614: The HBI eZine
First we came up with the premise. We wanted to create an online magazine that would offer an opportunity to explore what Jewish experts, authors and scholars are discussing around the world. This could be anything from which books every Jewish woman should read, to whether feminism is different in Israel than in the U.S., to what the future holds for Jewish women in various countries. Rather than providing lengthy tomes, we wanted to provide short intriguing essays from various perspectives, and offer ways to learn more when possible. In short, we aspired to create a non-intimidating world of learning that would get Jewish women talking.
In Judaism, there are 613 mitzvot — commandments we Jews are all intended to follow. Some Jews feel these commandments, compiled by Maimonides, must be followed because they come directly from God; others suggest they are simply reasonable acts of justice and compassion intended to help us reach our best, most ethical selves. Either way, it’s an extremely comprehensive list, including everything from eating matzah on Passover and lighting Sabbath candles to giving money to charity and not bearing a grudge.
The idea of 614 is not that there is one commandment missing. Rather it is about the idea there is always room for innovation and exploration. At a complicated time when women are donating eggs, animals are being cloned and Hollywood equates beauty with emaciation, we must continue to probe, explore our values and talk to one another. Hey, we Jews have an incredibly long history of doing this. So why not continue to look at the ideas that impact all of us in one central place?
Our idea was not entirely original. Jewish philosopher and Holocaust survivor Emil Fackenheim (1916-2003) had the idea of adding a specific 614th mitzvah: the preservation of the Jewish people. This ezine strived to add to the health (and preservation) of our people by making modern Jewish women feel more energized, knowledgeable and excited about our Jewish identity.
That is what 614 was all about.