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Monthly Archives: June, 2013

Cave Grave

June 25th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Thought Tools New Header, June 2013

I love boating along coastal British Columbia. Occasionally, we spot First Nation burial apparatus, a box or platform, often a canoe, into which the departed is placed and which is then perched upon high stilts or wedged into tree forks.

The Choctaws buried their dead by leaving them atop a high scaffold. Eskimos placed their departed beneath piles of rocks.  In much of Asia, corpses were burned as a final rite and the popularity of cremation spread far and wide.  Egyptians placed their departed in pyramids while others preferred vast above-ground mausoleums.   

When Sarah, wife of Abraham died, Abraham didn’t place her body in a tree or under a heap of rocks.  He certainly didn’t burn it.  Instead, he said to the locals:

…entreat for me to Ephron the son of Tzochar…that he give me the cave of Machpelah…as a burying place…
(Genesis 23:8-9)

The first Scriptural account of a burial follows:

 …Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah…
(Genesis 23:19).

 Later we read about the burial of Abraham.

 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Tzochar…
(Genesis 25:9)

 Subsequently Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried in that cave, as were Jacob and Leah.

When Abraham negotiated his purchase of the cave from Ephron the son of Tzochar, it was only the second mention of a cave in the Bible.  The first was the cave in which Lot and his two daughters sought refuge as Sodom was being destroyed.

 Lot went up out of Tzoar…and his two daughters…and he lived in a cave, he and his two daughters.
(Genesis 19:30)

Not only did Abraham choose to place his kin to rest in the same kind of location as the one in which Lot and his daughters took refuge but the name of the father of the seller of Abraham’s cave, TzoCHaR, strongly resembles the town from which Lot departed for the cave, TzoAR.

Tz-o-A-R and Tz-o-CH-a-R share their first and last letters, tzadi and reish, which respectively have the sounds of TZ and R.

 R-TZ2

  In God’s language, where each letter and word has vast hidden meaning, words that start and end with these letters relate to the concept of narrowness, confinement, pain and restriction.

Lot and his daughters stopped in a place named for having the quality of TzAR as they escaped Sodom (Genesis 19:20-23), but leave it for the promise of a cave. Abraham acquired a cave from the possession of a man called TzochaR, expanding its quality from simply being a cave to becoming an eternal burial place. What is going on here?

Both caves served as temporary abodes while future events took shape.  In one cave Lot and one of his daughters lay the foundations for the eventual birth of Ruth, ancestress of King David.  In the other cave, the founding fathers and mothers of Israel lie until the ultimate redemption when death is undone and eternal life is resumed.

Similar meaning of future promise attaches to all other Biblical caves such as that in which David did not kill Saul (I Samuel 24:6-7), in which Obadiah hid the prophets from Jezebel (I Kings 18:4) and in which Elijah hid (I Kings 19:9).  Not surprisingly, the root meaning of the Hebrew word cave, MeARah, is awaken!

 cave2

As a seed is placed in the ground only in anticipation of the green living plant that will eventually spring forth, so do people enter Biblical caves.  In ancient Jewish wisdom, a grave is no more than a personal private cave in which to await the ultimate deliverance.

It would be hard to overstate the depth of meaning that springs from Hebrew. In our book, Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language, we share powerful, practical and moving insights from dozens of Hebrew words along with tips on understanding the language itself. We hope you agree with both Pastor John Hagee and Glenn Beck that this book will enhance your life. Take advantage of this for yourself and those you wish to bless.

Burt2 smaller

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Confusing Good and Bad

I am in shock. Granted this is not the, “Did you hear that Canada just invaded the U.S.,” or, “The banks just closed their doors and the government isn’t making good on accounts,” type of shock, but it is nonetheless intense.

This source of my angst seems innocuous… READ MORE

Ask the Rabbi

Where is this week’s Ask the Rabbi question? We are freshening up our look and making some changes! Ask the Rabbi is getting its own mailing. Look for it in your mailbox this Thursday night.

Confusing Good and Bad

June 25th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 34 comments

I am in shock. Granted this is not the, “Did you hear that
Canada just invaded the U.S.,” or, “The banks just closed their doors and the
government isn’t making good on accounts,” type of shock, but it is nonetheless
intense.

