Sunday, January 05, 2014

New Year. Final Post.

I want to thank you all for being loyal readers of this blog, and apologize for not having posted in quite a while. The fact is I'm swamped with other projects. One of them is a blog–to–book experiment on Patheos entitled Rabbi Rami's Guide to Judaism. I posted the first entry this morning:

This will be my latests thoughts on Judaism. Nothing topical. Nothing snarky. Just my vision of Judaism that I hope to pass on to my grandchildren. And yours. I hope you will begin to follow the blog on the Patheos site.

I continue to lecture around globe, run the One River Wisdom School (, the soon to be open Spiritually Independent Foundation ( with its training program for spiritual directors, post my humorous spin on new age thinking on Twitter, write my advice column for Spirituality and Health Magazine, host my weekly radio call–in show (How to be a Holy Rascal on, and bang my head against the wall to meet book deadlines, but this blog has got to go.

Please follow me on Patheos, Twitter, and Facebook. Have a constructive and purpose-filled new year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What Kind of Rabbi are You?

“What kind of rabbi are you? Seriously, I just don’t understand what you are about. A rabbi is supposed to adhere to the commandments and make Jews Jewish, but I don’t see you doing that at all. Can you explain yourself?”

This question came through my email this morning, and I am so grateful for it. Let me share my response with you.

Perhaps this will help: For me, Judaism is a means and not an end, and being a rabbi isn’t about making Jews Jewish, but about using Judaism as a tool for making meaning and discovering wisdom.

I am interested only in truth as best as I can discern it, and I fashion Judaism as a way of articulating that truth. I don’t believe in a God who created the universe, chose the Jews, gave us Torah, a Promised Land, and 613 mitzvot (commandments). I believe in a nondual reality evolving toward greater levels of complexity and higher levels of consciousness that ultimately gives rise to beings such as ourselves who can begin to understand this reality, and fashion meaning and purpose that promote justice and compassion for all beings.

The extent to which I can imagine Judaism doing this is the extent to which I feel myself commanded. The extent to which I can’t imagine this, is the extent to which I don’t feel commanded.

Because my loyalty is to truth rather than Judaism, I see myself as spirituality independent, and thus free to explore and draw from the entirety of human wisdom: religious, artistic, scientific, etc. And I want the Judaism I teach to be of value not only to Jews, but to other spiritually independent seekers as well. Just as Jews borrow from Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, and Christian mysticism, I want followers of these paths to borrow from Judaism as well.

So I guess I am what my rebbe told me to be: a rabbi to the world. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry Christmas

I love Christmas. Almost all of it: the music, the parades, the lights, the greetings, the joy, the gifting, the trampling of shoppers, the annual paranoia of Fox News anchors—all of it. I love Christmas because I love Jesus, and I love Jesus because I love Christ, that awakened mind that reveals the unity of God, woman, man, and nature. (John 10:30).

That’s who Jesus is to me: a God–realized Jew. If Jesus has asked me instead of the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16: 13-16), I would have smiled and said: you are Divine Wisdom knowing the unity of all life in, with, and as God. You are what each of us is and yet does not know ourselves to be: God incarnate. Sadly my answer never makes into the C.S. Lewis inspired trilemma that limits Jesus to either liar, lunatic, or Lord.

My problem with Christianity is that it teaches Christians to worship Jesus rather than to become Christ. Of course you might challenge me saying, “But that’s because you aren’t a Christian.” And I would respond, “That’s why I’m not a Christian!” If Christianity taught me to be Christ, to awaken to my truest Self and realize that all beings are manifestations of the singular Be–ing that is God, I would be drawn to it like a moth to a flame. But not being a Christian doesn’t keep me from loving Christmas.

For me, Christmas is the annual remembrance that each of us was born holy, that each of us a child of God the way a wave is a child of the ocean. Christmas celebrates our capacity to become fully God-realized (just as Good Friday reminds of the cost that realization demands, and Easter reminds us of the promise it contains). I look at the Christ child as the seed of God-realization present in each of us, and see in this holy day a chance to refocus my efforts at cultivating in me the mind that was in Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5).

What is this mind? I believe it is Chochma/Sophia/Lady Wisdom, the Divine Mother of all things arising in the Infinite Nonduality of God, and manifesting what the Taoists call the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. She is the mind that knows the interdependence of all things. She is the love, compassion, justice that arises with this knowing, and She is the courage to confront the powers and principalities that oppose these things and this knowing.

Christmas is too important to be left in the hands of those who can see in Jesus only three options. Claim it for yourself, or better, claim it for your Self.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holy Rascals Revival

Humans are meaning–makers, and religion is one way we make it. There may never have been a time when humans—Homo sapiens sapiens—were without religion. While our religions change, our need for religion doesn’t.

For example, we Jews outgrew (with the “help” of the Babylonians and later the Romans) a religion of animal sacrifice, coming up with two first century alternatives: rabbinic behaviorism and Christian spiritualism. Neither left the sacrificial world completely, of course. The rabbis fantasized, albeit half-heartedly, about the rebuilding of the Temple and a return to sacrifice, and the Christians built their entire religion around a God who himself was sacrificed.

