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Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Spirituality Archives

Is God A Christian?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

R. Kirby Godsey’s new book, Is God A Christian?, challenges what the author describes as the commonly held belief among many religious people that the God in whom they believe is “one of them”.  People, Mr. Kirby observes, too often […]

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Remembering 9/11 – Part One

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 brings up many emotions and presents some very real challenges, among them how to remember the past without being imprisoned by it.  This video, filmed at St. Paul’s, the church closest to the World Trade Center site, is […]

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Is Realty TV Really Kosher? The Ethics Of Realty TV

posted by Brad Hirschfield

I know, at first it seems that ethics and reality TV are about as connected as fire and water – one being the antidote for the other.  But perhaps it’s not as simple as that, a conclusion supported by the […]

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Hard Core Atheist Secularists and Their Religious Counterparts Become Increasingly Alike

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Secularists, atheists really, are following other ethnic and religious identity groups in using academia to create and/or shore up a particular cultural identity.  For example, noted atheist secularist, and editor of the Humanistic Bible, A. C. Grayling is opening a […]

Elul: I Am My Beloved’s and My Beloved Is Mine

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul.  Not only is this a month known to crossword puzzle fans, it is also the month which precedes Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year’s.  Traditionally, the beginning of Elul marks […]

How Rabbis Dress, Then and Now

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The classic image of an Orthodox rabbi is of a man with a long beard and black clothes.  To be sure, that image is common enough, but certainly not the only one.  Speaking personally, while I do have a beard, […]

Who Needs Sabbath?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Who Needs Sabbath?  We all do.  We all need a Sabbath — one that nurtures the body and the soul. But as religious leaders tend to spend more time defining what that means, convincing others to share their definition and […]

Sabbath: Why We All Need One and How To Have One

posted by Brad Hirschfield

We all need a Sabbath, one that nurtures the body and the soul.  But as religious leaders tend to spend more time defining what that means, convincing others to share their definition and condemning those who don’t share it as […]

Gupta v. Asha Enterprises: Blurring the Line Between Physical and Spiritual

posted by Brad Hirschfield

A New Jersey court, in the case of Gupta v. Asha Enterprises, upheld the right of Hindu vegetarians to sue, and seek monetary damages from, a restaurant which, apparently, served them non-vegetarian samosas.  The reason?  What the court called “spiritual […]

Sometimes Prayer Is Not Enough — This Week Was One Of Those Times

posted by Brad Hirschfield

New York is still shaking and so is much of the Jewish world.  Little Leiby Kletsky of blessed memory, was buried Wednesday evening, but nothing has been put to rest.  How could it be otherwise? The details of the horrific […]

The Book of Mormon, The Musical, Is Good For All Faiths

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Broadway’s hottest new musical is the Book of Mormon, and in the wake of its triumph at the Tony Awards, the temperature continues to rise – as it should.  There are many reasons to like the play, but the most […]

Oprah Winfrey Show’s Final Episode: End Of A Religion?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Wednesday May 25, 2011 the lights will dim in the First Church of Oprah as the Oprah Winfrey Show ends a run began in 1986.  Surprised by that formulation?  Shocked that I would call the show a kind of church?  […]

Did God Create The World?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Okay, to be fair, that is a somewhat hyperbolic question, and one which nobody can claim to have proof or even scientific evidence for.  Of course, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  It simply means that the endless debates about […]

New Bible Anyone? This One, Without God!

posted by Brad Hirschfield

A new testament has been published.  No not a new edition of the New Testament, but a new testament — a scripture for secular humanists.  Of course, when it comes to the making of new books, the Book of Ecclesiastes […]

Stephen Hawking says “there is no heaven”. Is he right?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

World famous cosmologist and physicist Stephen Hawking declared “there is no heaven”.  Whether he is correct or not is not something anyone can know for sure.  We can believe as we choose, but we cannot “know” as a matter of […]

When Good Kabbalah Goes Bad?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The Kabbalah Centre, a Los Angeles based world-wide Jewish spiritual movement, one not limited to Jews, is in the news again – once more at the center of a controversy.  This one however is not, as past ones have been, […]

Room in the Military for Atheist Chaplains?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Contrary to the old adage, there really are atheists in foxholes, and in many other places in the US military.  It should come as no surprise that military, like the rest of America, includes atheists and secular humanists among its […]

Is Religion Headed For Extinction?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Whether or not religion is headed for extinction is one of those questions adored by both fans and foes of religion alike, and now they have a new study to add fuel to their ongoing debate. But before either group […]

Values Matter Most

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was correct when he told people gathered at the Conservative Principles Conference, held this week in Iowa, that “If you don’t start with values, if you don’t start by saying who we are […]

Heaven, Hell and Rob Bell

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, continues to stir controversy and provoke debate in many religious circles. Whether Bell is correct or not about who gets into heaven and who will go to Hell is not something which anyone can […]

Fasting Like Esther, A Biblical Practice We Need Today

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Today, March 17th 2011, is Ta’anit Esther, the Fast of Esther, observed before Purim which begins this Saturday night. This is one of those years when the fast before the feast feels especially needed and especially important. The practice is […]