This source of my angst seems innocuous: Good Housekeeping magazine. While I was
growing up, my mother always read Good
Housekeeping.
When I got married, she purchased a subscription for me. Many
times, we compared which stories we particularly enjoyed and discussed recipes.
One of the hardest telephone calls I ever made was cancelling her subscription
after she died. That call made the loss real in a tangible way and I found
myself on the floor bawling while coherently trying to give the necessary
information.

A few years ago when there were a bunch of back issues I
never had the time to read, I let my account lapse. A few months later, I
started it again. My life simply felt a little incomplete without that monthly
mail.  Despite the fact that I was
finding fewer articles interesting and that I didn’t always care about, or even
recognize, the ladies gracing the cover, I received a lift when a new issue
arrived. There were still pieces that I enjoyed and recipes I clipped. What
there wasn’t – until the July 2013 issue – was anything that made me shout out,
“You’ve got to be kidding!”

July’s edition features a story titled, “Why It Feels So
Good to be Just a Little Bit Bad.” The article, however, doesn’t explain the
psychology behind the feeling, but rather urges, “being just a little bit bad.”
As I read the ten examples given for ways that women could fulfill this advice,
my jaw dropped until it could have given me a pedicure.  I didn’t have a problem with all ten; I did
have a problem with many of them. (Despite God’s not contacting me directly
with His opinion, I am pretty sure that He’d have a problem with many of them
as well.)

Number one, “Gossip,” rubbed me the wrong way, but compared
to number two, “Flirt with a man who’s not your husband,” it seemed downright
Pollyannaish.  In a society where trust
and commitment are steadily eroded and where children and adults suffer so much
from marriages that either don’t take place or end, how can taking any steps to
feel sexy with someone other than your spouse possibly be beneficial? Pardon
me, but the example given, of making eyes at a waiter when your husband takes a
bathroom break or winking at the UPS guy, sound asinine at best and dangerous
at worst. Keeping excitement and romance alive within marriage is a lifetime
challenge, and not one that flourishes by ‘practicing’ on random people.

I’m fine with a, “spend the day in your PJ’s,” suggestion
for one day a year and some of the other options, but I see too many of the ten
as destructive and antithetical to happiness. Anyone who knows me or even knows
that my husband and I produce a resource titled, Perils
of Profanity: You Are What You Speak
, won’t be surprised to hear that I
disagree with the words, “sometimes you just have to toss an F-bomb.”

A few years ago, I read two fascinating books, each one
written by a former editor of The Ladies
Home Journal
Edwin Bok (editor-in-chief
from 1889-1919) helped propel the magazine to prominence. His autobiography, The Americanization of Edwin Bok,
provides invaluable insight into yesteryear’s America and the power of women’s
magazines. (Many thanks to Musings’ reader David Altschul for alerting me to
this book.)  After 21 years as
editor-in-chief, in 2005, Myrna Blyth wrote a controversial book called, Spin
Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the
Women of America
.
The title is
self-explanatory. Perhaps these books sensitized me as to how much
influence each monthly issue of a popular publication has. While I don’t expect
magazines to sound the same as they did in the 1880’s, 1950’s or even the
1980’s, July’s Good Housekeeping suggests a game-changer in that
periodical’s philosophy.

Is the Good
Housekeeping
of my youth completely gone? At the very least, a tug of war
for the soul of the magazine is taking place. Have you noticed this type of
evolution in items you read and have your reading habits changed in response?
I’d love you to join the conversation by telling me your thoughts.

 (I know it’s hard to see the comment link, but
it is below in faint lettering.)

Fool Us Again – Shame on Us

June 18th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 11 comments

The phrase ‘immigration reform’ sends pulses racing and
blood pressure skyrocketing of people on all sides of the issue. Like most
Americans who have families and businesses to nurture, I am not able to keep up
with every detail or to give this political matter, along with dozens of other
important ones, the attention it deserves. Very few people can, including
Senators and Congressmen who routinely vote on legislation that they have not
read and don’t understand.  

Here is why my position doesn’t need me to spend hours
analyzing details like border security and benefits. Imagine this scenario:

A husband and wife have been going through a rocky time.
Recently, she has presented him with restaurant receipts, phone bills and other
items that suggest that he is not spending his time in an upright manner. In
addition, his business partners are asking questions that imply that they are
not comfortable with how he has been handling corporate finances. At this point
the husband approaches his wife to get her signature on documents that will
invest a great deal of their savings in an opportunity that he swears he has
vetted and one that will bring them wealth and security.

