Episode 267: The Torah Studio - Liana Wertman


Support for this episode of judaism. Unbound comes from the family. Jcc in palo alto california whose vision is to be the architect of the jewish future. The oshman's jcc empowers you to experience jewish paths toward a life of joy purpose and meaning through innovative jewish learning and wellness programs community building and initiatives to develop the next generation of jewish leaders. Learn more at www dot palo alto jcc dot org. This is judaism unbound episode. Two hundred sixty seven the torres studio. Welcome back everyone. I'm dan lee benson and lex roseburg and before we jump into our today. We want to wish you a happy. Passover or i should say which happy passover to those listeners who observe passover starts tomorrow night. If you're listening to this on the day that it's release. And i hope that those of you who are doing or attending passover sater's have a good experience it's our second passover in zoom seder land. We do want to note that we have a collection of passover related materials. Just go to. Www dot jewish life dot org slash passover dash twenty twenty one and there you can find links to resources that we think are particularly valuable. I wanna call attention to three of them in particular. When is the plagues project. It's a collection of thirty plus videos that we've done along its partners. The second is something called virtual seder. It's a collection of about seventy five really short videos like two minutes each that you through the entire harare the entire seder project and you can watch them before passover to get a little bit inspired into come up with some ideas for your seder or you can actually watch them during the seder and the third resource. It's there is a link to a construction videos about how to make your own mott's at home particularly you're on soft. Matza soft matza can be kosher passover and check it out we actually have an orthodox rabbi who is teaching you how to soft matza there again you can find all that at. Www dot jewish live dot org slash passover dash twenty twenty one. Another thing that. I just want to mention briefly. Is that a book that i translated. We've talked about it in the past on this podcast called the orchard is finally out as an audio book so if you want to read a really interesting book about the beginnings of rabbinic judaism after the second temple was destroyed and actually think a lot about how that time has similar to our time. I think that you really will enjoy this book. You can find it at audible dot com as well as anywhere else that you might find audiobooks. Let's shift gears to our interview for today as you'll recall we're in this series where we're exploring the bible from a variety of angles. We've spoken to academic bible scholars about their work and their discoveries. We've learned about how. I choose relate to the bible and today. We're going to speak with an educator and entrepreneur who's trying to change the way that all jews relate to the bible our guest. Liana workman is the founder of a new organization called the tour studio. The tourists studio is a radically accessible and inclusive torah learning space. It was created to be a place for people to learn torah without having to leave any part of their identity behind the terrorist studio believes the torah is better with your whole honest voice. Sharing ideas struggles excitement and joy. Liana werthmann was raised in los angeles across a variety of jewish denominations. She began teaching as a teenager at the car. Spiritual community and also as a counselor at the gambling hilltop camp which is one of the wilshire. Boulevard she's been working with jewish children and teenagers for over a decade. She's also studied herself although she likes to emphasize how much of a what we call a regular do she is. She's taken three years of tomek glasses and his reaching the intermediate level of biblical hebrew. And as she says she recognizes a lot of aramaic words she spent a summer studying at parties institute for jewish learning in israel and also at the hebrew union college. Summer bait me josh. Before starting the tourist studio she worked for two years at temple. Israel hollywood as the youth director and now as she starting up the tourist studio. She's also doing a side gig as a fulltime student in the masters of jewish educational leadership program at the school education at hebrew union college. Under the tutelage of our previous guests. Miriam heller stern. I should also say liana is a longtime listener to judaism unbound who we connected with years ago because she did some amazing synthesis sketching of our ten commandments of jewish innovation. That we talked about long ago so as always we're really excited to welcome a longtime listener. First-time caller to the podcast. Liana werthmann welcome to judaism unbounded to real thrilled to have you as a guest on the podcast. Thank you so much. It's great to be here. Can you talk a little bit about why. It's called the terrorist studio art happening in the studio. The tourist studio at does not make any art yet. We also don't do any yoga yet. But that is kind of what we're modeled off of. Basically our business model is what a yoga studio does. We are teaching torah every single week. Multiple classes different teachers. We are doing that every single week. And you don't have to sign up for a large amount of classes in advance. The yoga studio model has really been away for me to make sure that i'm creating a space that feels accessible for people so that they can be practicing torah in learning the scale and making it a part of their life it feels nourishing so i wanna get into that a little more deeply. I'm curious just the way that you put it so interesting. So when you think about torah in the same category as yoga i think about i think about yoga and i kind of understand what yoga's for. Its practice of some degree of exercise. Some degree of of centering of breathing of bringing calm. When i think about i tend to think of it as nothing that only i think of it this way i think most people think of it as something that you do in a different way than we think about yoga when when you think about a torah practice as something that i might just drop in on occasionally in the same way they might do yoga and have a really great experience doing it that once but it doesn't necessarily mean that i'm now going to do it every day. Could you talk a little bit about your sense of what is and what tourist studies. all about. Torah study is something that we all should have access to whether you try it once like a yoga and that was enough. You did it but you knew you could do it. You went and you tried it and you were able to do it. Maybe it was hard. Maybe it was awesome but once was enough but the fact that it's then available at other times means that you're really able to build up a practice on your own even if we don't activate it even if we don't actually use it we should all feel that we're allowed to have access to