At first, the blog was an experiment. I wanted to see if it would help me stay in touch with the members of my former congregation while introducing myself to a new congregation. As a rabbi who prefers to serve smaller congregations, I wanted to see if a blog could give me a broader audience. I wanted to see if I could maintain a commitment to writing regularly about the weekly Torah portion and about invigorating Jewish spirituality. I wanted to see if I could expand my own joy by exploring the place of joy in Jewish thought.
Writing this blog has been a wonderful experience for me, both for the reasons I had hoped, and for reasons I never expected. If it's okay with you, I'm just going to keep on writing it.
What have I found out after writing this blog for a year? Here are five thoughts:
1) The search for joyful living is the essence of the Torah. It just constantly astonishes me that nobody ever told me this when I was a kid in religious school. It would have completely changed the way I thought about Judaism as a child. It has been easy for me to find reflections on joy in every one of the Torah's fifty-four parshiyot. (Well, I've only written about forty-nine of them so far, but I'm pretty sure I'll find joy in the other four). The quest to live a life that is deeply satisfying, fulfilling and joyful is right at the center of what it means to be a Jew.
2) It feels good to have a broader audience. After more than 30,000 page views, I have to admit that I like being able to share my thoughts about Torah with people near and far. I love serving and being part of a smaller Jewish community where it is possible for everyone to know each other, care for each other, and celebrate with each other. On the other hand, smaller congregations can feel a bit limiting—like hiding your light under a bushel, as someone once said. I now enjoy writing for regular readers in Florida, Massachusetts, New York, California, Ohio, Great Britain, Canada, Israel, and the Bailiwick of Jersey. (I didn't even know where that last one was when I started this.) You, the blog reader, have become a beloved part of my extended community.
3) The internet has changed the way people communicate. (Okay, you've heard this one before). I have found that this blog is the primary way that members of my own congregation stay in touch with Judaism. A rabbi friend of mine recently was asked in a job interview if he would spend a lot of time writing blogs, posting on Facebook, and doing Torah teachings on YouTube. The questioner wanted to know if he would be wasting his time with all that newfangled computer stuff. To my friend's credit, he said that teaching Torah through the internet is a great deal more than a fad; it is a critical way for contemporary rabbis to bring Torah into the lives of today's Jews. He was right. (P.S., he got the job.)
4) Writing is the best way to develop ideas to write about. I was a professional writer for years before I ever applied to rabbinic school, so I've had a lot of practice at it. Still, it often surprises me to see how the process of writing is my best tool for discovering new ideas and insights. I find that, as I begin to write, I dig more deeply into the text and find new connections. I strongly recommend writing about Torah to anyone who wants to study Torah. Just a few minutes a day of putting your thoughts on paper (or computer) opens up new worlds of understanding.
5) Torah is best when it is personal. I know that the internet sometimes seems like an obnoxious flow of self-congratulation, ego and narcissism. I am a fairly private person by nature and self-revelation is not my preferred way of teaching. Still, I have seen repeatedly how much more readers are drawn to Torah when it is expressed in personal terms. That is as it should be. Torah is about our lives, not just the lives of people who lived two or three thousand years ago. Torah is about the choices that we make every day. By sharing a bit of my life with you on this blog, I hope that I have done more than just stroke my ego; I hope that I have helped bring more Torah and more joy into your life.
Other Posts on This Topic:
Ten Thoughts About Being a Congregational Rabbi
Ten Observations on Starting at a New Congregation