What Is Judaism About?

Dear Rabbi,Buddhism is about awakening, Islam is about surrendering one’s will to Allah, Christianity is about worshiping Christ. What is Judaism about?Resistance. We are Yisrael, Godwrestlers, (Yisra/wrestle, El/God), iconoclasts called to prophetic rebellion against gods, kings, priests, and the powerful and to topple brutal systems of retributive justice and replace them with compassionate systems of distributive justice.Our mitzvot are acts of resistance. Shabbat is an act of r … [Read more...]

Mission-Driven Judaism

I have spent the past two days in conversation with colleagues on the future of Judaism. We were, characteristically, depressed.Rabbi A despaired over low attendance at Shabbat and Holy Day services. Rabbi B found that after decades of dedication to adult education “my Jews are no more Jewishly knowledgeable then when we started.” Rabbi C agonized over intermarriage and multiple belonging: “BuJews, HinJews, Jewfis abound, but Jew-Jews are more and more rare.”My Jewish dread is a bit more … [Read more...]

Observations from the Threshold 5 (of 5)

I am leaving Prague this morning. I will miss the city, though I can’t really explain why. Perhaps because I know there is so much more to learn here. Nevertheless, I am going home, most likely never to return.This was, at least in my mind, to be my last trip abroad. I don’t like long plane trips, and  Prague was the last city on my “Cities to See” list, so I could realistically say I am done with overseas travel. But I doubt it. There is too much work to be done: within and without, at home … [Read more...]

Observations from the Threshold 4

[I am in Praha/Prague (Praha means “threshold” in Czech) in the Czech Republic. The next few posts are some random observations.]I meet many American Jews who have no idea why they should bother being Jewish. I am not haunted by this question, perhaps because I spend much of my time teaching among people who are not Jewish. I see and value differences among people and between religions, and I am not so quick to plunge into a homogenized spirituality with its own denuded Esperanto carefully av … [Read more...]

Observations from the Threshold 3

[I am in Praha/Prague (Praha means “threshold” in Czech) in the Czech Republic. The next few posts are some random observations.]I was walking through the Jewish Quarter of Prague for the third time since my arrival here last week. On my first stroll through the quarter I couldn’t help but notice the many sidewalk shops and marionette stores selling magnets, statues, and puppets bearing the image and likeness of Hasidic Jews. It struck me as odd, but I didn’t think much about it.On my se … [Read more...]

Observations from the Threshold 3

[I am in Praha/Prague (Praha means “threshold” in Czech) in the Czech Republic. The next few posts are some random observations.]Today I spend several hours with an official Czech tour guide on an official Czech tour of Prague. I stress “official” because what we were told is the “official” story of Prague that the Czech people want us to know. For example, the close proximity of a synagogue and a church was a sign of the camaraderie of Jews and Christians throughout Prague’s history. The fac … [Read more...]

Observations from the Threshold 2

[I am in Praha/Prague (Praha means “threshold” in Czech) in the Czech Republic. The next few posts are some random observations.]Next to my hotel stands the Golem of Prague. He is six feet tall, a full two feet short of the original. Perhaps clay settles over so many centuries. I’m only in my sixties and I have already lost inches in height (though I have gained these inches in width).One reason I came to Prague was to meet this fellow. Yesterday I visited the Altneu Shul from where he de … [Read more...]

Observations from the Threshold 1

[I am in Praha/Prague (Praha means “threshold” in Czech) in the Czech Republic. The next few posts are some random observations.]Today I learned I am too radical for some countries. I took this as a compliment.To be radical is to return to the root of things. For me the root of religion is story: a bold (albeit often denied) and imaginal act of resistance in the face of life’s chaos and transience (tohu va vohu, and hevel havalim as the Hebrew books of Bereshit/Genesis and Kohel … [Read more...]

Are the Jews God’s Chosen People?

Dear Rabbi Rami,Is it true that the Jews are God’s Chosen People? What does it mean?The Jews are God’s Chosen People the way Jesus is the Son of God, Krishna is God, Thomas A. Anderson (aka Neo) is the One, and Superman (aka Kal–El, aka Clark Kent) is the son of Krypton’s greatest scientist, Jor-El. Each of these statements is true within the narrative that affirms them, and that is the only realm of truth we humans have.Regardless of specific content we all live within the narrative … [Read more...]


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