Posts Tagged With: adam and eve

You Don’t Look Jewish….

There is a joke, that I’ll paraphrase.

A rabbi from New York is invited to visit a synagogue in China.  He isn’t sure what to expect, but he is delighted to witness a service exactly like those that he is used to, but it is still a bit strange because everybody there is Chinese.  After the service, he meets with the rabbi of the shul, and thanks him for the wonderful experience.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he says, “but it was just beautiful!”

The rabbi smiles and says to him, “Thank you!  Its strange though…you don’t look Jewish….”

What does it mean to, “look Jewish?”  If you can tell me, definitively, what this means, I will give you a gold star.  There are Eastern European Jews, Spanish Jews, Mediterranean Jews, Italian Jews, Asian Jews, Indian Jews, Middle Eastern Jews, Arab Jews, North African Jews, Black Jews…you get the idea.  There are Jews whose ancestors have always been from the children of Israel, and there are Jews who are the descendants of converts–or are converts themselves.

Yes, that’s correct, a person CAN convert to Judaism.  In fact, conversion to Judaism has such a long and rich history, that several times the practice of circumcision for the sake of conversion has been outlawed on pain of death by whoever was the governing people of the time.  Still not sure you believe me?  King David’s grandmother, Ruth was a convert.  You can read all about it in the book of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible) which bears her name.

I have heard the remark many times that, “Jews don’t have red hair,” but King David himself is described as being red haired.  If you look in any Yeshiva (school for learning torah) you will probably see–very orthodox–Jews with red hair.  Some Jews have curly hair.  Some jews have straight hair.  Some Jews have no hair!

I think you get the point:  There is no such thing as “looking Jewish,” or more in particular, there is no such thing as a person who, “doesn’t look Jewish.”  I actually enjoy when people ask me the question of, “is Jewish a race, a culture, or a religion?”  I look at them and grin a little bit as I respond, “yes.”

It is a little bit like being human.  Sure, all humans aren’t Jewish, but just as there is not enough clear and simple description of what it means to “look Jewish,” all people are people!  I saw a video earlier today, from the show, “What Would You Do?”  They had three actors in a barber shop in Harlem: a black, female stylist; a black male customer; and the girlfriend of the black customer…who was a white girl.  They had the stylist playing the role of the racist woman who can’t stand to see a nice young black man with a white girl.  The object of the show was to capture the reactions of the other customers in the shop, who weren’t privy to the plot.  There were a few customers who really lashed out against this racism.  The basic part of the arguments was, “People are people!”

I don’t care if you’re black, purple, polka-dotted, whatever…you are a person, and you deserve to be treated as such.  That is the cliche part of what I’ll say here.  The non-cliche, and possibly controversial part is this: we are not all the same!  Some of us are tall, some short, some fat, thin, athletic, academic, math geeks, language geeks, uneducated, PhD’s, speak english as a second language, speak english as one of five languages.  And yes, not only are some of us white, and some of us black.  Some of us are Jews, some (well most, really) of us goyim*.  And–brace yourselves–some of us are men, and some of us are women!  And thank G-d for that!  For all of it!

We are not the same!  This culture of false equality that we are inculcated with is one of the things that is harming our society on a daily basis.  There is no reason that a woman should be expected to be–in all ways–equal with a man, and vise versa.  And that goes for every single one of the classifications listed previously.  This isn’t to say that a woman can’t do the same things that a man can do, or vise versa, but it is to say that there are things that each one of us are better at doing, and that’s just the way it is.  There is no excuse for subjugation resulting from differences, and I think that is why there is such a hard  push for total equality.  Unfortunately, because there are people who do subjugate others under the premise of these differences (I think these differences are just scapegoats, by the way, for those who are hateful or power hungry), we miss out so much on the beauty embodied in these differences.

Each one of us being different is what makes this world a beautiful place.  If each person were simply treated as a person, and appreciated for both our strengths and weaknesses, this world would be so amazing.  If everybody ceased, tomorrow, from subjugating others, we would have peace on earth.  That is the climate that we will witness when Moshiach (the messiah) comes.  That will be as close as possible to Heaven on Earth.  In fact, this would be a return in thinking.  A revolution in terms of coming full circle.

Whatever you think about the veracity of the story of the garden of Eden from the book of Bereishit (Genesis), there are quite a few things that we can all take away from it.  The story of the garden can be seen as allegory for the human race, and for each human individually.  Adam and Eve live a carefree existence.  Every need is provided for them.  They do not feel cold, or heat.  They do not know hunger or thirst.  The only stipulation, is that there is a tree (not an apple, by the way) that they are not to eat from.  When, after being tempted by the serpent, they eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they pass from this state of innocence to the world beyond, where they have to work for everything.  Now, they must worry about competition, jealousy, embarrassment, blame, sin, and atonement.  Before, they were children.  Now, they are adults.

There is a remaining philosophical question in this, regarding whether a person can actually be wholly human and be innocent like this.  One of the things, after all, that makes us human is that we not only have the capacity but also the necessity to reason logically, and to think about all of these things.  Nakedness doesn’t only refer to articles of clothing, but also to psychological openness.  In fact, it is much harder to be emotionally naked in front of another person than it is to be physically naked. If we can build a world where man and woman can look at each other naked–in the most difficult sense of the word–“and feel no shame” as it is written, then we can realize a world in which Moshiach has come.  Then it will be as a return to the Garden of Eden, a return to the purity of youth when it didn’t matter if you were black, white, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Asian, arab, Jew, or goy*…or, man or woman.

*Note:  I cannot stress this enough, I do not use the word “goy” or its plural “goyim” as a derogatory term.  It is the opposite of saying “jew” and carries with it no inferiority from its antonym.

