Sacrifices for Shabbat?

It’s not a makhloket, really–it’s a davar akher. 🙂

Ah, the imprecision and semantic degradation that is English! Where I meant sacrifice as “trade-off” alone (which I thought was pretty clear in context), Rabbi Adar brought the other, “avodah” meaning–service in the Temple through sacrificing animals, oil, wine, and produce–in.

Now you can see the little semantic shifts we all use to write midrash and sermons! (I’d argue that there are several semantic shifts in Rabbi Adar’s post: she moves from “avodah” to trade-off and back as the discussion went from my comment to the Heschel idea and back again, no? Lawyers with philosophic and rabbinic training are the most annoying lawyers of all! 🙂 )

Rabbi Adar and I both know that lots of Jews regard the halakhic restrictions of Shabbat–or the traditional conduct they engage in without participation in the full halakhic regime (not that it can be done perfectly anyway)–as a set of trade-offs. Some Jews do not see any trade-off (sacrifice?) because they believe themselves commanded to take these actions. Even then, some of these decisions are reluctantly made and produce stress. Hopefully those making the trade–and Shabbat observance in all its forms is in most situations an exercise in opportunity cost–see greater benefit in observance than in non-observance. (Otherwise, why make that trade absent external compulsion?)

Then again, the “avodah” meaning isn’t in itself wrong at its core for many–it’s just that rabbinic interpretation has fritted away at what “avodah” can be permitted mean in certain contexts. Of course, on a more realpolitik view of it…

Coffee Shop Rabbi

I was delighted to see that sjewindy at A Humanistic Jew in Indianapolis left a pingback this morning to my post, Why Can’t Jews Get Married on Shabbat? entitled Jewish? Want a Saturday Wedding? Find a Humanistic Jew. He’s right about that; a humanistic Jew is one of the alternatives if you want a Saturday wedding.

However, I have an issue with something in his summary of my post, and I think it merits a post of its own. He wrote, “traditionally this [foregoing weddings on Shabbat] is a sacrifice Jews have made.” [emphasis mine]

Jews went out of the sacrifice business in 70 CE, when the Romans pulled down Herod’s Temple and burnt the broken fragments. As a Reform Jew, I am not praying for or looking forward to a restoration of that edifice, although there are folks in other movements of Judaism who are. (There’s another post for another day.)

View original post 246 more words

For A Very Hard Year: The Movie Seder

There’s more than one way to do it! Make this Passover your own. Chag sameach!

Coffee Shop Rabbi

Passover 2009 was a time when it seemed like we could not get a break. I don’t remember all the troubles – it’s a fog now – but I had been struggling with depression and after six years in rabbinical school, I had only part time work as a rabbi. One son had a job so scary that I couldn’t think about it. The other son was having a tough time with bipolar disorder, and we were still adjusting to it. The previous year California voted in Prop 13, saying, yeah, you lesbians are worthless.

We didn’t have energy for a seder that year. Looking back, I think we were in the depths of Egypt and it was hard to even imagine a seder. I didn’t feel like going to someone else’s seder and smiling and making nice, and neither did Linda.

But we still had the commandment to observe the chag (festival.) I take these things seriously…

View original post 457 more words

What Business Are We In?

This is worth your reading. I don’t agree with everything Hoffman says in all cases (it would be weird if I did, being a humanistic Jew)–but in this case, I think there’s much to learn.

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Synagogues should be asking, “What business are we in?” That may seem obvious, but it isn’t, and most synagogue leaders get it wrong – with disastrous consequences.

The usual answers are things like Jewish education, Shabbat and holiday services, social action, or even all of the above, in the tried and true triad of religion: Torah (study) avodah (prayer) and g’milut chasadim (good deeds).

Religion may be what we do, however; it is not our business. The two are not the same.

The question arises compellingly in Peter Drucker’s 1954 classic, The Practice of Management. Drucker’s 1950s example is Cadillac. What it did was manufacture cars; its business, however, was not automobiles but status. Recognizing its business aright led to the realization that its competitors were not Chevrolet and Ford but high fashion and diamonds.

So what is the synagogue’s business?

During the years following World…

View original post 789 more words

It wasn’t the “grassroots” of Orthodoxy. It was liberal Jews.

An important read. (Sometimes this is a problem among liberal movements, too.)

Rainbow Tallit Baby

There is a fascinating (to me anyway) and respectful debate about Partnership Minyanim going on in a multi-part series over at Modern Torah Leadership. It starts off with an essay by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper,  Are Partnership Minyanim Orthodox?  and then includes responses from Rabbi Dr. Martin Lockshin, Malka Simkovich, Shira Hecht-Koller, and Dr. Yoel Finkelman.

While the essays contain very interesting exchanges on the nature of rabbinic authority and how vital it is for Orthodoxy and how Partnership minyanim challenge it, I could not help focusing on another aspect of the exchange.

In his pro-Partnership Minyanim essay, Rabbi Lockshin writes on the issue of enacting change that does not come from rabbinic innovation but is driven by the will of the laity:

Partnership Minyanim do not have the support of the “gedolim,” the great Torah sages of our generation. In this, PMs are like many other innovations…

View original post 448 more words

Secular Jewish Torah

Good videos to watch for those wondering generally how we approach the Torah in the world of Secular Humanistic Judaism.

Shalom from Rabbi Chalom

One of the most common questions asked of Humanistic Judaism is, “what role does the Torah play in Humanistic Judaism?” Fortunately, since it’s a commonly asked question, we have many answers! Below you’ll find four concise answers to that question offered by four rabbis in Humanistic Judaism, including my thoughts at the end.

Rabbi Sherwin Wine reflects on the early approach of Humanistic Judaism to the Torah. Wine’s last book, A Provocative People: A Secular History of the Jews, delves deeply into the historical origins of this earliest surviving Jewish book.

Rabbi Denise Handlarski of Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Toronto is blogging the Torah portion of the week for 5775 – always fascinating!

Rabbi Peter Schweitzer of the (New York) City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism explains positive and negative connections with the Torah for Humanistic Jews.

Rabbi Adam Chalom (yours truly) of Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in…

View original post 13 more words

It’s just a commandment

I’ve spent some amount of time thinking about (male) circumcision. It’s a fraught topic; some regard it as barbaric, some as hygienic, some as a sacred sign, and still others as a foolish impairment of sexual pleasure. I’m not well-informed enough to sort out the validity of the various back-and-forth claims about the hygienic aspects of circumcision, nor capable of investigating the sexual health perspective. What is “barbaric” largely depends on the culture that issues the judgment, though a circumcision performed by a clinician seems a bit different from one performed with metzitzah be-peh (a practice where upon circumcision by a mohel, the mohel draws the blood off orally).

But I can evaluate it from a Jewish perspective, and from a Secular Humanistic Jewish perspective, at that. And sitting down and thinking that out led me to a new view on the subject of male circumcision.

My result: “it’s just a commandment.” And that conclusion is interesting to me.

Continue reading

I still here!

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted, or so it seems to me.

I’m still here. We’ve had some health issues in the family that have kept me occupied. At some point, I’ll resume the regular posting, etc., that you perhaps in equal turns enjoy or are infuriated by.

Radio Silence

A quick note. It’s been radio silence here for a bit. That’s not intentional; I’ve been either prepping for this week’s seminar at IISHJ or actually in the seminar. Posting will pick back up in about a week.