Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's Everyone Else's Fault©

I have a question: Why aren’t you everything you could be?

I’ll give you a second to come up with your best excuses—although we’ve outsourced most things to China, we are still great at manufacturing excuses. We so often blame our mothers, our circumstances, our height, our looks, our upbringing, our spouses, our society etc., for what we’ve become and who we are. But my question still stands: Why aren’t you everything you could be? Who really is to blame for what we are not? Each one of us has a unique talent. Yet, so many of us have an unrequited dream of what we could have been and what we yet can be. It’s quite unfortunate that while our aspirations have taken us to ambitious heights, our excuses keep us strapped to the TV-room couch or the therapist’s.  Click to subscribe

“Well,” you might ask, “aren’t we entitled to have excuses and reasons for why things just can’t be, after all, we are human?”  For the moment, I’ll curb my tongue and let Adrianne Haslet-Davis answer that question. No, she is not a famous psychologist or philosopher on life, but she should be. She’s not pontificating from the self-inflated towers of academia, but from a hospital bed.  Adrianne Haslet-Davis, is the 32 year-old dancer who lost her foot in the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. She told the Boston Herald, “I can’t let some (expletive) come along and steal my whole life," she said. "So, I’ll dance again. And next year, though I’ve never been a runner, yes, I plan to run the marathon." How can anyone more boldly teach us that when life kicks your teeth in, we bravely must keep on smiling?

An interesting detail stood out for me while watching the news coverage of the bombing. Forensic experts explained that even the impact of such a huge explosion would not erase the DNA evidence of the perpetrators. It dawned on me that even the potency of such a murderous device cannot destroy the fundamentals of who we are.  A true dancer will still be a dancer even without a foot. 

It is precisely because we are humans that we are NOT entitled to excuses. It is because we humans are made in G-d’s image that we have no right to give up on our own potential no matter how hard things are or what we’ve been through. Our soul attaches us to an infinite source where all things are possible while we are still in the land of the living. And just as a bomb can't blow up DNA, we can't let life's hardships blow us apart either. Yet, sadly, many of us cut off our own potential and terrorize ourselves into not doing things that we really can do and should do. The most important and impactful words in history were passed along to humanity, not by a skilled orator, but rather by a man who had a speech impediment: Moses. A true leader will lead even with a stuttering tongue.

Interestingly, the Torah calls Israel the Land of Milk and Honey. Yet, I’m sure the pioneers who got malaria and broke their backs tilling a parched desert had a few other names for it.  Still, 65 years later Israel has become one of the most innovative countries in the world spreading its technologies and medical advancements across the globe. A desert was turned into verdant fields of opportunity. A true land of milk and honey will flourish and bloom even where there is ruin, rock and rubble. 

Perfection my friends is not the starting point, it is mankind’s ever evasive destination. Don’t be afraid to try and get started because you’re not perfect. We are all broken one way or another.  Just recognize your G-dly partner in life and then the only thing you will not be able to do is to manufacture more excuses.                                           Click to subscribe

In this week’s Torah reading we read about priests who are disqualified from serving in the Temple because they had a blemish. But the Zohar teaches that the disabled have greater merit than the rest of us; and for precisely this reason they cannot work in the Temple.1 
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Words to Live By by Aliza Davidovit

It’s time for another confession. I am a logophile. Now don’t go hiding your kids, it’s merely a lover of words. As such, and as a writer, I feel the words’ burdens on my shoulders. Words are so powerful and shape the lives we live. Yet, oddly, words cannot be touched or grabbed--they just evaporate in the air and where they land know one really knows. That is why words need a place to land, that is why those of us who want to remember history or change the future must keep pitching out our words with the assurance that they will eventually be caught by those who can make a difference. To surrender to the silence with the belief that you’ve spoken up enough and are fed up fighting for your beliefs is nothing short of traitorous. Haven’t all our mothers told us at one time or another, “For the hundredth time, I’m telling you blah, blah,….” Why do they do that? Because when you love something, whether it be your child, or America, or the State of Israel, or freedom, or the Constitution, you never stop talking.

