Author Archives: Julia Watts Belser

Julia Watts Belser

About Julia Watts Belser

Rabbi Julia Watts Belser received her rabbinic ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, and her PhD in Religious Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Belser is currently Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University, and serves as retreat director for Nehirim, a spiritual initiative for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews. A wheelchair rider herself, Dr. Belser is the co-author of A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Midstream: A Journal of Jewish Thought; The Journal of Women and Religion, Kalliope: A Journal of Women's Art and Literature; and Fireweed: A Feminist Quarterly.

Sinking into Compassion: The Book of Jonah and Yom Kippur

In honor of Yom Kippur, this week we bring you two queer takes on The Book of Jonah. Tomorrow, poet and professor Dr. Joy Ladin offers her reading.

If it takes holy chutzpah to argue with God, Jonah has it in spades. God’s word steers him to Nineveh, the great Babylonian metropolis whose wickedness is driving the Divine to distraction, but instead of traveling to Nineveh to “proclaim judgment upon it” (Jonah 1:2) as God asks, Jonah books passage on a boat heading to Tarshish, in the opposite direction. Angered that Jonah would turn “away from the service of the Lord” (1:3), God sends a storm to shake up his ship. While the sailors pray and bail water, Jonah sleeps down below in the ship’s hold. After the sailors toss him overboard in the hope of calming the storm and deflecting God’s anger, Jonah spends three nights in the belly of a giant fish, and finally gets coughed up onto the beach of Babylonia. There, he makes a half-hearted pass through the city, proclaiming destruction in forty days.

Creative Common/Dead Air

Creative Common/Dead Air

This, my friends, is Judaism’s most successful prophet – the only prophet the Hebrew Bible records as actually bringing about the full repentance of his flock. If nothing else, he’s proof positive that God has a sense of humor, or at least a fine appreciation for irony. Continue reading

Posted on September 9, 2013

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