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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » I'm God, You're Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego » User review

This is a very perceptive and generally humorous look by a rabbi upon his past career

  • Oct 29, 2010


            Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, a reform rabbi and author of more than a dozen and a half informative easy to read books, has collected close to fifty short, frequently very humorous observations written during his more than several decades of service as a concerned rabbi. Rabbi Kushner includes serious messages within the humor. He divides his observations into six sections: rabbi, Judaism, family, world, mysticism, and holiness.


            In the first section, for example, he discusses his view of the responsibilities of a rabbi. Readers will find him making statements such as: “Rabbis should treat Jews more like rabbis. Jews should treat rabbis more like Jews.” “The more you rehearse anything, the more deadly it becomes. Besides, people make just as many gaffes anyway.”


            In his Judaism section, Kushner speaks about conversion. “I converted a man (who was already married to a Jew) whose last name was Fitzpatrick. ‘But Rabbi,’ he said, “Fitzpatrick isn’t a Jewish name.” I said, “It will be.” In regard to another man who was married to a Jewish woman, he asked if the man wanted to convert. He responded, “Yes.” The rabbi asked him why he hadn’t done it before. He answered, “Nobody asked me to do it.”


            One of the most hilarious chapters is in this section. He speaks about taking names at random from the white pages of the phone book, and sending these non-Jews a letter. It begins:



We the board of directors of the Congregation Emanu-El at our last meeting unanimously selected you (and your entire nuclear family) to become Jews-by-surprise.

No matter how ridiculous you consider this decision, there are already tens of thousands of born Jews who know and do less than you do. Even if you are an avowed anti-Semite, relax, there are already many Jews like you, too….


The letter goes on to describe the responsibilities of these new Jews. It contains humor as well as sharp criticisms of Jews.


            Kushner finishes his book with reflections on Thornton Wilder’s great play Our Town. He recalls how one of the characters has died and asks if it is possible to go back in time and see oneself. She is told that it is possible, but not to do so, because it is too painful. She rejects the advice and goes back to view her twelfth birthday. She sees how her family is ignoring the possibilities of life and not really enjoying life. Her family is not living as if they will die someday. Kushner advises us not to live this way. This is his message after being a rabbi for so long, after seeing so much, after hearing so many tales of wasted lives lived wrong.


This is a very perceptive and generally humorous look by a rabbi upon his past career

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Israel Drazin ()
Ranked #64
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of twenty books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four … more
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In a breezy, accessible, and colloquial style, Kushner brings together excerpts from stories, reviews, essays, and speeches written during his 28 years as a congregational rabbi and his current tenure as scholar-in-residence at Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco. He has grouped the material into six categories: rabbi, Judaism, family, world, mysticism, and holiness. Although Kushner was educated as a Reform rabbi, he cites Orthodox and Conservative sources as well as a number of other traditional authorities. His interest in Jewish mysticism is a further indication of his deviation from the customary intellectual and spiritual sources of a Reform rabbi. Disguising the profundity of his thoughts by lighthearted presentation, Kushner tackles such complicated issues as the role of the rabbi, intermarriage, observance of the Jewish dietary laws, parent-child relationships, Jewish-Gentile differences, Kabbalah, prayer, and death. In each instance, his wisdom, his realism, and the sources he calls upon demonstrate the depth and perceptiveness of his approach to difficult problems. One essence of genius is to make complex issues simple. Kushner superbly passes this test. (Oct.) (c)
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ISBN-10: 1580234410
ISBN-13: 978-1580234412
Author: Lawrence Kushner
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Jewish Lights Pub
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