How To Study the Bible And Enjoy It

By Rabbi Evan / April 10, 2018
how to study the bible A recent survey suggested that 90 percent of Americans own Bible, but only 20 percent read and study the bible on a regular basis. This suggests to me a discomfort. We think only pastors and rabbis should study the bible. But the Bible is not just for clergy. It is for everyone. To study the bible is to enrich our lives. Doing so connects us with our past, present and future. “Knowledge,” Rabbi Arnold Wolf once said, “isn’t everything. It is, profoundly, the only thing.” If we want to study the bible and gain knowledge from it, we can find the time. How do make that time more meaningful and exciting? Continue reading

Teach Us To Number Our Days: Find Your Heart of Wisdom

By Rabbi Evan / April 9, 2018
Certain verses guide us in life. One of mine, as I pointed out last week, is based on the biblical teaching, “Teach us to number our days… so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalms 90:10 What does this powerful verse mean? It seems simple on the surface. Teach us to number our days is God’s way of telling us to make each day count…to find meaning and holiness every day and not take our days for granted. That’s easier said than done.

A Lesson from Steve Martin

Recall a great scene from the film LA Story: The weatherman, played by Steve Martin, is delivering his typical forecast. As he throws little yellow magnets on the map, he yells “Sun! Sun! Sun! Sun!” Continue reading

3 Lessons from the Facebook Fiasco

By Rabbi Evan / April 7, 2018
Facebook Fiasco Do you feel vulnerable? Many of us do after the Facebook fiasco. What is the Facebook fiasco? The company gathered information about us we did not choose to reveal. They sold that information to others. And now they know more about us—our health, our political views, our family status, the kind of food we like— than we imagined. It’s scary. But I think the Facebook fiasco also illustrates a deeper truth. We are in a period of rapid and extraordinary change: change in the ways we communicate, change in the way work, change in the way we learn, change in the way we experience life. The change has happened so quickly that we have not really reflected on it. What does it mean for you?  Continue reading

3 Lessons from Experiencing the Jewish Sabbath

By Rabbi Evan / April 6, 2018
Jewish Sabbath One of the most eloquent traditions of the Jewish Sabbath is blessing children. Children blessing the Jewish Sabbath On Friday evening before dinner, parents will bring their children close, put their hands on their heads, and whisper a blessing in their ears. The customary blessing for boys includes the hope that they “are like Ephraim and Menasche.” Ephraim and Menasche were the two sons of Joseph and his Egyptian wife. Their grandfather Jacob gave them a special blessing before he died. Aside from this appearance, they do not play major roles in the Biblical narrative. They just appear in the Jewish Sabbath blessings. It seems strange, therefore, that the rabbis chose to use Ephraim and Menasche as the role models for young boys. Continue reading

7 Biblical Verses You Should Know By Heart

By Rabbi Evan / April 5, 2018
A Jewish legend tells of a rabbi and a soap maker. They were walking together and talking about their favorite biblical verses. The soap maker turned to the rabbi asked, “Rabbi, we’ve had religion for so long. But everywhere you look you see war, famines, anger and hatred. It seems to me religion hasn’t helped the world at all. What good is it? ” The rabbi paused. He thought for a moment. Then he said, “Good question. But help me understand. Do you see those children playing over there?” Continue reading

Do Jews Believe in Resurrection of the Dead?

By Rabbi Evan / April 4, 2018
resurrection of the dead The hardest chapter to write for my book on the Jewishness of Jesus was the one on resurrection. I tried to avoid it, but my editor insisted. Resurrection of the dead is not a topic we discuss much in synagogues. In fact, many Jews and Christians today believe Jews have never believed in the resurrection of the dead. Yet, the Talmud says faith in resurrection of the dead is one of the three core ideas of Judaism. Look at chapter 37 of the Book of Ezekiel. In it the Prophet Ezekiel envisions a valley full of dry bones. He speaks to the bones. He tells them God will breathe life into them. They will have skin and flesh and become a great army. The bones symbolize the people of Israel, who will rise again and return to their land. The text is not purely a symbolic vision of rebirth. It is physical, with the spirit giving life to the bones of the dead. The text is traditionally read during the week of Passover.  Continue reading

The 7 Symbolic Foods of Passover

By Rabbi Evan / April 2, 2018
Foods of Passover My confirmation class has excellent attendance. But I suspect the regular Israeli cuisine helps immensely. As much as the content keeps them coming, the food does as well. Foods of Passover The same is true when it comes to the holiday of Passover. Passover centers around the food. Each of the foods has a profound meaning. Here the seven foods of Passover.  Matzah: Matzah is unleavened bread. It is unfermented grains. It tastes crunchy rather than smooth. The reason we eat it is the Israelites did not have time to let their bread rise. Pharaoh and his troops were closing in. Continue reading

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Passover

By Rabbi Evan / March 26, 2018
Passover Every year millions of Jews (and many Christians) gather around a table and celebrate Passover. We tell the story of the biblical Exodus from Egypt. This festive meal is among the oldest religious rituals in the Western world. As the author of a book on Passover and life-long participant in its celebration, I’ve learned Passover has a deeply meaningful message, but it also generates lots of confusion. Here’s what you should know: 1.The Last Supper was not a Passover Seder: The Last Supper is one of the most famous stories (and paintings) in the world. According to the Gospels, it takes place on Passover. But it was a meal not a seder. What’s the difference?  Continue reading

Thank God for Atheists

By Rabbi Evan / March 9, 2018
Thank God for Atheists Yes, you read that right: Thank God for Atheists. This title was prompted by a book I just finished called Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker. [featured-image single_newwindow=”false”] The thesis is that the Enlightenment—a philosophical movement led by great thinkers like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson—ushered in a new way of thinking that greatly benefited humanity. Great Achievements The United States was born in the Enlightenment. Enlightenment ideas have cured diseases, created wealth and promoted democracy. While the book is beautifully written and thoughtful, it has one glaring weakness. Pinker is an atheist with little interest in God. He believes progress comes solely from human ingenuity rather than divine inspiration and guidance. But here’s the problem: The notion of light guiding us forward—of human beings guided by light toward the truth—rests in the Bible. God Creates Light Remember that God creates the world with the following words: “Let there be light.” [see this earlier post on the power of light) Light began as a gift from God. God gave us the means to create, improve, and progress. In other words, an enlightened world is a better world, and the source of that great light is God. Still, despite Pinker’s avowed atheism, I am grateful for this book. It reminds us that ideas matter. And faith matters. Sometimes a person without faith reminds us of how important and powerful it is.
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