Like a Big Pizza Pie

February 4th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 37 comments

Before I tell you about a big yellow full moon hanging low in the sky on a balmy summer evening, I have to tell you about a letter I recently received.

Dear Rabbi Lapin,

I have followed you and taken your advice on my marriage and my business for seven years now.  I owe you a debt of gratitude because many things you advised went against my instincts but I followed them anyway with great results.  My wife and my relationship has been thriving and business has been prospering.  But I am now disconnecting from you and will no longer be reading your material or listening to your podcast.  The reason is because I just discovered that you voted for President Trump.  I want nothing to do with anyone who thinks that man is a good president. You should know better as a rabbi.

Goodbye,

[name withheld for privacy]

I wrote back to him, probably in much the same style you would have if you were in my shoes. 

Of course, I have heard of close family members who no longer talk to one another on account of disagreement about our president.  I have watched the Democrats, from my perspective, behave embarrassingly in their frantic and furious attempts to undo the results of the 2016 presidential election. And I understand that many Americans have precisely the opposite perspective.  I suspect I will even lose readers over this Thought Tool.

Some Americans think that Mr. Trump is, without a doubt, the very worst president in a long time.  Many others, including me, think that on the basis of decisions he’s made and actions he’s taken during the first 36 months of his presidency, history might well regard him as one of America’s best presidents.  We surely can’t both be right.

Some think that love of one’s country is a primitive emotion now superseded by a broader and more sophisticated concern for all countries and all people of the world. Many others, like me, see patriotism as necessary and as obvious as the idea of loving your own family more than you love strangers.  We can’t both be right.

Many think of marriage as an old fashioned living arrangement now made irrelevant by newer acceptance of the many alternatives.  Others, like me, feel sure that a society without marriage is not long for the stage of world history.  We can’t both be right.

Some think that abortion on demand is just another of the freedoms hard-won by feminists while others like me feel that practice to be a dark and indelible stain on the national soul.  We can’t both be right. 

This all begs the question of just how can so many intelligent, educated and thoughtful citizens of one country have such wildly different views on so many important issues?  Fortunately, the Bible provides an answer.

You’ll probably recognize this verse:

God made the two great lights. The big light to dominate the day
and the small light to dominate the night…
(Genesis 1:16)

Ancient Jewish wisdom makes two observations on this verse.  (1)  The verse is really made up of two parts with the equivalent of a period mark called an etnachta marking ‘the two great lights’ as the end of the first.  (2)  The first part tells us that the sun and moon were of the same size—they were in fact, ‘two great lights’; large and equal. The second part seems to contradict this by identifying the big sun and the small moon.

What could this apparent contradiction mean?  Part one tells us that the sun and moon were of the same size while part two informs us of a large sun and small moon. They can’t both be right, can they?

Well, it turns out that the heavens contain a remarkable coincidence.  (Yes, you regular Thought Tool readers already know that there is no such word.)  It turns out that the sun covers up exactly the same amount of sky as the moon.  Because of this strange fact, solar eclipses exist. So precisely can the moon cover the sun that during a perfect eclipse the disc of the sun is exactly obscured by the disc of the moon, allowing the carefully protected observer to see the dramatic solar flares leaping just outside the black disc of the moon.

What makes this so interesting is that the diameter of the sun is about 400 times larger than that of the moon.  Yet, we perceive the moon to be the same size as the sun because it is about 400 times (actually 390) times closer to us here on Earth than is the sun. The moon’s closer distance makes up for its smaller size and thus both bodies subtend just about the same angle at the human observer’s eye.

In this Thought Tool, I am not discussing what messages God is teaching us by making the sun and moon this way.  What I am describing is the lesson that Genesis 1:16 is teaching us about the phenomenon of perspective. 

“God made the two great lights.” – Yes, that’s right.  From our human perspective here on earth, they appear to be the same size.

“The big light to dominate the day and the small light to dominate the night.”— Yes, that’s also right.  From the perspective of absolute measurement, the sun is far larger than the moon.

In other words, people can disagree over what appear to be contradictory facts if their perspective is different.  If each side starts with its own presumptions and suppositions, they will end up with different interpretations of the same facts.

One possible set of perspectives about the president might be that some believe in the goodness of government while others fear its size and reach.  Those possessing the first perspective might well see Mr. Trump’s disdain for politicians and suspicion of today’s government bureaucracy to be vile and reprehensible. Or they may feel that the dignity and solemnity of the office of president is offended by Mr. Trump’s tweets and unrestrained style of debate. Meanwhile, from an entirely different perspective,  there are those who view him as uniquely qualified for this time in history precisely because he is not beholden to previous norms. They are grateful for his presidency and cheer him on.

