Our guest this week, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, was ordained by ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal in 2011. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and is author of three book-length collections of poetry: 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013), and the forthcoming Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda, 2014), as well as several chapbooks of poetry. A 2012 Rabbis Without Borders Fellow, she participated in a 2009 retreat for Emerging Jewish and Muslim Religious Leaders, and in 2014 will serve as assistant faculty for that retreat. Since 2003 she has blogged as The Velveteen Rabbi; in 2008, TIME named her blog one of the top 25 blogs on the internet. She has been an off-and-on contributor to Zeek magazine, "a Jewish journal of thought & culture," since 2005, and now serves on the board of directors of Zeek, as well as the ALEPH board of directors. She serves Congregation Beth Israel, a small Reform-affiliated congregation in western Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband Ethan Zuckerman and their son.
This week's Torah portion – Parashat Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36) – features instructions given to the priests concerning sacrifices, the holy fire and the rites of ordination. Our discussion, which includes a poem written by Rabbi Barenblat, focuses on the ideas of repetition, ritual and holiness and on trying to find beauty in a text that might seem quite foreign to our modern sensibilities.