Health & Spirit

Surrounding a dying friend with love

Religion / God Squad /

Q: One of my dear friends is dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). We are a group of women who have grown up next door to each other, from toddlers to now senior citizens (YIKES). I am struggling (as we all are) with watching my friend slowly slipping away. She can no longer move or speak; we ...Read more

Animals are not made in the image of God

Religion / God Squad /

Q: I wholeheartedly agreed with your recent column about dying and hospice. My dilemma is why is it different for animals? Why do we get to play "God" and end their suffering just because they are dying, have lost bladder control and are ruining the carpet? I have always felt that nature should take its course, even if my rug is at risk. We just...Read more

Caring for the dying is one of the ways love can be repaid

Religion / God Squad /

Q: If one has a disease which, if left untreated, will result in death, is it a sin? Is it suicide to refuse treatment? What is your opinion about right-to-death issues (euthanasia) for terminal patients? (No name or address, as I do not want to be identified by any person)

A: What a person who is terminally ill (I am going to assume that the ...Read more

Inside the ark

Religion / God Squad /

Even though I am retired, every Jewish New Year I preach a sermon at my synagogue, Temple Beth Torah, in Melville, N.Y., and I cut it down drastically and summarize it in my weekly column. This helps my readers (both of them) know what is on my mind during these Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom ...Read more

A guide dog named Lucky

Religion / God Squad /

One of the most important spiritual byproducts of religious holidays is the charity they produce from religious folk who feel the special urge to share their blessings during the times of joy marked out for them in their sacred calendars. Muslims give zakat, charity, with great zeal and love during the sacred month of Ramadan. ...Read more

A 9/11 story for children

Religion / God Squad /

A 9/11 story for children by Rabbi Marc Gellman adapted from his book "And God Cried Too: A kid's book of healing and hope." (Harper Collins, 2002)

Angels like to sit on clouds and look down at the earth. In the daytime, they like looking at the clouds and the sun making sparkles on the sea. In the evening, they like looking at the lights. One ...Read more

The spiritual nature of Labor Day

Religion / God Squad /

On this recent Labor Day my thoughts turned to the spiritual nature of work. We all know the economic nature of work but there is something deeper and higher about work if we will just pause and consider it between the hot dogs and mattress sales.

The first spiritual element about our work that I would lift up this year is pride....Read more

Who is a Jew (continued)?

Religion / God Squad /

My recent column on how some religions define membership by blood and other religions define membership by belief raised a great many questions. Many about who is Jewish?

Q: After reading today's God Squad (Sat. Aug. 24), I'm wondering if you would call the Blood Religions a race? Are Jewish people considered a race since they ...Read more

Only two ways to become a member of a religion, by blood or by belief

Religion / God Squad /

What am I?

Q: I am 54 years old, baptized Catholic at 20 years old. My Mom was Protestant and my father was Roman Catholic. I was never baptized as an infant and took classes with a priest at 19 and decided I wanted to become a Catholic. We just found out that my mother's family was really Jewish. What am I? I am a practicing Catholic with a ...Read more

Questions about God and the meaning of life

Religion / God Squad /

In honor of the start of school, I want to renew my invitation to answer high school students' questions about God and the meaning of life. Last year I received a bunch of questions from Mercy High School, a Catholic high school in Middletown, Connecticut. They have a theology class in their junior year and have been kind enough to use my ...Read more

The purpose and power of prayer

Religion / God Squad /

Q: When someone is sick, we are asked to pray for them ... and if they die, it's often said that it was the will of God. But if they recover, the power of prayer is often given credit. Do you think enough prayers will change God's mind? -- Anonymous

A: The purpose of prayer is not to change God (that is magic), but to change us. It is a normal ...Read more

Reincarnation and karma compatible with Christianity and Judaism?

Religion / God Squad /

Q: Do you believe that the Hindu belief in reincarnation and karma are compatible with Christianity and Judaism? -- M from North Carolina

A: Today we live in an era of "Cafeteria Christianity and Judaism." People choose their beliefs from a theological smorgasbord of religious beliefs from all the religions of the world. The technical term for ...Read more

Belief in God is an invitation not a threat

Religion / God Squad /

Q: Does God punish, either in this life or in an afterlife, those who do not believe he exists? -- J in Wilmington, NC

A: Thanks, J. You are the source of many of my best questions. Your question is whether or not atheism is a sin and not just a mistaken belief. The difference between a mistake and a sin is that a mistake is just a wrong ...Read more

Crossing arms at Mass

Religion / God Squad /

Father Tom Hartman was not just my best friend, he was also my teacher. When we had to answer a question about Judaism, obviously I knew enough. When we had to answer about Catholicism, obviously, he knew enough. As far as questions about Buddhism I sort of knew enough, and as far as questions about every other religion in the world we were ...Read more

Our talents are the marks of God's blessing

Religion / God Squad /

Q: I would greatly appreciate it if you would explain what it means to be blessed. When many believers say they are blessed, they imply that they have found favor with God. Does this mean that God favors some over others? Have the favored pleased God more than others? Isn't this contradictory to what is stated in the Book of Job? Fleming James' ...Read more

How to be a perfect stranger

Religion / God Squad /

Q: What is the appropriate action for a person of the Jewish faith, if you are at a church service and the congregation kneels down during the service? Should you kneel down or stay seated? -- From M

A: Stay seated but sit in the back.

Richard Siegel, a friend of mine who passed away this year, wrote a book titled "How to Be a Perfect Stranger...Read more

You can see much of America in the Liberty Bell and its crack

Religion / God Squad /

When you look at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, you either see the bell first or the crack first. It is the same with America. You either see our genius as a nation or our flaws. Like the Liberty Bell, both are on clear view in America; it just depends upon which aspect of our national experiment in freedom reaches your soul more deeply.

A ...Read more


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