Religion Today

Rabbinic Reflections: Stepping back or backward

One step forward, one step backward. Is that the beginning of a total of two steps back? Or is it the beginning of a cha-cha? Robert Brault calls someone who thinks the latter an optimist. In thinking about so much of our world at this moment, especially with regard to the pandemic, I confess that, despite my usual optimism, I am much more in the two-steps-back camp. ...

 
 

Rabbinic Reflections: My Jewish Christmas

It’s been 11 years since Christmas last fell on a Saturday. It is the longest stretch in a cycle of Christmases on Saturday, falling every six years, then five years, then six years, then 11 years. It is little wonder then that this year is throwing me for a loop. Like many American Jews, I have inherited traditions to make the most of Christmas. My family spent ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Thanksgiving rest

I have been seeking holiness of late. In the busyness of life and in the discordance of the airwaves, I have been seeking a rootedness, a stillness to make meaning of it all. Sometimes we just need to cease in order to be. This Veterans Day, the sound of silence meant so much to me. For one, I learned, for the first time, a passage from Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Iconoclastic questions

How would Hollywood tell the story? In its season opener, Saturday Night Live had a skit poking fun at the billionaire “space flights” of this past July through the lens of Star Trek. As a fan of sci-fi, that got me thinking about imaginative leaps, barrier-breaking ideas, and social commentary. My favorite Bible story is an imaginative leap, not actually in the ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: A good new year

We don’t say “Happy New Year” on Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. Well, some people do, but the traditional greetings translate to “Have a Good and Sweet Year,” “To a Good Year,” or “A Good Holiday.” Yes, many people understand “good” to mean “happy,” but even when we mean that our mindset is more about health and fulfillment than joy. The Jewish New Year is not ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Setting it right

“We are loved. We are loving. We are loved. We are loving.” Say it again with me, “We are loved. We are loving.” This mantra is at the heart of righting a major wrong. You might think that the Jews committed to God and goodness at Mt. Sinai, and the rest was history. The commitment was rash, it failed, and the trauma of the Golden Calf and more ensued. To recover, ...

 

Exploring Hope: Jesus was interrupted too

We all hate interruptions. But as a parent of two small children, interruptions are a way of life. I finally lay down to sleep after a long day, and—interruption—a toddler burst into my room. I think I have my baby down for a nap, and I settle down to read a book until — interruption— cries ring from the bedroom. But interruptions can come from other sources as well. ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Refresh, refresh, refresh

I am that parent. When my children are at camp, especially sleepaway camp, I jump at the chance to see photos of them posted by the camp, clicking the refresh button on my browser to see what new files I might access. I analyze who they are with or not with; I make hay out poses and perceived popularity; and I also find those pictures where my child is way off in the ...

 

Exploring Hope: Goodness and mercy

Psalm 23 is a beautiful piece of ancient Hebrew poetry that countless believers have sung and prayed for generations. Therefore, taking a verse a month, we have walked through this Psalm verse by verse. And today, we find ourselves in the final verse—verse 6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Israeli solidarity

Minutes before midnight Wednesday night, Israel marked a most mundane miracle. It was mundane for me because it was years in the making, because more has been happening on the ground than meets the usual eye, and because Israelis are good at holding multiple truths at the same time. The miracle was the formation of a coalition government made up of parties across the ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Remaking choice

“They made me do it.” Ah, the old refrain! Too often, we hear this phrase in the context of someone doing something wrong when they really did have a choice. To avoid accountability, we blame someone else; we claim coercion. What if, though, we claimed coercion in order to create future accountability? Before applying this idea to our contemporary lives, let me share ...