Spirituality & Faith


Why (Not!) Take Your Soul to a Spa?

Sometimes clergy and other spiritual teachers do smart things. And sometimes they do less-than-smart things (I’m trying to be charitable here). But sometimes they just annoy the hell out of me. In this news report about “spas for the soul,” we get an example of all three! Read on to see what I mean. You may be asking, what is a “spa for the soul”? Is it simply a cool name for a church, synagogue, temple or mosque? Or is it a place with massages and treatments that are so good, you......

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Beyond the Letter of the Law

If you want to know one of the many reasons why the fastest growing religious identification in America is “None” and why millions of Americans are suspicious of organized religion, look at the recent events surrounding Yeshiva University – a 116 year-old institution that is perhaps the pre-eminent institution of Modern Orthodox Judaism. In December 2012, accusations became public that Rabbis at Yeshiva University High School for Boys sexually abused students over a period of two decades and that the Yeshiva University administration knowingly tolerated the exploitation of teenage boys, neither threatening......

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True Religion and Real Religion

Can “true religion” be a basis for hatred or division among people? Based on the historical record, it seems clear that the answer is, yes. Of course, that answer puts me at odds with many people, including the Prime Minister of India, who insist that “true religion” is always warm, peaceful and loving. It’s not. Or, if you prefer, the whole notion of “true religion” is a poor way to address the issues which seem to concern the PM. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked people this week to battle religious fanaticism. About......

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Crossing Borders: Jews and Christmas in America 2013

Over the past few days there has been a series of social media threads around the question what “we” make of the number of Jews and Jewish professionals who posted photos of themselves / their families on Facebook in front of a Christmas tree or who wrote posts on personal and public platforms about the wisdom of Christmas. I was one of those who posted – Christmas and Our Children. The tone of the threads were uniformly of “concern” “worry” “anxiety” “annoyance” and even “anger” about the blurring of boundaries and the......

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Top Faith Stories Of The Year

While no list can capture a full year, these are my top 3. ?Each reminds us that faith is more alive than ever, even as it comes in new and surprising ways — some good, some less so. Number 3 has got to be the complicated struggle for religious freedom, from violent conflicts in Syria and Egypt, to the cultural struggles here at home. ?What all share is the fact that the struggle for religious freedom is only healthy, when those struggling do so not only for their own religious freedom, but......

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The Holiness of Every Child

About fifteen years ago, I had an experience that transformed Christmas for me.? My wife and I were sitting with a couple – he was well into his 60’s and Jewish and she a good twenty years younger and from a traditional Christian home. This was his second marriage and they had two young children.? We were guests at their ski home for a few days during winter break. Sitting after dinner at the dining room table, with their kids and our kids playing in the den, we wound up having a......

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Video: On Thanksgivukkah

Inspired by this article, “Thanksgivukkah: This November 28th, Celebrate Abundance and Possibility” and courtesy of Odyssey Network’s Faith on the Record series: This week, America sees the convergence of Thanksgiving and the beginning of Hanukkah, a rare quirk of calendar synchronicity that hasn’t happened in over a hundred years and won’t happen again for thousands more.? At first glance, these two celebrations don’t seem to have much in common, but look deeper at the stories of the Pilgrims and the Maccabees, says Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, “Each is a celebration of possibility and......

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Rap For God?

Fr. Claude Burns is a Catholic priest who raps under the name Fr. Pontifex, and just released a new album – The Symphony and The Static.? I actually love the idea of religious leaders bending their sense of calling and expanding their appreciation of where it can take them, and for that I give the good Father props.? But his concerns about the absence of God in people’s lives, and his claim to have the answer, actually reflect anything but a fresh and healthy take on faith and the human search for......

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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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