Dancing at Three Weddings — A Rosh Hashanah Talk

The following is the written version of my Rosh Hashanah talk at the congregation I serve, Machar, The Washington Congregation for Secular Humanistic Judaism.

There’s an old Yiddish proverb that goes, “With one tuchus, you can’t dance at two weddings.” That makes sense, except maybe for when twins get married at the same time.

So what happens if one tuchus tries to dance at three weddings? I’ll give you a hint: look around. The answer is in this room.

You get Secular Humanistic Judaism.

Secular, humanistic, Judaism. Three weddings. A colleague of mine, Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, says it’s two weddings. I’m not so sure it’s just two.

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Penn Jillette on…well…lots of stuff

Salon.com published an interview with Penn Jillette today. Much of it discusses things like Jillette’s attempt to crowdfund a movie, his time on reality shows, etc. But at the end of the interview, the discussion turns to Jillette’s atheism and the reaction of devout Christians to his outspokenness. Jillette noted that, once you eliminate internet cranks and crazy people with death threats, most of the devout Christians with whom he interacted (granted, he says, it’s a self-selecting group) were actually quite loving.

I think there is an important point for humanists to keep in mind–and particularly Humanistic Jews, as we straddle several different worlds.

We can debate, and we can have differences. But, as Greg Epstein notes in his book, Good Without God, we will find fellow-travelers among people who don’t precisely share our beliefs, and it is not helpful to be, in every case, overtly antagonistic in the way Jillette says he was and now regrets.

There’s a way to be humanist without also being a bomb-thrower; in fact, I think fidelity to our humanism requires that of us.