Monthly Archives: August, 2017

Harvey: Mirror into Humanity

August 30th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 19 comments

I don’t know if the Law of Thirds is true or even if it really exists, but Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in a Soviet prison camp in Siberia, wrote that a third of U.S.S.R. citizens were staunch supportive of the Communist regime, a third were staunch opponents of the regime and the final third kept their opinions to themselves and just tried to survive. I have also read that at the time of the American Revolution a third of the colonists supported the King, a third rebelled against him and a third kept their opinions to themselves.

It would be easy to divide America into thirds as well.  One-third leaning left, one-third right and another third less ideologically driven, keeping an eye on what is best for them at any time. However the devastation in Texas suggests a more interesting way to apply my Law of Thirds.

(more…)

I disagree with what you said

August 29th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 32 comments

(We received this comment in response to a recent Thought Tool, Egypt Made Me Do It, discussing the Biblical message not to focus on past evils. We felt that it was a worthy question for this format.)

I respectfully do not at all understand your belief that Jews do not focus on the past problems but focus on the future.

I love Jewish people and study the Bible through your perspective but it seems Jewish people and suffering go together like a dog and his bone.

I see many movies and TV shows, there are holy days reminding us of your suffering, and it seems one cannot talk about Jewish issues without bringing up the Holocaust. 

I’m not criticizing this observation and I do not feel it’s wrong, but to say Jews look toward to the future and do not think of the horrors of the past is just not so. Anyway that’s my take. Love your instruction and guidance as you have opened my eyes to truth and understanding. 

Lee S.

Dear Lee,

We appreciate your response and imagine that it is shared by many who may be less willing than you to pose challenging questions to us. We based that Thought Tool, as we do all our teachings, on God’s wisdom. Sadly, we human beings, and certainly Jews, often fail to follow His wisdom.

Imagine a future archeologist reports that 60% of American Jews of the early 21st century were registered Democrats. Does this mean that being a Democrat is a Jewish value? Of course not. Just because many Jews do something means it is average but not normal or necessarily correct. Most of the Jews chose not to leave Egypt with Moses but it was the wrong decision.

(more…)

Forests or Factories

August 29th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

A while back I visited an exhibition of photographs by the renowned photographer, Ansel Adams.  I still struggle to properly compose a photograph and learned much from observing how Adams composed his pictures.  I observed something else too:  In this exhibition, not one Adams photograph depicted any man-made object.  I later discovered that he had photographed a freeway interchange, an old adobe ruin, and a few other man-made objects but they were few and far between.  It was clearly noticeable that Ansel Adams preferred to photograph nature untouched by man.

I believe that if I could travel back in time and stroll into the Tabernacle that Moses and Israel built in the desert, I would have made exactly the opposite observation.  Most of what I could see would be man-made.  For instance, even the ark of the covenant, though constructed of wood was to be entirely overlaid with gold.  (Exodus 25:10-11)  The natural wood was quite invisible.  Though wood may be shaped, planed and polished, it still resembles the tree from which it came.  Gold, however, is never seen at all were it not for man’s industriousness in mining it, refining it and shaping it.  Wherever one looked in the Tabernacle as well as in its successor, Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the worshipper was surrounded by evidence of human creativity rather than nature.

(more…)

Alive Wrong

August 24th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 20 comments

Back in high school when I took Driver’s Education, we sat through many boring hours of classroom instruction before being allowed to do what we really wanted to do, which was get behind the wheel. One snippet of advice stuck. Our instructor told us that you can be ‘dead right’ but it is better to be ‘alive wrong.’ His point was that we needed to be alert and defensive drivers. Yes, a green light meant that we could legally go, but if someone at the intersection looked like they might run the red light, we would be wise to waive our rights.

Well, you can be ‘politically correct dead right’ and automatic lock-step with the latest trend or you can be ‘alive wrong.’ Quite frankly, trends are evolving so quickly that it is a full-time job to differentiate between satire and reality.

(more…)

Government Jobs

August 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

As you teach in your books and podcasts, to have money in my wallet is a sign that I pleased another human being, a sign of clear virtue. Since I work in private sector, I hold this to be self evident.

This clarity got severely shaken by a friend of mine. He has recently graduated, master in chemistry. Despite his little experience he cashes in extraordinary sums of money. How? Simple, he has 4 parallel jobs, all of them for the government funded university. These jobs are not demanding at all, while averagely paid. Since nearly NO results are required of him, he can manage 4 of them at the same time. Although averagely paid, four times average is still a great deal of money. And yes, it is legal.

What bothers me is, how does he know he pleased another human being? The university spends public money and cares not for the results as long as the money is spent. How should we look at the usefulness of government paid employees?

This example is from Europe, where about 50% of all the transactions are government related. There is a great deal of people who make their living this way.

