Is The UN Relevant?

When the United Nations was founded, it had lofty goals of world peace.  In the years following the second world war, and the period of the cold war, the United Nations served the purpose of preserving peace in the world.  Since the end of the cold war, the United Nations seems to have outlived its purpose.  It has not preserved world peace, nor made any significant contribution toward a more peaceful world.  It appears to have been coopted by the concerns of third world countries seeking money and influence from the west.  Most noticeably is its bias against the Nation of Israel.

The United Nations remains silent on human rights violations globally, yet it singles out Israel as a prime human rights violator, which has been proven over and over to not be true.  They remained silent while Moslem extremists butchered hundreds of thousands of Arab Christians in Syria and Iraq, yet anytime an Arab throws a rock in Israel, they condemn the Jewish State.  If there is no peace in Israel, the United Nations always assumes it is Israel’s fault.  It is time to realize that the United Nations is the puppet of the Arab states, and it has outlived its effectiveness and usefulness.  The problem is not what the United Nations actually says.  The problem is that they are used as a justification for Arab states to carry out their own agendas.  They have become an excuse.  They are irrelevant, and no longer what they were intended to be.  They should close it down and turn the building into condos.

 

Pure and Undefiled Religion


This is the time of year when religion comes to the forefront of our attentions.  People aren’t necessarily more observant, but seasonal observances are front and center.  This is true whether it’s Chanukah or Chrismas. Homes are decorated with lights and trees, beautiful  music decorates the airwaves, we have holiday parties, foods, and we spend money on presents for others and ourselves. In all honesty, seasonal observances are fun.

I have many friends who don’t join in with the seasonal festivities.  They look at the pagan origins of some of the holiday symbols and choose to not participate, desiring to not get involved in what they feel is pagan worship.  That is their conviction, and I respect it.  Each person has a right to their convictions.

The problem I have, is not that they choose to not participate in seasonal celebration, but the attitude of some people, who in their desire for “purity,” disparage those who choose to participate in those celebrations. 

The scriptures teach that God looks upon the heart of a man. It started when Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God.  It says, God respected Abel and his offering, but not Cain and his offering.  From the text, it was not their offerings that was the issue, but their heart attitudes.  The paradigm is repeated throughout scripture.  God looks upon our hearts.  Paul makes the same point when he says in 1 Corinthians 8 that idols are nothing, and the problem is not the food sacrificed to them, but our attitudes regarding them.  In other words, pagan origins are not the issue if we are not intending to participate in pagan worship.  Most people who celebrate the seasonal festivities have no pagan intent.  

So is meat sacrificed to idols acceptable for God’s children?  The scriptures say no.  Paul said it becomes a problem if you know it was sacrificed to an idol.  The problem wasn’t the meat, but that it was lifted up to idolatry.  The festivities are neutral.  The heart attitude is what makes it impure.

According the the book of Jacob, “pure and undefiled religion” is to take care of widows and orphans in their time of need.  

Pure religion is about helping people in need.  I’m not as concerned with whether someone puts up a tree or decorates their home.  If their heart is right, it’s neither here nor there how they celebrate or refrain from celebrating.  It’s more important that we help the poor and needy.

It’s all too easy to criticize other people’s practices in the name of purity.  People criticize Religious Jews for being superstitious or following man made traditions, but never consider their heart intent.  The same is true for seasonal practices.  It’s so easy to criticize what other people do in the name of religious purity.     

True religion is not being critical of others, it’s helping others.  Religious Jews don’t eat pork, but they don’t go around telling everyone else they are wrong for eating it.  They respect the rights of others to make their own choices.   

Why is helping the poor pure and undefiled religion?  There is nothing of ritual about it.  Helping the poor is a selfless act.  It’s helping people who couldn’t possibly repay you.  It’s a godly thing to do.  

Another godly thing to do is to forgive people who don’t do things you agree with.  God forgives us for so much.  We need to be generous toward one another, and forgive people for doing things in a way we wouldn’t. Peace on earth toward men of good will. 

The Absence of Decency

The Absence of Decency

Its been several months since I last posted.  We have just come through one of the most nasty, bitter political seasons in recent memory.  More than an election, it seems to be to have been a civil war.  The division between us was so deep and acrimonious, that demonstrations erupted into physical violence.  People who otherwise are civil toward one another, have become bitter and broken off friendships.

