Posts tagged " politics "

Family No More?

July 16th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

This period of the Jewish year is a three-week-long time of sad introspection and mourning, starting and ending with a fast day.  As befits mourning, Jewish weddings, live music concerts, and other festive events do not take place during these days. The sad period of 22 days reaches its apex on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.

We focus on the many tragedies over millennia that have befallen the Jewish people during these three weeks. The ninth of Av was the date that ten of the twelve spies sowed fear about entering the land of Israel upon their return to the Israelite camp. Centuries later that date saw the destruction of both the first and second Temples, leading to an exile that continues to this day. It was also the date of the tragic outbreak of World War I in the 20th century.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us to think of ourselves as active participants in our fate, not victims. As such, our tradition attributes the destruction of the Second Temple not to Roman anti-Semitism, but to baseless hatred among Jews.  We brought it upon ourselves. Not surprisingly, many classes given during this time of the year focus on increasing sensitivity to others and repairing broken ties. While we are obliged to act with decency and courtesy towards all people, we are supposed to see our coreligionists as family. The underlying message is that family can be exasperating, thick-headed, and annoying but they are still family.

I don’t know if that message still resonates today. I have been re-reading Anne of Ingleside (from the Anne of Green Gables series) and Anne’s husband’s aunt is making her family’s life a misery. Aunt Mary Maria is critical, irritable and dour. Yet, she cannot be told that she has overstayed her welcome because—well, she is family. This conclusion doesn’t seem extreme in books written in the early 1900s. In today’s climate, she might never make it over the threshold.

At the same time as my relaxing reading takes me back a  century, I am also an avid follower of the #Walkaway movement. At this point, hundreds of thousands of individuals have posted videos or written testimonials about leaving the Democrat Party. Almost everyone has a tale of long-lasting friendships ending because of their political awakening and those are certainly painful. Worse, stories abound of people being told by parents/siblings/children that speaking positively about President Trump or Republicans is a reason for shattering family ties. Watching a young man sob as he tells you that his parents kicked him out of the house for acknowledging that he will be voting for President Trump is heartbreaking. This is not about politics; it is about religion.  Yes, the left is no longer a political doctrine about which friends can disagree.  It is a fundamentalist faith with its saints and its sinners, with its heroes and its heretics.  And as history reminds us, heretics must be destroyed.

My husband founded and served a beautiful synagogue in  California most of whose members grew up in homes that were emotionally Jewish but not committed to religious observance. As adults who found their way to my husband’s Torah classes, many of these young people began confining their diet to only kosher food, observing the Shabbat and changing their lives in hundreds of ways to align with Biblical requirements for Jews. Much of my husband’s time went to ensuring that relationships with their families remained loving and healthy. When one has found a new and electrifying relationship with God, it is easy to become overbearing and judgmental towards others. My husband repeatedly emphasized that a wonderful sister who craves a cheeseburger is no less wonderful once her newly kosher sibling rejects that religiously problematic food and considers it spiritually harmful. A father who drove you to the mall every Saturday when you were fourteen and now wants to drive over to see you on the day you have come to know as Shabbat, when using a mechanical vehicle is religiously proscribed, is still the same loving father he always was.

The media delight in telling us that religion and faith are ebbing.  That is not true for the destructive religion of Secular Fundamentalism which brings to life the worst manifestations of twisted religion—arrogance, false piety, wishing harm on apostates.  Yes, this is all alive and well in the political sphere. Perhaps the lessons of the three weeks when we focus on the damage done by not treating others with sensitivity and care needs a wider audience.

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Is Right right and is Left wrong?

March 4th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

Could you please explain Ecclesiastes 10, especially verse 2?  (The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.)

As you have taught me, this can’t be a coincidence to today’s political description of the two parties.  What is the Biblical explanation for left and right in this context? 

Thanks in advance.

Brad

Dear Brad,

Your question gives us an opportunity to point out how much influence Biblical language has had throughout centuries and throughout the world.

So many of the words for left such as sinister in Latin and gauche in French have negative connotations. In contrast, droit means right in French. You don’t want to be called maladroit or ‘not right’ as that suggests clumsiness. Right carries the implication of correct while left has overtones of left out, left behind and leftovers.

