The Lie of the Modern Age

We live in a world where it is preferable to be something that you are not. Where false pretence and misdirection are status quo. We are being taught that it’s required to accept people not for what they are, but for what they view themselves as. Television, magazines and ads bombard you with the message that sex before marriage is fine, if you think you’re in love. Self seeking, self pleasuring, self gratifying and chasing after carnal desire rather than being the men and women that we were created to be, in communion with the Divine, are what takes precedence. No one is what they seem. The person that you see on Facebook, so happy… are they really? The relationship that seems to be perfect online… is it?
 
The paedophile is now merely experiencing a mental disorder. The murderer isn’t to blame because his father beat him. The rapist was drunk, it’s not his fault. The protesters looted, because they got caught up in the heat of the moment. No one is to blame for their own behaviour. The evil inclination has fooled us. It has taken root and it is in control of our world. We are told that up is down, left is right, evil is good. The very moral fabric of the world is being turned on its head.
 
So what is my message to my beloved religious education students? Just this: In a world where it is not acceptable to be men and women of G-d, where being yourself is not O.K., where standing for right gets you labelled archaic and fanatical, in this world where it is no longer acceptable to be what you were created to be, I dare you to be you. Be the person that your parents have striven to help you become.
 
Follow the conscience that the world is trying to silence. Pray. Believe. Listen to the inner voice. Reject evil, no matter how many others are telling you that it is good. Be men and women of G-d. Reject the world, and embrace all that will ensure your place in the world that is to come. In a world where being FAKE is preferred, be real. In a world where G-d is dead, show them that He is alive. In a world where being who you were created to be is labelled bigotry, be the best you that you can be anyway.
 
“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” ― Leo Tolstoy
 
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
 
“More evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way.” ― Glen Cook
 
“Perhaps it is better to be irresponsible and right, than to be responsible and wrong.” ― Winston S. Churchill
 
“Errors do not cease to be errors simply because they’re ratified into law.” ― E.A. Bucchianeri
 
“The fact that good people can be forced to do wrong doesn’t make them less good. But it also doesn’t make the wrong less wrong.” ― Ovadya ben Malkaa

I Would Be True (poem)

A beautiful poem (turned hymn) written circa 1906. I post only the first half as it’s the part that made me stop ⛔ and think 💭. It would make a great oath… Just change the “would” to “shall”.

  1. I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
    I would be pure, for there are those who care;
    I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
    I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
  2. I would be friend of all—the foe, the friendless;
    I would be giving, and forget the gift;
    I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
    I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.
  1. Howard Arnold Walter (19 August 1883 – 1 November 1918)

Fun in the rain

My two youngers bundled up (not sure why) to go get soaked, playing in a rain puddle in our driveway. General hilarity ensued, particularly due to the oversize purple coat selected by the youngest. 💜

All the while, my cat relaxed and observed them with little more than a passive curiosity… She appeared both comfortable, and unimpressed by their antics.

Five Years

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the passing of my father, עליו השלום. He is sorely missed. Even more so since I visited my mother this year in Arizona. She’s having a rough time, and at one point she mentioned that she couldn’t go into her room because Jim was in there sleeping, and she didn’t want to bother him. It was very sad indeed to hear her speak like that. She’s 85 now. He would have been 89 this August.

My father was preceded in death by his parents Theodore and Olive (Taylor) Floyd, and his Sister Barbara Parsons-Smith. He is survived by his Wife of 33 years, one Sister, his five Children (of whom I am the only son), his four Step-Children, 31 Grandchildren, 52 Great-Grandchildren, three Nieces and numerous Cousins.

Jim was born on August 25, 1928 at Midian, Kansas. He grew up in Rock, Kansas, graduating from Douglas high school in 1946. He joined the Army soon afterward. He is a World War II veteran spending over four years in Germany as a forward observer prior to being honorably discharged in 1952. He retired from Cessna Aircraft with 45 years of service. He passed away May, 9th 2012.

 

Today I received a very nice email from Chabad.

Yahrtzeit Reminder

Dear Mr. Floyd,

Here is your reminder for the following upcoming yahrtzeit:

James Floyd
Shabbat, May 13, 2017 – Iyar 17, 5777
Passed away, Tucson, AZ May 9, 2012 / 17 Iyyar, 5772

The yahrtzeit begins with sunset the night before, when the yahrtzeit candle should be lit. (See below for details on when to light if the day before is Shabbat or a holiday).

A Note Regarding When to Light Your Yahrtzeit Candle

The yahrtzeit candle is customarily lit at sunset the night before the yahrtzeit. However, Jewish law forbids the kindling of a flame on Shabbat, and there are some restrictions regarding fire on major Jewish holidays. Therefore:

If the yahrtzeit is on Shabbat, be sure light the yahrtzeit candle before the Shabbat candles are lit on Friday afternoon. If the yahrtzeit is on Sunday, light the candle after the conclusion of Shabbat.

