Beatniks, courage, and Rabbs

Greg Leake emails: Hi Luke,

I like the sunglasses. Sure, I know your reasons for wearing them.

But frankly, you know, the shades go some distance towards fulfilling my image of you. In my mind you’re kind of a combination of Jack Kerouac and Holden Caulfield, with maybe a little Yukio Mishima thrown in around the edges. (That would be the sinister part.)

And I think the sunglasses are a natural auxiliary to the the things you discuss and the manner in which you discuss them.

On your YouTube “I Return To Aish HaTorah” you expressed a good measure of concern over the idea that you were cowardly in some way.

Forget about it. You’re not cowardly at all. I did a little boxing and actually taught boxing for a while. One time Sammy ‘the Bull’ Gravano (former underboss of the Gambino crime family) was talking with famous boxing trainer Teddy Atlas. Gravano insisted that he was not afraid of anything. Teddy Atlas (who coached Michael Moore through one of his title victories) explained to him that everybody was afraid, and the only point was what you actually did. Like Dr. Melfi once recommended the title of a book to Tony Soprano, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. (Tony really needed that advice, eh?)

Back when Cus D’amato was still alive and before Mike Tyson became an animal, Cus used to tell him a story about two guys in the ring. Both were equally afraid, but one of them acted and the other shrank. It had nothing to do with the internal experience of the fear. They both experienced that. It was simply that one of them acted one way, and the other acted a different way and lost.

I can also tell you the same thing is true when you’re crawling under barbed wire with a rifle, and bullets are flying over your head. The fear is endemic to the situation. The thing that separates one man from another is that the brave one continues to operate despite the fear, being very technically correct in all his ground-crawling methods. I used to be afraid that when my hands started to tremble that it was a sign of cowardice. This is why it’s important to understand some of the physiological characteristics of the body’s fight-or-flight syndrome. Now I understand that this is simply one of the characteristics of adrenaline hitting the system.

You have started up whole businesses by yourself. You have come back from a debilitating condition and started up another business. You walked into Aish HaTorah evern though you were frightened and concerned about being humiliated. You endured the rebukes of angry people. I remember the pictures of you with a gun. And you have certainly not hesitated to report on matters that could have severe blowback.

You have foibles, as we all do, and courage is a ladder that you run out of years climbing without ever reaching the top. But you’re doing fine in the courage department. These challenges are upsetting, but you keep on meeting them, and you keep on managing to prevail.

I hope this is not an invasion of your privacy, but I at least know enough about this subject that you can completely dismiss the idea of cowardice from your self-evaluations.

Rabbs, if you happen to read this, I confess your last post to me left me baffled. You know that I think you are a very smart guy, and I think you are pretty courageous in the honest way you face your demons. However, I do not get upset because you don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. So I fail to understand why you would be upset when I reject the notion that the Torah is the single and only revelation of G-d that has ever occurred in history.

The point of view that I briefly referred to in my last post is sometimes called Essentialism, and it was old before the Concord Transcendentalists.

I studied philosophy in college, got interested in the philosophy of religion. It borrows from philosophy, from comparative religions, from the history of religions, and from theology. And a lot of my thinking about religions originates in my background in philosophy.

After we conclude that there is only one G-d, we are only left with 3 choices.
1. my group is the only group to have a relationship with the one G-d.
2. every group throughout history has had a relationship with the one G-d.
3. sometimes throughout history some groups have had a relationship with the one G-d some of the time.

I am in the third group which means that I regard Judaism and Christianity to be two of the groups that have had relationships with the one G-d. I don’t know whether this really speaks to whatever it is that got you steamed. I’m sure you’re aware that there is a wide variety of Christian denominations with different ideas. However they basically agree that you are probably a Christian if you see Jesus in a divine context. That does not necessarily mean that you refuse to believe that other religions may have some light to shed on the nature of G-d and G-d’s relationship to man.

Furthermore, the fact that people sometimes decide that their religion is not speaking to them, and they wish to move to a different religion is what Luke has done to embrace Judaism. And I’m uncertain why you would feel that people who decide to convert have less validity than someone who stays in whatever religion their parents saddled them with. Luke’s father is an important Christian minister, and yet he helped Luke move into Judaism. I hope this little explanation diminishes whatever set of propositions upset you. I am actually older than you are, and I’ve been studying these matters for many decades. And in philosophy we simply discuss things. If a person is not willing to discuss, then we simply have no vehicle for communication.

RABBI RABBS EMAILS: Hey Greg,

Good to hear from you again, and thank you for your continued interest in our show. I shall respond to your latest input by breaking what you wrote down into three parts:

1. You wrote the following straw man: “So I fail to understand why you would be upset when I reject the notion that the Torah is the single and only revelation of G-d that has ever occurred in history.”

I never got upset at you, and I never presented the notion that Torah is the only revelation of G-d. Perhaps YOU rejected the notion that Torah is the only revelation of G-d, but I had never claimed that it was.

Please go back and re-read carefully what I actually did write.

2. You wrote the following silliness: “After we conclude that there is only one G-d, we are only left with 3 choices” and those choices all had to do with relationships with G-d.

That’s ridiculous. “Relationships with G-d” are irrelevant in the discussion. What is important is which stream has absolute truth and can prove their truth beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is a fact-finding mission, not a feel-good exercise.

3. You misguidedly wrote: “I’m uncertain why you would feel that people who decide to convert have less validity than someone who stays in whatever religion their parents saddled them with.”

Where did you come up with such nonsense? I have openly stated many times on the show that converts are more beloved by G-d than are us born to the tribe.

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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