Mountain Day

Lawrence Bush, editor of Jewish Currents and author of Waiting for God: The Spiritual Reflections of a Reluctant Atheist, has produced another video for Arthur Waskow’s Shalom Center. This one is about revelation, and is titled “Mountain Day”:

Filed under Holidays

16 Responses to “Mountain Day”

  1. Ok so I get that the creator of this video is a reluctant atheist but if Torah is merely about universal values then I think he’s missing the point. Torah certainly has something to say about universality and the whole enterprise of being human but if you take away the particular Jewish elements then imho it ceases to be Torah.


    uzi · June 5th, 2011 at 12:50 pm
  2. This is all about “feel good” ideas, none of which are found in the Torah. This therefore has nothing to do with Shavuot!


    Miri · June 5th, 2011 at 7:05 pm
  3. @uzi:
    Ok so I get that the commenter is an ethnocentrist but if Torah is merely about particular Jewish elements then I think he’s missing the point. Torah certainly has quite a lot to say about Jewish particularism and the whole enterprise of being human but if you take away the universality and everything about the enterprise of being human then imho it ceases to be Torah.


    David A.M. Wilensky · June 5th, 2011 at 8:25 pm
  4. That other Miri isn’t me, by the way. I would NEVER capitalize my name :)


    miri · June 5th, 2011 at 8:35 pm
  5. @DAMW,
    First off, you have no idea if I am an ethnocentrist or not. My comment was better put by Miri (capital M) that this video has nothing to do with Shavuot. Do you actually think that I disagree with anything you write in your very snarky stinging (not) comment back to me? Of course Torah is about the confluence and tension between the particular and the universal. It is not about any one exclusively. If you thought that my comment was meant to suggest that, then I think you may need to learn how to read for meaning better.

    Again, you can disagree (you would be wrong. everyone is entitled to be wrong) but any form of Judaism that denies and reduces every aspect of Judaism into the ethical mitzvot that are read as supporting a universal humanist worldview are missing amzaingly important and essential parts about what it means to live a Jewish life. The ethical arena is super-duper important to Judaism no question. But it is not the whole thing. Anyone who says that it is needs to ask themselves what the value is in remaining Jewish at all.


    uzi · June 6th, 2011 at 3:34 am
  6. Two [m/M]iris? How am I gonna keep this straight.

    Sorry, uzi, the comment wasn’t meant to sting–or insult. My point is that the video is about what’s most important to this one guy about the content of our revelation. And then he relates it to some other modern things that he likes. I don’t see the video as reductionist–it’s not a dissertation on the meaning of the Torah.

    Where does anyone suggest that it’s the whole thing?


    David A.M. Wilensky · June 6th, 2011 at 8:54 am
  7. apology accepted.

    I have a different view of the video than you do. It seems to me that he is not simply expressing what is most important to him but what the very nature of the content of the Revelation at Sinai. If he is making a narrow personal statement, I have no quarell with him except to say that I think he might be missing out on a lot of other good and essential stuff. If he is making a factual claim about what Torah “is”, well then factually he is wrong. Either way it’s not a great video to begin with and is just too fluffy for my sensibilities.


    uzi · June 6th, 2011 at 9:08 am
  8. Actually, the theology here is that of Buber, and Art Green, drawing on a Hasidic teaching. The Torah itself teaches that only the first two Commandments — I Am God and Have No Other Gods — were publicly spoken at Sinai to the people. The hasidic teaching cited by Buber and Green is that only the first letter of the first word of the revelation was heard by the people. And that first letter is the Aleph of Anochi. In other words, it was the fact of revelation that was revealed, and all the rest is commentary. (See the third-from-last panel at The Comic Torah).

    As to whether Buber (and Bush) are factually wrong here… it’s certainly more factually convincing than the pop Orthodox theology that all of the Torah and all of the Mishna and the structure of the Friday night kiddush were hand-delivered by God to Moses.


