Religion Today

Rabbinic Reflections: Visiting God

It is Visiting Day at camp. In keeping with a decades old tradition in the American Jewish community, my older children are at a Jewish sleepaway camp nestled in the mountains. In the idyllic environments built by different organizations and owners, nature is just an excuse for where God really shows up, in community. To be clear, I failed as a Jewish summer camper. ...

 
 

Rabbinic Reflections: You are unprepared

You are not ready. You will not be ready. You cannot get ready. The many rituals and traditions that are meant to help us prepare for the Jewish pilgrimage festival of Shavuot, the holiday celebrating both the first fruits of the summer harvest and the receiving of Torah at Mt. Sinai, convey an important message. We are never really prepared to receive the Torah. ...

 

Exploring Hope:  A lesson from the beach

As you prepare to visit the Jersey Shore this summer, here’s a spiritual lesson you might want to consider. In Luke 6, Jesus tells a parable about two “beachfront” homes. He says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Ramadan rebound

It is NBA playoff season. Apart from the thrills and chills of the Sixers’ series with the Raptors, I am also highly aware that it is now Ramadan, the Muslim holy month known for daylight fasting. The combination takes me back to the mid-1990s when I first understood anything about Ramadan, and I learned from basketball. I grew up in Houston, Texas. Back then, Hakeem ...

 

Exploring Hope: The First Easter

Easter is fundamentally about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Biblical Christianity claims that it isn't just a spiritual parable, but a historical reality that took place in space and time. And according to the New Testament, the resurrection changes everything (1 Cor. 15). But why believe in the resurrection? Well, that question is too big for this ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Welcoming affliction

My cousin cried at the table. I did not understand why until my mother explained why she herself cried, too. The Passover seder invites learning, traditions, symbolic foods, and all the things that family gatherings might entail. The seder also invites, though, a recognition of darkness that we tend to undervalue. Early in the seder, we hold up the dry, flat cracker ...

 

Exploring Hope: What’s your authority?

A little boy tells his friend that unicorns really exist. "No, they don't,” says the friend. “Yes, they do. My mom said so.” “Well, my mom says they don't exist." “Your mom is stupid." Now, what's going on in this story? Well, there is a battle over authority. Neither child has enough life experience to settle the question empirically. Therefore, the only thing they ...

 

Exploring Hope: Spiritual productivity

I'm a fundamentally disorganized person. My dad is an artist. Everyone in my family is an artist. So, I wasn’t known for being structured and methodical. However, I went through a crash course in productivity when the Presbyterian Church in America sent me out to plant a new congregation in Garnet Valley. And as every business owner knows, starting anything new is ...

 

Exploring Hope: Why read the Bible?

The Bible is boring. The Bible is irrelevant. The Bible is offensive. The Bible is false. These are all possible reactions to the Christian Bible, which contains 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. Some of you are indifferent to the Bible and others of you are hostile to it. But there is an old saying among scholars: “If you haven't read ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Book People

Do you love to read? I do. Can you imagine being a book, not just a bookworm? You read that correctly, can you imagine being a book? For all that Jews are called “people of the book,” referring to our roots in the Bible’s Hebrew Scriptures, once upon a time, there were rabbis whose job was to be a book. I remember clearly the class in rabbinical school where my ...

 

Exploring Hope: A joyless Christmas?

Joy is one of those words that has become a “Christmas cliché.” We see it plastered everywhere from Christmas cards to wrapping paper. We sing about it in our carols but simultaneously feel very little "joy to the world.”  So why all this talk about joy at Christmas? Well, it wasn't invented by a marketing team at Hallmark or a clever carol writer. Rather, everything ...