This year’s presidential proclamation of a National Day of Prayer was notable in its mention of the desire of a growing number of Americans not to pray:
On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience.
Of course it then goes on to list all of the wonderful things we should do in our prayers and turns into a mish-mash naming “those who are sick, mourning, or without hope” and saluting our service people (who certainly deserve a heckuva lot more than our prayers). Continue reading
Ever the hot topic in the “Shry Gevalt” quarters of the Jewish community, intermarriage still remains a bogeyman for many otherwise liberal rabbis. Even open-minded Reform rabbis who have no problem welcoming gay couples often draw the line at those who dare to venture beyond a Jewish ghetto mentality.
I’m all for Jews marrying Jews. I’m also all for Jews marrying whoever the hell they want. I love performing ceremonies for them and my single condition is that they are committed to each other and that they love and respect one another. Continue reading
Humanistic Jews are faced with challenges at every holiday. How do we make our celebrations relevant when we know that in many cases they’re commemorating events that never happened? Or at least not the way the legends developed.
Passover celebrates an event – the Exodus from Egypt – that most certainly never occurred. That doesn’t stop me from having a seder, albeit one that was created for a Humanistic Jewish community. But even those Humanistic seders that I’ve used don’t really struggle with what modern scholarship teaches. Continue reading
There are few moments in my education that stand out more than the time when I asked a professor in rabbinical school about whether and how we should teach biblical criticism. After all, we’d been learning about the approach of archeologists and other academics for a long time. It was one of the backbones of our education.
Yet I did not understand what I was supposed to do with the material. In my student rabbinical jobs I would teach Torah in the usual way but sometimes I would bring it up. Usually, I found my students an eager audience, but I struggled with how to mine the text for wisdom while simultaneously pointing out that so much of its content was simply wrong. Continue reading
I am a political junkie. My drug is not domestic, as I prefer to feed my addiction with Israeli politics. This current round of elections has provided me with a particularly potent dose and it’s one that’s never been concocted before. Simply put, what’s happening now is unprecedented.
Israeli coalition politics has always been a particularly rarefied specimen of the art of compromise. No party ever accumulates sufficient seats to form a government. This always makes the search for bedfellows as interesting as the elections themselves. It also explains the general weirdness that often ensues once they’ve all piled into bed together. Continue reading