Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Congregant's Thoughts on Genesis

Once again, congregant Ludwik Kowalski has asked that we share his thoughts regarding our weekly Saturday morning Torah study sessions. This year we have been concentrating on family narratives in the Torah and Tanach, and these remarks come in response to last week's (February 15) discussion regarding Jacob.
We are still discussing Genesis. Last week congregant Eric Fisher said that Abraham, Jacob, Rebecca and Leah are our ancestors. Today I objected, saying that they are not real people, that we have no historical evidence of their existence. Then I quoted the following statement from our prayerbook (on page 33):
Torah is what God revealed to us, and what we discern of God; ideas, ideals, laws and mitzvot, our religious heritage.
God, as I often repeat, is a spiritual (not material) entity. The same applies to people and events described in the Bible. Spiritual entities are not real; they are fictitious. I am a scientist. How do I reconcile my scientific attitude with my belief in God? By accepting the NOMA position, formulated by another scientist, Stephen J. Gould. According to Gould, science and theology are two non-overlapping magisteria. Methods of validation of spiritual claims and methods of validation of material claims are drastically different. My elaboration on this topic was published one year ago at on my website.
"God is not a material entity," I wrote, "and attempts to refute God's existence by performing scientific experiments are not appropriate. The same is true for attempts to refute scientific claims, such as the age of the earth, on the basis of disagreements with holy books." Here are other terms used to describe the two non-overlapping magisteria:
  • natural versus supernatural
  • physical versus metaphysical
  • real versus fictional
  • objective versus subjective
  • materialistic versus idealistic
  • etc.
Adjectives such as mystical, metaphorical, allegorical, and assumed, are often used to describe our spiritual world entities. Today I asked our rabbi what he thinks about Eric's statement. He said that we are studying God-inspired descriptions of beliefs of our sages. In other words, unlike many Orthodox Jews, we do not take these descriptions literally. This is consistent with what our rabbi wrote in his book entitled Judaism's Great Debates, published in 2012, and with what was written by the German rabbi Abraham Geiger, one of the founding fathers of Reform Judaism, in the 19th century.
Ludwik Kowalski's views, as they are expressed here, do not necessarily represent the official position of Congregation Adas Emuno. But we are always happy to share the thoughts and opinions of our members here on our congregational blog.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


From the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

A Message From Our President

Dr. Lance Strate


Share. It's one of the lessons we all learn in early childhood. To share our toys. To share a snack. To share and share alike.

And sure, some things are easier to share than others. Go on Facebook, and just about every item we see in our stream gives us the option to like, comment, and share. It's easy to click on share, if we see something we think others might appreciate or enjoy or find interesting. It's easy, and it costs us nothing.

And it's easy enough to share our simchas, our joys, with a word or two in conversation with family and friends, and on Facebook with a status update. But how about posting a status update to our congregation, our Adas Emuno family and friends? Why not share your simchas with us, by sending an announcement for Kadima, our newsletter, by making a donation—the amount doesn't matter, what counts is the gesture of giving thanks—or by sponsoring an Oneg for Friday night Shabbat services?

As a congregation, as a community we share our joys, and take pleasure and pride in each others' good fortune and hard-won accomplishments. And as a congregation and a community we come together and share in each others' sadness and grieving. We are here when you need us, please keep that in mind.

And we share our thoughts as well. We speak and we listen, we discuss and we respond. We want to make this the best Adas Emuno it can be, so by all means, speak up, let us know what you're thinking, what works and what doesn't, what needs to be changed and what should not be touched. And let's listen to each other.

When Robert Fulgham wrote, All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, first and foremost he learned: Share everything! And while that may be taking things a little too far now that we're out of Kindergarten, the importance of the lesson should not be lost, to share our resources, to share our time and energy, to share our skills and talents. Adas Emuno is our shared congregation, our shared community, our shared creation. It's what we produce together, as a collective It's a work of collaboration. We are buoyed up and float along because we all pool our efforts.

Share. That's not just what we ought to do. It's also what we have. A share. A stake. An investment. In our congregation. In our future. We own it, it belongs to us. Each and every member. It's ours. In the words of the old Union Prayer Book: "Behold, a good doctrine has been given unto you; forsake it not." Our tradition, our congregation, our future, all are our shared responsibility.

We share in ownership as we share of ourselves. Let us share our joys and sorrows, share in the beauty of our spirituality and the illumination of our learning, share in our responses and our responsibilities. To each other and to ourselves. To our past and to our future. To our world in need of healing and to something greater than ourselves. To life, to health and happiness. And to Adas Emuno!