Meet the Velveteen Rabbi

If you do not already know her through social media, I recommend you read some of my colleague Rabbi Rachel Barenblat’s work. Her writing is well worth your time and attention.

Here’s a taste, a “d’varling” on Parashat Mishpatim:

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

2 thoughts on “Meet the Velveteen Rabbi”

  1. I knew her just a few hours ago when I came across her blog at this page (, which has a very entertaining picture in it. Such a wonderful coincidence.

  2. I’m glad you included her commentary on Mishpatim; I’ve been reading along with the parshas privately as part of my own exploration of Judaism for myself, and I have to admit that this is the first one that I couldn’t finish. It’s not that the subject matter is too obscure or anything; I enjoy nitpicky legalese. It’s that I found myself unable to read past the “rules” on slavery, “seduction” (such a clinical word), and things like refusing to free a man’s family to exert pressure on him to remain a slave. I know that these are old rules for old times, and I’m well aware that modern Judaism has gone much, much further (in my opinion) that any of the other big world religions to root out the old stuff in its past — to “clean out the fridge,” as I think of it. But I still couldn’t get past it.

    Like I said, I know that all religions have dysfunctional things lurking in their pasts, and that Judaism has gone much further than the others in my opinion in clearing its old stuff off the shelf. That willingness to confront its Bad Old Days and say, “You know what? We’ll accept that bad old stuff and own up to it, and we’re not doing it anymore,” is an enormous part of its attraction for me. There’s a huge lesson in that for every person in the world on how, with grace, to accept what you once did, atone and repent, and take it off the shelf.

    But what this past parsha has done for me mostly is caused me to think more on what it means for a person to think about the old, bad things in its past, to ponder how much focus should be put on the Bad Old Days, whether it serves to think TOO much on them — does thinking about them make you pay too much attention to them and give the Bad Old Days power over you in the present? Or does it help you learn from your past? Or is it a little of both — and then how do you learn from the past without enshrining it?

    But if there are still things in there that are worth reading, then … I don’t know. Maybe I’ll read others’ commentaries on it for now and get to it next cycle.

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