Religion Today

Rabbinic Reflections: Violence and holiness

"‘Should,' ‘have to,' and ‘must' are among the most violent words in the English language because they are extrinsic." Think about that quotation for a minute. If I say to you, "you should…," or "you have to…," or "you must," you are likely to feel a tightening in your body, maybe even to become defensive. The response is natural as someone, other than you is ...

 
 

A new church to start Easter

Where do churches come from? Most of us drive past church buildings every day and never stop to think about where they come from. In reality, every local church was once new.  In church circles, the process of starting a new congregation is called “church planting.” Like the metaphor implies, churches begin with a small seed of people who gather for worship and ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: God’s Eagles

"I am a rabbi and a person of faith. But God has nothing to do with this," wrote a friend of mine in response to many Eagles' players attributing the Super Bowl LII victory to God. I have had this conversation about God and sports before but let us face it, the Eagles winning the Lombardi trophy is different. No, God does not have a favorite NFL team; no, God does ...

 

Applied Belief: Biblical Eagles

Whether it was God's will for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl or not this year, there is no doubt that starting with their quarterback and going down the line of Nick Foles, Chris Maragos, Zach Ertz and others know that the only thing that lasts forever is the Word of God. "The Grass withers, the flowers fade, but the Word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah ...

 

Rabbinic Reflections: Gardening freedom in winter

“Stay warm.” With each bitter cold snap this winter, we tell each other to “stay warm.” We mean it, it is cold outside, dangerously so. We would be remiss, though, if we stopped at thinking about the temperature, wind chills, and whether the heat is working. There is also a biting chill in today’s civil discourse. Today, we need to say and hear “stay warm” as a ...

 

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 ...