Rabbi Without Borders, Rabbi at the Border

I am a “Rabbi Without Borders” who is also a “Rabbi at the Border.”

Readers of this blog may know by now that a “Rabbi Without Borders” is a rabbi committed to testing the assumptions that the Jewish people have made about the various boundaries that define Jewish life, both individually and communally. We are not entirely without borders, of course…but each of chose to associate ourselves with CLAL and with RWB because we believe that life is much more interesting near the margins, and that our rabbinates are at their best when we are away from the easy, comfortable middle ground that might define our denomination (for example).

So what is a “Rabbi at the Border?” Quite simply, a rabbi who serves a congregation in El Paso, Texas! Living and working right at the U.S.-Mexican border (and I do mean “right at” the Border…I really can see Mexico from my synagogue) is different, in all sorts of ways. I am truly blessed to live in a place that reminds me, on a regular basis, of some of the key teachings of my faith with respect to hospitality and justice for all…and especially for gerim, which is usually translated as “strangers,” but which I think of as “people at the threshold.”

There’s a Jewish teaching which grounds me as a Rabbi Without Borders at the Border:

“God spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai” (Num 1:1). This teaches us that only one who can make himself like that wilderness, ownerless and free, can acquire Wisdom and Torah” (Midrash Bamidbar Rabba 1:7).

Widsom and Torah, in other words, are available to us only to the extent that we can step away from that which is easy, comfortable, “ours.”

To live where I do, at the threshold between two nations and two languages, and to do so as a member of the paradigmatic threshold people — the “wandering Jews” — is sometimes a challenge, but always a blessing. I look forward to bringing bi-weekly dispatches from the Border, through the lens of an open, affirming, welcoming Torah whose ways are pleasantness, whose paths are peace!

Discover More

Rabbis Without Borders Named As Most Innovative Jewish Program

Rabbis Without Borders is thrilled to be listed in the new Slingshot Guide of The Top 50 Most innovative Jewish ...

The Rabbi Said What?!?

In the past week the rabbis witting on this blog have commented on several current controversial issues, Christian anti-Semitism, US ...

The Rabbi, The Philosopher and Aphrodite

The following exchange between myself and my students was a familiar one throughout my year long fellowship with Rabbis Without ...