Ari Lamm Profile picture
Sep 13, 2020 15 tweets 3 min read Read on X
Okay there's a larger point I've been meaning to make for a while about @themishpacha and @Ami_Magazine. Those who know me well know that I'm a fan of these publications. I'd like to explain why.

A thread:
If you're asking "Are Mishpacha/Ami good?", my reply would be "well, for what purpose? If your goal is to better enable internecine warfare among various frum Jewish communities, then no, these publications aren't for you. They're very inefficient vehicles for battle-line-drawing
Similarly, if your goal is to promote pluralism across the wider Jewish denominational spectrum, then Mishpacha/Ami are still the wrong address. They're not interested in the pluralistic inclusivity project.
Full disclosure, I'm not that interested in either of the above two projects. Frum infighting suffers from severely diminishing returns. Meanwhile, I don't think pluralism actually helps the people it's supposed to (secular Jewish masses). It mostly benefits denominational elites
I'm interested in what Jewish tradition has to say to the world. Society at large is suffering from so many challenges at once - social, emotional, political, even physical - and the Torah has so much wisdom to offer about all of them. The world needs traditional Jewish learning!
Now you might say: well, who gets to decide what the Torah says about these things? Okay, sure. But for the vast majority of outsiders, there is enough of a mainstream consensus that we can do a lot of good without needing to adjudicate the finer points of doctrine.
To put it differently: the Modern Orthodox, Yeshivish, Chasidish, etc. mainstreams overlap enough that, if we care about inspiring the rest of the world, we really can do this *together*.

(This seems like a fairly intuitive sociological "bloc" to me)
So the best way for this project to move forward, I think, is to lower the temperature among various frum factions. Don't need to ignore differences, but we can bracket them. Best way to do that is through positivity and humor. This is where I think Mishpacha, Ami, etc. succeed.
Another key to this project's success, I suspect, is leaning into the mainstream. Generally, you can't convince people of two things at once. So if you want to excite the frum world about inspiring others, you can't ALSO ask them to fundamentally rethink themselves.
This is why I think the standard complaint about Mishpacha/Ami - that they validate this or that allegedly bad tendency in their communal mainstream - misses the point.
Let's say the complaint is correct (I don't know enough to judge). My reply would be: that's a feature not a bug. Mishpacha's/Ami's utility is precisely in giving their target demographic confidence in itself. You need that confidence to go out and do other good things.
I see the local Jewish weeklies in MO/MO-ish communities as serving a similar function. NJ Link or 5TJT, for example, lean into the mainstream pretty hard. That can be a great thing. Not coincidentally, I think they also contribute to lowering temperatures between frum factions.
Now, it may be important to have some outlet for intra-communal arguments about whether a given mainstream thing is good/bad, or whether it should/shouldn't be altered. But again, Mishpacha/Ami are not well-designed to be that outlet.
But if it's important to make room for a sort of informal 'frum consensus' to exist so that communities that agree on a very high percentage of things can act collectively and virtuously in the wider society, then I say three cheers for Mishpacha/Ami/analogous MO-ish publications
And I should add: just because an outlet leans into the "mainstream" doesn't make it boring. The Beatles were as mainstream as it gets, and they remain one of the most exciting things to happen in music in a century. The frum mainstream likewise has plenty of excitement right now

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More from @AriLamm

May 17
Why Read the Bible in Hebrew?

In the Bible, Noah's nudity is a consequence of drunkenness—a thing two of his sons need to shield from the gaze of the third (Gen 9)

So why, in the Sistine Chapel, does Michelangelo paint them ALL naked?

A thread (for non-Hebrew readers too!)🧵 Image
Maybe the answer lies in Michelangelo's reverence for classical artistic ideas about the human body. The Sistine Chapel's ceiling and altar wall, after all, are positively saturated with nakedness...prompting Pope Adrian VI to refer to the chapel as "a bathroom full of nudes". 2 Image
But there's another really fun possibility! And it has to do with Biblical Hebrew.

