Spirituality & Faith


What 'Nones' Know About Religion: There's No Perfect Recipe

What’s the fastest growing category of religious affiliation in the U.S.? If you answered, “None,” you’re right. No, that doesn’t mean that there’s no fastest growing group at all. It’s a catch-all term for the increasing number of Americans who, when asked to self-identify with a religious label (including Jewish, Christian, Muslim and many more) instead check the box marked “None.” To be clear, “Atheist” and “Agnostic” are often on the list of options. So these Nones are not simply rejecting religion – they are doing something much more profound, and potentially......

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Praying Into the Void for a Connection

A fascinating “missed connection” ad on Craigslist from a man seeking a woman he hasn’t seen in four decades got me thinking about the many forms that prayer takes, including a powerful ritual in my childhood of writing down my hopes and wishes. When I was a young boy, my family would fly to Israel at least once a year, staying in the south with my Israeli family, and venturing regularly up north to visit Jerusalem, too. Whether by bus or car, I would always use the travel time to agonize over......

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Shelter Me: Faith in an Imperfect World

At this time of year, what is the importance of the sukkah? The temporary shelter stands with a roof made of branches that do not provide a full cover. If it rains, the inside is made unusable and a very strong wind may knock it down. And yet we plan the weeklong autumnal holiday of Sukkot to be spent eating (and in some places, sleeping) under it. The sukkah is also called tzila mehemnuta, or shadow of faith, not just because one has faith that the weather will oblige, but because the......

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The Courage to Be Vulnerable

Imagine a world where instead of saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong!” people say, “I don’t know.” Imagine a world where we have the courage to pursue dreams and relationships that may or may not work out. Imagine a world where no one is afraid to say, “I love you,” first. That world is coming, at least for a day on the Jewish calendar – Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), beginning Sept. 23 this year. Dr. Brene Brown, a New York Times bestselling author, gave a wonderful 2010 TED Talk about vulnerability......

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Syrian Refugees and the Need for Hope

During celebration of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew greeting L’Shanah Tovah means “for a good year.” But how can we possibly say it will be a good year with a straight face, when the U.N. predicts that the Syrian refugee crisis could escalate by year’s end to 4.27 million people fleeing Syria? After the body of a three-year-old boy, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, it seemed that the world finally woke up to the gravity of the humanitarian crisis. However, it would be wrong to chalk......

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A Generation Removed from God

Our old gods are dying, and our new ones are yet to be born, so we best be careful asking people about what they believe about God. It isn’t simply that the familiar, conventional (theistic, old-man-in-the-sky, all-powerful, all-knowing god who created the universe, who loves us, judges us, responds to our prayer and guarantees an afterlife) is irrelevant to increasing numbers of people. It’s that this God is actually far more disquieting. I need to come clean and say clearly: There are indeed some days when I do call out and surrender......

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Unlocking Hearts and Minds on Rosh Hashanah

More people will be in synagogues in the coming days that at any other point in the year. And because of demographic realities, an increasing number of them won’t even be Jewish. They will all be there, but what will they be hearing? Let’s put it this way: Will there be any synagogue congregations in America this Rosh Hashanah not abuzz with conversation about the upcoming vote on the Iran deal? And from how many pulpits will those in synagogue not hear at least one sermon on the topic? Based on reports......

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A Pope, a Rabbi, Mercy and Rosh Hashanah

I know my headline sounds like an old Borscht Belt routine. My post today is anything but. It’s simply a brief expression of gratitude to a great spiritual teacher for a new policy that not only speeds and eases the annulment process for Catholics, but reminds me of a core teaching in my own tradition about the meaning of mercy – one that’s central to the High Holiday season in which we find ourselves. Pope Francis declared that this “Year of Mercy” would be marked by many efforts to live the teaching......

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When Should Clergy Weigh In on Politics?

Stay away from politics, Rabbi. Many of my colleagues receive – and some give – this advice. There’s a lot of truth to it, even if only from a practical perspective. In a recent and widely touted survey, politicians scored lower than any other profession when it comes to perceived trustworthiness and honor. Considering that clergy scored significantly higher, it would seem to make sense in my profession to avoid being seen as a politician more than as a spiritual guide. However, while no one needs their preacher to be just another......

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Looking Up, and Looking In

One recent night, a friend reminded me that the Perseid meteors were going to be visible. Late that evening, we turned off all our lights, went outside and lay on our backs on the deck. I knew it would take a while for my eyes to adjust. From the moment I looked up at the heavens, I was awestruck by the sheer number of stars. I thought: Even if I don’t see any meteors, it’s enough, because this is so beautiful! And then I saw one streak across the sky. I know......

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