When the wife brings up the topic of her suspicions about
him as well as the concerns of his partners, his response is, “Of course, we
need to discuss those things. But this opportunity can’t wait. Trust me.” Would
any intelligent human being tell her to sign those documents?

Yet, that is what our legislators and many pundits are
urging us to do. They want us to support a huge change in law based on their
promise that it is a good idea. Here’s the funny thing about trust. You need to
earn it and your track record matters. Quite frankly, I am waiting to receive
many more answers and to see consequences including resignations and jail
sentences for individuals in affairs starting with, but not limited to,
Benghazi and the IRS politicizing its iron fist. I’m waiting to see a diminution
of power for agencies that have proven themselves too large to be appropriately
managed. I’m waiting to see the impact of health legislation that hangs
menacingly above us.  Until then, I would
not trust either the Executive or the Legislative branch of the government with
declaring anything more important than proposing a national baseball day.

Water, Water, Everywhere

June 18th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

What is interesting about these cities?  Oslo, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, and Tokyo.  No, it’s not the alphabetic sequence; that’s just me being mischievous.  Here’s a clue:  Jerusalem is probably the only city that doesn’t fit that pattern.  What other great city older than two hundred years was not built on either a river or the coast?

That so many cities were built on water is no surprise.  Cities grow and thrive on trade, and rivers and oceans have always been the arteries of trade.  The mystery is how Jerusalem grew and thrived.  It was never on a trading route like other inland cities such as those on the old Silk Road.  Because of its elevation, trading caravans took flatter routes to the Mediterranean.  It never had the large markets of cities like Baghdad and Beirut.

What is the secret of Jerusalem’s vitality and endurance?

Let’s glance at two accounts of David conquering the city from the Jebusites.

David took the fortress of Zion, the city of David.  David said on that day, ‘Whoever climbs up to the aqueduct, and strikes the Jebusites, along with the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain…’
(II Samuel 5:7-8)

David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, which is Jebus; the Jebusites were the inhabitants of the land…(they) said to David, You will not enter here but David conquered the fortress of Zion, which is the city of David…and said, ‘Whoever first strikes the Jebusites shall be chief and captain’…
(I Chronicles 11:4-6)

Careful examination reveals the differences between the two accounts and teaches us lessons for our lives.

For instance, in story #1 we find, “The king and his men” whereas later, in story #2 we read, “David and all Israel.”  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that initially people doubted the wisdom of trying to take Jerusalem.  Thus they viewed David as ‘just a nameless’ king who had only some of the people with him, namely “his men.”  Later, however, with the hindsight of the Book of Chronicles, he was lovingly referred to as “David” and (surprise, surprise) the way they remembered it, “all Israel” had been with him.

Another difference between the two accounts which reveals the secret of David’s victory is the “blind and the lame” mentioned in Samuel.  Who were these blind and lame that David hated and who had to be removed before anything else could happen?  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that they were the idols worshipped by the pagan Jebusites.

As King David himself wrote:

…they have eyes, but they cannot see…they have feet, but they cannot walk…
(Psalms 115:5-7)

David won the people by conquering Jerusalem and he conquered Jerusalem by recognizing that Jerusalem’s vulnerability lay in her idols, not in her weak fortifications.  Destroy the idols and Jerusalem is won.  The great secret of Jerusalem’s vitality and endurance is the city’s connection to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Those who serve God own the city; those that don’t will surrender it.

Jerusalem originated with Abraham’s deep commitment to God and endures not by people coming to trade but by people coming to drink from her springs of spiritual sustenance and religious rejuvenation.

…for from Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
(Isaiah 2:3)

Spiritual sustenance, religious rejuvenation and connection with God build not only Jerusalem but also communities, families, and yes, even businesses.  Making that accessible to everyone through ancient Jewish wisdom is my mission.  If you want to enhance your life by learning and applying it, we want to encourage you to do so (and assist others to do the same), by providing The Ten Commandments: How Two Tablets Can Transform Your Life. Not only will this audio CD provide an amazing new way to look at the Ten Commandments, it also will give you a glimpse of how much ancient Jewish wisdom can add to an understanding of Scripture in ways that will make your life better.

Get the Ten Commandments alone or invest in the Biblical Blueprint Set (including the Ten Commandments).

