Reactions To Torah Talk

Greg Leake emails: Hi Luke,

May I recommend that you check into Tai Chi? You will discover that it accomplishes virtually everything that Hatha yoga does, but with none of the “misuse” that you understand from the Alexander technique. In addition, it is more fun and just as adaptable to a small location. The Chinese direction is always to make things easy. For example, stretching has more to do with the body and gravity naturally elongating muscles rather than an enforced effort. The breathing exercises are also very easy to perform and require none of the athleticism that hatha yoga frequently does. Another good option is Chi Gung, particularly the ‘gentlemen’s 8 pieces of brocade. Anyway, I’m almost certain you would find it preferable to Hatha yoga.

I’m disappointed that the charming Tamara does not date goys. Thank goodness I’m happily married. I think that Tamara would have been completely justified asking you if you fell is love with a Conservative Jew would you start attending a conservative temple in a conservative community. It seems to me that she would be every bit as justified in wishing this from a potential husband as a modern Orthodox husband would wish from her. I did notice that your YouTubes with Rabbs go to [15] segments that your conversation with the charming Tamara went to 16 segments. Rabbs seems to find something amiss with this. I on the other hand would have thought less of you had you let her go more quickly. I’m glad to see that the old Luke is still down there.

Incidentally, I think that were I a Jew i probably would have felt more comfortable as a Conservative since it more closely approximates my view of the Christian Bible. Lots of absolutely ontologically and metaphysical proposition from divinity itself, and yet at the same time some legends and some old saws really more appropriate to biblical times, but not necessarily appropriate to today. Oh yes, I must say i think you have to consider the crucifixion and the resurrection as once piece, since the divinity of Christ requires the resurrection to put a capstone on his status of being the “Son of God.”

Rabbs, the way that it works in a capitalistic society relative to the wigmaker is that a couple pays the wig maker $3000. The wig maker orders all of her supplies, materials, professional wig construction tools, whose manufacturers receive the benefits of her orders. The people who produce the supplies and tools pay the manufacturers and transporters of the materials to the wig maker also receive money. This all goes back through the structure of production with money changing hands to the companies that galvanize all the raw materials and commodities required to create these tools. Adam Smith referred to this as the “unseen hand”. He showed us that there was a social benefit to enlightened self-interest and the way our profits then become distributed throughout the community. The profits that go into bank accounts enrich the banking system and the banks have more money to lend. The profits that go into purchases go into the coffers of restaurants, tailors, car dealerships, computer manufacturers, and all the employees of those places. The profits that go into investments increase the companies’ ability to pour money into R&D, better ad campaigns, more upward mobility, and more job opportunities at the bottom.

If you wish to broaden your appeal for financial assistance to goys, you have to stop using the language that insists that you have some kind of right to the money that the producers have accumulated for themselves and their families. From the goy perspective, charity is a virtue, but that my no means suggests that any extra is “my money!” as I believe you have stated rather forcefully. The quickest way to lose a prospective goy donor is to insist that you have a right to his money simply because you say so. I know that in the Jewish tradition there is a role of the “holy beggar”, and I do gather that it is congruent with your religion to be able to see your status as something that needs to be legitimately addressed by the Jewish way of looking at these things.

In my neighborhood, sometimes frummie Jews have to work on Saturday. They don’t want to, they avoid it when possible, but sometimes it is necessary. They simply suck it up and do what they have to do and try to do everything in their power to stay true to the Torah. My observation is that this is pretty much standard operating procedure in the Jewish community. Of course this is Texas.

You guys are constantly speaking of fundamentalism, and almost every reference to Christianity that you make is to Christian fundamentalism. Believe it or not, growing up in Texas one constantly encountered Christian fundamentalists, and they would largely have been in agreement with Rabbs: The earth was created in 6 days. The sun goes around the earth. There weren’t any dinosaurs. However, this has almost ubiquitously evolved into a Christianity that accepts modern science and tries to interpret Christianity in light of discoveries we know to exist.

That is not really what makes up fundamentalism though. Let me quote from the first Christian theologian to be kicked out of Nazi Germany. (partly on the basis that he asked them if they were going to continue to persecute the Jews)

Paul Tillich: A theological system is supposed to satisfy 2 basic needs: the statement of the truth of the Christian message and the interpretation of this truth for every new generation. Theology moves back and forth between these 2 poles, the eternal truth of its foundation and the temporal situation in which the eternal truth must be received. Not many theological systems have been able to balance these two demands perfectly. Most of them either sacrifice elements of the truth or are not able to speak to the situations. Some of them combine both shortcomings. ..

