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...]

Why Be Jewish?

Dear Rabbi, What response might I give to Bar or Bat Mitzvah aged children who ask why they should bother being Jewish at all?The first thing is to answer this question for yourself. Why are you Jewish? The answer may be as uninspiring as “my mother is Jewish” or as supernatural as “God chose me to be a Jew, and chose the Jews to bring His Torah into the world.” Whatever your answer is, this is the answer you ought to share.Of course, your answer may be meaningless to those with whom you … [Read more...]

13 Things Clergy Don’t Want You to Know

Dear Rabbi, I just finished a Reader’s Digest book called the 13 Things They Won’t Tell You. The “They” are specialists in a number of fields. Sadly the book doesn’t include clergy. What are the thirteen things clergy won’t tell us?While I’m sure different clergy will come up with different lists, here's mine:1. Religion is rooted in fear, especially fear associated with the afterlife. Every religion has a horrible vision of the afterlife (either some hell realm or terrible rebirth) that … [Read more...]

Jews are News

Dear Rabbi, I just read a post on The Guardian newspaper website (theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/07/gaza-coverage-rise-antisemitic-attacks-europe?) that asks the question “Why is there so much coverage of Israel in the media?” The answer: “Jews are news.” That isn’t a real answer, and it begs the question, “Why are Jews news?” Can you answer that question?Jews have been news for thousands of years. Why? Because Jews are God’s Chosen People.What started out as a jingoistic mantra o … [Read more...]

Are You an Atheist?

Dear Rabbi, I have just read your Rabbi Rami’s Guide to God and I think you are an atheist. Care to comment?If your God is Zeus, Odin, or Thor—I’m an atheist.If your God is Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva—I’m an atheist.If your God is Amun, Anubis, or Isis—I’m an atheist.If your God is Ahura Mazda, Mithra, or Apam Napat—I’m an atheist.If your God is Xiuhtecuhtli, Tlaltecuhti, or Chaichiuntlicue—I’m an atheist.If your God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—I’m an atheist.If y … [Read more...]

Are we seeing the end of religion?

Dear Rabbi, I just saw this survey that shows religion is in steep decline in the United States with over 80% of Americans saying religion mattered to them in 1962 while less than 60% say it matters to them today. Is this the end of religion in America?No, I don’t think so. Human beings are innately religious. I don’t think that changes. What changes are the religions that help us articulate that innate religiosity.When I say human beings are innately religious I mean that it is our nat … [Read more...]

Hope For Peace?

Dear Rabbi, Do you think there is any hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?“Any hope” is setting the bar quite low; we can all entertain some sliver of hope, so the answer to your question “is there ANY hope for peace” is “yes.” But I doubt peace will come the way our pundits and politicians imagine it.They still talk about a two-state solution as if this is possible, but I have little hope that it is. Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a lose-lose scenario, and only som … [Read more...]