Spirituality & Faith


Chanukah Wants You!

Do you find yourself longing for greater peace, and a bit more light, in what often feels like an increasingly dark and confusing time? Given the events of the passing days, weeks and months, that’s not surprising. In fact, how could it be otherwise? That is why the holiday of Chanukah has never been more important than it is this year. Since Rosh Hashanah, we have experienced carefully orchestrated mass murder in Paris and Mali , rising violence by seemingly grass-roots terrorists using knives,......

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Is Any Holy Book Worth $100,000?

If you suddenly had an extra $100,000, what would you do with it? Would you pay off outstanding debts for education or on your credit cards? How about getting out from under your mortgage? Gifts to those you love? Save for the future or give to causes in which you believe? Good arguments can be made for all of those, but now let’s shake up this little thought experiment with a story from this week’s news. Calvary hospital in the Bronx has been permanently loaned a 19th century Czech Torah scroll that......

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The Starbucks Cup: It's About Conversation

To paraphrase a famous statement, nonsense is nonsense, but the reaction to nonsense is worth looking at. What was at the bottom of the Starbucks cup controversy for me is not what it said about Christians and Christianity, but what it means for those of us who strive to make meaningful connections between religious traditions, rather than reinforce barriers. At issue here is not watering down what is Christian to avoid offending someone who is not Christian. What is at issue is maintaining spaces that can be conducive to meeting on equal......

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Stolen Wisdom, Shattered Trust

I was raised by two teachers. My parents taught me to respect and trust authority; to question with appreciation and understanding for those before whom I stood. They also taught me to be wary and discerning of people who might hurt or take advantage of me. Sadly, recent news reports have revealed chilling stories of clergy allegedly using their positions of power to sexually abuse members of their flock. Even as my parents cautioned me about the danger that might lurk in any human being, they stressed that in order to progress......

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Whether Scientific or Religious (or Both), We're All Human

The Pew Research Center has released a new study about how religion affects Americans’ views on science, and there are quite a few fascinating key takeaways. One important finding: The common refrain that “religious people don’t embrace science” is simply not true. Only 30% who were polled felt that their religious views conflicted with science – and even more interesting, non-religious people were more likely (than religious people) to think science and religion were in conflict. We can stop talking past each other and start talking to each other, and say: This......

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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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