On Living Text

Reprinted from a post on RavBlog: Reform Rabbis Speak, Central Conference of American Rabbis (July 17, 2017).

Our tradition teaches that there are seventy faces of the Torah. Originally, shiv’im panim laTorah referred to the multiplicity of ways a single verse can be interpreted: pshat, drash, remez, and sod (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15-16). It is mentioned later on in commentaries by Ibn Ezra, Nachmanides, and in the Zohar. Today, the Torah’s seventy faces often refers to the multiplicity of viewpoints within every community and gathering—the glorious tapestry that we know is our Judaism.

The 70 faces of Torah are an entry point into the tradition. But successfully claiming our inheritance from the tradition is most likely to happen when we are grounded in foundational Jewish knowledge. Exercising informed choice is only possible when we learn together and engage in discussion and dialogue. How do we offer our communities diverse ways to do this? How do we help our communities experience the open, evolving Judaism which emerges when we live the texts, returning to the wellspring and renewing their relationship with the wisdom of our tradition? For just as the sages of the Talmud did for their times, we can (and must) bring our cherished values and hard won knowledge to the interpretation of our tradition.

If you are looking to bring your community into the ongoing conversation, the CCAR, as your rabbinic membership organization, is continually creating new resources to help with this. That is why we are pleased to introduce the launch of Living Text, the CCAR’s presence on The Tent, the URJ’s collaborative workspace for lay and professional congregational and community leaders. Living Text’s mission is to foster ongoing discussion among scholars, rabbinic and cantorial leaders, educators, and community members, and to share ideas and resources on the CCAR Press’s newest works of thought and practice, as well as on Judaism’s rich library of wisdom literature, classic and contemporary. These texts will serve as the foundation for conversation as we navigate ways to meaningfully engage with Jewish tradition, bringing together past, present, and future.

Please visit, and join our forum. Our launch features Rabbis Rebecca Einstein Schorr and Alysa Mendelson Graf, editors of The Sacred Calling, who are inviting members to talk to them in real time, or view and download video interviews and study guides available on the group page. This is only the beginning. In the coming months, there will be resources for you on the themes of Creation, Israel engagement, and Reform Judaism, all of which will be available for teaching and learning within your communities.

Please explore Living Text, and let us know what you think. Post your comments and questions in the group, so that we can continue to develop new resources for community discussion and learning that you can use. We want to hear from you.

johnciccolini@yahoo.com

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