Monthly Archives: February, 2013

Musing Without a Reaction

February 26th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 43 comments

A very large number of you read Robert Avrech’s piece, Jew
Without a Gun
, last week. Some of you mentioned how powerful it was when we
met at my husband’s North Carolina appearance. Others of you emailed me
privately. I was surprised, though, by how few of you left comments on the
Musing site. I thought a huge discussion would erupt and instead only a few
souls chimed in with their thoughts.

Without hearing from you, my imagination ran wild. Did some
of you delete it in disgust? Did it disturb you so much that you quickly
clicked on a YouTube video of a frisky puppy or a cute two year old? Were you
shocked to discover that (at least some) localities see the function of the
police as cleaning up after a crime rather than entering a volatile situation
in order to protect citizens? Are you afraid of Big Brother or social
consequences so that you don’t want to comment publicly on an explosive topic?

In all fairness, I privately react to blogs I read much more
frequently than I comment. I’m certainly not Caesar’s wife far above reproach
here. But I really wanted to know your reaction. My husband and I moved away
from Los Angeles shortly before the riots broke out. Many of our friends were
impacted, though not as vividly as the Avrechs. Yet, whether you were in L.A.
or not, what happened was a stark reminder of how thin the veneer of
civilization is and how quickly a situation can spin out of control. I tend to
think that many police officers wanted to protect the public but they were held
back by the “powers that be.” I certainly believe that the press suppresses
stories where the presence of good people with guns inhibits criminal behavior
or saves innocent lives.

Robert Avrech is a talented writer; more importantly, he is
a thoughtful citizen. After the tragic Sandy Hook school shootings, I wrote,
“I believe that most citizens who are signing petitions and urging gun control
laws are well motivated. I also believe that most citizens who oppose gun
control measures are well motivated. Unfortunately, I can’t give the same
benefit of the doubt to most politicians.… If the administration and Congress
want to exploit this tragedy, gun control will be the only issue targeted via
legislation even if others are addressed with verbal platitudes.”

How do we ensure that we create more good and thoughtful
citizens; that we have a press that reports news rather than pursues an agenda; that we don’t wake up one day to find out that we have lost those rights
that have made America a beacon of hope and freedom? I don’t know the answers
to these questions, but I do know that we need to have this conversation.

 

 

 

Copper Confusion

February 26th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I often meet profoundly confused people. Sometimes a fellow isn’t sure if he is ready for marriage or a woman is struggling to deal with her difficult neighbor. Sometimes we need to make a business decision and we’d like to believe that both choices are equally honorable. The right course of action is rarely readily visible. Truth and falsehood; right and wrong; these are not simple divisions at all. People can take opposing attitudes on politics or social issues, both convinced to the depths of their souls that they are absolutely doing what is good, right, and noble.

Not surprisingly, the word of the Lord offers us a tool to help cut through the distracting fog.

The nation spoke against the Lord and Moses,
“Why did you take us from Egypt to die in the desert, there is no bread or water
and our souls are disgusted with this lightweight bread.”
Numbers (21:9)

This complaint is about the miraculous Manna from Heaven, one of God’s great blessings!  In response, the Lord sends venomous snakes to attack the nation, killing a great number of people. Realizing the gravity of their ingratitude, the nation approaches Moses and acknowledges that they erred in grumbling. Moses then prays to God on their behalf. God instructs Moses to make a serpent and place it on a stick. Moses makes a copper snake and miraculously, any stricken person who looked at this snake survived.

Notice that the solution to the plague of snakes did not involve getting rid of the snakes themselves. Why offer a cure for the snakes rather than simply removing them?

Ancient Jewish wisdom points out that the words for copper and snake are made up of the same root letters.

In other words, the word snake blends right in to the word copper. A person looking at the word copper does not even notice that there is a snake in there!

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the serpent represents the inclination to do evil that is present in man. Yet, very few of us openly choose to do wrong. Instead, we rationalize our choices and convince ourselves of our righteousness. Humans struggle to make the right choices due to the lure of the wrong choices. Just as the snake blends right into the underbrush so that he simply can’t be seen, so does evil blend in with good. The serpent lures us into believing that his voice inside of us is in fact our better instincts speaking.

The solution is to take the serpent and place him up on a pole. Take him out from the copper hues of the underbrush where he hides and identify him for the fraud that he is. That part of man that tells him to make mistakes and urges him to choose the fleeting over the eternal is not really a part of him at all!

There is no getting rid of the snake; perplexing challenges are here to stay. This world is confusing. Frequently, we need a mentor to help us remove the snakes from the ground and raise them in the air. When wrong is no longer couched in the underbrush, it can no longer be as easily presented as good. When a man or woman realizes that the reasons that they are avoiding marriage stems from their lower rather than higher self, that the juicy gossip they want to pass on is the talk of a foreign snake, or that one economic choice will lead to a better road than another, they are more equipped to make wise decisions.

Chana Levitan is one such wise mentor in the area of dating and marriage. Her practical and forthright book, I Only Want to Get Married Once: Dating Secrets for Getting It Right the First Time, is selling elsewhere for $49.  Thanks to a special arrangement, we are making it available for only $16.95. Let this book bless you and those you love.

(Order our audio CD, Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak in the next 24 hours while it is on sale—and before the price rises—for a winning combination.)

________________________________________________

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

My husband and the father of my young twins, then age nine, died. How do I deal with the rebellion against God and me? We never used foul language in our home, but now both my son and my daughter, age eleven, use the worst of foul words repeatedly. Nothing I try seems to be working.

Sheri

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Musing Without a Reaction

A very large number of you read Robert Avrech’s piece, Jew Without a Gun, last week. Some of you mentioned how powerful it was when we met at my husband’s North Carolina appearance. Others of you emailed me privately. I was surprised, though, by how few of you left comments on the Musing site. I thought a huge discussion would erupt and instead only a few souls chimed in with their thoughts.

Without hearing from you, my imagination ran wild…READ MORE

Sarah and Esther’s Coin Toss

February 19th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

_____

In the constant struggle to build a successful life, it is all too easy to be pulled down by hardship, dark recollections, terrifying fears, and sad thoughts flitting through one’s mind.  One remains confidently focused on the task by treating each day as its own opportunity to achieve success and happiness.