Does God Surprise You?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

A variety of leading Ultra-Orthodox rabbis are speaking out regarding the political unrest which is spreading and deepening throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Their conclusion? It’s God signaling the coming of the Messiah and punishing the region for […]

Teruma: Finding That God Lives Where Hearts Open

posted by Brad Hirschfield

This week, synagogues around the world will read Exodus 25:1 – 27:19, Parashat Teruma, a reading which describes how and where to find God. Speaking with Moses, God says “Let them (the Israelites) make me a sacred place that I […]

Davos and Judaism: Where the Action Is, and Where It’s Not

posted by Brad Hirschfield

This morning’s New York Times included Andrew Ross Sorkin’s fascinating take on the upcoming World Economic Forum meeting held annually in Davos, Switzerland. Delving into the real costs of attending what might be thought of as a festival of hobnobbing […]

When the Messiah Comes…

posted by Brad Hirschfield

My Friend and colleague, Paul Raushenbush, Religion Editor at the Huffington Post, published a fascinating piece on the difficulty of intra-religious dialogue. Yes, intra-religious, not inter-religious. As Raushenbush acknowledges, the conversations we have with those within our respective spiritual communities […]

Synagogue to Bless Animals

posted by Brad Hirschfield

In honor of Tu b’Shevat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat which coincides this year with January 20th, and is often called the Jewish Arbor day, Congregation Dor Hadash in San Diego California will hold a Blessing […]

Biggest Religion Story of 2010? Koran Burning Pastor, Terry Jones

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The Religion Newswriters Association lists the top 10 relgion stories of 2011, and I was disappointed, but not surprised when Pastor Terry Jones did not appear on the list. Jones is the Florida-based minister who planned a public Koran burning […]

What’s Your Calling?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Ever wonder why people choose to become rabbis, priests, ministers or imams? Ever consider what it means to think of your own work as more than a job, but as a calling? Although it’s often assumed to be a real […]

What’s a Jewish Christmas?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

While not always asked in quite that way, Christmas has played a role in the thought and practice of Jews for almost two thousand years. From being a day which inspired terror on the part of oppressed Jewish minorities living […]

Did Jesus Celebrate Hanukkah? And 9 Other Most Popular Holiday Questions

posted by Brad Hirschfield

This list, taken from one of web’s leading search engines, reflects the 10 most asked questions related to Hanukkah. I take full responsibility for the answers and look forward to you adding your own. 1. When does Hanukkah begin? Hanukkah […]

Hanukkah 2010: Discover 8 Nights of Meaning and Light

posted by Brad Hirschfield

As we celebrate Hanukkah 5771, we also begin to wind up the first decade of the 21st century, and what a decade it has been. America went to war and remains so to this day. Israel and the Palestinians are […]

Hanukkah Light Can Chase Away Life’s Darkness

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Hanukkah has many meanings and has celebrated many different values over the years – military victory, political independence, religious freedom, reunification with God, the capacity of people to create their own destiny, the ultimate victory of good over evil, and […]

How To Stay Thankful, On Thanksgiving and Beyond

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Thanksgiving is here and I love the holiday. I also appreciate that being thankful can be challenging in difficult times, whether the challenges are related to finances, health, or relationships. But it’s precisely when we find ourselves in challenging circumstances […]

When Broken Is Whole, A Biblical Perspective

posted by Brad Hirschfield

This week’s Torah reading, Vayishlach, found in Genesis 32:4 – 36:43, includes the well known story of Jacob wrestling with….what the Torah call “a man”, many classical commentaries label an angel, and what others have suggested may have been God […]

Absolute Truth – Does It Exist? What Does It Mean?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

I had an exchange with a ministry student recently about absolute truth, the nature of faith and what it means to believe. Bearing in mind the obvious differences between our chosen traditions, the struggle with what it means to believe […]

Jewish Rock Radio — What It’s All About

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Over 90 million Americans listen to internet radio, and now there is a station dedicated specifically to Jewish rock music. What is Jewish rock music? Is it rock music made by Jews? Is it rock music exclusively for Jews? Is […]

Finding God with Google

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Like pretty much everything else, God can be found on Google. And this week, with the help of Google Street View, you don’t even have to search for images of the Divine to find you. This image, captured by the […]

Finding Faith On Our Own Terms

posted by Brad Hirschfield

I am traveling in Israel this week leading a group of American Jews committed to making the world a better place – a place of greater dignity for all people, a world in which Jews feel more deeply connected to […]

Christine O’Donnell’s God

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell invoked God and God’s will in explaining her political aspirations. Some find her remarks beautiful and others, including the majority of On Faith panelists; find it quite disturbing – some going so far as […]

Who Knows God and Who Knows About God

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The Pew poll of religious knowledge, in which atheists/agnostics scored ever-so-slightly higher than Jews and Mormons demonstrates at least four significant facts about what we know and why we know it. Appreciating these facts would go a long way toward […]

