Monday, August 29, 2011

God does not control the weather

This morning I read that Michelle Bachmann is blaming the recent earthquake and hurricane on God. While this is not the only ridiculous thing she said recently, I take particular issue with her suggestion that she knows how God works.

God does not control the weather. I have written before about how hurricanes and earthquakes happen because they are part of nature—not to punish us.

Even if I did believe that God uses nature to punish humanity, how would Senator Bachmann know what we are supposedly being punished for? She seems certain that God is sending a message to politicians.

The antidote to Michelle Bachmann is this article by Rabbi Edward Bernstein. God does not use the weather to punish us, and certainly I can't believe in a God who would kill 35 people in a hurricane to prove a political point.

I do believe that there are consequences for our actions. Although God does not control the weather to reward and punish humanity, we certainly punish ourselves when we ignore science and fail to care for our ecosystem; we can't pretend that we have no impact on the earth.


Deciding to choose Blessing

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...

John Tierney, The New York Times' science columnist, recently wrote an article about decision fatigue: the idea that our ability to make a decision gets degraded from making hundreds of small decisions throughout the day. The more we choose, the less able we are to make more choices.

The Torah (always ahead of its time) teaches us in this week's portion that there are only two choices we need consider: blessing and curse. Blessings will abound if you follow the commandments and curses if you do not- the obvious decision, in any case, is to follow the commandments. The portion then provides lists of commandments about where to worship, how to worship, what to eat, how to mourn, and how to celebrate the major festivals.

As Reform Jews we often struggle with the concept of mitzvot and what it means to be commanded. And yet we are very aware that we are all Jews by choice -- we define our Jewish identity by the choices we make every day.

A mixture of science and Torah can teach us how we can choose blessing in our own lives

I delivered a sermon about this at Temple Ahavat Shalom on Friday, August 26, for parshat Re'eh. Click here to download a PDF. Enjoy.








Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What I learned at Camp #5 - Take a Leap of Faith

 Riding the Zip Line at Camp Newman


Number five: take a leap of faith
While at camp this year Isaac and I got to try the zip line. A zip line is a long suspended cable that runs downhill—you put on a harness, climb to the top of a tower, and get clipped on to the line with a D-ring and a roller. You slide to the bottom of the hill, suspended in the air by the cable, cruising along at about 40 miles per hour, soaring over the trees, and when you get to the tower on the other side, someone lowers you to the ground on your rope.
It was lots of fun, but to get started you literally have to take a leap of faith. From the top of the tower you stand on a little platform and you have to jump off. You just jump and let the rope do the work. When it was my turn to hide my nerves at being up that high I asked lots of questions: What if I could not slow down when braking? How should I hold my hands? How hard do I tap the cable to slow down? Finally Tal, the young and tattooed Israeli woman who runs the zip line, yelled up to me, “Stop thinking and just jump!” I did, and the ride was great. Sometimes we need to just let go—to make the leap and have faith that we will enjoy the ride and land safely.