This Sunday we celebrate Purim on which we read the Book of Esther. It opens:

And it was in the days of Ahasuerosh, he was Ahasuerosh who reigned from Hodu to Kush, one hundred and twenty seven provinces.
(Esther 1:1)

The number 127 occurs only once again in all of Scripture—at the end of Sarah’s life.

And Sarah was a hundred and twenty seven years old…
(Genesis 23:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom links the two occurrences. In Scripture, numbers have great meaning and if a number only appears twice, we need to examine the similarities between the two occasions.

Imagine seven pennies lined up in a row upon a table. Your assistant spins each penny until they are all laying either heads or tails.

After the first spin, the arrangement of coins on the table might look like this (H=heads; T=tails):

H        H        T        H        T        T        H

After the second spin, the line of coins will probably look different. Some will fall the same way as the first time, while others will fall differently.

How many different ways can the seven coins fall?

Each coin can fall in one of two possibilities, heads or tails. The total number of possible arrangements is:

2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 = 128

Now, let’s forget coins and instead think of the seven days of the week.  Each 24-hour day comprises night and day, which represent darkness and light.

You will surely agree that seven coins each of which is made up of two parts, heads and tails, is the same, mathematically speaking, as seven days each made up of two parts, night and day.

So the first possible arrangement of seven days would be:

night   night   night   night   night   night   night

and the 128th arrangement would be:

day     day     day     day     day     day     day

Darkness or night is almost universally recognized as a metaphor for tough times while the bright light of day depicts brightness and optimism.  This means that there are 128 ways for my week to turn out.  Number 1 is seven dark and dismal days in a row, and number 128 is a rapturous sequence of seven wonderful days.

We omit number one because any sequence of seven days must include a Sabbath, which, by definition, is good.  This leaves us with 127 ways for a week to turn out.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Sarah and Esther are linked by both having 127 associated with their lives.  Both women ensure the future of the Jews; Sarah by bearing and raising Isaac, and Esther by preventing Haman’s genocide.  Both women’s lives contained disappointment, pain and fear, yet both stayed hopeful and fulfilled their mission.

The secret we learn is that every day offers us a choice to liberate ourselves from negative emotional anchors of yesterday. Like Sarah and Esther, we will have painful and difficult times, yet we must choose not to see those times as the only model for our future. Each week gives us 127 new opportunities for optimism and joy.

The surest way to detach oneself from the gloomy memories of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow is by choosing the language of optimism and hope.  I explain the crucial importance of the language with which we surround ourselves in our audio CD program Perils of Profanity. I explain why our incomes and relationships suffer when we accustom ourselves to obscenity and how it leads to negative results in our lives. New inventory will soon arrive at a higher price, so right now, get an instant download on sale for only $6 or a CD by mail for only $8.

(Until noon PT, you can also still get the entire Genesis Journeys Set for only $65.) All of these resources will help you move to brighter and more successful weeks.

______________________________________________________

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I recently found myself in a very difficult situation dealing with someone I had never met but needed to correspond with over the phone. We clashed like oil and water and I really don’t know why. I felt such hatred but I could not be pleasant with her at all. I am a very easygoing person and it takes a lot to get me angry but for some reason I clashed with her from the moment I said hello. I feel like I have let G-d down.

Can you please let me know why these feelings have taken control of me? I have asked other people if this ever happened to them and I have heard that it has to everyone at least once.

Thank you for your time,

Anita F.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Guest Posting: Jew Without a Gun

I have only printed one guest posting before—by my daughter. This time, I am posting a piece by Hollywood screenwriter, Robert Avrech, because I think it may save lives. My husband and I have met Robert, but even if we did not know him, I think his words are well worth reading. I am publishing his piece unedited and trust my readers to have the maturity and grace to excuse passionate language that may not be phrased as I might have chosen, but that I certainly understand after his family’s experience.

If the Los Angeles riots taught us anything, it’s that you’re a fool if you count on the authorities to protect you in times of civil chaos — in fact, at any time. In the end, only I can protect my family.”…READ MORE

Guest Posting: Jew Without a Gun

February 19th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

I
have only printed one guest posting before—by my daughter. This time, I am
posting a piece by Hollywood screenwriter, Robert Avrech, because I think it may
save lives. My husband and I have met Robert, but even if we did not know him,
I think his words are well worth reading. I am publishing his piece unedited
and trust my readers to have the maturity and grace to excuse passionate
language that may not be phrased as I might have chosen, but that I certainly
understand after his family’s experience.


“If the Los Angeles riots taught us anything,
it’s that you’re a fool if you count on the authorities to protect you in times
of civil chaos — in fact, at any time. In the end, only I can protect my
family.”

Jew Without a Gun

Part
One

Hollywood
is Burning

Hollywood is on fire.

Karen and I lock every door in the
house, shut tight the windows. We move through the house switching off all the
lights.

Gazing from our bedroom window we
watch orange flames lick at the darkness, pillars of black smoke climb into the
sky. We can actually smell the acrid odor of burning rubber.

“Look how close they are,” says
Karen.

“Just past La Cienega. Maybe eight
blocks away.”

Karen gives me a long penetrating
gaze:

“What do we do if they come here?”

My mind is racing away. The truth is
we are defenseless. Unless I get crazy inventive like Dustin Hoffman in Straw
Dogs.

“After this is all over,” I vow,
“I’m going to buy a pistol.”

Karen
says: “How about a shotgun?”

Dissolve to—

Two Hours Earlier:

The rioters are surging toward the
front doors of the theater. They are shouting, but the glass doors are so thick
we cannot hear what they’re screaming. The visual is quite enough. Their faces
are twisted into expressions of raw hatred. The mob looks intent on some
serious violence.

A few kids are laughing, milling
about aimlessly and in apparent good cheer. Hey, maybe this is just a community
street festival.

We’re at a screening for a new
movie. It’s a Hollywood premiere, a charity event for, get this, inner city
youth.

I’m friends with the executive
producer.