torah. It is what we're building fences around. Were trying to take fences down from which is a quote from pure k. Vote where they talk about. Building a fence around tora. We are trying to build a new judaism build a stronger. Judaism and i think taurus should still be at the centre and we need to be in conversation with it. We need to at least feel that. It's available to us whether where rabbis or just considering that we're jewish for the first time it's our text. Okay so do you already went the name route nest about the studio side. The tourists i. I'm just like really into it because we've talked about different kinds of organizations. I love the name tourist studio. I genuinely love the name tourist duty. I think it is clear in a certain sense but also like just the right amount of mystery like okay torres studio. So this is something related to ta- torah. And i assume that i would. If i'm accessing this organization you know interact with the five books of moses and that's true and studio in the ways you're talking. What had hints that. There's like an experimental avenue or set of avenues that either. I love the name quick or no question. And then i'll ask the question. Is the relationship between torres. Study and studio like the phonetic relationship is that on purpose. It is not on purpose. But i kind of felt like it was the modern easily accessible version of fake news. Trash cool okay. So i'm curious when somebody accesses torah through you what is different about it compared to somebody accessing it through somebody else so you've talked already about how you fashion your classes so that people can access not just as like an ongoing series but actually each one can resonate just on its own which to me resonates a lot as somebody who makes this podcast. We try to play it both ways right like we try to have this be an ongoing conversation between episodes but we also want somebody to listen to us one time ever and have that matter and i think that's like not always the most popular thing to say in jewish organizational spaces because the idea is like we're sort of doing this fight to like get jews to like do jewish and like continue to do jewish for an ongoing period of time. And so saying you. Just do it once and that's awesome. Why is it that you sort of orient that way. And what are some of the other ways in which tore a studio is different from torah studies at a synagogue or jcc wherever it might be. I think that text has been kind of put on a high shelf literally for how we're allowed to access judaism that people who are just starting to figure out what is important to them or just having that inkling that judaism matters to them are trying to find their avenues into a jewish life into jewish identity and text often gets laid out as. Oh that's what you do when you've already joined the synagogue and you've already have your community and you already feel really confident then. Maybe you can conduct a study and we'll talk out the difficult things that you're gonna find in there that intellectual practice of studying torah that is also very emotional in a way that i don't know that will ever be able to fully explain is such a beautiful way for some people to enter jewish spaces because they wanna know something before they start they could jump into my class and say text is the way that i was missing for feeling jewish. Or they'll go. Yeah that's awesome. I'm glad someone loves it. And they'll go find another way because they know that this was there and they know that they tried didn't make them feel bad for not loving this and i didn't make them feel bad for doing something else and i think it's really important that people have multiple avenues for entering judaism multiple ways of feeling jewish practicing judaism. Same goes for somebody who is on that ten step in his trying to see. Do i like tora. Do i like this kind of practice. I think there's also a level for me of ringing down the yeshiva which is like a traditional jewish study center that is usually meant for orthodox men to the every day and not just to the every day because we're not orthodox but because we have other jobs and because we have other things that we love and care about that sometimes get in the way of torah. Study whether that's the once a week class that's happening or maybe once a month class that's happening at twenties and thirties group or at a synagogue or jc. If that wednesday doesn't work that's your tour for the month. It's out and that was something that i was really hitting a lot. I was working at a synagogue. I was really into torah. I had a lot of connections in the jewish world in los angeles. Lots of rabbi friends. You know. I was like exactly the person who should have been able to find studying torah easy and i couldn't because every time i was trying to find a torah class something would come up that wednesday every three weeks or even if it didn't three weeks wasn't enough i wanted it every day. Honestly i mean this is why i started but i wanted it all the time. And if i couldn't find torah study that was consistent enough than how could somebody who's trying it for the first time or thinks maybe they like it. We think a lot about why somebody isn't doing something jewish were. They're not committed enough. They're not interested enough. It's like no maybe it's just that it takes place on thursdays and they're not available on thursdays and that's the only time it's offered. It actually reminds me of some of the questions. The questions that i'm gonna ask. You reminded me a lot of the questions that people tend to ask us which is like well if you're doing it in this way in our case online that is much more accessible and therefore much more likely to be accessed as the numbers prove but it's not worth it because you're losing something really important in doing it that way and online you're losing community the way that you're doing it with drop in tourist study you're losing the long-term going through it with the same people over and over and you know i always say well look there's lots and there's gain and yeah i'm not gonna deny the losses that you talk about but i'm also going to emphasize the gains in and let me tell you about how we do it here so that maybe you can get excited about it so i'd love to understand a little bit especially now that you've launched this covid so obviously it's all taking place online and i wanna ask how you mean it to be after covid because it's more clear that if you do something online there's a lot more likelihood that people can drop in anytime and somebody'll be around. I'm curious if the vision is really that no this is an online project for exactly that reason or there's a vision that at some point after covid the there would be an in person dimension. And how would that work so. I came up with the idea for the tourist video about two years ago. I remember dan. We got coffee one time the first time we met. I told you about like the nascent beginnings of this idea of. How are we going to teach torah to a new