Babylon and 929

Babylon — in fact, “The Three ‘Bavels’” — is featured this past week on the English portal for “929,” chapter-a-day study in the Hebrew Bible: The place name, בבל, bavel can refer to: Babel, Babylon, or Babylonia. Each of these ancient “Bavels” suggests a model for the 21st century…. The rise of Bavel/Babylonia was a […]

Read More…

Now What? Exploring Babylon Stage Two

I launched the “Exploring Babylon” project on this blog in October 2017. Stage One was to run for roughly 40 weeks, from Sukkot through Tisha B’av. WordPress statistics tell me that I’ve posted 40 times in the category, “Exploring Babylon,” although not entirely on the weekly schedule I’d originally planned, and Tisha B’av is fast […]

Read More…

Strange and Familiar

Exploring Babylon Chapter 23 Although just published (May 2018), Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” was completed in 1931, based on work begun in the 1920s. Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon relates the story of a West African and his experience, before, during, and after U.S. slavery. Some of the content, as well as […]

Read More…

A Song of Reward and Punishment

Exploring Babylon Chapter 22 Here is further response to a long-ago comment of Max Ticktin (z”l), based on the words of Jeremiah and in a sort of homage to Leonard Cohen. “Has this song gone on too long? A song of reward and punishment for exiles in Babylon and elsewhere” The theme repeats again and […]

Read More…

Notes on Jeremiah: Max Ticktin’s Scribbles

Exploring Babylon Chapter 21 Several updates below. In addition to the many other things he left us, Max Ticktin z”l (1920-2016) left behind a lot of books, and his family kindly offered them to interested community members. Some of the volumes I inherited this way are from a Tanakh that was re-bound, as a gift […]

Read More…

More on Monsters and Storytelling

Exploring Babylon Chapter 20.1 A Monster Chronology On March 15, I watched author Junot Díaz interact with a room full of youngsters, introducing his new book, Islandborn (Dial Books for Young Readers), discussing the writing process, and exploring the concept of “monsters.” I subsequently told everyone who would listen about how much I’d enjoyed seeing […]

Read More…

Monsters, Exile, and Storytelling

UPDATE: The event described here, including the brief interview with Díaz, took place on March 15, 2018. The piece below was posted on April 1. The New Yorker article, “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma” — which has a LOT to say about monsters and trauma — was not published until April 16. See […]

Read More…

Poverty and the White Horse’s Red Strap

Exploring Babylon Chapter 18-1/2 The previous chapter, “Exile, Passover, and Melting Pot,” looked at nine bible verses using the word “kur,” usually translated as “crucible” or “furnace.” This addendum shares the odd midrash on one such verse, mentioned in the earlier post, which suggests some ideas about Passover, exile, and learning. Furnace Midrash Each appearance […]

Read More…

Exile, Passover, and Melting Pot

Exploring Babylon Chapter 18 “The Americas were far. The Americas were different. It was rabbinic exile.” This, writes Rabbi Oran Zweiter, is how European immigrant rabbis to the New World felt, beginning with Rabbi Isaac Aboab da Fonesca, who left Holland for Brazil in 1642. Aboab (1607-1693), the first ordained rabbi known to make such […]

Read More…