“Bring Karen and the kids,” the
producer chirps on the phone. “It’s a kid-friendly movie, there’s gonna be a
reception, and really, Robert, it’s gonna be fab-u-lous.”

And so: because this producer is my
friend and I want to support her movie, and because I’m a Hollywood
screenwriter and personal relationships grease the wheels of the business, and
because the producer is a player and admires my work, I schlep Karen, Ariel,
11, and Offspring #2, seven years old, to the screening-slash-charity benefit
in the DGA building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

What could possibly go wrong at a
swanky premiere?

Inner City Youth Are Outside—But Not
For Long

It is a Wednesday evening, April 29,
1992. The Rodney King tape has been running like an eternal loop on every
network 24/7.

The film, a real stinker, at long
last cuts to its final fade to black. Everyone is now mingling in the reception
area. Guests congratulate the producer, director and stars, assuring them that
the film is: ”great, just great,” and “the best work you’ve ever done,” all the
expected and acceptable lies we tell each other.

Suddenly a chill sweeps through the
room.

Something is happening.

It’s happening outside.

I step towards the large plate glass
doors of the theater. The security men, two burly rent-a-cops, deeply alarmed,
start locking the row of doors.

Snap, click.

Snap, click.

Snap, CRACK!

Mesmerized, I stare as something
hard bounces off the thick glass. There is a tiny white wound.

“Step back from the doors,” the
security men say.

I stay put. I want to see what’s
happening.

“Please, step away from the doors,”
they plead as more guests press forward trying to glimpse the fearful gathering
outside.

I see it happening. A classic shot
unwinding in slow motion: the mob swarms towards the DGA building, towards us:
a thick wave of fury marching with a terrible velocity towards this cocoon
of—there’s no way around this—Hollywood liberals.

Sheesh, talk about a target-rich
environment.

It’s almost funny.

Here we are, inside, raising funds
for inner city youth, and —

— and the inner city youth are
outside trying to get in.

Not, mind you, to express their
ever-lasting appreciation for our spectacular generosity. Nope, hard as it is
to believe, but it looks as if the objects of our charity would like to lynch
us.

Or maybe burn us to death.

Almost funny. But not quite.

Hey, This is Just Like the Movies,
Only Not Really

Abruptly, we are plunged into
darkness.

And as if on cue, a woman screams,
just like in the movies.

Offspring #2 leaps into my arms.

Trembling like a frightened rabbit,
she stutters:

“D-d-d-daddy, what’s happening?”

Karen grips my arm:

“Robert?”

Ariel squeezes my hand, and asks:

“What happened to the lights?”

I’m thinking: Do I really look
like I have the answers?

A rent-a-cop calls out: “We turned
off the lights so they can’t see inside. It’s a safety precaution.”

Panic spreads like a virus through
the crowd.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War I had
a long and detailed conversation with an Israeli officer, an incredibly brave
and highly decorated tank commander who explained why Israel always beat the
Arabs in war:

“We maneuver, we remain flexible,
creative and liquid. The Arabs have a fatal tendency to fall back into a
defensive posture. You cannot win a battle or a war when your position is
static. We shoot and scoot. We keep moving, we probe the enemy’s flanks and
then move in for the kill.”

Excellent advice.

We are trapped in the lobby and
outside a mob of rioters is moving in, surrounding the building.

Time to go Israeli.

Part
II

The
Getaway

I have to protect my family.

I’m pretty sure the mob outside is
dead serious about breaking in and getting down to some serious violence.

Not to mention liberating some
pretty major karats. At the reception, I noticed huge diamonds whose glitter
could induce seizures; watches: at least a dozen Cartier Tanks; I could not
count the Rolex Oysters, and no doubt there’s enough loose cash to make your
average L.A. rioter reasonably satisfied. This is, after all, an affluent
Hollywood crowd.

Armed & Dangerous With a Swiss
Army Knife—Just Kidding

I have to protect my family.

In my pocket, as always, a little
Swiss Army knife.

“I’ve never yet seen an eyeball who
felt that the Swiss Army knife was not a dangerous weapon.”

This charming and somewhat gruesome
comment — advice, really — was given to me by my Israeli buddy, a grizzled tank
commander who, one drunken evening, cheerily listed for yours truly all the
common, everyday objects that have lethal potential. My friend was a big fan of
the ordinary Swiss Army knife and its zillions of nifty attachments.

So: it is pitch black, rioters are
gathering outside the DGA building, and to make matters even worse, women and
children in the lobby are yelling, sobbing—every moist and yucky sound
imaginable—in panic.

I feel like announcing:

“People, shrieking does not help.
Really, it doesn’t.”

But why bother? It’s a mob mentality
and there is no reasoning with such people. Unless maybe you’re Gregory Peck in
To Kill a Mockingbird.

Which I am not.

Anyhoo.

I’m busy formulating a plan, trying
to figure out a way to escape this building before the rioters break in, before
they figure out a way of crashing through one of the numerous doors.

Interpolation

Karen does not scream or yell.

Unnaturally calm is the love of my
life. Even as stones—where do the rioters get rocks?—thwack sharply against the
front doors, Karen does not even flinch.

It’s almost eerie. Basically,
everyone else is losing their collective minds, but Karen’s expression just
builds into this magnificent wall of serene composure. Her posture goes taut,
as if a steel rod is welded into her spine and molding her into an incredibly
cute Marine.

Ten-shun!

I have this really weird urge to
lift her sleeve and seek out the Semper Fi tattoo. And then there’s her lovely
face. All the open and generous softness has receded and been replaced by a
look of, by a look of — well, the only way to describe her expression is — have you ever seen those military
paintings of seventeenth-century generals? You know those huge canvases where
you get to see a full battle, say Austerlitz, or Waterloo, thousands of men are
fighting, dying, blood and guts strewn about, rearing horses with eyes wide as
saucers, but the general, the reason for the painting in the first place —
well, he’s usually sitting on his white horse, on a hill, watching the battle,
and his expression conveys determination, resolve, bravery, a self-assurance
that says to the viewer: Look, believe me, I know exactly what I’m doing.

Anyway, that’s what Karen
looks like tonight.

End Interpolation

“Karen,” I whisper, “I think we
should get to the car and get out of here.”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

I’ve been in love with Karen since I
was nine years old
and have come to the realization that she’s one part Antigone and all Patton.