Fortune Cookies and Fortune Tellers, Same as Judaism and Christianity?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Woody Allen, interviewed by Dave Itzkoff, in today’s New York Times was a bit uncomfortable when wished a happy Jewish New Year by his interviewer, responding “That’s for your people”. However, he went to say some very interesting things about […]

Are You As Brave As God?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

There are all kinds of bravery. There is physical bravery which allows firefighters to run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out, or empowers young soldiers to put themselves in harm’s way even when they can avoid doing […]

Rosh Hashanah 2010, Why We All Need This One, Jewish or Not

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The Jewish holidays are not only for Jews. Of course they are Jewish and they do play a critical role in constituting the Jewish people, but Jewish holidays, at least the biblical ones, are not only about that. Rosh Hashanah […]

Eat, Pray, Love…and then what?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Eat, Pray, Love is all the rage, again. After its run on bestseller lists a few years back, it is set to be a major movie success, starring Julia Roberts. It makes one wonder why, and whether or not it […]

Building the Third Temple in Sao Paulo

posted by Brad Hirschfield

First there was Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, destroyed in 587 BCE and rebuilt in stages commencing some 70 years later and culminating in what came to be known as Herod’s Temple some 400 years later, and destroyed in 70 CE. […]

Another List of 50 Influential Rabbis, All Women

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The Sisterhood, a Forward blog devoted to what it describes as “women’s issues, has published its own list of 50 influential rabbis to parallel the one featured for the last four years in Newsweek. And like all such lists, the […]

Tisha B’Av 2010 – Why Mourning AND Recovery are Sacred

posted by Brad Hirschfield

How does a nation mourn a national tragedy? How much is enough? How much is too much? How does mourning help us to move on – to move back into life? These are the big questions which animate Tisha B’Av, […]

Remembering HaRav Yehuda Amital – A Gentle Giant

posted by Brad Hirschfield

HaRav Yehuda Amital, who was buried Friday, is mourned by thousands. Some mourn the loss of their teacher, some of one of Israel’s great public intellectuals. Some mourn the loss of the founder of Israel’s religious peace movement, Meimad, while […]

The Things We Do For God

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The things we do for God, or imagine that we do for God, or do for an imagined God – it doesn’t matter which, since it’s largely the same thing, range from the very best things in the world to […]

Father’s Day Lessons From the Bible’s Lousy Dads

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Father’s Day is not only a great time to celebrate fatherhood, and the actual fathers in our lives, but a good opportunity to think about what being a father really means and how to get better at it. The Bible […]

Remembering the Lubavitcher Rebbe 16 Years After His Death

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The third day of the Hebrew month Tammuz, this year corresponding to the 15th of June, is the yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavticher Rebbe. While most Hasidic Rebbes lead their respective communities, Rabbi […]

Prince Charles’ Islamic Environmentalism Not the Real Problem

posted by Brad Hirschfield

In a speech before the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, Prince Charles of England declared “the Islamic world is the custodian of one of the greatest treasures of accumulated wisdom and spiritual knowledge available to humanity.” About that, there should […]

Hearing God’s Call on Shavuot 2010 and on Pentecost Too

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Shavuot 2010 (Pentecost) begins Tuesday night, May 18th. This holiday, originally the festival of first fruits in the Hebrew Bible came to be associated with the story of God giving the Ten Commandments to the ancient Israelites as recorded in […]

If God Spoke To You

posted by Brad Hirschfield

If God spoke to you, what would you want to hear? Given that Jews are in the final three day countdown to Shavuot and its celebration of revelation at Sinai, it seems like a good time to ask. The final […]

Jerusalem Quotes for Jerusalem Day 2010

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Today is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, the national day which celebrates the unification of Jerusalem and its return to Israeli control in the wake of the 1967, Six-Day War. I love Jerusalem, and called the city my home for a […]

Lag B’Omer 2010: Celebrate Being Kind

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Sunday May 2, 2010 will also be Lag B’Omer – the 33rd day in the 49 day countdown (mentioned in Leviticus 23:15-16) from Pesach to Shavuot, or Passover to Pentecost if you prefer. According to the Talmud, it was on […]

What Does Judaism Say About Sex?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

I was asked that question this week by the Newsweek.WahsingtonPost.com’s On Faith section. And while there is no way to answer that question in a few hundred words, or even with a single answer, there are certain things that we […]

Finding Comfort Following Tragedy – Two New Nachamus

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The Shabbat after Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is always a little bitter-sweet for me. The move from profound tragedy to a taste of the World To Come, as Shabbat is sometimes called is not so simple. How do we […]

This Passover, Bring New Meaning to Parsley and Bitter Herbs

posted by Brad Hirschfield

How is this night different from all other nights? This classic inquiry, which opens the Four Questions recited at the Passover Seder focuses on how that meal differs from all other festive family dinners, let alone the regular ones. But […]

Cursing Jews in the Name of God

posted by Brad Hirschfield

According to the guests gathered in a Great Neck, Long Island home who came together to celebrate a little girl’s first birthday, Rabbi Mordechai Aderet stormed in to the party and rained down curses like an ancient biblical prophet. Sharon […]

