Monday, December 18, 2023

In This Moment: A Jew at Christmas; Science, Spirituality and Religion


In This Moment

Great Moments in TBE History

Christmas Eve, 2014

The Conservative Movement now prefers to call it "December Delights" rather than the "December Dilemma." What do you think?

And below, an article I wrote for the Stamford Trader, back in 1988

Israel's Front Pages

Jerusalem Post


Yediot Ahronot

What Happened Today? (Ha'aretz)

Recommended Reading

And now, for some science and religion, reason and spirituality...

In 1859, a collection of letters was compiled from prestigious rabbis in Europe alerting the Jewish people that matzah made with a machine should be considered not kosher for Passover, that it was “no better than a loaf of bread.” For us today, this feels a little quaint – because how many of us have ever been to a Passover seder where there wasn’t a box of Manischewitz matzah, or another store-bought brand, on the table? It’s very common and understood to be Kosher, and accepted in most homes.

But we understand this now because of the distance of time. This new machine technology in the 19th century was scary and concerning for many people. What would the implications be? The rabbis wanted to know: are the machines as reliable as the people? We trust people – how can we trust that the machine will do the right job?

The other concern was: what if bits of dough got stuck in the gears of this machine and just sat in there? Leavening could be happening for hours, and the factory could already be running another batch, and without even realizing it, something closer to bread could be shoved into this new batch of matzah, and nobody would know the difference. So these were real concerns. What if the trays in the machine warmed the dough too fast? Without proper oversight, the rabbis argued, “How can you really trust your own food?”

Some also objected to the loss of physical human touch. Jewish law states that matzah is supposed to be made by people who know how to bake matzah. And it’s not that difficult of a process – it’s just a few ingredients and it’s 18 minutes. But it was concerning – if a machine is not sophisticated and doesn’t know anything, how can you trust it?

"We've got to restore the "gas" to our sanctuaries, classrooms and boardrooms. Mainline Protestantism, discouraged by declining church membership, has recently tried to rediscover passion in its practices. American Judaism, which for too long desired to become Protestantized and succeeded all too well, now must follow suit with its own critique of pure reason. The rabbi can no longer be seen as the Jewish Answer Man, the embodiment of rationality, diplomacy and calm. If we are to reunite religion and spirituality, it is the heart of the spiritual leader that must be exposed for all to see, not the head. The music of Jewish spirituality must rush forth from the rabbi's soul, as well as every congregant's. Otherwise the rabbi risks becoming part of the shell and the synagogue an empty, hollow echo of a shell that once was filled with God, but no more."

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