We have free will. Right?

Freedom of Will I wrote my rabbinical school thesis on Freedom of Will. In particular, I wrote about the varied thinking of medieval Jewish philosophers on this topic. The core issue with which these religious thinkers had to contend was how God could  control...
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11 words for making peace.

Making peace Most of us are familiar with the notion of last rites – a dying person’s confessional and absolution to ensure their eternal peace. This rite, most commonly associated with Catholicism, is trans cultural and denominational. (In Judaism,...
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Heeding messages. Whose messages?

Heeding messages. Whose messages? This article about messaging is in three parts: Michaelangelo’s Biblical Errancy Meaning and Message are Intertwined Asking You to Choose to Believe in Awe Michelangelo’s Biblical Errancy Michelangelo was a great artist....
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Mistakes

Making mistakes Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with my boy. But maybe it’s just that he’s 10-years old. I sort of remember being told I was absentminded when I was in 4th grade. But I don’t remember it being as bad as he is. Of...
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Embrace

What is empowering? What is the spiritual life? The definition of the word empower is to give someone the authority to do something and to make them stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. I am Rabbi Brian – an...
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Frog or Fish: How Much Do You want it?

Frog or Fish by Rabbi Brian 2017 – issue 13 of 40   The 77% Weekly Nourishing Spiritual-Religious Hunger  40/52 weeks a year   I thank you for reading. If you know of someone who might like this, please share. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up...
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To Be Ourselves

Written by Bill Johnson. A spiritual brother to Rabbi Brian and friend of Religion Outside The Box. http://billjohnsononline.com/blog/to-be-ourselves/ To Be Ourselves. “May we free ourselves, from ourselves so that we can be ourselves.”  Rabbi...
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About mathematics, love, metrics, and me.

About mathematics, love, metrics, and me.   Mathematics & Love For seven years, I was a high school mathematics teacher with a my job description of teaching mathematics to high school students.   But, really, I knew I had a much larger job: teaching...
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Got to laugh to keep from crying

You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying   After learning of some upsetting political news, I called a mentor of mine. He shut me down from obsessing about it by recounting something his father used to say. “You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying.”...
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Managing Expectations

As you might or might not know, I am an accomplished magician. Every year since 1979, I’ve gone to Tannen’s Magic Camp – first as a camper, then as a counselor, and now as a member of the senior staff. The best magicians will always let you know before you are fooled...
Read More

11 words for making peace.

Making peace Most of us are familiar with the notion of last rites – a dying person’s confessional and absolution to ensure their eternal peace. This rite, most commonly associated with Catholicism, is trans cultural and denominational. (In Judaism,...

read more

Heeding messages. Whose messages?

Heeding messages. Whose messages? This article about messaging is in three parts: Michaelangelo’s Biblical Errancy Meaning and Message are Intertwined Asking You to Choose to Believe in Awe Michelangelo’s Biblical Errancy Michelangelo was a great artist....

read more

Mistakes

Making mistakes Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with my boy. But maybe it’s just that he’s 10-years old. I sort of remember being told I was absentminded when I was in 4th grade. But I don’t remember it being as bad as he is. Of...

read more

Embrace

What is empowering? What is the spiritual life? The definition of the word empower is to give someone the authority to do something and to make them stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. I am Rabbi Brian – an...

read more

Frog or Fish: How Much Do You want it?

Frog or Fish by Rabbi Brian 2017 – issue 13 of 40   The 77% Weekly Nourishing Spiritual-Religious Hunger  40/52 weeks a year   I thank you for reading. If you know of someone who might like this, please share. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up...

read more

To Be Ourselves

Written by Bill Johnson. A spiritual brother to Rabbi Brian and friend of Religion Outside The Box. http://billjohnsononline.com/blog/to-be-ourselves/ To Be Ourselves. “May we free ourselves, from ourselves so that we can be ourselves.”  Rabbi...

read more

About mathematics, love, metrics, and me.

About mathematics, love, metrics, and me.   Mathematics & Love For seven years, I was a high school mathematics teacher with a my job description of teaching mathematics to high school students.   But, really, I knew I had a much larger job: teaching...

read more

Got to laugh to keep from crying

You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying   After learning of some upsetting political news, I called a mentor of mine. He shut me down from obsessing about it by recounting something his father used to say. “You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying.”...

read more

Managing Expectations

As you might or might not know, I am an accomplished magician. Every year since 1979, I’ve gone to Tannen’s Magic Camp – first as a camper, then as a counselor, and now as a member of the senior staff. The best magicians will always let you know before you are fooled...

read more

Love the broken

Love What's Broken In the course of our getting acquainted, Ron, a new minister friend, made reference to Luther’s theology of the cross. He spoke about it as though it was something I knew. I interrupted him and admitted that I didn’t understand....

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Not Teaching A Lesson

To Not Teach a Lesson At the start of January, it was really, really slushy here in Portland, Oregon. We had 8 inches of snow and then some freezing rain. Then it got a little warmer. We got slush. Lots of slush. What follows is what I diaried that day (refined by my...

