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The d'var Torah series began about three years ago at Street Prophets, one of the Daily Kos spin-offs that has since been reabsorbed into this site. While the transistion to DK4 was going on, many of the d'var Torah writers decided to publish over here, and the group Elders of Zion began as a way to publish the series at Daily Kos. The group was formed to be a place for all things Jewish except for I/P. There were already several groups for that.

We also did not want to become a forum for discussions of the value or lack of value attached to religion - Judaism or any other. Given the number of diaries published every week, it's quite easy to avoid reading ours if you are offended by religious practice, texts, or ideas. Those of us who write for the series cover a wide spectrum of the belief, study, and practice of Judaism, and in the past year our writers have also included a number of non-Jews who have added wonderfully to the series.

In the Jewish calendar a portion of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) is read every week through the year, accompanied by a reading from the Prophets (which in the Jewish Bible, as opposed to the Old Testament, includes the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel 1 and 2 and Kings 1 and 2. in addition to the Prophetic writings). There are sometimes additional short readings in honor of holidays. A d'var Torah is a commentary on the readings for any given week, either the Torah portion or the Haftarah, as the reading from the Prophets is called. So writing a d'var Torah is a way of engaging with one or two specific readings.

There are as many ways to engage with the texts as there are people who do so. Some of us look at the interpretations of Jewish scholars who have written commentaries; some look at the readings from a psychological, historical, or literary perspective; some look at a reading in its entirety and others at a small part of it; some relate the reading or some part of it to the modern world and politics. Given that this is a liberal/progressive/Democratic site, when we do relate a reading to modern politics, we tend to relate it to ideas and practices that support liberal/progressive/Democratic thinking.

This is what Navy Vet Terp did in a recent d'var Torah when he looked at the part of Leviticus describing the Jubilee year. The diary was excellent and was promoted in the Community Spotlight. However, in the comments a pie fight took place when a reader related this to I/P issues, and a devoted member of the group became defensive.

As someone who sometimes writes and follows I/P diaries as well as other sensitive subjects, I certainly know that as pie fights go, this was nothing. On the other hand, I found it disturbing to find it on a d'var Torah diary. We have had some readers question religion in general and the Bible in particular before, and had civil discussions with them, so I know it's possible. After a while, people who are not interested in the subject stop reading the series. Some people who start as critics stick around. Both results are fine.

So this is just a reminder of who and what we are, how the series came to be, and came to be here on a political site. We are not a place for I/P discussions, nor for discussions of the infallibility of the Bible. Jews do not believe the Bible is a literal history of the world, nor that it is literally true. For us, it is a place to start discussions, not a way to end them.

So all are welcome to join us for productive discussions.

NOTE: The Jewish Bible (Tanakh) is different from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible in the ordering and grouping of the books. If you look closely, most of the Protestant churches follow a different order and grouping than the Catholics. The Jewish order appears closest to a chronological presentation, with the books written latest appearing at the end, while the Christian versions end with prophesies of the Messiah.

Originally posted to Elders of Zion on Tue May 07, 2013 at 12:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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