Religion Today

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 ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Arise & encounter

What if Moses wore a Fitbit or an Apple Watch when he went up Mount Sinai? Would all that data from 40 days (and a few backup batteries) help us understand his experience better? Would knowing how many steps up and down he took change our perspective? Would knowing his heart rate at the moment the 10 Commandments were given tell us how to feel? If he sent live tweets ...

 

Applied Belief: Jesus still weeps

In one week we will celebrate Palm Sunday. This is a day we remember what is called the triumphal entry of Jesus. The gospels record that this was a day filled with shouts of acclamation but perhaps more significant, we find only the second recorded time when Jesus weeps. The first being when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died. Luke records, “And when he [Jesus] drew near ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Joy in the face of hate

Sit up. Sit quietly. Sit still. Are these phrases you heard as a child growing up in church or another house of worship? I certainly did when my parents took me to synagogue. For the last quarter of the 20th century, American religion was mostly a religion of decorum. It mattered little what faith was expressed from the pulpit, the pews were a place to sit, to ...