Those who see themselves as world citizens, whose perspective has much in common with the lyrics of John Lennon’s Imagine “Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion, too…” possess an entirely different perspective from  those who feel a lump rise in their throat upon hearing thousands of enthusiastic patriots singing, “What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming…” Similarly, marriage, abortion, and dozens of other contentious issues cleave America’s population into two.  While we can comfortably debate specific policies and nuances with those who approach topics from the same perspective as we do, all our rational and logical points will have no effect on someone whose perspective is quite different.   

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37 comments

Susan Gilliland says:

Kinda like a Mitt Romney kind of situation. Very sad, there are so many that have such hard hearts with their high standards of what they think is right and wrong. Very sad way to live.

Ruth says:

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin: This is a spiritual battle or as my husband would say. No one is perfect but people all around are blinded. Lord have mercy on all of us.

Teena says:

To quote a well versed young politician, “Strong men are the bedrock of strong families which are the bedrock of a strong nation. We’re lacking these figures in society and it shows.”

I not only remember you and Susan touching on this subject but also my first time reading it in 1990 and it’s one of my favorite parts in the Bible when God asked Moses to choose one man from every tribe to spy out the land. Ten out of twelve of those men feared taking possession because their perspectives were skewed from looking at the size of its men and they came back with an evil report. But Joshua and Caleb were the difference. Only two men had heart that were willing to overtake the Amalekites. After reading it, I remember saying within myself, “I AM WELL ABLE to take the land!” And I eventually went where most members of my family would not even dare dream.

I did not particularly agree with President Trump but I heard the clarion call to vote him in. I will even enjoy laughing with (at) him while shaking my head but he has guts.

Finally, I like what Brit Hume had to say, “ People mystified by Evangelical Christian support for Trump don’t seem to get the reason why, which is not that Evangelicals approve of his personal conduct. It is that they think he’s their enemy’s enemy and he’s willing to fight.”

Laurie L. says:

Thank you for remaining a beacon of truth, goodness and morality. In my opinion, President Trump is a good example of the Lord using the foolish to confound the “wise.” When leaders who claim to follow Him, don’t step up and speak out, another who will do what is right, inspite of his flaws, may be chosen. I said from the beginning of Trump’s rise in the polls as he ran for office, that if the Lord could speak through an “ass” then why could He not speak through Donald Trump?” Inspite of President Trump’s flaws, he has done more to restore liberty and justice in America than I could have thought possible.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Laurie–
I just note that nobody said similar things about President Obama in spite of his frequent arrogant and foolish behavior.
Cordially
RDL

Sharon Parker says:

Thank you Rabbi Lapin for bringing that to our attention because President Obama among his other tragedies, refused to hand over anything having to do with “fast and furious”, which resulted in an American’s death and nothing was said.

Sharon Knotts says:

Amen to the Brit Hume remark!

Sharon Knotts says:

Amen! I concur: If God spoke through a donkey because the prophet was so blinded by his greed, He can speak through this President. I didn’t vote for the person, but for the policies he espouses.

Paul Elder says:

You are so right/correct. I am a Bible believing man who lovingly supports Israel and think highly of you & Susan. My wife & I Pray for you each day.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Paul,
Susan Lapin and I deeply appreciate you.
Cordially
RDL

Sheldon Dan says:

I think that the verdict on Trump will be mixed. Yes, he has done great things for the country and especially regarding Israel, and normally this would not be debatable. But the fact that his character is such that he literally cannot admit to anything wrong and cannot let any negative feedback go without attacking his opponents neutralizes any good he is able to do as president. I think that history will judge him accordingly, and this will prevent him from being as “great” as some would wish–while he may not be as bad as the worst presidents.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Sheldon Dan,
“Neutralizes?” Really? Just wondering…the doctor who operates successfully on your liver but due to his ego can never admit to anything wrong and cannot let any negative feedback go without attacking his opponent, well all these flaws “neutralize” any good he did in keeping you alive? Really? Are you sure?
I know you didn’t ask my view, but for general benefit here’s the ancient Jewish wisdom on the topic: Neutralize is never a word to use in the context of a human being. Nothing we ever do is neutralized. As in double-entry bookkeeping, everything good we do is retained perpetually in one column, and all we do bad is retained in the second. And we never offset or neutralize as we might do with a financial statement. Assets of $X and liabilities of $Y means net value is $(X-Y). But with people, someone who does great things while eating while splashing his gravy or someone who achieves enormous accomplishments but speaks rudely to those who are rude to him, well, none of this reduces his accomplishments. The positives are always there and should be lauded and the negatives are sadly an inseparable part. But neutralize? Never!
Cordially
RDL

Anne Siders says:

Thank you for explaining it so succinctly. I understand your perspective. I don’t understand the other perspective. However I was taught that because we live in the USA and enjoy the freedom of the first amendment, it is important for me to be able to agree to disagree and defend the other’s right to have his differing perspective. Shalom.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Anne-
As you know, things have changed and on today’s university campus, nobody is defending your right to have a differing perspective. On the contrary, those that don’t toe the line of secular fundamentalist doctrine are treated almost as harshly as dissenters in any communist regime.
This means that we have to be ever more vigilant builders of the wall (Nehemiah)
Cordially
RDL

Lee says:

Glad to hear you refer to Nehemiah for I have tried to get our president to read the entire book. It has so many parallels to the building of the wall, the attacks and false innuendos by the opposing crowd, the threats of even the religious crowd and attempts to cause Nehemiah to give up on doing what G-D gave him to do etc. I do not trust some of the religious crowd the President has around him. The person who wrote to you gave a wonderful list of good things he has learned from you and yet he is willing to leave that for the sake of hating our president. What President was ever a perfect man?! This vile hatred had to come from satan and you can see how it is affecting all of them with their sickly appearances. They are definitely a one issue group, unable to function rationally. Thanks so much for your reasonable article.

C.B. Doyon says:

We voted for Trump and will do it again. He is not a saint. He never claimed to be. What he claimed was to being a Patriot. By his many actions, he has shown to be a man of his word.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Exactly, C.B.Doyon,
And come to think of it, other than you and me, just how many saints are there really out there?
Cordially
RDL

Maria Routon says:

Rabbi Lapin and Susan, thank you for standing up and being vocal for the truth and not wavering! We enjoy your teachings and podcast….very enlightening.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Maria–
We are grateful for your encouraging words. Truth is, it’s much harder to stand up and be vocal for truth if have to work each day alongside people with the opposite perspective. It’s much harder if your family members oppose almost every breath you take. And we know how many of our friends, fans, and followers live under those conditions. They are the ones who really have to be strong and of good courage. Blessedly, we work for the most part only among people whose view of the world is similar to ours and we are enormously grateful that our entire family follows in our spiritual footsteps. So we have much to be grateful for.
Cordially
RDL

Neweverymoment, Deb:
Go, Rabbi and Susan!
These days, one must tiptoe along until one is fairly certain of which side of the fence the person one is facing has chosen, unless one is a soapbox firebrand! There is frequently more support for one than one might imagine.
Poles of a continuum seldom are 50-50; they are much more likely to be 98-2. It may not be comfortable to be from the 2 percent, but at least that frames the rest of it. You know far better than I how many times in the Hebrew testament the 2 percent ended up winning the day. “Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered.” Let’s just hope that we are on God’s side!

diane coleman says:

I am thankful for your commentary which reinforces critical thinking, as well as the fact that we are not alone in our thinking and values.
I believe God inspired the creation of this country and has brought forth people to prosper it throughout its existence. His timing is always perfect. Lessons taught. Lessons learned.

I thank God daily that President Trump is the epitome of “substance over style”.
Sincerely,
D.C.

RK Swaim says:

I ask God to bless and am very thankful for Him giving us Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin.

Arthur Solvang says:

I appreciate your eords in these troubled times. In his farewell address, George Washington said we should eschew partisan politics and outside our border imperialism. He counseled it was best to win over opponents through trade rather than force. If only more would listen to this wise statement and we could endeavor to get along enjoy economic happiness that floats all boats, and let others live as they see fit. They might even become interested in opening their minds and hearts

Leslie says:

Dear Rabbi and Rebbetzin Lapin…. well, I wa going to write some words of moral support, but you have obviously been receiving them. I agree with you and those extending their support for you. It is very disturbing how far we have in a short period of time drifted from the values of our Constitution and a belief in freedom of thought and speech. I also voted for Trump, and will do so again, in spite of his outrageous public behavior. I decided to vote for him because of my belief that he meant what he said about the swamp, about the elites wherever found. In 2016 I decided he might have a thick enough hide to live with the attacks that would come his way, that he could stand up to them. He seems to have done that, as much as it likely wounded him enormously. But if he is willing to put himself infront of the attacks for another 4 years, and try to keep his promises… perhaps roll back a bit more of the progressive and bureaucaratic state…. then G-d bless him, and I will vote for him again.
Thanks for this thought tool. Keep up the good work.

Esther Weiss says:

Thank you Rabbi and Susan ~
President Trump did make our wonderful America great again. God chose him for such a time as this. After last night’s State of the Union Address many Indpendent Voter’s have made their choice. I will vote for him again.
Praying for his health and protection.
Shalom

Dr. Vickie Sanderson says:

The 2016 election was the first one that I didn’t vote in since coming of age. I would never vote for Hillary Clinton because I babysat one of the men who died in the Benghazi Embassy attack. And I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump because although his words were encouraging he had very little fruit that showed his words were valid. As of today, February 5 2020, as my primary ballot sits on my table, I am confidently voting for President Trump. Not that his fruits have fully matched his grand words of 2016. However, the fruit he has produced leaves no doubt in my mind that God’s Will is alive and working. Not that President Trump is a hero or a savior. He is a human, as we all are, and he is a tool for God’s plan.

