Friday, November 11, 2016
Posted by Rabbi Green at 12:47 PM
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Dear Facebook Friends who are celebrating the results of yesterday’s election:
Here are two relevant teachings of our Sages from Pirkei Avot (4:18), written some 1,800 plus years ago. Please read & share with your friends:
“Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar would say: Do not appease your friend at the height of his anger; do not comfort him while his dead still lies before him; do not ask him about his vow the moment he makes it; and do not endeavor to see him at the time of his degradation.
“Shmuel the Small would say: "When your enemy falls, do not rejoice; when he stumbles, let your heart not be gladdened. Lest G‑d see, and it will be displeasing in His eyes, and He will turn His wrath from him [to you]" (Proverbs 24:17-18).”
Here is a link if you’d like to study it in depth: http://www.chabadhebrewschool.us/…/…/jewish/Chapter-Four.htm
This election has been unnerving enough. There is no need to taunt or denounce anyone, regardless of whom he or she voted for. It is not helpful.
Here are the obvious directives from the above-mentioned teachings:
- Your fellow American who voted for Hillary is probably very angry right now. Respect that.
- Don’t try to appease or comfort him. Let him grieve. If he wishes to rant, let him and be quiet.
- If she vowed to move to Canada, don’t remind her or ask her about it. Understand that it was hyperbolic.
- Do not rejoice over her grief or loss. Just be happy over the election of the candidate you think will be best (or least bad) for the country. No need to revel or gloat on social media in a way that is disparaging to others. Be humble (like Shimon the "Small"). If it helps, try to remember back to 2008 or whenever when your candidate lost, and have some empathy.
- Do not say anything to make another person feel bad. Don’t rub it in. This goes for sports too. If you’re a Red Sox fan, for example, don’t taunt or insult a Yankee fan in a way that will really make him feel bad, unless both of you mutually understand that it is in good spirit. The Torah calls this “אונאת דברים.” It is forbidden to hurt another person with your words, spoken or written.
This goes the other way too. The same law also applies to those who are incensed over yesterday’s election results. Grief, anger, despair, regret, etc., is all fine. But please do not disparage other Americans who voted for the winning candidate. They do not necessarily approve of: misogyny, xenophobia, sexual assault, adultery, or anything else their candidate has been accused of. Nor do they even necessarily agree with all his stated policies.
Perhaps she voted for him because she feared the alternative more. Maybe he is a single-issue voter, like a jobless coal-miner in the rust belt, and the only thing that matters to him is his ability to put food on the table. Or maybe she fears a nuclear Iran more than anything else in the whole world, and feels that a misogynist, tax-evading buffoon is preferable to a perhaps-more refined and experienced candidate whom she fears is more likely to tolerate a nuclear Iran. Maybe for her, it’s a matter of life and death. Let’s stop judging each other and stop looking it in terms of US and THEM.
Peace to all. G-d bless America (and Israel too).
Posted by Rabbi Green at 9:45 PM
Sunday, November 6, 2016
It is never too late to turn back the clock and do teshuva!
Posted by Rabbi Green at 10:03 PM
As mentioned in my previous homiletic, nothing about this election is too poetic.
So please bear with me as I express
my disbelief over this current mess, two candidates we ought to dispossess
She said the word right. It’s a deplorable fight. Our nation’s horrible plight.
It cannot be denied. It’s on each side of the wide divide.
Condemn the Dem. Throw the Reps down the steps.
Silence honest debate. Replace it with hate.
Use the flag as a gag. Put your opponent in the bag.
No more stars and stripes. Only spars and gripes.
The white is out of sight. We’ve put out the light. Nothing else bright.
Now it’s just solid Red or Blue. Me versus you.
Us and Them, Rep or Dem.
Us Adorables against Them Deplorables.
Why tout policies, when we can shout fallacies?
It’s a distortion beyond proportion!
Who cares about moral clarity or what’s good for posterity, when we can discuss vulgarity? And that helps foment polarity and further entrenches each in his own insularity.
It’s all a parody, or should I say, hilarity? Feel free to overlook your candidate’s insincerity, if that helps promote his/her popularity. Of course, because the other one’s worse! (I keep hearing that verse.)
Our choices are grim. Her or him.
The question that stirs: whose mendacious slurs the electorate prefers? His or hers?
Whose corruption do you prefer? That of him, or that of her?
And if that’s the case, and there’s one you embrace, then the other you feel the need to debase?
