Friday, December 30, 2011

Thanking God for Hardship

Joseph rescues his family and the Israelite nation in this week's Torah portion. Last weeks, Joseph correctly deciphers Pharaoh's dream about seven years of feast and seven years of famine, which allows Egypt to ration their food effectively. Unfortunately, Jacob and his sons are unaware of the incoming famine, and they suffer in the land of Canaan. Hearing about Egypt's success, they travel to plead for food. Jacob is incredibly frail, so he sends his sons to Pharaoh's servants. They harass the boys due to the lack of their father's presence. The sons struggle at first, but Joseph eventually erupts. He reveals himself to his brothers, glad to see them rather than angered by their mistake. Pharaoh and Joseph decide to allow the Israelites to dwell in Goshen, Egypt's most luxurious region. The nation of Israel moves to Goshen, and they are welcomed with open arms.

Upon their exiting of Canaan, Jacob sacrifices to God. At the altar, God reassures Jacob that traveling to Egypt is not a mistake. God says that there, Israel will grow into a vast and great nation. Furthermore, God promises to remain present with Israel throughout their departure and return from and to Canaan. On this covenant, Jacob abandons the land of Canaan with ease. Is God aware that a future Pharaoh forces Jacob's descendants into slavery? If so, does God then intend to make Israel a great nation by putting them through their ordeals in Egypt and the desert? Perhaps, God is all knowing. For God, there is no present, past, or future. Humans may choose their destiny, God can see where that destiny derives from and how we arrived to such a point. For instance, God feels that now is anytime in the history of the universe, for God is always present. Jacob chooses to go to Egypt, but this is out of necessity. He appeals to God before embarking on this journey. Therefore, God approves of the Jews fleeing to Egypt, their bondage, and their Exodus.

To what extent should we thank God for hardship? If God is all powerful and foreseer of all destinies, then God intends for humans to occasionally suffer. In Judaism, one must believe that God is good. Taking this logic, God only approves of righteous acts. While many Jews perish under Ramesses II, following Joseph into Goshen temporarily saves the Jews from starvation. Though it is cliché, how much of what does not kill us actually make us stronger? Biologically, something as threatening as a near-death case of malaria can much improve the immune system. However, do emotionally obstacles provide the same psychological impact? There are stories of Holocaust survivors who say their tragedy taught them how to enjoy life. For God, suffering fails to be important. As long as redemption comes, all pain remains dilatory. Remember that pain is always temporary. We should never let it irritate ourselves, for emotions are not constant. Motion is part of the term. Even a dying soul once loved. On a more spiritual level, the suffering of the Jews of Egypt is not malice on God's part. Every person works off one another, and we are all connected by the exchange of fortune. Jacob leaves Israel, allowing other groups to dominate the lands. The Jews become enslaved, but stronger than ever in the desert. Once they reach Jericho, they reclaim the Promised Land. The Romans force the Jews into exile, later creating the Palestinian conflict in Israel today. One day fate will shift in peace's favor. No life is ever so minuscule to not matter. We are all feeding off each other, collaborating to a better age. Only God knows what happens next.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reflections on Home Away from Home

In this week’s Torah portion, Joseph’s brothers become enraged with jealousy. For their entire childhood, Jacob favors Joseph, lavishing him with gifts. Like his father, God sends messages to Joseph through his dreams. One night, Joseph dreams that his entire family bows down to him in respect. Joseph’s brothers formulate a plan that will put an end to his arrogance. They lead Joseph astray until they are far from their home. Originally, they leave Joseph in a ditch to suffer, but they decide that a better solution may be at hand. They could make a profit off their currently dying brother! When the sons of Israel attempt to reclaim their brother, they discover he is already being brought away by Midianites. These traders sell Joseph to Potiphar, a member of Pharaoh’s court. Potiphar’s wife frames Joseph for coming on to her, and he is apprehended. In prison, Joseph meets two high servants of Pharaoh. These men seemed distressed, so Joseph offers to ease their pain. The men say their dreams are their cause for worry. Putting his talent to work, Joseph interprets their dreams under one condition. The Pharaoh’s royal cupbearer dreams that Pharaoh will restore him from imprisonment, yet the chief baker imagines Pharaoh executing him. Once Joseph tells the cupbearer the meaning of his dream, he begs him to help release him from prison. Unfortunately, the cupbearer forgets about Joseph, even when both dreams become reality.