I’ve listened to the rhetoric on both sides, and to be honest, neither side is as good or as evil as they have been portrayed by supporters and dissenters.  It has become an ideological struggle over what kind of America we want to have.  Some desire a country defined and governed by the constitution, while others wish to rewrite the constitution, resulting in a very different America than we have had previously.

What concerns me is not which side won or lost, as much as the behavior of a great many of us.  People have behaved badly.  I have been called horrible things because I hold a view that others don’t accept. Whatever happened to the words of Voltaire,  “I wholly disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  In our current social climate, the would have taken Voltaire out and stoned him, or at least unfriended him on Facebook.  I am feeling that we as a society have undergone a loss of common decency.  A loss of kindness.

Does an individual really need to agree with us to be our friend?  There are plenty of people I disagree with, but love them.  There are others who agree with me that I can’t stand to be around.   Maturation requires a humble openness to discovery within the context of firmly held convictions.  It means we listen to each other instead of waiting for the other to finish so we can “respond.”

The worst part of it, is the realization that people chose their opinions over my friendship. People who claim to be kind and compassionate, chose their political views over me.  Its painful to realize the low value they place on friendship.  This goes against my values.  I can’t look down on someone because they believe something different from me.  Its draconian, and quite honestly, the left has shown itself to be as narrow and negative as those they hate on the right.

The good thing is that not all people are like this.  Some hold their friendships higher than politics.  It makes you ask the question, how much to people really matter to you?  – and don’t twist this so as to suggest your political view is for the common good as if it is some higher justification for your view.  Everyone says that and it means nothing.  Thats just bullshit.  If you value people, then do it.  Valuing people is no excuse for treating others badly.  You can have your views, and you can feel deeply about them, just don’t be a jerk.

Don’t Listen

I’ve learned that its not a good idea to listen to what people say about you.  People, even people who love us, may say things that are not always complimentary.  Its part of human nature.   Even people we care about and who care about us, may say things that aren’t aways complimentary, and listening to what they may have said about us will only hurt our feelings and possibly damage a good relationship.  Ecclesiastes 10:20 says, “Do not curse the king, even in your thought;
Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; For a bird of the air may carry your voice, And a bird in flight may tell the matter.”  We would all do better to keep our mouths shut, but its not our nature.  It can be just as bad to believe everything we hear, or everything that is said, as saying it.  

They truth is, everyone by nature is somewhat critical. Nobody leads such a life that they have no detractors ever. Wisdom is in realizing that  not everyone who says the wrong thing is our enemy, and even if they said the wrong thing, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love us.  I have dear friends who have said they thought I did something stupid behind my back.  Maybe it was stupid, and maybe it wasn’t.  They didn’t want to get into an argument with me, maybe because they cared about me and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. They didn’t want to get into a fight about it, but they still didn’t like it.  Thats part of what friendship does.  It knows we do dumb things, but accepts us anyway.

When I hear that someone said something that was uncomplimentary about me, I really don’t know the context or the intent. It would be wrong to act on what I heard, even if it was painful to me, because I didn’t hear it, and don’t know if what was reported was reported accurately, or their intent. It wouldn’t be fair to the person who allegedly made the comment. Being a friend means giving someone the benefit of the doubt. If I think it’s true that they said it, I’m supposed to go to them and discuss it with them.  When I assume they did say it without talking to them, I am presuming them to be guilty, when they may not be.  Doing the right thing is to give a friend the benefit of the doubt.  It also means recognizing the ones through whom we heard these things may have had good intentions.

I recently heard that someone I love and care about said some unkind things. I was deeply hurt, and the person who told me had only good intentions, but as I thought about it, because they are my valued friends, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn’t mean it. Sometimes we say things to be funny or to express an opinion without thinking our words may hurt people.  We can get upset and have an argument, or we can forgive. I choose to forgive, and I can only hope when I say things I don’t really mean, that people will forgive me.

The truth is, even though I love God, I offend Him every day of my life. I make stupid decisions and say foolish things that don’t reflect my greater values or how I really feel.  I try to do better, but I’m so far from perfect; yet God forgives me. I try to do the same for His children.  I learned to forgive because I have been forgiven of much.

 

Being Happy When It Hurts

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said, “He who is happy inherits all the blessings of Torah. He who is not happy inherits none of them.”  By this, he meant that when we are not happy, we can not enjoy the blessings around us.

