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...]


Dear Rabbi, Does the mounting anti-Semitism in Europe surprise you? What does this say about the long–term future of the Jews? Isn’t this proof that we need a strong and secure State of Israel?First let me suggest we stop using the word anti–Semitism and start using Jew–hatred instead. Jews are not the only Semitic people, but an anti–Semite hates Jews explicitly. We need to make this clear. Anti–Semites hate Jews, so lets call them what they are: Jew haters.Second, does the rise in Europ … [Read more...]

Cafeteria Jew?

Last night during an interfaith event in Nashville two criticisms were raised that deserve wider attention.The first came from a woman who asked if my Judaism was equivalent to what she called Cafeteria Christianity: picking passages from the Bible I liked and interpreting them in ways that I found meaningful. From her nervous tone of voice I suspect she thought I would disagree. I didn’t.I happily and unabashedly pick and choose texts and teachings I find meaningful, and then weave them … [Read more...]

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...]