Judaism

Faces of God, Faces of Ourselves

by mgopin on June 10, 2014 · 2 comments

Sacrifice, the offering of the best of ourselves after failure, the offering of good intentions, does generate and germinate the sweet smell of acceptance, kindness, patience and tolerance, the creation of a space for both Jews and non-Jews to make amends for their imperfections. These sacrificial dreams are not such barbaric dreams and practices after all. Remove your mind’s fixation on its ancient incarnation with animals and blood, and instead see the animals and blood as the complete offering of oneself to spiritual life, to ethical life, to the life of a better tomorrow, to life beyond and despite imperfections. Once you offer up your own worst self as a peace offering to a neutral and sometimes hostile universe, suddenly there is the sweet smell of reconciliation. The air seems different, beauty reemerges, and so does hope.

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Christian extremism in the U.S. Military, Muslim extremism in the new Egyptian Parliament, the worst kind of racism and fantasies of ethnic cleansing reaching the most official governmental positions of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. That is just the news from one week, and it all points to the same thing: religion is poison for the State and the State is poison for religion. Want to kill a religion? Give it power in the State. Want to save a religion from those men who would abuse it for their own violent fantasies? Deprive religion of all state power, and the maniacs lose interest in it. 

The State is all about power, and we  have learned from a long and painful human history that no one should be trusted with too much power. That is why religion should remain powerless, so that it can function as a place

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By Rabbi Daniel Roth
Event – Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict (JDCC) FEBRUARY 19, 2013  
Join Us in Commemorating the 9th of Adar – Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict

Please join us in commemorating this pilot year of the Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict by reading and studying more about it and by attempting to truly approach conflicts in a more cooperative and constructive spirit.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has joined in an international effort to mark the 9th of Adar as the annual Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict, dedicated to the study and practice of Jewish models of conflict resolution, particularly the model of “mahloket leshem shamayim/controversy for the sake of heaven.”  This year the 9th of Adar falls on February 19th. 
 
At this link, please find a page with a section from the Mishnah (Avot 5:17) with contemporary commentaries, arranged …

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Gopin, who has been a primary adviser and occasional co-instructor, calls the center “revolutionary” in that it may be “the only place in the world [where] a Jewish center of higher learning [combines] advanced academic conflict resolution theory and practice with the principles of rabbinic approaches to mediation and conflict resolution, examining narratives as well as law, and merging that with training for practice.”

Roth’s ancient inspirations are what he calls the “forgotten” Jewish role models of pursuing peace, including Aaron in the Torah, first-century rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakai, and individuals throughout history who were called in Jewish literature “pursuers of peace.”

“Ben Zakai was known as a ‘rodeph shalom’ [pursuer of peace] – the third-century text said a person who makes peace does so not only between [neighbors], husband and wife, family and family, but also between city and city, government and government, and nation and nation,” said Roth. …

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I remember sitting very peacefully in the synagogue on Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, just five days after my disastrous Yom Kippur fast day, which fortunately I completed despite serious exhaustion. Fasts, as anyone who does them knows, are deeply personal affairs, struggles that pull you right into yourself and away from global concerns. But following the rhythms of life, Sukkot takes you right back from the exalted and highly personal inner reality of Yom Kippur. Sukkot pulls you into reality, into identity, human identity and Jewish identity, and the tension between them.

 

In the ancient world, Jerusalem was apparently a place where people of many nationalities gathered around the holiday of Sukkot, and it seems for that reason that the question of ‘Israel and the nations’, for lack of a better phrase, seems to come up quite a bit in the ancient rabbinic liturgy, the choices especially …

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Get on the Right Side of History

by mgopin on September 24, 2011 · 0 comments

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(A version of this essay was recently published in The Jerusalem Report.)

Across the world in the last 40 years politically organized religious forces have played an increasingly important role in national politics. From India to Indonesia, from Lebanon to Israel, from the United States to Russia, organized religion has increased its impact on politics.

We are also aware of the frightening rise of very violent religion, expressed through terror groups. For this reason, it is easy to misunderstand the relationship between religion on the one hand and between states and ethnic groups and their very secular interests, on the other hand.

Precisely because so many millions of people care about religion, religion has become an essential tool of secular state and ethnic interests. Indeed, what may seem to be a religious issue often turns out to be very secular state interests. Missing this relationship, it becomes easy

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Israelis Debate on the Web: Did Norway Get What It Deserved? – Forward Thinking – Forward.com.

 

There is increasing evidence of a broad gulf between the Jewish conscience of those outside of Israel and the character of a significant portion of the Israeli electorate in 2011. J.J Goldberg is right that you can’t just blame Netanyahu, but it is a fact that perpetual war, stubborn occupations, degrade the decency of any population.  A large portion of the Israeli population has continued to move in the direction of dehumanizing anyone, non-Jewish or Jewish, that opposes their Occupation of the Palestinian people. This is a political style and a paranoid style of politics that has gotten thirty five years of Israeli officials elected, and it is having its effects as a continuous deterioration of Israel’s social relationship with the rest of the world. Amazingly, due to the incredible intellectual talents …

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I grew up in a world of blessings and curses, and I mean a world of radically elaborate blessings and curses. I speak of course of the Yiddish world, the world of Jews from Eastern Europe. It surrounded me and was in the air all the time. The incredible creativity in describing problematic people attests to the chief complaints about women and men. The sheer number of names for a useless person, a shlemiel, a shlemazel, a shmendrik, a pisk malocheh, and much worse, all very colorful. Jews never held anything back in their criticism of each other, which naturally psychologists might see as internalized persecution.

 

Some people I knew had a very hard life with bitter disappointments and losses. They used to call many people “chaleria”, which later I would learn meant roughly, “a piece of Cholera”. Many people were requested to …

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The hardest part of building peace for the future is freeing oneself from the wounds of war, the mutual recriminations of the present, the painful memories of a lost past, and the unreasonable fantasies of a world where one’s enemies magically disappear. Sometimes the way forward is to free the mind to build a different world, a world of practical possibilities should peace be achieved.

Let’s imagine the following: a full peace treaty between Israel and Palestine, official creation of a state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital, a shared civil regime for the quarter mile of the Holy Basin in the Old City of Jerusalem that is overseen by Israeli and Palestinian Jews, Muslims and Christians, and a way for every Palestinian refugee camp’s residents to be awarded citizenship and compensation in a variety of countries including Palestine itself.

The first …

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It was three days before Rosh Hashanah, and I was predictably anxious about my identity, my life, about my family’s Jewish future. As a good and fractious Jew, I was somewhat ambivalent about which synagogue I would go to: The one I sometimes go to? The one I would never step foot in? The one that I really should create on my own, maybe?

This Rosh Hashanah was different for two reasons. My 87-year old mother, who lives alone 400 miles away in Boston, had pneumonia. So we were on our way to Boston, but I had to honor a commitment to my dear friend Yahya Hendi, who is an imam. He wanted the whole family, the whole world, it seems, but especially Jews and Christians, for an iftar, a very sacred celebration as a part of Ramadan. He wanted us all to share in every aspect of the evening, …

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