Of course, the opponent must be deplored, while your candidate’s faults surely must be ignored.
Her husband is a whore, his wife is a whore. My ears have grown sore.
Is he a predator? Depends who’s the editor. And that depends on who’s the creditor.
He stiffed his contractors! She murdered her detractors!
She blamed her husband’s victims! (Never mind his locker room dictums).
The women he’s mistreated! He lied and he cheated! (Just overlook all the classified emails she illegally deleted)
Special govt treatment for her corporate investors. He rejected a judge because of Mexican ancestors. She’s a protestor against a sexual molester? (Hmm… she lives with one… something must have possessed her.)
He annoys sensitive females. She destroys sensitive emails.
Dispose of the evidence. Just rely on your eminence.
Media runs wild. Both candidates historically reviled.
He mocked the disabled! All the womanizing she enabled!
His fictitious facts. Her secret pacts. His unpaid tax.
Returns undisclosed! Wall Street speeches undisclosed!
Conspiracy theories proposed. Secret nuclear deals unopposed. Incriminating evidence conveniently disposed. DNC fraud exposed.
He’s a buffoon and a glutton, can’t be trusted with the button. She can’t be trusted with the delete button.
Entered dressing room without permission! Defended husband’s exploits without attrition!
Business failures. Foreign policy failures. Political favors of unsavory flavors.
Illicit relations and vulgar conversations. Shady donations, phony foundations, rogue corporations, failed nations.
He’s Kremlin-backed. She’s Saudi-backed. His dearth of tact. Her emails hacked. Benghazi attacked. Cataclysmic nuclear pact.
Presidential endorsements. In Benghazi no reinforcements.
Crony capitalism. Patterns of fascism. Dangerous pacifism. Creeping socialism. Huge social schism.
Widespread discontent. Both candidates from the top one percent.
He’s up in Trump Tower. She’s in her Ivory Tower.
He’s the financial elite from Easy Street. She’s the political elite in cahoots with Wall Street.
Her lucrative speeches and security breaches. His fancy hotels on sandy beaches.
She's the political establishment, no stranger to scandal and corruption. He's the cynical anti-establishment...but can we handle his next eruption?
She’s a typical dishonest politician. He’s an inimical tycoon with no inhibition.
She shatters glass ceilings, but raises debt ceilings. Her shady dealings. He hurts people's feelings.
A nation in debt, spending trillions more than we net.
Millions on the dole. Trillions deep in the whole.
He may have experience in business, but these staggering numbers are causing me dizziness.
Some of his enterprises have gone bankrupt. She ran a government that’s practically bankrupt. They're both morally bankrupt.
She’s Whitewater and Kenneth Starr. He's reality TV star with hair that’s bizarre.
His grandiose promises. A huge fabulous wall. Her failing health, her 9/11 fall.
She’s for open borders. He’s for laws and orders. He insults reporters. They both have repugnant supporters.
She takes in migrants and “donations” from tyrants. His election defiance and Putin alliance?
Quite a feminist dame, adopted her husband’s surname. Built her career on her First Lady fame.
Do we wish to inspire that type of feminine ambition? Stay married to a liar, so you’ll get a great position?
Indeed quite an accomplishment, staying married to Bill. But not sure if that means she has presidential skill.
At least she stayed committed. (Although of course, she benefitted). Her opponent, on the other hand, has never submitted.
The billionaire’s affairs. Like stock options and shares. Then find someone else with better wares, once you grow tired of theirs.
He’s like royalty, but has no loyalty. Like King Henry the Eighth, lacking marital faith.
Their personal lives, maybe not so germane. It’s more about the economy, Syria, Iran and Ukraine.
But should we give the presidential nod to one whose character is so flawed?
No matter who’s your choice, it’s no reason to rejoice.
This election is not about diversity. It’s about adversity and perversity. Not to mention a phony university.
He defrauded his pupils without any scruples. She defrauded the nation, and is under FBI investigation.
No self-respect, the peculiar elite sect. Whom shall we elect? To vote for neither surely isn’t correct.
Hopelessly shameless, both claim to be blameless.
She’s a hawk. He’s all talk, strutting around like a barnyard cock. Voters gawk and balk.
His rhetoric incites disunity. She breaks laws with impunity.
To evade justice is a cinch. Bill’s chat with Loretta Lynch.
Does that make you flinch? Can someone give me a pinch?
Celebrities adore her. Patriots abhor her.
