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Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use

Bio

Evan Moffic, @chicagorabbi, is Rabbi of the historic Congregation Solel in Highland Park, Illinois. He was named to that post at age 30, becoming one of the youngest senior rabbis in the Reform movement. In addition to writing for Beliefnet, Rabbi Moffic writes a weekly note of inspiration for subscribers to his blog. He teaches several ongoing classes at the synagogue and in the community at Common Ground-Chicago. His writings have also appeared in the Forward, the New York Jewish Week, and several of the most widely-read blogs in the country. They include subjects of interfaith weddings, Jewish values, Reform Judaism and the intersection of science and religion.

Rabbi Moffic was ordained by the seminary of Reform Judaism, the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, in 2006. He graduated with high honors from Stanford University in 2000, where he wrote a thesis on Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. An avid runner and tennis player, Rabbi Moffic is married to Rabbi Arielle Moffic, the director of Interfaithfamily/Chicago. They are the parents of two young children.

He believes that his philosophy of the life was captured best by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Will God Condemn Brittany Maynard for Choosing to Die?

On the most sacred Jewish holiday of the year–Yom Kippur–we literally imagine our own funeral. Men traditional wear a white sash that will also serve as their burial shroud. The purpose is to picture our own death in a way […]

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The Strange Book of the Bible We Read in Sukkot

Tonight begins the Jewish “Festival of Tabernacles.” Known in Hebrew as Sukkot, we spend time in  temporary outdoor dwellings. They remind us of the fragility of life our ancestors experienced during their journey across the Sinai Desert. Vanity, Vanity, All is […]

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When a Rabbi Announces He is Gay

Religious leaders are public figures. We live on display. People look at what we drive, what we eat, what we wear. Unfortunately, sometimes we hide parts of ourselves in order to conform to people’s expectations. We might convey feelings of […]

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Is 75 the Perfect Age to Die?

Dr. Ezekiel Emauel, the well-known bioethicist and brother of the mayor of my town, argued recently in an essay in the Atlantic Monthly that 75 is the perfect age to die. After that, he said, most people have little to […]

Yom Kippur: The Happiest Day of the Year

Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is filled with solemn prayer, and most Jews fast. How, then, can it be the happiest day of the year? Allow me to explain… Picture the scene: It is […]

The Secret to Traveling Light: A Jewish Story

Once upon a time, a poor man walked from town to town. He carried a heavy load on his back. One day a wagon driver stopped his horse and offered him a ride to the next town. The grateful man said […]

What to say to your Jewish Friends on the Holidays

While speaking at a church recently, I received an urgent question: “Is it okay for me to wish my Jewish friends ‘A Happy New Year’ on Rosh Hashanah? “Absolutely,” I said. The questioner then asked what was appropriate to say […]

A Prayer for Chelsea Clinton’s New Daughter

When Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinksy married, I wrote about the religious choices they would have to make. Those choices come into sharper focus now that they are the parents of a beautiful daughter, Charlotte. Those choices are not clear-cut or absolute. Having […]

How To Make Peace With Your Regrets

This is the text of the sermon I delivered on the morning of the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. You can Click here to get the MP3 audio recording of  my delivering the sermon The most popular musical in the […]

Hearing God’s Alarm Clock: What You Need to Know about Rosh Hashanah

On Wednesday night and Thursday, Jews around the world will celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “Head of the Year.” What distinguishes Rosh Hashanah from every other holiday is the sounding of ancient ram’s horn, known as […]

Why We Still Love Fiddler on the Roof After 50 Years

As I child I could not sit through movies or meals. Sitting through a musical was out of the question. Yet, when I was seven, my parents decided to take me to see Fiddler on the Roof. Looking back now as […]

The Secret to Healing From Pain

I sat with the two children of a mother who had just passed away. They were recounting her life for me in preparation for the funeral. As we spoke, the mother’s long-time caretaker came into the room. She began to speak […]

Do You Know What Hurts Me? A Story

  A great rabbi went into a bar. He overheard a conversation between patrons.   One said to the other, “Friend, do you love me?” “Of course I do,” the second man replied. “We’ve known each other our whole lives.” […]

Does Religion Cause War?

Deadly images on television tear at our heart. We wish for the violence in Israel to end. This land, sacred to three global religions, seems endlessly mired in conflict. Does religion just promote division or hatred? Is it because of […]

The Healing Power of Laughter: The Jewish Genius of Robin Williams

In Jewish tradition we have a special greeting for a genius. Upon meeting such a person, we say, Blessed are You, Eternal God, Source of Life, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood.  Had I ever met Robin […]

God Never Gives Up Hope: A Prayer for Israel

 I remember my first visit to Israel in 1994. The Oslo Accords had just been signed. Hope reigned. My group was greeted warmly in the Arab market in Jerusalem. The opposite feelings prevail today. We witness bombings, indiscriminate hatred, vitriol. […]

The Secret to Happiness? Let Life Surprise You

I remember sitting one day with my  three-year-old daughter. She had a book in her and was turning the pages and telling the story. This was her regular habit. She could not yet read the words, but she could tell the […]

Do Christians Need to Learn More About Judaism? A Rabbi Responds to the Pope

In the 1970s Alex Haley wrote the best-seller Roots. He sought to find the roots of his life as an African-American. Where did he come from? What experiences shaped who he was?   We all ask these questions. We seek not only […]

Why Do Jews Care So Much About Israel?

Last year I attended the Irish Fest in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The music and ambience make it one of most unforgettable days of the year. Listening to a concert, I struck up a conversation with someone standing next […]

In the Wake of the Kansas City Horror: The Life-Saving Power of Interfaith Conversation

This post was written with my friend and colleague, Reverend Lillian Daniel.  The late great Abraham Joshua Heschel was once asked why he devoted so much time to interfaith dialogue. He answering by recounting part of his family history. “When […]

Sermon from the Mound: 7 Spiritual Truths from the Baseball Diamond

Sports are one of the great sources for spiritual insights. As a child, I remember paying extra attention when the rabbi used an illustration  from baseball or football. They helped me visualize and understand the spiritual lesson. Of all sports, baseball […]

The Perfect Diamond with a Scratch: A Story of Hope and Healing

This short story, first told in the 19th century, continues to bring comfort and healing. We can use it every day of our lives.

Love Wins: 3 Spiritual Lessons from Disney’s Frozen

I used to enjoy walking into a home of peace and quiet. Since the film Frozen premiered, I have lacked this simple pleasure. Its soundtrack seems to play on a continuous loop every day throughout our home. I guess that’s part of […]

Date Night With God

A healthy marriage is sustained by consistency. It is not the big moments—the wedding day, the birth of a child, the new home. It is the acts of love and commitment expressed daily, weekly and year after year. Sustaining them […]

How a Sinner Became the Ancestor of Israel’s Greatest King

The most important Israelite tribe stems from line of Judah. Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. His name comes from the Hebrew root “yahdah,” which means “gratitude.” King David came from the Tribe of Judah. The beginning […]

A Prayer for Our Troops and Families

I grew up with stories of my grandfather’s service during World War II. The stories conveyed inspiration, humor and love all at once. The dedication he felt to our country remains with me, and it explains the extraordinary tears I […]

A Prayer for the New Year

Beginnings are times of blessing. They are also times for reflection. As we enter the new year, let us look for ways to bless one another and be a blessing for the world. And let us reflect on what makes […]

What Nelson Mandela Taught Us About Ourselves

In late June 1997 Rabbi Cyril Harris received an important phone call. As the chief rabbi of South Africa, Harris had been an outspoken supporter of the anti-apartheid movement. The phone call was from his long-time friend, Nelson Mandela. Mandela […]

Shop for Your Spirit on Cyber Monday

A seeming paradox defines Thanksgiving weekend. On Thursday evening we express gratitude for everything we have. The follow days we rush out to buy what we do not yet have! Be that as it may, some things we can buy can […]

Lighting Candles for One Another: A Thanksgiving and Hanukkah Message

Friends, I delivered the following sermon at a community interfaith Thanksgiving service. Wishing each of you a wonderful holiday, Rabbi Evan The greatest Rabbi of Jewish history was named Moses Maimonides. Maimonides wrote a classic work of Jewish philosophy known […]

A Synagogue Remembers: 50 Years After the Death of JFK

Many people remember where they were 50 years ago. In Highland Park, Illinois, many came to Congregation Solel, where I am now the rabbi. In memory of our late President, I ventured into our synagogue archives, and found the following, […]

Does Your Faith Warm Only You? Or Does It Light Up the World?

I came across a wonderful teaching from a 18th century rabbi known as the “Kotzker Rebbe.” He taught, “Some people wear their faith like an overcoat. It keeps them warm but does little for others. Others light a fire when they […]

What This Veterans Day Means To Me

This Veterans Day would have been a moving and important one for my grandfather. A proud veteran he served his country for six years during the Second World War and its aftermath. He made lifelong friends and gathered a treasure […]

What Does Tom and Jerry Teach Us About Studying the Bible?

What TV show would you rather watch? Tom and Jerry or Sponge Bob? One show is virtually silent and consists primarily of a cat chasing around a mouse. The other is fast-paced, funny and well-animated. An easy choice? Absolutely. I […]

How To Pay It Forward

Last week I conducted a funeral service for the matriarch of a large family. Meeting with her children and grandchildren, I learned about the immense acts of kindness she did for so many. They spoke about the hundreds of calls […]

What You See Is What You Get?

Once upon a time, a couple came to a new town. On the road they met a man. They asked him, “How are the people in this town?” He replied, “Where are you coming from?” They told him. He then […]

Is Paradise a Cabin in the Woods?

It’s been a hectic few weeks for me and my family. Sometimes in the midst of these days, I dream of a quiet peaceful place, where sounds are calming and life is unhurried. We all dream of such places. But […]

Government Shutdown: An Optimist Against All Better Judgment

The government shutdown raises acute questions about the role and responsibility of leadership. We entrusted our fiscal and governing responsibility to people who cannot seem to execute it. Is there a way out? Is there something  the world’s oldest religion […]

How We Turn Anger Into Holiness

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles) just ended. The biblical reading for the holiday contains the famous scene where Moses shatters the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.  This act emanated from his anger at his people’s worshipping of the golden […]

What Everybody Ought to Know About the Jewish High Holy Days

This Wednesday evening Jews around the world will gather in synagogue to begin the Jewish New Year. Known as Rosh Hashanah (meaning “Head of the Year), this holiday centers around prayer, study and a festive meal. It also begins the […]

The Forgotten Speech at the March on Washington

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” is understandably the most famous speech given at the 1963 March on Washington. Minutes before King spoke, however, a lesser known figure came before the crowd. He happened to be an immigrant […]

The Most Outrageous Bar Mitzvah Party Ever

A 13-year old Bar Mitzvah boy in Dallas recently made headlines. In a strident article in the Washington Post, Rabbi David Wolpe criticized the burlesque-themed Bar Mitzvah party thrown for the young man, whom he identified “Sammy.” “To turn a […]

Can God Make You A Better Person?

“Without God all things are permissible.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky I was recently in the executive lounge at an upscale hotel. After filling my plate with pita chips and hummus, I began nibbling on the way back to my table. A chip […]

There Is No Such Thing As Atheism

My teenage students often ask me why we need religion. We don’t need it answer questions about why it rains or why the sun shines. Science gives better answers to those. We don’t need it to explain human behavior or […]

Three Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

2,000 years ago a great rabbi urged each of us to ask ourselves three questions. Doing so can change our lives. 1. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” In other words, if what I do […]

Can You Pray What You Do Not Believe?

A famous philosopher once visited a church to give a lecture entitled “A Critique of the Existence of God.” His lecture took place in the church’s fellowship hall. It was very well attended, with over one thousand people. Yet, after […]

Can Science Prove God?

Can science prove God? For the last several centuries this question would have seemed absurd. Galileo was forced to recant his discoveries before the Pope. Darwin faced vociferous opposition from religious quarters. Today, however, a new way of thinking has […]

Quote for the Day

“Most men worry about their own stomachs, and other people’s souls. We all ought to be worried abut our own souls, and other people’s stomachs.” –Rabbi Israel Salantar

Can Faith Help Us Find Healing and Forgiveness in the Wake of the Trayvon Martin Case?

As President Obama said, the jury has spoken. The case has concluded. One side won, and another side lost. Yet, no one is happy. A 15-year-old boy is dead. Grieving parents will never be the same. What now? Some want […]

The Real Lesson of July 4th

Independence is an American virtue. This country was built up by pioneers who left their familiar ways behind. They sought a new life free of the old dependencies. How do all the famous Western films end? With John Wayne riding […]

Are You Two-Faced?

The Hebrew languages contains an array of hidden meanings and insights. Rabbi Daniel Lappin probed many of these in his book Hidden Treasure. One of the most intriguing is the word for face, panim. It is in the plural form. […]

What Christians Should Know About the Jewish Background of Jesus

Friends, Following up on the popularity of this piece on how five rabbis understand Jesus, I’m including a snippet from a recent lecture I gave on the Jewish background of Jesus. The full lecture will soon be available on my […]

5 Rabbis Explain Jesus

  For every complex question, as H.L. Mencken once put, there is usually an answer that is “clear, simple and wrong.” His observation rings true when it comes to a question I get at least once a week. What do […]

How to Jump on a Moving Train

A biblical scene haunts me every time I read it. Moses stands alone in the cleft of a rock. He has led the Jewish people out of Egypt. He has devoted his life to God’s service He yearns to see […]

Can God Help Us Focus?

We live in a world full of distractions. Sometimes it feels hard to work with focus for any significant amount of time. My brain wonders, twitter beckons, and I suddenly feel hungry for my fifth snack over the last 3 […]

Who Else is Afraid of Public Speaking?

Some people would rather die than give a speech in public. I find this fact difficult to understand, yet numerous surveys attest to it. Since I speak for a living, I thought I had grown immune to the fear. Yesterday, […]

Should You Feel Guilty for White Lies?

You are visiting with a friend. She has just returned from a trip abroad, and she brings down a new dress she purchased while traveling. You immediately notice that the color does not suit her. It is also too big […]

Who Do You Remember on Memorial Day?

Who do you remember on Memorial Day? Is it a friend or a relative? A grandparent or child? The day honors the memory of all who have died in service of our country. Yet, we each old precious individual memories. […]

The 7 Habits of Stress-Free People

Do you know how to handle stress? We all face it. And we know it can hurt us. Yet, we struggle with how to handle it. A recent study found only 23 percent of people feel they are doing “an […]

A Prayer for Oklahoma

A Prayer for the People of Oklahoma Eternal God, We stand in shock and horror; Bring comfort to those who have lost– Those who have lost their loved ones, their homes, Their neighborhoods, their faith. Be with them–Let your outstretched […]

Another Reason to Turn Off the Television

The New York Times once featured an article about the commuter train from Long Island into New York City. Amongst the dozens of cars on the train is an odd one. In it is a group of people studying the […]

The Unhappy Mother’s Day

At my previous synagogue, I became friendly with an older woman. She told me all the time about her amazing son. My wife and I even had dinner with her, her son and his family to celebrated her 80th birthday. […]

Are You Making Each Day Count?

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.” –Muhammad Ali Recall a great scene from the film LA Story: The weatherman, played by Steve Martin, is delivering his typical forecast. As he throws little yellow magnets on the map, he […]

What My Dad Learned in Prison

A nineteenth century rabbi used to spend time each afternoon looking out of his window. Every day he saw a member of his synagogue rushing down the street. One day he stopped him and said, “Why are you always in […]

How to (Re) Discover Our Purpose

The great 19th century psychologist William James had trouble getting out of bed one morning. Describing his struggle he wrote, The warm couch feels too delicious, the cold outside too cruel, and resolution faints away and postpones itself again and […]

Information About Earth Day: 3 Things To Remember

Protecting our planet is not just a scientific or political issue. It is a religious, spiritual imperative. We find this truth embodied in three core Jewish values.  1. The first is captured in the Hebrew phrase l’dor v’dor: the imperative that […]

All of Us Are Boston Marathon Runners

Running the Boston Marathon is a dream of mine. It’s the nation’s oldest marathon, a symbol of endurance in the city of American freedom. Yesterday terrorists turned that symbol and city it into a day of desperation and death. We […]

How To Find Life After Death

The standard Jewish toast is L’Chayim, to life! Yet, during its last 65 years, the Jewish state of Israel has experienced a disproportinate share of death. 25,578 people have died as a result of war and terrorism. This fact headlines […]

5 Lessons on Faith from Indiana Jones

Every Israeli secretly wants to be Indiana Jones. Archaelogy is the national  pastime in Israel. Yet, archaeologists and their discoveries often find themselves at odd with traditional Jews. Their finding put into questions foundational parts of faith like the accuracy […]

How To Make Sense of Difficult Biblical Passages

Certain parts of the Bible are easy to appreciate. We know we should not murder, steal or commit adulerty. We know why we should try to love our neighbors as ourselves. Even if we struggle to follow these types of […]

How a Little Stone Reveals a Big Truth

I recently visited an astounding site in Israel. It is the ongoing reconstruction and uncovering of the oldest part of the city of Jerusalem, known as the “City of David.” It is the tiny strip of 15 acres on top […]

Where Was God During the Holocaust?

This evening begins a modern Jewish holiday. It is not a holiday of celebration. It is one of memory. We remember the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. What did not die, however, is hope. The Holocaust […]

Why I Officiate at Interfaith Weddings

Nearly three years ago the world witnessed a seminal moment in American Jewish history. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of an American President and a Secretary of State, married Jewish American Marc Mezvinsky, who was clad in atallis (Jewish prayer shawl) and yamakah (traditional headcovering). A […]

Why Americans Love Israel

A remarkable new survey was released just before President Obama’s visit to Israel. According to the poll,Americans heavily favor the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64 percent vs. 12 percent. This is the highest percentage of support for Israel since the […]

What Would Lincoln Say About Gay Marriage?

A diverse group of pastors and parishioners now stand in front of the Supreme Court. They claim to know the same God. They also hold radically different views on the kind of relationships that God approves. This situation resembles the […]

What Made Moses A Great Leader

Tomorrow evening the Jewish community begins the holiday of Passover. We tell the story of the journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. The hero of that journey is Moses. In Jewish tradition Moses is the […]

Have You Earned Your Name?

Two thousand years ago the Jewish sages taught that we have at least three names during our lifetime — the name our parents give us, the name our friends call us, and the name we earn for ourselves in the […]

How President Obama Can Win Over Israel

President Obama lands today in Israel. It is his first visit as President. His relationship with Israelis has had its ups and downs. He intrigued and inspired many Israelis during the 2008 campaign. One merchant interviewed recently in the New […]

How To Ask the Right Question (It Could Save Your Life)

In a recent talk Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, pointed out a unique feature of the Hebrew language. It contains two words for the one English word “why.” The two Hebrew words are […]

Why Jews Don’t Have a Pope

Chutzpah is a Yiddish word with no exact English translation. The closest English equivalent would be “audacity” or “boldness.” But chutzpah also contains an element of passion, social concern and self-confidence. Someone with chutzpah knows what he believes, and knows […]

How To Read the Passover Story

Passover is the most celebrated Jewish holiday in America. For many the most memorable part of it is the food. Yet, Passover is also a teaching tool. We  highlight and expound upon important parts of the Exodus story.   Fortunately, […]

What the New Pope Can Learn From C.S. Lewis

The new pope, Francis, faces enormous challenges. As a rabbi, I can’t offer specific advice on doctrine or practice It would not only be audacious, but meaningless for me to suggest liturgical or clerical reforms that might help the church fulfill […]

Is Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Right?: A Jewish Perspective

In her new and controversial book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg argues that women face a variety of unique challenges in achieving professional success. One of them is self-imposed, yet reinforced by the larger culture. It is the hesitancy […]

10 Things To Know About Passover

On the evening of March 25, people around the world will begin the Passover holiday. They will sit down for a Passover meal known as a seder, with small book known as a hagaddah, describing the rituals and blessing of […]

Can We Love Those Who Hurt Us?

The most repeated commandment in the entire Old Testament is “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” It is recited in daily Jewish prayer, and describes lesson of the Israelite experience of […]

What Everybody Ought to Know about Passover: A Series

In less than a month, Jews around the world will set down for a special meal known as a Passover Seder. Begun more than 3000 years ago, as the Jewish people prepared to leave Egypt, the Seder is one of […]

A Rabbi’s Advice to the Next Pope

The Catholic Church is at a pivotal crossroads. Many are still processing the events of the past three weeks. For the first time in 600 years, a Pope resigned. Then just a few days before the Conclave to elect the […]

How Little Habits Can Change Your Life

When meeting with couples I am preparing to marry, I often share with them a nugget of wisdom: “The little things are the big things.” In other words, in sustaining a marriage, the daily acts we do make the greatest […]

Do You Know Your Responsibility?

Sometimes the Bible is startlingly relevant. In a recent podcast, writer and blogger Michael Hyatt pointed out the practical wisdom shared in the 18th chapter of Exodus, where Moses receives instruction from his father-in-law Jethro. Let us recall the context: […]

A Bar Mitzvah Boy Goes Viral

A new video is causing a sensation in the Jewish community. Rather than send out a traditional save-the-date card for his Bar Mitzvah (Jewish coming of age ceremony), 12-year-old Daniel Blumen decided to create a rap video. Weaving in various […]

From Tim Tebow to Chick-fil-A: A Plea for Civility

On Wednesday Quarterback Tim Tebow cancelled an upcoming appearance at a Dallas Megachurch. The church’s controversial teachings and pastor Robert Jeffers seem to be the reason. Jeffers has spoken out vociferously against homosexuality, Islam and Mormonism. Has Politics Taken Over […]

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Do you believe in miracles? I believe in miracles of hope and of change. Miracles of character and of action. Miracles of transformation when we discover something inside of us we did not know we had. We witness this type of […]

Is Purim the Jewish Halloween?

Purim is not the Jewish Halloween. This is a common misconception because Purim does involve dressing up. Yet, it is not only a fun-filled holiday. It actually teaches profound lesson. One of them can be found through an exercise in […]

Are We Busy Wasting Our Lives Away? A Lesson from the Jewish Holiday of Purim

A story is told about a rabbi who always saw a member of his conregation running down the street. Every day, the man kept running without missing a beat. One day, the rabbi stopped him and said, “Why are you […]

How To Talk With God: 10 Bible Verses on the Power of Prayer

One of the Bible’s central themes is the relationship between God and human beings. In particular, the text explores the way we communicate with God. The conventional term for this type of communication is prayer. It can take many forms […]

How My 5-Year-Old Daughter Inspired Me

A few days ago my five-year-old daughter asked me to download her favorite new song. It’s called “Let Me Love You Until You Learn To Love Yourself.” The music didn’t speak to my soul, but the title did. Sometimes it […]

How To Take the First Step To the Rest of Your Life

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What he didn’t say that the first step is the hardest step. Jewish wisdom teaches this in the story of a man named […]

How A Wedding Taught Me the Meaning of Life

A Jewish wedding ceremony ends with an strange ritual. The groom lifts his foot up and breaks a wine glass. Why? Because even at great times of joy, we recognize that brokenness is a part of life.  In fact, we […]

How To Be Super At Being Human

At a conference I attended yesterday, writer Carrie Wilkerson shared a profound piece of wisdom. In discussing the hard work required for success, she said, “Don’t try to be superhuman. Be human and people will think you are super.” She […]

How To Beat The Winter Blues

(This post was inspired by a podcast by Michael Hyatt, which focuses on physical steps can take get out of a funk. My focus is on the spiritual and psychological.) Last week brought the full fury of winter down on […]

A Rabbi’s Thoughts on the Pope’s Resignation

Pope Benedict’s resignation is sending shockwaves through Catholic communities worldwide. It also brings sadness and loss to the Jewish community. Despite early concerns with the Pope’s childhood participation in the Hitler youth, he has been an extraordinary leader, reaching out […]

How To Find The Strength To Leave Your Comfort Zone

What do you tend to order at restaurants? Do you get the same thing every time? Or do you try the latest special? Do you opt for a wine you have never tried? Or do you go with your favorite […]

God, How’m I Doing?

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who died last week, had a signature saying: “How’m I doing?” He asked it of passerbys at subway stations, street corners and press conferences. Behind the question was a request for feedback. He was […]

Does God Care Who Wins the Superbowl?

This Sunday Americans will be praying extra hard. It’s Superbowl Sunday, and according to a recent study, one out of four Americans believe that God intervenes on behalf of sports teams. Does He? Well, only God knows the answer to […]

Are You Stuck On A Bridge?

Certain metaphors capture the imagination. Among the most powerful in Judaism comes from an 18th century Rabbi named Nachman. “The whole world,” he said, “is a narrow bridge. And the most important part is not to be afraid!”  This saying has […]

The One Unmentioned Issue in President Obama’s Inauguration

One of the Bible’s most resounding commandments is “do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse lately. I’ve thought about it in the context of gun violence. But it’s also challenged […]

Can Oprah Absolve You of Your Sins?

Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey has left many people wondering. Was it genuine? Why did he wait so long? Can those he hurt forgive him? Will he ever compete again? Each of us probably has differing responses to these […]

Does God Have an Opinion on Gun Control?

  Friends, I had a fabulous conversation on Fox News with my friend Father Jonathan Morris. We touched on not only on gun violence, but on the role of God and religion in politics. I thought you might enjoy the […]

It’s Not Just About Gun Control

We have become a deeply polarized nations, with ideology trumping practicality at every turn. We saw this in the fiscal cliff debate. We are seeing it in the gun control battle. Does politics have to be this divisive? Can it […]

How To Walk Through the Raindrops

Life rains down on all of us. We experience loss, sadness, frustration, difficult times, goals missed, dreams disappointed. We go through broken relationships, betrayals, trust misplaced, loved ones hurt. Yet, while the rain can drown us, it can also strengthen […]

10 Things Children Can Learn From Their Parents’ Marriage

President Bill Clinton’s receiving Father of the Year award has raised some eyebrows. We all probably have different views of the propriety of the award. Still, we can use it as a spark to discuss what we can learn from […]

Don’t Wait For A Funeral To Give A Eulogy

Delivering a eulogy for a loved one takes great  empathy and maturity. I’ve been moved by many I have heard. Often, however, I wonder what impact the words expressed would have had on the person being remembered. Did they ever […]

Our Four-Legged Healers

One of the great heroes of the bible is a man named Caleb. During the forty years of wandering in the desert, he remains confident in God’s promise even  as others falter. His loyalty and commitment do not waver. It […]

The Secret of Surviving Criticism

“Keep giving them you, until you is what they want.” A mentor once advised me that a good rabbi needs a strong ego. Clergy can become the target of people’s frustration with God, life and the inevitable experiences of pain […]

Top 5 Truths You Can Use of 2012

Happy New Year! This list captures what readers found particularly moving over the year and can help us gain perspective on 2012. It is somewhat subjective and incomplete, since this blog did not formally start until June, and a few pieces […]

How To Make the Right New Years Predictions

This is an excerpt from a moving essay by the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks. “My new year prediction is that tomorrow never knows The beginning of a new year tends to be a time for predictions. […]

How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Most evidence suggests that New Years’ resolutions remain just that: resolutions rather than accomplishments. Part of the reason, I think, is that we aim too high. We ask ourselves to do more than is possible. We are like the man […]

Money CAN Buy You Happiness If…

You Spend It On Other People. ; What is the secret of happiness? Religion has explored this question for millennia. So have philosophy and literature. Science recently entered the picture. Since the 1990s, the field of positive psychologyhas focused on […]

Proof of the Power of Prayer

Something magical happens in our home on Friday night. The bustle of the week stops. The noise of dinner time fades away. The iPad powers down (at least for a while). What changes everything, however, is the moment we put […]

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Want To Be a Blessing

Today we reach the last day of the ancient Mayan calendar. This fact has prompted to predict the end of the world. These types of predictions are nothing new to people of faith. While we may not agree with them, […]

How To End Gun Violence: A Lesson from Jewish History

The horrific school shooting in Connecticut has reignited a debate on gun control. Judaism does not have a particular policy prescription or political view. What we do have is an insightful story of cultural transformation. Sword Fights on the Sabbath […]

Is It OK To Tell Your Children They Are Safe?

The Bible’s most oft-repeated words are “Do not fear.” Yet, in the wake of the horror in Connecticut, how can we not? Five-and six-year old children were brutally murdered in what most thought was a safe and innocent place. Is […]

God’s Tears Are Our Own: How To Respond to the Horror of the School Shooting in Connecticut

Franz Kafka tells the story of a little girl who was late arriving home one day. Her mother asked her where she was. The girl said that she saw her friend Ruthie on her way home, and Ruthie’s doll had […]

The Spiritual Wisdom of the Beatles

A favorite song to accompany brides down the wedding aisle is the Beatles’ “In My Life.” It’s a song about the past meeting the present. It’s a song about how the singer has been formed by all his past experiences […]

10 Life Lessons from Lincoln

I am no film critic, but Daniel Day Lewis’s mastery of Abraham Lincoln inspired me deeply. He captured a man filled not only with political skill and vision, but with a deep spirituality and understanding of the human condition. In […]

What Everybody Ought to Know About Hanukkah

1. Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas: Hanukkah and Christmas both occur near the winter solstice. They both feature light and gift-giving. Yet, they differ in their relative importance and religious messages. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival in […]

What is the Real Miracle of Hanukkah?

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins Saturday evening. For eight nights we light candles and thank God for “the miracle He performed for us.” Tradition understands that miracle as one miniscule cruse of oil burning brightly for eight consecutive nights. […]

Have You Seen a Miracle Today?

In a few days we begin the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Hanukkah celebrates an ancient miracle.With their way of life under attack, a small group of Jews challenged their oppressors. They survived and rededicate the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. As […]

How 1 Policeman Inspired Millions

A few years ago a popular bump sticker urged us to practice “random acts of kindness and senseless acts of love.” It’s a nice sentiment. In Judaism, however, acts of kindness are not random and acts of love are not […]

10 Quotes That Can Change Your Life

The great champion of motivation and inspiration Zig Ziglar died yesterday. Following is a taste of his wisdom and spirit. (courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor and my highlights of Ziglar books!) 1. Vision “If you can dream it, you […]

Should You Pray to Win the Lotto?

The $550 million Powerball Lottery  has people lining up in gas stations and conveniences stores across America. It also has a few people turning to the heavens to ask God to bless them with good luck. Is this type of […]

Peace is More Than the Absence of War

  Peace is a complex word. We usually think of it as the end of conflict. Yet, peace from one perspective can be subjugation or destruction from another. In Hebrew we have, I believe, a more fitting word. It is […]

The Twitter Religious All-Stars

I recently returned to Twitter after a brief hiatus. To my surprise, I discovered that Twitter has become a great source for finding new spiritual insights and inspiration. While it may seem odd, great wisdom and inspiration can be found […]

Shop for Your Spirit on Cyber Monday

A seeming paradox defines Thanksgiving weekend. On Thursday evening we express gratitude for everything we have. The follow days we rush out to buy what we do not yet have! Be that as it may, some things we can buy […]

