Dennis Prager Interviewed

In an April 2010 appearance at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said to interviewer and rabbi David Woznica: “When God gave out urges, the urge to power was not given to me. I have zero desire to have any power over anybody. You know this is a fact because even on the tiny tiny scale of my running Brandeis-Bardin, all I wanted was terrific other people and to share power. I just wanted to make sure that the values were what I thought the values should be.”

“The only reason I thought of running for senate was would it give me a bigger forum to offer the values I care about. I ultimately concluded that to get a bigger forum than a national radio show, you have to be president of the United States. I thought of that too. I have thought about running in the primaries starting in Iowa. I would not expect to win.”

“I would like to be in those debates… I can’t run because I don’t have the money to run… Because of campaign finance reform, only rich people can run for office… There are many rich people who would support. One of the heads of Best Buy said he listened to my show every day and any way I can help you. But he can’t help me. He can only give me $4,000.”

Dennis said about Judaism: “I wanted the answers. I wasn’t given them. What is the Jewish role in the world? In 14 years in yeshiva, I never learned the Jewish role in the world. I learned how to build a sukkah. I learned you can eat an egg born on yontif (Jewish holiday).”

“Since going into the diaspora, Jews have been pre-occupied with surviving, not influencing. Jewish life exists to exist. We feel like an endangered species… I don’t care if we survive. If we don’t influence the world, Jewish survival is of no interest to me. We have a task [to bring the world to God and His moral demands]. If we don’t do the task, we have no reason to live. We should assimilate. That’s why Jews do assimilate. Nobody gave them a task. I said that to audiences when I was 23 years old. I have not changed an iota. Where there is a why, there is a how.”

“I don’t care about Jewish culture. That’s why the board at Brandeis[-Bardin Institute] got angry at me. They were very into Jewish culture. I was very into Judaism. It was a conflict from the time Shlomo Bardin appointed me and then died that week until I left. I don’t care about Jewish dance. That’s not a reason to be Jewish any more than Albanian dance is a reason to be Albanian. The reason to be Jewish is to take Torah to the world.”

“Why stay Jewish if you’re secular? For what? Jewish culture? European culture dwarfs Jewish culture. Christian music is fifty times more beautiful than most Jewish music. We don’t have instruments [on Shabbat and holidays]. What kind of music could we have made? The rabbis [of the Talmud] did us an injury with that bad. I can have Handel’s Messiah or Adon Olam? Gee, that’s a toughie.”

“A week after my bar mitzvah, I stopped putting on tefillin. To do that in my home was so against how I was raised that I didn’t want my parents to know lest they be hurt. I didn’t do any of it out of rebellion since I hid all of my sins from my parents.”

“I would take the back of a comb and make little lines on my arm [before going down to breakfast] so that my mother thought I had put tefillin on that morning.”

“I don’t believe that rabbinic law is binding. Rabbis today can change rabbinic low, not Torah law.”

“Also, I found services way too long. I love musical instruments. Why the rabbis would ban musical instruments when God wanted us to use musical instruments in the temple [on the Sabbath and holidays], I can not understand.”

“One night [on his radio show Religion on the Line], the topic I chose for the evening was lust. What does your religion say about lust? The minister quoted Jesus that a man who lusts after another woman it is as if he has committed adultery in his heart. How wrong it is to lust. How it is a sin. The Catholic priest said essentially the same thing. They both spoke beautifully.”

“That week, was not only an Orthodox rabbi, but a bearded right-wing Orthodox rabbi. He had a yiddish accent. He said, “Dennis, lust, shmust.’

“It was my proudest moment as a Jew in my life. I still have a slight scar from biting my lip.”

“I’ve been troubled by theodicy since I was a child,” said Dennis in a 2010 public interview at Stephen S. Wise temple. “I finally gave up. Joseph Telushkin has a long-standing joke that Dennis will buy any book that has the terms “God” and “suffering” in it. I agree with Job. My wife doesn’t find Job as satisfying as I do. God says to Job, I’m God. You’re not. I understand it. You don’t. God is to me what I am to my basset hound. I’m fine with that. God told me how to live.”

In the same interview, Dennis mentioned that a group of atheists who brought him in to speak paid him promptly, which is better than half of the groups that hire him. “I’m still waiting for a certain shul,” said Dennis. “Three years.”

“It was a black woman Republican who came over to me at a speech [circa 1993] and said, ‘It is time for you to register as a Republican. Put your registration where your mouth is.’ She was right. She gave me the form.”

“Religion on the Line. My beginning in radio. Exactly ten years from August 1982 to August 1992. I was 34 years old and I was brought in to moderate between a priest, minister and rabbi every week. After five years, virtually every week I brought in a fourth religion. I brought in Muslims regularly. I got very close to the Muslim community. It was when they didn’t say a word about the slaughter of Israeli children in pizzerias [2000-2002] that we had a falling out. It was very painful to me. I went to the home of the leading Muslim in LA [Mahmoud Attoot (sp?), cardiac surgeon] and he came to my home. We got quite close and then nothing. I know they made the perfunctory statements against terror. That was after 9/11.

“I opened my show to them. They were very grateful. They had me speak in mosques.”

Rabbi David Woznica asked Dennis: “What is the greatest consistent source of joy in your life?”

Dennis thought for a second and a little sheepishly, said, “OK. My wife.”

Dennis grips and ungrips his chair for a few seconds of silence and then adds: “By the way, since I like to be open, it was a long, I’ve had my own issues in that arena as is known and that is no reflection on anybody else. Just to be able to say that is a wonderful thing to say.”

Sue is 15 years younger than Dennis.

On his show Oct. 21, 2010, Dennis talked about a conversation he had with a man on a plane: “I told him that my wife doesn’t complain and never yells at me. He said, ‘Were her vocal chords removed?'”

On his show Nov. 10, 2010, Dennis said: “My wife will have me check out some women.”

On his show Dec. 28, 2010, Dennis said: “I get enough disagreement outside of my house. Inside my house, I really like harmony. The more you agree on [as a couple], the better. When you step outside the house, you can take on the world. Inside the house, you don’t want to take on your spouse.”

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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