“Everybody, everybody! Attention,
please! We cut the lights. We don’t want them to be able to see inside. Do you
understand? We shut down the power. Not them.”

There is a collective buzz as a
rent-a-cop repeats this vital announcement.

“What are we supposed to do now?”
people shout.

“We’ve called the police,” comes the
weak reply.

More nervous buzzing.

“Please, ladies and gentlemen, just
wait for the police to arrive.”

I’m thinking: famous last words.

Offspring #2 is still in my arms,
still glued to my hip, and though seven years old, she has regressed and jammed
her thumb in her mouth; she trembles mightily, as if freezing. I can actually
hear her teeth chattering.

Karen and I edge our way to the
staircase; we are not going to wait for the police. We are not going to sit
here like victims.

We are going to make our way down to
the parking garage, jump into the car, and drive home. We are going to take our
fate in our own hands.

The cavalry, I’m pretty sure, and
with all apologies to John Ford, is not coming to the rescue.

The Police Are Coming—But Not Really

“Where are you going?”

A rent-a-cop is posted at the
staircase.

“To our car,” I tell him.

“That’s not a good idea, sir.”

“We think it is.”

“We’ve called the police.”

“Where are they?”

He says nothing.

“How long before they come?”

“Any minute.”

I gesture toward the rioters doing
their hostile little dances outside the DGA building:

“What happens when they start throwing
Molotov cocktails?”

Rent-a-cop takes a deep breath.

“The police are coming,” he insists.

“Excuse me, we’re going to our car.
You can’t stop us.”

The rent-a-cop has about two hundred
pounds—all muscle—on yours truly and I’m terrified that he’s going to challenge
me.

Thank G-d, he steps aside, murmurs
something about not being responsible for our safety.

No kidding.

Poor guy. He’s trying to do his job,
but he no longer knows what his job is.

Robert’s Rules for Driving Through a
Riot

1. Do not stop for anyone or
anything.

2. Not even to help someone. My
first responsibility is to my family.

3. If rioters try to blockade the
car, drive straight through.

4. If the car stalls, don’t leave
the car.

5. Unless the car is on fire.

These rules flash through my mind in
a split second.

The Fashionable and Magic Backpack

The stairwell is pitch black. Not
good. In fact, it’s bad, very bad.

Suddenly, a golden beam of light
slices through the velvety darkness.

“Look,” says Ariel, “Mommy has a
flashlight.”

The children are delighted.

Me too.

Karen carries an extremely cool and
very feminine leather backpack. It’s something of a joke in the family that the
backpack is magic. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, it’s gonna be in
the backpack.

Except for a pistol.

Sigh.

Cautiously looking for signs of the
rioters hiding in the garage, we make our way to the car. I’ve definitely seen
too many movies. I almost declare: The coast is clear.

I snap Offspring #2 into her car
seat. Ariel, 11, also sits in the back with his younger sister. He is pale with
fear and confusion. I touch his arm and murmur: “Everything is going to be
fine.”

Ariel gives a weak smile and nods
his head.

Our children trust us to protect
them.

The burden of parenthood has never
felt more grave.

Starting up the engine, I realize
that I am drenched in sweat, my shirt clings to my body.

Karen reaches into the glove
compartment, pulls out the Thomas Guide to Los Angeles.

“We may have to find a different
route home,” she says.

“Right.”

Using commencement-of-production
bonus money from my most recent film,
we bought a Lexus outfitted with a massive eight-cylinder engine. It was a good
move. The Lexus is a gas guzzler, but who cares? It’s our Centurion.

And as we cruise up the ramp, my
breath catches in my throat, for there are a dozen rioters milling about the
exit.

Oh, man — am I going to be able to
put pedal to metal and smash through a bunch of real live human bodies?

My Israeli friend, the tank officer,
had something like sixteen kills in a Sinai tank battle during the 1973 Yom
Kippur War. When I complimented him on this huge kill ratio, he waved it off
and said:

“It’s no big deal killing an
Egyptian tank. They have this habit of hunkering down and using their tanks as
artillery platforms. All wrong. Picking them off was a bit too easy. Remember:
always fight an offensive battle. Most people are cowards, so if you keep
coming at them, chances are they will retreat.”

Okey-dokey.

 

Part
III

The
Gauntlet

 “Attack, always attack.”

My friend, the heroic Israeli tank
commander, told me that in the first few days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, both
fronts, the Sinai and the Golan Heights, were so weakly defended that had the
Egyptian or Syrian high command been strategically bolder, tactically smarter,
and their soldiers braver… well, the Arab armies could have achieved massive
breakthroughs, and Israel would have found herself facing genocide.

But small — actually, tiny — pockets
of brave, determined and very well-trained Israeli troops — in some cases just
two or three tanks on the Golan Heights — held their ground and attacked enemy
forces sometimes a hundred times their strength.

Screenwriter Escapes DGA
Building—Note the Irony

“We had no orders except to hold our
ground and whenever possible to attack—always attack.”

All this whips through my mind as I
aim our car—I’m already thinking of the Lexus as a tank, a Centurion—towards
the exit of the parking garage. A knot of rioters is milling about at the exit.
It’s hard to see clearly, but oh, boy — it looks like a few of them are
brandishing baseball bats.

I’m gonna make a wild guess and
assume that they’re not Little League dads.

I haven’t turned on the car’s
headlights. We’re still lurking in the shadows, not yet detected by the
barbarians.

Good thing the car is fashionably
black.

Karen says: “Maybe there’s another
exit.”

“Nope.”

“How do you know?”

“DGA building. I’ve been here like a
zillion times.”

“What are we going to do?”

We.

The Talmud teaches that when a
husband or wife uses the collective “we,” it means there is love in the
relationship.

Is there a finer way to enter battle
than with the woman I have been in love with since fourth grade?

Ariel, 11, says: “I have to pee.”

Offspring #2, seven years old,
doubles over with an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. She finds this
absolutely hysterical.

“You’re going to have to hold it in
for a while, Ariel. Do you think you can do that?” Karen says.

“I guess.”