Recently, someone came to me and told me that someone very close to me made negative comments about Jews, and spoke badly about all the traditions and blessings I hold dear. They called my motives in question.  They had contempt for my heritage.  It made me feel great sadness and betrayal.  I knew God was with me, but I couldn’t help feeling badly about it.  The next morning, I spoke with a friend and told him how betrayed,  hurt, and saddened I felt about it.  Somehow, just expressing what I felt helped me to feel better and get over it.

The reality is, I don’t know the person actually said those things.  It was hearsay.  Until they say it to me directly, I can’t act as though they said it.  I am still left with the bad feelings of when I heard it, but I can’t hold people responsible for what they didn’t say to me, so as far as it goes, I can’t act as though it happened.

Its really hard to be happy when something like this is said to you.  I can’t just say the things were said out of ignorance.  The person who supposedly made the comments knows better.  In a way, my feelings were my own fault.  When you open  yourself up to people, you make yourself vulnerable.  I could be invulnerable if it don’t let anyone into my life, but that would make me unloving and uncaring.  Vulnerability is the price we pay to make a difference in other people’s lives, and sometimes we get hurt.

I was aware of God’s presence, and I prayed, but somehow I still hurt about it.  It was getting in my way of receiving the blessings of the Torah.  It made me question the value of my ministry, and I felt unappreciated for all I do.  What helped was talking with a friend who affirmed his appreciation for what I do, and shared my shock at a very bad attitude.  Its really important to surround ourselves with people who value us and care about us.  They are the ones who support us in difficult times.  Sometimes the ones who supported us in the past are the ones who attack us later. The scriptures say, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.”  Psalm 41:9.

The important thing is that we do keep our eyes on God, and the purpose to which he called us.  When Moses led the people through the wilderness, they complained and didn’t appreciate him.  He continued on out of service to God, not out of some sense of appreciation or popularity from the people he led.

What matters to me is that some people do appreciate what I do.  What matters even more, is that I serve God, and I am content with that.  The Torah says, “… the word of the LORD came to Avram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Avram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.””  Our real reward is God, knowing Him, not popularity with others.  We may not have the smashing successes we thought we’d have.  We may not have things turn out the way we thought they would.  After all, when our expectations were “how could we fail with God on our side?”  Nevertheless, success is not measured in numbers.  It’s measured in obedience to His service.  People are more than willing to be “great” for God’s sake.  What if thats not what He intends?  Are we willing to be seemingly insignificant for his sake.  I am willing to be insignificant if thats what He wants, and I choose to be happy.

The New Bullying

There’s been a lot of emphasis in our society about trying to put an end to bullying. We’ve made it socially unacceptable, we’ve imposed embarrassing punishments on people who bully in an attempt to have a kinder and more decent society.  I am in favor of this.  A large part of my ethics are based on the kind treatment of other people.

The definition of bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.

Everyone seems to have gotten on board with the anti-bullying campaigns. I don’t like to see anybody bullied and I am just the type person to speak out against it when I see someone doing it. The down side of the issue is that we only speak against socially unacceptable bullying.  I have the feeling that all the anti-bullying campaigns are little more then an opportunity to say that we don’t bully.  In my opinion it’s a lot of crap.
We kid ourselves if we don’t think bullying is going on every day and we are not active participants in it.  If someone smokes, its open season on bullying them, because our society has decided they don’t like smoking.  There is almost no where a person is allowed to smoke anymore, indoors or out.  Smokers rights seem to have been put aside, and they are treated like lepers if they smoke.
It is also socially acceptable to make fun of fat people and make disparaging remarks about them being gluttons or lazy because they are overweight.  Some airlines will charge overweight people for two seats and publicly embarrass them in the process.  We convince ourselves we are doing it for their own good, but all it does is hurt them.  Its open season on them, and its a hateful thing to do.

Apparently we only call it bullying if someone’s attacking one of our protected causes. If I don’t support transgender bathrooms, I’ve been told that holding a different view somehow makes me a bigot and I hate monger. No way.  I am not filled with hate for anybody just because I disagree about something. I am not a bigot because I don’t I think it’s right for men to be using the ladies room.

