Judaism


I’ve been thinking this week about how religious traditions build on the customs and sites of those who have gone before – even when those who have gone before are of different faiths.  Christmas trees are derived from non-Christian traditions in Germany, I’m told, and Halloween is derived from Celtic druidic practices – though they have been “baptized.”  A Christmas tree is not used by Christians to worship a different deity.  All Saints’ (or all Hallow’s) Eve remembers those who have died in the faith (even with all the spooky stuff about death and spirits) and who are now alive in Christ.  For that matter, Christians take the Jewish holy writings and look at them through a new lens, and Muslins take both Jewish and Christian holy writings and look at them through a lens of their own.

And it’s not like this is something new.

In chapter 12 of Genesis, when Abram first comes into the land of Canaan, he arrives at the sacred place at Shechem and comes to the oak grove of Moreh.  It is very likely that this oak grove was already a site of worship for Canaanite deities. (more…)

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In our calendar today, we remember William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1881-1944).  Other sources I use also commemorate Leonard (a 6th century hermit).  Very little is actually known about Leonard.  He seems to have been a Frankish noble, converted by Remigius, who chose to become a monk instead when offered a bishopric by Clovis. (more…)

One of the blogs I follow is Midlife Bat Mitzvah (by Ilana DeBare).  And she’s just posted a fascinating interview with one of her rabbis — Andrea Berlin.  In it she talks about how her relationship with God (which is both personal and transcendent) changes every day.  She talks about the authority of the Holy Books of various faiths (“Judaism teaches that I am bound to Torah because my people accepted it.   … Only the people who are part of the covenant need to adhere to it.”)  She talks about prayer (and her personal sense of “waking with God” as she climbed Half Dome).  She talks about cyber=Judaism (which she sees as an emerging and helpful supplement to congregational involvement).  And she talks about her anger with God (“My tradition gives me the right to be very angry at God.”).

If I have whetted your appetite, you can find the whole interview here.

Yes, I realize that (my energy has been low and) I have not been posting of late.  But this, from Midlife Bat Mitzvah is just too good not to mention:  Gospel Shabbat!  It was a special service of the Shabbat set to gospel music composed by Stephen Saxton.  Here are a couple of excerpts:

Rabbi Steven Chester – our senior rabbi, with whom I’m doing my Bat Mitzvah studies – added a political context during the closing benediction when he spoke about Arizona’s controversial new legislation allowing police to stop anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

and

But I’m straying afield. Back to the Gospel Shabbat – it was moving, uplifting and inspiring. I’d love for our temple to host  it again, maybe several times a year. And I could easily see this receiving an enthusiastic welcome at both synagogues and churches across the country. One of Saxon’s aims with the service, in fact, was to deepen interfaith understanding and connections between Christian churches and Jewish congregations.

It makes a lot of sense since a lot of gospel music is about the Exodus in Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land.  Anyway, if you want the whole article, you can find it here.

Here’s something on Sabbath (time) from the Midlife Bat Mitzvah.  Actually, it’s from her husband on how he keeps a (Jewish) Sabbath.  If I feel up to it, I may have more to say on Sabbath later today:

Observing Shabbat: a guest blog

By Ilana DeBare

I am so, so delighted to introduce my first guest blogger!Partly because having a guest blogger makes me feel like I am a Real Established Professional Blogger. (Although, hmm,  aren’t those words — “professional” and “blogger” — oxymoronic?)

 But mostly because this is a fabulous blog post by my husband Sam Schuchat! Who is turning 50 in just about a week. Check out his post. And wish him a happy birthday. Just don’t expect him to respond to email birthday wishes on Shabbat.

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I don’t work on Saturdays.

 Okay, it would be more honest to say that I try not to work on Saturdays.  From sundown on Friday night until sundown Saturday I don’t do e-mail, participate in meetings, or  read anything that isn’t fun. I try very hard not to shop, although like any reasonably skilled Jew I am good at making fine distinctions.  For instance, shopping for dental floss is not appropriate on the Sabbath.  Sales at REI on the other hand clearly fall under the category of “recreation”. Generally speaking, I try not to do anything that in any way resembles what I do for a living, engaging instead in activities that are enjoyable and relaxing.  Napping is high on this list, as well as bicycling. (more…)