Friday, August 29, 2008

Introduction of Friday blogger: Thing 1

I'm KRG and I'm one of two friday bloggers. I'm a rabbi, writer, and educator, and I've dedicated much of my life to social justice work. I don't fall neatly into the package of movements, but officially I'm Conservative.

MIdrash is the life blood of the halakhic system. I don't think that midrash was made by the sages in order to re-enliven Judaism, I think it was part of the great body of work and was never a separate thing. Today we think of midrash as good post-modernists do, busily locating ourselves here and there in relation to our matrices of self, but the rabbis had no such self-consciousness about that. For the sages, midrash was all of a piece with Torah (in the larger sense of the word). It was true in the finest sense of truth, which is why modern midrash is often so bad - it's written as if it were a novel or a story, when it's really more like a fairy tale, written through archetypes and the power of a lack of details that comes with stories told and retold for generations with plenty of room left for us to fill in ourselves - and to fill ourselves in. Midrash is meant to tell us about values, as opposed to rules. Rules are secondary in the sense that they come afterwards. The rules express the stories told in midrash.
The midrash tells us about our relationship with God, Halakha only tells us the recipe - it's as different as remembering the smell of my mother's wheatbread baking, and baking the bread from the recipe she gave me. One is my bones remembering love, and the other is how to make that love live for my son.

1 comment:

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for the succinct summary. I found the following interesting: "it's really more like a fairy tale, written through archetypes and the power of a lack of details." It reminds me of a comment made by Brueggemann in his book The Bible and Postmodern Imagination. I forget the exact words, but he compared midrash to Freud's psycho-analyism, claiming that Freud was more influenced by his Jewish roots then he cared to admit. And for Brueggemann, the comparison was not meant to be detrimental, as he always revels in the "Jewishness" of the "great deconstructors" (Freud, Marx, and Derrida).