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Rabbi Brad on Jewish Holidays and Brett Kavanaugh


Friend of the show Rabbi Brad Hirschfield stopped by the show to discuss the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and God’s presence during natural disasters.

“Sukkot is about remembering the Israelites who lived in the desert and are on their way to the Promised Land. They lived in these booths [Sukkahs], and God commands them to always celebrate this to remember. [A Sukkah] is usually a boxy kind of booth with a natural overhang … a building that reminds us what it’s like to dwell with God. And to imagine that being with God is not an escape from reality at all. It’s the combination of the protection every person needs to feel they have a home and the openness of a roof that lets the rest of the world in because being with God deeply is never meant, in our tradition, to cut you off from other people or the reality of the world.”

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Father Dave asks for Rabbi Brad’s take on the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. “It’s not about whether I think Kavanaugh should or shouldn’t be on the court,” Rabbi Brad says. “Frankly, that’s been talked to death. The sad thing about this is that no one has changed their mind, which means it was never about learning. Everyone who didn’t like him didn’t like him more, and everyone who supported him supported him more fiercely because of those people who didn’t like him. … So, what we did was we spend a month doing verbal battle as opposed to doing national learning. Whichever way we ended up, the casualty here was the court in the mind of the public, and everyone is going to have to work together to restore that.”

“What we know from what just happened is that probably no one got the full story,” Rabbi Brad says. “Because the full story here would have destroyed lives in addition to those who were already hurt. And the bravery of a person to stand up and tell her story isn’t easy. I’m not saying this because I’m a big fan of Brett Kavanaugh, but what would have happened if he said, ‘Yes, I did some of those things.’ And what if he then said, ‘I did some of those things, but that’s not who I am, and here’s how I have done penance.’ There’s no chance. In the same way, if he said, ‘I didn’t do these things, but I don’t feel I can serve on the court because the court will be forever disparaged in people’s minds.’ And everyone would say, ‘You see he really did it.’ So, for me the takeaway is if we want a culture of penance, it’s not just the penitent who has a role, we have a role in making penance possible.”

Father Dave and Rabbi Brad also talk about Hurricane Michael and Rabbi Brad’s perspective on where God is present in a natural disaster. “I don’t know, but I will answer with one caveat,” Rabbi Brad says. “Why is it that the people who ask, ‘Where was God?’ the most are the people who have already given up on God? … Conversely, when people say, ‘I’m a deep believer, so I’m not allowed to ask where was God,’ I would say you’re making a big mistake. Because you’re insulating and protecting your faith at the cost of other people. Ultimately, if we believe that God is involved in the world then we have to do three things: First, we have a moral obligation to ask where are you? The second thing is to admit that there is probably no answer from the Infinite that we finites can’t understand. But here’s what we all can do, we can live and build and create in ways that make God’s presence that much more trustable in the world.” (Original Air 10-11-18)