Intermarriage and Proselytizing in Judaism

posted by Brad Hirschfield

This morning’s press release from the 121st meeting of the Central Conference of Reform Rabbis made me smile. Whatever one thinks about the substance of their statement on intermarriage, there are lessons there for all of us – lessons about […]

Watching the Academy Awards and Waiting for the Messiah

posted by Brad Hirschfield

On Sunday, tens of millions of viewers will sit down to watch the Academy Awards. Endless attention will be paid to the celebrities walking down the Red Carpet, who they’re with, and what they’re wearing, with plenty of follow up […]

What Is Talmud For?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

There are many answers to the question and the next question which it evokes i.e. why study Talmud?, but I have not seen any better than the one offered by Professor Jacob Neusner, one of the most important talmudists of […]

Purim 2010: What to Do, Eat, and What it’s All About

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Purim 2010 (5770) begins Saturday night and it’s a serious party. Think socially responsible Mardi Gras and you begin to get the picture. Costumes, food, drinking – yes, that kind and lot’s of it, are all part of the tradition. […]

Tiger Woods’ Apology and Its Lessons for All of Us

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Tiger came, apologized and left. Does it matter? Why do we care? If he were not a hugely famous athlete who slept with a seemingly endless stream of women, including many who shared their stories and bared their bodies afterwards, […]

Voodoo and False Prophecy

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The level of hostility evoked by my thoughts on Judaism and Voodoo, both in an earlier post here at Windows and Doors, as well in a recent New York Jewish Week article by Jonathan Mark got me thinking. Why are […]

A Jewish Valentine’s Day

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Perhaps the notion of a Jewish Valentine’s Day sounds odd. After all, Valentine’s Day combines the cultures of pagan Rome and early Christianity, so where does Judaism fit in? I know, it’s “really” a secular commercial day and even thinking […]

Elie Wiesel Wouldn’t Cry for Ahmadinejad. Would God?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel said today that if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were assassinated, he would not shed a tear. I find this response entirely understandable, disturbing that it was said, and contrary to a powerful spiritual teaching from […]

Jew Do Voodoo? A Jewish View

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Voodoo is more in the news since the earthquake in Haiti and lots of weird things are being said, especially about how other faiths do or should regard it. Here’s what I told Jonathan Mark over at the New York […]

Forgiving Mengele and Finding True Liberation

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Forgiveness is hard. Both seeking it and granting it are complicated for most people most of the time. Yet we all have things for which we should be seeking forgiveness and almost as certainly those we need to forgive. Told […]

Tu B’Shevat 2010

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Tu B’Shevat 2010, or perhaps more appropriately 5770, begins at sunset on the 29th of January, which corresponds to the 15th of the month of Shevat in the Hebrew calendar. Although little observed since the time of the Temple, Tu […]

Keeping Your Spiritual Balance

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Beliefnet.com’s VP of Editorial, Michael Kress, shares a piece of his own spiritual autobiography in a column entitled, An Unorthodox Education</em>. Even if I do not entirely accept the dichotomy he draws between tradition and modernity, or personal choice and […]

Shabbat in Haiti: A First-Hand Account of the Past Week

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Arele Klein, a voulnteer serving with the Israeli relief team in Haiti writes movingly of the past week and the work he and the team have been doing since arriving last Friday. As Shabbat approaches, his words open our hearts, […]

Phylacteries, or Tefillin, are Suddenly Big News

posted by Brad Hirschfield

A US Airways flight traveling from New York to Louisville diverted to Philadelphia when crew and passengers became alarmed as a young man strapped something to his head and arm while speaking in a foreign language. Turns out that what […]

A Rabbi’s Prayer in Response to Natural Disaster

posted by Brad Hirschfield

How does one pray in the wake of this week’s events in Haiti? Or does that really beg the question of how we pray on any given day in the face of equally painful, if less grand, tragedies? I am […]

Is “Green” the Newest Religion? Is Guilt Good?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Stephen Asma asks, in the most recent Chronicle of Higher Education, if going Green has replaced Classical religion among the American mainstream, at least insofar as it fuels our sense of moral guilt. It’s an interesting idea, because it reminds […]

Defining Chutzpah and the Spirit of Tzedakah/Charity

posted by Brad Hirschfield

A friend shared the following definition of chutzpah with me, and it came with an accompanying image and story, both of which drive home that definition. That story also teaches a profound insight about caring for people in need, why […]

Angry At God? Good For You…Maybe

posted by Brad Hirschfield

A new Beliefnet.com gallery asks whether it’s “blasphemous” to be angry at God. Three rabbis respond in very different ways, but they all agree that anger at God is acceptable. They also address the issue as if it’s actually a […]

Six Biblical and Jewish Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Now before people start commenting that the title of this piece is an oxymoron because the very notion of New Year’s on January 1st is not even Jewish, please remember a bit of Jewish teaching. Jewish tradition has recognized the […]

Biggest Religion Story of ’09: Faith Gains Ground

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Any retrospective glance at a year’s worth of stories, except this one of course ;), will always privilege the familiar over the emergent, and style over substance. And because of that, the most interesting and important stories are often missed. […]

