Jewish learning Ep #9: When the Walls of Metaphor Can’t Hold
What [Jordan’s] asking in a sense, by asking what happens when the walls of metaphor can’t hold us, is what happens to our religious language and our religious practice when it’s up against the wall? What happens when it has to withstand what he calls the ‘winds of life’ that shake us to our core? Does it have anything to offer at all?– Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
In this installment of Speaking Torah, Rabbi Jordan Braunig brings us into an unsettling and deeply personal story of love and fragility, giving us an account of a time when it’s so difficult to express the complexity of emotion, that even the walls of metaphor cannot hold.
Rabbi Jordan Braunig is a teacher, pastoral caregiver, and an organizer of community. He is currently Jewish Chaplain at Emory University. Prior to this, he was a Campus Rabbi and Director of Community Building at Tufts University Hillel. Jordan’s essay is read by Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, President of Hebrew College.
In this episode, Sharon reads a personal story Jordan wrote two years ago about a family incident. A story raw with emotion and questioning, but also, ultimately, one that has led to a journey of new perspective and resilience.
What You’ll Discover from this Episode:
- What Jordan means when he’s asks: what happens when the walls of metaphor can’t hold?
- What compelled Jordan to write about something so personal and traumatic.
- Why Sharon is grateful to Jordan for being willing to ask these questions about our religious language.
- How Jordan’s story can teach us about the fragility of human life and its relationship to Sukkot, when these events in the story took place.
Featured on this Episode:
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld (reader) became President of Hebrew College in July 2018 after serving as Dean of the Rabbinical School from 2006-2017. She graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1990 and subsequently spent 15 years working in pluralistic settings as a Hillel rabbi at Tufts, Yale, and Harvard universities.
Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, PhD (host) is Director of the Hebrew College Innovation Lab. He is Research Professor in the Department of Music & Judaic Studies at Tufts University and Senior Consultant for Hillel International. The author of several books, among his many awards are a 2018 Hebrew College honorary degree, a GRAMMY nomination for his CD Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda, the Edgar M. Bronfman Award for Lifetime Accomplishment in Hillel Professional Leadership, and the Tufts Hosea Ballou Medal.
A special thank you for this episode’s musical contributions:
Intro by: Jackson Mercer
Jackson is an Ordination Candidate at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in Newton, MA. He grew up at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, CA where he cultivated a love of Judaism, embolden with music, spirituality and justice.
Esa Einai (Psalm 121:1)
Music by Jackson Mercer
Guitar and Melody by Jackson Mercer
Harmonies by Cantor Rosalie Will, Ilana Sandberg, Rabbi Micah Shapiro, Rabbi Josh Warshawsky, Noah Diamondstein, Ryan Leszner, Eliana Light.
Outro by: Leah Carnow and Yoni Battat
Leah Carnow is a rabbinical student in her second year of school at Hebrew College. Originally from Los Angeles, Leah has lived in the Boston area for ten years, where she also teaches yoga and works as the Rabbinic Intern and Vocalist at Temple Sinai in Brookline. Prior to beginning rabbinical school, Leah worked in regional and fringe theater as an actor and director. During the summer of 2020, she served as the rabbinic intern for the PsalmSeason project.
Yoni Avi Battat is a Boston-based multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer specializing in contemporary and traditional Jewish music from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
With words from Psalm 51:13
Performed and composed by Leah Carnow and Yoni Battat
To hear more of the music Leah and Yoni have created together, visit https://leahandyoni.bandcamp.com.