In many ways, Joseph is analogous to modern Judaism. His brothers banish Joseph from his homeland during his youth. Likewise, the ancient Romans forced the Jews into exile. The Jews spread into the diaspora, the land outside of Israel. For centuries, the Jews suffered persecution in Europe and elsewhere, much like Joseph’s imprisonment. Somehow, the traditions of the Jewish people never faltered, dreaming that morality will eventually be restored. In Joseph’s later life, Pharaoh releases him and makes Joseph the Pharaoh’s official dream interpreter. From the 1880’s to the 1920’s, Jews flocked to the Americas to be free of persecution. In this land of religious freedom, they were legally permitted to practice in peace. However, the Jews quickly realize freedom of religion and religious tolerance do not automatically coincide with one another. Joseph saves Egypt and his family from famine, but leaving God’s promised land left a gaping scar in the Jewish people through the time of Moses. Although Joseph seems to transform from an Israelite into an Egyptian throughout Genesis, assimilation is never truly possible. As a minority, American Jews know that their homes miss a certain religious flare. When American Jews read the sacred words written in Genesis, something seems empty. God promised Abraham a land for him and all his descendants, yet Jews are spread all over the world today.

The Lion King’s Pumbaa said home is where your rump rests. At its most basic level, the home is a place of rest and shelter. Does this mean a home away from home can range from a best friend’s house to a hotel room? The simple phrase is more than that though. A home away from home needs to be meaningful. Such a place must exude sacredness to make it a place where one is comfortable staying everyday. For instance, a camp must be welcoming or the kids would forever be homesick. A home away from home is built on memories that occurred in there. This area brings out the most confidence in us that we often keep hidden within the safe four walls of our house. Building off of Pumbaa’s philosophy, a home away from home is where we feel comfortable resting our rump.

Does Israel meet such qualifications for the Jewish people? There are certainly a multitude of memories the Jewish people share with this sacred land. The UN granted Israel the right to this most disputed area in the Middle East to allow the Jewish people to feel entirely comfortable from persecution, yet somehow this land is a haven for war and conflict. Can Israel be a place of such comfort when worries of suicide bombers come into mind every time we ride the bus? Knowing a few Israeli teens, I learned that they recognize the reality of their situation, but they do not let such fear constrict their daily routines. Many Jews are advocates for peace, yet military service is mandated in Israel. It is evident that the UN intended Israel is quite possibly a Jew’s imaginable home away from home, but the current Israel, a product of 60 years of conflict, is not even close to such a place of comfort and tranquility.

Joseph is an unfavorable character in the Torah, for he is responsible for breaking the chain of ancestors to live and die in Canaan. Many blame Joseph for causing the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. Bare in mind, Joseph also saves the Jewish people from famine later in Genesis, and his brothers force his exile upon him. Living in the United States is a comfort for American Jews. As previously said, Israel is far too unstable to instantly drop the comfort of our Americanism. Perhaps Israel is our true home and the US is the home away from home. As we wait to feel ready to return home, we can only support Israel. Gandhi said to be the change in the world we want to see, so we should make Israel our home, not just a place on the map. By celebrating the Israeli culture or taking interest in the politics of the homeland, we can be American while keeping the covenant with God. Assimilation is probably the worst sin one could commit against God. We not only turn away from God, but we hide who are inside. Our address may be somewhere in Massachusetts, but there is always a welcoming door across the Atlantic Ocean. Joseph left the Promised Land and became an Egyptian, but we do not need to choose between Americana and Judaism.

Friday, December 09, 2011

My Thoughts on the United States of America

As an American citizen, I am guaranteed the right to say whatever I want about the country. Ironically using this right, I decided to take this chance to criticize the United States a bit. In most public schools, students begin their day by listening to the national anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, but I decided to abstain from this practice as I entered high school. The decision was not well received from friends and family alike. The instant assumption was that I hate the United States, a very false sentiment. My grandparents found this appalling and wondered if I supported Al-Qaeda. I do not intend to send a message of hatred to my fellow Americans when I refuse to recite the pledge. The action is introspective, for I can not figure out how I quite feel about the United States of America and the pledge it encourages its schoolchildren to repeat daily. Like many other pledge critics, the statement "Under God" is most unappealing. While I believe in God, it directly contradicts how Americans assert their freedom of religion. Some people say this can not be changed because the pledge is old, but the US congress just reaffirmed that the motto of the country is "In God we trust". This further proves those who observe non-Abrahamic religions or no religion at all in this country are being deliberately ignored by the US government. I do not hate the United States, but I will accept that living here requires me to think of America as the world's superlative nation.

