Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

September 23, 2020

Nice Country Hats

Men and women of many religions cover their hair for modesty.

On display were some nice, colorful, country-style hats for women.   

Head coverings in church, mosque or synagogue, are a way to express modesty and humbleness before G-d. 

Also, we cover our hair/head, more generally, to remember that G-d is above us, watching and guiding us always. 

Modest, humble, and G-d fearinga hat is a potent symbol of faith.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 10, 2020

@The Amish Experience


It was a fun time at The Amish Experience today in Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania. 


One and a half hour bus tour of Amish country. 


45 Minute movie about Jacob, an Amish teen, trying to decide whether he wants to be in the outside world or in the Amish one.


And another hour of so tour of an Amish school house and home. 


Felt like I learned a lot about their culture (including no TV, internet, electricity [just batteries and solar], and education only through 8th grade). 


Honestly, it doesn't seem like they really have much a choice in whether to choose the church and become Amish or leave, because if they choose to leave they are shunned (i.e. excommunicated)!


So you either choose you family, church, community, and a wife (and there is no divorce) or you run off to G-d knows where completely alone and "divorced" from everything you know. 


The video is when we stopped at an Amish farm and I went in to the big barn with all the cows.  


After so much time on the bus, I needed to ham it up a little and have fun with:


"How now brown cow. It is so nice to eat you! You are beautiful animals.  And thank you Hashem for making you!" ;-)


(Credit Video: Andy and Dossy Blumenthal)


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May 23, 2020

The 11th Commandment

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The 11th Commandment."
How many times do I hear about fellow Jews trying to "out-frum" (i.e. be holier than thou) other Jews: whether it's in terms of Kashrut, Shabbat or even who stayed up the latest for the Passover Seder. Recently, when it came to coronavirus, I was more than a little shocked to read that someone actually attributed the disease to it being a punishment from G-d because women's skirts are not being worn long enough. While certainly it's good to be introspective and there is a strong concept of reward and punishment in Judaism, there is something about us Jews where we tend to want to go a little more and a little farther. In some cases, we are doing "hiddur mitzvah" (beautification of the Mitzvah) which is praiseworthy, but in other cases, we may be adding unnecessary "chumras" (i.e. stringencies) than can backfire religiously. My unequivocal preference is to follow my father's teaching to me of the Rambam's "Shvil Ha'zahav" (i.e. the golden path) and not go too far to the left or to the right, but keep a healthy middle of the road approach to life.

In the end, the number of commandments are what they are, and with 613 throughout the Torah, there is enough to keep us all busy going what is right with G-d and our fellow man. While we may like to overachieve in our careers, our education, and our pedigrees, it is not necessary to try to outdo each other religiously. Religion is a matter between us and Hashem and G-d knows what is in our hearts and counts up all our deeds according to His holy Torah with nothing added and nothing subtracted.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 9, 2020

Synagogue or Sickness?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Synagogue or Sickness?"
When I was a kid and my father would {strongly} encourage me to go to synagogue. My father was a man of deep faith and he used to say warningly to me: "It's better to go to synagogue than to the hospital." Obviously, he was implying that if I didn't follow G-d's word, then G-d forbid, he would punish me and instead of going to Shul, I would go to the hospital. Maybe not the best way to teach someone to want to go to prayer services, but I know he meant it out of complete love for me and ultimately for my best.

Yet ironically, now with coronavirus preventing us from practicing the many communal aspects of our faith, so many of us can only but wish that we could just go to synagogue to celebrate the holidays and Shabbat together once again. Unfortunately, for now at least, we don't even have the option to go to synagogue⁠—the choice has been taken from us. G-d willing, hopefully soon, we can once again go⁠—with willingness and love⁠—not only to pray at synagogue, but also to the holy Third Temple in Jerusalem itself.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 14, 2020

Coronavirus Cancels Synagogue

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Coronavirus Cancels Synagogue."
While I understand the rationale to close the synagogues, not to congregate with others and expose ourselves or spread the Coronavirus, I can’t help thinking and believing that what we need now, more than ever, is prayer to Hashem and the mitzvah of Torah study that the synagogue provides to us. Indeed, only in the hands of G-d is the ultimate power of health or illness, and life or death...To me, this Shabbat was not a full Shabbat, because there was no synagogue, no Rabbi’s sermon, no community to talk and share with. I feel robbed of my religion today. I want to be able to go to synagogue and have a real Shabbat. How many other Shabbatot will we have to continue to go through without being able to pray in a minyan, hear the Torah reading, listen to the Rabbi’s speech, and see our community friends?

