I am a former Orthodox Jew who "went off the derech" in my early twenties, in the early 2000s. Recently over the past 2-3 years I've developed an interest in the Torah and the development of Judaism from an academic perspective. This blog serves as a reason for me to explore various topical areas and gives me an excuse to research them. I will be attempting to post once a week near the middle of the week, on topics somewhat related to the parsha of the week for the upcoming Shabbat (Sabbath). This page will give some information on various decisions I've made in topic choice as well as some more technical details.
While I will try to relate the posts each week to the parsha, or holidays, sometimes the topics will be broader. In some sense, this is not dissimilar from the standard weekly dvar torah which sometimes tries to use the parsha as a basis to talk about a different topic.
If there's a fundamental message that will be presented, it's that the Torah, and indeed the rest of Tanach was composed by human beings over various periods of time. And that there's no good reason to believe there's anything divine about Tanach. These arguments won't be made in a week, rather they'll be built up by a large amount of supporting evidence throughout the year. Sometimes, however, the conclusions will be assumed in order to discuss some other topic, I'll make this clear when they are. This occurs because of the desire to relate topically to the parsha which will cause me to address some higher level issues before the fundamental supporting evidence is presented. Hopefully you'll bear with me on that.
I went with blogger for the option of leaving comments, and I hope people that read this will leave comments with their opinions. I didn't like at all the way that some other media, like tumblr, manage this.
For the translations of verses that I'll quote, and there will be many. I'll be using them almost entirely from the mechon mamre site. The translations are a bit old-fashioned, but usually reasonably fair. I'll point out problems with the translation if I find it necessary. If I quote Rashi, or the Gemara, I'll try to provide my own translations. It's far to cumbersome to do this for the Tanach though.
I will often write in transliterated Hebrew when necessary. I'm not using Hebrew characters, mainly out of laziness, since formatting Hebrew and English text in the same document is a pain. I will not be using the standard academic transliteration scheme, rather choosing a transliteration based on how I'd pronounce it, and how someone with a Jewish religious education would expect it to be written (as best I can).
I will not be writing out the tetragrammaton, YHWH, except in cases where it is necessary for explanatory purposes, like when I'm actually talking about the name (example: this sentence). I'll instead use God. The reasoning is mainly to not offend, and if someone is curious about the various kefirot I'm writing about, I'd rather them not turned away because of perceived callousness to religious precepts. I will not, however, be using G-d.
I will use the Hebrew names for people and places. So it will be Yaakov not Jacob. I will always introduce the Hebrew names with the English version when first mentioned, except when they are near identical, (like Ruth or David). I've debated on whether to do the same with books, and have decided to use the Hebrew names, except when giving references. So I'll refer to Devarim, but I'll refer to verses as (Deut. 4:3). Hopefully it's not too confusing. I'm sure this was all very interesting, an I have no idea why you bothered to read this far, but thank you.