Indeed, there are days after heated moments in the blogosphere that we log off and in Glenn-Beck fashion say, “Ah, useless. I’m just arguing with idiots.” I have news for you, God felt the same way too speaking to his stiff-necked people. But, not shockingly, the Almighty was very wise and thus said to the Israelites: “And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be ON your heart.” He didn’t say IN. One cannot ram things into a person’s heart for it will only be met with resistance. But if the words are placed upon our porous hearts and reiterated, sooner or later they will sink in. However, though truthful words need a place to land, they are not destined to have a resting place. They must keep moving. And so after they are placed on our hearts, God further instructs, “You shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Further it says, “Teach it to the children of Israel. PUT IT IN THEIR MOUTHS.”
Thus, as I wrote last week, preaching to the choir is also very important because sometimes our hearts know the truth but or mouths can’t articulate the arguments. We lack the words because those who are supposed to teach us are falling short and we ourselves are reluctant students. So we go hot-headed into battle with empty guns.

Have you ever seen the movie Fahrenheit 451? In it, books are outlawed and burned and anyone caught having a book is imprisoned. Yet there is a “resistance” group called the Book People who live in the woods and each commits a book they've chosen to memory. In essence, they become the books. “It just so happened that a man here and a man there loved some book. And rather than lose it, he learned it.” And they continually recite the book they know to a younger person so that the book will live on. But after committing it to memory, they too burn their books because they don’t want anyone taking anything away from them. It reminded me very much of how Judaism survived despite the endless persecution of Jews and attempts to blot them out. Judaism survived because of its focus on teaching its history and religion to its children-- “it put [the words] in their mouths”--so that when the Nazis and others burned their holy books and tried to destroy the religion, they could not because God’s words live in perpetuity.

It’s taught that when Moses, upon seeing the Golden Calf, threw down and destroyed the first set of tablets containing the Ten Commandments, the stones crashed, but all the letters and words flew back up to heaven. You see nothing really is written in stone because when the stone crumbles, when the Constitution is flouted, when the media is complicit, when the government censors, what happens to the words we counted on? They are still there, because truth never dies unless it dies with us. I remember seeing a book about a former Canadian prime minister entitled, “What Trudeau Did for Canada.” When you opened up the book, all the pages were blank. When the time comes for history to write our book, “What They Did for America and Israel,” will our pages be blank too? Or will we go down to death in argument and leave mankind with words to live by.
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Put Up--But Don’t Shut Up!©

Mothers can really be annoying. They’re always repeating themselves. Haven’t all our mothers told us at one time or another, “For the hundredth time, I’m telling you blah, blah, blah….” Why do they do that? Just tell me once and stop already! But the very simple answer is that when you love something or someone, whether it is your child, or America, or the State of Israel, or freedom, or the Constitution, you never stop talking. To surrender to the silence with the belief that you’ve spoken up enough and are fed up is nothing short of traitorous and gross negligence. 

In this week’s Bible reading and indeed throughout the entire Five Books of Moses, over and over again we see the phrase, “And G-d told Moses speak to the children of Israel….” Why the repetition of that sentence? Why didn’t G-d just say, “Do everything I command you in My Book and don’t make me tell you twice"? Maybe because G-d knows that words just evaporate into the air and where they land no one really knows. G-d’s children are like ALL children, they are stiff-necked, stubborn and often hard of hearing, and one can never know when instructive, advising and beneficial words will sink in.

The Almighty said to the Israelites: “And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be ON your heart.” He didn’t say IN. For things cannot be rammed into a person’s heart since that approach will only be met with resistance. But if the words are placed upon our porous hearts and minds, and reiterated, sooner or later they will penetrate. 

Yet G-d's words are a little different than the teachings we receive from our parents which we internalize and use as needed. Although all words need a place to land for them to be of use, G-d's words are not destined to have an eternal resting place. Like a nutrient-rich spring, they must keep moving, flowing, nourishing human consciousness and incising their mark. Convictions and truth are rather useless if they live only in our hearts but not on our tongues. And so G-d commands, "Teach the children of Israel. PUT IT IN THEIR MOUTHS." For it is taught that the tongue can be mightier and more effective than a sword.

But honestly and practically speaking, for how long can a person keep talking to the walls when others are just hellbent on running with scissors? After many vocal initiatives as well as email and letter campaigns which I undertook to fight for Israel and America, I have walked away very disheartened saying, “I’m done”; “I’m fed up”; "Never again." The people I’m looking out for don’t cooperate or participate, and the people I aim to persuade are impenetrable or just plain idiots. Maybe it’s time to worry more about my own back and to stop trying to save the collective spine of my beloved nations. But then I think about the role models I admire most, mothers and G-d, and they have both taught me a simple truth and a lifelong lesson: When you love, you never stop talking!
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I’ve Got You Babe: Obama, Israel and the Next Holocaust by Aliza Davidovit

Ask 100 people what the most non-kosher animal is and 100 people will tell you a pig. But the truth is that tigers, dogs, horses, camels and so many other four-legged friends are all equally on the “Do Not Eat Diet” for Jews.