Gay and Orthodox: The Saga Continues

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Here is a letter, signed by Talmidei HaYeshiva – “Students of the Yeshiva”, in response to last week’s historic public conversation at Yeshiva University which featured four gay men, all current students or alumni of that institution. While it may […]

Gay and Orthodox at Yeshiva University

posted by Brad Hirschfield

What does it mean to live as a gay man in the Orthodox community? Four such stories were shared the night before in a forum sponsored by Yeshiva University’s “Tolerance Club” and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. An unofficial […]

Who Are Your Hanukkah Heroes? Judah Maccabee? Igor Olshansky? You?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Chanukah is a time of heroes, but do we really have heroes anymore? It seems as soon as a contender emerges, a story appears almost as quickly undermining his or her potential status. Even President Obama, viewed by so many, […]

Hanukkah 2009: 8 Tips for an Inspiring, Fun, and Delicious Holiday

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Hanukkah 2009 begins Friday December 11 at sundown. What does Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, mean? What is the holiday all about? How can we have fun celebrating it? What’s a Menorah and how is it properly lit? What are latkes […]

Greetings From The Parliament of the World’s Religions, Part 1

posted by Brad Hirschfield

It has been an amazing day at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, but nothing has been more moving to me than the six Sikh junior high students from an Indian religious academy who interviewed me about what it means […]

News From World’s Biggest Multi-Faith Festival

posted by Brad Hirschfield

As you read this post, it is already tomorrow morning in Melbourne Australia (still freaks me out), where I am attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions – the world’s largest multi-religious meeting, bringing together 12,000 participants from as many […]

One year after Mumbai Attacks – Time for the Unveiling

posted by Brad Hirschfield

It takes time to recover, if that is even the right word, from any loss, and even more so when the loss is a violent one. That is one reason why Jewish tradition, at least as practiced in most communities, […]

200,000 Animals Die in Mass Sacrifice to Hindu Goddess and A Healing Tip From Nepal

posted by Brad Hirschfield

BARIYAPUR, Nepal (AP) — The ceremony began with prayers in a temple by tens of thousands of Hindus before dawn Tuesday. Then it shifted to a nearby corral, where in the cold morning mist, scores of butchers wielding curved swords […]

Are You Good Without God?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Starting this morning adds begin appearing in New York City subways which tell us that for millions of people, the answer is ‘yes’. Following past campaigns in Dallas, Chicago and other locations around the nation this advertising campaign for Greg […]

Mourning and Consolation on Facebook, and Other Sacred Spaces

posted by Brad Hirschfield

We all have loss in our lives. I wish we didn’t, but we do. So the real question is where do we turn with our grief? From whom do we seek and receive comfort? What practices help us to heal? […]

Columbus Day 2009: Was Christopher Columbus Jewish?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The question of whether or not Christopher Columbus was Jewish has been around for quite some time. And while it may not yet (ever?) be solved, its persistence speaks volumes. In fact, there are spiritual lessons to be found in […]

What Is Jewish Pride? Dallas Cowboys’ Igor Olshansky Knows

posted by Brad Hirschfield

What does it mean to be proud of who you are? What does a “proud Jew” look like? In the case of Igor Olshansky, it means being a 6’6″, 315 lb. Defensive End for the Dallas Cowboys who bears twin […]

Sukkot: How to Build a Sukkah — Ask These Architects, or Follow This Simple Plan

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Sukkot begins in just a few hours, and while you might not be able to build a sukkah as amazing as a group of architecture students as Wesleyan University, what they did is worth seeing because of the creativity, pride, […]

Sukkot 2009: What is a Sukkah and Why Do Jews Sit In Them

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Sukkot, the week-long Jewish holiday which begins at sundown this Friday, October 2, 2009, goes all the way back to the Hebrew Bible. Exodus 23:16 and Deuteronomy 16:13 describe it as an Israelite Thanksgiving (but without the turkey), while Leviticus […]

Send Your Prayers to the Western Wall Via iPhone

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Using one’s iPhone as a prayer tool is not necessarily a bad thing. But feeling that it’s necessary to pray, or even to get one’s prayers to the Kotel, the Western Wall, is. I’ll explain, but a bit of background […]

A Yom Kippur Prayer for Anyone Feeling Left Out or Left Behind

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Yom Kippur is ultimately a joyous day, promising forgiveness, atonement and reconciliation for all who seek it. But in classically Jewish fashion, the attainment of such things hinges on genuinely confronting and addressing our deepest fears, angers and hurts. Yom […]

12 Things You Didn’t Know About Judaism

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Now that Rosh Hashanah, one of the best known Jewish holidays, has arrived we have a chance to start again, to discover new things about ourselves, each other and even about ancient traditions like Judaism. While there’s a lot to […]

Invitation To New Interfaith Conversation

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The following comment to my earlier post about the Pope’s demand that Bishop Williamson recant his denial of the Shoah, inspires me to publically seek partners among leaders of the Catholic Church, both clergy and lay, for a new kind […]

