Down-to-Earth Spirituality

Unlike the Torah narrative that begins “In the Beginning,” a blog begins at the end. This "Torah Tweets" blog displays its narrative in reverse chronological order with the most recent post appearing first. The blog was created to reverse the order of the blog posts in this blog to begin in the beginning.

See the blogs for the books Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media and Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life Both books invite you to explore creative ways to photograph all that happens in your everyday life while crafting a vibrant dialogue between your life story and the biblical narrative.

Postdigital Narrative on Spiritual Dimensons of Everyday Life ///// "For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp." (Deuteronomy 23:15) ///// "Judaism does not direct its gaze upward but downward ... does not aspire to a heavenly transcendence, nor does it seek to soar upon the wings of some abstract, mysterious spirituality. It fixes its gaze upon concrete, empirical reality permeating every nook and cranny of life. The marketplace, the factory, the street, the house, the mall, the banquet hall, all constitute the backdrop of religious life." (R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik) ///// "It is not enough for the Jew to rest content with his own spiritual ascent, the elevation of his soul in closeness to G-d, he must strive to draw spirituality down into the world and into every part of it - the world of his work and his social life - until not only do they not distract him from his pursuit of G-d, but they become a full part of it." (R. Menachem M. Schneerson) ///// "If there is a religious agency in our lives, it has to appear in the manner of our times. Not from on high, but a revelation that hides itself in our culture, it will be ground-level, on the street, it'll be coming down the avenue in the traffic, hard to tell apart from anything else." (E. L. Doctorow) ///// "The first message that Moses chose to teach the Jewish people as they were about to enter the Land of Israel was to fuse heaven to earth, to enable the mundane to rise up and touch the Divine, the spiritual to vitalize the physical, not only as individuals but as an entire nation." (R. Abraham Y. Kook)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Balak בלק

Community Honoring Individuality

Balak son of Tzipor was then king of Moab….  He sent emissaries to Bilaam to summon him, saying, "Behold, a people has come out of Egypt…come and curse this people for me." Bilaam raised his eyes and saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes and the divine spirit was upon him….  He declaimed his parable and said: "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel, stretching out like brooks, like gardens by a river, like aloes planted by God, like cedars by water.  Water shall flow from its wells and his seed shall be by abundant waters."    (Numbers 22:4, 5, 6, 24: 2, 3, 5-7) ובלק בן ציפר מלך למואב בעת ההוא  וישלח מלאכים אל בלעם לקרא לו לאמר הנה עם יצה ממצרים  ועתה לכה נא ארה לי את העם הזה  וישא בלעם את עיניו וירא את ישראל שכן לשבטיו ותהי רוח אלהים וישא משלו ויאמר  מה טובו אהליך יעקב משכנתיך ישראל כנחלים נטיו כגנת עלי נהר כאהלים נטע יהוה כארזיםעלי מים יזל מים מדליו וזרעו במים רבים 
What is good and what God requires of you: Only to do justly and love kindness and walk humbly with God.  (Micha 6:8) הגיד לך אדם מה טוב ומה יהוה דורש ממך כי אם עשות משפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכם אלהיך

When Solomon, descendent of Ruth the Moabite, was king of Israel, his wisdom linking eruv and n'tilat yadayim elicited Divine rejoicing. (Talmud: Eruvin 21b and Shabbat 14b)
An eruv is a boundary integrating private properties into a joint communal domain that makes life more pleasant for Sabbath observers.
N'tilat yadayim is a hand-washing ritual performed each morning to celebrate the wonder of wakefulness and before meals to sanctify life.
An eruv creates community while n'tilat yadayim is a private act of holding up hands to reveal fingerprints that highlight individuality.
Balak is a descendent of Moab, son of Lot who separated from his uncle Abraham to live in Sodom where contempt for human diversity was policy.
We surrounded a hill at the site of the demolished evil Sodom with an eruv constructed from 7 telephone poles connected by rope lintels.
Along the hill's ridge, 10 different hand-washing vessels created by Miriam's students reflected the distinctive vision of each student.
Our environmental artwork teaches that the highest good is reached when we create community that honors what is unique in every person.
Creating community that pays tribute to the emergence of individuality and facilitates its free expression invites God's highest joy.
It is this messianic vision of good that Bilaam saw emerging from the dwelling places of Israel.
In his failed attempt to have Bilaam curse Israel, Balak unwittingly elicited a blessing for his descendent Ruth.
Rabbi Avi Weiss points out that we have come full circle. Ruth takes heroic strides to embrace Abraham's family that Lot had left for Sodom.
Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back from following you.  For where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people are my people, and your God is my God." (Book of Ruth 1:16)

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