Friday, October 28, 2011

Leah Staub's Blogging Debut

We have a new category called DD Alum!
Leah Staub posted this at JewSchool:

This is a guest post by Leah Staub, who was recently flummoxed by the question of whether, in addition to reading torah/haftarah and leading services, she can “give sermons.” Apparently not everyone believes that we each have our own torah to share with each other.
“And all the earth was of one language and one set of words….The Lord confused the language of all the earth and from there the Lord scattered them over the face of all the earth.” –Genesis 11:9
“This statement is ours, and for anyone who will get behind it. Representing ourselves (not the movement as a whole), we bring this call for revolution. We want freedom for all, without regards for identity, because we are all people, and because no other reason should be needed.” –September 17 Call to Action
* * * * *
Every Monday night, I join together with a group of folks, the DC Beit Midrash, to study Jewish texts. This week, we had the honor and privilege of studying with Virginia Spatz. Focusing on the story of the Tower of Babel, we spent much of the evening trying to discern what the people did wrong in the story—quickly dispensing of the notion that it had to do with trying to reach heaven—and the degree of wrongness, given that the people are not cursed or specifically punished. Their plan to fortify themselves in a single location is merely foiled.

In her Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other, Judy Klitsner brings in midrash cited by R. Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, a nineteenth-century rabbi also known as the Netziv, that discusses how the builders of Babel feared people developing thoughts different than the “one set of words” that was among them. They so feared this possibility that they decided to kill anyone who did not think as they did. This was their mistake. Klitsner writes:
the insistently repetitive rhythms of the text point to a generation’s intellectual and ideological homogeneity, in which every element of culture is mandated from language and thought to meter and melody….The text’s ambiguity on the question of whether the people sinned against God or against one another points to a complex truth: the people’s suppression of their unique selves lay at the root of their disengagement from God. In tyrannizing one another by extinguishing the divine spark of individuality, the tower builders made standing before God impossible.
According to this interpretation, the people were scattered so that they would learn to be their distinct selves, and thus find their distinct relation to God. This struck me powerfully, though one of my fellow studiers disagreed. How can the problem be that God wants people to act individually when God spends so much of the Torah mandating certain actions, he asked. I see it differently: people should not be blindly following commandments, but instead bringing their full selves to engaging in those actions. The way that each person observes mitzvot is unique, though it may seem otherwise to onlookers. We each have our own understanding of what we are doing and how we are living.
Still, both Umberto Cassuto and Nechama Leibowitz tie the people’s “one set of words” to a prophecy from Zephaniah: “For then I will turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent” (Zeph. 3:9). This creates some tension with Klitsner’s interpretation. How can the misdeed be singularity of focus if we are headed towards a messianic age when we will again be serving with a singular consent? Here it was Cassuto’s explanation that spoke to me: “in the future, all the peoples will once again have only one tongue, a pure speech understood by each one of them (it means, of course, ideas shared by all humanity).” I can get on board with the idea that we are striving towards an age when we can all speak to one another with understanding and the resultant respect.
As we continued to study, I noticed something very interesting. The God-entity that speaks of descending and confusing the people’s language is speaking from a place of multiplicity, in the plural. Havah nereda v’navla: Let us descend and confuse (Gen. 11:7). Thus we find another instance of tension between the single and the many—a God-entity who is crucially singular in our tradition, usually speaking from a singular place, but here identifying with multiplicity.
Another thought: when humans are created in the image of God, the God-entity also speaks from a place of multiplicity. Na’aseh adam b’tzalmenu kidemutenu: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Gen. 1:26). I do not find God’s plural speech difficult to comprehend; who among us does not contain multitudes? Two Jews, three opinions, right? I can’t be the only one constantly trying to reconcile different pieces of myself. (Who else remembers that TV showHerman’s Head?) Perhaps the the people of Babel failed by having only one set of words, by shutting off of the multiplicity inside of and among them. Perhaps failing to affirm that multiplicity is an untenable rejection of the Divine—and multiple—image in which we are created.
Seeking comfort in an agreed-upon singular worldview is an easy trap to fall into, especially if, as Virginia noted some have suggested, this is a people still clinging to one another for support because of the trauma of the flood. Yet, that is not how God seems to want them to support each other. They must be scattered and find their own ways, according to their clans and their tongues, in their lands and their nations (Gen. 10:32). They can only come together (in the future that Zephaniah prophesizes) when they are coming together in their multiplicities.
Before we started to clean up, Virginia, who was very active in building and maintaining a Jewish presence at Occupy K Street during Sukkot, shared that some folks are trying to organize some ongoing Jewish learning in solidarity with the protest. I, personally, have not been involved in the K Street actions. I went down to the Occupy K Street Sukkah once, to participate in one of the Sukkot teach-ins in memory of my sister, who had a great activist spirit and would have been completely pumped up by the Occupy Together movement. I myself am watching from the sidelines, primarily via Facebook.
From that place, though, I think there is a lesson to be learned from the people of Babel. Many people seem to equate heterogeneity of purpose and inspiration with aimlessness and lack of focus. But I am among those who think it could be more representative of the real power of the actions. Unlike the effort in Babel to shore up a singular worldview, here we have people coming together in their glorious multiplicity. They are bringing their full selves to their attempts to move us towards a vision that differs from our current reality, and though those visions themselves may differ, the Occupy movement is unified in their fullness and possibility. And while I may not be physically present on K Street or Zuccotti Park or in Oakland or Atlanta or Chicago, my own visions of a better world are unified within that movement. For those of us who believe that our actions for justice are what will eventually herald a messianic age, perhaps this is indeed a real step forward.
 44 61share51

2 Responses to “Learning from Babel How to #OccupyTogether”

  1. Yasher Koakh and kol ha Kavod..I’ll say something more substantive when I re-read on Shabbat..happy blogging

    Barbara Wechsler · October 28th, 2011 at 12:31 am
  2. I really appreciate this post. I think it speaks to the best in all of us whether we are in the streets or on the sidelines as you put it. In order for real change to come about it the world, the type of change God clearly dictates in the provision of languages, we need to do exactly what you are talking about. That is gather in our multiplicity and find ways to elevate our Oneness through our myriad of human dimensions.

