This Too Is Torah: Finding Jewish Wisdom in Unexpected Places
Hosted By: Judaism Unbound
In this course, students will delve into the question of how Jews can connect with and understand popular culture (think everything from Marvel movies to baseball fandom) as sacred and sources of deep Jewish knowledge.
The Talmud’s rabbis say this repeatedly, in expanding the definition of what the word “Torah” (wisdom/teaching) might mean.
Let’s look at when and why they say it. Rabbi Akiva, perhaps the Talmud’s leading mind, applies “This too is Torah” to pooping, when he says that defecation, too, is Torah! Akiva’s student, Ben Azzai, follows his lead, and finds additional Torah in the bathroom. A third rabbi, Kahana, in the most frequently-cited instance of ‘This Too is Torah,’ applies the phrase to sexual intercourse (in a story that is…more than a little bit creepy).
Could you come along, (in this course perhaps!), and argue that Torah can be found in some other unexpected place? Is Leonard Cohen’s music rightly regarded as Torah? Barbra Streisand’s? Vampire Weekend’s? A song your friend wrote last week?
Can Jewish-themed TV shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, or Curb Your Enthusiasm, or Rugrats, be approached as Torah? How about not-as-clearly-Jewish productions, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Is intense baseball or basketball fandom a religious practice? Is there Torah to be found at your local deli? How about at the bookstore? Just in 350-page philosophical works, or in the children’s fiction section as well?
In this course, seek out Torah in unexpected places. Just like the Talmud did (see above!), but also in ways that the Talmud might not have considered. We’re part of a tradition – even in that official “Torah” – where Jacob woke up after a dream, featuring a slew of ascending and descending angels. And he said “Wow! God is in this place, but I hadn’t noticed.”
Torah, too, is in unexpected places – let’s notice it.
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