    Reb Yudel · June 6th, 2011 at 10:30 am
  9. “The Torah itself teaches that only the first two Commandments — I Am God and Have No Other Gods — were publicly spoken at Sinai to the people.”

    Where is that in the Torah?


    uzi · June 6th, 2011 at 10:40 am
  10. תורה צוה לנו משה

    תורה = 611

    Also, God is in the first person in the first two commandments, and the third person after that.

    Still, yes, calling that “The Torah itself teaches…” is a stretch.


    BZ · June 6th, 2011 at 10:48 am
  11. My bad. Talmud Bavli, penultimate page of masechet Makkot, more or less. The whole sugya is a foundational text for liberal Judaism, and for anyone who would want to discuss Torah and reductionism.


    Reb Yudel · June 6th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
  12. “In other words, it was the fact of revelation that was revealed, and all the rest is commentary.”

    That’s fine but one must admit that their hasidic teaching is also an interpretation. Perhaps it is not a teaching about the nature of Torah at all but rather a statement about the awesomeness of experiencing divine revelation. That only one letter could be heard by the people does not indicate a lack of fullness of the Torah but rather a shortcoming of humanity to encounter God so directly.

    “…it’s certainly more factually convincing than the pop Orthodox theology that all of the Torah and all of the Mishna and the structure of the Friday night kiddush were hand-delivered by God to Moses.”

    It’s not exactly pop theology – that’s in the talmud too Menachot 29b.
    When I speak of what is or is not factually in the Torah I mean the Torah that we read from week to week in synagogues – the Five Books of Moses. I am not particularly interested in a historical argument or theological statements but rather a content argument. It is very hard to deny that the Torah that we have, in the form that we have it, is ONLY concerned with the well being of all of humanity and providing a framework for that to happen. Moreover, it would be equally difficult to say that subsequent rabbinic interpretation of that same text was primarily concerned with those things either.

    I read the sugya in Makot. I am not sure what to make of it yet, as they say tsarich iyun – needs more investigating. However one thing that I can say with a fair amount of confidence is this – even the amora that thinks that at a certain stage in history a Jewish prophet came and reduced the number of mitzvot to 1, that is simply not the reality in which he is living his Jewish life.

    On a total side note – this is what makes shavuot so meaningful to me. The fact that we can experience revelation and articulate what it means to us and the place that Torah holds in our lives. Hope it is a wonderful Zman Matan Torateinu!


    uzi · June 6th, 2011 at 4:03 pm
  13. Lawren e Bush, who crafted the video, is the editor of jewish Currents — a VERY ethno-conscious jewish magazine, with a strongly progtessive take on what being Jewish means. he chose to celebrate Shavuos by focusing on the ultimate meaning of “I am YHWH your God Who brought you out of the house of slavery.” What he was suggesting was that the rights of workers, of women, of gays, of all oppressed minorities (or majorities) are midrash on that one line.

    Separately, Rabbi Phyllis Berman & I in a book (publ by Jewish Lights) called Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus & Wilderness Across Millennia wrote a chapter that took the Anokhi “I” of the Ten Utterances as a teaching in which Sinai is a Mirror of the Universe and the YHWH (if you try to pronounce it with no vowels all you get is a Breath) is the Interbreathing of all life. That chapter is on our website at www.theshalomcenter.org/content/sinai-universe-says-i

    The book is available at the Shouk Shalom. Click to our Home Page and then on the “Buy Books” banner.

    Good yontif, May your Sinai be accessible!

    Theology: A lot like Art Green’s and the Chernobyler rebbe


    Rabbi Arthur Waskow · June 6th, 2011 at 7:51 pm
  14. PS, uzi, you’re the same uzi that I was just commenting back and forth with at my personal blog, right?


    David A.M. Wilensky · June 7th, 2011 at 10:10 am
  15. the same


    uzi · June 7th, 2011 at 10:54 am
  16. Good to know. I’m always curious about the folks that read here and there.


    David A.M. Wilensky · June 9th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

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