It was with a great of amusement and fun that I read
you recent column "How Jewish values enrich the
Earth." I don't imagine that worldly matters (you
know, history & all that) much concern a godly man
like yourself, but here are a few notes on it. I hope
you're not insulted, as my purpose was not that:
The Jewish people were entrusted by God with
Or so say some Jews. I myself haven't heard from God
on this yet.
No nation in the history of the world has had a
more significant and positive impact on human
development than the Jews.
Well, the Jews didn't come up with democracy, modern
nation civil administration, the application of the
ballot, the importance of freedom of thought &
expression, secular governance, the scientific
approach, the importance of facts over mere opinions,
or hot cakes, for that matter...
But why does America need Jewish values?
Because America has always needed everything it
could get, and usually put it to good use, I imagine.
Thomas Jefferson is the intellectual father of
American liberty, having put pen to paper and
expressed our yearning for freedom in this
nation’s founding document. In The Declaration
of Independence he famously says that America
was founded for ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ Yet,
for all the wealth this country has generated it
has not found the contentment it seeks. America
has some of the highest rates of depression in
Jewish psychiatrists? But note that even psychiatrists tell us
that depression is something we must work through.
You can’t pursue happiness. You can’t chase it
like it a rabbit. You can’t run after it like a
kite. Rather, happiness is the natural
by-product of a purpose-lived existence.
Every life has its purpose, rabbi (that's "we all have
our purpose"). It doesn't have to be a world-shaking
purpose. Stamp collecting will do. Trouble comes when
others belittle our purpose, then Hitler, Napoleon, Lenin...
If your life’s plate is filled with meaning and
you feel directional and other-person-focused,
then the organic outgrowth of that experience is
happiness. But trying to pursue happiness is
like trying to fall asleep. The harder you try
the more elusive it is.
I and others've said it often: "You can't acquire
happiness, you just have to BE happy."
The Jewish people were entrusted by God with
awesome purpose. No nation in the history of the
world has had a more significant and positive
impact on human development than the Jews.
I'd vote for the Greeks (exactly like the pre-Jesus
Hebrews did, much to the displeasure of the ancient
Jewish leaders). History, rabbi, history!
While the globe was still polytheistic,
worshipping many Gods, the Jews offered that
from the many there could be only One.
The Egyptians beat them to it (and Moses got it from
them, as he too was Egyptian and then taught the Jews
the militant monotheism of his great hero Akhenaten,
according to Ezra and the Babylonian Bible-writers).
Before Moses the Hebrews were tolerant monotheists
(which is how it is for most polytheists everywhere).
Disseminating the belief in the single,
indivisible, unified God – what we declare
thrice daily in our holiest prayer, the Shema –
meant that men and women don’t stem from Zeus
and Hera, Jupiter and Juno.
You mean we evolved!? I didn't know Darwin was Jewish!
Rather, since both genders come from one source
there exists the possibility that male and
female might love each other, build a family,
and raise children who feel cherished. Because
there is only One God there exists the
probability that nations will one day live
together in harmony in peace rather than forever
battle each other for dominion and conquest.
if "we of The One God" manage to conquer "them" and
force them to our belief, of course. But this is going
to take time, and lots & lots of corpses. Although God
is patient, and generous (especially with our blood).
Because there is only One God there exists the
hope that even within ourselves we will find
inner peace in the reconciliation of intelligence
and emotion, conviction and compromise, reason
Also because there is but one way to sit on a chair.
We live in a deterministic reality. Does this mean
that it is God's law and there is no free will,
diminishing men. Or that it is every man's law(s) and
that it is God who is thereby diminished?
The Jews gave the world the Ten Commandments,
the most important moral code of all time.
Also the most rightfully ignored. Who obeys them but
zealots who can't then contribute to humanity BECAUSE
they do?! "Thou shall not kill" ... "--whom?" Might as
well disarm the American Army; or give cops only guns,
but not bullets, so they can just bluff their way.
In a debate I had with Christopher Hitchens at
the 92nd St. Y I was told, in essence, that the
Jews were simplistic. They had to hear from God
not to murder or steal? Didn’t they know these
things on their own?
I know ALL criminals have heard this from God, and yet
they steal!!! Something's not right here, rabbi.
And yet, we have practiced righteousness
throughout our history precisely because we live
by a divinely ordained, rather than man-made,
morality. Other peoples also have laws against
murder. But they are human creations and are
thus subject to human interpretation and
Well, it's a good thing there are no Jewish murderers!
Or, is it that there are fewer? I'd definitely look into
this if I were you. Rabbi. [Just as there are countless
immoral perverts among the self-appointed "superiorly
moral" Roman Catholic priesthood... there are also
thieves & robbers, rapists, racist hate-mongers (and
yes), murders among the self-appointed "morally superior"
rabbis too. Never forget, Rabbi, that an ancient blood-
thirsty ape still snores within ALL OF US, ready to wake
at but the slightest whiff of the jungle.]
