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...]

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...]