So how did the poor pink pig earn such infamy? For the simple reason that it is a hypocrite. There are two essential traits that make an animal kosher: It has to have split hooves and, in terms of its digestion process, it must chew its own cud. Swine posses only one of these two characteristics, which thus renders them not sandwich worthy for Jews. On the outside they showoff their split hooves as if to boast, “Look I’m kosher,” but what’s really going on is another story. A pig never shows its true colors and so you don’t really know who or what you are dealing with and can be charmed into taking a figurative bite. I can’t help but think of the movie Babe, which was about a lovable little pig who wants to be a sheepdog. He is very successful at coaxing the sheep into submission and when asked how he did it, he replied, “I asked them and they did it. I just asked them nicely.”

Babe the pig might have something there. As Marxist philosopher George Sorel advocated, the masses can be united into a social force through nice sounding slogans and myths. Indeed, history has shown us how people have been bamboozled by slogans when they were “asked nicely” to join a cause. As Hitler himself said, “The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force.” As such, over the centuries, the world’s greatest dictators and villains offered the unemployed and hungry “sheep” a dream to chew on, and they gobbled it up as if it was bread.

Today, as we contemplate Holocaust Remembrance Day, I can’t help but ask myself as I do every year, how did it actually get to the point where it was okay to send a human being into a gas chamber and turn a person into a lampshade? Such emotional and moral callousness could not have happened overnight. Certainly, it was built up.

I’ve heard it echoed through the years, “We shall never forget,” but I’m not so sure we are remembering the most important part. The number 6 million and the word Holocaust will likely never be forgotten. But what is even more important to remember is how we got there. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935, which defined exactly who a Jew was, were awful, but the tragedy didn’t begin there. It was incremental. First Jews weren’t allowed in parks, then restaurants, then universities, then into certain professions. Then Jewish businesses were boycotted, Jews could no longer be citizens and Germans were prohibited from interbreeding or marrying a Jew, etc. Every time the Jews thought it couldn’t get worse, it did…as it always does. A rolling ball doesn’t stop midway down the hill unless it is stopped. Yes, today we mourn the victims, but we must also mourn the intermediary steps which went unchallenged and allowed the final carnage to ensue.

Today, another set of incremental steps are taking place that are harbingers of what may be another destructive episode in Jewish history. Readers, I do not like what I’m seeing from Washington vis-a-vis Israel: I do not like it that Israel is being told where Jews can and cannot live in their own homeland; I do not like the path Obama’s nuclear agenda is taking compromising both America’s and Israel’s security; I do not like that Obama has never visited the Jewish State since he’s been President while making time to visit Muslim countries; I do not like it that Obama is considering imposing his own take-it-or-leave-it peace plan; I don’t like that Obama reportedly denied entry into the United States of an Israeli nuclear scientist who works on the Dimona reactor; I do not like it that Obama has refused to approve any of Israel's military requests since he entered office in January 2009. The ball is picking up speed.

My friends, when Obama was running for office he showed us his kosher-style hooves. When he visited Sderot in ’08 he said, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughter sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same.” When he spoke pre-presidency at AIPAC, he supported an undivided Jerusalem.” But now, my friends, it is apparent that he may have kosher hooves, but he doesn’t chew his own cud and those who supported him are being left to eat crow.

Every single day that we remain silent the chasm grows and the shadow gets darker not only over the Jewish State but over all that this great country stands for. If we do not, with the full force of our abilities, resist this “gathering storm,” then I advise we change the slogan from “we will never forget” to “we will never learn.” Maybe in the end we are all just sheep pulling the wool over our own eyes while the little piggies go “ha, ha, ha” all the way home.
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Friday, April 12, 2013

Oh No, My Expiration Date is Looming!©

We’ve all heard people say it, and we all say it ourselves too: “I’m not what I used to be.” Some of us were better looking long ago, had more money, more prestigious jobs, exercised with more vigor, etc. It is no secret that time wages a war of attrition against us mere mortals and slowly, but ever so surely, like a veritable Indian giver, it takes away all the gifts it once gave us. Observing life is like watching the battery bars on a cell phone. Slowly, slowly we watch the life force draining away.  And we are always far from the charger just when we need it most.