To appease those who are agitated by my unpatriotic attitude, we should begin to examine the positive attributes of American society. The foundations of the United States are not only incredible, but they created the infrastructure of modern democracy. Using the words of the Enlightenment philosophers, the founding fathers built a government for a country that essentially lets one be anyone they desire as long as they are not harming their fellow citizens. Pledge and motto aside, American freedom of religion and speech is incomparable anywhere else in the world. From a history of being a superpower, the United States is one of the world's most dominant and competitive nations. From such resonance in the world, the United States is probably the world's most assertive proponent toward a world of peace. The United Nations is headquartered in the United States, and the US Department of State is constantly making an effort to promote diplomacy in the world. For instance, presidents Clinton and Carter worked with great vigor to establish peace between Israel and its neighbors. The United States is a major trading power in the world, being what Penn Station is to commuting New Yorkers for all of the global economy. The United States is a hub of importing and exporting. Most of all, the Untied States grants its citizens the right to change what they feel is unjust in their society. If I want to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I maintain the right to assemble and attempt to change US policy. While there are things I should use this right to correct, I can not deny the United States fits the mold of potential greatness.

It is the atrocity of modern US politics that makes me disgraced to be a citizen of the United States of America. Although I was very young in 2003, I always remember thinking going to war in the Middle East was a bad idea. As a seven year old, I would ask my dad, "Why is the army in Iraq?". The new question I find myself asking is "Why are we not out of Iraq?" Other than being a tax on the US economy, the war is currently doing very little, for it is conclusive that the Iraqis are not hoarding weapons of mass destruction. If the United States need to fight any wars with foreign powers, I only hope that they are defensive unlike the situation in Iraq. After all, the governmental title of the military is the Department of Defense. While the United States is a leading constituent in the world of diplomacy, we are very violent. When I think of the Pledge of Allegiance, I think about how I would feel being drafted, a sign of uttermost loyalty to one's country. As such a feeling of fear comes with fighting for violent, unnecessary causes such as the war in Iraq, I doubt I would feel comfortable in performing mandated military service. I supported the troops because I know they are fighting to enable the exercise of the very freedom I am using to write this piece along with many other liberties. My disappointment in the United States Department of Defense stems from the reasoning of many wars the US fought in the 20th Century and the ones we are fighting now. In addition, my greatest shame in the country comes from watching the rise and fall of political campaigns every couple of years. In the age of the Internet, democracy is becoming a victim of its politicians transforming from intellectuals with practical ideas to "electable" celebrities. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties are guilty of producing candidates whose ideals are overshadowed by what suit tie they choose to wear or where they buy their groceries. The media is partly to blame, but all US citizens are equally responsible for supporting such ridiculousness. Politicians should be looking to the future of the country. It seems nominees from both parties are doing whatever they can to obtain office. Instead of making empty promises, the politicians of the United States should put their Ivy League law degrees to work. They should come up with ideas instead of diminishing their colleagues. Until practical democracy is fully restored in this nation, I can not pledge allegiance to it with a full hear and spirit.

As I said, not saying the pledge separates me from my peers. For anyone who thinks I am a terrorist against the United States or would prefer to live in Canada, I would like to say that is false. It is my wish that we could join together and fix this great country that is currently fractured. It will take elbow grease, but perhaps I will begin to say the Pledge of Allegiance again. My Pledge of Allegiance will be to the creation of a United States and world that is teeming with greatness.

Friday, December 02, 2011


As Jacob grows into a man, he begins to look for a suitable wife. Like Abraham and Isaac, he seeks a wife in Abraham's hometown of Haran. In Haran, Jacob meets Laban, and he becomes enamored for Rachel, Laban's daughter. When asking permission to marrying Rachel, Laban and Jacob strike a deal. Jacob agrees to work for Laban over the course of seven years in order to marry Rachel. After such time passes, Laban tricks Jacob. At the wedding, Jacob's bride wears a veil for the entire ceremony. Unknown to Jacob, it is Leah under the veil, rather than Rachel. Laban tricks Jacob fairly, but they strike another deal of seven years' labor for his new bride. After fourteen years, Jacob and Rachel marry, but they continue to reside with Laban for another six years. In that time, Leah, Rachel, and their two maidservants bear eleven of the twelve sons who become the tribes of Israel. The family barely escapes Laban's clutches after Jacob spent twenty years in Haran.

