PORTFOLIO – COBBLES

A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table

Samsa was a travelling salesman.

TODAYS PAPER

In a world where everything is changing, find comfort in wisdom that is timeless.

Today’s Paper is a daily collection of current events with commentary from Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

Push Me, Push You

It’s always a bad idea when I spurn Susan Lapin’s advice.  No good has ever come of it.  In fact, I must confess to more than one painful memory of the consequences of doing so.  Nonetheless, here goes.  Susan says, “Go light on science topics; it won’t interest women as much as it interests men.”

I had three responses to her today.  First, I may inadvertently be escalating arrogance to new levels of obnoxiousness, but I think I can write about science engagingly for everyone.  Second, worst case scenario, I have a male friend in North Carolina, who’ll just love this!  Third, I have to speak science if I wish to teach this aspect of ancient Jewish wisdom.

So here goes and please be gentle with your comments. I don’t want to be subjected to a self-envisaged burden of, “I told you so!”

Imagine a shiny silvery sphere about the size of a ping pong ball.  Based on its size and upon your life experience, you expect to pick it up easily with your thumb and forefinger.  To your astonishment, you need your entire hand to lift it as it actually weighs well over a pound.  Turns out, it is not a hollow Christmas ornament. It’s a ball of uranium and is surprisingly heavy and dense.  (For this thought experiment, we’re using a type of uranium called Uranium 235)

Now imagine a uranium sphere the size of a bowling ball; it weighs well over one hundred pounds.  More importantly, it is enough uranium to constitute what is called critical mass.  Whereas the ping pong ball of uranium is almost inert and does nothing, the bowling ball of uranium contains enough of the radioactive material to start a spontaneous nuclear reaction, getting hotter and hotter.  (Don’t try this at home!)

The heat from that ball of uranium can boil water into steam which can drive a turbine and push an aircraft carrier across the Pacific Ocean.  The smaller ping pong ball of uranium produces no heat at all.

One of the truly fascinating permanent principles of ancient Jewish wisdom is that for every single physical law governing material phenomena, God set up a parallel spiritual law.

What is the matching spiritual equivalent to the idea of physical critical mass that we just discussed?  Have you ever noticed how the first few people at a party drift around aimlessly?  Nobody is having much fun until…yes, you’ve got it.  The party takes off when enough people have arrived for it to hit critical mass.

Here’s another example: If one or two people stop on a busy sidewalk and peer upwards, nothing much is likely to happen.  However, if ten or eleven people stop on that same sidewalk and gaze upwards, you can be sure others will join in.

Ladies, can we look at one more example or is Susan right when she says, “You’re pushing your luck!”?

In the 17th century, a deeply religious and Bible-believing English scientist, Isaac Newton, identified three laws of motion. The third one states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  For instance, when one fires a gun, the action is that a bullet goes flying out the barrel towards its target.  The reaction is that the gun recoils and pushes back against your hand or shoulder.  Another example is that if a billiard ball rolls across the velvet and strikes a second ball, both are affected by the impact.  The action is that the second ball starts moving.  The reaction is that the first ball bounces away in a new direction as a result of the impact.

The spiritual equivalent to Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion is that if you push another person away from you, you also start feeling distant.  In marriage, sometimes without even meaning to do so, a wife might rebuff her husband.  Naturally he feels banished and hurt.  However, what we now understand is that often without even knowing why, she too feels more alienated from him.  The action is her pushing him away.  The reaction is that she feels just as much pushed away in the opposite direction.

The same principle is often found in business relationships and works for positive as well as negative.  For instance, if a merchant does something really nice for a customer, the action is that the customer feels good towards the merchant.  The reaction is that the merchant starts feeling newfound sensations of appreciation towards his customer.

I know I spurned Susan’s advice in writing this Thought Tool on a scientific topic, but Newton’s First Law of Motion explains that without any outside force acting upon it, a body remains at rest.  This means that if you don’t engage the gear and press down on the accelerator, your car will remain stationary.

The spiritual equivalent of this law is that we humans tend towards lethargy unless stimulated to action.  Do you think it possible that with full knowledge of this spiritual law, my smart wife knew that in discouraging me from writing a scientific Thought Tool, she’d actually be goading me towards doing so?  That would be scary.

Ladies, now is your chance to support me by obtaining your own copy of The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah. This audio CD starts with another example of a physical and spiritual law and goes on to cover abortion, child raising, affluence  and so much more. It even explains why the boring ‘begat’ sections of Scripture aren’t boring! Please get it (on sale) right now.

What was Susan thinking? I’ll probably find out when I read the comments.

May Seem Simple But Riding An Elevator Up a Skyscraper Is No Circus

Well, Barnum and Bailey Circus is shutting down. Everything has its day. Opera and theater used to be for everyone. Now they are kept alive by elite life support. But the end of the circus is a little sad for anyone who remembers the sheer magic of being taken to the big top as a child. But even though his circus is sliding into history, Phineas Taylor Barnum will never be forgotten because about 20 years before founding his eponymous circus he promoted Elisha Otis’ elevator at the 1853 New York World’s Fair. Up till then nobody was interested in the frightening contraption. P T Barnum helped prove it safe and within only a few years buildings were being built four times higher than the 3 or 4 stories considered practicable up till then. It may be Otis’ name on the elevator you rode in yesterday but it was P T Barnum that made it possible for you to ride in it. Aren’t humans great? And isn’t He who created us, great?

Avoidable Heartbreak

Most of the time, my daughter doesn’t share details of the overnight shifts that she spends as a nurse in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). Sometimes the care that she and other medical professionals give allow their patients, with God’s grace, to graduate from the ICU on the road to recovery. Other times, she is honored to tend with dignity to those losing the battle for life. Many of her patients are not awake and communicative; she often doesn’t get to uncover the unique individual  hidden behind the person in her charge.