Pope Orders Bishop Williamson to Recant

posted by Brad Hirschfield

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Vatican Secretariat of State said that Bishop Williamson “must absolutely, unequivocally and publicly distance himself from his positions on the Shoah,” or Holocaust, or else he would not be allowed to serve as a […]

Spiritual Lessons from Super Bowl XLIII

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Our bodies and our souls are deeply connected. The physical/spiritual divide is really a theological position made up by folks who thought that our bodies were bad or sinful, but that we had a better part, called soul, buried within […]

The Eight Days of Hanukkah: Day Eight, The Most Important Story of All

posted by Brad Hirschfield

This one is easy. The Most important Hanukkah story of all is yours. For seven days we have shared versions of a 2,200 year old story that have inspired people across the time and around the world. And it was […]

The Eight Days of Hanukkah: Day Seven, Your Inner Light

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Hanukkah also celebrates the little light found within and its ability to dispel a great deal of darkness. Whether within a little vase of oil found in the Temple or within our own hearts, this story promises that good things […]

The Eight Days of Hanukkah: Day Six, Freedom of Religion

posted by Brad Hirschfield

For thousands of years people have struggled for the right to practice their faith freely. Not surprisingly, the story of Hanukkah as the celebration of religious freedom became particularly popular in America where we have been conducting the single most […]

The Eight Days of Hanukkah: Day Five, Zionism and Homecoming

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Another day brings yet another Hanukkah story. But, in case you missed them, check out yesterday’s and previous days’ Hanukkah stories too. Worth doing so for the comments alone! But now, on to today’s telling of the the Hanukkah tale. […]

The Eight Days of Hanukkah: Day Four, Spiritual Renewal

posted by Brad Hirschfield

As we reach the mid-point of the holiday, we reacall that Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the newly liberated Temple, as the word’s literal translation suggests. It also celebrates the spiritual renewal of the community which gathers around that institution […]

The Eight Days of Hanukkah: Day Three, Miracles Do Happen

posted by Brad Hirschfield

For many, the message of Hanukkah is that miracles really do happen and that they can happen for us. This story, found in the Babylonian Talmud, recounts how upon entering the newly liberated Temple in Jerusalem, the Hasmonean soldiers found […]

The Eight Days of Hanukkah: Day Two, Fighting Assimilation

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Yesterday’ post told the story of Hanukkah as one of liberation. The story of Hanukkah, is also told as one of civil war between Jews living in the land of Israel, some so-called “traditionalists” and others “assimilationists” who wanted to […]

Eight Gifts for Hanukkah: Day One, Liberation

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Hanukkah is a story of many stories. In each of them we see how specific generations of Jews, or those with different spiritual or communal needs addressed the challenges they faced. In honor of those many stories, Windows and Doors […]

Finding Miracles for Yourself and Others

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Hannukah is about many things. The story is about a tiny amount of oil that burned for eight days instead of only one. It’s about the unexpected victory of a small army over one much more powerful. It’s about finding […]

Hannukah Questions Answered

posted by Brad Hirschfield

A friend, who happens to be a professor of religion and also a practicing minister, asked me the following wonderful questions about Hannukah, its practices and meaning: Why are there SO MANY spellings of the word “Khanukah”? Is the story […]

400 Dead. Does Anybody Care?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Double the number killed in Nigeria as those murdered in Mumbai, and many more refuges in light of the mayhem, and yet the response to this past week’s events in Nigeria is relatively muted. Why is that? Could it be […]

One Dead Rabbi Not the Issue

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivki were murdered, along with three other hostages, at the Chabad community center which they ran in Mumbai. And as much as I am hurting over their deaths, I am more devastated by the […]

Dieting For God

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Does God care what size we are? According to Christine B. Whelan in this morning’s USA Today, The answer is certainly not! But how can she be so certain? If there really is a God (I believe that there is) […]

The Limits of Karen Armstrong’s Compassion

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Karen Armstrong’s invitation to the world to begin writing today, a Charter for Compassion, strikes me as well-intentioned silliness at best. At worst it is a more benign form of the same religious arrogance which she decries and which lies […]

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Suffering is not a zero-sum game, even when it comes to the Holocaust. But based on many comments from inside the Jewish community about the new film, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, one might think otherwise. Apparently, the very […]

Kristallnacht, 70 Years Later

posted by Brad Hirschfield

On Nov. 9, 1938, Jewish homes, shops and synagogues were ransacked across Germany and parts of Austria. Jews were shipped to concentration camps and beaten to death. Synagogues burned. Today we remember this pogrom as Kristallnacht, the night of broken […]

Dying Well

posted by Brad Hirschfield

There are many understandings of dying well but few extol the value of loneliness. And the hospice chaplains described in this article know that, beyond all else. It’s powerful stuff which transcends any particular faith or ideology. In, fact, many […]

Does Religion Empower Women?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

This week’s Women’s Conference 2008, chaired by California First Lady, Maria Shriver, bills itself as “the largest and most dynamic gathering of women in the nation”. And while the annual event will see more than 10,000 participants, the claim is […]

