Posts Tagged With: coexist

Crime and Punishment, and Vicarious Atonement

I started off writing about the falsehood of the doctrine of vicarious atonement that is so central to christian theology.  I don’t want to launch a polemic, so I deleted what I first wrote.  I will, therefore, only write to state what judaism has to say on the subject, and since Jesus was a jew, I will leave it up to the christian reader to decide, research, and apply.

The truth of the matter is that not only is vicarious atonement impossible, but it is also much less improving to the world than how G-d says that we are to make up for our fumbles:

STOP doing bad——-START doing good.  That is all that is asked of us to start back from scratch again!

This real instruction, from Hashem instead of Paul of Tarsus who invented christianity, is so simple and logical that it really should be just common sense, and is the essence of mercy and love–two qualities that emanate from G-d but are attributed in christianity to the vicarious atonement.  It is absolutely unnecessary though to use the middleman of such atonement. Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father with him, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son with him; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”  This passage is implicitly stating that the righteous cannot die for the sins of the wicked.

As correction to this doctrine in christianity which leads to believe otherwise, the proper course correction is laid out in the verse that follows, “But if the wicked turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

Now, this could be taken to mean that in order to live, one would have to keep all the 613 commandments, at all times, without faltering.  This teaching, which is a common justification for the necessity of the vicarious atonement, would have to disregard a separate passage in the same book which states, “Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.”  Ez 18:17. We are told time and time again in this chapter of the book of Ezekiel, that a person’s soul is redeemed by the simple action of recognizing his fault and failure, and taking the necessary action to correct it.  This is what repentance is.

Repent!” This is cried time and again by John the Baptist, and preached by Jesus himself in the gospels of the christian scriptures.  It is almost as if they are presaging the false doctrines and misinformation that would later be taught by Paul and serve as the basis for modern christianity, which being so heavily based in the teachings of Paul instead of Jesus, ought to be properly called “Paulianity” instead.

“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD; and not rather that he should return from his ways, and live?” Ez 18:23  Instead we are given the cure directly before this passage, “None of his transgressions that he hath committed shall be remembered against him; for his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.” Ez 18:22.  There is absolutely no reason for vicarious atonement, even if it were possible.  In fact, I can see no reason why it would even be desirable, as it does nothing at all to make the world a better place, but instead leaves one to feel let free from all of his missteps because somebody else took the punishment for him.

And this leads me to “crime and punishment.”  A friend wrote earlier on Facebook about how “jesus makes us free, we don’t have to punish anybody because of his sacrifice.”  There is absolutely no reason that anyone would “punish” anyone else for their sins in the first place!  When I asked what was meant, the reply was that, “there are consequences for actions,” and some other stuff after.  Consequences are not the same as punishment.  Consequences are the result of our actions.  Punishment is the attempt to exact justice in some way, by diminishing the faulty party.  Whereas “consequences” for a person’s iniquities are a natural response that occurs, “punishment” for a person’s iniquities can be handed out only by the one true Judge, the Endless One of Blessing.  Given this understanding of the difference in these terms, people have never been responsible for punishing others for their iniquities, and so it is not something that any vicarious atonement could ever make up for anyway!

This is all that I have to write on the subject right now.  I am not sure if anyone will ever even read it, and I kind of wrote it more for my own therapy than anyone else, so that I didn’t blow up my friend’s Facebook page with questions and conversation.

Keep in mind that the books of the bible are complete, and that excerpting one or two passages does not lend a complete understanding to the contents.  I suggest that you read this chapter (20) of Ezekiel yourself, and the rest of the book in order, for that matter.  And relax in the understanding that it is not possible for anyone to die for the sake of anyone else, but all that is really necessary is to stop doing bad, and do good instead.  It really is that simple.

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Paro’s (Pharaoh’s) Hard Heart–Giving–New Years

Picture it!  Egypt!  1200 (ish) BCE!  Moshe comes to Paro, repeatedly, demanding in the name of G-d to, “Let my people go, that they may worship me!”Ex 17:16 and further.  From the start, however, we are told that “I [G-d] will harden Paro’s heart.”  This would at first seem to be a violation of free will, for, how can a man choose if G-d has changed his heart to not choose?  The twelfth century torah scholar, Rabbi Shlomo Itzhak (Rashi), offers up an interpretation.  He tells us that at first, Paro was presented with the choice of letting b’nei yisroel (the children of Israel) go, lest Egypt suffer plagues.  He refused to do so, and even said at points that he would and then turned on such a declaration to retain them.  After he had chosen time and again to not make the choice proper for him and his people, as well as b’nei yisroel, he gave up his right to choose.

I think that we have all had moments in which we have done this.  I know that I have had arguments in which the point of the issue didn’t even matter anymore, rather, the only thing that mattered was to be right–or in some cases just that the other person wasn’t.  After a while of back and forth, its as if an external force takes over and there is no choice left, life just continues to happen with or without your input!  I have seen the same thing happen time and again in regard to many different quarrels or misunderstandings, and the outcome is almost always devastating, and usually for both parties involved.  Think of the bad divorce that you had, when you didn’t even want the house, car, or–G-d forbid this should be the case–kids, but you so wanted to show how badly you were hurting that you took the whole ship down with you, and didn’t even offer any lifeboats.

