Category Archives: About

My Son Is Born!

My son, Abram, was born this week– very premature, but doing well and his mother and I are thrilled to discover our new little person. For now, we have some walls separating us as he works very hard to finish being ready for the world, but I look forward to the day that he can come home.

In Buddhism, there is a story about the birth of the baby Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. His parents were of a highborn Hindu family and because of a prophecy, his mother was traveling to his father’s kingdom late into the pregnancy. While they had stopped so that she could admire a garden, the baby Buddah was suddenly born! He walked a few steps, announced to the world that this would be the reincarnation where he would reach enlightenment, and then promptly settled back down into being a baby.

I bring this up because in the delivery room, none of the doctors or nurses mentioned our child suddenly getting up and talking, so he’s probably not going to be a reincarnation of the Buddha. Which is good, because since neither his mother or I are Buddhist and it would be terribly difficult to explain to our rabbi, or to my Christian side of the family.

For now, I plan to keep posting when I can. Writing and studying is calming, even as I sit with my wife as she recovers.

Where Are We? Where Are We Going?

I did proDeadSeaScrolls_Amman_Museummise a few moments of navel gazing, but I swear it will be over quickly. Let’s be blunt: if you’re reading this, it’s not because you cherish regular updates in a blog. Or, if you do, you have the patience of an elephant. We’re nearly 1000 days old with 83 posts– and while once every two weeks sounds pretty good on paper, it’s really just been fits and starts with periods of lots of progress followed by long periods of inactivity. I apologize for that.

My plan is to get back to a regular posting schedule with a mix of “main narrative” posts as I continue to work my way through Genesis, plus interruptions as I finish up my Torah Family Tree project and all the little one-offs that I find so mesmerizing. My wife has also made a special request for a post which I hope to finish this week. This should continue over the summer, but I will be having a child in August and I have no idea how that will affect my ability to read and study. My hope is that now that I am out of school (for a while), I’ll be able to devote more time to blogging over all.

As we get to this magic 1000 days of blogging, I value  your feedback. What do you like and want to see more of? What less? You can reach me most easily on our Facebook page, or on Twitter at @coatofcolors.

Can I promise that I will be a better blog-host? Absolutely not. But darned it, I want to be and I want to share this journey with you. So please hold on, and there’s some fantastic stuff coming!

 

What I’m Reading

I try and read a lot of books, though I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. While not all of the books are related to my religion studies, a good number are and I’d like to share them with you.

Abraham, by Bruce Feiler

Dorie gave me this book as a present and I’m very glad she did. The “biography” of Abraham presented here is very well done and elaborates greatly on the way the patriarch is seen by the three faiths that revere him (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and even how those viewpoints have changed over time. What I most enjoyed was the ways that the different faiths see Abraham as a father rather than as a patriarch. In Islam, for example, he tells of stories (in the Koran?) where Abraham visits Ishmael after he is cast out, but because he can’t visit properly he has to remain on his horse the entire time. (Are there even any horses in the Torah? I can’t recall any; it seemed mostly as if everyone walked places.) Another example story, from Judaism, suggests that Isaac was actually killed by Abraham and God brought him back to life after a few days, sort of as a proto-Jesus. In all, an outstanding read, even though it makes me mourn that all of the great Abraham sites are difficult to get in to modern Israel/Palestine.

Bible: The Story of the King James Version, by Gordon Campbell

I admit that I love the first half of this book much more than the second. The origins of the KJV, starting from the politics and difficulties of the first English bibles, to the challenges in putting together the final text, and then the numerous revisions which led to the standard version we have today are really what I am interested in and this book delivers on that in spades. After that, there’s a lot of discussion on how later movements used to work, the printing history, etc. The brief notes on how the Latter-Day Saints movement patterned their own works off of the speech patterns and text in the KJV, or how some protestant movements are adopting the text of the KJV (which version? ah… don’t ask that) as itself inspired by God are nice, but I have to admit I reread the first chapters instead of finishing the book.

And finally, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, by David Klinghoffer

I haven’t finished this yet; Dorie just have it to me for Hanukkah. The first chapters though are excellent, if you can overlook the fact that the author is a little more disparaging to both Judaism and Christianity than I might like. What I am enjoying most is the great research the author has done on Judaism circa 27 AD which puts Jesus into context with his contemporaries. While I’ve heard some of that before, he puts it all together in a way that I find appealing. There’s a lot more minefields the author needs to wade through to do this topic justice and I’m looking forward to finishing it just to see if he makes it to the end without injury.

Further reading…

I love my local library. While I’m still gearing up for Bereishit (Simchat Torah is October 1), I’ve gone to the library and picked out a few books which I’ll try to read along with. A few of these I actually do own. The links go to Amazon, not because I’m evil, but because you can get the ISBN numbers easily from there if you are interested.

I’ve read bits and pieces of this so far and so I’m looking forward to working my way through the book over the next year. It’s fascinating insights into “women’s” (feminist?) reading of the Bible. Even better, it’s broken down by Torah portion!

I don’t know much about this book, but I’ve been recommended it. I look forward to finding out if it sucks.

Reading about Bill Moyers’ PBS series on Genesis is faster than watching it on DVD. There’s not too much deep reflection here, but I’ve enjoyed reading the various viewpoints that his guests represent and present. Amazingly, they devote several chapters (and two DVDs) just to what amounts to the first weekly portion! I presume it speeds up quite a bit after you get through all of the difficult “Let There Be Light” stuff.

Yes, I actually own this but I can’t say that I understand it completely. Rashi, or rather Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki, is one of the foremost biblical commentators in Judaism. He wrote in 11th century France. Of course, I am reading it and everything else in translation.

Well, that’s enough for now. I need to re-sort my books. The ones I want to read are ALL over the house. (Where is my copy of Genesis Rabbah?)

About – Reading Order

This blog, at least for now, will follow the style of the Jewish Torah reading calendar. For non-Jews, what this means that I will begin reading Genesis shortly before October and complete a full cycle, ending with the close of Deuteronomy, just shy of a week later. This leaves quite a bit of the bible unexplored, obviously. But it also gives just enough time for reflection and consideration of the Bible, something that a more fast-paced reading does not do.

This is not my first time reading the Bible, not by a long shot. I’ve just completing a cycle of weekly Torah portions from this year and so I’m coming into thing, and blogging, not from a perspective of a “newbie” but of someone who is constantly learning something new about a great text.

In the Jewish tradition, the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, and the same for both Jews and Christians) is divided into 54 portions, or parashah. As most years do not contain 54 weeks, even in the Jewish lunar calendar, some weeks cover multiple portions. These portions generally cover a few chapters each and do not generally stop on convenient chapter boundaries, but I’m going to trust the early rabbis to know why they picked where they did to stop each week. Each portion is also given a name in Hebrew, generally one of the first unique words of the tex. For example, the first portion is called Bereishit and stretches from Genesis 1:1 to 6:8, from creation to the beginning of the Noah story.

Closely related to the weekly portion, which I may discuss or not, are the haftarah. These are additional readings, usually related to the main reading, but from other portions of the Hebrew Bible. Unlike the parashah, these appear to differ from one religious community to another. For Bereishit, the readings are generally from Isaiah.

Christian communities also have their weekly readings, although these are as diverse as the communities themselves and are not frequently in order. Roman Catholic mass, for example, will generally have one reading from the Old Testament, one from the Psalms (part of the Old Testament, of course), and one from the New Testament. I am looking for a guide to readings from different communities so please let me know if you know about this.

Given the immense ground even these small portions cover each week, it will be quite a challenge to keep up!