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Rabbi Dennis S. Ross

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Hanging kitchen utensils

Beyond four cups, four children, and four questions, there’s a fourth set of four to consider, as if we didn’t already have enough.

No sooner do we put down the Haggadah, than we pick up the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot, for study during the seven weeks between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. The rabbis of Pirkei Avot (5:15) bring us four kinds of students, and the Mishnah goes on to compare each one to a kitchen utensil of all things – as if you haven’t been spending enough time in the kitchen and need yet another cooking lesson.

One student has a head like a sieve, another...

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Martin Buber

There’s spirituality thriving in our homes, offices, and synagogues. It hides in plain sight, in our small talk, in extended conversations, and in the back-and-forth between people. Jewish thinker Martin Buber called this spirituality “I-Thou.”

Buber’s landmark book, I and Thou, brought this interpersonal spirituality to light in 1923. He speaks of two kinds of human interactions in I and Thou – I-It and I-Thou. To illustrate I-It, envision yourself leaving work for Shabbat services one Friday afternoon. You’re racing from the office to the car and run into someone from another...

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View of empty sanctuary pews from pulpit with Bible on it

The Johnson Amendment, a national law restricting political activity in churches, synagogues, and other non-profit organizations, is making news as some preachers are using the pulpit to instruct their faithful how to vote. These clergy see the Johnson Amendment as a muzzle. They believe freedom of religion and freedom of speech mean the freedom to take worship time to express partisan political views.

To be sure, we generally expect our clergy to discuss religious perspectives about health care, hunger, the environment, Israel, and more. After all, the Torah tells us to look after...

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Keep abortion legal sign

Clergy played an important role in the struggle to make safe and legal abortion a reality. With the 44th anniversary of the landmark U. S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade on January 22nd, and as extreme politicians are threatening access to women’s health care that includes birth control, cancer screenings, and more, let’s turn to a page in history that led to legal abortion.

Six years before the Roe decision, the front page of The New York Times announced the formation of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (the Service). The Times listed 21 New York City religious...

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My book, When a Lie Is Not a Sin: The Hebrew Bible’s Framework for Deciding (Jewish Lights), had just come out when another guest turned to me during a Shabbat dinner and asked, “Now that you’ve written about lying, do you tell fewer lies?”

Do I tell fewer lies?

That’s some nerve!

The question assumes that I’ve lied in the past and continue to lie. Imagine I wrote a book about theft instead and he asked, “Do you steal as much as you used to?” and I say, “Oh, no! Now I only steal half as much.” Or maybe, with all this research and writing, I’ve become so good at...

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