The young, Soviet-raised, Gen Y—a group who would be reclassified outside relation to my cohort (Generation X) and instead be based on the calendar — a millennial— is vehement, raising his voice at me: “No, Rabbi. You must believe in God or you are not a rabbi.”




“Sorry, Alexi, no. I don’t.”




I’m a 30-year old rabbi on stipend for a youth leadership program on the woodsy campus of the Brandeis-Bardin institute, sponsored by some Los Angeles Jewish organization.


My job is to lead services, a teaching, and prayers before and after meals.




Alexi has zeroed in on /slash/ become hyper focused on this one point. “But rabbis must believe in God!”




I tease, “Says who? God?”




“Maimonides. He says so!”




Alexi can’t win because the facts are with me.




I’ve studied humanistic Judaism.




Even got to have breakfast with Sherwyn Wine, the founder — when he was contemplating a successor. It wasn’t for me. The movement, IMHO, had made “not talking about God” into idolatry.




When I worked at the main-stream, brick and mortar place, I led a five-session class (slash, process group) entitled, “God is dead, and I don’t feel too good myself.” It was an attendance record-setting, adult education class.




Me, calmly to Alexi, “No, Maimonides didn’t, really. Furthermore, he hinted quite loudly at the opposite, that he was what you might call an atheist.”


I take a breath and start back, calmly, “Even if Schlomo Ben Maimon said stating a belief in God is definitional to being a Jew, I still needn’t. The Holy One, blessed be,” I say, catching his eye, smiling and winking, “God — if you insist on such a being existing — gave me personal autonomy to not believe. And then, simply, I choose to not believe in God.”




He shifts his gaze to the bottom corner of the blue painted bench he’s sitting on. 




Re-organizing thoughts we thought we knew to be true as thoughts we now see are not necessarily true is hard work.




“Alexi, my friend,” I say, as though I’m about to offer him a glass of schnapps, “Unlearning what we thought was true is so very uncomfortable. Indeed.”




I sit with him in silence.
















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And, I’m privileged that you spend some of your time today reading my words.




While I you’ve not officially asked — “Hey, Brian, can you advise me in my spiritualigious life?” — I think it safe to say “I’m your rabbi.”




I thank you for the honor.




I thank you for the wonderful year of connection we’ve had through this newsletter this year and look forward to another 40 weeks in 2023.


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With love,
Rabbi Brian

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