, Securing Peace, the first JStreet conference in Washington, DC. You can follow my conference posts via the JStreet category. If you want to watch the conference as it unfolds, it's being streamed live here.

If you're new to Velveteen Rabbi, welcome. Here's some information about me, and here's my comments policy -- please read it, especially if this is your first time here. Enjoy the conference posts! And regular readers, have no fear: I'll return to my more usual balance of blogging fare in a few days.

One of the unofficial JStreet events about which I've been most excited is the Israel-Palestine Blogger Panel orchestrated by Richard Silverstone of Tikun Olam and Jerry Haber of The Magnes Zionist, which apparently got some pretty negative press in the JTA (see JTA Attacks Israel-Palestine Blogger Panel.) The line-up of panelists includes:

Phil Weiss (Mondoweiss) -- Jerry Haber (Magnes Zionist) -- Richard Silverstein (Tikun Olam) -- Dan Sieradski (formerly of Jewschool) -- Helena Cobban (Just World News) -- Max Blumenthal (Daily Beast) -- Laila el Haddad (Gaza Mom) -- Matt Duss (Think Progress) -- Joseph Dana (Ibn Ezra) -- Mark J. Levey (Daily Kos) -- Sydney Levy (Muzzlewatch, Jewish Voice for Peace) -- and Jesse Hochheiser (Across the Border)

-- a pretty impressive range of voices and opinions. These folks are pretty much guaranteed to disagree on some important issues, which is part of why I'm so pleased to see them all in one room. There are also two remote bloggers participating via Skype: Joseph Dana (Ibn Ezra) and Ray Hanania (Ray Hanania's Blog).

"The 3 topics I wanted to deal with," explains Richard Silverstein, "were Iran -- nuclear crisis and all the permutations of that; the Occupation, the Goldstone report, etc; and the relationship of the broad Left Jewish-blogosphere, the Israel/Palestine blogosphere, and JStreet, and how we're going to interact with each other as loyal opposition and give each other room to present our own opinions and to disagree respectfully." (All this over lunch! There's some wry laughter around the room.)

Continue reading "[JStreet] Unofficial Israeli-Palestinian Blogger Lunch Session" »


An interview at Read Write Poem

The folks at Read Write Poem recently revamped their website completely, turning it into a much more dynamic online community for poets and lovers of poetry. (If you're interested, you can learn more about the project, and for details on the new features I recommend the post the new read write poem: bigger and better.)

One of the new features is a series of interviews with regular RWP participants, and they graciously asked me for an interview with me! That interview has just gone live, and here's a tiny taste:

What's the most important thing a poem does?

Sanctifies the ordinary. By which I mean: A poem can cut a new facet into something mundane, which allows that ordinary thing to refract amazing light. The light was always there; we just don’t see it, most of the time. Poems can offer us new ways of seeing.

You can read the whole thing here: participant spotlight rachel barenblat. Thanks, RWP folks!


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A blessing of butterflies

She now knew the butterfly effect could produce a loon in her office.

But did the converse also hold true? She closed her eyes and concentrated, and the room filled with the rush of fluttering wings. One brushed the side of her face, impossibly gentle. When she opened her eyes, they were gone.

Almost. One bright monarch perched on the tendril of wisteria which snaked its way up her house, around the outside of her window, as though it wanted to bloom inside. The monarch regarded her solemnly, its wings moving like breathing, and then it lifted into the air and flew away.

What we breathe out, the trees breathe in. What they breathe out, we breathe in. The notion satisfied her. Butterflies breathe, and mint plants. The lettuces beneath their mesh, and the rabbits which skirt them, hungry.

Sometimes the internet seems to breathe. One person posts, and then another in response. She could sit solitary at her computer, facing the green world outside her windows, and never feel entirely alone. The thrum of conversation is perennial. We pick up the threads and follow them to the center of one labyrinth or another, and then we are gone, but the labyrinth remains.

The woman in leggings and a striped hand-me-down shirt scuffed her feet against the floor, contemplating the posting of comments, the flapping of tiny wings.

With her bright visitors gone, it seemed as though she ought to feel bereft, but she didn't. She felt blessed.


This is the fourteenth post in an online came of Consequences. Each post begins with the last line of the previous post; is (meant to be) 250 words long; and is on the theme of the individual within the community, or something along those lines.

