Reflections on One Year of Below the Bible Belt by Rabbi Amichai

Why was I sobbing on the subway this morning?

It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming, but still, Saul’s death got to me.

Even though it happened, if at all, 3,000 years ago.

Saul was the handsome, tall and tragic first King of Israel, slain along with three of his sons on a bloody battlefield in today’s high drama biblical chapter.

It’s a famous tear jerker story. And maybe I just needed a good cry.

Today feels emotional – a meaningful marker of an ambitious 3 ½ years’ long journey that I began on this day one year ago – intent on reading and blogging the entire Hebrew Bible, a chapter a day. 261 chapters later, it’s going great.

I have four invitations for you today, to mark the day and start the new phase of the journey. You can also check out this vid from last Friday – with four invitations and last week’s teaching.

I started this ambitious project so that I can finally get to know – intimately – this building block of our civilization and culture – cover to cover, between the lines, and below the surface. It’s been a lot of work so far, and totally worth it. I love reading the Bible through the eyes of myth and history, queering and questioningthe motives and agendas, subtexts and secrets, symbols and layers that make this text, for better or worse, the psychic road map of so many on this planet.

But what I didn’t realize when I began ‘In the Beginning’, just a year ago, is that this daily deep-dive will also lead me on a deeply personal, emotional journey, echoing the ancient stories and hidden myths with my own life quests and questions. And not just mine – I’ve been so moved by the ongoing conversations with many of you who’ve joined the journey, inspired by your comments, reflections and personal shares about what resonates from these chapters with our current personal and public lives.

So when I wept (for just a tiny moment, honestly) for King Saul today, it wasn’t just the brutal death scene that completes the first Book of Samuel, in a world still so torn by wars, conflicts, and slain heroes, but also for the recognition of the power of stories to help us make sense of the worst and best in who we were and how we are, and maybe, to how we can learn to change, heal, and grow.

To mark this day, with gratitude to all you readers, and to the incredible team at Lab/Shul that enables this production, here are some upgrades and changes to Below the Bible Belt:

1 – NEW Instagram Account

If you are following BelowTheBibleBelt on Instagram – starting today, these daily posts and weekly vids will be phasing out on my personal Instagram feed.

For daily content find + follow us on @BelowtheBibleBelt929.

Reading on Facebook? The daily content will still be on my personal @AmichaiLauLavie page.

2 – Substack – NEW Paid Subscription Option!

Are you one of our 767 Substack subscribers? Thanks for signing on for daily emails + weekly vids in your inbox.

Starting today – you can become a paid subscriber of Below the Bible Belt! You can still receive the daily post for free, but if you choose to be a paid subscriber at $18 a month, $180 for a year, or $250 as a founding subscriber — you’ll also receive access to the full weekly video and an invitation to our monthly zoom conversation.

Your generous support will enable me to devote more time to this project + hire a much needed intern/research assistant ( This labor of love is pretty much a part time job at this point..!)

If you have any issue with the fee, no worries, we’ll be happy to make it work so that you too can enjoy the full features of Below the Bible Belt. Just email us at hello@labshul.org.

3 – Want to join the team?

Do you want to be Below the Bible Belt’s intern or assistant? Get in touch! I’m mostly in need of light support with creative social media posting and editing. And/or: Some academic biblical research skills? Bring it on.

Just email us at hello@labshul.org.

4 – Meet the King! Monthly Zoom Conversation – OPEN TO EVERYONE – This Thursday @1pm ET

This Thursday, February 9th 2023, at 1pm ET, we’ll join King David on his first day on the throne, and mark the one-year anniversary of Below the Bible Belt with a special 60 min. monthly Live Zoom conversation led by me – with some of you.

Zoom Meeting Link:
https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85914585174
Meeting ID: 859 1458 5174

The first king is dead. Long live the King. It’s going to be a wild ride. We now enter the books where Judaism was actually created, traumas and all.

I look forward to the rest of the journey, tears, questions, healing and truths, below the bible belt and deep in our hearts where it matters most. 668 chapters to go!

-Rabbi Amichai

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