Jewish Journal

The Rappin’ Rabbi

by Yeshaia Blakeney

November 5, 2012 | 10:46 am

I was one of a handful of people at Beit T’Shuvah asked to write a weekly blog from my perspective as a Jew in recovery.  This is the first shot, an introduction if you will.  Before I introduce myself, I want to speak about what this task brought up into my consciousness. I wondered why the Jewish Journal was interested in our perspective.  I believe there is dead knowledge and living knowledge.  Recovery is the process of change and renewal, transformation and growth; in short the process of keeping life fresh and connected.  This relates to the practice of Judaism which at Beit T’Shuvah we label “relevant Judaism” (not that you’re practice is irrelevant I’m sure it means something to you!).  Relevant Judaism is living knowledge; living tradition applying the spirit of the Jewish tradition to everyday life where it is most needed. My Rabbi, Mark Borovitz, is continually preaching about the poor the widow and the orphan as examples of that need.  It is in the problems and tragedies of living, those of us who are hurt, forgotten and lost, that this recovering relevant Judaism becomes alive.  So I imagine the Jewish Journal wanted our perspective because the recovery movement at Beit T’Shuvah has breathed new life into the practice of Judaism, and has different insight into what it means to be Jewish.  M. Scott peck in his sequel to his bestselling book The Road Less Traveled describes addiction as a spiritual disease.  He believes this to be so because in order to recover from addiction one is forced to wrestle with all that they are in the depths of themselves. As Rabbi Hillel taught: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?"   

So who am I?  I’ll let you know after I’m dead.  However, I can give you some background information, some memories, some facts—a short story.  Yeshaia Blakeney.  Yeshaia named after the prophet Isaiah. Blakeney is English; it is the name of the slave master who ran the plantation that my ancestors on my father’s side worked.  I come from slaves on both sides, my Jewish ancestors were enslaved Israelites thousands of years ago, my black ancestors were slaves to Americans a few hundred years ago.  My own slaveries have been to Alcohol and drugs, women, fame and fortune, and a misplaced urge to transcend.  Not to mention being a slave to our current society’s ills: injustice, moral paralysis, violence, mindless entertainment, distraction, fundamentalism, image, racism, sexism (and all the other isms we have categorized since the beginning of the enlightenment) and disassociation from ourselves, each other, and G-d.  “The old G-d is dead,” Nietzsche famously said (of blessed memory (G-d not Nietzsche)). He has been replaced by YouTube and if Nietzsche had known that, he would have tried to revive him.  I digress (one of my favorite things to do).  Back to me, my parents are both Harvard Psychologists, which gives you little insight into who they are but seems to get people’s attention none the less.  I am the Rabbi in training at Beit T’Shuvah, fondly referred to as the “Rappin’ Rabbi” because I am a hip hop MC and have been rapping since I was 11. The Rabbi part is because I’m studying to be a Rabbi, specifically the next head Rabbi at Temple Beit T’Shuvah.  I am 31 years old. I am married to a wise successful entrepreneur named Emily and we have two daughters: Eden, our six year old, and Stella, our two year old. I am an alumnus of Beit T’Shuvah which means I went through the program because I had the kind of problems that our society frowns upon and sends you somewhere to deal with (unlike greed, or workaholism which our society rewards).  I am pretty radical and impulsively honest and am uncomfortably comfortable writing this much about myself. (Do you ever think about how if you put something online it’s there forever? Scary, fortunately were not (here forever that is)(except in the world to come of course!)).  I can’t wait to talk about addiction, politics, philosophy, and G-ds great drama that we call life with you. And your feedback and comments are welcome.  

G-d bless you

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