This Torah portion greatly involves dreams. On his way to Haran, Jacob rests somewhere along the path. When he goes to sleep, Jacob sees a ladder that reaches up to heaven. Angels are climbing up and down the ladder, which causes Jacob to deem the area a holy spot. God stands next to Jacob and confirms his covenant formerly promised to Abraham. God swears that protection Jacob on his search for a wife until he returns to his Promised Land of Canaan. God also promises to watch over Jacob on his expedition with a careful eye. Since he comes in contact with a man as tricky as Laban, it is quite fortunate that God reminds Jacob of this covenant through his dreams. In Jacob's other dream, God demands Jacob leave Laban in his twentieth year of residence. God notes that staying there would put Jacob in danger, and God is therefore maintaining the agreement from the last dream. In both dreams, God enters Jacob's dreams with a specific purpose. One could compare God to Leonardo DiCaprio's character in "Inception". In addition, the dream sequences foreshadow the talents of a future dream interpreter in Genesis, Joseph. God utilizes these dreams to carry out a message.

Dreams are funny. No psychologist can determine their purpose. Some dreams are about love or success, while others derive from the most horrifying, dark corners of our souls. Dreams bring the conscious and subconscious together, all while we are asleep. I do not memorably dream often, but when I do, I often enjoy it. Even nightmares are fulfilling in some way. After a really deep sleep, a remarkable dream makes me feel like the puzzle of my human soul is closer to being put together. Perhaps, God is trying to tell me something as I sleep. However, I can not remember a dream where God was involved. Do we need to open our minds to allow God to come to us? Jacob's dream nearly seems like a lucid dream because of his full intention to listen to God. Dreams are the basis of imagination, and almost anything can happen in them. Some can be as silly as a competition between two basketball teams comprised of zebras, or they can be as meaningful as a nightmare I once experienced. My sister and I were thrown into a concentration camp, and we came into direct contact with Adolf Hitler. Dreams force us to dig deeper within ourselves, whether we want to or not. It is necessary to listen to mental phenomenon that drives dreaming. For instance, my Holocaust nightmare further proved to me that my sister is the most important person in my life, and I will not allow anything or anybody to come between us. It may not always be God calling, but dreams are the manuscript of the soul.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Case for Religion

A headline earlier this week read, "Aaron Rodgers: More Popular than Jesus Christ". It is evident that religion is not as great an influence on society as it once was. The scientific revolution led to increasing doubt in religious dogma. In addition, humanity is no longer an agricultural, rural society, where everybody is familiar with one another. People reside in swarming metropolises nowadays, and they exclaim that religion is holding them back. Why should a corporation take a day of rest when their thousands of employees work different shifts? On the contrary, religion is still very meaningful to many people. Deeply consider religion is not a universal solution to all people's problems, but keep in mind religion being illegitimate for one person is no reason to press anti-religious thought on others. Similarly, recognize religion is not the same for any individual, and it can be quite loose or very fundamental. Aaron Rodgers may be more popular than Jesus Christ, but this is no basis for one to conclude that religion is unnecessary for the modern world.

Most people first think of deities and prophets when religion is brought up in conversation, but it is also a source of joy and celebration. Religion emphasizes core values, such as love, responsibility, family, and generosity. From birth to death, many religions recognize important life cycle events. While a wedding can be done in a courthouse or casino, some feel a full celebration with a religion aiding them in the process more memorable. Love is indescribable, but a religious leader can help a pair of fiancés define their relationship. The Jewish practice of a Bar Mitzvah is rewarding for many Jewish children, teaching them responsibility at the beginning of adolescence. Religion is like a source to fall back on when there are upcoming, major events. It is a well of beauty, significance, and understanding.

While religion is a divider among nations of the world, it brings groups together too. If every person in the world was ideologically identical, the world would be a monotonous place. Religion unifies people. After Friday night services, there is an Oneg Shabbat. Jews come to shmooze, but in many temples this ritual is more than polite chit-chat. All the Jews in the world share a common 5,000 year old history and culture, yet there is a wide spectrum of tradition. It is not religious differences that separates these groups, but people themselves. A friend and I were making a case for and against religion. She claimed religions start wars. If one takes the Spanish Inquisition, is religion to blame? Rather, King Ferdinand and the society he created in late 1400s Spain is what led to the Jews' expulsion and murder. Likewise, religious tolerance is a rewarding skill to practice, for it prepares people to handle other traits that are out of a person's control. By being separate, humans actually come closer together.

