Author and teacher Rabbi Rami Shapiro is encouraging Perennial Wisdom to lead us beyond alienation and isolation to integration and unity, based on Genesis 12:3: “You shall be a blessing to all the families of the earth.”
I’m a Jew shaken by the murder of Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania. Is this President Trump’s fault? Why do people hate us? What can be done to stop such evil?
Rabbi Rami: While it’s true that our president’s rhetoric stokes anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny, Jew hatred predates him by 3,000 years. Most people who hate us hate us simply because we’re Jews. They need no other reason. But some Jew haters do have a rationale for their irrational hatred.
Many white supremacists, for example, hate us because they insist (rightly, since Jews come in all colors) that Jews are not white and (wrongly) that we are at the heart of a global conspiracy to overthrow white hegemony and establish liberalism around the world (I wish). Some on the extreme right hate us because we care about refugees and support the full enfranchisement of women and people of color. Some on the extreme left hate us because they insist (wrongly) that Jews are white and (wrongly again) associate Jews with Zionism and Zionism with white supremacy and misogyny. We can’t win. We shouldn’t even try. Instead, we should make certain that the Judaism we follow is worthy of their hate.
The Judaism I live calls me to fight for economic and environmental justice, civil rights, the welfare of refugees, egalitarianism, science, reason, free thought, free speech, a free press, freedom of and from religion, and a free, democratic, and secular Israel alongside a free, democratic, and secular Palestine. My Judaism calls me to be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). People who hate that may hate me, as well. I couldn’t be prouder.
My life is defined by bad choices. I picked the wrong spouse, the wrong career, the wrong city to live in—even the wrong hair color! To paraphrase a proverb about luck, if it weren’t for wrong choice, I’d have no choice at all. How can I choose differently?
My suggestion is to stop choosing. Hire a life coach or guru to make all your decisions for you. All you have to do is follow orders. Since you always make bad choices, chances are you will choose the wrong life coach or guru as well, but letting someone—even the wrong someone—choose for you can’t be any worse and might be substantially better than your choosing for yourself. If your coach’s choices turn out just as bad as your own, simply do the opposite of what your coach suggests. That might be the change you’re looking for. Or you could simply stop defining your life and get about the hard work of living it—bad choices and all.
Share what you do believe, not what you don’t believe and why you don’t believe what they believe. Don’t put them in the position of having to defend their religion.
I’m an atheist who married into a very religious Christian family. To spare my wife a huge headache, we never told her parents that I don’t believe, and while we get along extremely well it’s getting harder and harder for me to participate in their religious lives. Should I just come out as an atheist?
The question you have to answer is this: What do you hope to gain by coming out to your in-laws as an atheist? If you’re coming out to test whether or not they will still welcome you into their family, don’t. That’s a trap you needn’t spring. If you’re coming out because you feel inauthentic and this is gnawing at you, then, by all means, tell them the truth. Just don’t make it about them. Share what you do believe, not what you don’t believe and why you don’t believe what they believe. Don’t put them in the position of having to defend their religion. Allow them the opportunity to love you for who you are. And if they can’t, being an atheist is the least of your problems, and your wife is going to have a headache way beyond huge.
Our 10-year-old went to church with a friend and accepted Jesus as his lord and savior. The problem is, we’re Jewish! Now all he wants to do is live as Jesus did. What should we do?
My three-year-old grandson visited me after preschool the other day and said excitedly, “Jesus loves me!” “That’s great,” I said. “You know who else loves you?” “Who,” he asked. “Mommy loves you and Daddy and Bubbe and Zayde and Krishna.” “Krishna?” he questioned. Then we read a storybook about Krishna, Ganesha, and a couple of other gods he probably won’t hear about at his supposedly secular preschool.
As far as your son is concerned, help him live as Jesus did. Jesus was an observant Jew, attended synagogue, studied Torah, argued eloquently with his teachers, and cared for the poor and the powerless. Teach your son to do the same. If he starts healing the blind and lame—well, that’s a bonus.
Last night at dinner my husband announced (or pronounced, really) that God is dead. Our sixth-grade daughter asked him how gods die and where gods go when they die. He ignored her. Then she asked me. I told her I would ask you. So, what do you think?
I think you should invite me to your home for dinner and such amazing conversations! And I think your husband shouldn’t make pronouncements he isn’t willing to explore. As to what I think about dying gods, I think gods die when their believers die or no longer believe. When gods die, they often become psychological archetypes featured in self-help books, or comic book superheroes starring in feature films. Sometimes both. Admitting that gods die, however, isn’t the same as saying “God is dead.” Claiming God is dead requires you to define the God who is dead. For me, God is the Source and Substance of all reality. My God won’t die until the universe dies, and maybe not even then. In any case, this will happen long after you’ve stopped having dinner with your family.
One For The Road
I am a gay Muslim man. My imam says there are no gay Muslims, meaning that a gay person cannot be Muslim. He told me I have to give up being gay or give up being Muslim. Which do I choose? How do I choose?
Share your responses at spiritualityhealth.com/one-for-the-road.