We must be very careful about hardening our hearts, in all circumstances.  Sometimes, perhaps, we must temper them though.  I once had a friend, who I would work for at times, we would work on cars, our families would hang out together; we had gotten pretty close.  He and his wife divorced, and he started seeing a friend of mine from high school.  Everything seemed great!  They had a wonderful time together–or so it seemed at least–and eventually moved in together.  We fell out of touch for a couple of years, as they had moved away from the area, but as far as we knew everything was fine with them.  Now, this friend had been called many things, by many different people over the years, and I had always defended him, even if passively.  My friend who he was seeing contacted us one day, after they had broken up.  As it turned out, this “friend” of mine who I had so steadfastly defended on so many occasions, actually was crazy.  Clinically crazy!  He was suicidal, manipulative, and perhaps even homicidal.  He ended up in prison, for something or other, and I have never heard from him again.  This is not the first case in which a tempered heart–one that is not closed in apathy, but one which heeds the input of others–would have been very healthy.

On the other hand, I have had people whom others derided often, who have ended up being very good and close friends, and nothing like what others would have led me to believe if I had listened.  So we see that this pendulum can swing either way.  IF we harden our hearts to everyone, we will have no one to care for, and no one who cares for us.  And even worse, doing something with frequency breeds habit in it.  Perhaps this is the real lesson of G-d hardening Paro’s heart.  If, for those of us who believe in G-d, we are to say that G-d bestows upon us the knowledge of right and wrong, we must say that it is by virtue of a relationship with the Creator that we are given this gift, after all, gifts aren’t given in any way shape or form without some kind of a relationship.  But if we deny the blessing of warning, time and again, we might as well resign ourselves to failure–or, insanity, as is often said, “repeating action in expectation of different outcome is the definition of insanity.”

By now you may be wondering what any of this has to do with “giving.”  It is simple: in order to exercise a non-hardened heart, we must give.  We must give of ourselves, our hearts, our souls, and our resources.  The Shema, the central jewish prayer declaring the oneness of G-d, says this almost exactly.  “And you shall love the Lord your G-d with all you heart, and with all your soul, and with all the goodness that is to you.”  That last part is difficult to translate, but it has come to be taught by the rabbis that it refers to “all your monetary resources.”  Now, this does not mean that you should give away everything you have, for if you do that you will have nothing more to give.  We can give to others by supplying our own needs, so that we do not use the resources of those who need them more, and at the same time dedicate portions of “the goodness that is to us” to helping others.  If you see a person with a sign out, why not give them the change in your pocket?  Sure, they might use it to go and buy booze or drugs, this is always a possibility–then again, there is a possibility that you may do this with the majority of your paycheck!  There is also the possibility, however, that they will use it to buy food, medicine,  shelter, or even to help others.  Now, perhaps there is something to be said for not giving over and over again, to the same person with a sob story which never changes.  But one thing is almost certain: if you harden your heart and don’t give, before long you will find plenty of reasons not to give, even if your conscience is telling you you should.

And really, what is a few dollars anyway?  In fact, I firmly believe that EVERYONE should set aside ten percent of their income (and money gifted them) to give to those in need.  This needn’t be a homeless person, or even an official charity.  How about paying for somebody’s groceries?  When you are paying your utility bill and the person in front of you is trying to bargain with the company just to get the lights back on, put some money toward their account after they leave (so as not to embarrass them).  Give of your time too.  Take time out of your day to listen to that sob story, and don’t just offer a few coins, but give some kind words too.  Take it from one who has been in a lot of tough places, not all sob stories are untrue.  Life is hard sometimes!

So this is my request for world as we enter 2014 in the secular calendar:  Give!  I promise you, no matter how small the action seems, if we all do love G-d by loving our fellow man with “all your heart, and all your soul, and all the goodness that is to you,” we will make this world a better place.

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Near Death Experience–or–Near Life Experience

sparkyI was working on my house this evening, and there was a wire in the way of what I was doing.  Noting that it was an old wire, and thinking that I had made all the old wiring obsolete five years ago when I rewired the house, I thought nothing of prying on it.  I thought it was dead.  As it turned out, it was very much a live wire.  Not only was it a live wire, but it was carrying the 220V that were going to our water heater!

So here I was, prying on this wire with the claw end of my Titanium Stiletto head hammer, completely oblivious to the life-threatening voltage running through the wire.  I guess I was prying too vigorously at the wire which was also against the raw edge of a thin metal bracket, when, blammo!!  Sorry for the old school Batman sound effect, but there really is no way to accurately describe it otherwise.  Bright sparks flew all over, a few loud pops were heard, and all the power went out in the house!

This is what Wikipedia has to say about titanium sparks, ” Although titanium is a non-ferrous metal, it gives off a great deal of sparks. These sparks are easily distinguishable from ferrous metals, as they are a very brilliant, blinding, white color.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spark_testing

I stood there, unable to move, mesmerized by the event that had just taken place.  If I had chosen to buy the new DeWalt metal handles hammer that I saw a few months ago, I might not be around to write this post.  The wooden handle of my hammer, although not the greatest of insulators, is not very conductive and this might be the only thing that kept me from serious injury or even death.  

What could I do?  Very simply, I lifted my head and said, “Baruch atah Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam (the source of blessing are you Hashem our G-d, king of the universe) who has saved me from danger.”

My wife asked me if my life flashed before my eyes, and I said no–sparks did, a lot of bright sparks!  She said, “no, that was your life!”  She said it jokingly, but there are branches of Judaism in which kabbalistic (mystic) teachings say that the world is filled with “lost sparks” that are needing to be raised up in holiness to return to the creator.  Maybe my life has been a succession of doing this.  I would like to think so, but I’m not so sure.