If yahrtzeit is on a Jewish holiday, light before the onset of the holiday (using a 48-hour candle for yahrtzeits on the second day of the holiday) or make sure to light it from a preexisting flame that was kindled prior to the start of the holiday.

How to observe a yahrtzeit

It’s the little things that people do that make a big difference. Even if this was an automated message, it was still very heartwarming to receive. May my father’s soul have an aliyah!

May the Fourth be With You!

Happy Star Wars Day! May the fourth be with you! To celebrate, enjoy this silly explanation of the day by Tim Russ, Tuvok from Star Trek Voyager. His antics and misinformation are ridiculously hilarious.

#StarWarsDay #MayTheFourth #MayTheFourthBeWithYou 

Understanding the Nature of “Idolatry”

The following is informative only. It is not intended to damn the practitioners of any faith, nor to prove that any practices are correct or are incorrect. Please read objectively, and do not read into what is written, read only what is written and take it at face value. What I DO encourage, is you to do your own, independent research into the matter. Learn as much as you can, and draw a well informed, logical and intelligent conclusion.

Idolatry in our day and age is completely misrepresented and misunderstood. Those who “worship” idols of stone and of wood and of metal and of gems no more believe that the representation of a god fashioned by their hands is a god than you believe a picture of a person is an actual person. From the most developed society to the most primitive, it is understood that these creations are representatives of the divine.  What the God of the Judeo-Christian books says seems confusing, and indicates that people are in fact, worshiping statues.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”

“Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal…”

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!”

“A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk.”

“Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.”

“And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know…”

“Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.”

Many people, reading such things in the sacred books of the Jews and of the Christians are left with the idea that the people actually believed that their creations WERE gods, and that the people were in fact serving the hand-crafted idols themselves. This simply isn’t true, and never has been. Even the ancient story of Abraham, (Midrash Bereishit 38:13) the father of the Jewish faith, makes clear that the idols were nothing more than statues.

“One time a woman came with a basket of bread. She said to Abraham, “Take this and offer it to the gods”. Abraham got up, took a hammer in his hand, broke all the idols to pieces, and then put the hammer in the hand of the biggest idol among them. When his father came back and saw the broken idols, he was appalled. “Who did this?” he cried. “How can I hide anything from you?” replied Abraham calmly. “A woman came with a basket of bread and told me to offer it to them. I brought it in front of them, and each one said, “I’m going to eat first.” Then the biggest one got up, took the hammer and broke all the others to pieces.” “What are you trying to pull on me?” asked Terach, “Do they have minds?” Said Abraham: “Listen to what your own mouth is saying? They have no power at all! Why worship idols?”

Now then… This story makes clear that Terach, the maker of the idols, and Abraham, the one who took offerings to the idols were both aware that the idols themselves were not gods. So we are again left baffled at why the Divine would be so upset about these little statues. Clearly the Jews were extremely concerned with the practice of idolatry to they point where they exclaimed:

“Whosoever recognizes idols has denied the entire Torah; and whosoever denies idols has recognized the entire Torah” (Midrash Sifre, Deut. 54 and parallel passages)

“As soon as one departs from the words of the Torah, it is as though he attached himself to the worship of idols” (Midrash Sifri, Deut 43)

It was forbidden to look upon images (Tosefta to Shabbat 17.1), and even thinking of idolatrous worship was prohibited (Berakhot 12b); if one saw a place where an idol had once stood, he was commanded to utter a special prayer (Berakhot 61a). Sacrifice to an idol or anything which in any way might be associated with idolatry was forbidden. It was even insufficient to reduce an idol to powder and scatter it to the winds, since it would fall to earth and become a fertilizer; but the image must be sunk in the Dead Sea, whence it could never emerge (Avodah Zarah 3.3); nor might the wood of the “asherah” be used for purposes of healing (Pesachim 25a).

Indeed, even in his The Guide to the Perplexed, I:36, the RaMBaM (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon / Maimonides) holds the view that in the original form of idolatry, no one actually believed that their idols were gods; he states that idol-worshipers understood that their idols were only representations of a god, or G-d Himself. Idols are “worshiped in respect of its being an image of a thing that is an intermediary between ourselves and God.”. The RaMBaM, however, goes further in defining idolatry than other Jewish thinkers before or since; he states that it is idolatry to believe that G-d is subject to any affections at all. Not only believing that God has a body, but merely believing “that one of the states of the body belong to Him, you provoke His jealousy and anger, kindle the fire of his wrath, and are a hater, an enemy and an adversary of God, much more so than an idolater.” The RaMBaM spends the first one-third of the Guide attempting to show that a literalist understanding of the metaphors, idioms, and homonyms in the Torah are idolatrous in this regard. For the RaMBaM, and other philosophers in the neo-Aristotelian mold, it is idolatry to believe that God has positive attributes. The RaMBaM’s negation of positive attributes to God reaches its epitomes in the Guide I:56, where he states that “the relation between us and God, may He be exalted, is considered to be non-existent.”