    Ari · October 28th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Come Out and Vote and Eat, Nod to Chef George!

Cookin' Logo

Whose cuisine will reign supreme???

Cookin' with Who?

Cookin' with Who?

Thursday, November 3, 2011
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

to benefit these Mt. Airy community
non-profit institutions:
East Mount Airy Neighbors (EMAN),
Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTSP), and
Neighborhood Interfaith Movement (NIM)

The Brossman Center
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia 

Nine community "chefs" will be presenting
their favorite recipes for tasting.
Vote on your favorite!
Silent and live auctions!
Winning chef will be awarded the soon to be coveted
“Mt. Airy Platinum Spatula”!

Announcing the celebrity chefs:
East Mt. Airy Neighbors
The Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle - Glenn Bergman - Jonna Naylor
The Lutheran Theological Seminary
President Philip Krey - Prof. Timothy Wengert - Pastor Ann Colley
Neighborhood Interfaith Movement
Rabbi George Stern - Bessie Jordan-Byrd - Ronit Treatman

Support your favorite Chef!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Craft Show Coming Up at GJC

Women's Club at GJC runs a wonderful annual craft show - come, browse, buy, and stop by and visit Betsy Teutsch's booth.
WC Craft Show 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Charry Weekend to Feature Rabbi Steve Gutow

Friday, November 18, 2011 (all day)

Rabbi Steve Gutow 
Join us in welcoming Scholar-in-Residence Rabbi Steve Gutow, President & CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the public policy and community relations coordinating agency of the American Jewish community.  He is a community organizer at heart, his work focuses on mobilizing the Jewish community to advocate for immigration reform, support of Israel, sustainability, anti-poverty programs and more.  Steve will join us throughout Shabbat.

Friday, November 18
6 PM     Kol Zimrah Service
7 PM     Shabbat potluck dinner and teaching by Rabbi Gutow.  Space is limited, RSVPs a must.  Food assignments made upon registration. Contact Elana Shaw to register.

Saturday, November 19
9:30 AM     Shabbat morning service followed by community Kiddush
1:30 PM     Keynote Address by Rabbi Gutow

Monday, October 10, 2011

Joyce Norden will show her beautiful paintings

Joyce Norden painting


NOVEMBER 4, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

What Do Ants Have to Do With Community Building?

Well, ants live in community, that we know.  When I recently posted about our ant invasion on the Dorshei Derekh listserv, I was astounded to receive a dozen+ helpful responses.  Several people asked for the information.  Hence I am posting it all, with a paean to community.  It's really wonderful that we can share info on anything from ants to tshuva!  Though we hope that the ants will not return....
First, a report from our house.  We put out the ant traps from Weavers Way, which I presumed were screened for eco-friendliness.  The ant population multiplied.  We then added ant traps from the hardware store.  Yet more multiplication.  While waiting for the ant trap magic to work (the ants are attracted to the chemical in the trap, take it back to their nest, where it eventually kills them), we used sticky tape to catch ants, and eventually we vacuumed them up, too.  Suddenly, just as we were about to resort to calling an exterminator, their numbers plummeted, and now there are just a few.  It took about ten days.

The following advice is predicated on the idea that you see how the ants are getting into your house (which we couldn't).
These ant-repellent eco friendly products were recommended:
1. Boric acid, laid out on the floor where ants feed. - From a few people
2. A temporary fix is Orange Guard. It's available at Whole Foods. It's completely safe and ants won't go near it. It won't destroy the nest, but if you're vigilant, you can keep your kitchen relatively ant-free. - From Gina.
3. Try wiping  Citrasolve cleaner (orange peel extract) full strength at doorways and other places they enter and traverse. - from Anna.
4. Use lavender oil or mint oil or cinnamon oil in a spray, and spray any entry points you can find.  This can kill them directly, but they also won't want to cross where the oil is sprayed.  So spray away (nice smelling & toxin free), and refresh it about once each day. -From Morissa in Boston.

A number of people recommended exterminators:
1. Natural Pest Control -- GREAT and responsive -- advice on ant invasion
 1915 West Olney Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19141-1112 (215) 276-2962 ‎- You get a discount as a Weaver's Way member.  Several people made this recommendation.
2. A good exterminator originally recommended by Steve and Beulah:  PTC  215-643-2750.
3. Arrest-A-Pest Termite & Pest Control  109 Northwood Rd , Newtown Square, PA 19073, Phone: 610-356-7600
4. We are happy with Orkin Pest Control.

Shai Gluskin gets the helpful neighbor award.  Here's his household's DIY approach:
We had an ant invasion this summer.
If you are willing to go the toxic approach... spraying the spray on the outside of your house where your wall meets the dirt. If you have a single house it might take 2 - 3 cans to make it all the way around your house. You can also spray on the outside in major cracks you see. For us, that provided almost instant results. In terms of prevention, we got the outdoor traps (from Killian) and put them around the outside in addition to the indoor traps.
We did not need an exterminator for this. We pay a guy to inspect our house for termites every year. He was the one who told us that spraying on the outside of the house was the key.