Last week she did share a story. While the natural human emotions of medical professionals need to be controlled for them to do their job, one patient’s plight pierced through my daughter’s defenses. It was not the first time she cared for a young man dying from sickle cell anemia, and his fate upended her equilibrium.

In an anguished voice, she asked me, “Why don’t people get tested so that their children won’t die?” I understood the history behind her question. As a high school student, my daughter along with all her classmates (and students in most religious Jewish schools) underwent a blood screening test to reveal if they were carriers for certain illnesses that are prevalent in the Jewish community. The organization that runs the screening emerged from the pain of a rabbi, Joseph Ekstein, who watched, devastated, as four of his young children died from Tay Sachs disease. Wanting to spare others similar sorrow, in the 1980s he began promoting widespread genetic testing. Since then the organization that carries out his mission has expanded to test for an increasing number of fatal and debilitating recessive genetic diseases to which Jews are disproportionally disposed.

How does it work? The concept of testing high school students presupposes certain social norms. For this reason, religious high schools provide a natural platform. For the most part, these students belong to a culture that frowns on social dating. Down the road, many of them will meet their spouses through introductions by family and friends or through matchmakers. Even if they do meet someone at a social gathering or other venue, the expectation is that any incipient relationship hinges on getting to know one another with marriage as the aim. Furthermore, physical contact leading to out of wedlock pregnancies is not the norm; marriage and children go together.

Once tested, the students are not given any genetic information. Instead, they are given an identifying number. When they begin to court for marriage, ideally before ever even going out on a first date, they, or their parents, call a designated phone number with their own identifying code as well as the number of the person they are meeting. If neither or only one of the individuals is a carrier for one of the serious genetic diseases, the caller is blessed with wishes that the courtship goes well. If both individuals are carriers, the caller is advised not to pursue the meeting. Even if the couple has already met, calling at an early stage in the process means that while relinquishing the relationship may be disappointing, it is a small price to pay compared to the potential tragedy that could ensue.

Why am I writing about this? Sickle cell anemia is prevalent in both the African American and Hispanic communities. I read that the trait for it is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States. I know that among my Musings’ readers there are pastors whose congregations include many Hispanic and African American families, as well as individuals from those communities. These churches often promote courtship rather than dating. Perhaps genetic testing is already encouraged; I don’t know. I do know that in the observant Jewish community it has become rare to hear about a baby being born with Tay Sachs. The testing has been wildly successful in eradicating this particular affliction. I write in the hope that sharing an experience from my community can help eliminate heartbreak for other groups.

______________________________________

If you are the parent of young children thinking more about play dates than dating for your kids, this is precisely the time to formulate your views on how you wish to convey information about male-female relationships to them. I strongly recommend reading Gila Manolson’s book Hands Off! This May Be Love as you begin thinking proactively about issues that you will face sooner than you realize.

Are my academic studies a mistake?

Question:

I was wondering what are your thoughts on why modern Universities tend  to support “progressive ideals” and go left. As a conservative on a University completing a postgraduate degree , it seems that  this left leaning culture seems to be increasingly and overtly celebrated on campus. 

Secondly, what is your opinion on the role of a University professor/Academic as a vocation  and how it fits in with the idea that we ought to be obsessively pre-occupied with serving God’s fellow creation? The reason for asking is that the science field I am involved in is largely knowledge/theoretical based rather than service based.

Ken

Answer: 

Dear Ken,

Many excellent books and articles have been written explaining why campuses overwhelmingly tilt Left. They make fascinating reading and we do suggest that if your life is heavily campus-based, you delve into this subject.

In brief, however, as I often explain on my podcast ( https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show ) there are basically only two lenses to reality. One is God-centric and humble while the other is arrogant and secular-materialistic. The former says we’re on this lonely planet because God put us here while the latter takes the position that we’re here by a random accident that makes us nothing more than super-sophisticated chimpanzees.

Though universities both in America and Europe started off as bastions of Christianity, firmly embracing the first lens, round about the middle of the 20th century they commenced a revolutionary transformation to radical secularism that is still ongoing.

Progressive is merely a polite word for a Marxist worldview believing that some people, such as university faculty and often students as well, have a right to live in comfort off the sweat of other people’s brows.  Today, universities, are, with few exceptions, temples of secularism willing to offer almost any heretic as a sacrifice to their gods.

Certainly, we do feel that anyone who is considering sending a child to a college campus should do serious research and due diligence before doing so.

As to your personal question, we’d like to suggest some questions to ask yourself. Knowledge can be greatly valuable. We can think of many people who contributed to humanity by theoretical scientific exploration, among them Johannes Kepler, Isaac Newton and Galileo.

You might ask yourself what is the purpose of your studies? Is what you are researching an arcane obsession or can you see the ultimate potential for a practical application eventually? Would time teaching be an escape from having to deal with the real world or an opportunity to positively inspire young people and improve their lives?

Most importantly, is what you are teaching true to the best of your knowledge?  If you are in the science department or the mathematics department, that is probably the case.  However, if the name of your field includes the word “Studies” as in “Jewish Studies,” “Environmental Studies” etc, it is a good clue that the curriculum might contain more of an agenda rather than truth.

Also ask yourself whether you are delivering to your students material of value that will help them understand how the world REALLY works.

Should you continue on your path and find yourself isolated, whether in a laboratory or on a campus, we would encourage you to actively seek opportunities to get out of your cocoon. Make sure that some time each week is physically spent outside both campus and college towns and interacting with people who have nothing to do with organized academia.

Asking the questions we have raised and others you will come up with suggests that you have reservations about your path. That is a brave and honest thing to do and whatever your decision, you are better off for facing your doubts as early as possible.

Wishing you success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

X