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Fool Us Again, Shame on Us

The phrase ‘immigration reform’ sends pulses racing and blood pressure skyrocketing of people on all sides of the issue. Like most Americans who have families and businesses to nurture, I am not able to keep up with every detail or to give this political matter, along with dozens of other important ones, the attention it deserves. Very few people can, including Senators and Congressmen who routinely vote on legislation that they have not read and don’t understand.

Here is why my position doesn’t need me to spend hours analyzing details READ MORE

Ask the Rabbi

I need an answer to this puzzling question. Not everyone in the Bible was blessed with the same measure. Documented characters were very few yet today’s Ministers are teaching that all people of the earth should obtain great blessings – wealth?

Thanks,
Evelyn P.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

One and Only

June 11th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

It is no fun to be roped into a game whose rules are a bewildering mystery.  It’s positively painful to start a new job and discover that nobody’s in charge and lines of communication and authority are as temporary as jet contrails in a windy sky.  It’s rough on children to grow up amidst arbitrary rules and capricious consequences.  It is downright depressing and alienating to try and function in a system that makes no sense at all.

Before the advent of the Global Positioning System, otherwise known as GPS, roadmaps were ubiquitous.  I have heard that (before my time), gas stations used to hand them out for free.  To this day when I arrive in a new city for the first time, I feel uneasy until I have acquired a large-scale street map on which I can locate my surroundings.  Boating without a chart and a compass is quite unthinkable.  Maps help me make sense of otherwise confusing environments that can feel almost unknowable.

The study of physics, chemistry, biology, and other authentic sciences help us feel less alienated from the physical world in which we live.  Things happen for a reason and we don’t need to fall back on mythical monsters and vengeful deities to explain why thunder follows lightening, how microbes help our digestion and why certain elements undergo radioactive decay.

While science is clearly a vital tool in trying to understand how the world REALLY works, it cannot provide information about those things not measurable by scientific method.  It can tell us little about the role honesty and integrity play in the life of a person and a culture.  It provides no reliable data on the sources of profound human happiness and it often provides contradictory information on how to marry successfully and how best to raise the progeny of that marriage.  For these and countless other questions vital to human survival, we have to turn to another system every bit as powerful and just as reliable as the scientific system.

I think of this system as the general theory on the totality of all existence, otherwise known as the Torah system of knowledge.  It makes our world as comprehensible as a roadmap makes a new city and allows us to anchor ourselves to a unifying integrity.

This truth is reflected by the arrangement of the Days of Creation in Genesis 1, each of which concludes with an ordinal number; third day, fourth day, fifth day, etc.  The exception is the first day of Creation. Rather than saying, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day,” the verse reads:

… there was evening and there was morning day One
Genesis 1:5

In Hebrew, the number one, ECHaD, has no ordinal form. If we need to say first, we use an entirely different word RiSHoN, that literally means, “head of” as in the head of the line.  Each of the subsequent Hebrew numbers follows a pattern similar to four/fourth or seven/seventh.

The reason that the Lord’s language doesn’t admit an ordinal form of one is that when we use numbers such as sixth or eighth we imply that there are more of whatever we are counting coming along.  However, ancient Jewish wisdom views one as unique by definition.  It always references the singleness of God and the unifying integrity of His creation. There is nothing like it coming down the road to make it only the first (of several).  Since one is associated with God, it is one and only one.

Yet, accessing this system of knowledge takes time and perseverance. Perhaps our best resource for sculpting your spiritual roadmap to reality is our Biblical Blueprint Set.  This set of five powerful audio CDs provides many hours of Torah teaching unavailable anywhere else.  The global grasp is hinted at by topics ranging from verbal vulgarity to Torah tips on time maximization and from spiritual serenity to escaping the strait jackets that sap our energies and prevent us reaching our objectives.  I know you’ll be thrilled to access these teachings repeatedly in order to consistently rejuvenate your soul and revitalize your life’s purpose. Order the physical Biblical Blueprint Set or save even more by downloading.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Scandals and Sweethearts

 

Where to begin? The most recently reported American scandal? Older scandals that the administration is hoping citizens will ignore? The newly released Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that pretty much turns us into a nation of troubled people? Iraq? Syria? China?
I’d rather start with the good news. Namely, the birth of our newest grandson, the absolutely delicious and adorable Joshua Hyam. (here’s a picture…)READ MORE

Ask the Rabbi

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I am a young Christian college student and I have a question about healing. I was taught in church that God heals people from their illness with prayer. How does this work since most people don’t get healed?