Previous posts: No man is an island, Entire of itself, A part of the main, To belong, Be-longing, Expats, or la vie en rosé, Ex-hale, No Contest, Consequences, Consequences 10, Consequences 11, Follow the consequences, and Consequences 13. The series will conclude at Hydragenic, where it began, in a day or two.


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On divisions in the J-blogosphere, and President Obama's Cairo speech

1. About Haveil Havalim

Most weeks I try to submit something to Haveil Havalim, the Jewish blog carnival. (I hosted Haveil Havalim #36 back in 2005; it's been ongoing since 2004.) It's always interesting to see what is happening in certain corners of the Jewish blogosphere.

I say "certain corners" because it has always seemed to me that Haveil Havalim skews to the right. The Jewish blogs that I read -- Jewschool, South Jerusalem, A Big Jewish Blog, Judaism Without Borders, Mah Rabu, On Chanting, Every Day and Every Night, The Jew and the Carrot, Sustainable Judaism, JSpot, Shalom Rav, Rabbis for Human Rights North America -- don't tend to be represented there. The blog carnival is opt-in only; I guess progressive Jewish thinkers don't tend to submit posts. I don't know why that is: do progressive J-bloggers not know that the carnival is there? Do we not feel represented by it, and therefore not feel inclined to join in? Do we feel awkward about self-promotion? Do we feel uncomfortable expressing our political views in a space which tends not to include the voices of progressive Jews? (That last resonates for me. I only rarely submit political posts to the carnival; mostly I submit Torah posts, because those seem less likely to spark confrontation.)

Anyway, the most recent edition, hosted by Esser Agaroth, dedicated a whole section to "The Big Speech" -- President Obama's recent remarks in Cairo -- which made me realize again that I'm coming from a very different place than the majority of the folks who submit their material to Havel Havalim. Ben Yehuda framed this section of the carnival by comparing the President to Pee-Wee Herman, and suggesting that Pee-Wee knew more about his chosen subject than President Obama does about his. As I browsed the links in that section of the post, I was amazed by how foreign I found most of the responses to the President's speech. Our perspectives differ so strongly that we don't seem to have heard the same words. 

Continue reading "On divisions in the J-blogosphere, and President Obama's Cairo speech" »


7 things you might not know

My wonderful husband Ethan tagged me to share seven things you might not know about me. (Thanks, sweetie.) As it happens, back in 2007 I got tagged to share five things you may not know about me, so I guess these are items six through twelve on that list!

1. From the time I was twelve until I was twenty I kept an ongoing stream of diaries and journals. They were inspired in part by reading the diary of Anne Frank at the age of ten; a couple of years later I read the diary of artist Wanda Gág, and by the time I finished her book, I had started keeping a diary of my own, faithfully. When I went off to college, I left the journals from junior high and high school at home for safekeeping. A washing machine flood in my parents' utility room drenched the cardboard box I'd packed them in, and most are now illegible. (I still have them anyway.) These days I keep a paper journal only when I'm on retreat or traveling.

2. I am a serious lover of tea. My tastes are quite catholic; I like black teas, green teas, herbal teas (perhaps more properly called "tisanes," but I'm not picky), flavored teas. I love the dark umami smokiness of Lapsang Souchong, and the delicate kick of a good Earl Grey. I love Adagio's Valentines tea and Tealuxe's Monk's blend. Lately I've been grooving on a tea that Ethan's colleague Lokman brought to us from Hong Kong; I can't read the packaging, but inside the canister are little golden bonbons which, unwrapped, each reveal a tight-packed ball of tea leaves which unfurl in the pot.

Continue reading "7 things you might not know" »


Ladyblog awards

Until today I didn't know Ladyblog ("Classier than tea service. Like Fight Club, but with better hygiene. Slightly more aggro than a cucumber sandwich.") But the editors there just emailed me to say that this blog has been nominated for a LadyBlog award.

"We asked readers and fans to nominate female bloggers in five different categories (conservative politics, mommybloggers, lifestyle, religion, and entertainment)," they tell me, "and then the Ladyblog authors narrowed the nominations down to five blogs in each category." In the religion category, five blogs made the final cut:

Kafir Girl ("We read the Quran so you don't have to" -- the blog of a self-described "Pakistani American ex-Muslim twenty-something atheist")

Conversion Diary ("The diary of a former atheist" who has come to believe in God)

Velveteen Rabbi (If you're reading this, I trust you know my blog! My tagline is, "When can I run and play with the real rabbis?)

