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...]

Happy Chanukah!

Here is my Chanukah gift to readers of  It’s the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus singing that old chestnut, “Chanukah in Santa Monica.”Chag Chanukah Sameach (Happy Chanukah).  Enjoy! … [Read more...]

Blessed Art Thou, Mr. Deity

I am a long-time fan of the Mr. Deity YouTube series.  If you aren’t familiar with this hysterical creation, here’s a great episode to start with.  It’s called Mr. Deity and the Philosopher. … [Read more...]

Warning! This Religion Will Require A God Upgrade!

Here’s a book review I’ve been working on.  The post is a little longer than usual....Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold has written a book called “The God Upgrade: Finding Your 21st-Century Spirituality in Judaism’s 5,000-Year-Old Tradition.”  Korngold, who is also known as  “The Adventure Rabbi,” puts forth a theology of a non-interventionist God who is basically just an experience, and certainly not a being of any kind.  In this she is typical of many of the liberal rabbis whom I know.  They do not b … [Read more...]

Chanukah: The Sequel, Or, How The Maccabees Mucked Things Up

Well people are going to start thinking I’m some kind of Chanukah scrooge, but one of the reasons I’m a Secular Humanistic Jew is my love of history.  I’m simply more interested in getting as close to the true stories behind the legends than I am in going along with the fictions. … [Read more...]

Taking Chanukah Too Seriously

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, chieftain of the Reform movement, has gotten himself in quite the tizzy over Howard Jacobson’s innocuous Chanukah article last week in The New York Times.  First let’s look at some of what Jacobson wrote: … [Read more...]

Chanukah: The Oily Miracle That Never Was

Sorry I’ve been on hiatus for so long from the blog.  When you start a new blog, you begin by posting all the time and then it slows down.  But I never meant for it to grind to an absolute halt for six days!My only excuse is that work has been manic and I’m pushing to finish a whole bunch of projects before I leave for my December trip to Israel.  I hope to regularly post while there.So now to the topic at hand, Chanukah. … [Read more...]

Maybe He Works At Yale Community College

Rabbi Shmully Hecht is the advisor to the Chabad-sponsored Yale Eliezer Society.  He is also a blogger at the Washington Post’s On Faith site where he wrote about the criticism that was supposedly leveled at Israel for missing the president’s UN speech because it was the first day of Sukkot.  Hecht doesn’t bother to properly cite or link to any of this flood of criticism, except for Jon Stewart: The Daily Show host Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Leibowitz) recently revealed to great laughs that the … [Read more...]

Some Simchat Torah Heresy

Today I celebrated Simchat Torah by putting the finishing touches on a journal article surveying some rabbinic thought on the creation narratives.On my first visit to a secular humanistic Jewish congregation, the first thing I noticed was that there was no ark or Torah scroll.  Oddly, considering my beliefs, this bothered me a little for about three minutes.  Rather quickly I began to think about what the Torah actually said and then I reflected on the way that the scrolls themselves have been … [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...]