Open Source Judaism

I’m having a great time talking and working with Aaron Chusid over at Open Source Judaism. Lately, we’ve gotten to talking about the name of his blog and how “Open Source” (a computer geek ideal I wholeheartedly embrace) and “Judaism” go together. Aaron offered to give me some space over on his site to spout off on the topic, which I’ve done with gusto. An excerpt appears below. You can read the entire post here.

…So God opens the project “Torah 1.0”. Depending on your view, either God or Moses served as the lead technical writer. Moses is the “software evangelist”, leading the 12 tribes of alpha testers out of the closed-source culture of Egypt (clearly the predecessor of Microsoft). Soon after that, the source code (i.e.: 10 commandments) are given to everyone – not just Moses – which is a very open source thing to do. Later, when regular people begin to prophesy, Joshua wants to stop them (a closed-source response). Moses rebukes him, saying “Are you wrought
up on my account? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29). Moses wants everyone to understand the kernel – the core of the software – as well as he does.

“Open Source” applies less to revelation, however, and more to the organization and development of Jewish thought. I just had to work that “Torah 1.0” joke into this post.

One of the hallmarks of the open source community is it’s willingness to consider outside ideas, opinions, and contributions. Granted, that willingness is not always cheerful or without skepticism. There are always healthy debates about how to accomplish something. The point of those debates, however, is to always find the best way to accomplish the goal. “Best” is usually defined as the way that is the most elegant, flexible and support-able method.

Judaism (in my opinion) shares that value. In Talmud you will find famous debates between the schools of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shamai (among others). These discussions, even as you read them on the page, are passionate, direct and assertive. They are always understood to be “machloket l’shem shamayim” – “arguments for the sake of heaven”. Nobody in Talmud was out to make a point for their own aggrandizement or at someone else’s expense. Every word was written with the desire to achieve the “best” solution – the one that was the most elegant, flexible and truest to the goal of the Torah 1.0 project…

Once again, you ought to click over to Aaron’s site and check out the rest of the article: