Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use

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 to “lean in,” to not let internal barriers–like feeling the false need to choose between success or family– hold them back from achieving the highest levels of success.

can women have it all, jewish
The impact of Sandberg’s books remains to be seen. What fascinates me, however, is that her enormous success and drive and passion about this issue has roots in her Jewish identity.

How early Jewish activism shaped her identity

In Time Magazine’s profile, we learn from her family’s history as “activists for Soviet Jews who were trying to immigrate from Israel.” Her parents urged her to stand up for the rights of a persecuted group, and do something to make the world a better place.

Over time that passion translated into government work and business success. It has now expanded into non-profit advocacy and teaching.

Following in giant footsteps

It also follows in the tradition of Jewish values. The role of women in Jewish life has been the subject of great discussion, and it varies between Reform and Orthodox Judaism. What unites them, however, is the belief that a commitment to family and to making a difference in the world are not at odds.

Here are two examples:

1. Sarah: In the Bible, Sarah is not only Abraham’s wife and the mother of Isaac and Ishmael. She is credited for bringing many people into the new religion with Abraham as they were journeying toward the Promised Land. She frequently protects Abraham from the wrath of local rulers with whom they have to negotiate. Her role is an immense and often underappreciated one.

2. Rebecca: The biblical Rebecca is an extraordinary character. Her passion and boldness become clear right when we meet her, as she volunteers to water the flock of Abraham’s messenger and invite him to her home, where she leaves with him over her father’s objection.

Her insight into her children and into the needs of the moment allow her to ensure the survival of the Jewish people.

Perfection is not the goal

Now these two examples should not lead us to believe that Judaism was always perfect and forward-looking in understanding gender roles. It evolves, as all faiths do. Yet, it provides a useful corrective to the kind of binary thinking often blocking us from wisdom.

Family and professional satisfaction are not at odds. They can reinforce one another. We will not be perfect in everything we do. Indeed, Jewish wisdom has taught this truth for milennia.

Yet, as Sandberg puts it, when we find the strength to lean in–when we do not get trapped in false choices–we can work and live in a way that is “sustaining and fulfilling.” May all of us–men and women alike–find that strength.

To see Rabbi Moffic’s new book, click here.

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 the meal, and telling the great story of the journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.

free passover hagaddah

Here are ten things to know about Passover. If you’d like to know more or have questions comments, feel free to leave them below. (and don’t miss the free gift at the end!)

1. Passover celebrates not only the freedom of the Jewish people from Egypt long ago. It honors the freedom we seek today. Freedom from addictions, from materialism, from anything that distracts from the best that is within us. 

2. The Passover seder (ritual meal) is the oldest religious ritual in continuous use in the Western world. 

3. The Passover story has inspired leaders from different groups in different eras: From African Americans during slavery to pioneers of the modern state of Israel to those who struggle to expand our freedoms around the world today. 

4. Both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin wanted the seal of the United States to depict the Exodus story. Jefferson wanted a depiction of the Israelites crossing over the Red Sea. Franklin wanted a display of the cloud of God leading the Israelites through the wilderness. free passover hagaddah

5. Passover is also known as “The Holiday of Matzah,” emphasizing the importance of unleaved bread in observing the holiday. Matzah is eaten during the eight days of Passover because in their haste to escape from Egypt, the Israelites did not have time to let the yeast rise in their bread. Therefore, they ate unleaved bread, known as matzah.

6. The number four is important for Passover because God’s promise of redemption from Egypt is mentioned four times in the beginning of Exodus story, (Exodus 6:6-7). During the seder, we have the four cups of wine, four questions, four types of children, and four hundred years of slavery.

7. Passover revolves around children: Much of the ritual of the Passover seder is meant to keep children engaged. From the telling of the story to the hiding of the afikomen (dessert matzah) to the constant asking of questions is the Jewish sages attempt to make Passover an educational experience, as well as a religious one.

8. More American Jews celebrate Passover than any other Jewish holiday throughout the year. free passover hagaddah

9. In Israel people still conclude the Seder with the words “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Even though they may be sitting and eating in city of Jerusalem, Jerusalem represents more than just a physical place. It sybolizes an era of peace, of harmony, of universal freedom.

10. In 1932 Maxwell House Coffee printed a Hagaddah (the book containing the passover rituals, blessings and story) as part of advertising campaign. It spread quickly and became the most widely-used Hagaddah in America. It was recently updated.

11. (Bonus): There are thousands of Hagaddahs in print today. A free one is available below!

To see Rabbi Moffic’s new book, click here.

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 slavery in Egypt.

passover

Does God Ask the Impossible?

If we think deeply about it, however, we also see that it is quite audacious. Its spirit has rarely played out in human history, because it rubs up against our basic human desire for vengeance.  We tend to hate those who have oppressed us

Leaders like Gandhi or Mandela are the exception rather than the rule. Both of them, and many others, drew their inspiration from ancient Israel.

From the experience of slavery, the Israelites drew not a cause for hatred, but a lesson in the basic need for dignity and freedom. They chose to empathize rather than demonize.

They chose not to define themselves as victims. They become teachers of hope.

Why Empathy Matters

Empathy is not just a nice quality to have. It is not just for people of faith. It matters to each of us. It is critical to our happiness as human beings.

George Washington Carver described why empathy matters in his beautiful words,  “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”

Empathy is the way we open our hearts.

To receive Rabbi Moffic’s weekly digest of Jewish wisdom, click here.

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 history’s most ancient continuous religious rituals.

Its story and symbolism have influenced Christianity as well. Indeed, many Christians will also sit down for a seder, either in church or in their homes, seeking to experience what Jesus and the apostles did.

christian seder
What We Will Learn

To assist both searching Jews and interested Christians, I’m going to devote several artices to uncovering the deep symbolism, richness and contemporary message of the Passover Seder.

Doing so will not only teach about an ancient Jewish ritual, but it also provides a way to explore the meaning and origins of Christian doctrine, and the way Judaism shaped Christianity in its early days.

What is Passover?

Passover celebrates the God’s gift of freedom. It begins with a gathering, usually at someone’s home, in which the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is retold.

The order and protocol of the this gathering is prescribed in detail. It begins with a washing of the hands, continues with cups of wines and a festive meal, and concludes with song.

Each of the 15 steps of this ceremony will be discussed during the course of our articles. Each one is ripe with symbolism and contemporary relevance for Christians and Jews.

How Does Passover Compare With Easter?

The similarities abound.

1. Both take place in the Spring: Easter has no fixed date, but as Dr. Ismar Schorsch put it, “the first council of Nicaea in 325 determined that Easter should always fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. In consequence, Easter remained proximate to the full moon, which coincided with the start of Passover on the fifteenth of Nisan.” In other words, both holidays take place around the first full moon of Spring.

2. Both emphasize hope: Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. In Judaism, Pasover celebrates the renewal of the Jewish people after 400 years of slavery. In Christianity, Easter celebrates the resurrection–the renewal of life–of Jesus.

3. Both holidays shape the foundations of their religions: In Judaism, recalling the Exodus of Egypt is part daily prayer, shaping our understanding of God’s role in history. For many Catholics and Protestants, the weekly sacrament of communion reenacts the last supper and transforms God’s saving grace into a living truth.

For all their similarities, Passover and Easter do diverge in many places. These differences, and their further similarities, will be explored over the next month. My hope and prayer is that we will be enriched through the wisdom and traditions of each other.

To receive Rabbi Moffic’s weekly digest of Jewish wisdom, click here.

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