Who’s Afraid of Scare Quotes: The Politics of Punctuation

For almost as long as there have been rabbis, there have been rabbinic insults. Whether sages were calling each other children, referring to one’s younger brother as “the firstborn of Satan,” or exchanging, “God save us from your opinion” with each other, rabbinic discourse was not always as dignified as we might imagine.

But even if a degree of incivility is justified by rabbinic tradition, some insults are seen as outside the boundaries of acceptable discourse. One such insult is referring to a “Rabbi” with scare quotes. 

Common objections include that rabbinic scare quotes are a uniquely offensive insult because it not only dismisses the personal effort (and sometimes money) invested but it is a complete delegitimization of everything the individual’s professional credentials and religious affiliations.

For their part, those who address rabbis with scare quotes would probably concede to these criticisms because that is entirely the point.




Bamidbar 2022 – God’s Grief

In which we discuss Bamidbar Rabbah 2:23 and Bamidbar Rabbah 2:24 and God’s grief over the deaths of Aharon’s sons Nadav and Avihu.




Bechukotai 2022 – Practical Judaism

In which we discuss Vayikra Rabbah 35:7 and the importance of Torah being a religion of praxis.




Behar 2022 – Ex-emplary Charity

Vayikra Rabba 34:14 provides lessons about charity from how to treat one’s ex-spouse.




Emor 2022 – Finding Substance

In which we turn to Vayikra Rabba 27:8 for a counterintuitive take on the ramifications of sin of the Golden Calf




Kedoshim 2022 – The Ten Commandments Plus

After a long and unintended hiatus, the podcast returns with a discussion of Vayikra Rabba 24:5 and how Leviticus 19 parallels the 10 Commandments.




YUTOPIA’s Favorite Books – 2021

In what has become an annual tradition, every December I review the books I read in the past year and pick out my favorites to share with other avid readers.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the books I read, nor is this a ranking of these books as the “best” of anything. Instead, I prefer to share the books I enjoyed reading the most in the hopes that maybe someone will find and enjoy something they otherwise might not have encountered. Enjoyment does not imply agreement with or an endorsement of their arguments, only that I found their contents stimulating and engaging.

According to Goodreads, I read 63 books in 2021. Here are the ones I enjoyed the most.




Miketz 2021 – Hidden Ways

In which Bereishit Rabbah 91:10 may provide an insight for how to respond to distressing situations




Vayeshev 2021 – Speak from the Heart

In which Genesis Rabbah 84:9 teaches the importance of speaking from the heart. Bonus: A disagreement with Rashi




Vayishlach 2021 – Pick Your Battles

We take a look at Bereishit Rabbah 75:3 to consider the benefits of picking our battles.