Although much happiness is found from religion, it is an outlet for comfort in the darkest of hours as well. Whether one is sick or dying, many turn to their faith for support. Since religion can not cure their friend's cancer or bring back a dead relative, skeptics discount this benefit. Instead, religion can be a hug after a loss. I know that I am on the committee in my synagogue to help the family of our congregant's members who are sick and dying. Representing the temple, I send get well and condolence cards to temple members. Additionally, rabbis, ministers, and the like are an open set of ears to pour one's feelings into a times become rough. When a person close to us falls ill, we feel helpless. Prayer is an aid for all, but offers a way to help in such a desperate time. A fellow congregant of mine once taught me prayer is not asking God to heal a broken arm. His prayer involved requesting that the person with the broken arm gain the strength to deal with this injury. Trying this, I realize it a way to gain hope. Subsequently, many religions teach to visit and help the sick. One can do this on their own, but through a place of worship it is organized and easier to go as a group. Religion can be a pathway to another family that supports one under any circumstance.

Many religions are ancient, and as some denounce, they are out of date. If this is so, these disbelievers should reform. While there are very conservative religious institutions, there are many that are open to change. I constantly question Judaism's philosophies. Religion is partly about preserving tradition, but there are many things that are, in fact, out of date. We should attempt to choose a religion that is applicable to us. Try to tie religion into a passion. Like to cook? Explore some holiday time recipes. Do not believe in a god? Find a particular religion that does not rely on theistic ethics. As I said before preaching religion, it is not for everyone. There are just some people who find it repulsive. Perhaps, football is more of a priority in Wisconsin right now. When it comes to finding jobs in this nation, a Packers victory may bring more smiles to faces than a Sunday church service. This is okay, but religion is not dying. There are still many positives assets to be explored. Religion makes us think. It makes us question our morality. How else are we supposed to develop a sense of right or wrong? Watching the Packers play?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Did Facebook, Among Other Entities, Kill Hospitality?

With the passing of Sarah, many excitements come to Isaac in this week's Torah portion. First of all, Abraham purchases a burial ground for him and his wife. Sarah unfortunately passes on, and Abraham is quite old and frail. Knowing he will not be on Earth much longer, Abraham assigns one of his servants to go back to his homeland. In this land, the servant must find Isaac a wife. The servant does not want to a pick a random woman to be the next matriarch of the Jewish people. He sets up a test for Isaac's future wife. Abraham's servant and his camels stop by a well outside the city. They rest there, for this servant wants to see which women will offer him and his camels water. If his plan is successful, he will ask to stay the night with this woman. He finds Rebekah, and his plan works. At Rebekah's household, Abraham's servant reveals the objective of his quest, asking Rebekah's parents permission to take her back to Isaac. When they agree to his terms, Rebekah returns to Canaan with him. Her and Isaac fall in love, and they wed at once. Abraham leaves Isaac his numerous possessions and the title of being head of the Jewish people.

In general, Abraham's servant is assessing Rebekah's generosity and hospitality. The water well is a common spot for many Biblical women to go, but only Rebekah offers this man and all his band of camels a drink after a long journey in the desert. This servant and his objectives are unknown to Rebekah, yet she continues to be as kind to this stranger as she would her kin. Later, Rebekah invites the servant to stay the night as he discusses his lack of a place to stay. Imagine for a walk and coming back with a houseguest. In the modern world, such random hospitality seems absurd. In Biblical times, being homeless, even for a night, was threat to one's survival. Nights were often cold, and the animals were wild at night. A multitude of things could kill one overnight, including a lack of food since lunchtime. Rebekah exhibits extraordinary kindness as she sets all doubts aside and allows this strange man into her life.

Is the principle of hospitality a thing of the past? In some ways, life is far more public than it ever was. Social networks, like Facebook, make a person's entire life known to anyone they accept. While one must accept someone on Facebook, there are many people that the accepter barely talks tom, but he or she shrugs and questions why not accept them. On the contrary, technology makes it easier for people to hide behind a screen to communicate. Even relationships are being started over Facebook chats and texts messages. In addition, there are many more charities today than there ever were. People want to do help the world by donating, but they are overwhelmed by the choosing who to award money. There was no single cause for the decline of hospitality and generosity. However, the decline is evident in how open people are to strangers. Thanksgiving is in less than a week, but there are few people outside one's general circle they would invite. Would they invite a homeless man or woman to share a meal with them? What if that man or woman was dirty versus clean? Does that make a difference? Even I could not say whether I would offer this invitation. In this situation, I would probably inform the homeless person about a local Thanksgiving meal in a public place. It allows him or her to enjoy the holiday, but it also relieves me of any discomfort I may feel. However, is it not true that person will still go to bed cold that night? Hospitably is not dead, but it is dying. I may never know if that homeless man or woman is on a quest to find someone's husband or wife.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Hagar-Sarah Conflict