generation of jews like really bring it to people and always in my head had been in los angeles which i think is a space that is ripe for jewish experimentation that no one is really jumping in on or not enough. People are jumping in on and that is going to be in person. I was going to have like a baby. Josh which is like a house of steady is going to be big open space with tons of books because that's like the greatest place in the world for me and then i started it in cove. Ed and i had to totally change. What i understood this project to be and it was better than i could have imagined because i have been able to access people across north america. We have a lot of people coming in from canada. And we're definitely missing the community piece. I think there is a small community. That's building in the same. There's a small long-term group that's building the same way that a temple torres study on saturday mornings has like that core group of people that you walk in and you know they've been there for fifteen years you're gonna come into one of my classes and they were going to be people who have been there every single week for months. Now we've only been around for months but mostly my family But they're the best and so you have to have these given takes of the long term practice of torah study being lost for the one off in what that imbalance is making me. Focus on is making sure that every class that i offer is really seriously rooted in a feeling of torah. Study that there's not time wasted. We're giving everybody exactly the tools that they need to be fully engaged in a tourist city. Really no matter how many times you've done this before whether it's their hundred time or their first time and how does that work tell us a little bit about how the classes themselves work so every single class and every single the will offer the core piece of what we're doing in my opinion is cover to time Comes from the hebrew word heavier friend. It is the term for partnered learning. It means that you're not learning totally by yourself reading on your own. You're reading with another person and not just for five minutes reading the text at each other but we spend more than a third of our class which sometimes is thirty five minutes. Sometimes it's twenty minutes depending on how long the class is in coverage which means that you can one. Maybe two other people are breaking down the text however feels best for the two of you going through every single line every word. That's interesting to you. Every big idea coming just getting to be immersed in that text and we make sure that every person has the tools that they need to be in hover up like. I said whether it's your first time where you're hundred time and that means you have multiple translations of the text so you can cross translate and if you don't know any hebrew you're really getting kind of a sense of where maybe there's some tense hebrew translations going on you are given guiding questions in guiding Steps for how to work through this text with your partner now. I don't use source sheets. Because i want people to just be focused in on the tour attacks. If i walk into your rake out room or pop into your breakout room rather for your And year pointing on something cool. I might give you another taxed or a direction to follow that. I think you'll appreciate that moment. But really you could go through the entire time and just use the torah and then we come out and we have a discussion altogether that i let the learners lead. Mostly i mean. Of course. I am guiding and helping and then shaping abed but whatever was really coming up in is the most important for people in that moment is what we're going to be focused on as we're studying through exodus people are thinking about. What is it means. That god is hardening pharaoh's heart. When we were studying genesis we're thinking about the fallibility of our ancestors. End the process that we are witnessing of people failing and getting the second chances and having these second sons and all these things that people have heard about but haven't really read necessarily themselves or haven't read closely in a long time and what that means is that we're really opening up taxed from what the learners are seeing and letting bat be the guiding force. So i'm really struck by you mentioned that torah learning is emotional not just intellectual in a way. That's hard to explain. That's the first little passing phrase that you mentioned that i think is really deep. The second is it's mostly my family. You mentioned you know. There's sort of a hardcore group that is there each and every time you need or many of the times you meet like a lot of. It's your family members. I wanna sit that. Because i'll be honest. I think there are a lot of us for whom you know. I share all sorts of jewish things with my family and growing up. I shared holidays with my family. We went to services not every week but sometimes like jewish cultural things like all of that. I share with my family. I don't think other than i guess. You could sorta count the passover seder. But i don't think we've ever really studied torah with each other. Not that we've been avoiding it. I actually think my mom and dad. I'm an only child. So that's my nuclear family. Like i think they would love the idea if i said to either one of them like. Hey i love to learn tour with you. But there's something powerful in the idea that we could have as like a family interaction. I'm understanding that. It's not just your family in the room but like the that matters. Because i think that it's counterintuitive that we would share that realm of judaism. I think like i. I'm picturing all the different torres. Studies have gone to unlike most of the people in the room. It's like one person like their spouses and their it's like it's like individual people. Who are all excited about torah study. And like maybe there's a couple couples who both like torah study in both go but a lot of the people like they're on their own because it's their thing on saturday morning and their spouse to something else and then afterwards maybe they schmooze about it. But i'm curious what comes up for you when you specifically share this with people you love whether that's your literal family or others. At first i thought that they were coming just because they love me and they're being supportive but three four months in. I was pretty convinced. Also they told me they're doing it for themselves. And i think one of the reasons that it happens that people aren't sitting with their families or studying just on their own in these groups is there tends to be a hierarchy and torres steady and really a sense of jargon and trying to get in there are certain doors are locked and you have to jump over certain hurdles to prove that you deserve to be in the rooms that are studying torah and if your family member has a vague interest but never done this before it can be really difficult or stressful or just not fun for them to join in torah. Study where they're gonna feel very