Maybe your “life flashing before your eyes” isn’t so much about what you’ve already done, but is a glimpse into what you need to do or will do?  That would be the idea, I think, behind a “near life experience.”  Who knows?  I’m just happy that it turned out the way that it did instead of the alternative.

An atheist, or even many theists for that matter, may say that it was just a coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidence, I believe in choice.  Sometimes we have no idea how choices will effect our lives.  I am very glad that my friend Marc chose to give me this hammer years ago.  If I had chosen to buy a metal handled hammer, no more me (and I’d be out $70).  If I’d chosen to use my pry bar–the correct tool for the job–no more me.

I posted the picture on Facebook of my hammer, and wrote a bit about it.  Most of the comments were made from amazement.  One of my atheist friends, however, said, “If god exists and heaven is so great- why is god great for keeping you alive? Seems like a bit of a ck block to me? [sic]”

Now, I have no problem with people having different views.  He’s atheist, that’s fine.  I don’t think that I will ever understand though, why many atheists and theists alike feel the need to be rude and force their crap on others.  Even from a purely secular moral standpoint it is just plain rude.  It is so rude, in fact, that for generations there has been an idiom, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” repeatedly drilled into many of us by our mothers.

Whatever.  Perhaps G-d was not “saving” me.  I choose to believe that he did.  I believe that it was a miracle, just as amazing as waking up every morning.  You may see this as biology, and physics, I see it as the Creator directing the steps of man.  If you don’t believe this, good for you, and I hope for you success in all your endeavors.  When it comes to this though, you live in your world, and I’ll live in mine.

From now on though, this is my “lucky” hammer, and his name shall be “Sparky.”  I don’t believe in luck, so that is just a euphemism.  Really, it will simply be a reminder of how close one can come to tragedy, and how quickly it can happen.  I will likely keep it forever, and I am not prone to do that sort of thing.

Peace my peeps.

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Christmas is Over

1517593_10201662157568280_594315208_nI have no real love for christmas.  My (Now ex) wife and kids are still all about it, so the day started with being woken up at six am.  I finally got out of bed around seven, and came out to the living room where they were all gathered around to open presents.  Everybody enjoyed all they got, and that was wonderful.  Regardless the reason for the day, it is great when you see a seven year old open up a package with sweatpants, and be just as excited as when he opens up a large kit of Legos.

For me, the irony of the event hit when I opened up the things that my wife and kids bought me.  It was apparently a, “Buy Jewy stuff for the Jew,” type of Christmas, a jogging suit, a T-shirt, even boxer shorts.  All of the things were well thought out, and couldn’t have been more awesome!  It felt very respectful.

For lunch, we went to a friends house and made Chinese food.  We sat at the table–four jews, and my wife and kids (four goyim)–and ate/conversed together.  One of our friends asked for us to go around the table and remember our favorite christmas experiences to each other.  Let me clarify something here: she is jewish, but although she doesn’t do christmas she is still excited by it and loves that others do celebrate it.  Everybody had a story to share.  I was reminded of a conversation in the movie City Slickers, in which they ask each other what was their best day.

My most memorable christmas (I grew up celebrating christmas, in case you didn’t know) was both the best and worst christmas in my life.  Twenty years ago, my grandfather of blessed memory was in his last days.  He was in Hospice care, in the bedroom of my grandparent’s house.  Christmas eve was the night that we always celebrated, as per the Danish tradition, and we all sat in the dining room, and then in the living room during presents, trying not to be sad that grandpa couldn’t join us.  I’m not sure if we were conscious of it or not, but we were all basically trying to convince ourselves that everything was normal.  Clearly, it was anything but.  Two weeks later, my grandfather passed away.  He was the closest thing to a father figure that I ever had growing up, and although he was already an aged fifty-something with many ailments that effected his day to day life and ability to interact with all of us, he had such a huge impact on my life.  I am thankful to G-d for every minute that I was able to have with him.  I miss him every day.  This was my best christmas because it was the last that my grandfather was alive for, and it was my worst christmas for the same reason.

I realized last year that this experience was the first thing that caused me to dislike christmas.  It isn’t fair to those I love who still enjoy the holiday and time of year, but I’m not sure if anything can be done for it.

I do love the feeling that I used to get for Christmas when I was a kid.  I loved the family occasion, the meal together, the conversation, the joy.  It is the same feeling that I now get out of the jewish holidays which happen much more frequently.  Even shabbat, happening every week and seeming a bit minor to goyim is just like this.  We sit at the table, have a special meal, sing blessings, talk about our week and our dreams.  It is like all the good parts of christmas without all the bad parts.  If any jews are reading this and have never fully experienced shabbat, do yourself a gigantic favor and do so.  Go in with an open heart, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  If you are unsure of where to start, comment here and I will give suggestions (or maybe I’ll make that the subject of a future post).

After lunch at Miriam’s, we all planned to go see The Hobbit at four in the afternoon.  I had read the movie time the day before, but as it turned out they change their schedule every day.  The next show was at 7:10, which was no longer matinee, so I went in to talk to a manager just to see if we would be able to buy tickets for that show at matinee prices since we had planned our day around a showtime that no longer existed.  He apologized for the mix up and gave me six free passes so that we could all come back and see the show.  It was great!  We went home for a few hours, and returned to see the show–which was awesome, by the way.