Many say and I firmly believe that we are on the doorstep of Mashiach and that he is even here among us waiting for the right moment to reveal himself. We’ve survived so much and finally have returned as a people to our homeland of Israel. Now we must survive the final birthing pains of Mashiach and then we will be able to go not only to our synagogues once again, but also to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray and learn at G-d’s very footstep in this earthly world.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 4, 2019

What Makes Happy

So the same things don't seem to drive happiness for everyone. 

Some like big jobs and lots of power. 

Others are happier with more work-life balance. 

Some like to pursue lots of degrees and certifications.

Others like to learn on their own and through life experience. 

Some like to travel the world.

Others like a day in nature or at the museum. 

Some like big families and lots of people around them. 

Others like smaller families, close friends, intimacy, or even being more on their own. 

Some like lots of money. 

Other are happy with having what they need.

Some like to be tremendous athletes. 

Other like to just stay fit or maybe are more comfy as "couch potatoes."

Some like to be very religious and follow all the laws.

Others prefer mindfulness, a sense of spirituality and being a "good person."  

Some like lots of activities and to always do different things. 

Others are more comfortable with routine and incremental change. 

We all have basic needs, but we also have different values, priorities and comfort zones. 

Happiness isn't a yes or no answer, but what makes us feel on track and doing good. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 2, 2019

Jerusalem Center of The World

I love this map by Heinrich Bunting, a German Protestant pastor and cartographer. 

This beautiful artist and thoughtful map was published in 1581.

It shows the 3 continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa as 3 leaves of a clovers with Jerusalem at the center. 

Jerusalem, Israel is the focus, nexus and crossroad between these 3 worlds of Western, Asian, and African civilizations. 

Israel is so multi-cultural and holy to the 3 major monotheistic religions of the world (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).  

Light, healing, peace, and prosperity should emanate from Jerusalem to the whole world and G-d should bless us from his heavenly abode.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Wikipedia)
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February 24, 2019

Interfaith Movie Today

This afternoon, we attended the interfaith movie screening of “The Judge.

The movie is about a Palestinian woman who becomes “the first woman judge in a Shari’a ‘family law’ court.” 

Let's just say it wasn't easy for her to break into this male-dominated profession within institutionalized religion in the Middle East.  

Thinking in an interfaith way, I guess it's maybe not so dissimilar to women breaking into the profession of the Rabbinate. 

Another similarity between the religions was that there were many Islamic religious leaders that were very conservative and dead set against women in the Shari'a courts, while others stood up against the tide and inspired change--I think we have similar disagreements in Judaism between the ultra-orthodox who want to stick with the "old" historical ways of doing things, and the more liberal Jews that seek the freedom to alter those ways. 

During the movie, there were some interesting take-aways like under Shariah law, men are allowed up to 4 wives!  

Another funny line in the movie was when one of the men said that the men never make trouble for the women (i.e. it's all the women's fault). 

In the court cases filmed, there seemed to be a lot of cases of domestic violence and of divorce, and in one case in particular the wife was actually stabbed to death in the court house by her husband who she was trying to get a divorce from. 

Overall, it felt good to attend the event and try to be a part of the healing process between people. 

The event was sponsored by the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society (JIDS) of Washington, D.C. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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February 15, 2019

Shabbat Shalom!

Love this picture that my daughter took in Israel of the Challahs for Shabbat. 

So fresh and delicious. 

Plenty for all. 

G-d's blessing for a restful Shabbos.