out of depth and not really heard or excited and it takes a certain kind of person than to jump into those spaces anyway. And i think one of the things that we work really hard to do is created non hierarchical torres base when we're in discussion or hover ta and i make it very clear to everybody before we actually start talking. I share that weather. There are rabbinical students in the room. Which often there are or people studying for the first time again. Often there are that every single person is here because this torah matters to them and every person is bringing their own set of experiences that matter for torah it is. What is going to make arturo beautiful together whether you feel really comfortable what you said just because it's in your guts or whether you feel that it's good because you know that romblom rashi to torah commentators from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries are also saying bringing both of those an makes it beautiful and makes it rich. It reminds me of a story that i probably told before in the podcast but five years in i can retail certain stories but at at one point many many years ago i was running an organization and our staff with study tour together and we were studying this particular story about jethro moses's father in law and when he visited moses. He gives us famous advice about how to organize the people into a kind of parameter leadership structure. But they're part before it where jethro comes and moses tells them what had happened to them how they got out of egypt and it's been really hard since then and jethro gathers all the elders together and sacrifices and animal. I think and says you know. Your guide is the greatest of god's and they basically have a meal together and i said know well. I think what's happening here. Is that says throwing a party. And what he saying to moses implicitly. Is you're a bad leader. Because you're a real downer and you can't be a downer there and be a leader and you have to get the people's emotions up before you do anything else. And so he's having a big party and you're kinda get that because i'm kind of introverted and i'm not necessarily the best at doing that kind of thing so that actually feels to me like really valuable leadership advice as much as the more intuitive. You should organize the people into groups. I mean that's not that complicated but the idea that you throw a big party. That might be something that you have to learn as a leader. If it doesn't come naturally to you so members turns to me and says which commentator did you get that from. And i said well no i was reading it and i'm having this experience because i'm a relatively new leader in the organization and i'm kinda seeing that that one thing that i'm not doing well here is throwing parties by the way is still not very good at that and then spoke to me you know. And she says You can do that. And i said well i guess so. I mean it's gonna stop me but it was interesting that it never really occurred to me or or i had gotten past the point where it would have occurred to me that that there's any question like you can do it. Can you do that. I mean i do whatever. I want but she who was from a much more traditional experience in jewish education. It was a lesson to learn. It was something to realize because you've been educated that if a monitor serve you know someone else didn't say it then it can't be valuable and so i'm curious how to understand more about your experience. You talked about how you try to give people the sense that whatever comes out of anybody in the partnership is a valuable piece but i know that people have such obstacles to believe that. How do you actually go about the process of making them. Believe it so one of the things that i do at the beginning when i give everybody the info they need to be in herethe is i. Show them a graphic of a triangle. That i got from elliot Kent called the philosophy of coverage and it's called the you know the hover to triangle. And it's the three responsibilities that you have covered tub moment in a partner learning space. One responsibilities to yourself one is to your partner and one is to text and that i think is the key that a lot of people are saying is that the text is a partner in your conversation. What that means is you're reading the text carefully and you're letting it have its own voice in the conversation which means when you like what it says. You are digging into that word to that sentence and when you don't like what it says you were also making it speak for itself and when you're really focused on what the text is saying if you can say what you're saying and then go yes. This word right here is what made me think of. It doesn't matter if it's the first time i've ever seen that word doesn't matter if you know what that hebrew word is. It matters that that word spoke to you. And you know that what you're saying is based in text. it's also based in your heart. But it is based on the taxed and i think that process for somebody who is very experienced in learning in a much more traditional way where commentators are ruling how they interpret and somebody who's never looked at tora before both of those people are going to relieve of themselves that they had to be correct because the tech said it. You saw the tax said it. I mean this is a weird connection. But i'm remembering early in my relationship with my spouse. My favorite torah portion happens to be the story of blom block and she at this point relationships. She didn't know that story. Which i think is very logical like it's sort of this weird commercial break in the midst of the book of numbers. It's like it doesn't sort of take the story forward. it's dislike a funny interlude. Although i'm sure people could be about that but i did a like an exercise where i i worked really hard to hide my own bias and i asked her like okay. We're going to do. We're going to look at the story together. And i'm curious on a scale from one to ten with one being like evil and ten being a saint. Like how would you valujet. Like what value judgment would you put on. The character below traditionally all those commentators and lots of jewish takes whatever and whatever have a very negative approach to the of to the point that when they read the initial story in my view they they see the story through a colored lenses and they see this character in a negative way because they sort decided to beforehand my argument and and it turned out she gave like. I don't know what it was like. An eight or nine like he comes off pretty well if you're not looking at those commentators if you're just looking at the text and and it was important for me to see that because it showed me just how much of a twist the commentators often bring to the stories and that's not necessarily bad. There's lots of torah stories. That i actively want to twist and that i actively want to change the message of but people don't always realize how on a basic level like we take for granted esau is like a bad guy in the book of