I’m glad that christmas is over for another year, mostly so that traffic can get back to normal and there won’t be christmas music everywhere and at all times.  All in all, despite my general dislike for christmas both as a jew trying to keep torah as well as possible and given my personal history with the day, it was a very good day.  In fact, I am thankful to G-d for this christmas day that we had.  I was able to reconcile a few things, and actually spent a very yiddishe time on a goyishe day.

I hope that you all had a wonderful day, regardless your traditions or hang-ups.  I think that we can all do well to remember that life is too short to be full of bitter feelings, even if they are only for select things.

 

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The Trouble With Santa Claus–or–I’ll Be Watching You

holidayWhat does Santa Claus teach children in our society?  Really, the whole ethos of christmas in modern times is effected by this legendary character and his eight diminutive ruminants (or nine if you add in Gene Autry’s favorite).  As we inch along in our cars, in traffic jams that seem to last for a month–don’t go anywhere near the mall!–many of us get nauseated from the obvious commercial ramifications brought on by this creation of Macy’s and Coca Cola.  Those with children who are subject to the stalker persona from the cold north–the tune to I’ll Be Watching You by The Police comes to mind–say that its wonderful for their children.  They say that it, “encourages a belief in the supernatural,” or that it, “teaches them the beauty of giving.”  Is such a figure really necessary for all that?  Is it really the healthiest way to raise children toward these goals?

I had some returns to make at Lowes a couple of weeks ago.  As the woman was scanning the items, she asked (without looking up), “are you all ready for christmas?”  I smirked to myself a little bit and replied, “about as ready as I can get.”  She looked up, saw the kippah on my head and said, “oh!  happy haunukkah.”  She didn’t seem disappointed or anything, it was just a departure from what she expected.  I told her thank you, then asked her if she was ready for christmas.  “Oh no,” she said, “not hardly.”  Friends and family have also expressed this circumstance.  Regardless of who I’m talking to, my response is usually the same, “wouldn’t it be so nice if all you had to worry about was making and eating a nice meal, and relaxing with loved ones?”

Isn’t that really what the holiday should be about?  Easter is more like this for most christians that I know.  Jewish holidays are pretty much all centered around this.  In fact, it is commonly said that every jewish holiday can be summarized with the phrase, “they tried to kill us, we won, lets eat!”  The most important and frequent holiday in judaism is shabbat (the sabbath), during which we are enjoined to eat three full meals, and to not perform any work.  I’ll not get into the particulars of what “work” means in the context of torah (If you would like to read more about that, http://www.aish.com, and similar websites have many articles on what that means), but it is most likely not what you think.  Basically, shabbat observance consists of not exerting our will upon the physical world, attempting to live in a more spiritual plane of existence similar to “paradise” or “heaven;” similar to the elemental existence in the garden of eden.  I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of people in the world, if they ever fully experienced a properly kept shabbat, would look forward to doing such a thing at any opportunity.

But even with the understanding of the stress that people let themselves feel–immediately and for a long time thanks to the gift of credit–in relation to the obligatory materialism of such “traditions,” year after year they flock back for more punishment.  Even in judaism (in america) there isn’t much relief from such experiences, as Hanukkah has become “jewish christmas” for many who buy presents for all eight nights.  I even ended up doing this this year.  Usually, I am pretty steadfastly against presents on Hanukkah, as I don’t want to confuse the holiday to myself or my kids.  This year though, I really wanted to buy them stuff!  Now granted, I bought them mostly stuff they needed or could really use anyway– gloves, scarves, slippers, art sets, and books–but I did buy a few frivolous things that I knew they’d get a kick out of.  It did make it a bit more special for all of us.

I wonder if it was a mistake to do this.  Will they expect it next year as well?  As their mother and they are still celebrating christmas–albeit in a completely secular way–there was talk this evening about Santa Claus.  This was interesting to me, because they all have known that Santa isn’t real for the last four years.  I guess they still enjoy the mystique, the character, and the spirit of this style of gift giving.  I can’t blame them!  Perhaps it would be better if we, in this society, just taught through example that everyone is “santa claus” if they choose to be.  Instead of attributing these things to a make-believe character, wouldn’t it be more wonderful if the children were shown that real people sometimes just want to be nice to others and give them presents?  For years I have been trying to convince people that I would much rather just get a letter or a gift out of the blue, just because they saw something they knew I’d love.  So far, despite my best efforts to do this, it has not met with success.

I think the reason is that without obligation, many of us just won’t do it, even if we know that its the right thing to do.  As I touched on in my post, “Assimilation, Death of the ‘Modern’ Jew,” without obligation to keep the torah, Jews just don’t.  Perhaps the obligation by the “torah” of peer pressure and advertising is just plain a better motivator than making somebody smile.  How sad is that!?

How about getting rid of the idea of Santa all together, and instead just place random gifts around the house, with no idea who gave them?  Actually, it just dawned on me that perhaps the reason that Santa is a better fit is the same reason that for most, christianity is a better fit than Judaism.  In christianity, there is a form given to G-d.  With the Santa tradition, there is form given to the spirit of giving.  Without this form, even if it is indistinct and changes in the mind of each person conceiving it, perhaps it is just too much to grasp and so automatically makes minds and emotions reject the very concept.

