Context, Pretext and the Future of Israel & Gaza

Dear Rabbi, Every spokesperson prefaces his or her remarks on Israel and Gaza with “let me provide some context.” What is this context they keep talking about? And what is going to happen?“Context” is a way of excusing what you are doing and condemning what the other is doing. One person’s context is another person’s pretext: Israel does what it does because Hamas does what it does, and Hamas does what it does because Israel does what it does. The side you favor has context, the side you don’ … [Read more...]

What is Zionism?

Dear Rabbi, Is there a difference, or can we make a difference between being Zionist and Jewish? Are all Jews Zionists? Do they all support Israel right or wrong, or can they even imagine a “wrong” when it comes to Israel?Terms like Zionist and Zionism often carry a lot of emotional baggage. If we are going to use these terms we need to define them clearly. For me Zion, Zionism, and Zionist refer to the unbroken 2500–year Jewish longing to return to the Land of Israel as the Jewish homeland. … [Read more...]

What to Do about Israel and Hamas?

Dear Rabbi, What are we to do about the horrors taking place in Israel and Gaza? As a Jew I am furious at Hamas and horrified by Israel. Is this merely a case of a pox on both their houses?The reason why this and every other conflict around the globe continues is simple: people want it to. We humans are innately violent. We divide ourselves into warring camps because war is what we do, and doing it alongside like-minded others gives us a sense of righteousness and purpose. We invent reasons … [Read more...]

Jesus at Auschwitz

Dear Rabbi, What do you think of the new Jews for Jesus video about Jesus in Auschwitz?I hadn’t seen this video or even heard about it until now, and ignoring it is probably the best thing we can do. But, I try to answer the questions that come to me, so here goes…The video seems to make four points: (1) that Jesus is a Jew, (2) that had Jesus lived under Nazi occupation he would have been rounded up and sent to a death camp, (3) that at the death camp he would have been sent to the gas c … [Read more...]

How to Keep Kosher

Dear Rabbi, I am doing my best to keep kosher, but I am uncertain as to which rabbinical authority to follow when it comes to what is and what is not kosher. Which heksher (certification) do you accept?Years ago when I lived in Miami, Florida a friend of mine opened a kosher donut stand and bought donuts from a rabbinically certified manufacturer in Broward County. He was visited by the rabbinic establishment in Miami-Dade county who informed him that his donuts were not in fact kosher at … [Read more...]

A God of Death

Dear Rabbi, When I read the traditional siddur (prayer book) I am appalled at the call for the restoration of the Temple and by extension the priesthood and its sacrificial cult. Why can’t we do away with this? Honestly I am far more comfortable with a mosque on the Temple Mount than a restored Temple and the stench of slaughtered animals.I sympathize with you. And the fact that billions of humans continue to worship a God who needs something to die to prevent him (it is almost always “him”) … [Read more...]

I Don’t Believe in God

Dear Rabbi,I don’t believe in God, yet I can’t imagine Judaism without one. I find myself slipping out of Judaism because of this. Any suggestions?It all depends on what you mean by “God.” If you mean the King of the Universe who creates everything, judges everyone, chooses Jews, promises land, makes laws, and writes books, I don’t believe in “God” either. If on the hand, you mean by “God” Reality Itself: everything that has, is, and will happen (which is how I understand the Hebrew YHVH, … [Read more...]

Two-State Solution

Dear Rabbi,I have lost all hope in the “two-state solution” for Israel and Palestine, and now back the notion of a single state with Jews and Palestinians as equal citizens. If fear this will spell the end of the Jewish character of the state, but I don’t see any real alternative. Do you still favor the two-state solution?My ideal is a no-state solution with all people living as equal citizens of the planet earth, and with earth herself as a member of the Federation of Planets. Since this … [Read more...]

Is God Possible in a Dying Environment?

Dear Rabbi, I believe the world is dying, that we humans are destroying it Is God possible in a dying environment?The assumption implicit in your question is that God’s possibility—which I take to mean God’s existence—is tied to the health of earth’s environment in such a manner as to make the death of earth’s environment proof–positive that God is impossible, i.e. that God doesn’t exist.In other words, the only way your question makes any sense is if I imagine an all–powerful God whose … [Read more...]