Peace for the Journey (the pull quote at the top of the blog is from John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you...")

A Holy Experience (The pull quote is Browning: "earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God")

The really neat thing for me is that I've never read the other four blogs on this list. So now I have four new-to-me religion blogs to check out. Anyway, if you're so inclined, check these blogs out and then pop over to Ladyblog to tell them which one you like best. Thanks, Ladyblog!

Ladyblog Award Finalist

New VR comments policy

For the first 5+ years of this blog's existence, there has been no official comments policy. I have trusted in the general good intentions of my readers, and on the whole, that's worked pretty well.

But over the years, the community of folks reading this blog has expanded. So I decided that the turn of the (secular) year was a good time to post a comments policy. Here are five simple rules for being a part of this blog.

Rules of engagement at Velveteen Rabbi:

  • 1) Be polite

    I consider my blog to be an extension of my living room. Whatever you're going to say in response to my posts, please consider whether it's the sort of thing you would say to your host or fellow guests if you'd been invited to someone's home for tea. If it isn't, then please don't say it here.

  • 2) Be open-minded

    I write for a broad audience. Sometimes I may say things with which you disagree. If that happens, take a deep breath and enjoy the delicious diversity of human experience and opinion! I aim to foster an environment of pluralism, where multiple perspectives can coexist. I hope that everyone who hangs out at this blog can join me in celebrating that.

  • 3) Stay on-topic

    The comments which follow posts here are a part of a conversation. So please, when you comment on a post, keep your comment germane to the subject at hand.

  • 4) Own your words

  • When you comment here, I hope you'll do all of us the courtesy of including your name, your blog URL, and your own valid email address with your comment. (The email address will not be displayed, but it allows me to respond to you personally off-blog if I want to continue the conversation in that way.) The words you post here are yours; be willing to stand behind them. (And if your words are inappropriate, I reserve the right to delete them.)

  • 5) Treat people with respect

    It is a tenet of my faith that we are all created b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. Every human being is worthy of respect. I expect everyone who comments here to show that respect, to everyone.

I'm adding a "comments policy" link to the sidebar, so if you ever want to refresh your memory about what the comments policy is, it will be readily available for you.Thank you, everyone, for your willingness to abide by these rules of discourse. And thanks for being a part of Velveteen Rabbi! I look forward to our many conversations in the year to come.


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Top 10 Nonfiction Posts of 2008

Every year at the end of December I post a list of my ten favorite blog posts from the year now ending. This year I've compiled two such lists: one of my favorite nonfiction posts, another of my favorite poems. (Here's the first one; I'll post the second one in a day or two.) [ETA: Top ten poetry posts of 2008.]

Rereading the year-in-blog-posts, I'm reminded of what a rollercoaster this year has been. Thanks for being part of the conversation here during 2008; here's to 2009!


A place where prayer can dwell. "I think our multifaceted nature is both our boon and our greatest challenge. We're a patchwork religious movement. My other Jewish identity, Jewish Renewal, is also a many-splendored thing, a patchwork quilt of ideas and practices and teachings; of course, Renewal is actively transdenominational, so a certain patchwork nature is presumed. Reform Judaism aims to be a single unitary denomination -- though one which can include, for instance, my parents' congregation (historically a classical Reform institution) and mine (which lives out Reform values in a decidedly nontraditional way.) My guess is that this siddur will challenge both of our communities, though in different ways. Maybe that's a sign that its creators have crafted something interesting and complex."

Brokenness and purity. "Why did the children of Israel save the shards of the broken tablets? Why not destroy them, or leave them behind in the desert? Surely no one there wanted to keep them as mementos of one of the community's strongest lapses of faith? But the tradition teaches us that the broken tablets were preserved as a sign that holiness persists even in our brokenness. Sometimes our brokenness, our mistakes, are what we have to offer to God...and that's worthy of preservation along with the aspects of us which are whole."

Beginning to wrestle. "During the first few years of this blog's existence, I didn't write about Israel. Because I wanted to quietly challenge the assumption that a Judaism-focused blog must necessarily be Israel-focused. Because I figured the last thing the internet needs is another person pontificating about a place she barely knows. Because most online discourse about Israel and Palestine is hotheaded and partisan. Because time and energy and passion are limited resources, and it often seems that so much of these go to Israel that little is left for other aspects of Jewish identity and experience. // All of those reasons still hold. And yet I'm beginning to grapple with what it will mean to shift this unofficial blog policy (and, more importantly, to shift the internal focus behind it) because this summer I'm going to spend seven weeks in Jerusalem."