Well, there is a little food for thought at least.  Whether you are celebrating christmas with or without santa, I hope you have a merry christmas.  If you are celebrating a different holiday, I hope that it is very special for you.  If you, like me, will be eating chinese food and going to see a movie–as is the custom of my people on the winter solstice–then may your egg rolls be vegetarian, your Kung Pao be spicy, and may you be able to make it to a matinee–or don’t forget to ask for your student discount–because hey, “yo mama pays retail!”

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Duck Dynasty Narrowness

There is a lot of hubbub surrounding the lead from A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty today.  From people offended by his remarks in a GQ article, to proponents of free speech (note: I think it has less to do with “free speech” and more to do with stereotypical republican values), everyone seems to have an opinion.  Rather than let everyone else have all the fun, I figured I’d join in.  This post heavily excerpts the article from whence it came.  If you’d like to read the original first, here is the link:

http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson

I would like to start off by saying that I do believe that people should have the right to free speech and that it shouldn’t be censored by the government.  That is, by the way, what free speech is all about.  It has nothing to do with whether a television network decides whether or not to air a program because of something that it feels is insulting, nor is that constitutional right referring to the printing of interview comments that it considers offensive.  Because of this fact, organizations that are editorial based–like it or not–are giving an endorsement to what they print or air.  Even if something is being published because they consider the person to be an idiot, they are endorsing it in the same way that we all vote with our purchases.  If you don’t want to watch the show, and don’t like what the man says or thinks, then don’t bloody watch the show!  I don’t have tv stations, or any interest in watching this show.  I never even knew it existed until a couple of months ago, and I thought it was a hunting show!

I would also like to say that some of my comments may be offensive to a christian audience.  If you don’t think the way that these comments address, or if this is not the type of christian you are or the christianity you practice, then the comments are not directed at you.  If these comments do address you, I invite you to take the time to open up your minds, and learn how to actually live your religion.  Learn about it, and not just from christians.  Jesus was a jew, after all, and your bible exists of more than just the letters of Paul and Revelation.  I suggest that you learn hebrew, and study a hebrew text of the hebrew bible (what you call the “old testament”), starting at page one.  Do not look to christian theologians for interpretations, as this is not their book, it is the book of the jews; and jesus was a jew, you know.  He thought jewishly.  He lived jewishly.  This is completely different theology and ideology.  If it is possible, try to learn this section of the bible without christian colored glasses.  If you are stuck, and you surely will be at times–consult the internet.  I suggest http://www.aish.com, http://www.simpletoremember.com, http://www.judaism.about.com, or http://www.jewfaq.org.  You can also feel free to ask me questions, and I will answer them to the best of my ability and/or find out what the answer is.  I’m not saying “don’t be christian.”  If it works for you, that is awesome, and I am truly very happy for you.  All I’m saying is to learn more about jesus and his people.

Begin article breakdown.  There is so much ground to cover here, and there are so many possibilities for critique.  What I have done is take just some of the more ridiculous things, excerpt them, and respond. Here we go.

 

“After the flood, he said, ‘I’m giving you everything now. Animals are wild.’”–um…is that verbatim?  G-d does say, “Every moving thing that lives shall be yours as food”Gen 9:3, but does not say it in a way that implies “humans can do whatever they damn well please” as western man has interpreted to mean.  It does not say “animals are wild.”  It DOES say not to eat the limb of a living animal, which means that no humans are meant–according to the torah of G-d–to remove the limb of a living animal and eat it.  This includes even chickens which are boiled (to remove the feathers) alive because they moved and weren’t killed by the slaughtering machine in commercial plants, and lobster or frogs that are boiled alive.

Referring to blacks in the south before the civil rights movement–“They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”–except of course for those who were, literally, singing the blues. Maybe you missed that day in Musical Theory 101…or never listened to a radio.

“They plunder beehives. They blow up beaver dams”.–so they can live up to this excerpted ideal from earlier in the article, I guess, “what he calls a “pristine earth”: a world where nothing gets in the way of nature or the hunters who lovingly maintain it.”  Good old uncle Esav was a hunter too.  There does seem to be resemblance here.

“Just inside the front door, a giant flat-screen TV shows Fox News on mute at all times,”–you don’t say. I expected Power Puff Girls.  Seriously though, if you are going to have the TV on at all times, and muted, Korean soap operas are much more fun to make up dialogue to.

“Phil On Why He Voted Romney in 2012
‘If I’m lost at three o’clock in a major metropolitan area…I ask myself: Where would I rather be trying to walk with my wife and children? One of the guys who’s running for president is out of Chicago, Illinois, and the other one is from Salt Lake City, Utah. [Editor’s note: Romney is from Boston, not Salt Lake City.] Where would I rather be turned around at three o’clock in the morning? I opted for Salt Lake City. I think it would be safer.”’–what a coincidence. I ask myself: if I’m out at 3am, should I breath paint fumes like this guy; or air like this guy?

“America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not kill, etc.),”–tell that to the natives, the blacks, the homosexuals, hell, just about anyone!  This is a place where knowing the hebrew actually helps a lot, by the way.  The actual phrase in the ten commandments is, “do not murder.”ex 20:13

“He sees the popularity of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all that we have lost.”–that’s because he’s getting rich off this stupid crap.

Asked what is immoral behavior–“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.“–but not eating foods that G-d says not to eat. Oh, and “love your neighbor as yourself” is really prevalent in his preaching too, as he rails against anything that he deems to be immoral–including, it would seem, being japanese or muslim.