Fundamentalism fails to make contact with the present situation, not because it speaks from beyond every situation, but because it speaks from a situation of the past. It elevates something finite and transitory to infinite and eternal validity.

They confuse eternal truth with a temporal expression of this truth.
*** end of Tillich quote ***

Of course this is a Christian idea, and yet in my mind it speaks relevantly to a variety of different religions. If the eternal truth smothers the temporal ability to understand that truth, it is just as bad as if the temporal situation were to smother the ability to perceive the eternal truth.

I see Dennis Prager as someone who has a very good grasp of finding temporal situations as a vehicle for expressing eternal truths. Frankly, it is hard for me to see how anyone else in Judaism does this as well. And I have heard him acknowledge what Luke said. When asked are you Conservative, Reform, or Orthodox, I have heard him laugh and reply, “yes”. I can understand how some modern Orthodox would find it reprehensible that as many Christians call on him for the wisdom of the Torah, as do Jews. But personally I think this simply amplifies his relevance and demonstrates his capacity to speak the eternal truth into the situations and peculiarities that are unique to our life today. Dennis Prager is not a fundamentalist. Neither was Paul Tillich, and neither are many Christian voices.

RABBI RABBS EMAILS: Hi Greg,

Good to hear from you again, and thank you for your continued interest in our Torah Talks.

You claimed that I was amiss regarding our broadcast going so long. Please allow me to explain. There are three reasons why I don’t like marathon shows:

1) I think they are a burden to the viewers, and less people will start watching a show knowing it would take them 2.5 hours to get through it all. Folks are busy and don’t have time to sit through all of that. That’s why TV shows are either 30 minutes or 1 hour tops. Give it to them fast, and get them out of it quickly, and leave them begging for more.

You mentioned the interview with the columnist that was conducted prior to our show. I only watched 10 minutes of that replay. There is no way I’m going to sit through that entire opus. However, if that interview would be 30 minutes long in total, then there is a likelihood that I might sit through a couple of Youtubes to watch the whole thing.

See my point? The smaller it is, the larger the audience.

2) I suffer from terrible agoraphobia. I can’t be in front of the camera or in someone’s house for more than three straight hours. Once we start approaching that 3-hour mark, I will become incredibly uncomfortable, and be running for the exit.

3) I suffer from a chronic neck and shoulder injury, and my back physically can’t handle sitting that long. I need to take a break to stretch and walk around. I should be doing that at the 1-hour mark of a 2-hour show. But, if we do that, then we’ll lose the audience, so we keep playing through.

Ideally, I’d like to see the show end long before the 2-hour mark, and I wouldn’t need to stretch during it. I think the show should never go past 8:30. I think if we tried to do a tight 1-hour show each week, we’d be more successful. But, that’s just my opinion and I could be wrong.

Next topic. You wrote what seemed like a whole long condescending explanation as to how buying a wig affects the economy. I have no idea what your point is. I said that couple had no business paying for that expensive wig. I never said the wig was overpriced from the seller’s perspective. I couldn’t care less what the price is, as long as no Jew buys it.

I can understand why you as a non-Jew might be offended by my saying that money belongs to me, but that’s only because you confuse tzedakah with charity, and you don’t understand how tzedakah works in Judaism. I spoke about it a few weeks ago, but perhaps you missed that show so I will summarize now.

Torah commands us Jews to give 10-20% of all of our net earnings to the poor. That is not called charity that is given from the goodness of our hearts. Instead, that is a requirement, similar to taxes. That money belongs to the poor person, but instead of G-d giving it directly to the poor person, He gives it to rich people and tests them to see what they will do with it. Really, that money must be returned to its rightful owner, being the poor people. If those who temporarily are holding the money don’t give it to the poor person, then they are stealing that money.

That is how Judaism works. I am entitled to demand my money from my fellow Jews, because it is my money and they are required to give that money to me. Having stated that, I still try to be polite when I ask for monies, but when I see money being blown on luxuries while their fellow Jews are starving, then I just lose it.

Now, it is entirely possible that the couple in the video did give their 20% already, and therefore, I have no valid claim to the $3K. Still, it would have been better to give that money to me or to other poor people than to have the money wasted on a mop that got destroyed. That was my whole point. G-d intervened as if to teach everyone a lesson that if you’ve got $3K to blow on a mop that goes against the spirit of the mitzvah of covering her hair, then you should give that money to the poor instead.

LUKE TELLS RABBS: I prefer an adversarial/confrontational show. I am deliberately trying to provoke you much of the time. I’ve been like that since I was a little kid. If you were a Reform rabbi, I’d be sounding like you much of the time to try to provoke.

About Luke Ford

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