Teach Torah Honestly!

Sometimes I feel like I must be missing some kind of Jewish gene that enables so many other liberal Jews to comprehend ideas that seem completely meaningless to me. This is how I felt while reading the Forward’s latest installment of "Godology," a conversation between columnist Elissa Strauss and Scott Perlo, a Conservative rabbi. “Godology” is a monthly series "in which they explore what it means to be 'Godish' - to kind of, sort of, believe in God."The first thing I did was to Google "Godis … [Read more...]

Chanukah: When Truth Collides with Memory

Chanukah is a challenging holiday for Humanistic Jews.Yes, you read that correctly. Our little celebration of the Maccabees' victory over the tyrannical Seleucid Greek empire is fraught with challenges for anyone who gains a clear understanding of what really happened in the mid-second century BCE.According to the standard narrative, the evil Antiochus IV sought to repress religious freedom for the Jews of Second Temple Judea in order to unite his kingdom under one Hellenistic (Greek) … [Read more...]

How Could God Have Allowed The Holocaust And Other Meaningless Questions

Back in September I wrote a response to Rabbi Alan Lurie’s HuffPost blog about how God is only hiding because we don’t know what to look for.  Lurie is a liberal “non-denominational” rabbi who is actually a very successful businessman and architect.  I am certain he applies sounder thinking to his business interests than to his teaching about God.Last week he took up the topic of “How Could God Have Allowed the Holocaust?”  He began in the expected way: … [Read more...]

Some Thoughts About Islam (And The Israeli-Arab Conflict)

These days, it seems that most critiques of the Islamic world come from American and European wingnuts.  Pamela Geller literally makes my skin crawl with her imbecilic bombast about a Sharia takeover of the U.S. and the dangers of a mosque near Ground Zero.  David Horowitz hypocritically names his anti-Islamic organization “The Freedom Center” while he endorses a U.S. constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.  And don’t get me started on the fundamentalist Christian right and their ongoi … [Read more...]

So Now I’m A Taurus?

I went to bed a Gemini and I woke up a Taurus.  My life is a lie.All kidding aside, I’ve always had an interest in the history of astrology and its uses in art and culture.  It goes back to the first time I visited the Beit Alfa synagogue in the Jezreel Valley.  Its mosaic floor zodiac is a masterpiece of cultural syncretism and even features the sun god, Helios, in its center.As for the “science” of astrology, I’ll let Carl Sagan, of blessed memory, deal with that.  Since this was filmed … [Read more...]

The Real Story Of Christmas

As my daughters will tell you, I love complaining about how when I was a little kid we only had six television stations.  That made Christmas season really special even for us little Jewish children because that’s when they would broadcast cartoons at night!  Okay, so the ones about Frosty and Rudolph were pretty lame, but there were also the Grinch (Chuck Jones! Boris Karloff!) and, of course, Charlie Brown. … [Read more...]

Ten Commandments Revisited

Some east Texas yahoo is putting forward legislation to allow the ten commandments to be displayed in public schools.  He states the usual silliness:"This is necessary to protect teachers who have the desire to establish that the country's historical background is based on Judeo-Christian traditions," he said. "This might be a reassuring step to the people that we are wanting to maintain and hold on to those historical findings of how our country was founded."And anything that helps build … [Read more...]

Authority Un-Challenged

On his recent trip to England, Pope Ratzi gave a speech in which he tried to pin Nazism on atheism.  Many of us responded by pointing out that atheists were persecuted by Hitler, that the Church cooperated with him, or that Germany and Hitler were heavily Catholic and so forth.It should be unnecessary to state any of this because it’s really impossible to look at German history and not see how he came to power.  The people put him there.  Not the leftists, socialists or atheists, but the aver … [Read more...]

The Problem Is Not Just Islam, The Problem Is All Fundamentalism

Between Terry Jones’ aborted Koran burning and the furor over the non-mosque that is not at Ground Zero, it’s easy to lose track of the real issue at hand.  I am no naif when it comes to the dangers of radical Islam.  I am also not unaware that numerically there are a whole lot of radical Muslims even if the majority are not.  There are a billion of them after all.That said, I am more than a little wary of people like Daniel Pipes.  He wrote in the Jerusalem Post to remind us how the Muslims … [Read more...]

Happy Water Drawing Day

All day today I have been intending to post something about Sukkot.  For a holiday that usually serves as an afterthought to the high holidays, it has a very respectable history and an enormous number of past and present associations.One that has always fascinated me is the connection between Sukkot and Chanuka.In Temple times there was a Sukkot custom called Simchat Beit Ha-Shoeiva, a water drawing ritual and celebration.  On the first night of the festival an all-night gigantic Temple p … [Read more...]