Sacrifice is as old as religion, and probably comes from our observation of nature and the fact that death is often a prerequisite for new life. The difference between natural and human sacrifice is that nature puts limits on the destruction it causes, while humans do not.

We are, I suspect, in the final decades of a great sacrifice. Our age is defined by unending war, ecological and financial collapse, plutocracy, mindless consumerism, meaningless work, and the ceaseless murder of our fellow citizens by other citizens. The religious response to this collapse has largely been to ignore it. Mainstream religions tell us to pray our way out of this, while new age religions invite us to wish ourselves happy. Our gods demand nothing of us, and want nothing more than for us to be good consumers and cogs in the capitalist machine.

Religion hasn’t brought us to this impasse; it simply reflects it and excuses it. While it is true that throughout history there have been individual spiritual giants challenging the status quo, if we wait for them to rescue us we are doomed. We cannot wait for them; we have to become them.

I call these latter–day prophets Holy Rascals. They are holy because they stand against the madness of our zero–sum civilization steeped in arrogance, cruelty, violence, pornography, ignorance, and greed, and for a non–zero civilization rooted in justice, compassion, peace, dignity, friendship, eros, and love. They are rascals because they use humor, irony, and sarcasm to pull the curtain back on the great and terrible wizards of the Guns–Gore–God–Greed complex that runs our lives, and reveal them for who they are: little men (and sometimes women) with big megaphones.

I invite you meet some of these Holy Rascals at More importantly, I invite you become one of these Holy Rascals at our next Holy Rascal Revival slated for April 25–26 in Portland, OR. Check in with for more details.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yes, Megyn, Santa IS White

I need to come to the defense of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly’s claim that Santa Claus “just is white.” Her claim, and the follow-up assertion that Jesus, too, is white, created quite a stir. In walking back her comments about Santa she declared she was kidding. Regarding her claim that Jesus was white, Megyn now says that issue isn’t yet settled. Wrong on both counts.

First, regarding her just kidding around, I listed to the tape of her rant a couple of times and she was not kidding, not even a little bit. She believed—and probably still believes—that Santa is white.

Second, regarding Jesus, the matter is settled: Jesus, a middle–eastern Jew, was brown. In fact, according to Karen Brodkin in her book How Jews Became White Folks, Jews weren’t considered white until after World War Two.

OK, Megyn was wrong on Jesus. But she was right about Santa. He’s white!

While the 13th century Saint Nicholas was olive or brown skinned, the Santa we know is based on the Dutch Sinterklass who is probably as white as Deniz Akkoyun (look her up). Sinterklass predates Christianity and may have some relation to the Norse God Odin, who, as far as I know, is also white. You can, as I did, check out Marvel’s The Mighty Thor to corroborate this claim.

Besides, the real Santa Claus, the only Santa that counts, the Santa Megyn and I know and love, was shaped to a large degree by the Coca-Cola company that featured him from 1931 delivering toys, reading his mail, and sipping Cokes as he flew from house to house. And as decades of Coke ads make abundantly clear: Santa is white.

[Little known fact one: It is drinking thousands of Cokes a year that allows Santa to maintain his figure. Little known fact two: Deniz Akkoyun probably doesn’t drink Coke, or, if she does, prefers Diet Coke to Santa’s original. Little known fact three: Santa hated New Coke and replaced all presents with coal at every house that tried to foist that crap on him.]

So Megyn don’t let the liberal lamestream media upset you. While you need to get used to a brown Jesus, (way more difficult than getting used to a brown president, I know) you can be comforted in the knowledge that Santa is as white as you and me. Or at least you; I’m a Jew.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Freedom From Form/Freedom Within Form

After facilitating a discussion on reforming Judaism with an audience of Reform Jews I felt I had a better handle on the real challenge facing contemporary Reform Judaism.

My focus was on taking the old forms of Judaism—kashrut, Shabbat, God, prayer, Torah—and reforming them: ethical consumption, play, self-realization, contemplative practice, and critical/imaginal thinking. What I found was people in no need of such reforming because they had lost interest in form altogether.

They didn’t need to remake kosher because they had no intention of ever restricting their consuming in any way other than person preference. There was no need to rethink Shabbat because they had stopped thinking about Shabbat long ago. God wasn’t taken at all seriously, and prayer was a matter of social convention and communal gathering in which the liturgy itself was irrelevant. While some in the class enjoyed Torah study they had no need to find new meanings in the text because they didn’t engage Torah as a source of meaning, but as a lesson in history. 

Simply put, my passion for reforming Judaism wasn’t shared by the people with whom I hoped to reform it. While I yearn for a Judaism where old forms yield to new meanings, my students wanted a Judaism without form, or at least without any form that demanded anything from them. Their rejection of form wasn’t driven by a passion for freedom, but by a desire to be left alone. The goal isn’t to be free from constraints—they have no constraints—but to avoid any hint of constraint. But again this isn’t a drive toward freedom or anarchy, both of which I can respect; it is simply apathy. And against that we may be powerless.