Our fast-paced, industrialized world seems to have little interest in mysticism, leaving reductionist thinking to lead the day. But this modernity can feel dry and unsatisfying, leaving the disenchanted to seek enchantment elsewhere. There can be more to the world and our experiences than what can be quantified. Mysticism is about transcendence of all kinds, including of our sensory experience, language, and rationality.
In a world where globalization is the new norm, the notion of peoplehood has lost its former clarity. While on the one hand, the lines demarcating the identities of large groups of people have blurred, Jewish people still face anti-Semitism, the ultimate unifying force. The Jewish nation, numbering in the millions, is sizable when conceiving of as an extended family. Reflecting on what our peoplehood is, and can be, may inform our appreciation for this complex entity that is the Jewish people.
Though the Bible’s authorship was once largely uncontested, today it is the subject of raging debate. The stakes are high: billions of people follow religions hinging on the Bible’s divine origin. Many educators therefore gloss over or ignore this theological minefield, reasoning that it is an unnecessary challenge to their students’ faith. But this leaves the curious students, either on the internet or in their future college classrooms, without guidance for navigating these choppy waters. By engaging with these questions with honesty and faith, we can grow from the encounter.
Comedy may seem unimportant, or even counterproductive, in a society that values productivity. Religion in particular is often treated with a seriousness that seems antithetical to comedy, as are its texts. But comedy, alongside and within religion, can help us construct meaning from mundane occurrences and even construct further meaning from notable ones.
In order to understand why some people leave religion, we need to understand why people join and stay in the first place. Religion provides different things for different people, including community, moral, and intellectual guidance. The broad stereotyping of OTD people that sometimes happens isn’t helpful or accurate. It is a complex phenomenon with no surefire solutions, and so the first step is understanding.
The Talmud is a chaotic text with a few frustrations. When you open to the first page, it assumes that you’ve already read the whole thing. Its logical path is a non-linear patchwork of discussion across time and space. Some of its resolutions feel like deus ex machinas. While the Talmud has many possible interpretations, the structure (or lack of) may provide meaning to our own lives, if we approach it openly.