“During Phil’s darkest days, in the early 1970s, he had to flee the state of Arkansas after he badly beat up a bar owner and the guy’s wife. 
I ask Phil if he ever repented for that, as he wants America to repent—if he ever tracked down the bar owner and his wife to apologize for the assault. He shakes his head.
“I didn’t dredge anything back up. I just put it behind me.” Old Phil—the guy with the booze and the pills—died a long time ago, and New Phil sees no need to apologize for him”— this is the really convenient part of much Christian theology: you don’t need to make up for being an asshole, just put it behind you. That guy you killed? That car you stole? That marriage you ruined? That child you violated?  Just “put it behind you.”

“That’s the unspoken red-state appeal of Duck Dynasty. They’re godly folk. “Real” folk.” –umm…I don’t think that phrase means what you think it means.

“It’s why Willie Robertson can walk out of work on a regular Thursday afternoon and be greeted by a cheering crowd that seemingly stretches back to the horizon.”–and here I thought it was because they had their own tv show, and many americans are whores for celebrity. I was WAY off!

“Willie has just come back from Washington, D.C., where he accepted an award at the Angels in Adoption Gala. (He and his wife, Korie, adopted a biracial child named Will and are dedicated advocates of the practice.)”–3 to 5 odds the kid is gay as the day is long. Actually, I hope not–for his own sake.

“Let’s face it,” he says. “Three, four, five years, we’re out of here. You know what I’m saying? It’s a TV show. This thing ain’t gonna last forever. No way.”–really!!!??  Do we really have to wait that long?  I guess it will be to no gain; they’ll just take the next group of idiots they find and put them on tv.

“I ask Jep Robertson later on if the second generation of Robertson men shares Phil’s views on sin and morality. “We’re not quite as outspoken as my dad, but I’m definitely in line,” he says. “If somebody asks, I tell ’em what the Bible says.”’–you don’t KNOW what the bible says, you know what you want it to say!  Or need we revisit the quote from genesis?

“For the sake of the Gospel, it was worth it,” Phil tells me. “All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.”–right, because there were no communists, shintoists, or “Islamists” before eighty years ago. It all started with WWII. And let’s conveniently forget about Jews, Buddhists, Bahai, Sikhs, Hari Krishnas, etc, etc.  Would they be without morals to you?  What about catholics?  Methodists?  Apparently though, Mormons are fine–after all, he’d rather be in Salt Lake City at 3 AM.

“If you simply put your faith in Jesus coming down in flesh, through a human being, God becoming flesh living on the earth, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead—yours and mine and everybody else’s problems will be solved. And the next time we see you, we will say: ‘You are now a brother. Our brother.’ So then we look at you totally different then. See what I’m saying?”–just as long as you aren’t gay, or do anything that is “wrong” according to you?  Or maybe, you can do anything you want–like not even apologize for a savage beating you gave a couple– but because you were “saved” that makes up for everything. The lack of accountability in this type of theology is what has always deterred Jews like me, and many others from committing to the religion, yet with others has made Christianity such a popular religion–from simony, to vicarious atonement (something G-d says is not even possible in Ezekiel), to not having to make atonement to the people you’ve harmed (which contradicts the teachings of jesus, btw)–“just believe” and “every little ting gonna be awright”

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“Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.”

G-d said it.  Jesus said it.  Gandhi said it.  Along with countless others throughout history.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  We all know about this famous–often slightly different–line, often called the golden rule, but do we actually know about it?  Do we know what its about; what it means?

This is a tweak of the most often repeated command in the torah, “Love the stranger,” and there have been many different thoughts regarding it by the various sages and commentators of torah throughout the generations.  Here I will share with you my thoughts on the subject.

There are basically two kinds of commandments: those between man and G-d, and those between man and man.  The latter is also between man and G-d, as each man is a creation of the Holy One, created “b’tzalmo,” in his image.  The mitzvoth (commandments) between G-d and man are important, but it would seem as if G-d is more concerned with us following those mitzvoth between man and man.  I think that this is why the command to “love your neighbor,” is repeated so many times, because it all boils down to that.  The great sage Hillel was asked to teach a pagan the whole torah while the man stood on one foot.  Rav Hillel responded, “that which is hateful to you, do to no one.  That is the whole torah, the rest is commentary, now go and learn it.”  powerful and interesting words.

So, how can he say, “this is the whole torah?”  Is he just being flippant; or is there a deeper meaning that we are to learn from this?  It could be possible, that ALL of the mitzvoth are intended to be for the benefit of both man’s relationship to his fellow, and his relationship with G-d.  In fact, I wouldn’t doubt it if somebody, in some commentary, somewhere, has said this very same thing.  It seems logical to me.

-Mitzvoth between man and G-d, are meant to keep man in a spiritual plain of being, and center him around those things which are truly important in life.  From giving tzedakah (charity) to the laying of tefillin (phylacteries), to the temple offerings (these days, this is taken up by prayer), these practices teach us not to value possessions over our souls, and to build a bridge and devekut (cleaving) to The Endless One.

-If man is on a spiritual plain of being, and not valuing the material over the ethereal, he is able to connect to his fellow man who may have much more–materialistically speaking–or may have less.  He can also connect better with his fellow man who may have much more, or much less in a spiritual sense.  In this way, there is almost a kind of socialism of thought and practice, more than a socialism (charity) of economics.

-We can conclude through this scenario, that those mitzvoth which appear to be concerned only with the relationship of man and G-d, are also a main driving force to the healthy relationship between man and his fellow.