 

When it is not possible for someone to hold  a viewpoint other than yours without being called a bigot or a hate monger, or someone with a phobia, then you are bullying them to accept your views. Sorry folks but I believe the genitalia determines which restroom you use. Its common sense and society has functioned well with that view for countless generations.  That doesn’t make me a homophobe, it doesn’t make me a bigot, and it doesn’t make me uncaring. Sensitivity to the transgendered results in insensitivity to the many women who would be uncomfortable with their presence in ladies rooms. Holding that view does not make me a bigot, It means I don’t agree with you, a right I choose to exercise, and I’m not going to be bullied into acquiescing to someone else’s BS’ing.

 

It’s not just the transgender issue. The boycott Israel movement has been trying to paint Israel as an apartheid state. The facts show otherwise, but Arab students on college campuses have been bullying Jewish students and anybody who is pro-Israel. It is the new anti-semitism, and its somehow acceptable to be so.  Holding this view doesn’t make me anti Muslim.  It means I don’t agree with you.  I don’t eat bacon, but I don’t go around trying to make pork eaters feel bad.  Its called mutual respect.
If I don’t support “abortion rights,” I’m labeled as anti women.  Why can’t I hold a view different from yours and honestly disagree without being labeled as something terrible?

It’s time to realize that bullying goes two ways. I’m tired of people trying to bully me because I don’t agree with them. I don’t want to be hit with a barrage of accusations and labeled being a “hater” because I disagree.  If you can’t deal with the fact that people have an opinion other than yours and that it’s legitimate to do so, then you’re the one with the problem. You need to learn to respect people who disagree with you.  Get yourself some counseling, learn to cope, or do what people have been doing for time immemorial. Get over it. It is maturity to show respect for people in the midst of strongly held differing opinions.  If you can’t do that, then emotionally, you are still in the seventh grade.

Responses to Grief

Today is the first anniversary of my father’s death.  Its a very sad day for me.  I posted on social media, and I received many messages of comfort.  I do find that most of those expressions really do comfort.  I observed that they fall into several categories:

  1.  People giving traditional words of comfort: “May G-d comfort you along with all mourners in Zion and Jerusalem.”  Some people mean those words sincerely, and they use the traditional words, because they feel they want to comfort, and don’t know what else to say.  I’m okay with this, if the words are said sincerely, and they actually are active with the tradition that uses these words.  I do have a problem with people who are just saying it to express Jewishness.  Its like they hijacked my grief to express themselves.  That I don’t appreciate.
  2. Others who just say they are sorry.  I do appreciate this. The statement acknowledges my sorrow, and expresses concern.  Its appreciated.
  3. Some say “Sorry for your loss.”  While it is true that it is my loss and not theirs, the statement leaves me with the feeling that I am alone in my grief. It feels like they are not going through this with me, but are merely observing my grief.  Its true, but it doesn’t comfort.  On some level, comfort involves people being there with you and for you.
  4. People who give advice.  I’ve been told to give myself permission to express my sorrow, or to comfort my mom, or some other thing.  One person just said I’d get through it.  That bothered me, and I told them I didn’t need them to tell me that.  The reality is, some people giving advice have been there, and they were trying to share what comforted them.  I appreciated that. Others took the opportunity to just tell me what they thought I should do.  I don’t need people to think for me.  I found no comfort in this.
  5. Finally, some people just let me know they were sorry I was hurting, and they cared.  That meant a great deal to me.

The big problem is that very few people actually know how to be comforting.  Most do the best they can, but in the end, its really two things that actually bring comfort; food, and being there.  We all take comfort in food, and that is good.  What also comforts is people just being with you without giving advice or citing formal bumper sticker phrases.  If you let me know you care, its enough.  Hanging out with me and smoking a cigar with me is good too.  When my dad passed away, a dozen guys from my cigar club came over one evening and we sat and smoked cigars and talked.  It meant the world to me.  It comforted me and I will never forget it.

I may sound like I’m pissed off, and to some extent I am.  Not with those who really mean well, and really want to comfort, but with people who use my sorrow as an opportunity to highlight their experiences or show off what they know.  If you used one of those phrases to me, I am not necessarily talking about you.  You may very well fall into the genuinely caring group, but not everyone does.  The ones I’m really upset with are the heartless people who didn’t say anything.

I know this sounds awfully judgmental, which is not my regular thing, but perhaps is how I am expressing my own grief.     The important thing is that I know I’ll be better tomorrow and the day after that.