The Nazis believed that you could not murder
human beings. But they said the Jews were vermin
and could thus be exterminated with poison gas.
They were all too human, the dears, just like
everybody else: When a law prohibits something you
want, look for another law that allows it--It's bound
to be there: ALL the laws were made by men, and thus
men know the whys of laws. Who hath held up a candle
over God's desk while He wrote His Laws?
But our laws against murder come from God
That's okay for God: He doesn't murder anyone: Anyone
he murders, we later adjudicate to have been executed
quite legally by an Act of God. It's a conspiracy!
They are not ours to manipulate.
I'm sorry, but... who exactly ordered the Jews to stop
observing the Lamb of God sacrifice (which GOD
commands the Jews to observe in the Torah in painful
detail & codifications dictated to Moses BY GOD)? I
don't remember when GOD told the Jews to stop the
observance. Do you? Yes: "The rabbis ordered this
observance stopped after the destruction of the temple
because communal observance of it became impossible."
But, didn't I say GOD ordered MOSES to observe it in
the Torah? Doesn't that mean the Jews were observing
this for years & years & years before the construction
of the 1st Temple? What has the temple(s) to do with
obeying GOD's dictates on this?!? Can mere men (rabbis
by another name) so off-the-cuff revoke God's Torah
Commandments, you say? And you're okay with that, then,
rabbi, provided the men are (say, ultra-Orthodox?) rabbis?
Hence, Israel, the Jewish state, behaves
morally, risking the lives of its soldiers on a
daily basis to minimize civilian casualties,
because every Jewish soldier is taught that a
Palestinian child’s life is created equally in
the image of God as a Jewish child’s life. Our
blood is no redder than theirs and we must do
our utmost to protect all life while justifiably
insisting on our right to self-defense.
And like most everybody else, sometimes they succeed
better than at some other times. Ewh!
WE ALSO bequeathed the world unique values, and
I don’t just mean a love for learning, charity,
and community. I also mean our insistence on
destiny over the Greek emphasis on fate. The
latter is a disempowering belief which implies
that our future is scripted in the stars. We
have no choice. The former, however, insists
that God’s promise of a glorious future that can
be captured with righteous action is always
within our reach.
But, as we live in a deterministic reality, the Greeks
were right, the Jews... self-deluded. Ewh! Doesn't
change anything: We all delude ourselves, no matter
what the realities. [The REAL realities.]
We gave the world the idea of redemption over
the Christian emphasis on salvation.
How is the Christian salvation not through personal
redemption?!?!? Somebody's playing with words here.
The latter emphasizes an individual soul’s quest
to enter heaven. But the former insists that
where we personally go does not much matter.
How is Jewish redemption not like Christian salvation:
One guy's given potatoes, another's given tomatoes. In
my book that's the same give & take. Just different
vegetables. Give me an instance where our Good is
punished by God & then we're talking turkey here.
It’s rather our contribution to the lives of
others that is all-important. And we gave the
world the idea of marriage as a holy sacrament,
What?! Stone-age people were married by civil
clerks?!? How'd they write down their vows? Oh, yeah,
... captured in the Bible’s first story of God
bringing together Adam and Eve as husband and
Rabbi, if you study history too rather than just Torah, I
believe you will find that the fairytale of Adam & Eve
precedes Abraham by many decades, maybe even
centuries. (Did I mention the Babylonian Bible scribes?)
Other nations celebrate brute masculine
aggressiveness, which is why the Greeks taught
of Achilles, the Spartans King Leonidas, and the
Romans Caesar and Augustus.
Also it could have been that these were real historical
characters (maybe even Achilles, as was Hercules, then
later elevated past his mere humanity).
But the Jews gave the world Abraham who is told
by God to listen to his wife Sara.
Was that really the most important thing God said to
Abraham? I give my vote to the story of Issac's
sacrifice: There God tells Abraham to STOP human
sacrifice--It's one of the first instances of a people
stopping sacrificing human beings to their God (a
practice still in vogue even today--as when the only
way Muslims have of going straight to Paradise is to
die while murdering non-Muslims... innocents, women,
children, the old). That is truly something which to
this day elevates the Jews above all their neighbors.
We believe that masculine aggression must be
tempered by feminine nurturing.
I don't believe you've studied the soap operas of Zeus
and Hera, Jupiter and Juno in depth: These were really
demanding wives and no Jewish mother ever smothered
her children more than did they. Read, rabbi, read!
Blind masculine ambition must be softened by
feminine warmth. Hence, the Jews are a gentle
nation, renowned for their compassion and
Hubris! O transparent lies! [Why anybody bothers
telling people they talk to bunnies is beyond me!]