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I’m Not Scary; Are You?

July 13th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 68 comments

There is a blog I regularly read because doing so makes me a better person. In it, a mother details with great honesty her emotions and experiences as she and her husband raise a son with serious disabilities and a, thankfully, healthy daughter.

She and I have never met, yet she is afraid of me and my family. Afraid of our support for repealing Obamacare, of our support for President Trump and of our conservative leanings.

I have two children in the medical profession. They talk of their emotions and experiences as they are hindered and frustrated by a bloated, bureaucratic and unsustainable system. They talk of their emotions and experiences as they try to help seriously ill patients and are instead forced to tend to those abusing the system, unnecessarily consuming tens of thousands of dollars and hours of human resources. They  talk of their emotions and experiences at caring for patients who act self-destructively, thus counteracting the help they have just been given, after monopolizing resources that, subsequently, were not available for others. My children have never met the woman whose blog I read. They are not afraid of her, but they see her voting patterns and liberal leanings as harmful to them and those for whom they care.

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How’s the Weather? Quite Offensive, Thanks.

January 26th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 196 comments

I have had a troubled few days. Let me give you some background. In the late 1970s, my husband was a business professional in Los Angeles when he was introduced to Michael Medved, who had recently begun exploring his Jewish background. My husband began teaching Torah classes to Michael and a few of his friends. This small bunch soon grew to a sizable group studying in crowded living rooms. After a short while, they discovered an almost abandoned old synagogue on the Venice (CA) oceanfront. Within a year this forgotten little synagogue was filled by young people. Although almost everyone started with little knowledge of his or her Jewish roots, they thrilled to investigate Scripture and discover the majesty of religious Jewish life.

While synagogue attendance played a role in the feeling of community, the passionate congregation that sprang up was chiefly based on Bible study and growing together in connection to God.  In fact that is what constituted membership!  If you attended at least one Torah class a week, you were a member. The group, as befits the time and place, was composed of many whose values and views had been shaped by the turbulent Sixties and confused Seventies. It included ex-commune members and hippies as well as an unusually large number of scientists who started off believing that science and religion were in conflict.

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My mother is a hard-core Leftist? How can I respect her?

January 25th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 38 comments

Question:

My mother is a hardcore leftist. She views government as a savior. I am completely on the other side- I am a conservative. 

We always crash, argue and go weeks without speaking. (This is WITHOUT talking politics!)  

I understand about Honoring thy Mother and Father- but it seems impossible to build anything with a person whose ideology is destruction. How can I Honor the Lord with this commandment when I have no optimism in having a healthy relationship with her?

Answer: 

Dear Krystle,

For the purposes of this answer, it would make no difference if you were liberal and your mother, conservative.  We aren’t going to discuss the relative virtue of the politics here, but we do want to make the point that having differing world-views can come in many forms. There are many liberals who would say that conservatives have an ideology of destruction. They would point to skepticism on man-made climate change and suggest that Republicans want women to die from back alley abortions. So let’s focus on relationship repair and maintenance.

You say that you “crash, argue and go weeks without speaking,” even when you avoid politics. Since our first suggestion would have been to avoid politics even to the point of not taking the bait if your mother brought up certain topics (covering your mouth with duct tape can be helpful here) it seems that there is something fundamentally troublesome about your relationship. It isn’t only about politics. 

The religious obligation to honor your mother is not synonymous with enjoying her company. Along with any siblings you may have, you must be sure that she has her basic needs met.  The Fifth Commandment also means not contradicting her no matter how provocative or foolish you find her statements.  Ask, inquire, even challenge politely but don’t contradict.  Introduce your viewpoint with the phrase, “I sometimes feel that….”   Avoid presenting her with threats or ultimatums and whenever the conversation first begins to turn awkward or uncomfortable, politely excuse yourself, “I am sorry but I have to leave now.”

