How Politics Distorts the Brain

The Next News Cycle Becomes More Important than the Next Generation

One of the reasons we love to order from Amazon is the speed. You can get a new shoes on your doorstep tomorrow.

tick-tock

In downtown Chicago, you can get fresh fruit within two hours. Amazon creates instant gratification.

Paradoxically, however, Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, thinks primarily of the long-term. His perspective is the opposite of instant gratification.

A few years ago he funded a big clock tower in West Texas that ticks once per years. It is built to last 10,000 years! 

What the World Needs Now

2 Ways to Find Shalom

Do you know that great Burt Bachrach song, “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love?” Very true.

shalom

But the world also needs Shalom. Shalom is peace, wholeness, integrity. It is grace, fullness, trust. (For an understanding of the Shalom is really used in the Bible, see chapter 8 of www.rabbimoffic.com/jewishjesus

How do we get more Shalom? We start small. When I was young,” recalled a great nineteenth century rabbi, “I wanted to change the world. I tried, but the world did not change.

5 Elie Wiesel Books You Need to Read

May His Memory Be a Blessing

The world is not the same without Elie Wiesel. He did more than write. He did more than teach. He symbolized survival and hope.

Elie Wiesel

I met him at age 13 when my dad and I drove from Milwaukee to Chicago to see him speak. Afterward we went up to talk, and my dad embarrassed me by telling Wiesel I wanted to become a rabbi.

He said “We need you,” and then he grabbed my hand and offered a blessing. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember the feeling of holiness he created. He felt like a link to the past and a push into the future.

So many eloquent tributes have been written over the last two days. They come from people who knew him far better than I did.

What I hope to convey to Christians and Jews is a touch of his literary genius. His writings influenced millions of people. He not only conveyed the horror of the Holocaust. He also revealed part of the beauty and wisdom of the Jewish tradition.

Here are a few of his greatest books. You will not regret reading any of them.

  1. Night: This seminal book captures the absolute horror—physical, psychological and spiritual—of the Holocaust. It does so in stark unadorned language. Publishers initially hesitated in promoting this book because it is so bleak. It reveals the evil of which we are capable, and it is a witness and a prod for us to do everything we can to never forget.
  1. Five Biblical Portraits: Wiesel grew up in a home infused with Jewish learning. He knew the Bible intimately, and he tells the stories of biblical figures with a language and emotion rooted in the traditional Jewish piety. This book exposes  a side of the Bible rarely captured in sermons or scholarship.
  1. Trial of God: Wiesel maintained a complex theology. He doubted and believed. This book tells of a group of prisoners in the Auschwitz death camp putting God on trail for crimes against humanity. They convict God. Then they proceed to say their evening prayers.
  1. All Rivers Run To the Sea: Wiesel tells the story of his childhood through his experience of the death camps. The title of this memoir is taken from the first chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Few books are more interesting and revealing than autobiographies of extraordinary people who write with eloquence and insight. This book is all of that and more.
  1. The Town Beyond the Wall: This novel tells of a Jewish man who returns to his native Hungary to find out why his neighbors gave him up to the Nazis. The man ends up getting thrown in prison. Wiesel explores how societies both change and remain the same, and what our responsibility is to the future.

Thankfully, each of these books will keep Elie Wiesel’s memory alive. As we say in Jewish tradition, Zecher Tzadik L’vracha, “May the memory of the righteous endure among us as an everlasting blessing.”

Finding Hope After the Horror

A Jewish Holiday to Help us Deal with the Anger and Despair

I sent the following letter to my congregation this afternoon after the shooting in Orlando.

Dear Friends,

The worst case of gun violence in American history struck Orlando this morning. We feel angry and despondent.

orlando shooting

Angry at the targeting of a gay nightclub, making this a hate crime; angry at the commitment to Islamic terrorism motivating the shooter; angry at the ability for such a terrorist to obtain high-powered guns.

And we feel despondent at our seeming  inability to do anything to prevent such violence. Just under a year ago a man walked into an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine people studying the Bible. Have we learned anything?

As Jews, however, we are told to never give up hope. That hope was born at Mount Sinai, where we received the Torah.

Today is the holiday of Shavuot, where we celebrate that giving of the Torah. The Hebrew word Shavuot means “weeks.” But it also means “oaths.”

At Mount Sinai we took an oath to live by certain values. Paramount among those values is a love of life, as we toast “l’chayim, to life.”

Let us rededicate ourselves today to doing everything we can to save lives—the lives of those targeted by guns, the lives of those living under the threat of terrorism, and the lives of those who are hated simply for who they are.

With hope and prayers,

Rabbi Evan Moffic

The Kindergarten Stabbing

A Short Story of Anger, Regret and Forgiveness

Many years ago, the director of my Sunday school once came to me with a problem. A girl in the third grade class felt isolated from all her peers. They ostracized her. She left each day crying.

Angry-toddler-tantrum

I did a little investigating and learned the reason. Back in kindergarten, this girl had poked another girl with a pencil. It was a hard poke. But nothing too serious. She apologized and the class moved on. 

Why Don’t I Get More Letters Like This?

Easter is coming up. Do Not Miss This.

Sometimes a reader understands your book better than you do. That’s the feeling I got after receiving this letter. It reveals exactly what my newest book can teach and do for readers.

Click to Get a discounted copy of the Book

Click to Get a discounted copy of the Book

Dear Rabbi,

“When I was growing up, I had a number of Jewish friends, and I used to visit the synagogue yearly as a part of our Sunday school ecumenical program.

Nevertheless, I can’t say that I knew much about Judaism as a religion. It wasn’t until I was middle aged that I even met a devout Jew.

Thus this book was a revelation for me.

Why are There So Many Jewish Lawyers (and Supreme Court Justices)?

2 Reasons It Makes Me Proud

The entire world Jewish population is 13 million. That is smaller than a tiny statistical error in the Chinese Census. Between 5 and 6 of those 13 million live in America. We constitute to about 1.7% of the American population.

Judge Merrick Garland. His grandparents fled antisemitism.

Yet, if Judge Merrick Garland is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice (a big if!), four out of the nine justices would be Jews. That’s almost a majority. What explains this extraordinary representation? Two factors: 

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 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. 

A Frog Must Jump: Or How We Always End Up Following Our Passion

A good friend of mine is a highly successful entrepreneur. He also happens to be a rabbi.

We met in rabbinical school. At the time he planned to lead a congregation, as I do now. By the time we graduated, however, plans had changed.

Even before graduating, he was leading a new Jewish organization. (The closest Christian analogy would be a church plant). Then he was advising other start-ups.

Soon he began an after-school initiative. While rooted in the Jewish value of education, this is not a religious program.

Once a Rabbi, Always a Rabbi

He is, of course, still a rabbi. But he is, truly, an entrepreneur. And he can’t not create and grow a business.

Or, as my grandpa once said, “a frog must jump.”

See, we have certain skills and inclinations. Whether we were born with them or developed them over time, they shape what we love to do and what we do well. Unless they are dangerous or harmful to others, we are foolish to ignore or try to hide them.

What is Your Passion?

If you are a singer, sing. If you think logically and strategically, be a lawyer or consultant. If you love science, be a doctor or researcher. If you love to teach, teach.

I’m not sure where rabbi fits in. Perhaps it’s a person who loves people, God and community.

And if you are a writer, write. It’s part of what I do. And here’s a little taste of what I’ve written. http://www.rabbimoffic.com/passoverbook and http://www.rabbimoffic.com/JewishJesus

What is your passion? Tell Me by Leaving a Comment Below