In a strictly semantic, Torah sense, the sages tell us that the word גר-ger (stranger) refers to one who has converted to judaism, and not to all strangers.  There are, in fact, many different words that refer to somebody who was or is an outsider.  Since Torah was written for, and given to the children of Israel, references in it such as “a man who…” are referring to the children of Israel.  This is not derisive or an expression of superiority in any way.  It is similar to how US law may say–in a theoretical situation– “an immigrant who….” and it would not be singling the immigrant out as being lesser, just as an immigrant.  The law would not specify, “a native born american,” because that would be understood under the language of, “a person who….”  I hope this is making sense.  Sometimes my thoughts make sense inside my head, but not once they come out, so I have read over this many times.

According to this teaching and understanding of torah, the command to “love the ger” is meaning to “love the immigrant to your people, who has taken upon himself the laws of your land.”  This is the love whose command is repeated so many times.

This does not, however, mean that it is ok according to torah to hate others who are not a part of your people (whether born or converted).  There are, in fact, more mitzvoth and halacha (jewish law) that concern the relationship between the jewish people and non-jews.  There would, for example, be no way to be “or l’goyim” (a light to the nations) if hatred of them were permitted.  And to further touch on the “spiritual plane” thought, perhaps there would be no way to be or l’goyim without being on a spiritual plane–if what we are to show the goyim is what G-d truly desires of people: respect and love for the world.

Since I have stated that all of the mitzvoth between man and G-d are also for the benefit of human relationship, then it seems to follow reason that all of the second category are ways in which we express love to G-d through his creations.  As I said above, every person is created b’tzalmo, in his image.  If the category of the first, and the category of the second are in essence expressing love to G-d, then the dictum of Hillel, “that which is hateful to you, do to nobody,” makes more sense in terms of covering the whole torah.

There is something that troubles me a little bit here, however; if we are simply not doing to others “that which is hateful” to us, are we really doing them good?  Maybe this is the same type of thinking as the Latin maxim premum non nocere, “first, do no harm.”  If we are not harming, at least we are not making the world worse, but we are not making it better either.  Once we do something though, if we are not doing harm, we must be engaged in “good.”  We must be performing acts which are ultimately beneficial to all–the main focus of all the mitzvoth!

I’m going to stop writing now, for tonight, because I’m tired and I think I’m just starting to ramble on.  Let me know what you think of this and other blog posts in the comments section below, if you please.  I am new to blogging, and find it to be quite therapeutic to be able to get my thoughts out (so I would probably even blog if only a type of diary), but I would like to be able to morph my style and content into a more interesting version of itself.

Shalom, salaam, forever.

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Is Israel an Apartheid State?

No.

 

What?  You were expecting a bit more, were you?  Why don’t we start with the definition of apartheid.

From Mirriam-Webster:

Apartheid:  racial segregation; specifically :  a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa

Lets assume for the moment, that the reference to South Africa is due to the fact that the term was coined in response to the affairs there, and that apartheid is not something specific to that region.  Apartheid describes, “racial segregation,” including, but I’m sure not limited to, “political and economic discrimination.”

This would suggest, that in an apartheid state, one racial entity would have total control, with the other or all others having no presence in politics, medical care, or economics.

Pushers of the “Israel is an apartheid state” credo often state as well, that Israel is participating in “ethnic cleansing,” and further that “Israel is the same as,” or similar to, “Nazi Germany,” in its relationship with the Arabs there.  Unfortunately for those who levy this argument, nothing could be further from the truth.

What are the facts?  Without a pro-Israel bias, a few of the unadulterated facts of the situation are this:

-Israel is a multi-racial state, in which equal rights is not only the law but is also the norm, in every facet of society.  Sure, individual racism occurs–as it does in all societies–but there is no stance condoning such acts in the government.

-There are Israeli-Arabs.  In fact, 20% of the Israeli population is Arab.

-Israeli-Arabs are present in the Supreme Court, Knesset (Parliament), University (as both students and professors), medical, commerce, and even in the IDF where–although their service is not mandatory–many serve with distinction.

Considering these facts, plus the numerous others, no logical comparison can continue to be found between an apartheid state and Israel.  And in order to conclude that Israel is like Nazi Germany, we would also have to see the round-up and wholesale slaughter of innocent arabs–which is impossible to see unless you have your eyes closed.

But what of the “occupied” territories of “The West Bank and Gaza?”

In 1947, after the arabs rejected the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine proposal of an independent arab state, and an independent jewish state, the region was gripped in civil war.  The Jews were able to turn the tide in their favor, and 250,000 arabs either fled, or were expelled from these territories.  250,000 would be a very significant number, if it weren’t for the fact that between 1922 and 1948 and estimated 300,000 arabs immigrated to these lands.  Why does this make it less significant?  The argument that is levied is that the jews must return the ancestral homeland to the refugees who fled the region during this time.  Considering that the fleeing of arabs was immediately preceded by the immigrating in higher numbers, it is not difficult to believe that they are not able to provide documentation for their ancestral ownership of these lands.

To complicate matters further, in 1948–immediately after Israeli statehood was declared–TransJordan, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq invaded Israel in a war of aggression.  When peace was reached between israel and her aggressors, TransJordan occupied and annexed the territories now known commonly as The West Bank.  Egypt occupied the Gaza strip.  To put it bluntly, the palestinian arabs have never had self-determination in these lands, and the implication that they were ever a sovereign state is simply misinformation.