“Good boy.”

Karen and I exchange glances. Karen
gives me a pale smile of encouragement.

Robert: “I just have to say it.”

Karen: “What?”

Robert: “Fasten your seat belts.
It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Karen inclines her head,
questioning.

Robert: “Bette Davis, All About
Eve
, 1950, written and directed by the great Joseph L. Mankiewicz.”

Karen sighs, tolerantly but with
affection: “Robert, Robert.”

In the back seat, the nervous
giggles from Offspring #2 increase tenfold.

My Israeli buddy, the tank
commander, was fond of quoting Sun Tzu’s Art of War. One of his favorite
maxims was:

Supreme excellence consists in
breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

Okey-dokey.

I inch the car forward, gain speed,
4 mph, 7 mph…

Now: I switch on the headlights
using—surprise, hi-beams!—drenching the criminals in white light. I lean on the
horn and —

WHOOOOOOOOO!

— and the rioters are drenched in
the powerful lights (those Japanese engineers, G-d bless ’em) — and the shrieking
horn is amplified by the concrete garage walls. The knuckleheads are blinded,
frozen as I bear down on them at what seems like Formula One speed, and now
they fall back like bowling pins and —

— and we blow right past them, make
a sharp left turn—we’re ordered by a street sign to turn right, but that would
deliver us to the front of the DGA building and directly into the eye of the
mob, and so, tires screeching—hey, just like Steve McQueen in “Bullitt”—we race
away from the theater.

Heaving a great sigh, I realize that
I have not taken a breath in, gee willikers, a long, long time.

I zoom down the block, pull over,
and gulp oxygen.

“You okay?” Karen asks.

I nod.

But my heart is slamming in my chest
like a Ginger Baker solo.

Hey, Los Angeles is Just Like Fatah
Land—Only More Fashionable

Karen snaps on her little
flashlight, studies the Thomas Guide. Using her index finger, she traces a
route home.

“I think we should stick to the main
streets. It’ll probably be safer.” Karen says.

“You navigate. I’ll pilot.”

“Let’s get moving,” Karen cautions.

“Check.”

Karen’s like: Huh?

I have seen way too many movies.
Seriously.

As we cruise through the chaotic
streets, we spot fires burning all over the city. A canopy of red and orange
spreads through the velvety darkness. It’s kind of beautiful, like a romantic
J.M. W. Turner canvas.

Small businesses are deliberately
torched.

Orange streaks of fire inscribe
themselves against the velvety sky. It takes me a moment to recognize the
distinctive signature of Molotov cocktails.

Los Angeles has turned into Fatah
Land.

“Where’s the fire department?” Karen
asks.

Looters help themselves to
everything from television sets and stereos to diapers and liquor.

Every so often we hear the
distinctive flat crack of gun fire.

Nowhere do we see any police.

Trying to avoid a massive traffic
jam, I turn down a side-street. Karen leans forward, spots something and cries:

“No!”

Thirty yards separate us from a
group of thugs who are chilling in the street. They watch us with flinty eyes.
All wicked and street-savvy, they shuffle in our direction.

They’re all: yo, yo, yo.

And I’m all: oy, oy, oy.

Call me crazy, but I have a sneaking
suspicion they’re not looking to discuss the cinema of Oscar Micheaux.

“Let’s get out of here,” Karen says.

Who am I to disagree with the love
of my life?

I shift into reverse. Back up a few
feet, shift into drive, angling for a sharp U turn, but the thugs are coming up
awfully fast in my rear-view mirror.

I’m pretty sure one of the locals is
toting a Tec 9. Or maybe it’s just a chunk of lumber.

And I’ve got a Swiss Army knife.

Talk about being out-gunned.

 “Robert…” says Karen says through clenched
teeth.

No time for a neat, driver’s-ed
three-point turn.

I blast forward, squeak through a
gap between two parked cars, hurtle right up onto the sidewalk, and then,
ca-runch! yet another bone rattling move down the high curb, back into the
street and:

Away.

We.

Go.

“Some move,” says Karen.

She touches my shoulder. And to this
very day I still feel the cool imprint of her hand.

It’s Karen’s way of saying, “My
hero.”

Or at least that’s what I tell
myself.

Entry in Robert’s Official
Screenwriting Notebook: Write this extremely scary, axle-cracking maneuver
into your next script—no matter what the subject matter.

“I really, really, really have to
pee,” Ariel reminds us.

I hand him an empty Styrofoam coffee
cup.

Twenty Minutes to Get Anywhere in
Los Angeles—Except During, Ahem, Civil Unrest

It takes us over an hour and a half
to get home. Normally, this drive would take maybe twenty minutes.

But we have to circle round and
double back countless times in order to avoid choked arteries, major
intersections where madness reigns—traffic lights are ignored—and then there
are unknown side streets that cause Karen to observe:

“We’ll never get out of there
alive.”

Listening to the radio, we hear
about the Rodney King verdict. So that’s the grievance du jour.

The fire department, we learn, is
not being deployed because their men have come under intense gunfire.

We hear—and I have trouble believing
this report—that the Los Angeles Police Department has been “pulled back for
their own safety.”

Huh?

I thought that was part of the job
description.

Dopey me.

Casa Avrech: I carry Offspring #2 to
bed, where she recites the Sh’ma and then promptly falls asleep. We
tell Ariel how proud of him we are. He shrugs. No big deal. Five minutes later,
he’s fast asleep.

Karen, crisp and efficient, pins a
bed sheet over the large picture window in the living room. We cannot be too
careful. I search the house for a weapon, settle on an old ice ax from my
mountain-climbing days. It’s an elegant tool with wicked potential in
hand-to-hand combat, but obviously useless against firearms or a hail of
Molotov cocktails.

Abruptly, I feel a burning pain—a
white-hot spike—shooting through both my arms. Did I catch a stray bullet?

I examine my hands and gosh, my
fingers are curled into claws. It takes me a moment to realize that it’s from
gripping the steering wheel so hard. Painful muscle cramps travel from my
knuckles into my shoulders. It takes at least an hour for the pain to subside.