Thank you for sanctifying us with your mitzvot. ;-)

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)
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January 1, 2019

Miracles of Charity and Faith

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The Conviction of One's Faith."
What better way to welcome in the New Year of 2019 then with some inspirational true stories about amazing people and their faith in G-d and doing what's right. Recently, I saw firsthand from some special people, the miracles that happen when one is charitable and sticks to ones beliefs. 

As my father always taught me about G-d and doing what's right: "Stick to your convictions!" ;-)

(Source Photo of this amazing Tzedakah (charity) box in Israel: Minna Blumenthal)
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December 16, 2018

My First Interfaith Event

So I attended my first interfaith event today at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The first lady that I spoke to said that she wasn't any one religion.  

When I asked more about this, she said:
The core to all religions is Rachamim (mercy, compassion) and Ahavah (love).

Pictured above are the table seating cards that directed people to sit next to people of other religions:  Jewish, Muslim, Other. 

The event was led by the One America Movement, and the Director, Andrew Hanauer spoke very well about bridging what divides us. 

Here are some of the take-a-ways:

- We need to address the divisiveness, polarization, and conflict. 



- Remember that we are talking with other human beings and not with labels.

- Polarization is not just issues, but devolves into identity--"I hate your stupid face!"



- But we are all human beings (and children of G-d). 



- Republicans and Democrats each say that the other is 20% less human than they are. 

- We all have our own "facts":  My facts vs. Your Facts. 

- We attribute good that happens to us as being because of "us," but bad that happens to us because of "them."

- Similarly, we believe that we act out of love, but they act out of hate--and:

- We interpret threats to our viewpoints (political and otherwise), as threats to our groups and to ourselves. 

- Try to remove binary thinking (right and wrong, left and right, etc.), critique your own point of view, and share doubts


- Reconciliation:  If we can cross the divide, have open dialogue, and positive interactions with each others, and develop cross-cutting identities then we will make it easier to counter divisive narratives, solve problems, and reduce violence. 



(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 17, 2018

Striving To Be Good Enough (This Time Around)

Please read my new article in The Times of Israel called, "When Are We Good Enough?"
I too believe strongly in reincarnation. I think that is partially what G-d means by doing justice in this world. If you bomb out in life and don't fulfill your true potential than G-d sends you back for another try.  And this can happen as many times as it takes to get it right!

I hope I am getting it right in my life this time around. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 6, 2018

The Diversity Tapestry

I really liked this sign with the saying by civil rights leader, Maya Angelou:
"We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value, no matter what their color [or race, or origin, or religion, or age, or gender, or sexual orientation, or disability]."

Ok, I added the "or" statements at the end. 

But the point is the same and important.

Discrimination, bigotry, prejudice, and bias are stupid. 

They are a function of ignorance. 

- We learn from diversity. 

- Life is richer with diversity. 

If everything was in monocolor...if life was homogeneous...if there was only one type of everything, then what type of humdrum, monotonous, and boring place would this be?

Value the variety.  Value the diversity.  Value the differences. 

They make us better and stronger than we could ever otherwise be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 22, 2017

Israel Style

Today we walked around Tel Aviv and went to the Art Museum here and also the stores, grocery, and cafes.

What I really liked was seeing it up close and not from the back of a tour bus. 

After just a day or so, I started to feel like I was really experiencing life here. 

Crossing Menachem Begin Road, we ran into these fashion-conscious ladies. 

The colorful clothes and hair, the tall blue shoes, the ripped leggings of the women on the left definitely stood out.

Juxtaposed is the lady on the right in the black dress, short haircut, bag, and glasses. 

This pair was a standout!

In a way, I miss the Holy lifestyle of Jerusalem here in Tel Aviv, but at the same time, I like the cosmopolitan and modern life here too.

Anyway, I feel like I am learning a lot and enjoying experiencing culture and religion Israel-style. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 7, 2017

Where Does Organized Religion Go Wrong

So I am definitely someone who is spiritual and tries to be faithful to G-d.

I believe, He is my creator and sustainer and that we are here to learn and grow our soul before it goes back to Hashem. 

Yet often, like so many others now-a-days, I find organized religion to be a turn-off. 

