Twelve Essential Questions

The Central Conference of American Rabbis Press has recently published a book, Lights in the Forest, asking a host of rabbis to answer twelve “essential questions” regarding Judaism and Jewish life. They didn’t ask me, but that won’t keep me from answering their questions anyway. I am posting this as a summary of sorts of my thoughts, as this will be my last post on this blog. I am using this Rosh haShanah as an opportunity to simplify my workload, and sadly this is one of the things that has to … [Read more...]

“Rabbi” Rami is a self-hating Jew

Dear Rabbi, I haven’t read any of your books (I have better things to do), but from your blogs I can see you are a heretic and a fool. I find it offensive that you call yourself a rabbi and that you teach Jews, of which I am one. So, if you have the guts, here are some questions I’d like to ask the “rabbi” to see if you dare answer them. This is my Rosh HaShanah gift to you. I hope you return the favor by stop calling yourself a rabbi and admit what you are: a self-hating Jew.1. If you don’t … [Read more...]

Onward Christian Soldiers

Several weeks ago my name appeared on a statement I wrote promoting civility among Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Middle Tennessee. Nobody seemed to notice until yesterday.While browsing in a local bookstore I was approached by a man who, after introducing himself and referencing the statement, said, “You know you are missing the larger picture. We are witnessing the early stages of what will become the next Crusade. President George W. Bush said as much; though he was forced to back down, … [Read more...]

Making God Happy

Dear Rabbi Rami,Pastor Victoria Osteen says God wants us to be happy, and that when we are happy God is happy. How do you respond?What does it mean to believe in a God with human emotions? How is this different from the Greek or Roman Gods? God isn’t a being who gets happy or sad, angry or jealous. I know the Bible says otherwise, but the Bible says lots of things we should have outgrown by now.God for me is YHVH, not a being or supreme being, but be–ing itself. God is ever cha … [Read more...]

Dear Rabbi Rami

Dear Rabbi, If you were to offer your own set of Ten Commandments, what would they be?I am not interested in commandments as much as insights. So I would offer Ten Insights. And since I am not merely a student of Torah but a lover of Torah I would couch my Ten Insights in terms of Torah:Tohu va–vohu (Genesis 1:1). In the beginning of the creation the universe is tohu va-vohu, chaotic and unformed. Everything is a riot of risings and fallings. Nothing is stable or permanent. Torah is not … [Read more...]

God and Gendered Language

Dear Rabbi,I have a very difficult time with explicitly masculine names for God. I particularly balk at Adonai, Lord, which to me is the epitome of male privilege and power over women and maybe over nonJews as well. How do you make peace with Adonai?I don’t. While I confess to falling into habitual use of Adonai when I am not paying attention, when I am paying attention I substitute HaMakom (the Place) instead. Here’s why: first I like what it means: God as the Place in which all reality … [Read more...]

Opponents Not Enemies

Having my heart broken over the latest in what I suspect is an on-going string of wars between Israelis and Palestinians, and watching as this struggle claims the rational minds of my neighbors in Middle Tennessee, I wrote the following petition and invited Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clergy to sign it. The result was printed in the Tennessean, our largest newspaper. You'll notice that only Imams and Rabbis signed this. I'm not sure why this happened this way, but I don't believe it is … [Read more...]

Judaism or Truth?

Dear Rabbi, If I were to come to you in search of Truth would you lead me deeper into Judaism?Not at all. While I love Judaism and feel blessed to have it as my root tradition and mother tongue, in and of itself Judaism cannot lead you to Truth. Judaism’s task is to lead you to Judaism; to make you a more observant Jew. The same is true of any ism or ideology: the goal is to bring you more deeply into whatever system of thought that ideology articulates. Truth, however, is something e … [Read more...]

Is Fear at the Heart of Religion?

Dear Rabbi, It seems to me that fear is at the heart of every religion, and fear is used to by the leaders of every religion to control those who subscribe to that religion. Can you prove me wrong?Rather than prove you wrong, I tend to agree.Every religion posits a dis-ease that it then sets out to cure. For Buddhism it is suffering, for Christianity it is sin, for Hinduism it is ignorance, for Islam it is pride, and for Judaism it is exile and its accompanying sense of alienation. … [Read more...]