Tag Archives: religion

The Tainted Grain

20 Apr

There is a Rebbe Nachman story that has come to my mind many times in the past few years. This year, looking at the Pesach madness and feeling myself both drawn towards it and repelled by it at the same time, I think again about this story. It goes as follows:

The king’s star gazer saw that the grain harvested that year was tainted. Anyone who would eat from it would became insane. “What can we do?” said the king. “It is not possible to destroy the crop for we do not have enough grain stored to feed the entire population.”

“Perhaps,” said the star gazer, “we should set aside enough grain for ourselves. At least that way we could maintain our sanity.” The king replied, “If we do that, we’ll be considered crazy. If everyone behaves one way and we behave differently, we’ll be considered the not normal ones.

“Rather,” said the king, “I suggest that we too eat from the crop, like everyone else. However, to remind ourselves that we are not normal, we will make a mark on our foreheads. Even if we are insane, whenever we look at each other, we will remember that we are insane!”

We are limited by this world. We see our reality through the spectacles of time, place, emotion and the limitations of these concepts. We long for things we know will bring us no true happiness and satisfaction, we fear what we should embrace (death) and embrace what we should fear (disconnection from God). We are really part of this madness in some way or another and we’re helpless. We see the linear rather than the infinite and we constantly blind ourselves to God’s constant presence and messages. This crazy world is our madness that we will be afflicted with until the day we die.

Is there anything we can do to prevent the affliction? Not much. But those stickers on our brow, the reminder of what we once lost and what we ought to have may serve to gently prod us into questioning the reality we live in.

Yes, we’re mad too, in our own way. But at least we know it.




when religious leaders destroy families

17 Sep

There is a reason why God gave us family. We are unlike certain animals, that once they have left the nest or den, no longer have any bond (that we can see, anyways) with their parents and siblings. For us the family bond can strengthen us, ease us, ground us and sometimes destroy us but we can never obliterate it.

For some strange reason, and I really don’t know how it came about, religious leaders are pulling at the fabric of families.

Let’s give an example from orthodox Judaism. A newly religious baal teshuva asks his rav, can I eat the food of my not-so-religious parents? The rabbi in his shortsightedness, issues a ruling within a few minutes that can irrevocably alter the relationship between this person and his or her parents. He cannot sit with them and eat from their dishes at their table (even if they have always kept a certain level of kashrut), he asks questions and checks labels, he is suspicious, they feel demeaned, disrespected and marginalized. And for what? A doubt, a mild suspicion, a chance. But the chance of their relationship being severely compromised is much higher than this strictly observant person breaking a rule of halacha.

You should not put foreign Gods before you. So God teaches us – the most fundamental law of all. Yet we do it all the time. We ask this religious leader how we should conduct the most intimate and complex of relationships as if he were God! He’s not even a psychologist or a social worker (not that I trust them much anyways) so how can he possible try to peer inside our private lives and decide what is right. A family is perhaps one of the biggest complexities of all. The worst thing is, the power that this lay leader has must be intoxicating. I cannot trust myself sometimes with the authority I have over my own kids but to have people asking you what to do in the most fundamental aspects of their lives? Well, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t get high on that occasionally. As a result, not only is the lay leader going to do all he can to protect his interests and continue having his community dependent on him, his congregation become increasingly dependent and crippled as a result.

We are simply too frightened to stop and to ask where God is in all of this. He is with us in every aspect of our life. No rabbi can be God’s representatives unless God has clearly said so. And for those who do not have the patience to wait for God to speak, they have to understand that this problem is theirs and doesn’t belong to anyone else.

Please don’t send me a New Year’s Greeting

4 Sep

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, I have a request to all of you who have sent me SMS’s, Emails and messages on Facebook. Why can’t we start our new year with a bit of honesty and sincerity? How honest and sincere is it to put my name on your mailing list and press the ‘send’ button? If you have something to say to me, say it from the heart; pick up the phone and just say something I don’t know. I don’t care what it is – I saw such and such and it made me think of you, I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch for a long time but I just wanted to wish you a Shana Tova etc etc. To be quite honest, I would rather hear something authentic and sincere even if it’s not so nice than receive a pile of banale brachot on my i-phone.

This Rosh Hashana, I ask God to guide me and to accompany me. If there is something I do without Him, God help me. If there is something I do by turning my back on Him, God help me. I know I’m nothing, I know that I am no better than people who send banale SMSes but at least God has given me the clarity to see that that is all I am. I am not going to sit in front of my simanim and pretend this is what He wants. I’m not going to spend 6 hours in shul to ‘get that kavana’ and pretend that this makes a damn difference to the master of the world. I would rather just be, no chicken, no honey cake, no pomegranates and no fancy table, just me with Him and hope and pray that he will continue to shine His light on me and guide me to a year of grace. His grace.


Self-Reflection or Denial?

19 Aug

God created us in his image; we can grow, change, create, adapt and wake up one morning and decide to be someone completely new. These are our Godly gifts.
What is the opposite? Being static, rigid, fearful of change and clinging on to the old and familiar simply because that is all we know. Unfortunately religious dogma creates and encourages this.
Dear God, there is only one reality; it is the one you create for me. Let me accept it, adapt to it and use it as a means of growing and changing with You and for You.


religion – the bad parent

4 Jun

An interesting exploration into the nature of religious dogma and doctrine, and the systematic abuse that takes place in the name of religion.
The author is an atheist and I am most certainly not. However, I feel that the points he makes are very valid and that we should always seek God in our ‘adult’ state (you’ll see the video, or others in his series to understand this concept).