“Know that likeness is a certain relation between two things and that in cases where no relation can be supposed to exist between two things, no likeness between them can be represented to oneself. Similarly in all cases in which there is no likeness between two things, there is no relation between them. An example of this is that one does not say that this heat is like color, or that this voice is like this sweetness. This is a matter that is clear in itself. Accordingly, in view of the fact that the relation between us and Him, may He be exalted, is considered to be non-existent – I mean the relation between Him and that which is other than He – it follows necessarily that likeness between Him and us should also be considered nonexistent.”

Now, we find ourselves even more confused than before. We see the RaMBaM explaining that no one ever believed they were serving a created object, rather they were using it only as a representation of a god or as an attribute of the One True G-d, and yet he goes further than any Jew prior and indeed further than our modern sensibilities and equates even believing that the Divine actually possesses an arm with idolatry. So we are left with the understanding that idols were never worshiped, people never believed in them, and that they were merely “windows to the Divine”.

Let’s look at modern examples of this very same (in explanation) practice which exist within the oldest existing Christian faiths: Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Catholics erect statues of saints, and decorate them with flowers, lighting candles in front of them. The Orthodox adorn their churches with icons of saints, and pray before them, bowing before the icon and kissing it. “You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”. So, how do they explain their creating of statues and writing of icons, as well as their bowing to, kissing, lighting candles and incense before and veneration of these items of wood, stone, metal and jewels? The same exact way that the Hindus and the Buddhists and the tribesmen and any other conceivable faith inclusive of statues, and indeed the same way the RaMBaM described the ancients whom G-d Himself in the Torah accuses, describe their act of creating statues/paintings.

They create these items as a focal point. A focal point of worship. A window into heaven. The created object places their mind onto the Divine or the ascended god/being/human being represented by the manufactured item. The item becomes a representation of the Divine, much as a photograph reminds us of our loved ones dead and gone, or separated by miles. How many people believe that they are engaging in idolatry by printing a photo of their mother to hang on their wall? The same is true of idols. No one in their right mind believes that a shaped and created object, embellished with gold and with jewels, is a god. It is merely a reminder of things divine. A focal point – comparable to a telephone receiver by which they may contact the divine. Ask an Orthodox child about an icon, and he will tell you that he talks to the saint pictured therein, while gazing at the icon. Ask a Catholic who prays while gazing at a crucifix, and they will tell you that they are praying to Christ Himself, while gazing at a reminder of His suffering.

It is no different in any faith. All of these images, statues and shapes made, are representative of a divine being. They are conduits by which the divine may be reached through focus and prayer. But they, themselves, are not gods, nor are they being worshiped. So the question is still not answered… If the assumptions we have made about the ancients, and the explanation given by those engaged in the same or similar practices in the modern world are true, why is the Divine so upset about these little statues and paintings? Are stained glass windows, paintings, statues, even carvings of animals – idols? Are the modern Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Aboriginals and others all guilty of idolatry?

Interestingly enough, the Talmud states (Yoma 69b) that the Men of the Great Assembly managed to remove the idolatry component of the Satan (Evil Inclination) from Jewish life, and it ceased to be a problem. The Talmud also records (Sanhedrin 102b) that Rav Ashi had a debate on Jewish law with idolatrous King Menashe of Judah, and lost. When asked by King Menashe in a dream what the halacha is when eating bread, Rav Ashi responded that he did not know. When Menashe responded with the well-done part first, Rav Ashi, surprised at his knowledge, responded: “As you are so learned, why then did you worship idols?”. Menashe replied: “The drive for idolatry was so strong in my time that, had you been there, you would have lifted your robe to run after me and do the same!”

Happy New Year, 2017!

My dearest friends and family; I wish for you nothing but the best in this new year. May it be filled with happiness, prosperity and success. May none of you experience pain, neglect or sorrow. But most of all, my wish for you is that you will grow in faith, good deeds and in your prayer life. The world isn’t getting any safer, better or more secure. There simply is no better time to decide to make the change. If not now, when? And if you are not for yourself, who will be for you? May the Almighty Creator and Master of the Universe Himself, bless each and every one of you, and give you the strength to serve Him and your fellow man with mercy and with true love.

New Year’s thought:

“When we begin to form good resolutions, G-d gives us every opportunity of carrying them out.” – Ioannis Chrysostomos

My youngest, wishing you a happy new year!