Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew Bible’

Building A Love Of Torah

November 10, 2010

I trained and worked as a teacher of Bible.

My house is filled with LEGO.

I never really thought that these two things had anything to do with one another…until now. Thanks to’s daily “Jewniverse” newsletter that I look forward to waking up and reading on my iPhone every weekday morning, I am now aware of The Brick Testament.

My son is pretty sure that is Dumbledore on Mount Sinai.

The Brick Testament’s creator, The Reverend Brendan Powell Smith (he’s apparently not really a reverend, but just likes the honorific and admits to being “widely regarded as being both highly presumptuous and extremely vain”) has reportedly spend 4 years and in the environs of $10,000 creating a highly detailed LEGO dioramic interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and parts of the New Testament.

Smith claims that everything he used, other than the sky background, is LEGO – and my LEGO-crazed 9 year-old son vouched for that. In fact, my son is pretty sure he recognized the Dumbledore mini-figure head from the LEGO Harry Potter set being used as Moses’s face.

I am especially impressed that Smith did not shy away from the more arcane, archaic and downright bizarre sections of Leviticus (which he refers to as “The Law”). Check out the R-rated scenes in “Sexual Discharges,” “Bestiality,” “Homosexuality,” and “Incest.” And you will not want to miss “When to Stone Your Children,” “When to Marry Your Sister-in-Law,” “When to Stone Your Whole Family,” and “How Long to Hang Someone.”

But lest you think think that The Brick Testament is not for the kids, rest assured that there are plenty of sections that you can look at together with your children at home or use as teaching aids in your religious studies classroom. In fact, this may be a great way to get kids engaged or re-engaged with Bible study. For creative engineering-type kids like my son, this may indeed by the best way to build a love of Torah.

By the way, it looks like I am late to jump on The Brick Testament bandwagon. Click here to read LOTS more about the project.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.



A Cautionary Tale Of Two Nedas

July 6, 2010

This post first appeared on The Sisterhood blog of The Jewish Daily Forward. Click here to read it there.

Neda Agha-Soltan. She was murdered by an Iranian militia in June 2009.

It’s been more than a year since the beginning of the Green Revolution in Iran, and the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan by an Iranian militia — turning her into a martyr in the fight against the country’s brutal regime and a symbol of the hope for democracy among its people.

While reading a recent article in Foreign Policy, I learned that at the same time that Neda Agha-Soltan lost her life, another young woman with a very similar name also lost hers — only she is still alive. In a rush to scoop each other, media outlets confused the identity of the woman whom the world saw bleeding to death on the streets of Tehran with one Neda Soltani who was busy with her university studies and far from the mass demonstrations.

When she tried to prove that the Facebook photo that was circulating was hers and not that of the murdered woman, few would listen or correct the mistake. Facing government persecution, Soltani was granted asylum in Germany. But she is alone there, separated from her family and all that she has known.

We see examples of such cases of mistaken identity in a number of biblical stories that figure prominently in the curriculum of congregational and day schools alike (as well as in Bible classes in Israeli public schools). There are major consequences to identify theft in Jacob’s stealing Esau’s birthright, Laban’s switching Leah for Rachel on Jacob’s wedding night and Tamar’s seduction of Judah, among other Torah narratives.

What is usually stressed in traditional Jewish interpretation and study is that the deceit was in service of a greater good. In other words, the omniscient God is the maker and mover of history, so these identity-related machinations — no matter how morally questionable — are all part of a larger plan for am yisrael.

Neda Soltani. Her identity was confused with that of the murdered woman.

Do teachers take the time to explore with their young students the unintended, unforeseen consequences for these human bystanders to the flow of biblical history? We know that Jacob’s relationship with his brother changed, but what about his relationship with his mother? Or what happens to the psyche of a young woman when she is manipulated by her father and put into an intimate relationship with someone who loves her sister? Or what is it like to live in a society in which you feel you have no choice but to trick someone in order to survive?

Jewish sources — both traditional and modern — that deal with these questions do exist. A willingness on the part of all of us to take the time and pay attention to them has the potential to make a big difference.

Similar questioning could have changed the course of Neda Soltani’s life.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.