Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

Glenn Beck’s Turbulent Soul

Back when my first book came out, there was another memoir also about a Jew returning to Judaism that was published around the same time. It was Turbulent Souls by Stephen J. Dubner, who has since gone from strength to strength as co-author of the Freakonomics books. The title of his earlier book is apropos of my previous post on Glenn Beck and all Beck’s noisy talk about alcoholism and recovery. I don’t mean that unkindly. Spiritual journeys of return and repentance are often turbulent, noisy. 

The point comes out on in the context of this week’s Torah reading, Tetzaveh, which includes the description of the priestly garments God commanded the Jews to fashion for use in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. The high priest wore a robe furnished with bells on its edges. The bells were intended not merely as a decoration but that they should be heard upon the high priest’s entering the holy of holies as part of the atonement of Yom Kippur:

It shall be on Aaron when he performs the service, and its sound shall be heard when he enters the Holy before the Lord and when he leaves, so that he will not die [Exodus 28:35].


That he should “not die”? Why such a harsh warning?
As some understand the Torah verses here, the bells were in the shape of pomegranates. Why pomegranates? On the basis of a verse in Song of Songs that compares sinners to that particular fruit, since even a sinner in Israel is assumed to have merits like the seeds in a pomegranate. On the verse in Exodus, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the high priest was strongly cautioned to have in mind not only those among the people who have a relatively easy time being good but also those of us who struggle — sinners, penitents, and would be penitents — with our “noisy” personal stories.
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posted February 23, 2010 at 2:45 am

“Spiritual journeys of return and repentance are often turbulent, noisy.”
My friend did her thesis on “baalei teshuva”, returnees to Jewish observance. In it she references born-again Christians, about whom there’s a term in the research literature that can equally describe baalei teshuva. That term is “the noisy period.” Of course, sometimes this noisy period doesn’t end, or doesn’t even occur, but for many people it lasts a couple of years. You know it when you see it!
I suspect Mark was expecting to see more about Glenn Beck in the article, given his name in the title. I think I was, too.
Slight correction to the following: “As some understand the Torah verses here, the bells were in the shape of pomegranates.” I think you’re putting the cart before the horse, Mr. Klinghoffer. The Torah says that pomegranates hung from the robe, and commentaries say that they weren’t really pomegranates, but bells shaped like pomegranates. But the lesson you gave about those bells still applies.

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Ant EM

posted February 23, 2010 at 12:45 pm

This brings to mind Matthew 6:2
“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
It seems like Glenn Beck often totes out his alcoholism and troubled past as badges of honor, things that give him unique insight into current events. However in tooting his own hour so often we see what he truly is – a braggart with no right to brag.

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posted February 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Ant EM, how does Beck’s toting out his problematic past have anything to do with people bragging about current good deeds?

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