Continue reading "Top 10 Nonfiction Posts of 2008" »


Support Global Voices Online

Donate to Global Voices - Help us spread the word

Global Voices Online is one of the most worthwhile projects I know. Their Rising Voices project offers grant support to blogging groups in developing nations; they do amazing free speech advocacy worldwide; and a team of more than 200 volunteers works tirelessly to amplify the voices of ordinary people around the world (in a whole bunch of different languages.) Want to know what people are thinking and talking about in Albania? Israel and Palestine? Kazakhstan? Zimbabwe? Global Voices is the place to find out.

And they've just launched a donations campaign. Full disclosure: I was there on the day the organization was born, back in December of 2004 (here's my post from that day: Bridge blogs and global voices.) Oh, and the project was co-founded by my husband, so it's possible I'm slightly biased. But this is a project I deeply believe in, and the Global voices manifesto which began to coalesce at that first bloggers' conference still gives me chills. Here's how it begins:

We believe in free speech: in protecting the right to speak — and the right to listen. We believe in universal access to the tools of speech.

To that end, we seek to enable everyone who wants to speak to have the means to speak — and everyone who wants to hear that speech, the means to listen to it.

Thanks to new tools, speech need no longer be controlled by those who own the means of publishing and distribution, or by governments that would restrict thought and communication. Now, anyone can wield the power of the press. Everyone can tell their stories to the world...

(Read the whole thing here -- in English, Arabic, Albanian, Bangla, Chinese, or thirteen other tongues.)

This is exactly the kind of project that makes me hopeful for the internet. Chanukah begins tonight, a fine time for gift-giving. If you've got a few bucks you can throw their way, I hope you'll consider doing so. (They've got cute badges, too. Like the one at the top of this post. You don't want to disappoint the tiny kitten, do you?)

Donate to Global Voices - Help us spread the word

Keep the world talking: donate now.


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Contemporary psalm at Best American Poetry

I've posted another poem at The Best American Poetry blog, this one a kind of creative version of or contemporary poetic response to psalm 147. The poem is called Seven reasons (Psalm 147.)

Psalm 147 is part of psukei d'zimrah, the collection of psalms recited near the beginning of morning prayer. This section of the service begins with an opening benediction praising God Who speaks creation into being; then comes an interlude of Biblical material; then psalms 145-150; then another interlude of Biblical material; then the closing benediction (yishtabach, also called the "blessing of song.")

There is much which is beautiful in the classical psalm which didn't make it into my poem. I begin with verse two of the Hebrew, about rebuilding Jerusalem, and verse three, about God Who heals the broken-hearted and repairs their sorrow. Then I jump to verse eight, about the One who covers the sky with clouds; then to verse fourteen, about God Who "scatters frost like ashes" and "casts out ice like crumbs." (That's in the traditional rendering.)

In commentary on this psalm (found in Lawrence Hoffman's excellent My People's Prayerbook series -- the volume on Psukei D'zimrah, naturally enough) Ellen Frankel writes, "Blessings flow earthward because of our gratitude, not our pride... What we interpret as impediments to our freedom and ease -- snow, frost, and ice -- are just the opposite in the divine household; they represent the wool, ashes, and crumbs of God's handiwork." I'll try to bear that in mind as the snow continues to fall today...

My poem owes much to zen abbot Norman Fischer's interpretive renderings of the psalms (collected in a book which I reviewed in early 2007.) Though I deliberately didn't check his book to see his version of this psalm before writing my own, I did learn from him the technique of speaking psalms not about God but to God -- embedding the I/Thou relationship in the very shape of the poem at hand.


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Psalm of assent at BAP

Another new poem up at the Best American Poetry blog. This one's called Psalm of Assent, and makes use of a line donated by Kate Abbott, who wrote me a beautiful sestina once.

The title is a play on psalm 126, "a song of ascents," which begins "When Adonai returned us to Zion we were as dreamers..." And the third stanza nods to that famous line from Pirkei Avot.

The burly men are real; my friend David and I met for dinner at a pub on rural route 43 this week, and the place was packed both with those who had neither light nor heat at home and by crews of roving electric company workers. Our waitress admitted she had trouble understanding some of the men who'd come from far afield, which I found strangely poignant.


