Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Being Jewish is a Reality, Not a Philosophy

I know you will find this shocking, but I often get accused of being too blunt.  Ok, maybe shocking is not the right word; how about: Thank you, Captain Obvious.  Still, I don't think that what I say should be so contentious or shocking.  In particular, I get a particularly strong negative reaction to my comments regarding non-Torah religions that brand themselves with the adjective "jewish".  I think after spending a couple of days in San Francisco, however, I have a better feel for the source of their animosity.

To whit: the American/Western outlook is that religion is a bunch of rules based on tried and true traditions and reactions to life situations.  Religions that have been around for a while have the advantage of weathering many different situations and challenges, therefore even their bits that have no apparent logic are worth following because they have a history and it's at least comforting to have family and national traditions.  Of course, if that is the case, I have no business being so negative about other religions and philosophies.  According to that point of view, every religion has some value and also has lots of stuff that may or may not be right for an individual.  You do your thing and I'll do mine.

That point of view is wrong when it comes to the Torah.  I am no more embarrassed or shy about saying that than I would be embarrassed or shy to say that pyramid or crystal "power" is a bunch of hooey.  If you want to live a long, healthy life, you better pay attention to medical and nutritional counsel.  We don't take antibiotics for infections because its a nice tradition, and we don't keep Torah and mitzvos because its a nice tradition.  We take antibiotics for infections because infections are real and antibiotics really kill them.  We keep Torah and mitzvos because our souls are real and a Jew's soul can only be nourished by Torah and mitzvos.  Witch doctors whatnot who claim to be able to cure cancer by shaking their rattles and mumbling arcane phrases are bad.  People who call themselves doctors with degrees from institutions that they created themselves and amid strident disapproval of the medical establishment are evil.  Priests and preachers are bad, people who make up their own rules but call themselves "rabbis" are ....


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…