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How to be loving

How to be more loving I had a lengthy text exchange with a friend. A little editing was done to change the format to match that of a typical “advice column.”   Dear rB, You talk about loving and not being filled with hate. I remember this past summer you turned...

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God called me to be me: a rabbi

God called me to be me: a rabbi This article is a little different from the usual. There is no explicit moral at the end. I hope that this article – a theological coming out – inspires you nonetheless. 23 years ago, I was in my first year of...

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Spiritual Diet

We are told often about the importance of diet and exercise in our lives. I'd like to think about diet and exercise in a spiritual-religious context. With physical diet and exercise, we know that even if you aren't on a specific diet, you still eat. We know that even...

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Anger Not Hate

Over the years, I have written a lot about ANGER. I have written about the proper ways to be angry. I have written about not taking in other people's anger. I have written about how even enlightened-minded folk have anger. I have written about the natural and...

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Towards Abundance

Living with gratitude. Living with abundance I am a big proponent of gratitude. Acknowledging that I am in favor of gratitude seems silly. Who isn’t in favor of gratitude? In case you were wondering, I also like fresh air, holding sleeping babies in my...

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FE(joy)AR

You might be scared. In many ways, it is a scary time. The future is uncertain. It feels very uncertain right now. I don’t need to convince you of how scared the world seems. You know that. What I want to talk to you about is our need to find joy amidst the fear. You...

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Hanukkah

Hanukkah The two most common questions I hear about Hanukkah are When is Hanukkah this year? What is the proper spelling of Hanukkah? After I answer these questions, I would like to explain that we are asking the wrong questions. The question we ought to ask about...

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The 5-7 Gratitude Surprise Exercise

Post-election, I am still heartbroken and fearful. But, I am allowing neither to rule my life. There is an Chinese proverb: You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow and fear from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair. I am...

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Seeking non-rationally.

We think, most of the time, with our normal, rational, everyday mindset because that's how we are accustomed to thinking. We are masterful at logical thought. And, why not? We get the most out of this world by thinking rationally. Who could fault us for wanting to use...

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Be the lighthouse.

Things I have learned in the past week. 1) Disappointment hits hard. I am sad that my son and daughter will have a different future than the one I envisioned. I had wanted them to have a childhood in which a woman was a president. I didn't get what I wanted. I...

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Accept (them) without exception

The spiritual-religious notion of acting where one can and accepting where one cannot is transcultural. In the 1st century, Epictetus wrote Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar Shantideva said...

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Busy, Hurrah?

#wisdom_biscuit: Be more. Do less. Henry David Thoreau wrote: It is not enough to be industrious. So are the ants. The question is, what are you being industrious about? With what do you fill your time? I mean, if you were to look at your life and what you do, what do...

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That one thing. Do it.

Words from the prophet Rumi: There is one thing in this world you must never forget to do. If you forget everything else and not this, there's nothing to worry about, but if you remember everything else and forget this, then you will have done nothing in your life....

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What’s it worth?

What is it worth? For years, I have taught a gem from the Talmud that addresses worth: Who is rich? Whoever is happy with what they have. Pirkei Avot 4:1a Isn’t that brilliant? If you are content with what you have, you are wealthy. My students, in return, have taught...

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Measuring Wealth

What’s it worth? For years, I have taught a gem from the Talmud (Pirkei Avot 4:1a) that addresses worth: Who is rich? Whoever is happy with what they have. Isn’t that brilliant? If you are fine with what you have, you are wealthy. My students, in return, have taught...

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Zinnias vs. Regular life

  It is amazing how quickly our moments of wonder, enjoyment, connection, and love fade. Yesterday, I was eating a truly delightful honeycrisp apple. The red surface, I noticed, was far from monochromatic – on it were a multitude of tiny, but exceedingly green...

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Love Suffering, Less.

#wisdom_biscuit: May your suffering always be less than your pain. My dear friend Nagy died in June. I’m broken up by it. Still. Months later. When I learned about it, I recorded a raw video about the stages of acceptance. Finally, I’m able to write about what he...

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Be forgiving. Of yourself. And others.

I received a text message from my buddy, Fritz. It was typed in letters from the Hebrew alphabet. But it was neither Hebrew nor Yiddish; it was Ladino. Just as Yiddish evolved from Middle German being written in Hebrew letters, Ladino is a similar blend of old Spanish...

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Be kind to yourself. And others.

Be kind to yourself. And others.  #wisdom_biscuit: Be forgiving. Of yourself. And others. I received a text message from my buddy, Fritz. It was typed in letters from the Hebrew alphabet. But it was neither Hebrew nor Yiddish; it was Ladino. Yiddish evolved from...

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Fighting with love.

I'm sitting in my garage. I'm shaken. Anti-Semitic and racist hate was written on the driveway outside my garage door this morning. Its 3 1/2 hours later. The enormity of what I have seen is catching up to me. I'm sitting on a stool. Typing out this message on my...

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Scary, not scared. And certain uncertainty.

#wisdom_biscuit: You deserve to be less scared.  Scary, not scared. And certain uncertainty. We live in a scary time. Of course it is scary. This is an election year, and the leadership of the most powerful country in the world is about to change. We are going from...