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If You Can’t be With The One You Love…

…Love the one you’re with!  Love the one you’re with!  Love the one you’re–do do do do do do doodoo!

A friend of mine just went through–or better put, is going through a heartbreak right now.  He told me that he believes that there is such a thing as true love, as two people being meant to be together.  He asked me if I thought so too.  Now let me explain a little something here about myself.  I am an idealistic romantic.  I met my wife when we were both teenagers.  We had four children by the time I was 26.  We have been married for 13 and a half years, and have almost been divorced three times!  What did I say to my friend whose shoes I have a pair of as well (I wear them from time to time)?  “I used to think that way.  Now I think the answer is both yes and no.”  I realize that this could very easily be an extremely confusing concept, so let me further explain.

On one side we have a concept of “the perfect match.”  While this is an absolutely beautiful ideal, on its surface at least, it is really nothing but a romantic self-delusion.  In order for there to be just one “perfect” match, we would have to believe that we do not live in a world of seven billion people.  Even if we are to still believe in “the one,” there still leaves the problem of irreconcilable differences that would logically rule out a good deal of the population as suitable companions.  We have differences such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, etc, etc, etc.  For some people, just rooting for the wrong football team is enough to rule out perfection of match!  With all of these possible variables, not to mention myriad others, the field within which each person will search for “the one” becomes smaller and smaller.  But what if the “cosmic” right choice is not our choice?  What if the “perfect” match exists among those whom we have already ruled as being outside the realm of possibility?  You may be feeling that the very possibility of “the perfect match” is starting to dwindle as you consider the statistical difficulties involved with reconciling such thought.  One question comes quickly to mind, however; what about all of the couples who are truly happy, loving, and perfect for each other?

What if I told you that happiness, love, and perfection, are all choices that we make?  In fact, with a few small caveats (which I’ll get to shortly), choice is just as important a factor in these cases, as is is in what you will eat for lunch, whether you drive or walk, or whether you drink water or soda.  Whether we will, and who we will love, is choice based, not fate based.  If it were fate based, then it would be nearly impossible–given the sheer number of statistical possibilities for matches–that any two people would ever love each other or be happy.  And yet, we see many examples of arranged or quick marriages that can blossom into beautifully loving couples, and people who are madly in love from the get-go who don’t make it past a few years.  What is the secret to a lasting, loving relationship?

I spoke of caveats.  There are people who, whether by nurture or nature (a completely different debate) who have a natural proclivity toward loving a broader spectrum of people, and far easier than others can ever dream of doing.  Lets call these, “innate lovers.” These people often desire to make peace, speak diplomatically, and act according to a high sense of morals (whether religious or not) that are often centered on “the golden rule.”  Apart from these people with a natural tendency toward loving others, there are also, oftentimes, many people who have “been to hell and back,” and have decided that while it may be difficult, loving others is something that is ultimately beneficial.  We can call these people, “pragmatic lovers.” Pragmatic lovers often come off as benevolent, or even philanthropic in society and relationships, and while they are such things, they often do so because the data reflects that as the most positive action. Closely related to pragmatic lovers, are “acquired lovers.”  Acquired lovers, are the type of people for whom love is neither simply natural, nor simply pragmatic.  Like learning how to enjoy wine, or brussels sprouts, acquired lovers learn to enjoy loving and being loved.

I believe that any combination of these type of lovers can work together.  I also believe, however, that in most cases it takes a lot of time and hard work.  If both parties aren’t innate lovers, then all too often such unions end because one party doesn’t understand the other.  It isn’t their fault.  The acquired lover can’t understand why his innate lover is so needy all the time.  The innate lover can’t understand what requires so much consideration that the pragmatic lover can’t just love her without having to see the benefit in doing so.  The pragmatic lover can’t understand why the acquired lover has to be backed into a no-win scenario before learning how to love him.  Even if both parties are innate lovers, the relationship can sometimes fail because there is no balance for the neediness that they both exude.

Jewish tradition speaks of all souls being united at their creation, but how on their way into this world they are torn into two halves.  The ultimate journey of the soul, is to find its counterpart and become whole again.  Sefer Bereishit/the book of Genesis says, that Adam and Eve were a model for cleaving and becoming one flesh.  The word translated as “cleave” is דבק-davak, which has a connotation not just as a fleshly coupling, but also as a spiritual coupling, a completeness.  The same word is used to describe the ideal of man’s relationship with G-d.  Later in Bereishit, however, we are told of polygamist unions, as well as the finding of a spouse after the death of her predecessor.  In such cases, I do not think it impossible for the person to make the conscious decision to “love the one” he’s with.  In other words…

The answer that you will get from me, as to whether or not it is possible that a person has a perfect match is, yes.  There is more to it, however, in that the perfect match is the one in whom you choose to find perfection.  That is why it is so, damned, difficult, to handle it when the object of your affection chooses to break up with you.  You may be thinking that everything is perfect, and he just can’t see it.  Maybe you can bring her around to your way of thinking.  With enough time-

Stop, stop, stop.  The only way the other person is going to love you back, is if he/she chooses to do so.  This may sound like an incredibly bleak reality.  “If this is true,” you might say, “then what is the freakin point?  Why even bother?”  For a person with love to give, being able to give the love is a gift in itself.  So, for whatever time a woman allows you to give her love, enjoy it.  If that special man is reciprocal, even better!  But life is too short to hedge your bets.  Even if you find yourself in a situation where you are wondering how long it will last, LOVE ANYWAY.  Believe me, loving someone–even if you have to decide to, or acquire the taste for it–is the best gift that you can give yourself.  And when it does work that the person loves you back, even if just for a week, a month, a year, or a decade, there is nothing powerful enough to stop the two of you, nothing in this world.

I leave you in the immortal words of Don Cornelius, “I bid you peace, love, and soul!”

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