Following orders from God, Abraham leaves Haran and settles in modern Israel with his wife Sarah. God admires this devotion, and promises Abraham prosperity for him and his descendants. However, Abraham becomes distraught, for Sarah is aging and unable to conceive a child. To avoid dying heirless, Sarah offers Abraham her maidservant, Hagar. Then, God acknowledges his covenant with Abraham, and God increases Sarah's fertility. Unfortunately, Hagar already bears Ishmael. Although the new mother succeeds in her designated task, Sarah mistreats Hagar. Eventually, Hagar becomes exasperated, and she runs away from Abraham and Sarah. She and Ishmael only returned based upon the words of an angel. Abraham and Sarah raise Isaac, but pay no regard toward Ishmael. Seeing their neglect, God blesses ishmael and his descendants with prosperity, which leads to the birth of the prophet Mohammed and the Muslim culture. Likewise, Isaac is considered the father of the Hebrews, for he was Abraham's other heir. Hagar and Sarah clash when birthing Abraham's heir, yet two nations are the heed of this conflict.

Is Ishmael really less worthy than his half-brother? Sure, Isaac is a blessing from God, but Ishmael precedes God's intervention and is no less Abraham's child than Isaac. Additionally, Hagar simply follows Sarah's orders to lay with Abraham, yet Sarah feels disgraced by her conception. How can Hagar, a servant, be at fault for obeying her mistress? By unknown means, it is evident Hagar was taken into custody by Sarah. Does it make Hagar less worthy than Sarah? The Torah also describes Hagar as Egyptian, implying her skin is a darker tone than Sarah. Does this imply race defines one's worthiness? Since Ishmael is multi-racial, is he less worthy of Abraham's attention? In the Avot V'emihot, the Jews proclaim how God is the God of Sarah. Based on the current situation, is Sarah a righteous anscestor to admire?

In my opinion, Ishmael and Hagar are just as valuable as Issac and Sarah. No human should be automatically neglected. I use the word automatically because humans start off as equals but deteriorate this privilege. For instance, two boys enter high school. One is Christian and the other is a Jew. Even though their English teacher is a devout Christian, she can not judge the Jew for anything other than his academic performance. Each child must originally receive the same attention at the start of the school year. If one boy turns in an essay personally attacking the teacher, then she can proceed to judge him. Similarly, Ishmael and Isaac should remain equal in Abraham's eyes until one of them supersedes the other. Racism, ageism, and sexism are all forms of prejudice and strangely stem from the Bible itself. Occasionally, I feel the Bible teaches the opposite of what the story tells. Such anecdotes highlight immorality in order to distinguish the opposite. Therefore, instead of following Sarah's path toward prejudice one should embrace people of all backgrounds until an individual is proven inadequate otherwise.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Understanding the Tower of Babel

Although the story of Noah's ark is one of the Bible's most famous, there is more to this week's parashat than just that. God chooses righteous Noah to be the keeper of the world's species while the world is destroyed by a massive, forty day flood. It is up to Noah and his three sons thereafter to repopulate the world. Once humanity is reestablished, the people of Earth settle into a valley and consolidate their efforts to build a marvelous city. God looks down at the people and sees how progressive they are becoming. Acknowledging any task is within humanity's reach, God mixes up the speech of each of the builders. God spreads these people among the world, each bringing a different language with them. The unfinished tower is known as the Tower of Babel, for the people babbled with confusion in their scrambled tongues.

This scene at Babel is quite troubling. Why does God interrupt the people's uniting, an unachieved goal of humanity throughout all of history? The text offers that the tower is literally being constructed to ascend toward the sky. Perhaps, this type of progress is intimidating to God. In God's vision of the universe, humans are meant to be below the heavens. If this was offensive, was there fear that God's sovereignty was threatened? Weekly, Jews praise God for being almighty and the most powerful force in the universe. What if God simply stops anyone else from coming close? In this moment, people live in the same place, know of the same God, speak the same language, and work with each other. Instead of this ideal unity, humans are separated by nation, some hating others. Rather than building a beautiful city, humans destroy one another's beauties. Is it God's fault? The people of Babel do not believe this city is a threat to God. The people build this city to make a name for themselves. Maybe they are doing this in arrogance toward God, boasting how like in the image of God humans can truly be. On the contrary, the people may be proving that their post-flood society is worthwhile. After all, they know God believed creation was mess before Noah, they want to show that this previous mistake is actually a masterpiece in the making. Whatever the reason, humans were separated by language at Babel.

