rabbi david

Rabbi David Azen is the NCJCC’s spiritual leader. He grew up in New Jersey and was inspired by issues of social justice, intellectual inquiry, and free thinking. He headed off to Princeton thinking he would be a civil rights attorney. Eventually, he decided that as a Rabbi, he could engage in a broader spectrum of issues with a wider palette of options about how to address these issues than he could as a lawyer.

He became a Rabbi and has served at a large congregation in Toronto, received education through the arts in Philly, won a fellowship in film at Temple University, then returned to congregational work in New York, and most recently in Sacramento. Along with serving a congregation, he developed a non-profit that brings healthier food to lower income communities. Social justice and fighting against religious thought that limits free thinking are still his passions, and he engages our community in discussion during his teaching, ritual, and sermon conversations.

Rabbi’s Message

“Be a Blessing to all the Families of the Earth”

The prime directive of our tradition is the first one given to Abraham, to: “Be a blessing to all the families of the earth.” Whether you believe that comes from a Supreme Being or not, it doesn’t matter to me. Belief, or lack thereof, should not be a barrier to involvement. That’s one of the aspects I love most about being Jewish, that we are part of a people who (with one lousy exception) never tried to convert anyone forcibly, and who believes the righteous of all nations have a spot in the next world.

What we ought to care about are some common goals—to enjoy this life, minimize unnecessary pain for ourselves and others, and to aspire with everyone else to ensure that every child goes to bed well-fed, and safe and secure, too – which means we all have to figure out how to grow up and share the world.

A rabbi was once asked, if G-d makes everything, how come G-d makes atheism? The answer? So that, in the case that someone hungry should come ask you for food, you won’t say, G-d will provide for you.

For those for whom the use of G-d, or any suggestions thereof, is a big stumbling block, I hope that you will keep in mind what Paul van Buren said in The Edges of Language, that spiritual language is language that builds scaffolding out toward the limits of what we can say, and then points beyond it to indicate that that which is most meaningful is really and truly out there for you. And so, you say, “Wow!” Or “Halleluyah” or whatever. Should you balk at any of the terms used to point toward Our Source, Whatever/ Whoever that might be, just meditate on whence the Wow!?

So, let’s remember, we’re all connected, and we still have a long way to go in learning to be a blessing – to all the families of the earth, and we get to practice that with each other in our very wonderful community. May this be a year of blessings, health, and joy.

Rabbi David