genesis and jacob is a good guy like read those stories without any glasses on and i think either one of those characters can be seen as good and either one could be seen as pretty evil. So why why is it so important in your group action. My take why that's important in your group to stick with that because obviously somebody listening to this. Could be like but wait lex. You talk about finding connections in jewish texts to like pop culture to other things like why would you. Why would you sort of restrict yourself. It happens to the best of us to get totally stuck in commentators and by the best of us. I mean every incredible. Rabbi that we've been learning from for the last few thousand years but it is definitely put me at like butting heads with some of my coverage in the past to say i'm going to question the commentators and what that means is when you find in the text something beautiful like your sure that ballum is the number one dude and all of torah. If someone came into class and said the way. I just read. Beloved favorita is that he is the number one dude that i have read about in torah. I love him. I want to be like him. I would happily put in front of them. A piece of commentary that said the exact opposite not to say boom. That's the answer your rod but to say great. This is how other people have read it going back to the text. Can you make their point or do you still feel like you can hold your point and where do you think they got it from and coming back to the text really allows you to be in that exact conversation that the commentators were having and it's also about the understanding and i say this very often in my classes. There is no final answer in torah. Every time we come to the text were reading it a little differently. A new word is popping out to us. Rashy hits a little different that day. All of it is going to change and evolve with us in so it's about being in the conversation and having the skills and building those skills and building the confidence to be in that conversation at all. Can you talk a little bit about your own background. Because i think what's interesting in this particular conversation is that all. Three of us launched initiatives various kinds before we were quote authorized in any way now unfortunately lacks has recently become authorized and worst and graduated for rabbinical school. And unfortunately you are enrolled in a program. Where you're going to get some kind of degree of jewish educational leadership lucky new and i'm also wondering the real intent to my question that the real intent but in addition to my question is this is this question of like is what you're talking about in terms of helping people believe that their voice is actually important. How does that relationship change. Once you become more authorized whether that's by a degree or just buy more and more experience. I mean i think the more years that you're doing it even if you're not authorized me you still learn more and more and more so you become more intimidating potentially. I'm wondering how we avoid that as we do endeavors like this which are really meant to help. Unleash people's own voices. I grew up studying torah in like the most casual way possible. My dad was starting his own tore learning journey and was going to tourist studies very often and was coming home on friday nights in telling us what happened in the porsche in i loved and basically since then i have been the person who had any conference or summer camp activity choice jumped in and said i'll be in the tora class i would love to learn more And a few years ago. I decided to study more. I started learning talmud with the regular tollett. Study group in english. I started reading on my own having conversations with rabbis around me just like doing everything. I could to teach myself and i hit a point where that no longer was working. It's around the time. That i came up with the taurus studio so about a year and a half ago i took the opportunity to go to parties in jerusalem. It is a place that is egalitarian. Jewish learning bait new draw. She all those words that are coming up. It's a tour learning space and it just clicked. And then i came home and i kept studying and i have just been immersing myself in torah as much as i can and that does mean that. I don't have that kind of authority that people want or expect from a torah scholar. Now who's to say that. I am not as knowledgeable as somebody in their second or third year of the school if they came in for other reasons than that they had really immersed themselves in torah so far i think that there is a really important aspect to having people that look and act. Enter just excited like you are teaching you. I have been a teacher. I'll say that. I worked at summer. Camps my entire life as a teenager. I worked at a religious school. I ran a youth program at a synagogue. And so combining a passionate my love for torah and combining my passion and love for teach egg just felt very natural and as i gain more skills the make me feel more confident and then make other people feel more confident in me when i'm moving through a discussion with people. I'm giving information as feel is necessary. When i walk into your coverage and you tell me about a really cool word just discovered. I ask people if they want to know the here before. I just tell them. Because sometimes you're like no i'm good. I like my interpretation. I don't speak hebrew. And i don't need to know what the hebrew is 'cause navy. You're going to tell me that it's wrong but most people do wanna know and i just use the resources i have because as a teacher i seeing the light in the joy that overto- and then discussions bring two people to be in. This conversation is something. I hope i never forget about because that is always going to be my central point. You know. now i'm on judaism unbound so it's going to be a little more intimidating people in class but really though yeah exactly but i do think. There's a mix of needing some authority for people to trust that they can learn with me and also that piece of i'm learning with them. I hope should never leave me. I think this is so important. I think we haven't talked about this directly enough in the past. So i'm grateful first off like little side note. What you said about sort of somebody not wanting to know. The hebrew in their interpretation being based on english like we have a lot to learn from christian approaches to the king. James bible where the king james bible in english like in certain senses sort of is the thing you can tell them literally. The word in english is like not truly representative of the original hebrew or and people don't care it is its own holy scripture at this point and i think we have something to learn from that as jews like. I do think we should treat our english texts as also having their own weight. And it's not that. I don't want people to look at the hebrew ever gain meaning that way but anyway so that's one thing i think this point you're bringing up about intimidation that