What do I mean when I say Oral Torah?
You are sitting around a campfire and you are telling stories.
You hear tales about family members that came long before you.
Towering figures that lived fiercely with all of the highs and lows that life throws our way.
Some of the stories are technical.. recalling habits or traditions that your family and it’s members have been known to participate in. Other stories are vivid narratives that recount the sights, smells, and sounds of what those inspiring family members did during the years that made up their life.
Such tales - both technical and narrative - can be found in something known as the talmud. Nowadays this is a book - somewhere around 54 volumes, hundreds of pages for each volume. But before the printing press, and before scrolls, these were stories that were passed along from person to person.
After jerusalem was captured by the roman empire the jewish leaders were worried that the community, which now found itself all around the world (hey, mumbai!), would lose all of their illustrious stories and wisdom. No longer would the stories be taught orally (a technique that other indigenous peoples still use to this day as a way to learn); instead they would be written.
But there is a magic to hearing something spoken as opposed to reading it. There are even prayers in jewish liturgy where we are told to make sure our ears can hear the words, since that lights up different parts of the brain than just reading. So, this section of the site will be audio.
When we verbalize seemingly mundane words, we notice the beauty that we might’ve otherwise overlooked were we to simply read the text. So let’s discover some beauty together!
As I embark on verbalizing the beauty in the seemingly mundane, I invite to come along and join me in this adventure of re-discovering our friends/family, ourselves and the world around us.
Please click below to find audio from my ‘Raising Holy Sparks’ podcast.
PS. A quick word about the name of the show. Martin Buber once said that in this world there is only the holy and the not-yet-holy. That not-yet-holy has within it a spark of holiness. If our hope is to create a more vibrant, beautiful, peaceful world then the task is to elevate/raise up to our consciousness that potential of holiness within all things - including ourselves.
I believe that in these times, in particular, that we now find ourselves in it is easy to see the brokenness all around us. But as Mister Rogers’ mother told him when he was a boy: “wherever you go, there are always people trying to help.” Channeling that message Mister Rogers concluded his post-9/11 special program by saying: “thank you to the people who work to bring… joy, light, hope, faith, pardon, and love” into this world.
PPS. Raising the spark of potential holiness up to our awareness/attention is challenging to do, but it is of vital importance.
In Hebrew, the word “to curse” someone or something comes from the root of being “light/not heavy”. When we dismiss people or moments, and when we deny their potential and let them float away like tumble-weeds we curse not only them but our whole world - as we have failed to see the gifts that that person can bring into this world to make it a more dynamic and beautiful place.
As Pirke Avot 2:16 teaches "it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but neither are you at free to desist from it entirely.”
So, I thank you for bringing light and beauty, and your extra-ordinary selves into this world.