Toward a future Judaism: A Retreat This July

Dear friends, This summer, Ruach HaAretz (“Spirit of the Earth”),  an exploratory and creative retreat experience, will meet at Stony Point Retreat Center in  New York State. That’s 37 miles from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, 130 miles from Philadelphia, 137 miles from Boston, and 50 miles from Newark Airport.

I will be weaving a four-session participatory and conversational course that will look toward a Judaism of the future.  The course is entitled on “Dancing in  God’s Earthquake: Old Sins, New Blessings; Old Blessings, New Sins”

In shaping new versions of Judaism and other religious communities for our own and future generations, we are turning some of what were biblical blessings or commands, like the subordination of women, into sins; and turning old sins, like male-male sex, into blessings like same-sex marriage.

At the same time, one major aspect of the Hebrew Bible was its wisdom as the spiritual experience of an indigenous people of shepherds and farmers close to the Earth.  That aspect was minimized in 2,000 years of Rabbinic Judaism. But it has become newly crucial in our generation as we face a profound crisis in humanity’s relationship with the Earth.

The course will address these two crucial issues – sexuality/ gender issues and Earth/human-earthling relationships -- and will pay special attention to biblical passages that themselves point toward a future version of Torah quite different from the over-all tenor of the Bible. (For example, Song of Songs is a vision of a future of gender relationships utterly different from the biblical norm.)

Four sessions:

SESSION 1: Focus on gender relationships Part 1: Reading & open conversation on Biblical texts: Eden & afterward; Lot’s daughters, Tamar, & Ruth; women leaders of the Exodus. Lev.18 prohibition on male-male sex “as with a woman.”

SESSION 2:  Focus on gender relationships Part 2: Reading & open conversation on theory, practice, poetry of feminist Judaism, gay -positive Judaism,  and non-binary- gender -positive Judaism. How do these relate or not relate to biblical teachings?

SESSION 3: Focus on relationships between Earth & human earthlings Part 1: Reading & open conversation on Biblical texts: Eden; Manna/ Shabbat; Pharaoh’s Plagues; the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year (and failing to let the Earth rest, as commanded for Shmita)

SESSION 4: Focus on sexuality/ gender relationships AND relationships between Earth & human earthlings. Reading & open conversation on Song of Songs.

The Ruach HaAretz retreat is itself aiming to create a week-long village, living as what Dr. Martin Luther King called the Beloved Community. Like a village,  we will address such aspects of our lives as food and dance, aging and childrearing, meditation and prayer, trees and sexuality. Among the teachers and weavers will be Rabbi Shefa Gold on new forms of prayer, Rabbi Jeff Roth on Jewish meditation, and Rabbi Phyllis Berman as Spiritual Director in Residence.And as with any healthy village, there wiill be joyful learning for the children.


In these very days, we are counting our way from the Passover of the past to the Sinai of the future. We look forward to your joining us, our joining you, in this journey.

Shalom, Arthur

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