Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Do we have the Torah yet?

What do we have?

A bunch of guys with straggly beards swaying back and forth and debating chakiros in Chetzi Shiur or Hezek Reiyah. Do they know and investigate G-d's Word or the concept and beauty of revelation?

People who judge other people and potential shidduchim based on the size/style of their (minhag) head-covering or their shirt-color (!) and not their (Deorayta, very serious) middos of love, warmth, friendliness, generosity and care for others.

Supposedly G-d fearing businessmen for whom making a fast buck unethically or cheating on your tax forms is not only acceptable, but it is positively a chiyuv.

Guys that would run a mile and pay a fortune to see the latest film, or a glimpse of Hollywood's hottest property (Natalie P. you know you are for me!), but to spend time studying or contemplating G-d's earth or Book is too much for them.

Bans being distributed left and right against people who dare to raise questions, to argue, to debate and even to doubt. Where is the encouragement? The free-spirited honest debate that will refine for us a greater appreciation of G-d's emes?

Wonderful, wholehearted servants of Hashem who are looked down upon because they are not married. These beautiful tortured souls are crying out for support.

Thousands of weighty tomes and severe lectures about the finest minutae of Halachot, many of which are not applicable nowadays, yet minimal discussion of connection, chosenness, spiritual creativity and the Big Man Himself (not you Barry Bonds!).

Let us take this time out to appreciate our purpose here, the fact that we have many forms of revelation and numerous valid ways of connecting to Him and His word and implementing it in our lives.

I don't think we have the Torah yet. Do you?


Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Half-Baked man who wouldn't listen - a short story

Eugene Steadman was a dour, staid, punctual guy. In his town, people didn't say "it's reliable as clockwork", they grew to say "it's reliable as Steadman". He liked his routine and he stuck to it.

Every morning he would come downstairs and settle himself down at the kitchen table, take his time reading through the financial news and sip on his black coffee, one sugar. After waving his kids off to school, he would pick up his briefcase at 9.27 precisely and begin the 33 minute walk to work. He would nod at the same people as he trotted by, on his way to his job as a bookeeper in the local accountancy firm. At 3pm on the dot, he would pick up his briefcase and head off home, using the same route and nodding to the same people, Truman Burbank-esque. There wasn't too much bookeeping work to be done at this small town and he could leave the same time every day.

Due to some quirk of nature, the sun was very strong in Steadman's town. Maybe there was a hole in the ozone, and his skin was especially sensitive. The right side of Eugene's face would get the sun on the way North to work, and the right side would get the sun on his way home South in the afternoon.

Over the course of a number of years, Steadman's skin started to show the effects of his walk in the sun every day. The ride side of his face became blotchy, mottled, patchy. It turned pink, red, streaks of brown. The left side of his face remained the same old pasty white Steadman color. The local kids, who never failed to be cruel when the opportunity arose, would laugh at him and threw stones at him. He accumulated many nicknames, including splotchy, half-face, the joker. But Eugene carried on walking.

His wife pleaded with him to change his routine. Eugene Jr. begged him to do something different, he was also suffering the insults in school - "splotchy junior" and "little joker" particularly inflamed him. They brought in doctors and dermatologists to explain to him the dangers involved, psychologists and psychoanalysts to examine his deep-seated need for routine and his stubborness to stick to his routine, but to no avail. He wouldn't listen. Eugene kept on walking the same route to work, every day.

Eugene passed away after 30 years of work. Those seated in the funeral parlor could only see the left-side of his face, but they all knew that the right was horrific, burnt, scarred.

Which one of us isn't Eugene?


Friday, May 19, 2006

My faith in Blogging restored

I have become jaded recently, overwhelmed by the number of blogs out there. Swamped by the sheer mass, is there any point any more? I continued to write, mainly for myself, partially because I believe I still have something to say and partially for my ego, that there are people out there who still read my words.

And then Anonymookie posted here, reinforcing my faith that I should continue to throw my thoughts and ideas out there, to comment, to post, to speak my mind. Who knows what may come of it, maybe I can continue to have a small effect on the universe?

Maybe when I get to the Beis Din Shel Maalah and the prosecuting angels drag in those huge sacks of sins, brimming to the top with large, heaving nasty transgressions, maybe then some of my words here can come to defend me, can show how I have also had a positive influence on people with whom I would never normally have had a chance to speak to in regular life.

If by the clak-claking of my fingers on my keyboard I can have unseen effects somewhere else across the globe, then let Chaos theory be my guide, and let my words continue to flow from my keyboard into your hearts, Amen.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's wrong with "The Apprentice"?

Well, apart from the fact that I am always concerned that whatever nests in the Donald's hair will wake up, sprout wings and fly away, there is plenty wrong. I mean it.

The show is fascinating, an insight to a world many out there have little or no connection with. A world of might means right, money talks, power is the answer.

There have been occasions when the Donald has been on the verge of evicting someone, but that person effectively argues back and places the blame on someone else, who gets the proverbial boot.

As a believing G-d fearing Jew (well, most of the time) I hope I can contribute my two cents. I can stand up and say "Zeh lo haderech", this is not the way. We do not want to reward aggressiveness, pushiness, back-stabbing. We shouldn't be working for our asset-strippers, our insurance companies, Big Tobacco and their lackeys.

If the halachos of Onaah, Hasagas Gevul, and the rest of Choshen Mishpat have taught me anything (and they probably haven't), it's that this is not how we want society to function. Those of us who care, need to say no. We need to walk away from the temptations, the good money earned the wrong way. There is a better way, a godly way, a way to contribute to society and earn a living without trampling on people, ruining their lives, stabbing rivals in the back.

There must be. So help me G-d. We can't let the Donald win.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tell yourselves a story tonight

A story that really begins way back when in the mists of time. But we pick it up a couple of hundred years ago, when the pupils of the Vilna Gaon and also ironically enough the pupils of the Besht were sent to live in a dusty land, far away from civilization, a land that lived on as a dream in the hearts of a few.

Then came a couple of Rabbis, Kalisher and Alkalai, who promoted that dream. A journalist, estranged from his Jewish roots, took up the baton after being horrified by the Dreyfuss affair. He worked tirelessly to bring about this crazy, wacky, outlandish idea.

Hundreds of thousands followed, tilling the soil, working the lands, like in Nechemiah's time, with one hand on the plow and one hand on the gun. Faced by malaria, malnutrition and a hostile enemy, they planted seeds, the fruits of which we are reaping today, as per Choni Hameagel's carob-planting friend.

Many gave up their lives, grieving over lost sons and daughters who died for this deserted desert. But the marshes and wastelands began to sprout. It was ready to receive the weary, starved remnants of great Jewish communities across Europe, tattered and torn on the inside and out. They were accepted with open arms and running battles were fought with the British over every lost soul.

Then another miracle occured 58 years ago tonight. For the first time in 2000 years G-d had seen fit to grant the Jews a State, a Homeland, soveriegnty over the ancient land where Abraham walked, where Moses dreamed of going and where King David ruled. Since then, it has been plagued with many things, but more than anything else it is plagued with miracles.

Its survival against all the odds, against hundreds of millions of armed enemies, desperate to destroy it. It flourished and grew beyond anyone's wildest dreams. It became a phenomenal place, technologically advanced, absorbing millions of immigrants, able to rightfully hold its head up high amongst the nations, proudly proclaiming itself to be a success.

Tell yourselves this story tonight, and believe in miracles because they do happen.