During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we cast our sins in to the desert, freeing ourselves from their oppressive burden, unshackling our hearts and minds so that we can begin the year anew. Six months later another new year arrives (Exodus 12:12). After a period of enslavement we find ourselves once again loosening our chains and opening our souls, ready to reencounter that which we cast away.
While the sums are larger and the stakes are higher in recent times, the fear that money corrupts those in power is an age-old issue. As far back as the Hebrew Bible those concerned with justice warned against the powerful and dangerous effects of money in politics.
“A woman is acquired [in marriage] in three ways…by money, by document, or by intercourse.” This is how the first mishnah in the tractate Kiddushin begins. In just this sentence alone we gain a window into how women were seen in the world of the rabbis. As each subsequent generation—from the Talmudic sages of 600 CE to 20th century feminist scholars—probe this Mishnah, the meaning of this statement is investigated, challenged, and, ultimately, transformed.
By witnessing and transforming the most troubling parts of our religions we will transform ourselves and, in doing so, our relationship to those of other faiths. This work must begin with each of us allowing ourselves to be aware of what troubles us about our faith, but this work cannot be fully done alone, or even just with those within our own community. Each of us uniquely mirrors aspects of Gd and those of us from different faith traditions have different lenses through which Gd is experienced. If a goal is for more of Gd to show up within these conversations, then we need one another.
How do we spiritually prepare for the High Holidays during the busiest time of the year?
Shabbat is not only the way we as Jews sustain ourselves, it is how anyone dissatisfied with the world as it is visions and creates the world as they imagine it should be. In the fallout from the tragic Sikh Temple shooting, our attention has been drawn to the culture and practices of the neo-Nazi skinhead groups that the shooter belonged to.I may not be able to change the orientation of these hate groups or affect their vision of paradise. But I can use their vision and mission as a means to examine my own idea of the world to come.
Many Jews, as we enter into our 20s, begin to critique the religious education we were given as children. While we were perhaps taught the importance of community, the obligation to tikkun olam, or the words of the prayer book, when we get a bit older and look back on what we learned, we realize [...]
My understanding of Jewish identity has changed over time, and has included ideas that touch on many of the views articulated in our texts: Jews are people who go to synagogue, Jews care about social justice, Jews are the kids of Jewish parents, Jews speak Hebrew, Jews have a special connection to the land of Israel, Jews believe in Gd, Jews believe in the Torah, Jews are ethical and caring people, Jews love studying texts, Jews are committed to community. Of course, there is no one description that can capture what it means to be Jewish. For every definition one can think of, there are Jews who believe or behave oppositely.
While the messages of the prophets are still desperately in need today, we no longer accept the prophetic system as legitimate. The call for justice is essential, yet the reality of one or two people claiming direct communication with Gd is threatening. Society as we know it could not function if, at a moment’s notice, a prophet might assert himself with a message from Gd.
Why did we move away from a system of prophecy? What has come to take its place? And who is upholding the call for justice, today?
Adina Allen is a fourth year rabbinical student in Hebrew College's transdenominational program in Boston, MA. She is interested in the intersection of religion, ecology, embodiment and creativity.