There’s a time for religion, and that time is now

Did you see the beautiful full moon the other night? It was a blue moon, a super moon, a Tu B’shvat moon, a lunar eclipse moon, and a moon that filled me with anger.

Yes, anger.

I’ll tell you why.

When I see a full moon like that, especially on a clear night, it makes me think of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt. Yes, that’s how my brain works. At least I know I’m in the right job.

The thing is, when you’re wandering in the desert, it’s nice to have the light of the full moon at night, right? And not just for the people experiencing The Exodus, but for anyone who is out in the desert, journeying to a new, hopefully better, life.

To this day, on this very day, by the light of that very moon, there are people who are leaving certain death and danger for a chance at survival and a chance at a better life. That is happening all over the world right now (and always).

Some of those people left Eritrea and Sudan not long ago and took part of the same path as the ancient Israelites across Egypt and into modern Israel seeking asylum.

Here’s where the anger comes in.

You know how sometimes you expect more from someone who’s been there? Like, tons of empathy? Because they’ve been there…

There are some in the Israeli government who are now working very hard to deport these asylum seekers, including withholding a percentage of their wages until they leave. Including making things difficult for their employers. Babies are hungry. Mothers are turning to prostitution to feed their families.

Even though they now live in Israel.

Even though the most often repeated commandment in the Torah is to remember the stranger because we were once strangers in Egypt.

We were there. We were persecuted. We struggled to feed our families and to survive. And not just 5,000 years ago, but also 70 years ago, before the State of Israel was born. And a whole host of times in between.

We’re not the only ones in that position. People around the world are in that position right now. And we are charged to treat them well! Not to send them “back” to places with uncertain futures, but certain challenges. Like having no legal documents. Like having their money taken away. Like being targeted by ISIS.

So, yes, anger. And profound disappointment.

Now, this isn’t actually meant to be only a rant. It is also a plea. I believe now is the time for religion. That religion could be Judaism, it could be another organized religion, it could be a religion of one.

The thing about religion is that it’s a code of ethics, standards to live by, and a playbook filled with action items that adhere to that code and those standards.

In the face of this cruelty, it is time to ask:


Does your code of ethics include being one of the helpers? Thankfully, in Israel right now, there are El Al pilots refusing to fly these asylum seekers out of Israel and Holocaust survivors willing to hide them if necessary. Hide them! And there are many, many people collecting diapers and formula and food to help out.

In this week’s Torah portion we get the Big Ten. In English they’re known as The Ten Commandments, but in Hebrew they’re known as The Ten Utterances (my best translation).

Maybe you choose to live by some or all of these Ten Utterances:

  1. No other god but the One God
  2. Don’t worship any other god
  3. Don’t take the name of God in vain
  4. Keep Shabbat
  5. Respect your parents
  6. Don’t murder
  7. Don’t commit adultry
  8. Don’t steal
  9. Don’t be a false witness
  10. Don’t covet

We don’t need to look only to the Ten Commandments when drawing on sources for choosing our actions.

There are The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. First things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand and then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

And let’s remember, there’s the one Golden Rule:

Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

In a recent Out-of-the-Box Judaism podcast episode, I spoke with Julie Neale of Mother’s Quest about the four guideposts that she created for her life. These are essentially her four commandments that are her pillars for living her EPIC life:

  1. Engaged
  2. Passionate
  3. Invested
  4. Connected


In my opinion, there is no reasonable code of ethics that includes sending asylum seekers to further trauma and danger.

It is time to make sure that we are acting in accordance with our values. You don’t need to believe in God or be observant to take the message from religion that there is a difference between right and wrong and to live deliberately on the side of kindness.

I hope you will join me for a free video call to create your own list of commandments-agreements-habits-rules-guideposts. We can all mix and match from the items above as well as other sources to make our own list, and then have a checklist to compare our actions with our values and truly live lives that we are proud of. Click here if this is for you.

May we all live epic lives aligned with our values, taking action, leading with kindness, and helping others!

Esther Goldenberg is the founder of Out-of-the-Box Judaism. A version of this article first appeared on

About the Author
Esther Goldenberg is the author of several books, including the forthcoming three novels of biblical fiction: The Scrolls of Deborah, Seventeen Spoons, and The Song of the Bluebird. When she’s not going for early morning walks in her beautiful neighborhood in northern Israel, or taking drumming classes, she can be found bombarding her son and daughter with questions about their thoughts on ancient Egypt. To get previews of the books or to be notified when they're are available, sign up at
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