Thinking about religion, belief and recent violence

Vacation time is up. We’re into May and I haven’t written a “real blog post” for you in a month and a half, since mid-March. I plan to explain “real blog post” tomorrow but if you can’t wait, see the new material to read. It’s in the menu on the right side of this page (on desktops) or the three horizontal lines (often called a hamburger, on any device).

It’s extremely sad that last “real blog post” involved the mosque attacks in New Zealand and Sunday was the deadly shooting at the Chabad synagogue near San Diego. That was done exactly six months after Pittsburgh, with fires set at three predominantly black churches in Louisiana, and nine suicide bombers attacking churches in Sri Lanka, in between.

Then the prejudice, even if a Knoxville news anchor didn’t think about what he was saying, a month ago. I’ll bet he has his daddy to thank for that.

These are not good times.

Chabad has hundreds if not thousands of centers all around the world, including in some very surprising places. (Just not Antarctica). They range from start-ups to established locations with buildings of their own.

Its Orthodox services, combined with some unique customs I haven’t seen in other Orthodox places, may not be the right mix for a lot of American Jews, these days. For the most part, that’s too bad.

Personally, I’d like to see services and studying done in an egalitarian way, and have less emphasis placed on priesthood, even if I wasn’t raised like that. I may be a priest by birth, or act like it a little too often, but think important positions should be earned with knowledge and people skills, much more than simply genetics but they say that’s how God designed us. And if people were considered Jewish through their fathers in Biblical times, then why shouldn’t that be accepted, as well as through mothers, now?

Times change and I realize nothing will ever replace our memories from childhood.

Despite any differences in opinion, I do find Chabad welcoming to all. Others have and will dispute that, and they’re entitled to their opinions. There’s even a place to tell me (again) and also the whole world. It’s the comments section below.

I’d love a Messiah coming soon if not now. (Who’s against peace on Earth, being reunited with long-lost ones, etc.?) That would mean the building of the Third Temple (with people getting along better than they do behind the scenes at most synagogues) — but I have no desire to go back to the days of sacrifices. Most tradition can be precious and belief can certainly be tough, but I’d hope a Messiah would take care of issues like those.

And if you look at matters of concern to people today — things like the cost of synagogue membership, schooling, kosher food, Passover seders (this year, Pedro and I attended seders at two different Chabad locations) and a whole lot more — Chabad is really into belief, and teaching thought and observances, rather than money. (That’s despite what comes in the mail from headquarters in Brooklyn.)

If you’re Jewish and only looking at prices, then Chabad gives you the most for your buck. And that’s just one reason they’re growing and worth checking out.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein

I’ll leave you with some words from wounded Chabad Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein in The New York Times. Yes, this New York Times, having written about prejudice earlier:

“I don’t remember all that I said to my community [in the moments after the shooting], but I do remember quoting a passage from the Passover Seder liturgy: ‘In every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand.’ And I remember shouting the words ‘Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel live!’ I have said that line hundreds of times in my life. But I have never felt the truth of it more than I did then.

“I am a religious man. I believe everything happens for a reason. I do not know why God spared my life… I do not know God’s plan. All I can do is try to find meaning in what has happened. And to use this borrowed time to make my life matter more.

“… I pray that my missing finger serves as a constant reminder to me. A reminder that every single human being is created in the image of God; a reminder that I am part of a people that has survived the worst destruction and will always endure; a reminder that my ancestors gave their lives so that I can live in freedom in America; and a reminder, most of all, to never, ever, not ever be afraid to be Jewish.

“From here on in I am going to be more brazen. I am going to be even more proud about walking down the street wearing my tzitzit and kippah, acknowledging God’s presence. And I’m going to use my voice until I am hoarse to urge my fellow Jews to do Jewish. To light candles before Shabbat. To put up mezuzas on their doorposts. To do acts of kindness. And to show up in synagogue — especially this coming Shabbat.

“… In his vile manifesto, the terrorist who shot up my synagogue called my people, the Jewish people, a “squalid and parasitic race.” No. We are a people divinely commanded to bring God’s light into the world.

“So it is with this country. America is unique in world history. Never before was a country founded on the ideals that all people are created in God’s image and that all people deserve freedom and liberty. We fought a war to make that promise real.

“And I believe we can make it real again. That is what I pledge to do with my borrowed time.”

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