Kabbalah and Madonna’s Divorce

posted by Brad Hirschfield

It’s well known by now that Madonna and Guy Ritchie are divorcing. And it’s also well known that the divorce promises to be ugly, featuring the work of “pit bull” attorneys working for both sides. It’s a shame that with […]

American Prayer, Featuring Barack Obama as God

posted by Brad Hirschfield

I happen to love the new music video of American Prayer – the song is stirring, the imagery is powerful, the many stars it features, including Whoopi Goldberg, Forest Whitaker, Joss Stone, and Herbie Hancock, are warm and engaging. Even […]

Farwell Abby Lockhart, Hello Job

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Apparently, the writers of NBC’s hospital drama, ER, are reading their Bible. They liberally seasoned last night’s departure of long-time star, Maura Tierney who played Dr. Abby Lockhart, with lengthy citations from the Book of Job. And although they never […]

This Sukkot: Seven Steps to Spiritual Openness

posted by jsturiale

Sukkot, the Jewish holiday first mentioned in Leviticus 23:34 and known to Christians as Tabernacles, celebrates the desert journey from slavery to freedom taken by the Israelites. It also celebrates our own spiritual journeys and provides a way to make […]

Cancerous Faith

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Faith is central to living a good life – it may be faith in God, it may be in science, it may be in those we love. Frankly, I believe in them all even as I appreciate that they are […]

Greed On Main Street as Dangerous as on Wall Street

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Listed $140,000 Below Its Value Denver Just One Market Where Houses Sell For A Fraction of Their Worth This headline, found on the AOL Homepage’s opening gallery, proves both how little we have learned from the current economic crises, and […]

What Do Biden and Palin REALLY Believe? Questions for Tonight’s Debate

posted by Brad Hirschfield

How can a candidate proclaim a faith which teaches about all aspects of life but tell us that those teachings will not shape their approach to governing the rest of us, who may not share that faith? If they genuinely […]

Overcoming Boredom by Eating God for Rosh Hashanah

posted by Brad Hirschfield

There are many customs on Rosh Hashanah: blowing the shofar, eating apples dipped in honey, and long hours of prayer and meditation. But until I watched the cartoon adventures of Todd and God on You Tube, I never knew that […]

How To Sound the Shofar and Hear A Symphony of Unity

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The shofar is the most widely recognized symbol of Rosh Hashanah, and has been synonymous with Judaism since antiquity, when it was used to marl Jewish graves more often than the Star of David. So how we use the shofar […]

All Things Are Forgiveable

posted by Brad Hirschfield

There have been many questions about the idea that all things are forgiveable. This comment by J, is a good example. I hope my response to J is helpful to all of you who are wrestling with this idea, and […]

Forgiveness: 10 Steps To Giving It and Getting It

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins on Monday night. Like all New Year’s celebrations, it’s a chance to start over. And starting over often involves forgiveness — both giving it and getting it. Neither of those is easy, but […]

The Possibility of Meaningful Atheism

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The most recent New York Review of Books features one of the most heartfelt, sensitive, open-minded and thought-provoking pieces I have seen on the possibility/advisability of meaningful atheism, of what the author describes as living without God. I happen to […]

Keeping the Sabbath Holy

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The following questions appeared on yesterday’s Windows & Doors post about Jews and anti-Christian bias. Frankly, I am surprised that it took this long for the question to be asked. Rabbi, this is not a criticism so please don’t think […]

Justice and Mercy on Wall Street and in Galveston

posted by Brad Hirschfield

If someone plays in the traffic, are we obligated to risk our own lives to pursue them into the road and drag them to safety? And if we are, who should pay for the rescue operation? Those are not abstract […]

Prayer in Public Schools, But When?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

With a new school year beginning, we are likely once again, to see many questions about prayer in public school raised. This one, asked by a listener who heard me on NPR, struck me as particularly worthy of sharing. Hello […]

Letter to an Evangelical Friend

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Some months ago I had the pleasure to meet a documentary film maker who is also an Evangelical Christian. Actually, those two facets of his identity are pretty closely related, at least right now, as he is working on a […]

The Limits of Forgiveness

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Recent events with John Edwards’s affair have gotten lots of people saying lots of things about betrayal, the nature of forgiveness, who deserves to be forgiven and under what circumstances. Most of it has been pretty angry stuff, which won’t […]

What’s a Jewish Blog?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Has it been circumcised? Does it observe the Sabbath? Perhaps it’s written in Hebrew? Not for me, even though I pass all three of those tests. But in light of some recent traffic, I think it’s time to reflect on […]

Do Miracles Happen?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Of course they do, at least as far as I’m concerned. But that’s just one man’s opinion and also a function of my definition of miracle, which is a positive outcome or turn of events that can not be explained […]

Are You There God? Tisha B’Av Asks and Answers

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Are you there? How often has each of us asked that question of God? Of a lover? Of a parent, a child or a friend? The Jewish national day of mourning, Tisha B’Av, which is observed for ours commencing Saturday […]