Why?

1) There is a consistency and sincerity problem.

To some people, I believe it's partially the rote and robotic nature of some of the practices--where we just do it, because we are told to do it, and we do it over and over and time after time, again--even when we don't feel it in the moment, and even if we do other things that are not so right in other areas of our lives.  

In contrast perhaps, there can be more spontaneous and genuine feelings and actions, in the moment and every moment--that come from the heart and the soul of the person and directly to G-d--and they are consistent whether we are in a religious setting to how we treat others and how we act in business. 

In other words, we just don't follow the rules, but we live them fully and integrated with ourselves and all situations we find ourselves in. 

2)  There is a money and power problem.

In some religious environments, all people are not created equal or treated equal. Instead, the say, the attention, and the honor goes to the powerful and the rich, who are courted for their donations and their votes to the institution and the spiritual leader. Who gets talked up? Who is given the honors at the religious rituals, at the events and the dinners, and with their communal "peers"? 

In other cases, it's not just money and power that talks, but who is outwardly the "most religious" and presumably walks the walk.  If you but "seem" more religious than the next guy, then you are elevated and exalted in the religious community.  

Instead, what happened to welcoming and caring for everyone--to everyone being children of G-d--to each person having a soul and their personal life challenges. Why can't we treat everyone as religiously worthwhile and give everyone a chance to learn and grow in their own way from their starting point and to their destination?  

Religion should be the one place that isn't a competition with others. 

Religion is ultimately between man and G-d!

And only G-d knows what is inside man's heart and in his soul--and what his actions really are all the time and what they truly mean in context and in essence

I welcome G-d in my life, because I:

- Have faith in Him and that ultimately He has a master plan and that everything is for the good 
- Love Him for giving me the chance to learn and grow my soul to be better
- Fear Him for when I do something wrong in my life and need a course correction 

I wish for a time and transformation when religion would not just be based on outward manifestations but on being sincere and consistent in people's lives, and where people would no longer be superficially judged and (mis)treated because they are themselves and on their G-d given paths. 

If only we could religiously love, rather than endlessly judge, each other, oh what a heartfelt and inspiring religion that would be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 16, 2017

The Ultimate Rejection (Not)

Ok, folks.

This picture is not the message you want to get before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year and time of judgment). 

We want to see the long hand of G-d come down with love, caring, forgiveness, and blessings!

A flick of the Almighty index finger, definitely not what we want to see or get.  

Worse would be getting the middle finger, of course. 

But I definitely don't think G-d does that! 

Talking about rejection with a big R. 

To all my family and friends, a most happy, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 2, 2017

Greatest Museum of Them All

So the greatest museum of them all is scheduled to open in just 3 months!

The Museum of the Bible.

Right here in Washington, D.C.--a few blocks from the Capitol. 

There is a wonderful video on their website

It's 430,000 square feet and 8 stories floors. 

With two 40-feet-high bronze doors that look like the Ten Commandments. 

And an overall tall and narrow shape with a curved roof that reminds me of Noah's Ark.

It encompasses: 

Religion.

History.

Art. 

It all comes together here. 

There is an interesting display of all the different versions of the Bible.

But what it all points to is how similar we all really are. 

The emergence of faith in The One G-d who created us all--his children--and the foundation in the words of His book. 

Yes, we share in common much more than what separates us. 

If we can just see ourselves in His eyes and be the people we can be and were meant to be. 

The museum should be an inspiration to be better, to be brothers, to have peace, to partner and progress to the future.

With our faith sustaining us, and the Bible and our conscience as our guides, we can overcome. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 28, 2017

Arguing The Negative

I thought this was an interesting sign this gentlemen had.

It says:


"Those who reject Jesus do so because of sin, not science or evidence."

Overall, religion is a matter of personal faith not to be argued, but rather when based to good, to be wholly respected. 

This argument though was basically saying, not to reject this particular tenet of faith of a major religion because there is "not science or evidence" from which to reject.

But usually, don't we look for science or evidence to accept or do something. 