The Most Beautiful Gratitude Prayer

This piece moves me every year. It was written by Jonathan Sacks, The Chief Rabbi of Great Britain. It is timeless and timely, speaking to adults and children, single and married, religious or atheist. Please share if you find it […]

All Too Human: Why We Care About Oprah’s Twitter Blunder

On Tuesday Oprah Winfrey made headlines. She did not give away cars or a cruise. She did not even land an interview with the First Lady or President Obama. Rather, she shared a seemingly innocuous message on her Twitter account. […]

How To Teach Your Kids About Gratitude

An episode of The Simpsons inspired this article. The entire Simpson family is seated around the dinner table. Bart is asked to say grace. He offers the following words: “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks […]

Why Israel Matters to Me

As tension rises once again in Israel, I share with you a most powerful story. It is told by Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. A Tour Guide It begins with Wiesel describing a visit he made in […]

Did General Petraeus Need to Resign?

“Who is strong? One who conquers his own impulses.”  Ethics of the Sages, 4:1 David Petraeus was hailed as the greatest soldier of his generation. His abrupt resignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency has led to more questions […]

How One Speech Changed 1000 Hearts: A Veterans Day Inspiration

This past Friday we observed Veterans Day at my congregation. Several dozen veterans were joined by our youth choir, which sang America the Beautiful in gratitude and tribute. The past, present and future inspired one another. Also inspiring was a […]

A Serenity Prayer for America

Whatever our politics, the end of a two year campaign brings relief. Many of us probably empathize with the four-year old who became a Youtube sensation when she tearfully moaned that she was “tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney.” […]

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us

Simple Wisdom: The meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests, “Try reminding yourself from time to time: This is it. What happens next, what you choose to do, has to come out of your understanding of this moment.” The future doesn’t just […]

Why Do Good People Suffer?

The eternal question of religion is why do bad things happen to good people. Hundreds of thousands of volumes have addressed the questions. We still yearn for a satisfying answer. The horrific and highly-visible impact of Hurricane Sandy raises this […]

Arguing for the Sake of God

David Wolpe tells the story of advice given to a student beginning advanced study Talmud. (The Talmud is a series of discussions by the leading rabbinic sages between 100-500 C.E.) If you happen to fall asleep during class and are […]

Does Your Vote Matter?

We have elections coming up in a week and a half. Why should we vote? Think about it: You are one person. Will your particular vote change the election? Even in times when elections seem close, they are rarely are. […]

Have We Become a Nation of Spiritual Narcissists?

Noah is the biblical hero who builds an ark, saves the animal kingdom and helps rebuild the world after a great flood. In spite of his heroism, he is not without fault. Consider his seeming lack of concern with anyone […]

2 Jews… 3 Opinions: Wisdom for Watching the Debates

A classic Jewish joke… When two Jews gather together, expect at least three opinions. Our tradition embraces debate and discussion. Argument becomes a vehicle to truth. I confess, however, a frustration with the debates of today. In Judaism the purpose […]

How To Listen With Your Heart

  A great children’s song starts with the words, “I have two eyes to see with, two hands to wave with, and two ears to hear with.” I have one objection. In my experience, we may hear sounds with our […]

Perfect is the Enemy of the Good: A Jewish Holiday Lesson

A friend once taught me a powerful saying: “The Perfect is the enemy of the good.” This pithy piece of wisdoms speaks to those of us who worry about everything. When everything has to be perfect, we dwell on each […]

The Secret to Life After Death

“At times,” wrote Hans Zinnsser “the dead are closer to us than the living, and the wisdom and affection of the past stretch blessing hands over our lives, projecting a guardian care out of the shadows and helping us over […]

Love Is All You Need

During the Olympics this year, a video caught my eye. It begins with a woman biking in the rain. Then we hear snippets of different languages as mothers begin to wake up their groggy children in bed. The same moms […]

10 Steps To Courage

In the Jewish Bible reading cycle, we just read about the first major leadership transition. Moses hands over the reins to Joshua, and he challenges him with a noble goal. “Be strong and of good courage!” As I was teaching […]

How Your Next Step Can Change the World

The next thing you do can change the world. Maimonides, the great sage of the 12th century, uses a powerful metaphor to teach this lesson. At this cusp of the New Year, imagine that the scales of the universe are […]

The Secret of Life According to Pete the Cat

Sometimes wisdom literally falls into your hands. That was the case when my three-old-son climbed up a shelf at our local bookstore to grab his favorite book. He unintentionally knocked over the one next to it.The book that landed in […]

The Celebrity You’ve Never Heard Of

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Last week my colleague Rabbi Jason Miller shared the story of a 21-year-old college student named Brett Cohn. Cohn decided to do a little experiment. He hired a film crew, some body guards, and […]

Should Todd Akin Be Forgiven?

Forgiving others often involves struggle. As I wrote a few months ago, forgiveness does not necessarily mean condoning. Rather, it means accepting, moving on, and not holding your life hostage to the actions of another person. Does this same logic […]

When Judaism Changed the Sabbath: A Lesson in Leadership

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said that “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” Foolish consistency is clinging to a viewpoint when all evidence points to the contrary. It is refusing to change when change is the only approach that […]

The Secret of Silence

Every Jewish worship service has space for silent prayer. Yet, many of us find it difficult to pray and reflect in such moments. We tend to feel most comfortable when either speaking or listening. “Judaism,” said Elie Wiesel, “has its […]

A Rabbi Reflects on Ramadan

Jews and Muslim share a remarkable history. Medieval Jewish scholars read Aristotle and Plato in the Arabic translation. The masterpiece of Jewish philosophy–Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed–was written in Arabic. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have witnessed the deterioraton of […]

Stop, In The Name Of God!