On the TV, Karen and I watch as
Reginald Denny gets his brains bashed in. We gaze in horror and disbelief as
the barbarians dance over his broken body. With tears in our eyes, we see pious
citizens, G-d bless them, step in and halt this atrocity, rescuing the tragic
truck driver.

There’s a video of Fidel Lopez, a
Guatemalan immigrant. He, like Denny, is pulled from his truck and robbed. But
theft is almost beside the point. The rioters-slash-torturers smash open his
head, then slice off an ear. The mob graffiti his chest, torso and genitals.

Take my word for it, graffiti is not
an art form.

Between fifty and fifty-six citizens
are murdered in the riots; two thousand are seriously injured.

At last, the LAPD is deployed. Its
officers make approximately 10,000 arrests.

Estimates of between 800 million and
a billion dollars in property damage have been reported. Approximately 3,600
fires were deliberately set, destroying 1,100 buildings.

Korean
shopkeepers were specifically targeted by black rioters. But the Koreans owned
guns and heroically defended their property and lives through force of arms,
frequently using AR-15s against heavily-armed looters. So anyone who tells you
that private citizens don’t need assault weapons are just plain
ignorant. Besides, as Mark Levin says, it is the Bill of Rights, not the Bill
of Needs.

It was a lesson that should have
reverberated nationally, but some commentators labeled the Koreans vigilantes.
Just another case of the mainstream media getting it wrong.

Liberal totalitarians demand
increased gun control, if not the outright banning of gun sales to citizens.

Second Amendment — what’s that?

And then, of course, the race
hustlers — Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Maxine Waters, the usual vulgar
demagogues — parade across TV screens informing the good citizens of Los
Angeles that the riots were really “an uprising.”

Oh, really?

As in: The Warsaw Ghetto
uprising?

Gazing from our bedroom window, we
watch orange flames lick at the darkness, pillars of black smoke climbing into
the sky. We can actually smell the acrid odor of burning rubber.

“Look how close they are,” says
Karen.

“Just past La Cienega. Maybe eight
blocks away.”

Karen gives me a long penetrating
gaze:

“What do we do if they come here?”

“After this is all over,” I vow,
“I’m going to buy a pistol.”

Karen says: “How about a shotgun?”

 

If the Los Angeles riots taught us
anything, it’s that you’re a fool if you count on the authorities to protect
you in times of civil chaos — in fact, at any time. In the end, only I can
protect my family.

I’m never, ever going to
allow myself to be outgunned by the bad guys. All the gun laws that are on the
books—and there are thousands of them—just make it that much easier for the
barbarians to amass weapons and for law-abiding people like you and me to be at
their mercy.

If you outlaw weapons, as so many
squishy liberals yearn to do — well then, only the state and the outlaws will
be armed. Which leaves ordinary citizens at the mercy of an all-powerful
government and a variety of merciless criminal subcultures.

When Hitler and Stalin snatched
power, one of their first moves was to outlaw private gun ownership. They
understood that armed citizens are a mortal threat to totalitarian rule.

Imagine: several million Jews owning
firearms between 1938 and 1945.

Is the mind capable of such a leap
of faith or is it too painful?

One week after the riots I legally
purchased a pistol: a 1911 Springfield .45. It’s the pistol I trained with in
Israel. Yes, it’s heavy, and yes, the recoil kicks like a Rockette; but this is
the weapon I know best and on good days I can shoot the wings off a fly at
twenty-five yards. I cordially invite any mugger, rioter, criminal, gun-hating
progressive, anarchist, or Jew-hating Islamist to come at me or my family,
because now I am a Jew with a gun.

FADE TO BLACK

The
End

Note: I’m frequently asked how I’m
able to remember incidents in such detail, including dialogue, from so many
years ago. It’s simple. I do not rely on my memory. I have been keeping a
detailed diary for over 30 years. This post, as so many others, is based on my
diaries. If there are gaps in my entries, I check with Karen. She also kept a
diary.

Color My World

February 12th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

It is true that there is no specific ancient Jewish wisdom on how The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind effectively ended the era of black-and-white movies when they were released in 1939.  But the Torah does teach the permanent principles of color. It even teaches why different colors impact us in different ways and why red is on the top curve of the rainbow and blue on the bottom.

Furthermore, in the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the words for the main colors matches their intrinsic characteristics.  What do I mean by this?  Imagine I was teaching someone English. Pointing to a yellow crayon, I carefully enunciate YEL-LOW.  Then, holding up the red crayon, I say the word RED.  My foreign student would nod happily because he now knew the English words for two colors.

Now imagine that I perversely reversed the words, cruelly instructing my student that the English word for the color yellow is actually RED and the way we describe red in English is with this word—YELLOW.  No matter how smart and worldly my student might be, there is nothing that would alert him to my mischief.

However, Hebrew is quite different.  A scientist who knew that each Hebrew letter represents a numerical value wouldn’t be bamboozled by my playful prank.  The moment I reversed the Hebrew words for RED and YELLOW, he would say, ‘Just a moment, those words you’ve just told me don’t make sense. They ought to be reversed.’  Here is how he would have known.

Let’s examine four Biblical colors:

RED is found in Genesis 25:30. In Hebrew, ADoM, it has a numerical equivalent calculated by adding the value of each of its three letters:  alef (1) + dalet (4) + mem (40) = 45.

What our scientist knew and which I shall now tell you is that light rays are really electromagnetic vibrations.  Different colors vibrate at different frequencies.  A good estimate for the vibration of red light is about 470 trillion times a second.  So let’s remember that the key numbers for RED are a numerical equivalent of 45, and a frequency of 470 (approximately).

Moving on to YELLOW, or TZaHoV, that we encounter in the Bible in Leviticus 13:30.  Its numerical equivalent is tzadi (90) + hay (5) + vet (2) = 97.  Its frequency (in trillions of times a second) is about 510.

Green, YeRaKON, is used as a color in Jeremiah 30:8 “…and all faces have turned green.”  Even today we talk of someone looking a bit green meaning sickly or uneasy.  (Genesis 1:30 uses the word YeReK to mean ‘greens’ or herbs.)

YeRaKON has a numerical value of yud (10) + resh (200) + kuf (100) + vav (6) + nun (50) equaling 366.  It has a vibrating frequency of about 565.

