31 minutes | Dec 10th 2020

S1E110 - Rabbi Rick Jacobs on Isaiah 58:1-8 – “Living a Life of Meaning and Purpose”

Mark’s delight is palpable as he welcomes Rabbi Rick Jacobs to the podcast today. As President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Jacobs currently leads the largest and most diverse Jewish movement in North America. He is a longtime and devoted creative change agent who has served as Rabbi of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, where he created the first homeless shelter in a New York City synagogue, before spending 20 years as a visionary spiritual leader at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York. The passage he has chosen to discuss today is Isaiah 58:1-8.   Rabbi Jacobs begins the conversation by summarizing the passage and sharing its significance for him, particularly in its commentary upon moving beyond the foundation of ritual and study toward acting for social justice. He and Mark engage in an extensive exploration of other related Torah passages, the call to be righteously indignant for justice, and experiencing empathy for others. They also discuss the examples set by social justice activists throughout history, the story behind this passage’s placement within Yom Kippur, as well as the Rabbi’s perspective on important Jewish holidays and the global Jewish people. He draws the episode to a close with a particularly powerful example of one of the lessons he has learned about humankind. Rest assured, you will not only be educated by Rabbi Jacobs today, but you will be inspired and moved to action through his wisdom, his passion, and, above all, his integrity, in today’s utterly fascinating discussion.   Episode Highlights:  ·   Rabbi Jacobs’ summary of the passage and its significance for him ·   The powerful grounding in ritual and study ·   The requirement of living ethically rigorous, disciplined, impactful lives ·   Other passages in the Torah that echo the message of today’s passage ·   Being righteously indignant for the sake of justice ·   Experiencing empathy for others ·   What it means to be a person of faith ·   Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath ·   The story behind the placement of this passage as part of Yom Kippur ·   The Rabbi’s perspective on the two most important Jewish holidays ·   Rabbi David Hartman and how he inspired Rabbi Jacobs ·   Rabbi Jacob’s vision of a global Jewish people ·   The lessons that he has learned about humankind    Quotes:   “The section is very agitational.”   “It literally is a counterbalance to the most intense ritual moment in the Jewish calendar.”   “It’s a corrective to a Judaism that would be only obsessed with ritual details.”   “I’m literally in love with this passage.”   “At our most intense ritual, we read a passage that challenges the conventional notion of ritual.”   “Commitment to social justice, to righting the wrongs of society, are fundamental to what it means to be a person of Jewish commitment and faith.”   “Religious life is built on the details.”   “This is not about checking the box.”   “This is a time when everybody’s stomachs are growling.”   “Use the experience of this Holy Day to fuel a greater sensitivity and awareness…the experience is supposed to get inside not only our heads, but our hearts.”   “It was as if my feet were praying.”   “The Torah isn’t just for our sanctuary, for our ritual moment. It’s a beacon of light in the world.”   “I want them to take on something and really do it.”   “For the Jewish tradition, social justice isn’t ‘community service’.”   “We’ve got to stretch ourselves.”   “There is within each of us a common bond to the people who are the most different.”   “We find a bedrock upon which we can build a world of hope and possibility.”     Isaiah 58;1-8 Cry with full throat, without restraint; Raise your voice like a ram’s horn! Declare to My people their transgression, To the House of Jacob their sin. To be sure, they seek Me daily, Eager to learn My ways. Like a nation that does what is right, That has not abandoned the laws of its God, They ask Me for the right way, They are eager for the nearness of God: “Why, when we fasted, did You not see? When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?” Because on your fast day You see to your business And oppress all your laborers! Because you fast in strife and contention, And you strike with a wicked fist! Your fasting today is not such As to make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast I desire, A day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush And lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, A day when the LORD is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock fetters of wickedness, And untie the cords of the yoke To let the oppressed go free; To break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, And to take the wretched poor into your home; When you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to ignore your own kin. Then shall your light burst through like the dawn And your healing spring up quickly; Your Vindicator shall march before you, The Presence of the LORD shall be your rear guard. https://www.sefaria.org/Isaiah.58.1-8?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en     Links:   The Rabbi’s Husband homepage: The Rabbi's Husband   Mark’s Twitter: Mark Gerson - The Rabbi's Husband (@markgerson)   The Rabbi’s Husband Newsletter contact: daniel@therabbishusband.com

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