If I cut a beautiful flower off its plant and bring it indoors, I seem to have done a clever thing. No longer need I step outside to enjoy the bright colors and intoxicating fragrance – it’s right there on my desk.
However, the next day I notice the flower is less colorful and its perfume a little fainter. Later the flower fades and shrivels. Its sisters out in the garden are still magnificent. This is the sad secret of the severed flower.
The fragrant flower of civilization is frighteningly fragile. While connected to its Judeo-Christian roots, all is well. About fifty years ago there began a process of severing America from its roots. The process of secularizing our culture continues today.
At first it seemed clever. No longer were we confined by the rules and restraints of religion. No longer did we have to think of cosmic right and wrong.
But gradually we began to shrivel and gradually we began to fade. Sadly, life in America has become more expensive, vulgar and alienated. Yet one great distinction stands between a flower and our culture: we can be reattached to our religious roots.
Those religious roots nurture three areas:
First, marriage. Would marriage have evolved naturally? Would a man or a woman have thought of it first? Men are happy to date for years. Seldom does the man say, “Darling, we ought to be thinking about our future?”
Maybe a woman first said to a man, “I have this great idea – why don’t we create something called marriage?” He replied, “What’s marriage?” She said, “It’s easy. You stop looking at other women and when I have a baby, you take care of us – hey, come back I’m not finished talking.”
Clearly marriage has its roots in God’s Biblical blueprint. Without the first chapters of Genesis, few would be getting or staying married. As faith has diminished in America, so has the strength and stability of marriage.
Money is the second area in which our religious roots sustain us. Without the lens of faith, we would view money as only physical. A physical object, say a book, can only be in one place at a time. But spiritual things like, say, a tune can be on a thousand lips at once.
If I hear you whistling a song and I start whistling it too, I am taking nothing from you. But if I take your book you no longer have it. Well, if money is physical, then the only way to get it is by taking it. For every dollar that I have, someone somewhere has one less. But if money is spiritual, like a tune, it is brought into existence afresh without taking anything from anyone else. Truly, we don’t take money, we make money. Your dollars symbolize how you serve other people.
Manners is the third area in which the Bible anchors us to our roots. The basics of what we consider good manners spring from the first chapter of Genesis. Behaving like an animal erodes the separateness that God gave us from the animal kingdom. We refrain from making noises, scratching ourselves in public or eating like animals to emphasize our humanness.
Our lives are immeasurably improved by living in a society where marriage is the crucible of the next generation, where money exists and wealth created, and where human interaction is lubricated by manners and civility. Severed from our Judeo-Christian Biblical roots we risk losing all that and everything that flows from it.
This week we are running a sale on books by our beloved affiliate authors. To highlight one of them I strongly encourage you to check out Judy Gruen’s book, The Skeptic and the Rabbi (and yes, I am the rabbi mentioned). Judy speaks with refreshing honesty about what it means to remain authentic to yourself while charting a new yet ancient spiritual path at odds with the surrounding culture. As a committed feminist and modern woman, Judy Gruen was introduced to me and my Torah classes by the man she was dating. She found herself craving and resisting a new—but very ancient—way of life. As she navigates her new life with the man she loves and the faith she also loves, Gruen brings the reader right along for the ride. This book, along with I Only Want to Get Married Once by Chana Levitan, Hands Off! This May Be Love by Gila Manolson, and Aleph-Bet by Sarah Mazor are all on sale this week (links below).