Episode 3 – Jewish Almanac Podcast

Show transcript with links to relevant resources:

This is the Jewish Almanac Podcast, a weekly short program that explores opportunities for frugal and DIY, Jewish adult learning. I’m James M. Branum and this is episode number three with the release date of February 27, 2023.

Before going on, I just wanted to give a quick reminder that you can find the show notes for this episode, and all of our past episodes on the website This podcast can also be found on most of the major podcast apps.

In this episode, I’ll be sharing our weekly podcast roundup where I’ll be sharing highlights of some of the best Jewish podcasts out there. After that, I’ll share a very quick D’var Torah, talking about just two verses of Torah. And then I’ll close with a few words about some things going on in my life and as it relates to this podcast.

So let’s get jump into our Podcast Roundup.

On Judaism Unbound, episode #367, Dan and Lex interviewed three of the team members from the Let My People Sing project, which seeks to encourage greater creativity and openness to the power of Jewish communal singing, something that is very, very important. And in this episode, I was mostly moved by the discussion of the power that singing is brought to protest movements and by the idea that we can simply sing for singing’s sake, rather than always seeing Jewish singing as just about prayer. Also, I will mention that this project, the “Let My People Sing” project, right now it’s mostly focused on these retreats events, but I’m really hoping in time, there they will share more ideas about how new communities how synagogues and all kinds of communities can can better bring singing to the table. So I’m excited to see what what will come of this project.

Then on, jumping ahead to the next podcast, on Chutzpod episode 2.19. They had an mailbag show which featured the host answering queries sent in by the listeners. I won’t spoil the fun or the sadness, but this was an episode with both light and heavy moments and is definitely worth listening to.

And then I have to mention last last, but definitely not least on episode 92 of the wandering Jews podcast. Hosts Josh and Rory followed their minhag of enjoying some quality cannabis, and then talking about the news headlines and all things Jewish. In this episode they had more fun with with what they call Rav Chatgibbets, also known as the AI system known as Chat GPT. And they asked the good Rav for information on this week’s Torah portion, which it did pretty well. But then they asked the AI Rebbe about its thoughts about whether it’s advisable to use cannabis during Torah study. Sadly, the AI Rabbi wasn’t very open-minded on the subject or didn’t seem to even be familiar with the long, long, history of the use of cannabis by Jews going back millennia. Oh, well. AI still has a long ways to go. So that was our podcast roundup.

Now let’s move into our next segment, the D’var Torah. For this week, I want to spend just a few moments looking at just two verses of next Shabbat, Torah portion, Tetzaveh. And these two verses, by the way, are Exodus 28: 2-3. So I’m going to read this in translation to the new JPS translation.

Make sacral vestments for your brother Aaron for dignity and adornment. Next, you shall instruct all who are skillful, whom I have endowed with a gift of skill to make Aaron’s vestments for consecrating him to serve me as priest.

So, admittedly, these are not the most exciting verses in Torah. But I do think there’s something there’s some interesting stuff here, especially for folks in the arts.

First of all, the sacred garments he made for Aaron word is said to be designed for the purposes of dignity, and adornment, or in Hebrew Kevod (כָּבוֹד) and tiparah (תִפְאָֽרֶת), which might be more literally translated as honor and glory. And so we have this sense of the purpose of this, and I appreciate from thinking about the standpoint of artists and craftsmen, craftspeople, that so often there is this interest in an artist statement, them explaining their work what it’s about? Well, in this case, Moses is giving clear instructions about what they’re looking for in the art.

But then we go on to the second verse and the second verse, it talks about to instruct that you shall instruct all who are skillful, who might have endowed with the gift of skill to make these things. Now the second part speaks about this idea of skillfulness. And those who have been gifted who have endowed with the gift of skill.

Well, looking at it in Hebrew. And — just full disclosure. I am not deeply fluent in Hebrew myself. But I’m really good at using some of the good reference materials out there. And I have a rough and ready . . .  I can translate a little bit, but I often need help. Well, the word in Hebrew for skilled is hacham (חכם), which can be translated as skillful, but also has the connotation of wisdom attached to it.

However, I think the the new JPS translation made a weird choice and the next part when it said that those endowed with the gift of skill, because in Hebrew, more literally, and I think really even a more better more engaging translation is is that those who are skilled are described as being filled with the spirit of skill, ruach hochma (ר֣וּחַ חׇכְמָ֑ה ). And I wonder why the new JPS translation omitted spirit from the equation. Skill, focusing on this idea skill alone, to me sounds very formulaic. But this is speaking about something a little more mystical, a little more… I don’t know a little more inspirational, frankly.

So anyway, while these teachings about the building of the Mishchan, the tabernacle, might not be terribly relevant to us today in some ways, I think the work of I think there is some relevance because the work of creative professionals is still with us today ,in both secular and religious society, which makes me ask the question, are we empowering creators of all kinds: visual artists, musicians, dancers, crafts, people, you name it? Are we empowering those people to use their skills for good? And Are we recognizing the power that the this ruach hochma, that it brings to the community? Well, those are the questions that these verses have left me wondering about this week.

Finally, to close today, I wanted to mention that this was a shorter episode, most of the episodes we’re aiming for 15 minutes. And also you might notice that this is released a day late Monday instead of stead of by Sunday. And the reality is that is because my life is kind of complicated right now, both in my working life, but especially my personal life with my extended family, and some health issues that members my family are facing. But I decided that it’s better to record a shorter and slightly tardy episode than to not record one at all. And I’m hoping that by next week, I’ll be on track with the regular schedule, and can do a fully fleshed out regular 15 minute episode. I appreciate your patience and appreciate all who are listening and sending me feedback. Speaking of feedback, I always welcome it. My contact info is on our website, Jewish But I also love to hear from folks on Facebook, just search for Jewish almanac or on the mastodon social media platform.

Also, thanks go to Danny Bale, and Rosegoldglitch for the music we used in this episode.

So until next week, Shavuah Tov, have a good week. Take care. Bye  now.

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