Monday, May 23, 2022

Jewish Shabbat and Christian Sunday

I recently taught an online course for the Osher Adult Learning Community sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. The course was titled “Judaism and Christianity: How Did the Ways Depart?” It was based on a book titled Partings: How Judaism and Christianity Became Two  that included a chapter on the question of how Jews came to observe Saturday as Shabbat, while Christians observe Sunday as “the Lord’s Day.”  

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Challenge of Monotheism


I argue in this essay that monotheism, more so than polytheism, involves a certain danger of spilling over into religious imperialism, that is, the impetus to suppress other forms of religious expression. I understand that this is a rather challenging claim, but I believe I make a valid argument. As I note, I offer this essay more as a warning than a critique.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Eliminating the memshelet zadon


The Jewish High Holiday liturgy includes a plea to God to “eliminate the memshelet zadon from the land.” The phrase memshelet zadon has been translated in a variety of ways. I would translate it as “the regime of arrogance,” but zadon is much more than arrogance. This article provides a closer examination of the term zadon and suggests that we are now in the grips of a memshelet zadon that must be eliminated. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Did the Canaanites Have More Fun?


During a Bible study class in my synagogue, a participant raised the idea that perhaps the ancient Israelites adopted foreign religious practices because “the Canaanites had more fun.” When pressed, this colleague of mine referred specifically to cultic prostitution. Ah, yes. Sex! This article examines the issue of sexuality, specifically sacred marriage and cultic prostitution in the ancient Near East and concludes that the ancient Israelites were having just as much fun as their Canaanite neighbors.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Ruth and Hesed (חסד)

This essay looks at the use of the word hesed in the Book of Ruth. Normally translated “loving kindness,” I argue that the word indicates human relationship characterized by pure faithfulness and fidelity, loyalty and devotion that extends beyond the formal requirements of familial and societal responsibility.