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God is not cisgender

#wisdom_biscuit: If you can easily put it in a box, it isn’t God. Terms The modern word cisgender means with the same gender from conception/birth. Cisgender is the opposite of transgender. The Latin prefix “trans” – as in the words transport, transition, and...

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God is not cisgender

#wisdom_biscuit: If you can easily put it in a box, it isn’t God. Terms The modern word cisgender means with the same gender from conception/birth. Cisgender is the opposite of transgender. The Latin prefix “trans” – as in the words transport, transition, and...

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Me in a dress in church

I used to regularly attend Sunday morning services at my friend Larry's church. Once he remarked that he thought it was wonderful that he could hear me singing the hymns along with everyone else. I said, "Larry, why would I not the sing the words of the hymns with...

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Discerning and Judging

Discerning and Judging Don’t always believe what you think In my classrooms, on either side of the board, there were always two little figures that I had cut out of paper. The letter “D” was written on one, and the letter “J” was written on the other. These two little...

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Apology from Organized Religion

I’m sorry. An Apology from Organized Religion AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is an update of something I wrote in 1998, the year I was ordained as a rabbi. I was searching for a different document on my computer, and, voila, I found this. I’ve edited a little. (I’ve gotten to be...

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Dealing with 💩 it.

Dealing with 💩. How to better tolerate life How to deal with bull, crap, bunk, drivel, gibberish, guff, hogwash, nonsense, rubbish, baloney, bosh, bunkum, flim-flam, hokum, hooey, malarkey, moonshine, phooey, and poppycock. In our lives, we must tolerate and accept a...

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Anger

Anger How to. How not to. We all sublimate. It’s just something that we as adults do. We sublimate our feelings, our emotions, and our actions. We neither emote nor lash out when we want to. There is a reason for this. There is a reason we all sublimate. We have to....

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Larry. Easter. Life after death. Jews. And me.

Larry. Easter. Life after death. Jews. And me. by Rabbi Brian Best friends I am on the phone with my best friend. He is a retired minister. Larry has preached the Gospel more than 62 years. He is the nicest man I know. I love him. I met Larry 18 years ago when he...

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How To Deal With Impossible People

The very first step The very first step of "how to deal with impossible people" is one that most of us forget. Answer the question: Is this something I want or need to do? Is this "impossible person" someone you have to deal with? If the answer is yes, then continue...

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Mystics. (You are one, most assuredly.)

Mystical Experiences Mystical experiences have been studied since the early 1900s. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass) famously studied them at Harvard University. It was their study of mystical experiences that led them to experiment with LSD....

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Justifying (my) Anxiety

Justified Anxiety “I moved to New York City for my health. I’m paranoid, and New York is the only place where my fears are justified.” — Anita Wise Until September 2015, I had a classroom to set up and run. Students coming and going, names to learn, procedures to...

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Enough

ENOUGH! In these wisdom_biscuits I write about various topics, including surrender, love, perseverance, and hope. I write about these topics so I can keep them in the forefront of my mind. After all, what better way is there to learn about something than by teaching...

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Your Anger? No, no thank you.

How to Handle Other’s Anger Don't take the gifts. This is a story I learned from my dear Buddhist friend, Nagy. I published it, without the commentary back in 2011: A woman's son left her to become one of the Buddha's disciples. She confronted the Buddha and showered...

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God is. God is not. And you.

  The 77% Weekly 40/52 weeks a year of spiritual nutrition RabbiBrian & Religion-Outside-The-Box   When say "this is something," we thereby limit the 'this' as synonymous with the something. Therefore, we ought take care using the verb "to be" when...

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Towards smiling inside

Dying/smiling inside, smiling/dying outside My friend Guff sent me a cartoon in four frames. The first frame shows a corpse-like body sitting up in bed. Next, the corpse-like body is standing in front of a closet filled with what look to be identical people suits. In...

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Q
&
A

“Do you need another email?”

No. You get enough emails already. Probably you don’t need one more email. In fact, you probably need to get fewer emails, not more.

“Do I really have time to read a weekly newsletter about spiritual-religious health? Might signing-up for this newsletter make me feel guilt in some way? What’s the catch?

Think about my 10-year old and his guitar lessons. He practices, if I exagerate, 30 minutes a week total. His lesson is 30 minutes a week. So, all told, he touches a guitar fo an hour a week. Now, think about you and your spiritual practice. Might you consider reading the newsletter to be your guitar lesson. What you are getting by subscribing to the newsletter is the chance to spend 5-10 minutes 3-4 times a month to your spiritual practice. Do the math, you have 15-40 minutes of time you are starting at a screen to devote to your spiritual well-being. Also, as I know that people don’t learn in guilt, I am both dogma and guilt-free.

“Why 77% Weekly”

I send it every Monday morning, except the last Monday of the month. 52 weeks a year – 12 last Mondays = 40. 40/52 is 77%.The newsletter got it’s name. I think you work too much. Many of us do. (You probably agree.) So, I want to remind you that you only need a 77% to pass.

“I thank you?”

I really didn’t know what to put in that button. “I thank you” seems appropriate. After all, albeit small, you are trusting me. So, for that I thank you.