Want to Live to 100? It’s Time to Turn to a Biblical Diet

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I am not saying this just because I am a rabbi. Dan Buettner, the National Geographic explorer who is on a quest find the secret to longevity, has just published in his new book, The Blue Zones Solution, that the Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda, California follow a “biblical” diet focused on grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables. And as a result, they are one of five blue zone communities around the world that live longer and happier lives.

Frankly I am not that surprised. The Bible has been telling us from the beginning that in God’s perfect world, Eden, we should all be vegetarian.* Scientists have been telling us for years that refined sugar, soda and sweeteners are the devil. And now we have even more proof. If you eat vegan and even sometimes throw in a serving of a fish a day than you might live 10 years longer than people who don’t.

I would like to say that I am all in. Both my parents died before the age of 65. I want to live long past my sixties. I want to be a grandparent.

That said, I am not yet ready to give up my chicken wings and rib eyes.

Here is my plan. I am taking the Bible’s direction. I am working on eating more avocados, nuts, beans, and whole grains. And I am taking the rabbis directions as well, by following the laws of kashrut when eating meat and Oreos (but not together).

My hope for you and for me is that if eating meat takes off a few years, the rabbis of the Talmud will throw in a good word with God and add a few of those years back.

One can pray.

*The laws of keeping kosher did not develop until much later when we […]

Join Me In Exercising Your Religious Freedom Right Now

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It took a lot of courage for Bill Quigley, a Law Professor at Loyola University New Orleans, to write A Christian Apology to Jewish People at Passover and Easter. It is not every Christian who wants to admit, among many other salient points, that:

  • “We (the Christians) have repeatedly engaged inand celebrated extremely harmful anti-Jewish stereotypes.”
  • “We (the Christians) misinterpret the teaching parables of Jesus as anti Jewish stories ignoring the fact that these stories were all for an all-Jewish audience.”
  • “We (the Christians) have been responsible for the millions of murders, tens of millions of acts of violence and hundreds of million of acts of intentional discrimination and marginalization for centuries.”

Professor Quigley calls it like it is; and it is not pretty. But at least it is honest, and a starting point for change.

But what I find so appalling are the comments that follow. Most of them are not denying what he said. Rather they are denying that the Christians need to apologize. God has forgiven them, isn’t that enough? Jews don’t respect us, why should we respect them?

I’m sorry. How old are we?  The comments sound more like the kids fighting on the school playground rather than the responses of thoughtful adults.

  • You hit me first.
  • If you don’t say you are sorry than I will not say I am sorry.
  • Why do I need to apologize?

I want to believe that we are living in a world that recognizes the value of saying “I am sorry.” But in looking at the comments I am afraid […]

Mental Illness is Killing Us – Literally

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My heart is breaking for the 150 families of the passengers who were killed in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525. It is also breaking for Andres Lubitz and all those who suffer from mental illness.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not justifying what he did. He is a murderer.

However I can’t stop thinking about our collective responsibility in this tragedy.  We don’t want to talk or deal with mental illness. We just want it to go away.

Yet mental illness is ubiquitous in society. According to the Mayo Clinic, 7 out of 10 Americans take at least one prescription drug. Second only to antibiotics, the most common prescription is for anti-depressants, and 13 percent of the population are currently on anti-depressants. The use of this medication has increased by 400% in the last decade.

But how many of your friends have disclosed to you that they are being treated for mental illness? Even if a few have, the numbers do not match up.

Here is why: If you are diagnosed with a mental illness you are in a lose–lose situation.

When a horrible tragedy occurs like this one, mental illness is vilified.

But when genius comes from it, such as Tolstoy or Dickens, we turn a blind eye to it.

Rabbi Nachman of Brestlov, who suffered from mental illness, was well known for having said, “It is a great mitzvah to be happy always.” Now we understand why – he wasn’t.

Enough is enough.

Andres Lubitz knew he was ill. He was in treatment for depression and he was even excused from work by his neuropsychologist for a […]

Fasting From Judgment

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The other day driving my daughter home from school, I see a new anonymous face holding a sign on the street asking for money. After wondering for a moment about what happened to the previous man, I began to judge him.

Is he really deserving of my $1.00?

Then I stop myself. Who I do think I am?

Peering through a car window for 15 seconds evaluating the story of his life without knowing one single detail about him. I am certainly not the decent kind Jew that I purported to be last week walking into synagogue greeting everyone in my comfort zone with a hearty “Shabbat shalom”.

I cringe at the thought of God seeing me in this moment. The light will be changing soon and I don’t have time to grab my purse, reach into my wallet and give him a dollar.

What can I give him instead?

In that split second, I wave and smile.  In return the face in front of me lights up. He could have not responded. He could have looked at me with disappointment and disgust driving my Volvo with a latte in hand. But instead he responded with a wave and a smile back.

Suddenly we were seeing one another, eye to eye, face to face. Instead of two people seemingly utterly disconnected, we became two of God’s creations intersecting at the corner of Wilshire and San Vincente- connected for a moment.

He did not become my best friend.

I did not invite him home for dinner.

But in that split second, all the lines that divided us disappeared.

It does not […]

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Purim…

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If you have never heard Megillat Esther, the story of how Esther and Mordechai saved the Jews from the evil Haman, you must run, not walk to a synagogue tomorrow night. It is not just the story which is an awesome telling about the strength and fight of a WOMAN in Jewish history; but, it is also how the story is read.

All other public readings of sacred texts in the synagogue are usually done with a level of decorum and respect, but not this one. People come dressed in costume, a little tipsy and at the mere mention of Haman, the bad guy, everyone erupts into a cacophony of hissing and booing.

While the commandment is to HEAR the Megillah read twice, once at night and once during the following day, there is an equally important obligation to NOT HEAR the name of Haman.

“To Hear or not to hear” – Is this the question?

In the Mussar tradition these loud disruptions are not just a ritual of fun and jest. Rather they are “interruptive” commandments that force us to wake up from sleep walking through our lives. The loud noise is not to prevent us from listening; it is to force us to listen more carefully to eradicate the Haman, the evil in our lives?

Tomorrow night when you hear the groggers shake and the clergy bringing down the house of prayer, let the noise rouse you out of the evil of denial. Ask yourself, what truths am I hiding from others, from myself and from God?

During the 24 hour holiday of Purim:

  • Give yourself the gift of self-honesty.
  • Give yourself the courage to face the shame and indignities of your life.
  • Give yourself the chance to have a new freedom.

Haman […]