Can one ever really "try their best"? From this logic, it can be concluded God limits a human's ability to excel toward true divinity. For instance, doctors and scientists are slowly finding cures to the world's diseases, but can there be cures for every illness? New York City is a hub for culture, politics, and society. However, can it grow too great? Even on a personal level, there is so little knowledge that can be attained. A student may go on to be their high school and college's valedictorian, but even Albert Einstein was clueless to some wonders. There are times when people limit themselves, but another force could be at work. In Eden, Adam and Eve are granted a perfect world to tend to with one rule. As Eve breaks this rule, the idea of perfection disappears. At Babel, the people nearly reach this level of greatness again. Based on Judaic teachings, the Messianic Age, the return of perfection in the world, is yet to come. It is possible that God separated humans by language to challenge them. Some may find this cruel, but is an A+ truly an A+ if the teacher never makes tough tests or quizzes? Is it worth reaching a goal without work? In most people's live, success comes with effort and elbow grease. God is like a parent, and God just does not want to spoil the children of Earth. Suddenly, the so ever troubling puzzle of Babel never seemed so clear.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Four Types of People

In the world, people fall be classified into four distinct compartments. There are people who recognize good, knowing what is righteous but never following their impulses. There are few famous examples of these bystanders because they rarely attempt to change the world. Those who recognize good know how to save the world, but are too fearful or lazy to actually change it. Then, there are those who recognize evil. Although there are few criminals who think violently and refuse to listen to their impulses, one can want to do evil but not be able to acquire the materials to perform their crime. For these followers in society, there are two types of leaders; those who perform good deeds and those who create evil. The righteous are some of the most hallowed people in society. People, like Gandhi teaching that violence is not necessary to compel change, refuse to let the same old pass by in their lifetime. They do not allow a single iniquity stand overlooked. On the other hand, there are people who act upon evil. Like Hitler, these sinister beings rise up from the lowest depths of human nature. From shoplifting to genocide, evil doers ignore the principles and ethics of society to compensate their own motives, usually greed or power. Anyone from Beijing to Berlin can be characterized as one of these four types of people. There are no overlaps, for these qualities analyze a person's character, their integrity or lack of it.

Before one can sort people into these classes, they must consider the difference between good and evil. If good is following the way society generally works, then American citizens might still rely on slaves imported from Africa. Good is fighting for what one considers right. Unfortunately, there are two sides to one fight and both consider their viewpoint good. On issues where the debate is heated, such as raising taxes versus cutting government spending, good and evil are dependent on the person. Perhaps, one could only follow their personal ethics system. The big bad wolf is the clear antagonist in "The Three Little Pigs", but he was simply seeking revenge on the pigs who perhaps hurt his pride in some way. Similar to such a fictitious fable, true goodness rises above wickedness by the end of time. When faced with such conflicts, good actually is the quality to follow one's heart. While some feel the Occupy Wall Street protests are inhumane, others are fighting for what they believe will redeem the American economic system. In the end, one side will win or gain more through compromise, but both forces are voicing what they feel is right.

Even though the definitions of good and bad are vague, there is one fact that is certain. The recognizers in life are not acceptable. It is never okay to be a bystander, yet they are a majority of the world's population. Being inspired is great, but it does not actually change the world. Who is one to tell others they can not change the world by themselves? Someone thought of the wheel, and fire did not just appear on its own. From these simple amenities, one can learn that heroes are everywhere. Change does not need to be massive, but starting small is starting somewhere. For instance, if someone believes the environment is a worth cause they should start in their home. The change they create in their home expands to their neighborhood and then to their town, state, country, and finally the world! Standing aimlessly without strong convictions is useless to the world and oneself. Anyone can be a leader. Leaders fight for what they believe in and against what they dislike. For anyone who reads this, help fix the world. All it takes is a little elbow grease.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Does Sorry Cut It With God?

At this time of year, the Jews do more than celebrate the new year. A new year becomes an opportunity to start anew. On Rosh Hashana, God opens the Torah, the Book of Life. According to mysticism, God watches us all a little closer over the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It is said that God weighs a person's bad sins and good deeds against each on Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, the Book of Life is sealed and our destiny for the year is certain. Yom Kippur means the Day of Atonement. On this most holy day of the year, we apologize for our sins through praise of God. Whether or not one believes in God is actually irrelevant, for reevaluating one's actions and relieving guilt is always providential for success in life. It is helpful though to literally talk out one's sins with God. In this role, God becomes the omnipotent therapist in the sky.

