The Passionate Torah is starting to get ready for its big debut in June! Yay. A wonderful review and profile in Publishers Weekly this week–I’m totally tickled:

The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism Edited by Danya Ruttenberg. New York Univ., $19.95 paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8147-7605-6 It is not often that an academic title about religion stimulates other parts of the body as well as the mind. Yet that is what Ruttenberg, a rabbi, and the 17 contributors to this collection of essays have accomplished. Ruttenberg, a wunderkind of Jewish feminism, leads the reader through an often racy reconsideration of what the sacred Jewish texts say about our most intimate relationships. Along the way there is a lot of fun! See the story about the naked rabbi and the prostitute who marries him. But Ruttenberg et al. never lose sight of their goal: to uncover new ideas about treating those we love with the respect, kindness and honor inherent in the teachings of Judaism. (June)


Reverent, Relevant, Rebellious Rabbi   Is Judaism sexy? Ask the rabbi! As long as the rabbi is Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, editor of The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism (New York Univ., June). The answer, she will tell you, is definitely “yes”. That, at least, is the premise behind the book that Judaism, with its 6,000-year history, has a lot to say about our most intimate relationships. And while Jews have plumbed their tradition for patterns of ethical behavior for thousands of years, The Passionate Torah charts new ways of looking at old wisdom. “I think there is always a need to be reinterrogating and rethinking our assumptions about everything,” Ruttenberg, 34, says. “The way we keep [Judaism] relevant is by constantly examining it, turning it over and over. But we have to do the hard work of going deep down and asking the tough questions.” Ruttenberg is no stranger to tough questions. She is the author of the memoir Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion (Beacon, 2008), in which she details how she went from rebelling against her faith to seeking out its meaning and solace. She also edited Yentl’s Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism (Seal, 2001), which placed her firmly in the ranks of up-and-coming Jewish scholars. She carries that reverent-yet-rebellious approach to The Passionate Torah, in which she and her 17 colleague-contributors ask: what does Jewish law, tradition, scripture and religious writing have to tell us about sex and sexual relationships today? The book is no academic exercise, despite its big-name roster of scholar-contributors. “This is not theory for the sake of theory,” Ruttenberg says. “We wanted to create a playground for people to play around with new ideas, to bring different lenses and aim them at Jewish text sources and traditions and see what would come out.” Next for Ruttenberg is a series of books on Jewish ethics called Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices that she is co-editing with Rabbi Elliott Dorff, also a contributor to this book. Her contribution to that series, focusing on sex, war and social justice, will appear in 2010 from the Jewish Publication Society. In some ways, it will continue the theme of looking at the old through the eyes of the new. “I want to give scholars, rabbis and thinkers the tools to play,” Ruttenberg says.

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