Sunday, December 10, 2017
We believe that God is a absolute simple unity without parts or likeness of any kind
We believe that God has communicated to man through prophets
We believe that we relate to God, even to know God’s will for us through the medium of law, through divine commandments revealed in scripture and understood through certain oral traditions and to varying degree logical reasoning.
We believe that God cares as much about how we interact with other people as He cares about how we interact with him.
We believe in regular prayer at set times with set liturgy, a spiritual script said multiple times every day.
We believe that God wants us to dedicate ourselves to Him in all areas of our life including things like eating, drinking,sleeping and marital relations
We believe that man is the “viceroy” of God in this world, the pinnacle of creation who bears a special responsibility for this world.
We believe that our actions matter, and have implications that go beyond this life in the form of reward and punishment after death.
We believe that life is a purposeful journey tailor made just for us, including its most difficult trials.
We believe that in matters of moral choice we are given free will by our Creator.
We believe that part of the mission of mankind is to create ever more perfect societies.
We believe that the property of other people is precious and that business should be done with the utmost of integrity.
We believe that our actions shape us and make us who we are.
We believe that giving to others in the form of both charity and acts of kindness are pillars of what it means to be truly human.
We believe that out of self-respect should come modesty and true humility.
We believe that the physical distinction between male and female is spiritually significant, giving rise to somewhat different practices for men and women and varying degrees of gender segregation when deemed appropriate.
We believe that religious action should be infused with intention.
We believe that the religion that God commands is moderate and balanced. Extremism, especially violent extremism, is an aberration and distortion of our faith.
We believe that peace is our highest value and that without it we are unable to enjoy the many gifts which God gives us.
We believe in supporting and defending the most vulnerable in society, the widows and orphans
We believe in engaging in a profound spiritual struggle with our lower selves and unworthy motivations and desires.
We believe that awe of God and love of God are both modes of service.
We believe that the highest calling of mankind is to be a servant or slave to God, that the greatest fruit of free will is to be obedient to God.
We believe that all greetings begin with peace and all prayers end with peace.
We believe that without the peace to enjoy we are collecting G-d’s blessings with a damaged vessel, a leaky bucket.
Sunday, June 7, 2015
People have asked, “Is it really fair to compare the KKK, a tiny fringe group who define themselves by attitudes to race to ISIS which is enjoys wide popularity in the Muslim world and represents a legitimized, albeit repugnant to some, interpretation of Islam?” Beneath this question are some problematic assumptions. The KKK while now quite small was a major force in the reconstruction south. They were mainstream and politically powerful. The KKK, even today, links its racist attitudes to Christianity. In fact, nearly all racist groups in America including the KKK espouse what scholars of American religion call “The Christian Identity Movement” which roots their racism solidly in Christianity. To this day, the KKK uses the symbols of Christianity, the crusader cross on the uniform and the flaming crosses. The Christian Identity Christianity claims not just to be an authentic interpretation of Christianity but THE authentic interpretation of Christianity. The ADL estimates that there are 25,000-50,000 people who openly identify with this movement primarily in the US and Britain http://archive.adl.org/learn/ext_us/christian_identity.html According to the ADL, they are heavily involved in criminal activity ranging from hate crimes so terrorism. The CIA estimates that ISIS fighters number something less than 40,000. So even the numbers are not so incomparable.
We need to get that it is as painful for Muslims to see their religion represented by the ISIS as it would be for most Christians if the KKK or Skinhead churches were said to represent Christianity. That news agencies and other “officializing” media insist that ISIS is somehow a legitimate take on Islam feels unfair and hatefully discriminatory to Muslims. The meme reminds us that we can legitimately see ISIS both as a band of religious crazies who, like the KKK, cloak their politics and their hatred in a perversion of faith.
Lastly, should we take ISIS seriously? YES, VERY SERIOUSLY. To do that we also need to think about the ground on which ISIS grows. We need to examine our role in supporting a culture of despotism and hopelessness in the Middle East. We need to look at the ways in which we foster a culture of meaninglessness in the West.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught, “If you believe you can destroy, then believe you can fix.”
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
"The bad goyim have always wanted to kill the Yidden." “Bad Goyim” here could mean bad non-Jews who want to kill Yidden versus good non-Jews who do not or simply that Goyim are by definition bad and want to “kill out” (Yeshivish for genocidal murder) the Yidden (Yiddish for Jews). I believe the intent of the Hagadah is the first. There are indeed those in every generation who may hate Jews and despise our the ethical monotheism we stand for and try to destroy us and our message. God protects us and our mission from ultimate destruction. I deeply believe that. At the same time, I think most children would read the words as "Goyim are bad and always want to kill Jews."