Sterling H.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Scandals and Sweethearts

June 11th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

Where to begin?
The most recently reported American scandal? Older scandals that the
administration is hoping citizens will ignore? The newly released Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that pretty much turns us into a nation of troubled
people? Iraq? Syria? China?

I’d rather
start with the good news. Namely, the birth of our newest grandson, the
absolutely delicious and adorable Joshua Hyam.


Joshua Hyam at his bris, June 4, 2013, smaller

It is a
misnomer to say that a baby is a “good” baby, but some are definitely calmer
and cuddlier. On these counts, Joshua is a winner.  As a bonus, when he was with his mother I spent
time with his older sister. Since Popop and I brought her the Sid Hoff classic,
Danny and the Dinosaur, I was able to
refresh my memory of the book by reading it dozens of times. I’m delighted that
I could still buy a copy considering the picture of guns (gasp!), children
riding on a dinosaur with nary a seat belt not helmet in sight (yikes!), and
perhaps worst of all children spending an afternoon playing all over the
neighborhood without any adult supervision (gadzooks!).

An
additional bonus was spending time with a number of our other children and
grandchildren, including a surprise visit from the most recent reigning newest
edition, who claimed the title for only a few short months. I am pleased to say
that she handled being dethroned with grace and giggles.  


Popop and Meira Bina, May 2, 2013

Of course,
these little ones are the reason that I can’t ignore what is going on in this
country or the world. I pray that they and their generation grow up in a world
of peace and prosperity, but I believe that God expects us to do our part in
safeguarding the blessings he sends us rather than relying solely on (and sadly
often undeserved) miracles.  

Defeating Despair

June 4th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to all of you who so promptly and so generously responded to my appeal on Monday for help in sustaining the American Alliance of Jews and Christians.  (If you missed my letter, see it here: http://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/aajc/index.html)

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While serving the synagogue it was my privilege to establish in Southern California, my wife and I frequently sailed our forty-four foot cutter to Catalina Island.  On that 26 mile jaunt, we often saw dolphins, whales, and other beguiling sea life.

When fog set in, I’d think of Florence Chadwick, who in 1952 set out to swim from Catalina to the mainland.  When fog obscured her goal, she lost her drive and abandoned her attempt. Despair defeated Florence.

After the fog lifted she was horrified to see that she had quit only half a mile from the beach.  Two months later, with the coastline visible, she tried again and succeeded.

Let’s understand this principle from Moses, who in one Scriptural account responds to Israel’s provocation with steadfast leadership while elsewhere in the Bible he responds to similar provocation with exasperation, hopelessness, and even despair.

In Exodus 16:2-3, the children of Israel complain against Moses and Aaron, who had just liberated them from hundreds of years of horrific slavery.  The Israelites pretend ridiculously to recall desirable circumstances in Egypt where they claim to have lacked nothing.  Frustratingly, they express remorse at having been taken from that Egyptian paradise.

Without hesitation Moses sternly chastises them for grousing against God and assures them that they will soon see meat and bread. (Exodus 16:12) Through the remainder of chapter 16 Moses leads calmly and confidently.

A year later the Israelites again demanded meat. (Numbers 11:4) Hearing them grouching and kvetching, Moses was deeply distressed. (Numbers 11:10)
Instead of admonishing them as he did in Exodus, he cries out to God:

Why have you afflicted your servant? Why haven’t I found favor in your eyes that you lay the burden of this entire people upon me?
(Numbers 11:11)

Moses renounces responsibility for the people and in hopeless anguish contemplates the impossibility of finding meat for them. (Numbers 11:12-13).  Sliding swiftly into utter despair, he confesses himself incapable of carrying the people any further and begs God to end his life. (Numbers 11:14-15).

Moses seems so utterly demoralized that even when God promises to bring meat for the people, Moses reacts incredulously asking God if enough animals exist for them.  (Numbers 11:22)

One clear distinction between the two instances is that in Exodus, the Hebrews had just left Egypt.  While certainly an oppressive regime, at least Egypt was a known evil.  Their future in the desert however, was terrifyingly unknown.  Moses ‘cut-them-some-slack’ because he felt their fear partially excused their impudence.

The story in the 11th chapter of Numbers is quite different.  A year has elapsed during which God has unfailingly provided for their every need and Israel’s ingratitude is incomprehensible to Moses.  Instead of confronting them as a steadfast leader, he avoids them and laments his circumstances to God.  The goal of a strong, faithful nation that would trust in God was obscured by fog.  Despair defeats Moses.

