Rabbi Emily Cohen is the Jewish Emergent Network Resident Rabbi at Lab/Shul and a self-proclaimed “Torah Nerd.” We were very lucky to have her join us for our New York text study of Exodus, before our trip to Omaha in January to officially kick off our next project!
A rabbi, a pastor, and a 12-year-old walk into an upper west side apartment. Also an actor or five, a visual artist, a handful of creative types, a social justice consultant — oh, and the 12-year-old’s Dad, a writer. Folks from different boroughs (and even New Jersey!). Christians and Jews and self-described skeptics. People who understand the world through questions rather than answers. Over the course of a couple of pizzas and a couple of hours, they immerse in questions. Over what? Exodus. Yes, that Exodus.
Last night I was lucky enough to be the rabbi in the room for this community engagement with an ancient text that has a lot to say. It was my first encounter with The In[HEIR]itance Project, and I can’t wait for the next. Torah study is my bread and butter. This process, in which all questions and answers and musings and misgivings from each participant held equal weight, took my bread and butter and made it into a feast.
“I see a lot of plot holes,” the 12-year-old said.
“How does climate change fit in to the desert wandering?” wondered another.
We gave the book of Exodus new titles, picked out its possible moral center, and debated the peoplehood (or lack thereof) of the Israelites. We questioned pharaoh, Moses, and God. We took the myth and made it our own, and then we handed it off to the experts— today’s storytellers, the ones who will take The In[HEIR]itance Project from here. They’ll keep talking back to the text, turning it different ways, finding what wisdom there is to be found, and creating space for others of all walks of life to do the same.
And, to this rabbi, that’s exactly as it should be.
Omaha is in for quite a treat.