In other words, the default usually is that if you want me to believe in something or somebody, prove to me why I should

It's a bad argument when you ask me to prove to you why you shouldn't believe in something. 

Very often this is the same argument people use in relationships and in organizations.

We do the same thing everyday or over and over again, and we often don't ask ourselves why we do it this way or believe this is a good way of doing something...we just do it. 

And in fact, when someone new comes in with "fresh eyes" and questions why we do it a certain way or have we considered another approach, we ask them to prove to us with "science or evidence" why their way is better, rather than reexamine our own ways and means.

I'm not in any way questioning here G-d or religion, but rather simply our approach to self-examination, introspection, and betterment.

Don't ask me to prove to you why you should reject something, but rather be prepared to defend your hypothesis. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 13, 2017

Love For Every Reason

So in synagogue, there was a bat-mitzvah today.

And the 12-year old girl spoke to the congregation. 

She quoted from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and said:


"If you can hate for no reason, 
then why not love for no reason."

This seemed like a very smart idea to me--we have a choice between hate and love, so why not choose love!

Later at the luncheon after services, I sat and made a new friend with this very nice person who happened to be an Evangelical Christian preacher. 

I asked about his faith and learned more about the Evangelical belief in the strict words of the Old Testament/Torah. 

This wonderful man had taught in a Jewish school in South America, been to the Holy Land, was friends with our Rabbi, and spoke so highly of the Jewish People, Israel, and his faith in G-d. 

I asked about the differences from his perspective between the different sects of Christianity, and he told me a bit of the history of the movements.

But what was also really interesting was that in contrast to the Evangelical's strong support for Israel, he explained that there still to this day was some anti-Semitic remnants in the Catholic Church, even though the Pope, himself, has called it "wrong and unjust"

I asked why some still then blame the Jews for the murder of Jesus (who was Jewish himself), when it was the Romans that actually tortured and killed him and also, why the historical animus to the Jews if Jesus died for the sins of all mankind and this was his divine mission?

He explained that it was wrong and unfair, and that it was misguided scapegoat thinking that "someone had to take the blame."

He then went on to tell me about this great shirt that he liked that had a chart of all the various nation empires of the world that had risen against the Jewish people (from the Egyptians to the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Nazi's) and next to each one it said, GONE!  And then it said, Iran with a TBD--Yep! 

And even Venezuela's, hateful Hugo Chavez, who in 2009 said, "I want to condemn from the bottom of my soul, from the bottom of my guts, damn you State of Israel," and then by 2013 he was dead from stomach (gut) cancer!

So from their day until ours, the One G-d of Hosts continues to looks after Israel and manages the destiny of man--and this is evident throughout the Bible and the prophecies. 

I was so impressed how he was emphatic about the strong Judeo-Christian shared values, beliefs, and faith and that this was the true future for Christianity.

It was understood from the conversation that in all religions, we share more in love of G-d and of each other, and in doing good then in hate, bias, bigotry, and discrimination...and together, we can make it a better world. 

Together, love can conquer. ;-)

(Source Photo: Twitter)
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March 11, 2017

Purim Prayer

Tonight is Purim and it's a holiday of joy and celebration. 

It commemorates when the Jews where saved from Destruction by the Persian Empire and the evil Haman as told in the Megillah Esther.

So on Purim, we dress up and make fun and it this vein of humor that I post this sign about religions of the world. 

- Taoism:  Sh*t happens.

- Buddhism: If sh*t happens, it really isn't sh*t.

- Hinduism: This sh*t has happened before.

- Islam: If sh*t happens, it is the will of Allah. 

- Catholicism: Sh*t happens because you deserve it.

- Protestantism: Work harder or sh*t will happen.

- Judaism: Why does this sh*t always happen to us?

It's funny how each religion of the world has a perspective on life. 

Are we all so really different?  

Maybe we have more in common than not.

The hope and prayer is that the true evil Hamans out there utterly perish, and that for all good and decent people--whatever your religion and perspective in this world--may we all get along as loving brothers and sisters, and let there be true peace for all of us! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to RamblingsDC)
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