The Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall claims that Women of the Wall “don’t come to worship, they come to demonstrate.” But what he chooses not to see is that separating worship from politics is a luxury reserved for powerful people with normative practices. If you’re a member of a group that’s “out,” accessing the same prayer sites, practices and rituals, in order to worship with the same level of respect and dignity as the “in” group necessarily becomes a political action.
More so than when beloved humans in my life have died, as I prepare for my cat’s death I find myself needing to believe—against any rational argument, against my significant philosophical problems with dualism, and even against my own tradition’s famous ambivalence about an afterlife—that she has a soul, that that soul will somehow persevere after her death, and that some day, I will see her again.
Lamentations–the text traditionally read by Jews on Tisha b’Av– is not the first book that comes to mind when one is asked what the Tanakh has to say about the environment. But this text has some significant things to say about environmental ethics—specifically about the consequences of environmental destruction for humans. As we are forced to confront the reality and implications of unchecked climate change, Lamentations offers a prophetic and terrifying vision.
Are you reading this on a computer? Then thank the guy on the left. The prosecution of computer science pioneer Alan Turing for homosexuality under Great Britain’s indecency laws is a modern example of what the Talmud refers to as “verbal wronging.”
How can I publicly commit to a faith whose sacred texts explicitly condemn an important part of my life? I address this in my Bat Mitzvah drash, on parshat K’doshim-Acharei Mot.
One of the great things about the technological age is that we have a range of medicines and devices that make it possible to have a fulfilling sex life while significantly reducing the risk of an unplanned pregnancy. By all measurable standards of human flourishing, this is awesome. And yet, society has a problem with us saying this out loud.Do our traditions contain the resources to build a truly feminist, inclusive, sex-positive sexual ethic? I hope so. I think so, and I want to believe so, but I am honestly not sure.
Martha Nussbaum writes, “Suppose Jeremiah had said, ‘the heart of Israel is corrupt utterly, but on the other hand there are some very nice people there.’” Sometimes, stating the nuance and the capacity for good in a tradition that has hurt people is deeply inappropriate. Sometimes, devotion to the underlying goodness of a tradition and to its prerogative to practice as it sees fit comes at great cost to the lives of real people. A recent article on anti-gay bullying sheds light on one of those times.
A poster opposing “Mandatory Vaccination” speaks to a fear of losing the individual freedom to make choices about health. But is freedom really the best framework to use in this scenario? Or was the ad a demonstration of how individual freedom is a poor premise on which to base discussions of public health?
For the vast majority of my improvement since being diagnosed with ADHD, I have to credit drugs and therapy. However, learning Rabbinic texts has helped me understand the way my brain works–and the ways to manage that–much better.
I have encountered many mitigating interpretations of the most painful texts in my Torah portion (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13), some more rigorous and thoughtful than others. However, academically and religiously, I ultimately find all of these somewhat unsatisfying. And personally, despite all these interpretations, the verses still hurt.