dan rea upper that we're talking about is so vital because i'm going to be honest. I think that as much as there are things. That you and i and dan and others with like a public platform can do to sort of minimize our the amount of intimidation. That we sort of wield. I think at the end of the day no matter what i do. Each year of me gaining experience each year of you gaining experience like there is a way in which that is always going to increase the intimidation. And what my takeaway from that is. Not like a fatalist notion of off. It's all screwed like we. It's we need actively to be looking for people who are not experienced educators who are on the younger end and who are maybe not on the younger end but like newark tomorrow. Whether that's jews by choice whether that's people that are just newer detoro for whatever reason they need to be teaching. We need to block the idea that like the best teachers are those that have the most knowledge. It's not that having knowledge is the worst thing but look there are ways in which somebody having new eyes or newer is on these stories is actively a-plus and where i even as you know. I'm i'm thirty. Not i haven't seen this for sixty years. Were having gone through this process. I sort of know my takes about each torah portion like it is absolutely possible that i'll look at torah portion next time and something new will arise and small things do but like. If i'm really being honest. I don't know that. The percentage of my stuff that comes up. That's new is anywhere close to somebody who is seeing it for the first or second or even fifth time and that's a reason to have that person in the center of the room and not just in the side of the room because when they say their thing they're gonna have an energy. They're going to have an excitement. They're going to be able to transmit it in a way that somebody seeing it for the eleventh or fourteenth time may not and so i'm curious to hear like what it looks like in your space. Are there ways in which the rules are not always sort of you teaching and also what you would say about this in general when we think about torah study. I am the main teacher right now. But i do have incredible teacher teaching with me. One class this season of exodus and hopefully in the future Rebecca chest who's a great friend of mine and the idea. Is that like a yoga studio. There's going to be lots of teachers. And i wanna be finding the newest coolest excited teachers one of those people who are teaching for the first time or want to experiment with a new type of class and they are really highly praised. Educators not rabbis or rabbinical students who are just starting their journeys and in classes themselves. Like i said i try to have no hierarchy and so while i am not having somebody lead a discussion. The first question. I usually ask when we leave clever In go into discussion is all right. What was coming up. What are the hot takes. Lame out. what was crazy. What was upsetting. What was exciting. Just say it and that means that a lot of people who see this for the first time are the ones who are going to speak up and say. Why would god do that. Why would abraham do that and that energy is what. I'm trying out with that question because if that's when the people who then helped of time kind of feel that spark again we'll i've never heard somebody say it that way you know like you hearing about balon from your partner like oh. I didn't realize you could think that way about this. And or when my grandma goes on a five minute beautiful drage on something and everybody is just sitting there getting to hear it. And i mean my grandma is an elder katie but she is very new to torah and loves it and i think that's part of it as as we're listening to each other truly and honestly discussion. We're all getting to be in that presence in that energy and the joy of somebody who studying for the first time and that piece of comes out including from me. I'll hear stuff every single class. That i had never thought about was not what i expected. People to be focused on was not what i expected anybody to have thought of or reference or bring into our conversation and i feel so grateful every single time for those comments. I don't want to focus on this. But i do want to put as been levy says sticky on it or to at least mention this whole business about your grandma and your family. I think actually is huge. Because what we've been trying to talk about on judaism unbound where my head is more and more is space that somewhere between a person who's just doing something on their own and in organization that needs a million dollars of funding and that starts with some kind of small group like imagine starting an organization not as starting an organization but as starting it as a small group and then it just naturally becomes an organization over time because more and more people get attracted to it and it feels to me like the ultimate example of that is just doing something with your family. And you know here. Your grandmother becomes a superstar studies student and then she's bringing all her friends and whatever and over time. That's how these things naturally grow. And i often think that some of the desperation of the jewish community and jewish funders to have something exciting makes everybody flocked to the idea of starting a new big organization as opposed to funding or facilitating lots of amazing experiments. Like this it just feels very natural very exciting to me that this whole idea so i just wanted to kind of flag that you can talk about that if you want but i also wanted to go back to this other comment that you made about just being in natural teacher because as you were saying that i was thinking about again. What if we reorient our understanding of jewish education or at least a certain segment of jewish education. And i'm also wondering by the way they talking about this at your education school where it's much more important whether somebody is a good teacher then what they know. And that's for two reasons. One people can always learn new things. They can't offend. Learn to be a great teacher and number two maybe especially for newer students in in an area. You don't ever have to know that much in other words my really amazing fifth grade. Math teacher probably doesn't know the kind of crazy proofs and whatever that my son is now studying in first year calculus. I don't even know what he's talking about. And i think that when you say things like that in jewish education people tend to go. You're dumbing it down. You know you're not taking it seriously. And i'm saying no. There's actually different things that are useful at different stages of connecting with this material and it actually may be that at a certain point when you learn too much you are now no longer appropriate to teach introductory level students anymore because you know too much. What if we thought about it that way. Then how would we orient the structure of jewish education differently. I think a key difference. That's happening