I found you and your teachings/explanation of biblical messages more than a decade ago. I looked forward to finding Thought Tools in my inbox because I knew I would learn something new, or relearn something old from a new, informative vantage point – as that was your expertise.
As you and Mrs. Lapin seemed to suddenly transition into making political statements, particularly through the Susan’s Musings articles, I found myself having to pick and choose which Musings to read…then, to my dismay, which Thought Tools to read, as politics seemed to creep into your lessons. I stopped reading them all for about 2 years.
But today, in hopes of something inspirational from you, as I had in the past, I decided to read the Rosh Hashanah and Laughter article. I was following your train of thought until you threw in “campus leaders” seemingly out of nowhere. I continued to read and absorb the new concepts you were trying to teach. But when I reached the final line, where you directly compared these campus leaders to “human despots” I was horrified. The biblical lesson had turned into a political one instead – invalidating the entire lesson.
I for one truly miss your non-partisan lessons of the past. There is a good reason our country’s forefathers called for the separation of church and state.
I have a stack of your books and CDs from before 2012. Sadly, I guess I’ll have to stick to reading and rereading those, as they were written before your voice changed to a political one.
P.S. And if you are wondering, I have been an independent thinker and voter my entire adult life, never voting for a particular party, but only for the people I believed could do the job. And when there was no one on the ballot I thought fit those shoes, I didn’t vote.
Dear Mrs. M.
Firstly, we would like to thank you for taking the time to write us a polite and cogent letter. You are correct that our writings have become increasingly political over the years, and we appreciate the opportunity to explain why this is so.
We strongly believe that politics is nothing more than the practical application of our most deeply held moral values, and as such, politics and religion have more in common than many realize. We too admire the Founders’ desire to protect religion from politics, but never did they suggest that they believed that men and women of faith are disqualified from political expression and involvement.
We would like to give you some background. In the late 1970s through the early 1990s, we led a synagogue in Venice, California, that we had planted and which attracted thousands of Jews who had become alienated from God and who enjoyed scant exposure to His Bible. In the Reform and Conservative (denominations within American Judaism) synagogues of their youth, their rabbis overwhelmingly spoke only about politics, almost always presenting ideas in line with the Democratic Party as “Jewish” values.
We made a point of not mentioning politics, whether American or Israeli. Our mission was to introduce them to the wonders of God’s Message to mankind, the Torah. What happened, however, was that over the course of years, as many of our students accepted Jewish ideas such as Shabbat and observing the Jewish dietary laws, invariably their views on marriage, morality, money, and other day-to-day issues shifted. Living as they were in California, these shifts were to the side of political conservatism. (In other times and places, the Torah’s views would tend more towards politically liberal policies.)
In the late 1980s and early 1990s it became obvious to many that America was on an intensely anti-Judeo-Christian path, one that we saw (and still see) as a terribly destructive one. We left our synagogue and began focusing much more on politics. To our dismay, while the Torah community in America wasn’t in favor of the increasing cultural immorality, they were a small and not very vocal minority within what was presented to the world as the “Jewish communities’” view. We wrote a highly political book called, America’s Real War: an Orthodox Rabbi Insists that Judeo-Christian Values are Vital for Our Nation’s Survival. Our focus for many years turned to supporting the Christian communities who were fighting for values that we strongly shared. That led to our learning that many Christians were unaware of the Jewish influence in the thinking of America’s founders as well as missing important understanding of God’s vision for a healthy society that is found in the Hebrew Bible and passed down through ancient Jewish wisdom.
The key phrase in regard to your question, when we spoke about our anti-political stand during the years we led our synagogue, is, “over the course of years.” We were interested in exposing these wonderful young people to a relationship with God and to their precious heritage. What steps they took, or didn’t take, was for each individual to decide. We knew the power of the Bible and were able to wait for it to change people’s hearts.
In our minds, that gift of being able to plant long-growing seeds and wait for them to germinate, no longer exists. We truly fear seeing the end of America as a land about which it can be said, “God shed His grace on Thee.” With that comes increased violence, crime, hatred, lower medical and economic attainment, and a general reduction in quality of life including threats to religious freedom.
While we are still every bit as eager to expose people to the wonders of the Bible as we ever were, we do think that, as believers, we need to be clear that the Bible is the blueprint for our lives today. It is not an academic study. We feel that we have to make the connections to practical day-to-day life immediately understandable because the world is moving at a breathtaking pace. We see ourselves in a battle. When, for example, Governor Newsom of CA runs ads stating that the Bible is in favor of abortion, and when the crushing influx of illegal migrants is lauded as necessary to accept because of Christian charity, we feel the need to stand on a mountain-top and call out those fallacies.
Like you, in the past we sat out some elections because neither party had a candidate we found worthy. We are honestly not sure that, if things continue as they are going, the system that allowed America to flourish and allows honest elections, will continue. We don’t think that everyone on the Left is bad or that everyone on the Right is good. But, in today’s milieu, we do think that 95% of what the Left is pushing for is bad while 80% of what the Right is pushing for is good. We do think that we need to pick a side in this fight. It is not a perfect side, but it is what is available. It is for this reason that we have become more political.
We are sorry to disappoint you and, once again, we appreciate the chance to explain ourselves.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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