There is one supreme God who is the Creator of all nature, and there are no forces competing with God. God is absolutely free. God is timeless, ageless, nonphysical, and eternal. Nature is a stage on which God expresses His will in history. Rituals do not harness independent magical powers and do not work automatically.
Tanakh is not much taught, what is taught is rarely retained, and 12 or more years of putatively intensive Jewish education are apparently insufficient to give young people adequate resources to allow serious study of Tanakh and its commentators (or even Talmud for that matter) in the original.
Yom Kippur is a gift that God has given to those who follow the Torah. But its message is a gift for all humanity. “A free man, when he fails, blames nobody.” Nobody, that is, except oneself. When one can be honest before God, one is on the road to personal freedom.
Jewish tradition is passed on from one generation to the next. The mystery of Jewish survival is really no mystery: it is the result of incredible faith and commitment on the part of parents and grandparents; it is the result of the younger generations taking hold of the tradition with full hearts and minds.
The Book of Jonah is a larger-than-life story of every individual who seeks closeness with God. There is a paradoxical recognition that the closer one comes to God, the more one becomes conscious of the chasm separating God’s wisdom from our own.
How are we to make ancient texts come alive for today’s students? We must equip our charges with the skills needed to become independent learners, with the base of knowledge that can qualify them as Jewishly literate, and with the passion to become life-long students of Torah.
Contemporary Tanakh education requires its teachers to be open to, and aware of, shifts in the learning landscape. It demands flexibility and focus, and it is imperative that we do not become complacent.
The current policies of the Orthodox rabbinic/beth din establishment are causing anguish to thousands of would-be converts and their families; are turning would-be converts away from Orthodoxy; are de-legitimizing Orthodox rabbis and converts who do not subscribe to the "establishment" positions; are causing thousands of halakhic converts to fear that their and their children's halakhic status will be undermined.
Moses reminds us that recognition hunger can be satisfied to a great extent by our own internal validation. When we feel that our work is meaningful, we feel validated even if others do not praise us.
Religion stripped to its most essential elements asks both very little and a great deal of us: to return to a state of simplicity, broken and small in God’s presence, able, in a state of vulnerability, to make those invisible visible, to create a society where we walk beside others because God is willing to walk beside us.