here. Verses in a lot of other torres steady spaces is that we often go to torah studies. That are led by a person that we really admire. Because we're there to learn their torah. What i'm really trying to do is find out what you see in it and do everything i can. As an educator to uplift and make you feel excited impassioned and empowered to see what you need to see in that piece of tax. But i think as i started to look for martinez and why Rebecca in the first place is because they agree that that purpose of trying to get other people to find their confidence in their beauty. Torah is why you're coming to the tour studio is one trying to do as space. Y'all i would rather find a really good teacher with just enough background to maneuver around to figure it out. Then i would find somebody who is excited to tell everybody all of their incredible theories. No judgment incredible. I don't have anybody in mind just to be clear. I would much rather find out. My students have to say than what a teacher has to say. And i think that that's an experience of That doesn't always gets translated into other tourist city spaces the more that i'm hearing from you. Maybe i'm like creating this narrative. I'm hearing that it makes sense to me that you were a camp counselor. The way that you're talking about torah study in the way that you're talking about facilitating groups. It feels similar to. I mean i was a camp counselor for a few years and it was at a jewish camp. So i i think about that experience in the context of you know the work i do now in jewish spaces and i say now and i think i've said in the past and i think i'll say you know in decades that in certain ways the most important work i ever have done and maybe ever will do is that i was a camp counselor. If i'm a parent. I think that will be a more important thing but like until then. It's a remarkable rule and there are ways in which what i talk about like the constant. Yes and the constant improv game of summer camp counseling. We're like you are constantly doing everything in your power to take whatever comes out of campers mouth and have it shift the space. Have it contribute to the camp culture. Have like that feels similar to what you're describing with. Wanting to help people find their torah. And have it not be about you because as a camp counselor if you're focus on you that's a real problem so i guess in my off my rocker here. Do you draw connections between camp. Counselor ring i'm using counselors verb in the same way. I use ruby as a verb rabbis verb. Do you draw on that experience in how you facilitate these horror studies. You couldn't be less off track. I don't think there's anything in my life that i do. That doesn't feel like it came from camp but this energy came. Actually i think from my experience as a cit director so i was in charge of the counselor in training program for three years and it will forever be probably the best job of her head because i took this group of seventeen year olds who love camp with their entire heart and are also seventeen and over the course of two months of me teaching them giving them tools and working with them and building relationships. They went from there for camp. Because it's for them because they love it because they are trying to have their best time to people who were actually to take care of other human beings and make camp about other human beings and it was about empowering them with the tools that i have to make them the best counselors possible but the humidity of their their own people. And they're not gonna look like many me's running around being counselors. they're gonna look like their version of counseling. And it really made me think about. If i'm not trying to teach somebody had to be me. I have to give them tools that they can use to make themselves different and better and stronger. And i think that that definitely comes into my teaching of torah. I'm not looking to give people my torah. I wanna give people tools that they can use an immediately absorb so that they are actively doing it on their own. And i have to have that humility to say. I don't get to control what they do with it. Which is the hardest thing. It's hard for us when we talk about the jewish future. It's hard for us when we talk about our kids. It's hard for us when we talk about our work or tweet once it's out in the world we don't get to decide what's going to happen to it. We just have to do our best to make sure that people are given the tools that they need to be their best version of themselves and all of that comes from shoutout to kindling. hilltop camp. Clap clap clap. at the end of it of malibu will no longer unfortunately Both of the wilshire boulevard. Temple camps burned down a few years ago. But those are my homes and They will forever be the reason i am am. I'd love to talk a little bit. About what the torah is in a paradigm like this because it strikes me that when we think about who were talking to in this series that if you talk to academics. They're interested in the truth. What really happened. you know what. What's the actual historical fact here if you talk to people that are coming from a more traditional approach like no no i understand. I don't even that interested in the text. What i'm interested in is what the commentator said about the texture with thomas said about the text. Because that's actually what created judaism and i'm interested in practicing judaism and the idea that we're coming to the torah with neither of those mindsets that were coming to the torah just to read this taxed and in some ways it's like a mirror or however we might think about it as a metaphor. Is there way to see this. As a new way of being jewish that actually surprisingly didn't exist because when in history did anybody ever read the text of the torah and regular people and think about what they thought about it like that i don't think has ever been a practicing judaism until recently so then. Is it something new. Or how do you see the role of tower the purpose of terror when you're committed to an educational approach an approach like you say it's not really about education. It's about practice like yoga. So this is jewish practice. So what what. Judaism is it. So i think this also answers lex question for a while ago that it did not answer yet about what that emotional piece of torah is torah as a story and then as a written book. And then it's something that we've passed down has been the core of judaism for likely more than three thousand years and the fact that we can because we liked to but that we can because people are still reading it at all and it's still relevant. Three thousand years later is nothing short of a miracle for thousand reasons right. I mean thinking about how hard it was to even get here that this book had to keep being worthwhile and read in the rabbinic. Judaism had to keep it at the core. All of those things to me. When i read torah i feel connected to that entire lineage. To all three thousand of those years that weather this is your