In 1967, Israel was once again attacked by her neighbors, and once again was able to turn the tide in her favor.  By the time peace was reached between the parties, Israel had fought her way through the Gaza strip and the West Bank, and captured both Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula.  All of the territories that Israel’s opponents call “occupied territories,” are these lands that the state captured in defensive combat against multiple foes.  In an attempt to retain peace with the occupants of these areas, Israel has maintained a military presence there for the last 40 years, in exactly the same way that the U.S. military has retained a presence in every area it has fought.  And yes, those settlers that everybody hears about so much, they are Jews who are building neighborhoods in these territories, but they are building them on lands that are either purchased from arabs, or have no owner.

The next item of business that is often cited as “proof” of “Israeli apartheid,” is the building of the wall separating Israel from “The West Bank.”  The wall was begun in 2003, and the three year period following its beginning was marked by an 84% reduction in suicide attacks from the three years before, resulting in a 79% reduction in fatalities from such attacks.  The wall is inconvenient to many arabs who live on the Israeli side (in places, the wall places parts of the west bank on the Israeli side), but there is no denying that it has been a significant factor in the reduction of such heinous crimes.

I would like to talk about the Boycott Divestiture and Sanction (BDS) movement that is being urged on by so many celebrities, but it is already too late, so I will save that for another post.  I would also have liked to talk about the practice of apartheid in South Africa–where the term was coined–so that there could be an honest comparison, but that will likewise have to wait.

Most opponents of Israel simply repeat that which they’ve heard from people whose opinions they consider valid, even if these people know nothing about what it is they are talking about and are just riding the groundswell.  The next time that somebody tells you that Israel is an apartheid state, think of the jewish patients who receive care from the arab doctors, and the arab patients from jewish doctors; think about the tolerance within the Knesset even for radical arab members who openly call for the destruction of Israel; think about the arabs and jews who work together or adjacent to one another in business, or those who fight side by side in the IDF; or think about the restaurants, bathrooms, theaters, and swimming pools where arabs are welcome alongside jews.  Then think for yourself.  Don’t even be quick to formulate an opinion based upon this short treatise, but don’t condemn a nation you are unfamiliar with on the testimony of those who argue without facts.

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Smartphones, Dumb People?

There is a running battle within me.  Part of me loves having my iPhone and, at times, can’t envision productive life without it.  I have a universe of information at my fingertips!  With the wealth of apps available, many for free or very cheap, I can write job bids for everything from siding repair to a complete remodel, look up real-time prices at Home Depot or Lowes, and study Torah with a tap of a finger.  But here is the problem: with the wealth of apps available, many for free or very cheap, I can write job bids for everything from siding repair to a complete remodel, look up real-time prices at Home Depot or Lowes, and study Torah with a tap of a finger.

Sometimes I really wonder if the trade-off is worth it.  My phone has an eight mega-pixel camera, which totally blows away any camera costing less than $2000 a decade ago.  I can shoot HD video, edit it in-phone, and upload it to the internet within minutes (something I actually did earlier today).  Then again, because of all this, I use my DSLR camera less.  I don’t hesitate to pull out my phone, six days a week, to take a picture of my daughter with her clothes stuffed, and acting like a sumo wrestler.  But do I really enjoy these moments as much as I would if I were focused on experiencing them?  Perhaps, when there was no alternative, we paid a lot more attention and committed more things to memory.  A small example of this may be found in the fact that we don’t memorize phone numbers like we used to.  In fact, this is becoming such a dying art, that the mere idea of knowing phone numbers is preposterous to most modern children!

The dependence upon technology does seem like a necessary evil, especially when you consider how far things have progressed–technologically speaking–in the last few decades.  There is no denying that technology will only be increasing in societal saturation in the years to come.  It is awfully frustrating at times, especially when my kids are home from school and have to use a computer to do their homework.  For many of my classes, I have no choice but to use a computer for my homework.  Sixteen years ago, when I met my wife, I had never even been on the internet before.  I absolutely loved the manual typewriter that I had which typed in cursive!  I would take it here and there, like some kind of antique laptop, hauling with me the paper that I needed, and cussing myself for each typo.  Now, I can talk into my phone, and have it type out everything I say (with reasonable accuracy).  Yet, I come here to write, and write I do.  Perhaps “writing” is being a bit daft, most of the time I seem to just vomit out words through my fingertips.

I have been trying to figure out a way to enjoy the benefits of my smartphone, without suffering from the zombification that comes along with it.  I have considering deleting the Facebook app from my phone, and disabling the email app.  Sometimes though, I wonder why I should bother to keep it at all.  It is great to have the wealth of information available, but it seems like it could have an effect on decreasing wonder–although it doesn’t seem to have done this for me.

Maybe the answer is to become more like the Amish.  Instead of totally spurning technology though, I think I just need to be able to be stronger in terms of resisting the urge to open my email or Facebook when I have a free minute.  Maybe I need to just spend less time with earbuds in.  Perhaps the answer is to become a bit “Jewmish.”  The Amish make up about 2% of the American population, as do Jews.  But the hard part is that whenever I consider increasing my luddite nature, I can’t figure out where the line should be drawn.

I don’t really think many people are reading my blog yet, it has only been a week, so perhaps one day people will be combing through the archives, but if any of you have any suggestions, I’m open to hearing them!

 

Note:  shortest–regular–post yet!!!  Yippee!!

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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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