Spirituality & Faith


Thanksgivukkah: This November 28th, Celebrate Abundance and Possibility

Call it a simple coincidence, call it Thanksgivukkah, call it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to integrate the quintessentially American and the quintessentially Jewish, but whatever you call it, and whether you are Jewish or not, celebrate the abundance and possibility in your life this year, as Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap. From recalling a group of brave, hopeful, religious outsiders, the Pilgrims, who boarded leaky ships bound for a place they did not know, to a group of equally brave and hopeful religious outsiders, the ancient Israelite clan known as the Maccabees, who took......

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Religion in Four Minutes?

Many Americans today who are asked about the role of faith in their lives identify themselves as “None” – no religious identification.? For me, if I’m honest, religion alone is increasingly not getting the job done (that it used to) of nurturing the virtues we all need in life to flourish: awe, wonder, humility, transcendence, responsibility, kindness and love. As an eighth-generation rabbi, this is a significant challenge! Lately I’ve been looking at the intersection of popular culture and science for new “sacred” wisdom that works to evoke and nurture these qualities.......

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A Practical Approach to Finding God

Wait! Before you skip over this post because you may not believe in God, substitute a term that does fall into your beliefs: “awe,” “wonder,” “inexplicable beauty,” or “a moment of transcendence.”? Don’t let the words get in the way.? Now ask yourself: Where do you find those things, and where are you when they find you? It turns out that we often discover the transcendent in the most unexpected or idiosyncratic places. It can literally happen any place. That’s actually really promising – because if God (or whatever) can be there,......

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The Ethical Issues of Ebay Selling Holocaust Memorabilia

As the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht approaches, Holocaust-related stories surface more often and resonate more deeply.? Of particular note is Ebay making Nazi artifacts available for sale. As the last survivors of the Holocaust perish, the ethics of memory — what this story is really about — becomes entirely our question to deal with. This is a far more complicated issue than most people realize, even though I share most people’s initial revulsion at the crass commercialization of the Holocaust by turning tokens of unspeakable horror into high-end collectibles. But because I......

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Air Force Goes God Optional

The United States Air Force has decided to make God an option; at least as far as the service or enlistment oath is concerned.? The oath is older that the United States itself, dating back to June of 1775, and has been administered in its current form since 1962, as follows: I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey......

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We Are Originals

Recently, I read about a fascinating psychological study conducted by Angelika Seidel and Jesse Prinz of CUNY (the City University of New York). Participants were told to imagine that the Mona Lisa had been destroyed in a fire, but that there happened to be a perfect copy – one that even experts couldn’t tell from the original. Then, subjects in the study were asked: If they could see just one or the other, would they rather see the ashes of Leonardo da Vinci’s original Mona Lisa, or the absolutely flawless duplicate? Eighty......

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Video: Brad Hirschfield on Nairobi, Peshawar, and the Simchat Torah

From Odyssey Network’s Faith on the Record series: “This week saw two horrific acts of violence – a suicide bombing of a Christian church in Peshawar, Pakistan and the siege at an upscale mall Nairobi, Kenya – which left hundreds of people dead and injured.? Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, President of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, reflects on these events through the lens of Simchat Torah, the Jewish celebration of the end of the annual reading of the Torah and the beginning of a new cycle of reading the......

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Finding Your Path to Spirituality

When you think about what it means to be spiritual, find spirituality, or anything remotely approximating those experiences, what do you think of? Do you find your attention turning to experiences and images of relative solitude? Of solitary walks on the beach or perhaps, lonely mountain peaks? That is certainly one spiritual type. But not the only one. Perhaps, when you think of being spiritual, you imagine yourself amidst raucous crowds, at home in messy scenes replete with food and wine and loud singing. Do you find that your most spirited moments......

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Yom Kippur: The Truth About One's Truths

Yom Kippur is the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar. Simply put, it is a day-long exercise in Reality Therapy. For 25 hours or so, the practice is to neither eat nor drink, nor make love, nor enjoy the comforts and conveniences of life – be it a shower or a smart phone – but to reflect and contemplate our mortality, to feel deeply there is no guarantee that we (or anyone in our life) will even be here tomorrow, to be on our deathbed but be fully conscious. Have you......

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Remembering 9/11

I live in New York City. Two friends, including someone at whose wedding I had recently been the rabbi, died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. The acrid smell came through my apartment windows for days and sacred ashes, which I wiped away with tears, fell on my window sills for weeks. That day, my children who were 13 and 10 could not get home from school because the subways were closed. They have grown up in the shadow of 9/11 and the fog of war. The world seems far less......

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