She’s adored by every celebrity. He IS a celebrity. Both sorely lack integrity.
Islamic terrorism, she can’t acknowledge. He alleges rigging in the electoral college.
Her ties to Muslim Brotherhood. She vies for terminating motherhood. Supports late-term abortions. His odd facial contortions.
His plans mass deportation receives broad condemnation. But what about the widespread public frustration with relentless illegal immigration?
He plagiarized! She’s compromised! We’ve all grown desensitized.
You’re with her? Not so sure I’m ready to concur.
Can we afford four years of more of the same? A foreign policy that’s set the Middle East aflame?
And a domestic policy that’s messed up our nest. Unprecedented racial unrest. The oppressed and repressed always under arrest, and likewise those who have so professed. Everyone’s distressed. Opinions suppressed. Have we progressed? For every police a bullet proof vest.
Can’t we do better? Don’t mean to upset her. Just worried we may come to really regret her.
But what’s the alternative? A renegade conservative, whose exaggerated self-view is so ultra-superlative?
So go root for your team, while the rest of us squeam.
But please focus your aim. Don’t blame and shame. It’s a lame game.
Color War, either or. You think the polls really keep score?
Red or blue. The joke’s on you. Don’t you have anything better to do?
Click here for my next post, more serious thoughts about election: "Most Important Election Ever."
Posted by Rabbi Green at 12:49 AM
Posted by Rabbi Green at 12:37 AM
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Why no tattoos?
The ultimate reason not to get a tattoo is because the Torah categorically prohibits it (Leviticus 19:28). Period.
Think not of the Torah as a set of incomprehensible rules that one must unreasonably enforce upon himself by means of guilt or blind faith. Instead, consider the fact that the world has not always existed and hence does not exist independently. Rather, it has been wondrously brought into being with an incredibly detailed design. Every effect has a cause, every design a designer, and every orchestra a conductor. The immaculate intricacy of our universe denotes a purposeful design intended by a purposeful Designer. See the Torah as the world’s blueprint, the instruction manual that our world’s Divine Manufacturer imparted to ensure the fulfillment of mankind’s (and the entire world’s) purpose.
If the Torah has prohibited making markings in one’s flesh, it is in the individual’s own best interest to observe this rule ordained by his very own Creator and Designer, the One Who certainly understands what is good for him in body and spirit infinitely better than anyone else.
However, the fact that the Torah communicates this rule to us allows us to speculate as to its reason and underlying benefit.
Let’s consider some possible reasons why tattoos are prohibited:
The true value of the human being is indefinable, indescribable and unfathomable, a literal part of G-d from Above, as it were. In the image and likeness of our Divine Creator, just as G-d is indefinable and inscrutable, cannot be represented or objectified in some trivial image or depiction. Any man-made image or likeness is merely a distraction, sullying and obscuring one’s pristine connection to G-d.
So too, a marking on our body trivializes and objectifies the body. But in reality, the body is a vehicle for an infinite G-dly soul that cannot be marked, labeled or represented in any image or artwork.
Slave-owners tattooed their slaves to prove ownership, as cowboys
branded their cattle. Ford and Honda mark their cars to identify their name brand. Human beings are higher than brands, labels or images. The soul is eternal, and in a sense, the body ultimately is too (Resurrection of the Dead is a basic tenet of Jewish belief). It is on loan from our Creator. Self-inflicted gashes, mutilation, excessive body piercings or tattoos all bespeak a lack of respect and reverence for the body, and hence, the body's true Owner and Designer. It’s kind of like etching a name, smiley face or obscenity onto someone else's freshly-poured cement. Or like scrawling graffiti onto a venerated national monument.
Perhaps that's why the depraved Germans tattooed human beings at Auschwitz. In addition to the obvious utility that it enabled them to keep track of prisoners like widgets in a supply chain and automated their horrific slave labor and killing machine, it was also an obvious attempt to dehumanize their victims and strip them of any sense of dignity, hope or courage. The erstwhile-free individual was now nothing more than a nameless number, mere property of the Reich. A mark on the skin is obviously a statement of self-identity, and an indelible one indicates immutable and perpetual subjugation. Why on earth would a self-respecting human being wish to subjugate oneself to a tattooed number, word or image, in the same manner as the accursed Nazis inflicted on their hapless victims!?
Tattoos also reduce the body to a mere transitory shell, a disposable writing surface that may be scribbled on or illustrated without any regard for past or future. Indeed, tattoo markings often have only momentary and ephemeral relevance.
