News & The Book of Ruth

News: I got a new desktop computer and spent the last 24 hours setting it up so it would be ready for class Sunday afternoon. I missed posting my usual Friday message with online links, but I will get back into that routine this week, for sure.

The new computer is very exciting – faster, nicer camera, speakers, audio, etc. I just have to get used to it.

The Book of Ruth is a one-meeting class I’m offering both live and online this coming Thursday, May 19 from 7:30 – 9pm Pacific Time. My focus will be the following question: What insights does Ruth have to offer us today about Jewish community, conversion, and interfaith marriages?

Sorry, the class has been cancelled for lack of enrollment.

Shavua tov!


Bible Circle: The Text in its World

There’s a Lehrhaus online class about to begin that may interest some readers of this blog. Here’s the description from the online catalog:

Bible Circle: The Text in its World with Jehon Grist, PhD – Tuesdays, Feb 23 – Mar 15, 7-8:30pm ($35)  Since childhood, we’ve all visited some of the great Bible stories, but we’ve also sometimes scratched our heads, not really understanding everything they have to say.

To fully explore the story, you need to go full circle and discover the Biblical world from which it came. That’s what this course will do. We’ll study selected texts, covering everything from the basic story line, to the meaning of obscure words and phrases (all in English translation), to the fascinating differences found in other ancient versions of the Bible.

But we’ll also visit the places and cultures that thrived when these stories were composed, from Biblical villages and the Jerusalem temple to Egyptian palaces and more. Richly illustrated with hundreds of images and numerous video clips, we will time-travel through four selected Bible texts, bringing them and their world to life.


Dr. Grist is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Educator of Lehrhaus Judaica. He received his doctorate in Near East Studies and a California State Teaching Credential from the University of California, Berkeley with Doctoral research time at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. A veteran of excavations and field research in both Israel and Egypt, Jehon has published articles and presented papers on a variety of topics, from research identifying an obscure Egyptian queen, to the conflict between Egypt, Israel and the Philistines at the beginning of Biblical history.


A personal note: Dr. Grist was my Hebrew teacher for several years before I went to rabbinical school and continues to be a friend and mentor. He is one of the most entertaining lecturers I know.  I have enrolled (and will attend online and via recording) because I know that it will enrich my own study and teaching.




Meet Franz Rosenzweig

Image: Franz Rosenzweig, photographer unknown, public domain.

These days I’m RE-reading: rereading one of my favorite books from rabbinical school, On Jewish Learning  by Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929).

Rosenzweig himself is a fascinating character.  To learn about him, I recommend a short article on called  Franz Rosenzweig and the Founding of the Lehrhaus. Rabbi Louis Jacobs does a far better job than I ever could of telling the story of the German Jewish intellectual who came home to Judaism as an adult.

On Jewish Learning is not easy reading. Rosenzweig wrote in long, complex German sentences as he took a hard look at the state of German Jewish culture in the early 20th century. He was concerned that on the one hand it had become a defensive exercise devoid of joy, and on the other it was a tradition that had become disconnected from the lives of ordinary Jews. He sought a passionate Judaism, fully engaged with the world and at the same time fully Jewish.

Part of the reason Rosenzweig’s thought fascinates me is that he did his writing and thinking in the period between WWI and WWII, when the Holocaust had not yet made its dreadful mark. Our people still carry the terrible wounds from that time, which is understandable, but I worry sometimes that Jewish thought about the future is constrained and perhaps warped by the fears that come from our past. Reading Rosenzweig is a way of taking a step back and saying, “What can I learn from a vision of Judaism without these wounds?”

It’s hard to come up with pithy quotations from On Jewish Learning, because the man’s style was complex and  dense with meaning. However, here is a quotation that gives me chills and inspires me as a learner and as a teacher:

May the hours you spend here [in the Lehrhaus, his adult Jewish learning center] become hours of remembrance, but not in the stale sense of a dead piety that is so frequently the attitude toward Jewish matters. I mean hours of another kind of remembrance, an inner remembering, a turning from externals to that which is within, a turning that, believe me, will and must become for you a returning home. Turn into yourself, return home to your innermost self and to your innermost life.                                                – “Upon Opening the Jüdisches Lehrhaus” in On Jewish Learning