TRENDING TODAY

Encouraging Loneliness

A headline from the Wall Street  Journal, “Innovation in Health Care” report reads: Government Role in Fighting Loneliness. More accurate would be: Government Role Over the Years in Causing Loneliness. So many government policies have been factors in breaking up families, reducing the need for belonging to churches and social groups, and making people think that they can “make it on their own” (with government assistance) rather than needing human support and connection. Before spending taxpayer money to combat loneliness maybe we could just roll back all sorts of government innovations that increased it.

An Honest Man

Sometimes, what I start out thinking I am going to write about and what I end up saying are entirely different. Last week was a case in point. I intended to write about the book I had just read, Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography, but from an entirely different perspective than I ended up doing.

As I read, I was captivated by the honesty of Will Durant. Over the course of a long life, he often found his ideas tested by reality and he showed immense strength of character and depths of wisdom in a willingness to question some of his strongest convictions.

Relatively early in his career, his socialist leanings absorbed a harsh blow when he and his wife, Ariel, travelled to Russia during its Stalinist era. What they saw was far from the worker’s paradise in which they believed. Over the years, Mr. Durant developed an understanding of human nature that sought to merge his affection for the ideals of socialism with the reality of what actually motivates people to work hard.

His ideas on education were also uprooted as he saw the flourishing of roots that he had helped to plant.  As far back as 1941, he wrote words that resonate today. In an essay titled, “Self-Discipline or Slavery,” the man who, starting in 1912, taught at a libertarian school (tending towards anarchy) and believed in its principles wrote:

 Education, above all in America, surrendered to the student. For the most part he chose his teachers and his courses, discountenanced discipline, avoided tasks that required concentration, and helped a superannuated curriculum to transform school and college days into an enfeebling isolation…

Every lad of eighteen sat in judgment upon institutions of society, and codes of conduct, that represented the experience of a thousand generations of men; if he could not understand in one adolescence what had been learned in a millennium, he was free to trust his powerful eighteen-year old reason, and to reject the family as tyranny, marriage as bondage, religion as opium, government as exploitation and property as theft. Every restraint aroused resentment; standards faded from conduct—even, here and there from memory…

Libertarian education was a mistake, a pleasant indulgence of parental love, a weak inability on our own part to command because we had never learned to obey. The result is an adolescence without responsibility, a maturity without character…”

His abandonment of the Catholic Church into which he was born and for which he always retained a tenderness, led Mr. Durant into further introspection. Remaining an atheist, he had the honesty to recognize the dangers and flaws in a society which abandoned God. 

Writing about her husband’s thoughts in the 1960s, Ariel Durant says that her husband was tremendously concerned about where society was going, recognizing that much of it was in response to ideas in which he believed. She writes:

“Had not the apparent victory of the scientists, the historians, and the philosophers deposed the God who had been the very staff of life to the poor, and a pillar of support to the moral code that had helped tame the savage hunter into law and order, morality and civilization? Would philosophy or education or statemanship (sic) ever succeed in establishing an effective moral code without the aid of religious sanctions and beliefs? And if they failed, and religion continued to fade, would Western civilization lapse into a chaos of sexual laxity, political corruption, mutual violence, and a common, consuming despair? Could it be that all that enthusiastic slaughter of irrational creeds had undermined the secret foundations of civilization itself? Will repeatedly broached these problems to me…”

I apologize for quoting such long passages but I found the writing in this book so elegant, entertaining and thoughtful that I wanted to share some of it.  Although I come from a different perspective than Mr. Durant on both religious and political issues, I finished the book with great respect for the authors and also a hope that we can return to a time when ideas can be dissected and debated with intelligence, humility and grace.


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Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Obstacles and Escape Your Own Egypt

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My Wife Wants to be Cremated

My wife has stage 4 cervical cancer and is not healthy enough for the standard treatments. We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best. 

She has expressed a desire to be cremated.  It’s cheaper, and when I pass I will  be interned at Arlington as I am a veteran.  It sounded OK to me at first but I’m having reservations.

Your thoughts, should a Jew or a Christian consider cremation?

Robert H.

Dear Robert,

We are moved by your words, “We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best,” and pray that God responds favorably to your prayers.

While we love teaching what the Torah says we aren’t comfortable telling you as a Christian how to act. We recommend that you discuss this with a respected mentor and/or clergy from your own faith.

We can tell you that in Torah Judaism, proper treatment of the body after death is defined as burial, just as God told Adam toward the end of Genesis chapter 3. This is so important that, for faithful Jews, even if one’s parents expressed their wishes to be cremated, their children may not carry out those wishes. The idea is that after death, the parents will have entered a World of Truth and will be appalled that they ever wanted to do something counter to God’s law. As such, giving them a proper burial is actually following their final wishes.

When the soul leaves the body at the time of death, the body’s purpose for being no longer exists. However, as the vehicle that allowed the soul to interact with the world it requires special treatment. Part of that treatment requires a gradual return to the earth via burial rather than the abrupt return via cremation.

You might find it interesting that a Torah scroll and other holy writings as well as printed prayer books and Bibles are never thrown out. They are also buried in the ground.

