I Review The Rabbi Rabbs Book Of Woe

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Greg Leake emails:

Hi Luke and Rabbs,
I’m astonished. Rabbi Rabbs, I had no idea that you were struggling with so many psychological and spiritual challenges every single day. Previously, when I would hear you say things like your life sucked, I thought it was all part of your stand-up comedy routine. You know, I have already said that while I disagreed with you on many religious matters, I had come to respect the ironclad manner by which you stuck to your guns. This was who you are and what you are, and the whole world and all its religions could take a flying leap. What I did not realize is the courage you were showing every day as you had to wrestle with these mind-numbing psychological dilemmas. I did not know that you had been an alcoholic or that your father had been an alcoholic. I did not know about the fears of being around crowds of people. And I now have a better understanding of why you keep asserting that without a wife and money it makes participation in Judaism almost impossible except your private practices. Frankly, I now feel kind of bad about criticizing you earlier on. Clearly you have enough to deal with without me contributing to it.

I think you are bound to look at Christianity through a Jewish lens. (What else?) However, just as you are acutely aware of how wrong Christians are when they try to ascribe a Christian view to Judaism, the reverse is also true. The Jewish lens does not allow for a realistic look at Christianity. I sort of think that someone necessarily must step back from both realms if they intend to try and take it all in. The matter of Jesus bin Joseph is a lot more complicated than it might appear from a Jewish perspective. However, I actually do agree with you when you presented the 6 reasons why Jesus bin Joseph could not be seen as messiah from a Jewish perspective. Having said that, we still have to determine what Jesus bin Joseph’s inner nature really was, especially translated out of Semitic language that informed theology thousands of years ago. … “the only begotten Son of God”, “I and my Father are one”, etc. A great deal could be said about all this, but I understand that ultimately this is a Jewish site, and you probably don’t want to spend a lot of time on something that is outside of satisfying the question, “Was Jesus bin Joseph a messiah?”

Luke, I like the Coors tee shirt, but I still don’t think that is going to be the most instrumental way of attracting some fummie girl to become a fiance. Which is all my recommendation amounted to. (Had I known you wanted to go that route, I wish I still had my Bukowski poster that I could have sent you.)

I also think your were right when you sent me a few lines about your book review. I am so accustomed to thinking in metaphysical terms that I forget how foreign that is to most. I should have said something more along the lines of most professors of comparative religions understood the contents of the book. I also should have said that ultimately, religions had more in common. Obviously, religions all believe in God and there fore it is axiomatic that the most important proposition is shared. Of course I realize that on the surface that seems dubious when one thinks of the idea that Christians see salvation through Christ, and Buddhists see awareness as the ultimate factor. However, once one understands that in the East theological language is usually couched in ‘via negativa’ and in the West via positiva, the differences begin to diminish. In the East, there is an enormous amount of saying what God is not. It’s not this, it’s not that, water can’t wet it, fire can’t burn it, etc., etc., believing that the infinite or Universal cannot be defined by the finite. The particular cannot draw a line around the infinite, and as a consequence in the East awareness in its ulitmate sense cannot be described by any adjective.

In the West we use a lot of via positiva terms. God is holy, for example. God is a king. God is almighty. We assign descriptions that hopefully allow the mind to get some kind of a direction towards the ultimate in the same way that a window does not define light, but simply creates a construction whereby light can be experienced. Anyway, I think a couple of your criticisms were correct.

Rabbs, a lot of people will criticize you for your admissions of all of these problems, but it takes a lot of courage to stand up to those difficulties. You know, it is very hard for a captain to go down with his ship. I am not trying to suggest that you are going to go down, but it requires the same kind of courage. As Viktor Frankel explained to us, in the Nazi prison camps he still saw people who lived as heroes and saints. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, he tells us that it is not for us to ask what the meaning of life is because it is we who are asked. Life asks us questions by putting us into various situations, and it it for us to answer by responding with responsibility. I’d say you’re doing a hell of a job…

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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