Spirituality Subscribe

A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology which focus on spirituality.


Blogs

For many years I have believed that my religion, Judaism, has been stolen. Why? Because Judaism has powerful messages on peace, justice, compassion, sharing, and environmental sustainability that can help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. Yet, most Orthodox Jews, while doing many  commendable things, are in denial about climate change and other environmental threats and are increasingly supporting politicians who promote benefits for the wealthiest Americans and highly profitable corporations, at the expense of average Americans. I ...

Read More


What People Are Saying About My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

The many endorsements below are included to show that it is not just the author, but many other people also - including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews, as well as Christians, and Muslims - who think their religion has been "stolen" by right-wing politics, but who still believe that compassionate religious values have relevance to current crises. Provision of a blurb here does not imply that the person who provided it agrees with everything in my book. However, it is hoped that the voices of the people who submitted the statem...

Read More


Starting a Major Campaign to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet

Shalom, It is time for a major effort for committed Jews, preferably joining with others, to apply Jewish values to help heal our imperiled planet. Here are some issues to be considered: The world is rapidly heading toward a climate catastrophe. Many climate experts think we are close to an irreversible tipping point when climate change will spin out of control, with disastrous consequences, unless very significant positive changes soon occur. My article: “Climate Change: An Existential Threat to Israel, the US, and the World,” published in the Jerusalem Post ...

Read More


Proposal for an Interfaith Conference on Climate Change in Jerusalem

Proposal for Interfaith Conference on Climate Change in Jerusalem Need Statement For decades, conflict and turmoil in the Middle East have gripped the world and made the region an epicenter of international focus and concern. At this time, some wonder whether Jerusalem can be a source of anything but violence and hatred fueled by religious extremists. In this region’s persistent unrest, many attempts have been made to bring the two sides together. Most of the attempts focus on the differences between the sides and work toward resolving these differences. Yet the ...

Read More


Please Consider Organising a Tu B’Shvat Seder or Encouraging Others to Do So

by Richard Schwartz ~Tu B’Shvat, the 15th day in the Hebrew month of Shvat, the ‘New Year for Trees, January 30-31 in 2018, has been increasingly popular, with more and more Tu B’Shvat Seders held annually, especially in Israel. It is important that vegetarian and vegan Jews organize such Seders, encourage rabbis and other Jewish leaders to conduct them, and/or attend Seders that are scheduled by others. Here are several reasons why: Tu B’Shvat is a completely vegetarian, actually vegan, holiday, featuring mainly fruits, along with other vegan foods. So, ...

Read More


Some Challenging Questions

I believe there is always a need to consider if we are doing all we can to apply our Jewish teachings toward creating a better world. This can help avoid  complacency and self-satisfaction. Therefore I would like to pose some respectful questions (aimed at least as much at me as at anyone else). * What would the prophets say about our society today? about Judaism in our time? about Synagogue activities? * Why so few dreams of a better world based on the application of Jewish values? * Are we segregating God In our synagogues? If ...

Read More


Imagining a Vegan World

The late Senator Robert Kennedy often stated: "Some see things as they are and ask why, I dream of things that have never been and ask why not?" Yes, why not? Why not a vegetarian world? Or, even better, since we are dreaming, why not a vegan world? When one considers all the negatives related to the current widespread production and consumption of animal products, it is hard to believe that so few people have seen the importance of shifting to such a world. What would a vegan world be like? It would be a world with far healthier people. There are numerous ...

Read More


My Green New Year’s Resolutions

I want to be "greener" this year and here are my plans: Resolution #1: Reduce. I am going to buy less — especially those things that have a negative impact on the environment, such as plastic tableware when I have company coming for dinner. I am also going to reduce my energy needs. I am going to wear more layers of clothing at home this winter, for example, so I can lower my thermostat without feeling cold. Resolution #2: Reuse. When we go out to eat, I am going to try to bring my own containers to take home the leftovers. Styrofoam can take hundreds of ...

Read More


The Force of Our Interconnectedness

I just saw the latest Star Wars movie with my family. It was very exciting and entertaining. But beyond that, I've always felt that the amazing popularity of the Star Wars series has been in part because it touches a spiritual nerve in moderns in a way that most of our places of worship only hope to achieve. The central premise of Star Wars is that there is an energy that connects us all, an energy that surrounds and infuses all life and creates the fabric of the universe. When we recognize that inter-connecting energy, when we tap into it, we can harness great power for ...

Read More


Vegetarianism/Veganism and the Jewish Dietary (Kosher) Laws

Since Judaism is a religion that speaks to all aspects of life, it has much to say about one of life's most commonplace activities, eating. The Jewish dietary laws, also known as the laws of kashrut or kosher laws are extremely important in Judaism. They regulate virtually every aspect of eating for members of the Jewish community (the only dietary law given to non-Jews is to not eat a limb from a living animal). Kashrut includes: (1) which foods may be eaten (although God's initial intention was that people should be vegetarians (Genesis 1:29), permission was later ...