Yes, too often I hear that negative sentence, “I’m not what I used to be.” And I wonder why we tend to mourn over what was instead of celebrating what can be? Maybe it’s because we value and idolize the wrong things. I’m of the strong opinion that there is only one thing in life that leaves us not "less than we used to be," but rather greater than what we ever were, and that is G-d's laws. 

Countries and people only decline when they attach themselves to false gods, when they spurn morality and vacate religion from their lives and when they unplug themselves from the ONE true "charger": G-d.  I have never heard a Torah scholar complain that he is upset that he is not as unlearned as he used to be or that he longs for the days when he had less good deeds under his belt. He is glad that he is not what he used to be because now he is even better.

One of my Torah teachers, Esther Jungreis, told me she never took a vacation her whole life because she said you only grow tired when you're running from something, not when you are running for something. Now in her elderly years, she is still running around the world teaching Torah and doing mitzvahs.
We can learn from the story of Esau how he was tired, even in his youth, because he was always pursuing the next big thing, going for the next big kill. He attached himself to this world alone and never attached himself to a spiritual outlet. He held Kurt Cobain's suicidal philosophy that, "It's better to burn out than to fade away." And he did.

Every second in all of our lives we are continuously diminishing unless we are bringing light to the world and enriching not only our own souls but the universal soul. When G-d is our “charger” we don’t burn out and fade away; we become like the burning bush that is not consumed. 

For 49 days, from Passover to Shavuot, Jews are now counting the omer and during this time we are obligated to work on ourselves to become better human beings more devoted and devout; we should be committed to becoming  NOT “what we used to be” but rather what we never were  and all that we were really meant to be!
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Here's a Flower for Your Dead by Aliza Davidovit

Airtime is very expensive and TV ratings count for everything, so I questioned why Glenn Beck repeats himself so much. He seems to be preaching to the choir over and over again. But it became clear to me that if Beck is still breaking our heads with a singular message, it is because most of us still remain simply an audience and have not yet become “soldiers” of change. Yes, our awareness as a nation has increased, but from aggravating headline to aggravating headline we continue to hit the snooze button and slumber through the perilous changes that our marking our times.

How many of you have been writing letters to your congressman and senators? How many have called the White House hotline to voice your opinion? How many have sought out the 24 senators who did NOT sign the letter addressed to Obama expressing their support for Israel? How many thanked the 76 who did?

You make a difference. In fact, you may make all the difference. Yes you can! There is always the straw that breaks the camel’s back. As a journalist I can tell you that many of these powerful politicians are insecure individuals who went into public life to overcome childhood rejection or feelings of low self-esteem. They want to be liked, and they want to be liked by you. It is vitally important for you to get involved and fight for what you believe in. Tell them they are wrong. Take Domino's Pizza off your speed dial and put the White House instead. Call them every day until they deliver. Both America and Israel are running out of tomorrows.

It is a Godly coincidence that today, Remembrance Day in Israel, when tribute is paid to Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, coincides with this week’s biblical portion which decrees: “Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother” (Leviticus19:16). This command is not just telling us to save someone whose life is being threatened, but also not to stand idly by the blood which has already been spilled. Do not let those who have died have done so in vain. Do not let them die all over again by letting bloody history repeat itself.

Great American heroes have fought and died for this land of liberty, the greatest nation in the world. And great Jewish heroes, including the prime minister's own brother, have fought and died “to be a free people in their own land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.” Do we now stand idly by their blood while graver threats loom and let Glenn Beck and his ilk try and save the world alone? He cannot do it alone. Netanyahu cannot do it alone. Ahmadinejad cannot do it alone. Obama cannot do it alone. We are all complicit in how things evolve. Your silence empowers the threats against us and your voices, boycotts, and protests crumble their base. America and Israel are closely tied at the soul in their fight for freedom, democracy, justice and decency. We need each other. But as America’s soul is being outsourced to the United Nations and renovated for international and Islamic approbation, Israel’s corporeal welfare is in jeopardy. Those who do anything less than fight back against Obama’s domestic policies are committing national suicide and those who remain silent on his Middle East policies are standing idly by while their brother’s blood is shed.

I was happy to learn that thousands of people have recently sent Netanyahu yellow roses to show their support for him and Israel, but I personally prefer to count the graveside daisies because they tell us all we really need to know.
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