May the lord bless you,

Martin

Dear Martin,

I (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) frequently speak in public about money. I sometimes ask everyone to take out a dollar bill and hold it in the air. I then ask anyone who got that dollar by mugging a little old lady on the way to my talk to put it away. I then ask those who got the dollar by robbing a convenience store to put it away as well. The rest of the people, I say, can know that they got the money by pleasing another person.

(more…)

Egypt Made Me Do It

August 21st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 35 comments

It is perfectly natural to attribute one’s failures to things one’s parents did. It is perfectly normal to blame events or people in one’s past for present problems.  But winners living successful lives don’t do that.  Champions of achievement rarely do what is normal and what is natural.  They know that blaming yesterday’s pain for today’s folly assures tomorrows of more of the same.

Jen Bricker could easily have abandoned her dream to become a gymnast.  It would have been perfectly natural and perfectly normal for her to have blamed the genetic defect that caused her to be born without legs.  But she became a gymnast.

Jaime Escalante wanted to become a great teacher.  He could have blamed his South American accent for failing.  Or he could have blamed being assigned to a ‘class of losers’ in a hopeless high school in East Los Angeles.  But he turned those students of his into calculus stars and he himself became the star of the movie, “Stand and Deliver.”

Felix Zandman’s idyllic youth came to an end when as a teenager he was flung into a Polish ghetto.  From there he was moved to a German concentration camp where he watched  Nazi thugs murder his family.  After enduring unimaginable trauma, he was liberated and finally found his way to America.  He could have remained a victim, blaming the horrors to which he was subjected.  Instead he built up a business into one of the world’s largest electronic component manufacturers, Vishay Intertechnology.

Nothing would have been more normal than for the Jews to have blamed millennia of dysfunction on hundreds of years of Egyptian slavery.

(more…)

Your Next Postcard = The Transcontinental Railroad of The 1860s

August 15th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

When the Golden Spike was driven in the spring of 1869 to join the railroad that came from the east to that which came from the west where they met in Utah, a new era of human productivity began. Anything that facilitates human connection brings positive results whether it was the telegraph in 1844 or the telephone, radio, television right up to the Internet in our time. Every time you pick up the phone to connect with someone, positive steps are set in place even though you may not know the eventual result. When you write someone a postcard and drop it in the mail, it might end up as significant as the first time it became possible to ride the rails across the continent. We never know what can grow from the seeds of human connection. Try it!

Sloppy Shoes and Donald Trump

August 15th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

What is wrong with the following scenario? Mr. and Mrs. Jones have three children. Over the course of a week, each of the children leaves his or her shoes lying in the middle of the living room floor. Mr.and Mrs. Jones ignore the first child’s messiness rationalizing that she is in the middle of finals. Mr. and Mrs. Jones excuse the second child’s carelessness because his girlfriend just broke up with him and he’s feeling down. Mr. and Mrs. Jones confiscate the third child’s shoes, berating her for being so sloppy.

You don’t have to be a parenting expert or in favor of shoes being left lying around to recognize that something is off-kilter in the above family. That is why I was not upset by President Trump’s tweet following the criminal car-ramming in Virginia on Saturday, August 13. While the President was lambasted for initially condemning hatred and violence “on many sides”  rather than singling out white supremacists, I didn’t take it that way.

(more…)

Can I keep my children safe?

August 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments

Michelle Carter was just sentenced in the text message case [where she was found to encourage a young man to commit suicide and didn’t call for help when he did so]. Is there a moral equivalent in the Bible by which one could instruct their children so that they do not go down the path of either of the participants in this event? 

Is it possible that both were equally mentally disturbed and this is only an anomaly? Is social media distorting our mores and morals?

 How would a parent use scripture to keep their children on the correct path when young people are so absorbed in social media to the point it takes over their life, personality, and time?

Michael G. 

 

Dear Michael,

You actually asked four interesting questions tucked inside your letter. In the case you reference, a young woman was sentenced for encouraging her boyfriend’s suicide. It got attention because there was a trail of text messages detailing her words. Yet, from a moral perspective (rather than a legal one because of proof) there is no difference between this case and one that might have taken place decades ago with conversation substituting for texts. Urging someone to take his life, whether by letter, speech, texts or skywriting is wrong. The message is the problem, not the medium.

(more…)

The Four Sees

August 14th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 13 comments

If you’re fortunate enough to have a new baby in your life you already know how he or she constantly brings moments of joyful discovery.  Here is one that recently startled me.  From about their first birthday, babies respond to eye cues more than head direction cues.  This is really quite amazing.  What this means is that when I direct my face towards the left but move my eyes to look right, the baby follows my eyes not my head!

Animals don’t do this.  They are very alert to the direction that the head of another animal is facing but seem oblivious to eye movement.  Most animals including baboons and chimpanzees will glance in the direction they see a human looking.  But if a person faces one direction and moves his eyes to another, the primate will follow the face not the eyes.  (A dog may be an exception here, but I’ll discuss that in the future.) In fact, we seldom see any animal looking in any direction it is not facing.

(more…)

X