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Showing posts from February, 2018

Not in Our Thoughts But in Our Hands

Why is light the most common religious symbol? This week we read about the ner tamid. This is usually translated as “eternal light” but the Hebrew suggests instead “always light.” The light must always be tended to. God’s light must always be cared for. We light flames in remembrance. I think of the shiva candles flickering in the homes of five families in Parkland. I look to the candles adorning make-shift memorials in remembrance of those murdered at the most recent school massacre. Why do we lean on light? Light itself cannot be seen. We become aware of its presence when we see the other things that it illuminates. So too with God. We become aware of God’s presence when we behold the beauty of the world, or the love of others, or the goodness of our fellow human beings. So too God’s radiance is obscured when people do evil. No amount of thoughts and prayers can illuminate these dark shadows! And yet in light’s reflection we may discern God’s reality. It is f

Joy & Celebration are Sacred Duties

Years ago, my then four-year-old son accompanied me on official business. I was called to officiate at a baby naming. Following the ceremony he found some other children with which to play. Later, a parent reported the following conversation between the two young boys. Nathan, “Who is your dad?” Ari, “He’s that guy over there.” Nathan, “Who?” Ari, “He is the rabbi.” Nathan, “What’s a rabbi?” Ari, “He goes to parties.” That seems a rather apt description of the rabbinic calling. It also is the essence of Judaism’s central teaching.... This post continues on The Wisdom Daily. We are still dancing!

School Shootings are Not Normal

A conversation repeated throughout American homes last night. “Did you hear about the shooting in Parkland?” “Yes.” “17 people killed. Most of them were teenagers.” “I know. It’s terrible.” “Some crazy kid did it. They caught him already.” “It’s awful. What’s for dinner?” “Chicken. How was your day?” “Good. Happy Valentine’s Day.” If you think such a conversation is normal, that nonchalance in the face of the extraordinary gun violence our society faces is acceptable then expect to have many more such conversations. Since the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012, 438 people have been shot and 138 killed in 239 shootings at schools. Since the start of this year 1,834 people have been killed by guns. Concerts. Nightclubs. Movie theatres. Schools. These places should not be synonymous with gun violence. Lockdown drills should not be part of our children’s vocabulary. When an individual liberty endangers the welfare of others, most especiall

A Giving Judge

Most people think that tzedakah should be translated as charity. It should not. Tzedakah comes from the Hebrew word for justice, tzedek. Charity comes from the Latin meaning precious. In Christian theology the term charity became synonymous with the Greek word agape, unconditional love. Thus a gift of charity is more about the giver’s heart than the recipient’s needs. This is not the Jewish notion of tzedakah. Tzedakah is about the attempt to rebalance the scales of justice. How is this accomplished? By our giving. Tzedakah is also a commandment. Whether or not a person is inspired to give is secondary to the idea of mitzvah and needs of the recipient. I therefore prefer to translate tzedakah as righteous giving. We are commanded to give because there are people in need. There are people who need food and clothes. There are people who need heat and shelter. How such people arrived at their desperate situation is immaterial to their present need. It is not for us to feel

The Diversity of American Food Shows What Makes Us Great

At its best Long Island is a stew of different people where former borders are irrelevant. It is the place built on a shared love of the American dream but flavored by former locales and imported traditions. At its worst these New York suburbs are a hodgepodge of ethnic cantons that rarely mix and where people view such intermingling as forbidden. Each town and village has a unique ethnic makeup that is then closely guarded and protected. One town is Italian. Another Jewish. Over there it is Latino. And that neighborhood, Asian. I wonder. What is authentically American? What makes America great? What makes America America? Most will watch this weekend’s Super Bowl. We are told it is the quintessential American event. Is the pizza that millions will eat during the game what defines us? At one time pizza was likewise deemed foreign. It of course originated in Italy (Naples to be exact) and could not be found in the United States until the early 1900’s. And yet now, o

The Super Bowl's Victory and Verses

I am sure many people have seen the meme floating around the Internet about the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. Outside of Philadelphia’s First United Methodist Church, the sign reads: “Bible Quiz. How many verses in the Bible are about ‘Eagles’ and ‘Patriots’? Eagles 33. Patriots 0.” Nothing would make me happier than to see the Super Bowl’s score mirror these numbers. It is not that I am a devoted Eagles fan. It is instead that I always passionately root against the Patriots. I realize that many Giants fans dislike the Eagles even more than the Patriots. My disdain for the Patriots, however, is most profound. It does not even matter that Brady went to Michigan. How many more championships do they need to win before Brady and Belichick can retire? They have already proven their football acumen and machismo many times over. And they will undoubtedly be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. Even definitive proof that they have bent or broken rules will