Religion Today

Rabbinic Reflections: Making rituals work

Do I use it? Do I merely display it? Or do I return it? Just ahead of this year's Chanukah celebration — the holiday begins on Tuesday night, Dec. 12 — my father sent my family an imposing chanukiyah (the menorah used for Chanukah candle lighting). We already have a sizeable love-themed chanukiyah given to my wife and me as a wedding gift. We also have one we often ...

 
 

Applied Belief: Are the Eagles God’s team?

I am not from Philadelphia, so I cannot claim to be an Eagles fan for my whole life. I grew up with America's past time, baseball. As a Puerto Rican, I was born with a ball and a mitt in my crib. Football became one of my favorite sports, surpassing baseball when I met my future, late, father in law who was a lifelong Cowboys fan. While I did not care for football ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: The importance of learning

It seemed normal until it was remarkable. I knew Jews in the South often went to Episcopal private schools, much the way Jews attend Friends schools in this area. I knew because I was one of them, a proud graduate of St. John’s School. I was just another example of some narrative connection between Jews and education. Five years ago, though, my story was no longer a ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Elephant hugs

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. In this particular room, the elephant is the wall of the room. Yes, the rabbis of the Talmud permit the use of an elephant as a wall of a sukkah, the “booth” in which Jews dwell during the harvest festival of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Imagine that for a minute, an elephant literally defining a boundary ...

 

Applied Belief: The right time to kneel

Should you take a knee or stand? What started as a protest over oppression and inequality by one football player has now for many become a way to protest not only oppression but the president of the United States. There is a national conversation taking place on this issue and you can find a whole host of opinions and perspectives. We cherish our first amendment ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Unprepared

I lost the book in a house fire. I remember being moved deeply when I read it the first time. I remember years later being inspired by it ahead of the Jewish High Holy Days. Smoke from the fire damaged my copy with its underlines, commentary, and sticky notes. I wish I still had it. The book was “This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared” by Alan Lew. Life these ...

 

Applied Belief: Take down your statue

During the last month, there has been a national conversation taking place about statues and monuments. Much of the debate has revolved around Confederate statues and monuments. What is interesting is that I do not remember this being a major issue or point of contention over the last couple of years. Yes, there was the whole movement to take down Confederate flags ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Comfort

What happens when rituals meant to give us structure become pressing demands on our limited time? Do we determine that we are too busy to keep doing a ritual that, in weeks or years past, we felt added meaning to our lives? Do we do the ritual but resent the effort required to prepare and carry it out? A religious sensibility includes an understanding that routines ...

 

Applied Belief: Post truth

“What is truth,” Pontius Pilate asked Jesus prior to the crucifixion. The question remains as relevant now as it was then. The cover of Time Magazine dated April 3, 2017, read “Is truth dead?” The article to which the cover alluded addressed what seems like a constant flow of false information and as has been coined now “fake news.” Timothy Snyder, in his little book ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: ‘One nation under God’

Does religion free us or bind us? I am not talking about rules or rituals, I am talking whether religion allows humanity to flourish or does it turn us into seekers of stability and nostalgia. Both are likely true, and yet I ask because I believe that religious calls for change and for stability need to be in balance. I believe America thrives when they are in ...

 

Applied Belief: Jesus never said sorry

Guess how many times Jesus said sorry. How many times did he apologize for something he said or did? Let me help you out there. The answer is somewhere between zero and zero. Now you might be thinking that we can't possibly know because we don't have every single word that Jesus said because Jesus has always existed and the Gospels are not an exhaustive documentation ...