Stick to the truth (to the facts), rabbi, for it's remarkable
enough: The Jews are no different than all the other
humans out there. [Remember the old European saying:
"Here comes the Jew!" rabbi...?] Rationalize it as you
will, but across history many Jews have lent themselves
to as many shady practices as have non-Jews. It's life.
Jews are, thank God, prosperous in America, but
not because we are smarter or better than anyone
else. We are not. The Bible is clear in
Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding.”
That's certainly not very democratic of the Bible! I,
not unlike Science, Reason, Logic, would advise everyone
to trust exactly in the opposite: "Never trust in what
anyone says above trusting in your own understanding!"
(This is, "Trust but verify" by another door.) Trust not
men's stories but the facts, rabbi, just the facts.
It is not intelligence that leads to prosperity
Also a good gimmick wouldn't hurt.
Jewish values emphasize the power of choice and
thus personal accountability,
And so do the values of EVERY other human culture &
society, or which one of them excuses bad behavior?
Well, all of them, but that includes the Jewish one too.
But, rabbi, didn't you advice exactly the opposite
just a couple of sentences ago? You know, "lean not on
your own understanding" & that rot?
... a curiosity for life and thus a love of
learning, the sanctity of the Sabbath and thus
the prioritization of family and community over
possessions and wealth.
Yes, I can see the need for you rabbis in Jewish life.
With such glorious teachings allied to such a
powerful willingness to sacrifice in the name of
these cherished values, it is no wonder that the
Jews have had such positive and lasting impact.
I agree that Jews have had that "positive and lasting
impact." But I am hard put to pick it out of the really
really rotten and horrid impact that "humans" have had
--in other words, sometimes I wonder had not the world
of men been so reprehensible, whether the Jews would
even be considered good people at all (in isolation). Do u?
John Adams, our second President, expressed it
eloquently: “I will insist the Hebrews have
[contributed] more to civilize men than any
other nation… They are the most glorious nation
that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and
their empire were but a bubble in comparison to
Well, for a man who was such a crucial linchpin of
democracy, Adams sure seems to have forgotten the
importance of the Greeks quickly enough! Can such a
man's opinion be so casually trusted, I wonder.
They have given religion to three-quarters of
the globe and have influenced the affairs of
mankind more and more happily than any other
nation, ancient or modern.”
I don't know that spreading superstition should be
considered a virtue, but I will grant that there are
far, far worst systems of superstition.
America’s greatest writer, Mark Twain, added
this: “The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the
Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and
splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed
away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made
a vast noise, and they are gone; other people
have sprung up and held their torch high for a
time, but it burned out, and they sit in
twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them
all, beat them all, and is now what he always
was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of
age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of
his energies, no dulling of his alert and
aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the
Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What
is the secret of his immortality?”
And yet the Native American lives on! And the Chinese,
and about 10,000 other Hindu civilizations thousands
of years older than the Jews' ...
I agree that Twain was America's best writer. But he
also believed Shakespeare was too illiterate to have
written his own works. Ewh! (And he had trouble riding
a bicycle. About which he wrote hilariously.)
Winston Churchill, the twentieth century’s
greatest statesman, said, “Some people like the
Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man
can deny the fact that they are, beyond any
question, the most formidable and the most
remarkable race which has appeared in the
At least Winston knew to put the emphasis on race
rather than on culture or mere mannerisms. I agree
with him, as the Jews have always been a sampling of
the greater mankind, a coming together of different
peoples & races to form one nation, in fact... the only
successful case of true practical multiculturalism that
has ever been or can be: all coming together to form One.
And Paul Johnson, the noted British historian,
wrote, “To [the Jews] we owe the idea of
equality before the law, both divine and human;
of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the
human person; of the individual conscience and
so a personal redemption; of collective
conscience and so of social responsibility; of
peace as an abstract ideal and love as the
foundation of justice, and many other items
which constitute the basic moral furniture of
the human mind. Without the Jews it might have
been a much emptier place.”
All these concepts are Greeks. Hell, even the Jews got
them from the Greeks. (Rabbi, you'd do well to study
history more, if Torah no less.) And, all of them
Greek, Jewish, or Puerto Rican (concepts) are utterly
meaningless in practice: In human practice always the
one finger outweighs all the laws, unfortunately. But
that will NEVER change, or we must set up a Computer's
lines-of-code as eternal dictator over us, never again to
take into consideration whatever novel needs we may
give birth to. While it is that novelty, rabbi, that forever
unquenchable unpredictable range of our desires which is
the true cherished essence of our real humanity.
Rabbi Shmuley: I pray you do not object to my fair use
of your article, as it was the only way I had to fully answer
your points while being textually faithful to yours. I, of
course, could have no objections to your returning the favor.
S D Rodrian
SUNDRY OTHER S D Rodrian NOTES:
An Open Letter To President Obama On The Trayvon Martin Affair.
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