spiritual or literal ancestor. Who was reading this book or not reading this book. This was the book they were or were not reading. This is the book that they were doing. The meets vote from or not for all time until we got here and to be part of that conversation not just with commentators who are only nine hundred years old but with people who are the rabbis with people who we just assume we're having these same feelings in conversations or if not the same feelings than the same inclinations to question elaborate in growth from is so special is such a honor and a blessed to be a part of that on any given wednesday night being in conversation with text. No matter how you're doing. It is what i'm trying to create because if we can have a regular casual easygoing conversation with tour as part of our lives then it becomes either the thing that we are deviating from knowingly or the thing that we are bringing with us knowingly as we build a stronger new type of judy is a new vision of judaism with taurus. Still at the center in this conversation and in many other jewish conversations. We have used the word torah in two very different ways and we have not fully explained. The differences between those two is. And i think a note to jewish educators and rabbis and everybody we should explain what these ways are when we're doing it because i think it's confusing to to jews especially those who aren't jewish but first off we have used the phrase the torah genesis exodus leviticus numbers deuteronomy. Those are five books that collectively make up the torah with that definite article. The next level is sort of torah which still with like a capital t which i think sort of refers to this is less clear-cut but it's sort of a to those five books and like the raw. She's you've talked about and like the commentator like sort of traditional sources that are relating to the torah but are not themselves sort of the tour. I think sometimes people say torre and they mean that realm the third way which i am deeply interested in which you used before beautifully is talking about leon is torah. My torah torah which is not leon is five books of moses. It's it's not that. It's i think it's this deeply intimate it gets at the emotional pieces right. It's the steeply intimate idea of sort of someone's almost like soul teachings. It's a very deep idea. Like people have within them. Teaching like must come out there torah and in facilitating a space like this or even as being participant with it's not facilitating in a space. Like this you can come to understand what it is. Is your personal torah. I would love to hear from you a little bit about that. Distinction between like lower case t torah an individual persons torah and the torah the five books. Because i think that as much as we're doing this unit of episodes unlike the torah or on the bible more generally term. We are as interested or more interested in how the torah can sort of mobilize people's torres people's individual toro's as we are in that set of five books. I really appreciate that distinction. 'cause i do sometimes play on that people know that there's different levels of torah. Being a part of this conversation. I teach torah study capital. T. torah five bucks. A moses torah once a week. But i used torah interest that he knowing that it was an expansive understanding of the teachings of our people because torah means the teachings in means the fact that the what god taught us on sinai is where that comes from. There's also believed that. What god taught us on sinai was both the written torah casualty expansive t and also oral torah. The torah that. We're passing down. And i think i like to include our layer of torah at my personal layer over. Torah is part of oral. Torah is part of that tradition from cyanide. Down till now. Until i got it and i can add my layer of torah on top of it. The dan can layer his layer of torah of his torah. end altogether. That mixing all of it together. And i hope to be teaching all of that. I hope to be teaching. Literal five bucks. A moses talmud tannock which is the other which includes the other two sections of torres. We understand it which is writings in prophets. All the while with the understanding that you are building your own layer of interpretation. Your own oral torah your own way of how that affects your morality. How that affects your life hazardous affects the way you read. That word layered on top of what you're reading nourishing. Both of those feels very important to me. This has been awesome for folks who are hearing this and are like a. I wanna go to leonidas awesome session with the caveat of what you said before. It's not just about learning your torah. 'cause you're great it's also finding what if they want that. How could they do that and be if they want to. Connect with you to start up something comparable. How would they do that. So you can find us at the tourist studio dot org or on instagram at torres studio and you can email me at the torah studio gmail.com. I'd be happy to talk about. Your torah. means to you. How you wanna study torah or how you wanna teach door were on zoom for hopefully forever if for also get to be imprinted which means that you can come to one of our classes in really love to learn with you. Thank you so much liana. This has been fantastic conversation. Thank you so much. This has been a dream come true. Well we love that. It's a dream come true. Thank you again liana. Thank you for all of you out there listening one little note before we fully close out the episode is that the torah studio and the men were partners of ours on our initiative this year. Poor live which was just a huge success and we actually have the full video recording of that event it was this wild journey through all ten chapters of the book of esther. We have that recording on our website. We encourage you to check it out at judaism unbound dot com slash p. u. r. I m twenty twenty one and we hope that you'll stay tuned because there may be other collapse coming up between the torres studio and judaism unbound those are on the horizon before too long anyway now he will close out this episode. There are a wide variety of ways that you can be in touch with us if you have questions or thoughts or anything related to this episode or any other and we love when we hear from listeners and here are all those ways i you can go to our facebook page. Judaism unbound second. You can hit up our twitter instagram. Also just at judaism unbound for those handles third you can go to our website use unbound dot com and last but not least you can always email us at dan. Judaism dot com or lexus. Judaism unbound dot com. We are of course greatly appreciated. If you're able to send us a donation of any amount you can do that just as a one time gift or you can set up a monthly recurring donation. The judaism unbound dot com slash. Donate so thank you so much for listening. We hope you enjoyed this episode and with that this has been us about.

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