Posts Tagged ‘POLITICS’

Hating and Hate Speech

May 3, 2008

The article below contains an excellent discussion of hating and what it does to us. It relates to this week’s Torah reading.

It’s important especially now in the political season. People become attached to their candidates in an emotional way. And in the heat of battle they come to despise the other candidates and the people who support them. Besides the obvious damage to our psyche and souls, which is adequately discussed in the article, there is another more practical negative consequence that hurts all of us.

Fear and Hating is the tool of politicians. It distracts us from morality and from exercising independent judgment based upon real facts, rather than sound bites that trigger our emotional “hate” response. The fact is that none of really know what any of the candidates will do once in office. We don’t even know what emergencies they will confront. Thus having such iron-clad convictions that we exclude everything contrary to the views of “our” candidate, deprives us all of resources we need in a complicated and difficult world.

My basic rule of thumb when judging a candidate is whether he or she provokes me to think, ponder, and wonder how things could be better. I’m looking for someone who understands the nuances and complexities of the world and trusts me to consider the possibilities. The corollary is that a candidate who engages in attacks, in the politics of fear and hate, is one who cannot be trusted to do anything right for me. 

The fact that attack politics works is predictable. Most of us don’t have the time to consider ambiguity in our lives and we want someone “out there” to “just do it.” When we are on the run and we hear a sound bite how someone will fight for us, that’s all we need to know, or is it?

Hurting in Your Heart 
Torah Portion: Kedoshim
by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt 

 

We find an interesting mitzvah in this week’s portion: “Don’t hate your brother in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17). The Sages ask the obvious question: Why does the verse say “in your heart”? Where else does one hate?

The Sages explain that there are two ways of hating. You can feel animosity toward someone and not express it externally. You are very nice and very cordial – pleasant even. But deep down you feel anger and frustration at the person.

Alternatively you can express your hatred externally – through words and deeds. You can physically, verbally or emotionally abuse the person you do not like.

Most of us are not saints. When someone does something which hurts us – whether through negligence or with intent – it is hard for us not to feel upset and angry with that person. Perhaps we might even feel animosity. This is normal human emotion and there is nothing wrong with it. The question is how one deals with that emotion once one has it.

To repress the emotion and hate a person only “in your heart” is extremely unhealthy. Unexpressed animosity does not go away. If anything, it festers and grows. The Sages remind us of the story of Absalom who hated Amnon for raping his sister, Tamar. He did not express his hatred in any way and, after a period of time, he ended up killing Amnon.

So what do you do?

Juxtaposed to the command not to “hate in one’s heart” is the command to rebuke others for wrongdoing. It’s very simple. Tell the person you are upset. Don’t abuse, express. Don’t attack; explain the pain you’re feeling.

When someone wrongs you, don’t just let it go, telling yourself it is nothing. We are not that holy. You have to approach the person and talk through what happened. Express your anger and frustration. Make the person understand that you have been hurt, and that you are not trying to make him feel guilty. You merely want to get the emotion you are feeling out of your heart.

In England where I live, we’re not so good at expressing emotions. But the alternative is repressed feelings of which we will eventually lose control. The idea of this commandment is to nip things in the bud. When you get the feeling out, it lessens it. When you express how you feel, it doesn’t seem half as bad.

Author Biography:
Shaul grew up in Liverpool. He studied for his smicha at Aish Hatorah in Jerusalem where he met his first wife Elana a”h who passed away in 2001 after a long struggle with cancer. They had four children together and Shaul has a further two with his second wife Chana, who he married in 2003. Shaul has written a book, ‘Finding Light in the Darkness’, published by Targum Press, dealing with the issue of facing hardship in a positive way. Shaul founded Aish UK in 1993 and Tikun UK in 2006 along with Dean Kaye. He enjoys most things in life.

