Judaism is a religious culture that places an intense emphasis on continuing the chain of tradition through the context of the family. Yet in an ever-changing contemporary world, families often disagree—sometimes in fundamental ways—about how to live this life. Faced with this disagreement between generations, some choose to ignore these differences, focusing instead on the seemingly uninterrupted flow of history within families. However, reflecting on intergenerational divergence offers important insights on the fundamental nature of family, faith communities, and religion in the contemporary world.
At the very heart of the complex dynamic that is Judaism dwells God. Complicated by millenia of discourse around the who and what, it is easy to lose sight of God in the many definitions that attempt to capture the divine. When discussing God, the challenge is to have an eye open to both the experiential encounter as well as to an understanding of the theological issues that surround this encounter.
Was the year 1840 the end of religion or the beginning? In this special podcast, David discusses the significance of the year and how it remains relevant today. Follow along with the source sheet and listen below
There is a growing debate within Jewish circles about the term “Tikkun Olam” – meaning to fix or change the world. For some Jews, this is our nation’s mission: to stand with the oppressed and bring societal change and redemption to the entire world. Others, however, have criticized this approach, saying that Tikkun Olam as the center of Judaism is a distortion of a religious movement into a political one. For all of us, considering this question is an invitation to think more seriously about our obligation to this world.
Science and religion have long had a complicated relationship. Though they ask some of the same questions, one attributes things to God and the other to mathematical laws, often resulting in claims that are at face value mutually exclusive. But religion can be seen to operate within a different domain, serving to fill in the gaps left by science. Though the reductionism of science is useful, it still leaves us without purpose or meaning.
Our fast-paced, industrialized world seems to have little interest in mysticism, leaving reductionist thinking to lead the day. But this modernity can feel dry and unsatisfying, leaving the disenchanted to seek enchantment elsewhere. There can be more to the world and our experiences than what can be quantified. Mysticism is about transcendence of all kinds, including of our sensory experience, language, and rationality.
In a world where globalization is the new norm, the notion of peoplehood has lost its former clarity. While on the one hand, the lines demarcating the identities of large groups of people have blurred, Jewish people still face anti-Semitism, the ultimate unifying force. The Jewish nation, numbering in the millions, is sizable when conceiving of as an extended family. Reflecting on what our peoplehood is, and can be, may inform our appreciation for this complex entity that is the Jewish people.
Though the Bible’s authorship was once largely uncontested, today it is the subject of raging debate. The stakes are high: billions of people follow religions hinging on the Bible’s divine origin. Many educators therefore gloss over or ignore this theological minefield, reasoning that it is an unnecessary challenge to their students’ faith. But this leaves the curious students, either on the internet or in their future college classrooms, without guidance for navigating these choppy waters. By engaging with these questions with honesty and faith, we can grow from the encounter.
Comedy may seem unimportant, or even counterproductive, in a society that values productivity. Religion in particular is often treated with a seriousness that seems antithetical to comedy, as are its texts. But comedy, alongside and within religion, can help us construct meaning from mundane occurrences and even construct further meaning from notable ones.
In order to understand why some people leave religion, we need to understand why people join and stay in the first place. Religion provides different things for different people, including community, moral, and intellectual guidance. The broad stereotyping of OTD people that sometimes happens isn’t helpful or accurate. It is a complex phenomenon with no surefire solutions, and so the first step is understanding.