In addition, resurrection of the dead is a central tenet of Judaism. Choosing to treat the body as if it will never be needed again could be seen as rejecting that belief.

It sounds like two things might be troubling your wife. Is she upset that since you are a veteran and will be buried at Arlington, the two of you will not be together? Does she feel that no one will care where she lies?

You also mention that she is concerned with the cost. Perhaps she would feel differently if you assured her that you would rather have a cemetery plot to visit than more dollars in your pocket.

We pray that the two of you find moments of peace and joy during this difficult time,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

*   *   *

 Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt
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Of Hurricanes and Hatred

This week offers a view into two types of tragedy. Our news is filled with stories of people losing homes, businesses and even their lives due to hurricanes. Sixteen years ago this week, on September 11, 2001, the news was full of stories of many more people losing their lives (the loss of businesses existed but was overshadowed by the magnitude of loss of human life) due to an evil ideology full of hatred.

Scripture pulls no punches in warning us of tragedies that will overwhelm us should we abandon God’s guidance. Many of these are consequences that flow naturally rather than bolts of lightning from Heaven as people focus on the wrong things and stop seeing humanity as created in God’s image.

One section of the Torah, filled with horrifying descriptions of misery, begins with these words:

…if you do not listen to the voice of the Lord your God…
(Deuteronomy 28:15)

The following 52 verses describe how badly life deteriorates when God’s blueprint for social organization, as laid out in the rest of the Bible, is ignored. God’s system regulates both our relationship with Him and with other people. When individual property rights are not protected, poverty ensues.  When the legal system fails to treat both wealthy achievers as well as the destitute fairly, social cohesion collapses.  When concupiscent degeneracy displaces family life, vulgarity overwhelms the culture.

As people turn away from a Heaven-centric vision of life, growing numbers become takers rather than makers. Ordinary citizens lose both the will and the ability to defend themselves against natural disaster, internal predators and external enemies. Within only a few generations, once strong, successful and vibrant societies decline to geopolitical insignificance. Their people suffer in anguish never quite understanding what happened.

The frightening section ends:

God will return you to Egypt in ships…and there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as slaves and maids but there will be no buyer.
(Deuteronomy 28:68)

Why would the final consequence of living a life of secular decadence be finding ourselves transported back into Egypt by ships?

The Hebrew word for ship, ANiYaH contains the first person pronoun “I” (In Hebrew-ANi). It always implies a journey of significance, either positive or negative.

Common figures of speech like “my voyage of discovery” indicate that crossing an ocean is a natural metaphor for a significant journey.  The most significant ocean crossing in Israel’s history was crossing the Red Sea.  They didn’t have to use boats.  God split the ocean enabling them to walk across on dry land.

We now have enough information to understand Deuteronomy 28:68.

General decadence, decline, and decay are all consequences for a society that abandons God’s blueprint.  The final blow is that people lose the joy of being unique creative individuals and see tragedies as inevitable and expected.  As promised, God leads them along the road of their choice.

Scripture’s Egypt is not just a country from which God took the Israelites during the Exodus.  The Hebrew word for Egypt, M-TZ-R-IM also means narrow, confined, and restricted. Sadly, humans who have abandoned their Godly side often crave that very lack of freedom. They willingly relinquish their God-given destiny in exchange for a (false) promise of assured sustenance and safety even though doing so will forever constrain the limitless potential they once enjoyed.

The final blow is discovering that nobody wants them.  Having sunk into self-indulgent depravity, they have so little value that even as slaves they can find no buyers.

*  *  *

The ability to escape our Egypts, whether they are addictions, lack of education, family difficulties, poverty or something else is, with God’s help, in our own hands. Our personal Egypt is anything that limits us achieving our potential. I have published a powerful, practical, and effective audio program, available by mail or download, entitled Let My People Me Go-How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt. It provides motivation as well as tools and techniques for escaping your Egypt.  At a reduced price right now, it is a priceless portal to success and happiness.

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THOUGHT TOOLS

  • Of Hurricanes and Hatred September 11, 2017 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - This week offers a view into two types of tragedy. Our news is filled with stories of people losing homes, businesses and even their lives due to hurricanes. Sixteen years ago this week, on September 11, 2001, the news was full of stories of many more people losing their lives (the loss of businesses existed Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • My Wife Wants to be Cremated September 12, 2017 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - My wife has stage 4 cervical cancer and is not healthy enough for the standard treatments. We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best.  She has expressed a desire to be cremated.  It’s cheaper, and when I pass I will  be interned at Arlington as I am a veteran.  It sounded OK Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • An Honest Man September 13, 2017 by Susan Lapin - Sometimes, what I start out thinking I am going to write about and what I end up saying are entirely different. Last week was a case in point. I intended to write about the book I had just read, Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography, but from an entirely different perspective than I ended Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Encouraging Loneliness September 13, 2017 by Susan Lapin - A headline from the Wall Street  Journal, "Innovation in Health Care" report reads: Government Role in Fighting Loneliness. More accurate would be: Government Role Over the Years in Causing Loneliness. So many government policies have been factors in breaking up families, reducing the need for belonging to churches and social groups, and making people think Read More

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About Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America’s Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on The Blaze Radio Network. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.

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