Joanie says:

Dear Rabbi,
Your excellent teaching and intelligence seem to offend some as does President Trumps overzealous twittering. I look at things objectively and maybe it is because I am a woman of faith rather than a radical feminist.

I was praising and shouting all through the SOTU last evening. I thought the Democrats were in high school in a sorority or fraternity that lost the football game again. Their childish behavior was disgusting and if there is one good candidate in their group, they killed any chance of showing a professional opponent to the easy going President.
I will say this for him, he thinks of the people of this country and what it stands for. As for Pelosi, note I can not call her anything that identifies her title because to rip up a speech on tv was like watching a nursery school child stomp their feet because they did not get the last banana. It was hilarious to watch but she should have been escorted out of the room!! Oh my goodness! What is wrong with her?
I think she has too much money, should stay at home in her large mansion and do a little housekeeping to clean up her house!!

UGH!! I will never again be voting for a democrat from that group, ever!! I believe our Lord put the President in this place much like the Ancient Kings, some good, some not because they did not serve the Lord!

Hillary Clinton and Dems lost the election, when will they get over the fact that the people voted them out?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks for writing Joanie–
There is no thoughtful Democratic Party strategist today chortling over how wonderfully Nancy the Ripper tore up the speech. They are viewing it as the Pelosi ‘deplorables’ moment. The moment they lost the election.
Cordially
RDL

Edward Rubinstein says:

Just a quick comment. On Dennis Prager yesterday, a woman called in who was a member of AA. She complained to her sponsor that one of the women in the group was very difficult to listen to. Her sponsor shot back: “She’s been sober 20 years. You can learn a lot from her.”

What we do is much more important than what we say, and President Trump has shown us the good he has done. His SOTU speech was virtually “perfect.”

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Agreed, Edward,
Cordially
RDL

Crystal Linn says:

Thank you, and Susan, for your honest and vulnerable sharing of the sad, and unnecessary, letter your received. Also, thank you both for your faithful teachings.

Crystal

Bonnie Franklin says:

Amen to Sharon’s remark!

Claire Bradley-Johnston says:

Thank God for Donald Trump who refuses to act like everyone else. What a unique blessing he is to America. If I am lucky enough to see him re-elected at 55, I don’t believe I’ll live to see another of his kind in my lifetime. We will return to the spineless Republican Party who is about as much a help to America as the socialist Democrats will be. God help us with the crybaby Democrats who believe the only legitimate election is the one they win. The Bernie Sanders socialists, I predict, will eventually win after Trump’s presidency. It would be a mistake to think they are a small minority. Sanders beat Hillary but was conveniently denied. That base is only growing as shown by the results of Iowa caucus. You are silly if you believe that was a mistake. They were trying to delay the real outcome. As bad as we will have it when they win, let it comfort you to know that socialism, like communism, has never won once people realize the lies they bought. America will learn a TERRIBLE lesson, however, there will be 2 eventual results. First, for hundreds of years, parents who survive socialism will warn their children of the nightmare it was. Second, history will look back at Donald J. Trump and the genius he was being his own “man.” I thank God for him everyday!

Jeff Nykolayow says:

This letter portends that this person has followed your teachings for seven years. Dear Rabbi and Susan, my wife and I have been listening to you since before the podcasts started. In 2016 I could not fully grasp your points as to why Donald Trump was the “best” choice. The moving of the embassy to Jerusalem was the final convincing straw that converted my family to be supporters of Donald Trump. If this letter writer had been listening to you for seven years, then where have they been for the past four? It sounds like a troll has submitted a fraudulent letter. Thank you for your efforts and your work. You are much appreciated.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

You raise an interesting question, Jeff,
But I just took his letter on face value; his loathing of the president is irrationally vehement and my support of him casts me as an unreliable villain. It is a common human failing to suppose that all those whom we dislike are also terminally stupid and also evil. No doubt some are, but probably not all.
Cordially
RDL

Vanessa says:

In response to the letter in the thought tool, I was born in west Africa but am a naturalized US citizen. I voted for Trump and will do it again. 2 friends of mine went their separate ways because of this after 7 years of friendship. He keeps his words and when it comes to supporting Israel, he has done what many other presidents did not have the backbone to do.

Hope Rich says:

I think it is quite immature to disconnect or stop speaking to a person because of political party or, cultural likes or dislikes, music, any sort of affiliation differences. If the Rabbi was agreeing with the KKK that would have been a different matter, or me liking what Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin have done in the past.

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