A people that dwells alone!
The Talmud explains that Bilaam’s blessings were really curses. To be alone and isolated is no blessing. Indeed, as Rabbi Sacks, points out one of G-d’s first comments to man is “Its not good for man to be alone.”
"To be different is not necessarily to be alone. Indeed, . Singular, distinctive, countercultural – yes: these are part of the Jewish condition. But alone? No. That is not a blessing but a curse."
Given this vision of the world we are lead to two social strategies, isolation or assimilation. We can either segregate ourselves and protect our fragile world under siege or avoid the hate by giving up our identity. The latter strategy is pretty successful in the United States, it would seem. But so it seemed to some in Germany as well. When the Nazis came to power even the most assimilated German Jew was not safe. As we are often warned, “You just wait. It can happen here too!” Neither isolation or assimilation are reliable refuge.
What is the third option? We in the United States, at least, have the option of living robust, happy, enthusiastically observant Jewish lives while actively engaging our non-Jewish friends and neighbors in such a way as to help them appreciate who we are and what we stand for. Jewish life need not be a mystery. How many of your non-Jewish colleagues have any idea what Shabbat means to you? Do they know why you keep kosher? Do they know what kind of God you believe in? In my experience, most non-Jews know little about Judaism or what it means to be Jewish.
Won’t this lead to assimilation? Aren’t friendships and relationships just the precursors to assimilation and intermarriage. Maybe. Yet the walls of distrust have not prevented assimilation. It was this isolation that has driven the vast majority of Jewish people away from out faith. They left the isolation but they took some with them. Ironically many very assimilated Jews prefer to live in fear that one day they will be “outed” or to identify with Israel’s plight as the “pariah” among nation-states. They prove everyday that you can be assimilated and still be alone.
I don’t deny there is plenty of genuine Jew-hatred in the world. This year, in the wake of horrific attacks on Jews in Europe, no one would say there is not. I don’t know that you can cure anti-Semitism completely but I do know that you can refuse to let it make you sick. Being hated is not an identity for a healthy people.
"To be a Jew is to be loved by God; it is not to be hated by Gentiles. Our ancestors were called on to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The word , “holy,” means set apart. But there is a profound difference between being apart and being alone…"
This Zayde too raises his voice and beams with pride at his family and celebrates his Jewishness. I too will assure my children of the survival and thriving of the Jewish people. I too will affirm my faith in God and gratitude for the mission He has given us. I will tell them that embracing our holiness means re-embracing our mission to be a “light unto the nations” not in some patronizing way but in the way of teachers, friends and colleagues. It means to share the wisdom of Torah and to be willing to hear its echoes in the voices of other peoples, other nations and even other faiths.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Many have wondered, "How can I possibly earn the coveted Jihadi Jew 'Hater of the Day' Award?" Here are a few simple guidelines for being a a more effective, and even award-winning hater. These very same principles, adapted for domestic use, can turn your very own home into a war zone.
1) Never refer to “them” by name. Try “These people” or “You people.”
2) “These people” are two dimensional beings who only have one motive at a time “kill, kill, kill” or “Gimme, gimme, gimme.”
3) “These people” have no innocent children only enemies in training
Hate breaks the boundaries of the ordinary. It empowers us to do the impossible.
And love breaks the boundaries of the ordinary. It empowers us to do the impossible. Love will help us to see ourselves in the mirrors of our beloved’s eyes. Love will give us superhuman strength and stamina. Love will get us up early to do good for our beloved and keep us up late at night thinking of how to please them. Love will make us heal and build. We will beautify our whole world to make it fit for our love. We will do everything and sacrifice anything for love.
The imperative to “Love your neighbor as yourself” or "to want for others what you want for yourself" is God's boldest dare to humanity, the challenge to break the boundaries of our own hearts. If we don't, the world is terrifying. And if we do? Love won't solve the big problems. It won't stop poverty, oppression, or violence against the innocents of this world this instant. In the end maybe opened hearts, and minds and ears will. It is just a start. An experiment. A direction. A dim flicker of light in a world that seems pitch black. I am going to try to take the dare and see what happens. I hope maybe you will too.