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"View from the prow" at the BAP blog

I've posted another poem at the Best American Poetry blog. This one's called View from the prow, and it, too, arises out of the aftermath of the ice storm -- though in (I think) an entirely different way than the others I've posted so far. It may also be the first poem I've written about a baby since my niece Emma Rose (now a freshman in high school) was born.

The poem makes use of a line donated by Ivy Alvarez, author of Mortal, a collection which knocks my socks off. (Here's one of the poems from that collection: fossil -- which you can also hear as an mp3 in Ivy's own voice.)

If the cadences at the end of "View from the prow" seem familiar, it might be because they echo the asher yatzar blessing which is part of the Jewish daily liturgy. (I blogged about that blessing a few years ago, and I've written a poem which doubles as a variation on that blessing, which you can find at the bottom of this page.)

Anyway. New poem up at BAP. Enjoy!


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"Crystal" at the BAP blog

Ice storms are destructive but curiously beautiful. I posted a photoset of ice storm photos; feel free to click through them if that interests you.

I used one of the photos to illustrate the second poem I've posted at Best American Poetry this week; the poem is called Crystal, and it makes use of a line donated by my friend Teju Cole. You can read one of his beautiful poems in a back issue of qarrtsiluni: from the ekphrasis issue, here's his poem Traveling Mercies, which accompanies a photograph by Jean Morris of tasting rhubarb.

And now, back to beating my head against the Shulchan Aruch. (It's a little bit disheartening, how much harder I find the Shulchan Aruch than I found either Rambam or the Tur. No wonder I just want to write poems this week...)


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Guest-blogging at Best American Poetry

The editors of the Best American Poetry blog have graciously invited me to guest-blog for them again. If you'd like to read my posts there, the first one is up, a new poem called Sitting in the darkness waiting for something to burst. (Yes, that's a nod to qarrtsiluni...)

Thanks again for the invitation, y'all! I'm psyched to be blogging at BAP again.


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Jewish/Muslim conversation at Islamicate

My friend Hussein is hosting a conversation about Jews, Muslims, and Orthodoxy at his blog Islamicate. His post comes in response to a post by Abu Noor, who spoke first about the notion of reform or reformation within Islam, and then wrote:

The different possible approaches for a religious tradition in coming to terms with modernity are most easily understood by looking to the Jewish tradition of Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative approaches as well as all the various twists on those three main distinctions that have developed.

Hussein agrees that instead of speaking in terms of a Reformation within Islam, it may make sense to use the analogy of the Jewish denominations, though he has interesting qualms with the notion of orthodoxy within Islam. He writes:

I do not think that we can begin using the term "orthodox Muslim" as a descriptor. Where as the Rabbinic tradition in Judaism functions as a way to determine "correct belief," the literal meaning of "orthodox," we have not had that sort of the authority universally recognized in Muslim traditions...

We have a lot to learn about the experience of others, and about our own history and diversity. Once we've begun that level of exploration, as we are now, I think we can decipher what best to call ourselves in our different communities of interpretation.

In a comment on his post, I've made the argument that Judaism is historically more concerned with praxis than with belief (I think of R' Soloveitchik's Halakhic Man and his point that behavior may in time create faith or create a space in which faith can arise.) I also had a few things to say about Orthodoxy and liberal Judaism and the different relationships between them in Israel and in the Diaspora.

If you have thoughts on this, hop over to Islamicate and join the conversation. Hussein's post is here: Jews, Muslims, and Orthodoxy.


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Guest post at God's Politics

The folks at God's Politics, a blog by Jim Wallis and friends (presented by Beliefnet and Sojourners), asked me to write a guest post for them about the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel and how I wrestle with it as an American Jew. The post I wrote took the form of a letter to Israel on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday. It's here: The Velveteen Rabbi's Birthday Card to Israel.

Reb Zalman reminds us frequently that we should speak not only about God but also to God. So when the editors at God's Politics asked me to write this post, I decided to take that same tack, talking to Israel rather than merely about it. Writing the post as a direct address was both difficult and fruitful for me, and it made me realize that I'd love to see what others would do with the same assignment. If anyone else out there feels inclined to follow suit, drop a comment here and link to your post?

Thanks to the folks at God's Politics for the opportunity to send a guest post their way.


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