In 1903 philosopher W.E.B. DuBois said the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line. The problem of the 21st century may well be the problem of the religion line. The two are interconnected and feed […]

A Jewish Song Takes the Gold

The words Jewish wedding and Hava Nagila usually occur together. Hava Nagila literally means “Let us rejoice” and it is a traditional Jewish wedding song combining a raucous melody with a mind-boggling dance. The dancers form ever enlarging circles around […]

How To Study the Bible and Enjoy It

The Bible is not just for clergy. It is for everyone. Studying it enriches our lives. It connects us with our past, present and future. “Knowledge,” Rabbi Arnold Wolf once said, “isn’t everything. It is, profoundly, the only thing.” If […]

The Courage To Saddle Up Even When You’re Scared To Death

It is summertime, and over the last few weeks, the livin’ has not been easy. The murders in Colorado and Bulgaria; the beginning of the Olympics marred by a refusal to acknowledge the 1972 Munich Massacre; an increasingly ugly political […]

How Faith Changes the World

“Prayer,” Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “may not bring water to parched fields, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city. But prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, rebuild a weakened will.” These words reveal […]

How To Make Sense of the Colorado Massacre

In Judaism human beings are not tainted by an original sin. We are born, as Rabbi David Wolpe puts it, with “an original split.” We arrive with dual tendencies. Capable of profound acts of goodness, we can also choose horrific […]

Those Who Forget the Past Are Condemned To Repeat It

A Jewish wedding ceremony is deeply symbolic. Its most famous customs comes at the end. A glass is placed on the ground. The groom raises his foot and smashes it. Everybody yells mazal tov (Congratulations and Good Luck). Various explanations […]

How to Discover the Meaning of Your Life

“The most important challenge is not learning how to live after death. It’s learning how to live after birth.” Steven Carr Reuben Cats don’t ponder it. Elephants don’t wonder about it. People, however, fret it about it. Why are we […]

Is Work-Life Balance Really Possible?

Even though I’m only 33, I know that people today work harder than ever. During my childhood, my dad had a highly-professional job and still made it home by 5:00 pm. Today my own life and those of my friends […]

Have You Declared Your Interdependence?

Which is the more American holiday–Thanksgiving or July 4th? I used to say July 4th. America is about independence. It is about the free spirit of adventure and progress that built our country. My view hasn’t changed. Yet, my understanding […]

Are There Atheists in Foxholes?

A young disciple once asked his rabbi: “Do you believe God created everything for a purpose?” “Of course,” the rabbi answered. “Then why,” the student asked, “did God create atheists?” The rabbi paused and stroked his beard. He then spoke […]

How To Forgive Even When It Hurts

When his mother died, Mark began to go through her belonging. Knowing she was meticulously organized, he was not surprised to find a stack of daily planners. They covered the years 1948-1997. He began to look through them and saw […]

You are not Special. You are Holy.

Are you special? A Massachusetts English teacher recently made headlines when answered this question with a resounding “No!” Speaking to graduates at an elite high school, David McCullough countered the words of Mr. Rogers and, for the younger generation, the […]

Does God Hear Our Prayers?

A classic joke by comic Emo Phillips captures our frustration with prayer. “When I was a kid,” he writes, “I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so […]

How To Make Your Life A Blessing

Jewish tradition tells the story of a wise man who met with a king. The king challenged the man with a riddle. He said, “In my hands is a small bird. Is it alive or dead?” The wise man paused […]

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Will God Condemn Brittany Maynard for Choosing to Die?
On the most sacred Jewish holiday of the year--Yom Kippur--we literally imagine our own funeral. Men traditional wear a white sash that will also serve as their burial shroud. The purpose is to picture our own death in a way that helps us live ...

posted 10:06:23pm Nov. 02, 2014 | read full post »

The Strange Book of the Bible We Read in Sukkot
Tonight begins the Jewish “Festival of Tabernacles.” Known in Hebrew as Sukkot, we spend time in  temporary outdoor dwellings. They remind us of the fragility of life our ancestors experienced during their journey across the Sinai ...

posted 3:57:40pm Oct. 08, 2014 | read full post »

When a Rabbi Announces He is Gay
Religious leaders are public figures. We live on display. People look at what we drive, what we eat, what we ...

posted 8:01:44am Oct. 08, 2014 | read full post »

Is 75 the Perfect Age to Die?
Dr. Ezekiel Emauel, the well-known bioethicist and brother of the mayor of my town, argued recently in an essay in the Atlantic Monthly that 75 is the perfect age to die. After that, he said, most people have little to contribute to society and ...

posted 9:02:23pm Oct. 05, 2014 | read full post »

Yom Kippur: The Happiest Day of the Year
Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is filled with solemn prayer, and most Jews fast. How, then, can it be the happiest day of the year? Allow me to explain... Picture the scene: It is 1944, in Glasgow, Scotland, in ...

posted 1:29:44pm Oct. 03, 2014 | read full post »

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