Imagine an infatuated lover tattooing his partner's name in the height of passion, only to terminate his relationship at some later point. Now they have split up and are no longer meaningful to each other. But for the rest of his life, he bears the name of someone who means nothing to him or less...
Would you tattoo your phone number into your skin? What if you change your number?
The same is true of any tattoo. It is a skin-deep and short-lived thrill of having a phrase, word or image indelibly etched in one's skin. But what happens when the fleeting appeal wears off, or the attitude to that phase, word or image changes? A large percentage of people ultimately regret their tattoos, according to recent studies.* So why would a self-respecting human being label himself permanently with a superficial mark of vanity that is here today, gone tomorrow, while his inherent value and self-worth ought to remain forever?
Even if the phrase or image represents a loved-one or idea that perhaps ought to remain forever dear to the tattoo seeker, tattoo is the wrong way to perpetuate the memory.
Let it be etched in your heart, let it inspire you daily, but do not mar or scar your body with it. For then, what ought to be a living memory is now reduced to lifeless ink intrusively inserted where it doesn’t belong… a dead, man-made icon where there was supposed to be only life.
Perhaps that’s why the Torah juxtaposes the prohibition of tattoos next to the injunction against making gashes in skin out of grief for the dead: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor imprint any marks upon you: I am God.” Tattoos in the skin are akin to death marks… they are not a sign of life. Only your untarnished, natural living flesh is a sign of life.
Why must your skin remain unsullied and intact? Because “I am God.” The ineffable Divine Name used here (“Yud-kay-vav-kay,” also called the “Tetragrammaton” in English) can be interpreted as the One Who continually brings (you) into existence. Indeed, belief in the phenomenon of constant creation ex nihilo, that G-d is creating the world anew every moment, is a basic tenet in Judaism. At this present moment, you are being created as an entirely new being. Just as you were born in a pristine state, without blemish or markings, so too your body is a constant reminder of God’s continually creating you. “מבשרי אחזה אלוקה” – “From my flesh, I perceive God” (Job 19:26).
Your flesh bears witness to its Divine Creator. No images or words can define God, and no images or words belong on your skin.
Perhaps that’s another reason why the Torah concludes the verse with “I am God.” A tattoo is akin to idolatry, creating a lifeless carving on what is meant to be a living tribute to the living God. As such, the tattoo is emblematic of death, not of life.**
With the tattoo, one's living flesh is now permanently polluted by a foreign and artificial invader. The meaningful thought or memory has been reduced a superficial icon to be flaunted like a tee-shirt that can never be removed.
I'd reason with the tattoo-seeker: if you'd really enjoy seeing that image or name on your chest or forearm, how about buying a stamp and stamping it on in erasable ink after every shower?*** Do that for now and then let's meet again to discuss in five or ten years. You can always revisit the tattoo option later if you still want it, but can't remove it if it's the reverse. Why should its permanence be important to you? Is it a symbol of surrender or devotion to something irreversible? Can you express that feeling or devotion in a more self-respecting way that preserves the beautiful and natural state in which G-d created you?
It's okay to put on and take off different labeled or illustrated clothes. You may even mark your designer suit with permanent markers. That’s your personal preference, so long as you can change the suit at whim. You bought the suit so it’s yours…
But for crying out loud, please don't permanently mark up your birthday suit! That's G-d's suit that He painstakingly and lovingly hand-tailored just for you, so please don't mess with it. Indeed, He knows you better than you know yourself, and knows that you look absolutely perfect in it! Now and forever. As a youth, as an adult, when you're hoary and gray, in the grave, and at the resurrection. So respect that irresistible, G-d-given body of yours! Keep it clean and authentic, unmarked and indefinable.
** Interestingly, Rashi comments that the Torah uses for tattoo, כתובת קעקע (literally "writing that is sunken") shares a common root with והקענום, "and hang them," in Samuel 21:6, since the gallows were thrust into the ground and the executed man hung upon it, it is as though the one hanged were inserted and sunken into the ground. This further reiterates the point above, that the tattoo's sunken ink is associated with morbidity.
*** It should be mentioned that even fake tattoos are discouraged by Jewish law, since they can be easily mistaken for real ones. This principle is known as “mar’it ayin,” that one ought to avoid causing others to have a false impression that he is violating Torah law.
Posted by Rabbi Green at 1:14 AM