Discussion Guide - Settled & Unsettled

January 21, 2014
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  1. What animates recent trends that find people leaving clear career trajectories for a hopscotch career that includes shorter interval jobs with less security and advancement?
  2. How might we use liminal space — the doorways and gateways of Judaism — as a neutral zone for developing more fully as individuals and organizations? What might those doorways look like? And what would they offer us?
  3. Jews are often considered a “wandering people.” Is that true today? How does statehood, a sovereign national home for the Jewish people, change the notion of wandering?
  4. What does the Jewish holiday cycle teach us about certainty, vulnerability, and being settled and unsettled?
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1 Comment

  1. Shaul Magid attributes to Zionism the rejection of Jewish wandering. His idealization of rootlessness and wandering in Jewish culture flies in the face of a central thrust of Jewish writing and thought in every age.

    When Abraham is told to burst forth in every direction in Gen. 28:14, he is to do so in the context of the promise of the Land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants in the previous verse. In Deuteronomy’s description of the rewards of good behavior by the Israelites (Deut. 30:1-6), the penultimate stage is the inheritance of the land and its abundance, which will in turn lead to love of the Lord. The ultimate punishment in the biblical curses (Lev. 26:38-39, Deut. 26:64-68) is wasting away (or being re-enslaved) in exile.

    Rabbinic culture too reminds us at peak moments in the liturgical year that our greatest hope is to be “next year in Jerusalem.”

    One can indeed find idealizations of rootlessness and dispersion in Jewish civilization. But of what idea, after all, can it *not* be said that it *and its opposite* are to be found in our tradition? So Rabbi Nahman of Braslav said “Wherever it is I am going, I am going to Eretz Yisrael” *not* in the sense that the Zionist myth would like us to think — see the cynical misuse of that quotation at the end of the tour path through Bet Hatefutsot in Tel Aviv — but rather in the sense that the earthly geography isn’t what really matters. But the Zionists got it right by identifying the critical importance of the desire to return to Eretz Yisrael in traditional Jewish consciousness.

    In the end, it is not the Zionists, for all their rejection of the Jewish past, who misrepresent pre-modern Jewish ideals. It is anyone who claims — as an HUC rabbinical student did, a decade or more before Professor Magid, in an article in HUC’s magazine, on serving a Russian Progressive congregation that was plagued with emigration — that our wandering defines who we really are. The Jewish people now has reestablished its home, and the repercussions of that affect the lives and psyches of Jews everywhere.

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