Read More


My Response to a Negative Review of My Book, “Who Stole My Religion?”

Below is my response to a review of my book, "Who Stole My Religion? Revitalising Judaism and Applying Jewish Values t Halp Heal Our Imperilled Planet" by Rabbi Natan Slifkin (“The Zoo Rabbi”), with my comments interspersed (in bold font). Material starts below. Several weeks ago, in a post entitled "How Frum Is Your Food?", I lamented how the Orthodox Jewish community (and particularly the ultra-Orthodox community) pays very little attention to animal welfare, especially in comparison to the enormous emphasis on stringency with kashrut. This is a major reason ...

Read More


Frequently Asked Questions on Jewish Teachings on Animal Sacrifices and the Messianic Period

1. If God wanted us to have vegetarian diets and not harm animals, why were the Biblical sacrificial services established? During the time of Moses, it was the general practice among all nations to worship by means of sacrifice. There were many associated idolatrous practices. The great Jewish philosopher Maimonides stated that God did not command the Israelites to give up and discontinue all these manners of service because "to obey such a commandment would have been contrary to the nature of man, who generally cleaves to that to which he is used," For this reason, ...

Read More


Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) Related to Judaism and Animal Treatment

There has recently been much interest in animal issues, especially related to diet, animal experimentation, and the wearing of fur. What should be the reaction of Jews to this subject? The following, in question and answer form, provides some background, and perhaps will help begin a respectful dialogue on this increasingly important topic. 1. What does Judaism teach about the proper treatment of animals? Judaism teaches that we are forbidden to be cruel to animals and that we must treat them with compassion. Since animals are part of God's creation, people have ...

Read More


Frequently Asked Questions About Judaism and Vegetarianism

1. What is Jewish about vegetarianism and veganism? Note that when the word vegetarianism is used below it implies both vegetarianism and veganism. he word vegetarian implies both vegetarian and vegan. All the reasons for becoming vegetarian can be connected to important Jewish values. These include taking care of our health, showing compassion to animals, protecting the environment, conserving resources, helping hungry people, and seeking and pursuing peace. As later responses indicate, many teachings in the Torah, the Talmud, and other sacred Jewish texts can ...

Read More


Jewish Teachings on Hunger and Diet

This is factsheet five of a series of five factsheets related to Jewish teachings related to vegetarianism. ---------------- A. Jewish Teachings About Reducing Hunger On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, while Jews are fasting and praying for a good year, we read in the haftorah the words of the Prophet Isaiah that fasting and prayers are not sufficient; we must work to end oppression and provide food for needy people: "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the chains of wickedness, to undo the bonds of oppression, and to let the ...

Read More


Factsheet on Judaism and Resource Conservation

This is Factsheet four of a series of five fact sheets on Jewish teachings related to vegetarianism. ------------------ A. Jewish Teachings on Resource Conservation The prohibition against wasting or unnecessarily destroying anything of value, bal tashchit, ("thou shalt not destroy") is based on the following Torah statement: "When you shall besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy (lo tashchit) the trees thereof by wielding an ax against them; for you may eat of them but you shall not cut them down; for is the ...

Read More


Factsheet on Jewish Environmental Teachings

This is the third factsheet in a series of five A. Jewish Environmental Teachings The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. (Psalm 24:10 The Talmudic sages assert that people's role is to enhance the world as "co-partners of God in the work of creation."(Shabbat 7a) They indicate great concern about preserving the environment and preventing pollution. They state: "It is forbidden to live in a town which has no garden or greenery" (Kiddushin 66a). Threshing floors had to be placed far enough from a town so that it would not be dirtied by chaff carried by ...

Read More


Factsheet on Jewish Teachings on Animals and CurrentTreatment of Animals

This is factsheet 2 of a series of five factsheets A. Jewish Teachings Regarding Animals God's tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalms 145:9). The righteous person regards the life of his/her animal. (Proverbs 12:10) It is prohibited to kill an animal with its young on the same day, in order that people should be restrained and prevented from killing the two together in such a manner that the young is slain in the sight of the mother; for the pain of animals under such circumstances is very great. There is no difference in this case between the pain of ...

Read More


Is the Sixth Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” or “Thou Shalt Not Murder”?

Is the Sixth Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" or "Thou Shalt Not Murder"? Vegetarian and vegan activists are increasingly convinced that a shift away from animal-free diets is a societal imperative because of the significant negative health and environmental effects of such dietse, and a religious imperative because the production and consumption of animal products violate basic religious mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people. Because of their strong ...

Read More


Are Jews Obligated to be Vegetarians?

In promoting vegetarianism since 1977, I have been arguing that Jews have a choice as to whether or not to be vegetarians. In support of the view that Jews need not eat meat today is the Talmud (Pesachim 109a states that since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jews are not required to eat meat in order to rejoice on festivals), scholarly articles by Rabbi Alfred Cohen and Rabbi J. David Bleich that indicate additional sources and arguments supporting the view that Jews do not need to eat meat in this period, and the fact that several Chief Rabbis are strict ...

Read More