Genesis and Evolution and Human Progression and Regression: Obama Possibilities

March 15, 2008
  • The current argument, rearing its ugly head periodically throughout history is about science versus religion. Evolution vs. creationism. That they are the same thing is easy to see for even the most unsophisticated of readers. That they are used as weapons to divide us is obvious.
  • Genesis shows a progression of the earth and the creation of various flora and fauna and eventually humans that is completely congruent with Darwin’s narrative. There is no conflict. 
  • Genesis goes on to show that the earth was just fine until humans entered the picture, with the first act of knowledge (also congruent with evolution), notions of good and evil, and the whole process of reproduction and the variations of human character that emerged.
  • Religion is not about belief. It is about power. Faith is about morality, not religion. Those who rely on religion to bludgeon “non-believers” are egocentric monsters whose agenda is solely about themselves. Those who practice faith create good deeds that spread the concepts of good and evil that will enable humans to survive the inevitable march of evolution and experimentation initiated by forces greater than ourselves, our understanding and the current status of our robust and intricate bodies.
  • Faith is a resource for people to make moral choices. Character is about the willingness or unwillingness to care about faith and morality. And the one element of morality that is our key to survival is tolerance.
  • Faith and religion should have nothing whatever to do with the creation and maintenance of government. Faith may affect our own sense of right and wrong and therefore where and in whom to place our trust in society.
  • To evaluate another’s faith or character is to assert your own arrogance, and demonstrates a lapse of character, faith and morality of the proposed “evaluator” or questioner.
  • The closest thing we see to a man of faith and morality in politics seems to be Barack Obama. We don’t know of course who he really he is or what he really will do. But we can track his movements and his demeanor and his actions and spoken word for consistency and reality. That he is a threat to those whose agendas are egocentric is obvious and an unintended endorsement of a man who might just be a man of G-d as we wish to see him. 
  • The inconsistency of his opponents who attack his character, first and falsely for being Muslim, then arrogantly for being the wrong kind of Christian, demonstrates their own intolerance and their objective to divide us. For me it excludes them from my own consideration of them as potential leaders.
  • The oppression of his opponents who attack his associations with those who primarily speak a truth that is contrary to American myth (check the facts before you condemn a person for speaking the truth), demonstrates their ambition to dominate rather than to serve. For me it excludes them from consideration as persons in whom I would place my trust.
  • The secular ideology of his opponents bent on war, coercion and toughness — rather than consensus, agreement and friendship is a betrayal of their own professed faith in Jesus, his teachings, and in the teachings and stories of the Old testament. 
  • I don’t know if Obama is best and I would not succumb to press my support for him on others. I merely express it. But I do know that neither of his opponents fit anything close to my ideal for faith and fairness, nor my goal of peace and prosperity. I believe in him and I hope others do too. 
  • In the end I hope for whatever is best for our society, and by that I mean all of the Earth created in genesis by powers and potentially intelligence far beyond the scribes from ancient millenia and readers of our time.

 

CORRUPTION OF THE SOUL

November 17, 2007

Another friend from long ago has admitted his guilt. He used his office of trust, his service to the public, as a launching platform for satisfaction of yearnings that live as demons feeding on his soul. He’ll spend some time in prison, contemplating the nature of his actions and evaluating whether it was worth it.

I know his demons — or should I say that my demons know his demons. Like him, I am neither as good as I would like to think I am nor as bad as some people would describe me. Like him I have committed acts of dishonesty and deception devoid of any good purpose other than satisfying my immediate lust for power, money or vindication. That I am not perfect is a fact not an excuse. 

Many stories from many people, shared with me in confidence. So let me stray from the particulars to the the general. My theme is the loss to one’s soul when we need soul. The external pressure to get in the game while the internal pressure tells us to do right. We change what is right in our mind’s eye so we can look at ourselves in the mirror. But we know. And we live in the dread of discovery instead of the light of satisfaction with ourselves. 

I have risen to the challenge and done the right thing at great sacrifice to myself, with great courage, and with a good moral compass. I know how it feels. And I have gone the other way as well. The first is better. Performing mitzvot, good deeds, lives long in your heart as a satisfying warmth that never ends. 

The Bible/Torah is one tool to focus our attention on the meaning of our existence, giving us the benefit of a view of thousands of years of history and putting our human species in perspective. We are the tool of the forces greater than ourselves that help define our meaning and our existence. 

My observation is that people who seek public office are often corrupt. In fact much has been written about the higher incidence of corruption and crime in public office than other walks of life. We read and learn of these acts and what do we do? Sometimes we simply notice it in passing as though it doesn’t matter in that case. But it does matter. Sometimes we rail against the system that permitted acts of treason, corruption, high crimes and misdemeanors. And then we do nothing.

Yet mostly what we do is elect more people who commit more acts of corruption and deceit. Let’s be honest. whatever your political persuasion, the candidate you like is the one you think we’ll win and you are willing to overlook too many things about that person. The more honest the candidate, the less traction they get, because his or her honesty reveals areas of possible disagreement. The less honest they are, the more evasive they become, the better they score in campaigns, debates and polls. 

It isn’t their fault that the system is working that way. It is our fault. We are the boss in the democracy we call our own. Candidates would be honest if we insisted on it. They act dishonestly and evasively because we demand that in our a view of a winning candidate. So we end up with people holding public office about whom we know very little and who will do many things we despise and disagree with. We are disappointed in them because we didn’t realize they act the way they did. 

So in the end we sacrificed our desire for truth, the feeding of each of our souls, and the  votes we cast to a lower principle —- winning. The option is usually there. Some candidate comes out and says exactly what he or she thinks and they are immediately marginalized as not viable. Why? The corruption we get is the corruption we voted for, we approved of, and we encouraged. That’s why. We value winning over morality.