Not speaking for weeks on end makes it difficult to be assured that she is basically okay.  While this may not be so important right now, as she ages there is every likelihood that it may become a problem.  For example, you need to know she has food. This doesn’t mean that you must go eat with her, but you do need to be around her enough, or have someone reporting to you, to know what’s going on. 

Certainly, cutting off contact is extreme. Especially if your mother’s social circle is limited, being in touch with you may very well make a huge physical difference in her health. Is there any way you can organize your time together so you spend it at activities such as going to the movies or a concert where you are sharing time but little conversation? Staying home and playing cards or watching TV are other options. Phone calls don’t need to last an hour, but they should be regular. 

In other words, no matter how vehemently you disagree with your mother’s views or dislike her personality, you are going to have to find a way to cope. You need to rally all your creative energies and seek suggestions far and wide to do this in as painless a way as possible. It doesn’t need to be a healthy relationship, but it does have to be a relationship.  

It is just remotely possible that deep down your mother yearns for a normal relationship with you but due to psychological damage or emotional frailties she lacks the ability to communicate that effectively.   If you do both actually want to have a relationship, then some joint counseling might accomplish wonders.  A third party, neutral facilitator or mediator can make an enormous difference in these situations.  With a purposeful program, you might end up with a restored relationship with mom.  Stranger things have happened.

We wish you success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Moral in the Eye of the Beholder

October 27th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

Sometimes, living in today’s world can make one dizzier than a sped up roller coaster. A few times recently, newspaper articles starkly contrasted with one  another.

A short while ago, Gene Klein wrote a thoughtful article for the Wall Street Journal explaining why 94 year old Oskar Gröning, who was a paper-pusher at Auschwitz, correctly received a prison sentence despite his age and the comparative non-violence of his position in the concentration camp. Mr. Klein ended his piece with these words, “It is necessary that Mr. Gröning be punished, not only because of the past, but also because of the future…Anyone who participates in genocide—no matter what their role, no matter how long ago, no matter how repentant–is forever responsible and forever accountable.

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Autism, TSA and the Upcoming Election

October 20th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

Recently, my husband and I flew on Thursday to Phoenix, where he spoke for a Dave Ramsey sponsored Business Boutique event on Friday and for a local synagogue on Shabbat.

Not until the next day did we read of massive TSA lines in Chicago and of 3,000 bags that missed outgoing flights from the Phoenix airport due to TSA incompetence. In contrast, our TSA lines moved swiftly and it was the airline itself rather than TSA that behaved incompetently, consistently announcing an on-time departure despite the fact that anyone looking out of the terminal could see that there was no airplane on the tarmac. Eventually, they changed the departure time on the announcement board — to an hour after the flight actually left. Nonetheless, we were grateful to arrive safely at our destination and to meet our luggage there.

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No Work This Monday

July 7th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Got a project that you’re proud of at work? Better hurry up and get it done because all work is soon coming to an end. Machines are taking over; it’s the end of work. Some greet the news with dismay, What will people do with all that leisure? Others eagerly anticipate a world of all play and no work. Some say humans will no longer have to work. Others say humans will no longer get to work. But all agree this major change is on the horizon.

For those of you eager to hear that you can sleep late this Monday morning, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that work is not coming to an end. The good news is the same. This provocative and puerile prediction has been a staple of everyone from foolish social scientists to bogus futurists for a long time. (more…)

Tis the Season for Much Folly

February 8th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Arrgghhh!

Months and months of political advertising still ahead.

It’s bad enough that the fate of a once-great nation should be determined by how much money politicians spend on television advertising. It’s even worse when one torments oneself masochistically by actually watching some of the ads.  How sad to suspect that some of our fellow citizens are swayed by sanctimonious sycophants spouting such self-serving drivel. (more…)

Why are Jews so liberal?

January 14th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Rabbi, my wife and I have been enjoying your Blaze podcasts, and have bought some of your products. Thank you and Susan both for the high quality of the content.
My question is about Jews and liberalism. You are obviously an independent thinker, and appear to hold conservative values. How is it that most Jews seem to be staunch liberals? How can they support liberal agendas if they have been exposed to Ancient Jewish Wisdom?

∼ Robert P.

Answer:

Dear Robert,

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