3 Lessons from Experiencing the Jewish Sabbath

One of the most eloquent traditions of the Jewish Sabbath is blessing children.

Jewish Sabbath

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

biblical versesA 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?

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

The Secret of King Solomon’s Bracelet

There are many legends about King Solomon’s bracelet. But the most important part of it was not its mystical power. It was the inscription.

When times were good, he looked at the inscription. When times got tough, he looked at it. When he celebrated, he looked at it. When he mourned, he looked at it.

Somehow, the words on King Solomon’s bracelet always had the right message at the right time. Continue reading

Does God Care About the Super Bowl?

Does God care who wins the Super Bowl? Do you?

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Well, if you’re from Philadelphia or Boston you might.

But I don’t think God does. I don’t think God is waiting to see which teams prays harder.

But what about the pre-game prayers? What about the pastors who come into the locker rooms? Do they matter?

I think we can find some guidance from what Tim Tebow said. Tebow was often criticized for his wearing his faith so proudly. He prayed before each game with devotion and consistently.

But here’s what he also said: He said he does not pray to win the game. He prays he makes the right decisions. He prays for guidance.

That’s something each of us can do.

God may not have a favorite team. But God does have a favorite book. And that book is our guide to a life of ultimate victory.

With warmest wishes, Rabbi Evan

P.S.: You can still get the Happiness Prayer for $2.99 on Amazon! It’ll make good half-time reading.