Blog

General Topics

Bible Stories

At this time of the year, we re-read the early chapters of Genesis with their fantastic tales of creation and early humanity struggling to cope with life and divine Authority. And every year I re-visit the issue of whether one should take these stories literally. Because that is what I get asked by so many who grapple with tradition and…

Continue Reading

General Topics

Yuval Harari and Religion

I have always enjoyed reading books that challenge my preconceptions. Whether it was Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Pinker, or all the other atheists who rubbished religion, I read them with interest, to see if they could challenge my faith or get me to reassess my arguments. They rarely did, because the straw man of religion that they set up to…

Continue Reading

General Topics

Genesis and Marshmallow

I was reminded of the famous Marshmallow Experiment last week when I read that Dr. Walter Mischel had died on September 12th at the age of 88. When he was a professor at Stanford, he carried out an experiment on children that became one of the most influential psychological tests, even though over time it has been challenged for its…

Continue Reading

General Topics

Impermanence

In discussing the festival of Sucot, the Talmud gives all the various possible explanations for the origin and purpose of a Sucah. Its final idea is that of impermanence. “Leave your permanent home, and live in a temporary home.” In many ways, impermanence is in our genes. Our wandering forebears. Our movable Tabernacle. Exile. Return. Impermanence really resonates with me.…

Continue Reading

General Topics

For All Our Sins

The Torah introduces us to the idea that we confess our sins to God (Leviticus 5:5 and 16:21). To God, not to humans—priests or otherwise—because, according to our tradition, it is a question of human dignity not to demean ourselves in the eyes of other human beings by revealing our errors to other humans. But the Torah gives us no…

Continue Reading

General Topics

The Head of the Year

We are about to enter the season of long synagogue services, with a liturgy that, when translated into English or any vernacular, strikes many people as archaic, distant, and even irrelevant. How many of us can make literal sense of most of the concepts?  Can we say that prayer is meant to be poetic? In Hebrew we can allow the…

Continue Reading