Tazria: Staying Outside the Temple Gates

  Staying Outside the Temple Gates This week, I have spent time with two women whose thoughts and ideas are permeating my experience of our Torah portion. The first, Kerry, has been my best friend since before we can remember. Kerry is now Doctor Kerry, and her field of medicine is paediatrics. She spends her days (and often nights) in the NICU - the neonatal (or newborn) intensive care unit. Kerry’s babies are often just a couple of pounds, dwarfed in comparison to full-term newborns, and facing the fight for their lives. The second of these women is Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, my guest in the Salon last week. Rabbi Debbie joined us to talk about the Wellspring Project, the building of a centre of wellbeing with mikveh - waters for ritual immersion - at its heart. Mikveh is not commonly used outside of the orthodox world anymore, with the exception of conversion to Judaism. The reasons for this are varied, but are mostly related to two things: off-putting experiences in orthodox mikva’

Torah: A Love Story in Verse

Today is a day of many a first  For trying new tricks, with some trust  Which is why, you will see, that this speech is in verse For I was told, a new thing is a must.  So please excuse if it’s clumsy Please excuse if I slip Understand that I’m just not well-trained I will try not to mumble I will try not to trip I have no expertise here to claim. But beyond my own wish to take part in this tryst  Of new things with some nerves and some glory  This is the perfect portion   for poetic distortion To tell Torah as an epic love story.  Now this may sound strange, but I swear it sincere  That with heart and with ear just refined The whole Torah can seem to an eye that is keen As a romance with the Divine. It has love, it has loss; it has drama, intrigue, It has character growth and deceit, It has pain, it has hope, it has sadness and glee So hold on to the edge of your seat.  Here we are, here today, at the scene of Sinai At what mig

Parashat Tazria - Don’t Touch This!

There is a pervasive myth in Jewish tradition that menstruating women cannot touch the Torah scroll. This myth hasn’t appeared out of the blue - this week’s Torah portion is about the interaction between ritual purity/impurity and the ability of an individual to enter into the holy space of the Temple, handle ritual objects associated with the Temple, etc. There is even an obscure medieval text to back it up (though this text actually claims that - as a matter of custom - menstruating women did not enter the synagogue at all). However, it’s soundly rejected in Jewish law, by Yosef Karo (the Shulḥan Arukh), by Maimonides (the Mishneh Torah), and so on.  The main reason that there is no halakhic justification for claiming that menstruating women cannot touch the Torah scroll is that, in a world without the Temple, we are all considered ritually impure (or ‘ tamei ’). Therefore, any halakhic basis for the myth would naturally result in the inability of any person to interact with a To

The God of A4 Paper (Ki Tissa)

Some nights ago, I was having trouble sleeping. It was late, and I wanted something to lull my mind back to calm tiredness, and so I found a YouTube video I thought would do the trick. I do know I’m not supposed to do this.  I chose a video about metric paper, A4 paper. I really like metric paper, because I spent years in the USA, where the standard size of paper isn’t sensible at all. Metric paper is wonderful, because it retains its shape - if you fold A4 in half, you have A5, which is the same shape as the A4. Fold it again, and you have A6. (I promise this is relevant.) Unfortunately, it seems that the man making the video on A4 paper had his own existential crisis about one minute in, because the video I thought was about metric paper was actually about how most of reality is just empty space. Using the ever-folding nature of metric paper to illustrate the point. It asked to imagine that we could just keep folding the paper without the constraints of the material itself. At 24 fol