Finally, blue, TeCHeLeT, seen in Exodus 25:4 has a numerical value of tav(400) + chaf (20) + lamed (30) + tav (400) for a total of 850. Electromagnetic frequency tables inform us that blue’s rate of vibration is about 650 trillion times each second.

To summarize:                                   

When charted on a graph, it looks something like this.  Other Biblical colors can be added in.  Astoundingly, we get a straight line with about 95% accuracy.

Trying this with the English names for the colors yields a meaningless muddle.  In Hebrew the result is nothing short of amazing.  As Israeli scholar Chayim Shorr suggests, we see a strong link between the Hebrew names of colors and their real word physical characteristics.

The Lord’s language and ancient Jewish wisdom do indeed provide accurate guidance to how the world REALLY works. My mission is to make this information available to all. Many people have told me how the four programs comprising our Genesis Journeys Set helped them move closer to God and His vision for their lives. Like so many companies and ministries around the country, our costs are climbing alarmingly. We will reluctantly have little option but to increase prices soon. We’ve slashed the price on Genesis Journeys Set this week. Please seize this opportunity to get this and other resources you need.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Here’s to the Future, Baby!

When outsiders peek into the world of Torah observance, they often see a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” To those who try to immerse themselves in the system, details that can seem persnickety instead reveal how to live successfully. The rules we try our best to follow align our actions with God’s deep understanding of human nature.

An opportunity that the Torah urges us to grab…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I would like some clarification of the last paragraph in your answer to Carla F. when she asked what to do about her 17-year-old son who is hostile to religion. Unlike her situation… my (almost) 17 year-old is not hostile but he absolutely hates going to church. He would do anything to keep from going but is not rebellious or anything. I think he is just bored and would rather stay home and watch TV or play video games. He doesn’t seem to have problems with God in general, just church.

My initial idea was to make him go until he turned 18 but I wonder now if that is the right thing to do. I know parents need to make children do certain things that the child doesn’t want to do but at what age does this end? I’m starting to wonder what difference one more year would make other than making him run as far away from church as he can when he finally does get to make his own decision.

Should we force the issue? Thanks,

Marcus W.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Here’s to the Future, Baby!

February 12th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

When outsiders peek into the world of Torah observance, they
often see a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” To those who try to immerse
themselves in the system, details that can seem persnickety instead reveal how
to live successfully. The rules we try our best to follow align our actions
with God’s deep understanding of human nature.

An opportunity that the Torah urges us to grab is that of
comforting mourners during the seven days following a close relative’s burial.
One of the seemingly nit-picking suggestions given for visiting the mourner is
not to bring along babies or small children. (I am making a broad statement
here and am not intending anything I say as explicit Torah guidance to an
individual in a specific situation.) What can we learn from this advice?

People sometimes mistakenly believe that the purpose of the
visit is to distract the mourner from his or her loss. This is incorrect. The
days of mourning are uniquely meant as a time to focus on the loss and as a
transition period towards living in one’s new reality, a reality that no longer
includes the deceased. We don’t want young children in that milieu precisely
because they are often an endearing distraction from reality.  When a babbling cherub waves her hands and
generously distribute smiles, few people can look away or think of other
matters. 

I pity those who associate newborns and infants only with
crying and diaper changes. Few things induce as much optimism or energy as a
new life. Fixating on the exhausting and demanding  aspects of children (as real as they are) is
similar to someone who finally achieves a life-long dream of becoming a pilot
but quickly forgets the thrill and instead complains about the paperwork that
needs filing after every trip. 

Yet that fixation on the negatives of raising children is
exactly what motivates many of those who are concerned about America’s
Baby Bust
, or the demographic crisis facing many other countries.
Academics recognize the very real economic, cultural and military problems
facing countries whose birth rates plummet. They look at decreasing fertility
and put forward proposals to combat the trend. But their proposals miss the
point. They routinely suggest increased day care slots and government subsidies
for childcare, or they want government to force companies to add paternity
leave and guarantee women extended time off. However, this is similar to
providing stickers for our disgruntled pilot or promising him extra time off
for every form he files. He needs a rekindling of his excitement about flying,
not enhancements of his paperwork duties.

There are practical and rational reasons to avoid marriage,
to delay childbearing and to restrict family size.  Those reasons cannot be countered by
practical and rational policies. They can only be countered by a belief that
marriage is desirable and that having children is one of life’s greatest
blessings. As societies become less faith-based, individuals see only the
sacrifices necessary to rear children and materialistic strategies cannot defeat
that point of view.

Children bring joy, optimism and animation not only to a
mourner’s home but also to nations. That is precisely why they are discouraged
from the first location and necessary in the second.  God, in His wisdom, understood that without
marriage and children nations will slide into poverty and decay. Take Him out
of the equation for long enough and eventually even intellectuals understand
that we are heading towards trouble.

Homeless Hopelessness (Part 2)

February 5th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

In (Part
1
) last week I
introduced you to Richard LeMieux, who wrote a book telling of his descent into
homelessness and the intriguing cast of characters he met in Bremerton,
Washington.

This
week I continue with some observations I had after reading his book.

In previous years, some of the unfortunate, but worthy people
the reader meets in Breakfast at
Sally’s
, might have been taken care of by generous individuals and groups. You
could say that Mr. LeMieux introduces us to the homeless “cream of the crop.” Many
of the people he describes are not acute addicts, severely mentally ill or
wanted by the police. Some are teenagers with wretched home lives who deserve
to find shelter in a safe environment. Others are individuals who would repay
an offer of room and board with hard work and integrity.

In my mind, they are among the victims of both an
expanding government and changes in social standards. One unintended
consequence of government yardsticks determining poverty and the insidious
nature of entitlements is that of dehumanizing those in need. Instead of being
our neighbors, they are statistics. No distinction is made between those who
are dangers to themselves and others, and those who simply need a loving,
helping hand. A bloated system imposes often-misguided regulations and the fear
of lawsuits. Instead of recognizing that people have both spiritual and
material needs – and that the former is more important than the latter –
government can only treat human beings as sophisticated animals who require a
zookeeper’s care. Government programs often unwittingly exact a great cost,
sometimes greater than the benefits they provide.

