Ask The Rabbis | Should We Edit Our Children’s Genes?

INDEPENDENT Maybe not edit. Maybe just proofread and add a comma or a few comments in the margin. If circumstances require, perhaps add an exclamation mark, or in a dire situation, all caps and in bold. Run-on sentences can muddle our intent, although you might get away with a semicolon. Editing was built into our creation. Even Leah edited her male fetus and turned him into a female (Talmud Bavli, Berachot 60a). And although God made men with foreskins, we were instructed to edit them. The Word of God itself has been through more editorial changes since the beginning of time than the number of base pairs in a human genome. “For the Torah is like wheat from which to derive flour; flax from which to derive cloth” (Midrash Tana D'Bei Eliyahu Zuta, Ch. 2). But...

Continue reading

Ask The Rabbis | How Has Pittsburgh Changed Jewish Life for Your Community?

Our reaction to the events in Pittsburgh began with mourning for the victims. From mourning we moved to the legitimate fear that comes from living in a nation where easily procured weapons of mass death terrorize people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people and—as always—Jews.

Continue reading

Ask The Rabbis | Has Israel Changed Judaism?

“When Jews gathered as religious communities, we didn't have to tolerate significant differences: When we disagreed, we just founded a new synagogue with the like-minded. The political arena demands something different. ” INDEPENDENT Judaism is an alter kocker. It doesn’t change. It only gets more wrinkles. Rather than changing Judaism, Israel has actually validated it. It has testified to the truth of our story and to the tenacity of our hope. We never forgot Israel, never stopped singing about her, never stopped longing for her. And then, one day, some 70 years ago, when we needed her most, she showed up and took us home.  In the more eloquent words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “She occupied our hearts, filled our prayers, pervaded our dreams. Continually mourning her loss, our grief was not subdued when celebrating festivities,...

Continue reading

rabbis seder

Ask The Rabbis | Should Jews at the Seder Ask God to Smite Our Enemies?

Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that know You not, and upon the families that call not on Your name; for they have devoured Jacob, yea, they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation... May Your blazing anger overtake them. Pursue them in wrath and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.” — Passover Haggadah HUMANIST Even the seder itself appears to be of two minds about whether we should ask the Deity to smite our enemies on our behalf. On the one hand, there is a tradition to ask God to “pour out wrath and indignation upon the heathen who will not acknowledge him, who have devoured Jacob and laid waste to his dwelling.” On the other hand, we have a cautionary piece of advice from elsewhere in...

Continue reading


Ask The Rabbis | How Would You Counsel A Sexual Predator?

In every contact with serial bullies, victimizers or predators, we must carefully balance natural empathy for the person before us with solidarity and justice concerning the victims. Teshuvah (repentance) is always the goal, yet false expressions of remorse are an abuser’s modus operandi. INDEPENDENT Many a predator and addict I work with has been helped by the mystical concepts of Kabbalah. Every one of us comes into this world with an emptiness born of a cosmic vacuum we glibly refer to as Genesis. Thus, you and I are children of the vacuum, and we endeavor throughout our lives to fill that void as best we can with meaningfulness. Some of us, however, try in vain to fill it with food, others with drugs or alcohol and yet others with sex, either at our own expense or that...

Continue reading