Teachings: Evolution Of Judaism

Sample Story "A Father's Gift" from Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning

                                        A Father's Gift by Noa Baum 

Bilal grew up in Lahore, in the Punjab province of Pakistan. When he was a young boy there was a war between India and Pakistan, and Bilal asked his father:

Is genetic sex selection of children permitted in Judaism?

Question: What is the Jewish perspective on genetic sex selection of children?

What Does Judaism Have to Say About Organ Donation?

Depending upon your age, you might remember Jewish tradition on the topic of organ donation as very different from how it actually is today. Once opposed, Jewish law and practice on organ donation has changed dramatically, which is the beauty of Judaism as a living, evolving tradition. Now that organ transplantation is a highly successful way to save a life, organ donation has been deemed an obligatory act, a mitzvah chiyuvit, by every major branch of Judaism.

Now, it is important to note that some Orthodox leaders differ on how to determine the time of death, and prefer a point later than brain death, which results in some organs being rendered unusable but even in that case, the kidneys, barring kidney disease, remain transplantable after death. Accordingly, not to bequeath at least some of your organs has become a transgression of the mitzvah of pikuakh nefesh, “saving a life.”

Spiritual Formation of Jewish Clergy: Principles of Neo-Hassidic Rebbetude

This list, now expanded and regularly refined, was originally developed for the first known seminary course on Hashpa'ah (Jewish Spiritual Direction) which I gave at The Academy for Jewish Religion.

Eco-Kosher: Jewish Spirituality in Action

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi while teaching at Naropa Institute: "I invented the word eco-kosher, to say that this is ecologically kosher. Now I'll give you an example of eco-kosher. The regular kosher way, is about the dishes that mustn't be contaminated, etc. If I pick a cup to have coffee, Styrofoam would be the best thing to have. It hasn't been used before and after I drink from it, I'll throw it away and nobody else will use it.

Major Contrasts in Jewish Practice

Because change is one of the constants of Jewish life, the variations in customs, laws, and practices at any point in our history are quite fascinating. It’s important from the outset for you to be fully aware that individual homes, congregations, and even certain neighborhoods and individual communities within those neighborhoods, have their own uniquely nuanced Jewish culture, norms, and guidelines. For example, there are Jewish communities where the norm is:

Can a Jew Enter a Church? Mosque? Or Site of Another faith?

Is a Jew permitted to enter a Church, Mosque, cathedral, temple, or the site of any other faith?

As an advocate for respectful co-existence of the world's peoples and traditions, my first inclination would have been to give a short "yes" answer to this question. As I really began to think carefully about it, the question requires a far more nuanced approach.

Contexts to Consider 

Bar/Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution

The B Mitzvah (R)evolution

Re-infusing meaning, relevance and spirituality into Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah is what families request, when given the opportunity for input. I did my doctorate on this topic and that was the overwhelming finding. Families report needing help to overcome the often toxic social and educational norms that have arisen regarding the B'nei Mitzvah process and to revision and adopt healthy new models.

Judaism and Sexual Abuse

We were studying under a huge maple tree outside the United States when it became increasingly clear from the workshop participants’ comments that a traveling rabbi had sexually abused quite a number of women in the region over a period of years. Some had gone to him asking a deep spiritual question and were shocked by the kind of "outreach" they received. Others were young girls accepting a loving hug from a clergy person only to experience a horrific violation of their physical boundaries. All believed themselves special, "the only one." Some were sworn to secrecy. More could be said, let's just say it was becoming clear that a Jewish clergy person had left an international trail of hurt.