Hi! Hello! I am launching a New Thing!
I realized recently that a newsletter could be the perfect format for a thing that I’ve been wanting to do for a while.
That is, this could be a cool way to go deep into the texts of my tradition--deeper than you can in a Twitter thread, to be sure--pulling out what I think are some of the lessons for us today, showing how I think we can talk about these sacred myths without painting all the characters as blameless embodiments of moral perfection (when you, yourself, can see for yourself that it’s obviously much more complicated than that.) How can we find strange, sometimes confounding verses and make sense of them as pointers towards who we can be, how we can grow?
So, like, I want to do some Torah study.
I want to start at the very beginning--in Genesis--and take a long, slow, meandering voyage through the Five Books of Moses. Maybe there’ll be detours along the way. Definitely we won’t cover everything. Periodically there’ll be interviews with people who have particular kinds of expertise or wisdom that might illuminate or inspire. There will be a space for more interactive conversation, the boisterous debate and communal jamming that is meant to be at the heart of this kind of conversation. But ultimately, this’ll be kind of a brick by brick argument for my belief that this book is really a roadmap to helping us to grow into people who are more of service to a world in need of healing.
The journey through the famous stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites’ wandering in the desert and many laws that might seem obscure at first glance can teach us how to deal with our personal demons; how to develop an understanding of the various methods of social change; how to balance care for our holy selves with the hard work that must be done; when and how we can change a toxic narrative; how to grow in bravery and leadership; how to live in the world our understanding of each person’s inherent value—often much harder than we might wish it to be!—and, most of all, how to find our unique role in the work that must be done.
It’s about a book about which a lot of people have some Big Feelings, I know. But I’m really committed to making this a project for everyone--for Jews and non-Jews, for people who believe in God, people who don’t, and people who are kind of *shrug emoji* on the subject.
For people who have had this book used to hurt them--I hope this can be an opportunity to hear some other readings, and maybe even do some healing around that.
For people who’ve never really dug in, maybe this is a chance to see some of the weird and wild, the confounding and enraging, the exquisite and the profound that’s in here.
For those who’ve studied these texts, but not really from a Jewish perspective--bwahaahaaa, wait until we get into it with the midrashic tradition.
For Jews wondering why I’m launching this now, when synagogues are in the middle of Bamidbar/Numbers, I’ll say: There is no early or late in Torah. I want to be able to go at my own pace, to be able to spend three weeks on one parsha/Torah portion, maybe skip another one entirely (but probably not? But maybe?), to let this project unfold however it’s going to. Probably the newsletter schedule and the parsha schedule will sync up at some point, and then diverge again. Or maybe not. That’s OK, no? Regardless, I hope you’re game to sign up for some of my idiosyncratic, sometimes contrarian, always trying-to-make-space-for-true-things-to-be-said takes, and add your own voice to the holy cacophony, if you’d like to.
The free newsletter will be weekly, on Mondays. Paid subscribers will have access to the fuller beit midrash, house of study-type space (you can subscribe now, though that paywall will stay open for a few weeks; and please know that nobody will ever be kept out due to lack of funds. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org for a hookup). There will be guided text study, bonus text, open discussion threads, more musings, occasional random Q & A threads and other ways the conversations and interactions can help us build community, go deeper into these ideas and further consider how they might apply to our lives.
But in any case, the wisdom and the lessons of Torah—this ancient, holy, complicated, complex, multi-layered, shimmering text—can show us the truth of who we are and who we can be. If we are brave enough to let it. I hope you’ll come along.
Let’s all be clear: Graham Linehan has repeatedly violated Substack’s Terms of Service and Acceptable Use policies, and should be removed from the platform.