Michelangelo grew up in Florence. And at this time, Christian Florentine fascination with Hebraic culture—from Biblical Hebrew to Jewish biblical interpretation and mysticism—was flourishing. 3 Image
Read 21 tweets
Sep 22, 2023
Why Read The Bible In Hebrew?

Ever wondered why the Bible spends so much time mentioning tons of names? All those "begats"?

What if I told you reading those names in Hebrew can hold the key to understanding entire Biblical stories?

A thread (for non-Hebrew readers too!) 🧵1 Image
Let's look at the Book of Genesis. It starts off with some crazy amazing set pieces: Creation! Garden of Eden! The first sin! Murder! And tons more action is still to come (The Flood! Tower of Babel!).

But smack in the middle, in Genesis 4-5, is a boring list of names. Why?! 2 Image
Well, this is one of the best examples of why it's super important to read the Bible in Hebrew. Because the Bible actually uses these names to suggest two radically different visions for humanity.

And since names can't usually be translated, most people just miss all of this! 3
Read 47 tweets
Aug 18, 2023
Why Read the Bible in Hebrew?

Let's talk about one of the most common questions I get about the Bible: Why does God care about a particular land?

If God is everywhere and created the whole world, why is there a "holy land"?

A thread (for non-Hebrew readers too!) 🧵 1 Image
The best way to answer the question is to look out for the very first time that the land appears in the Bible. And that brings us to Genesis 12.

God tells Abram: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land (eretz) that I will show you" (12:1). 2 Image
The key word here is "eretz" (meaning "land").

Now, what happens immediately after this? God continues: "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless (b-r-ch) you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing (b-r-ch)" (12:2)

We see two new things here. 3
Read 50 tweets
Jul 28, 2023
Here’s a video going around that moved me to tears:

A bunch of kids gathered yesterday to sing in Hebrew around some arch. “Who cares?”, you might ask.

Well, that’s the Arch of Titus in Rome

And yesterday was the anniversary of the events it was constructed to commemorate. 🧵
The Arch of Titus was built by the Roman emperor Domitian to honor his older brother and predecessor, Titus.

It portrays the central achievement of Titus’s life—his suppression of the 1st century Jewish revolt against Rome, and his destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. 2 Image
The Arch specifically depicts the triumphal procession held by emperor Titus during which he paraded through the streets of Rome with all the sacred vessels he’d plundered from the Temple.

The arch’s inscription confidently proclaims Titus to be a god, “Divus Titus”. 3 Image
Read 9 tweets
Jun 16, 2023
Why Read The Bible In Hebrew?

Let's talk about the most famous murder in human history—the story of Cain and Abel.

In order to understand it, we'll need to unpack one of the most mysterious words in the entire Bible.

A thread (for non-Hebrew readers too!) 🧵 1 Image
Just a refresher:

We have two brothers—Cain, the older, and Abel, the younger. They each bring an offering to God.

But while Abel brings his best stuff, Cain does not. And when God favors Abel's, Cain gets jealous and kills his brother. He tries and fails to hide his crime. 2 Image
It's a classic Biblical tragedy. But...what's the takeaway?

Is it just meant to be a bummer? Brother can't live with brother? Envy and murder is our lot? Life is nasty, brutish and short? That's it?

I think the answer lies in one Hebrew word from the text:


Read 46 tweets
Apr 3, 2023
Preparing a shiur on the impact of Jewish scholarship on the debate over Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

Convinced that literally no one has yet appreciated the importance of the fact that Henry's most crucial Jewish source was...a grandson of the Maharik!
Scholars have noted the genealogical connection as a curiosity and moved on. No one really makes a thing out of it.
But if you actually read the letters Henry's agent sent back to England describing his Jewish interlocutor's views, you pretty clearly start to see an outsider's attempt to explain some of the Maharik's most noteworthy opinions on yibbum.
Read 5 tweets

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