The Journey from Skinhead to Ultra-Orthodox Jew

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Alana Elias Kornfeld, an assistant editor at Beliefnet.com, details a Polish man’s journey from being a neo-Nazi skinhead to his current life as an ultra-Orthodox Jew living in Warsaw. The amazing thing about it though, is how little distance lies […]

Mass Murderer Rodovan Karadzic Snared By Ego

posted by Brad Hirschfield

It appears that the apprehension of former Bosnian Serb leader, Rodovan Karadzic, who was arrested for war crimes yesterday, was due more to ego and the love of costumes than to great police work. Years of searching for the architect […]

Healing What Hurts

posted by Brad Hirschfield

In response to a wonderful set of questions generated by yesterday’s post on how to deal with a painful past, I continue where yesterday left off. Lucy wrote: I’m wondering if the concept of pain that you are referring to […]

How to Deal With a Painful Past

posted by Brad Hirschfield

We all have events from our past which cause us pain. The question is how to deal with them. Today is the 20th of July, but it is also the 17th day in the month of Tammuz, according to the […]

A Mysterious Gift In Madrid

posted by Brad Hirschfield

I leave the Madrid Conference for Global Religious Dialogue this morning with many things, including a mysterious gift, many questions, and genuine hope for the future. But the gift comes with the best story, so let’s start there. The phone […]

Does Kabbalah Work?

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Did Madonna really brainwash A-Rod? These were the questions I was asked yesterday on Entertainment Tonight as they explored the sex, romance and religion story of the moment. My answer to the second question was already explored in yesterday’s posting, […]

Kabbalah, Madonna, and A-Rod

posted by Brad Hirschfield

This morning’s papers including The New York Daily News, are filled with articles about Madonna, Kabbalah, The Kabbalah Center, and how they are effecting her relationship with baseball star, Alex Rodriguez. Among the charges being made, is that Madonna is […]

Wonderful Weekenders 2.0

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Are you ready for the weekend? A little planning and a few simple practices can help you have a wonderful weekend, or inject a bit of weekend relaxation into the middle of a busy week. And so each Friday, for […]

Thank God For The Atheists

posted by Brad Hirschfield

I give thanks to God for the 21% of atheists who, according to the recent study by Pew, affirm their belief in Her or Him, and I am blown away by the holiness of such people who manage to pray […]

Get Intelligent!

posted by Brad Hirschfield

That’s the challenge to the listeners, and to myself, on my weekly radio show. Hirschfield and Kula is carried on Portland’s KXL Newsradio 750, and finds the spiritual perspective on everything from how we raise our kids, to politics, to […]

Sex Without Relationships

posted by Brad Hirschfield

The breaking controversy about the acceptability of things like gayness and the ordination of women in the Anglican Church is important for all of us, whatever we think about these issues and whether or not we are even Anglicans. Why? […]

WONDERFUL WEEKEND RITUAL

posted by Brad Hirschfield

It’s Friday and if you are like me, and lots of other people, you are already thinking about the weekend. Of course if you hate your job, then you’ve probably been doing that since last Monday, but that’s a whole […]

How Many Israels: Empathy As A Path To Peace

posted by Brad Hirschfield

It’s taken me a few days to figure out why The Two Israels, Nicholas Kristof’s piece in this past Sunday’s New York Times is so disturbing. It’s not because he focuses so much critical attention on the Jewish settlers in […]

I’ll Meet You Here Tomorrow

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Why does an author and talk-show host who was once a settler in the west bank city of Hebron, who grew up in a largely secular, Jewish home in Chicago, where he returned to study religion at the University of […]

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More blogs to enjoy!
Thank you for visiting Windows and Doors. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Truths You Can Use Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 1:28:03pm Aug. 02, 2012 | read full post »

Apple's "Jew or Not Jew" App -- Should It Be Legal?
An Apple application that let users guess which French politicians or celebrities are Jewish was pulled from France's App Store. but its American equivalent is still available. French activist groups said the "Jew or Not Jew?" app violated bans on compiling information on people's religion and rev

posted 1:18:48am Sep. 18, 2011 | read full post »

Is God A Christian?
R. Kirby Godsey’s new book, Is God A Christian?, challenges what the author describes as the commonly held belief among many religious people that the God in whom they believe is “one of them”.  People, Mr. Kirby observes, too often confuse God’s religious identity with their own, leading t

posted 11:59:56am Sep. 12, 2011 | read full post »

Remembering 9/11 - Part One
The tenth anniversary of 9/11 brings up many emotions and presents some very real challenges, among them how to remember the past without being imprisoned by it.  This video, filmed at St. Paul's, the church closest to the World Trade Center site, is a wonderful example of rising to that challen

posted 2:40:58pm Sep. 08, 2011 | read full post »

Gilad Shalit, Still A Prisoner After 1,900 Days
Below is a copy of the Statement I got from the White House, and while I appreciate the words, I can't help but also ask, "Is this the best we can do?"  United States Mission to the United Nations Office of Press and Public Diplomacy 799 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017 (212) 41

posted 9:04:17am Sep. 08, 2011 | read full post »

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