Society will always have a broad range of those who,
temporarily or permanently, “can’t make it.” Communities used to feel
responsibility for those among them to whom life dealt an unfortunate hand. However,
many of the “advances” of the past few decades have led to the diminishing of family
and neighborhood cohesiveness. So many people accept complicated environmental
theories that claim that a butterfly flapping its wings in China affects
weather patterns thousands of miles and many years away, but insist that
changing long-held moral guidelines brings no lasting consequences. I disagree.
Increased spending for social causes without repairing the social fabric will
be a losing battle.

Indeed, even though Mr. LeMieux has a horrendous
experience with one pastor and church, his needs and those of his companions
are overwhelmingly filled by churches and faith-driven organizations, such as
the Salvation Army. How can one not be depressed by knowing that the current
administration in Washington seems intent on repressing and harming these
faith-based groups? The Democrat Party’s focus seems to be on forcing traditional
Christians (and Jews) to renounce their beliefs as they relate to abortion and
homosexuality. Growing the economy and helping the poor (in contrast to using
them for political gain) seem unimportant in comparison to completely revamping
American culture and rejecting long-upheld values.

If accepting homosexuality and abortion becomes a litmus
test of being a “good American,” as it already has for being a “good Democrat,”
then faith-based organizations will find their abilities to function curtailed.
In the name of ‘caring’ ‘and ‘compassion,’ organizations that uphold traditional
values will need to be punished, never mind if the recipients of their charity
suffer. I have no doubt that if this plan succeeds the very organizations that
gave Mr. LeMieux and his friends succor will be less effective and strong in
the years ahead. I am sure that many good people will see my thinking as
illogical and over-the-top, but I think that a review of world history makes
that point.

Having finished this book, despite the fact that the
author’s life improves, I certainly did not find the joyous resolution that emerges
at the end of (the fictional books) Pride
and Prejudice
or Anne of Green Gables.
If you have any optimistic thoughts or if you think my pessimism is overblown,
please do share your ideas in the comment section.

 

The Enterprise of Transformation

February 5th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I visited many cities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel last year, and I traveled through many airports while delivering over fifty speeches.  (I counted them here: https://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/speaking_engagements.php)

During my travels, I frequently rent a car.  Sometimes from Hertz, other times from the smaller companies, Avis and National.  Since I rarely see Enterprise at an airport, I was surprised to discover that it is more than twice the size of Hertz, with more than twice the number of cars and rental locations as well as twice the revenue.

What I discovered about Enterprise not only granted me insight into the car rental business but it also reminded me that whatever your background, if you tap into God’s wisdom, as Jack Taylor did, you too will prosper.

If you don’t see Enterprise at the airport, how did it grow into such a large and profitable company?

Hertz situated their offices in airports and hotels while Enterprise locations are in town. Enterprise owns the off-airport car rental market.  While your own car is being repaired, you probably drive an Enterprise car.  If you ever need an extra car, call Enterprise; they’ll bring it to you.

After serving in World War II, Jack Taylor was working as a car salesman when he conceived of a different kind of car rental company.  Locals wanting to rent a car had to get a ride to the nearest airport to do so.  Jack started renting cars out of the dealership he worked at and served people by taking their cars to them.  Despite Hertz’s forty-year lead in car rental, Jack spotted a need and filled it. He gradually built his idea into Enterprise.  “Take care of your customers and employees first, and profits will follow,” is a timeless Torah truth and making it his slogan transformed Jack’s life.

The Jewish calendar is largely based on the lunar cycle. Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals that Abraham assigned a sign to each month. The holiday of Chanukah falls in the Hebrew month of Kislev while the holiday of Purim comes in the month of Adar. We are between these two holidays right now. The start of this period, Kislev, is identified with the sign of the Rainbow.  (The Greeks later mistakenly called it the archer’s bow – Sagittarius.)  The rainbow is caused by sunlight and water, two requirements for both plants and people to thrive.

Abraham assigned to the month of Adar, the month of Purim, the sign of Fish.  Fish serve as a sign of blessing in ancient Jewish wisdom. Unlike birds that raid our orchards and animals that can be pests or threats, fish do nothing to harm us; furthermore, they are readily available to us as food.  In addition, they usually swim in large schools, representing connection. The Hebrew name for Adar’s sign is even in the plural to highlight this point.

Both Chanukah and Purim celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, hope over despair and happiness over distress.  During these months of short days and long nights, they remind each of us that darker days today can be instantly transformed into bright tomorrows.

This period also reminds us that the pathway to transformation starts with growth. At its start, on Chanukah, we light one additional light on each of its eight days. (See Thought Tools Volume 2, ‘Hey Buddy, Got a Light?’)The period culminates in the sign of the fish reminding us that connecting with many people and serving them leads to hope and happiness.

I find delivering speeches exhilarating because it connects me with many people and allows me to serve them. In addition to serving, I appreciate learning from others as well. One business mentor whose wisdom I value is Noah Alper. His transformation from anti-religious to believing Jew paralleled his transformation from poverty to phenomenal business success. His enjoyable book, Business Mensch, tells his story and the lessons he learned the hard way as it provides concrete, practical guidance for anyone wanting to flourish financially. I encourage you to get a copy and we are making it available at a substantial discount this week. (Pair it with my own Thou Shall Prosper for a winning duo!)

Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur
by Noah Alper

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Homeless Hopelessness (Part 2)

In (Part 1) last week I introduced you to Richard LeMieux, who wrote a book telling of his descent into homelessness and the intriguing cast of characters he met in Bremerton, Washington.

This week I continue with some observations I had after reading his book…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I recently attended your talk in the United Kingdom and your talk further inspired me to realize financial success. I have looked for gaps in the service market- to no avail. I am a married woman of medium intelligence and tenacity but feel hemmed in and unsure as to what I can achieve at my age (53yrs).  Can you advise what to do?

Glenis S.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

In (Part 1) last week I introduced you to Richard LeMieux, who wrote a book telling of his descent into homelessness and the intriguing cast of characters he met in Bremerton, Washington.

This week I continue with some observations I had after reading his book.