Had I now been teaching a Sunday school class, this is where I’d leave it.  But I think far too highly of my Thought Tool readers and thus must offer you another golden nugget of ancient Jewish wisdom.

God’s solution was for Moses to select seventy elders to stand with him.  They didn’t have to do anything other than just stand with him.  Their firm vision and complete confidence was contagious.  Moses caught some of that confidence and defeated his despair.

By associating with those who recognize that God’s plan is good, we also come to see that our despair is born of our mistaken assumption that there is no goal. With the help of wise friends, we realize that the goal is still there, even if hidden by fog.

Imagine finding a spouse who can rescue you from despair.  Imagine becoming someone able to help a spouse overcome despair.  Well, imagine no longer.  This week, our 2 CD audio program Madam I’m Adam: Decoding Marriage Secrets from Eden is on sale. Whether for you or for someone needing marital blessing, this resource is indispensable.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Dueling Debaters

I don’t know whether this advice is still in fashion or if a newer “best advice ever” has already appeared, but numerous articles say that when you are arguing with someone you should repeat what they said so that they know you listened to them. After you make your point, they should do the same, so that you know that they heard you. I’m sure that quarreling couples, parents with teens and maybe even friends have found this advice useful, but quite frankly, if my husband repeated everything I said, I think it would drive me mad.   We tend to figure out if the other person missed a point without turning into parrots.

However, I think it is a great idea to bring into…READ MORE

Ask the Rabbi

In Deuteronomy 6:4 [in the Hebrew as written in a Torah scroll] two of the letters are written larger than the other letters. This must not be accidental. Does this relate to some other secret of the Hebrew language?

Ryan

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Dueling Debaters

June 4th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

I don’t know whether this advice is still in fashion or if a newer “best advice ever” has already appeared, but numerous articles say that when you are arguing with someone you should repeat what they said so that they know you listened to them. After you make your point, they should do the same, so that you know that they heard you. I’m sure that quarreling couples, parents with teens and maybe even friends have found this advice useful, but quite frankly, if my husband repeated everything I said, I think it would drive me mad.   We tend to figure out if the other person missed a point without turning into parrots.

However, I think it is a great idea to bring into politics. Years ago, a well-known radio show host and good friend, John Carlson, frequently invited individuals with opposing views to debate. He never skewed the discussion by pitting one articulate speaker opposite a fool or by inviting five people, four of whom shared the same opinion. Although John had strong beliefs of his own about the issues under discussion, he didn’t ask one person loaded questions while lobbing softballs at the other. The two sides actually dealt in facts and convictions, asking each other pointed questions. The host didn’t even allow the show to devolve into ad hominem attacks as a way of deflecting difficult inquiries. I very much appreciated those debates and even if I didn’t change my mind, I came away with additional perspective. How quaint that show seems from today’s perspective.

As a member of the minority, politically conservative Jewish community, I feel a kinship with African-American conservatives. Whatever negative reactions I get, they get a hundred-fold. They are frequently ostracized and condemned and I am sure that even family get-togethers overflow with controversy.  Two brave pundits who fit in this category are Star Parker and Crystal Wright. I have met Star, an articulate speaker with a compelling story, and I would be delighted to cross paths with Crystal as well. For this reason, I was particularly interested in an article each woman recently wrote about E.W. Jackson, the candidate for Lt. Governor in Virginia. The two came to exactly the opposite conclusion about his selection, each passionately advocating her opinion.

One of the drawbacks of the our Internet culture is that when articles like these appear the comments section quickly sinks to the lowest common denominator. Personal attacks, vulgarity and atrocious grammar reign (my children will tell you that they aren’t sure to which of these I object the most). Rather than advancing or enhancing the columnist’s points, the comments decrease the writer’s effectiveness.

Instead of reading comments, I would much prefer to hear a debate between the two columnists, with much more than thirty-second sound bites allowed. I’d love to hear Star and Crystal actively engage each other and courteously respond to the other’s points.  While they won’t change each other’s mind, I would be better off for the exchange, which in many ways reflects a fault line in the Republican Party at large. Without being able to hear each other, even if we need to use the “latest” psychological advice for arguing, conservatives will continue to disappoint and demoralize those of us who wonder if we are actually advocating for the same side.