Posts tagged " Psalms "

How could Boaz do such a thing?

October 15th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment


God said the Moabites could not join with the Israelites yet Ruth was a Moabite. Did Boaz disobey, and what happens to Obed, Jesse and David?
It is difficult to believe Boaz did anything against God’s will.

∼ Vanaly P.


Dear Vanaly,

There is a theme that runs through King David’s life of the despised becoming the elevated. He expresses this in Psalms 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone.”


No Thank-you

November 23rd, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

My wife and I love receiving the thank-you notes a friend sends whenever she is a guest at one of our Shabbat meals. Unlike typical thank-you cards, hers detail the experiences at our table.  She mentions the delicious food, the scintillating conversation, and the stimulating company.  (I am quoting from a recent note she sent!)

My late father, the great rabbi, A. H. Lapin often said that saying, “thank-you for everything,” really means thank-you for nothing.  What he was getting at was that merely mouthing the words ‘thank-you’ is an inadequate response to the good we have received.  As the beneficiaries of good we ought to reciprocate with something more substantive than just disturbing a few air molecules as we vibrate our vocal chords into projecting two routine syllables.

A small gift or hand-written card is wonderful. At the very least, we ought to detail the precise benefits we derived and for which we are expressing appreciation.

Ancient Jewish wisdom points out something rather remarkable.  In the entire Torah, nobody says thank-you.  Adam doesn’t thank God for Eve; Abraham never thanks God for his son, Isaac, and Noah neglects to thank God for saving him from the flood. While the Israelites do sing a song of praise to God after their deliverance from Egypt, they never actually say the words, ‘thank-you’.

The word used in modern Israeli Hebrew for thank-you, todah, does not appear in the five books of Moses other than as the name of a specific gratitude offering:

And when you offer a Thank-you offering to the Lord…
(Leviticus 22:29)

This constitutes a valuable clue in our attempt to unravel the deeper meaning of thank-you.  It turns out that merely mouthing ‘thank-you’ is not part of God’s Biblical blueprint.  It is preferable to do an action reflecting your gratitude.

Or, at the very least, specify the details about which you are grateful, as we see demonstrated in Psalm 136.  King David says thank you to God but he doesn’t stop there.  He goes on for 26 verses specifying what acts of God he so deeply appreciates. Here are some of the verses.

Give thanks to God; for he is good;
for His loving kindness endures forever. (Verse 1)

To Him who with wisdom made the heavens;
for His loving kindness endures forever. (Verse 5)

To Him who made great lights;
for His loving kindness endures forever… (Verse 7)

The Jewish holyday most associated with giving thanks is Chanukah for which the liturgy explicitly prescribes expressions of gratitude to God.  I don’t consider it a coincidence that Chanukah and Thanksgiving often fall out within days from each other, as they do this year.

Appreciating the people around us is one way of appreciating God as well. After all, imagine the terrible loneliness if God didn’t provide us with a world full of potential friends, partners and companions.

This Thanksgiving, let’s not only give thanks to God but also to our family and friends, to our spouses and siblings.  Maybe even to our employers and fellow workers who all help to make it possible for us to live abundantly. What a marvelous time to practice King David’s lesson by joyfully specifying the benefits we derive from these relationships. Let’s give thanks for those things we easily take for granted and only notice when they are missing.

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by people’s reactions.  You’ll be even more surprised to discover how uplifting it feels to appropriately deliver appreciation.


How funny is Borat?

November 14th, 2006 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

Unlike vast numbers of Americans, I didn’t go see Borat this week. Neither is it on my schedule for the future. Now, considering that theatres would be out of business if they relied on my patronage, not going might seem to be a simple decision. But it wasn’t. People whose views I trust told me that they have never, ever laughed as hard as they did while watching this movie. And after a vicious election season and surrounded as we are in the Northwest by grey skies, escaping into laughter would be welcome indeed.
So, why didn’t I go? It seemed that everyone felt that they had to add an explanatory note to their laughter:
“You’ll love it. I was laughing so hard, I was crying.”
“My stomach hurt from laughing.”
was inevitably followed by:
“Of course, I had to cover my eyes at some points because it was so vulgar.” And
“It was way over the top sometimes.”
So, why did I decide not to go? Aside from the fact that I am highly intolerant of bad language, which in itself might have me cringing as much as laughing, I mostly didn’t go out of fear that I too would find myself laughing uncontrollably. The opening sentence of the very first Psalm in King David’s book starts with the words, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” continues with “nor stands in the way of sinners” and concludes with “nor sits in the seat of scorners.” There is clearly a progression here. In increasing order of involvement we have walking with –an almost casual connection, moving on to standing –stopping and paying attention, and then the most serious involvement – sitting down with someone. And who is the person whom we have to fear sitting with? In Hebrew, the word translated as scorner is “laytz”, from which comes the word “laytzan”, meaning a clown. King David is warning us that humor can be incredibly dangerous. Skilled people can get us to laugh at things we truly value and by laughing, we diminish those things. If we value purity of language, or our country, or relationships between men and women, or people treating a stranger hospitably, but are moved to laughter when they are abused or mocked, then we have tarnished those things.
So I’m not going to see Borat; not so much out of a fear that I won’t find it funny, but more out of a fear that I will.

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