How forgiving is God? Apologizing is not simply enough. In order to properly atone for one’s sins, the problem must first be recognized and then corrected. The Jews say the world stands on three things; Torah, Avodah (worship), and Gemulit Hasidim (acts of love and kindness). When the Torah’s law is broken, the entire pyramid is thrown off balance. To fix this, Jews praise God on Yom Kippur and are granted a new slate for the year. God will forgive atoners under any circumstances. After the concluding service of Yom Kippur, the responsibility of redeeming oneself falls on the sinner. Performing the positive mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah is fully relieves someone of their wickedness. Regardless of the degree of evil, a person should always strive to help others. It is impossible to atone for every sin on Yom Kippur, but the study of Torah, praise of God, and love to others increases God’s forgiving nature.

What happens when a society begins to run amuck? According to the book of Jonah, God allows them to correct their actions prior to further punishment. God sends Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh about the consequences of their wrongdoings. At first, Jonah ignores God's request and attempts to run away. However, Jonah realizes it is impossible to escape God as a storm is cast upon the sea. A fish swallows Jonah for three days. At the end of this time, Jonah promises to go to Nineveh. He saves the city and himself. As individuals, atonement is simple, for the power is entire our responsibility. In groups, it is difficult sometimes impossible to tell another person how to improve their morality. If this is true, why do Jews go to synagogue for Yom Kippur services rather than worshipping with a deep, personal connection to God? As seen in the horrors of the Holocaust, it only takes one, evil soul in all of Europe to rupture the tranquility in a society. Humans excel and fail as a coalition. Therefore, setting a time of year to reanalyze our society's fallings is just as essential if not more so than atoning as individuals.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Making Religious Choices

As Deuteronomy begins to wind down, the Israelites' journey comes to a close. The Jews' entry to the Promised Land is very much like God lending Israel a car. Although God is willing to give Israel the keys, God stills feels a lot of validated nervousness. The Israelites are very new to driving, and God wants to make sure they can handle their new responsibility. Like trusting a teenage driver, God is nervous that Israel will not follow through with the covenant made in the desert over the last forty years. God hopes for the best, but warns Israel of the consequences of breaking the covenant. Driving poorly results in a accident. Likewise, disobeying God also may involve pain. Under some circumstance, the punishment could be severe, including entire excommunication from the twelve tribes of Israel. Controversially, God denounces following only one's freewill. God claims that one who says, "I shall be safe, though I follow my own willful heart," is doomed to great misfortune.

God chose to make humans separated from the rest of humanity. Unlike any other living creature on Earth, people can make decision while being cognizant of emotion and condition. Humans determine their actions based on freewill. Anything from a gorilla to a starfish, merely eat, sleep, and drink to survive. Abstract thinking separates humanity from the animal kingdom. In contrast, God condemns the use of freewill in this week's Torah portion. God orders the Israelites to
obey the commandments listed in the Torah. Where do humans cross the line between decision making and defying God's law? God dislikes humans with a willful heart, but it is this very attribute that makes humans unique from all of creation. Similar to many conundrums in life, the key to freewill is balance. One is free to choose whether or not to eat a bacon cheeseburger. Based on one's degree of observation, loyalty to God may vary. Most people scorn murder, but go out on Shabbat. Where does freewill cross over to disloyalty?

Does religion hold one back from the splendors of life? According to the portion, God desires all Jews follow the laws of the Torah to some degree. From as early a stage as infancy, God's commandments contradict daily routines. Take a child's birthday party for example. Mary is celebrating her fifth birthday party on a Saturday afternoon. Rachel wants to go because Mary and her are very close friends. However, she recognizes that Shabbat is a day of rest and reflection not fit for such a strenuous festivity. Even if Rachel decides to go, she realizes that the lunch being served is a pepperoni pizza with an ice cream buffet afterward. Although Rachel is merely five years old, she already faces constraints which her religious forced upon her. Why even observe the commandments if they become an obstacle? After all, plenty of people ignore the word of God. Contrary to this week's parashat, they face no mayhem worse than anyone else in the world. First of all, observing any religion or offers insight into the soul. The arbitrary religion one is born into may not be the one meant for them. Secondly, religious law is a tool for establishing values. Abstaining from shellfish seems absurd in one person's eyes, but offers the lesson of discipline in another's eyes. Religion does not hold back from life's joys. It enhances them. Sometimes the choices are tough, but overall the guidance and spirituality religion can offer is worth the risk of missing out on one birthday party.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Shakespeare Series: "Julius Caesar"

"Julius Caesar" unravels the plot carried out to assassinate the title character and its aftermath. Villainous Cassius convinces Julius' dear friend Brutus to help him with the murder. They gather a team of senators in the name of protecting Rome. These men of the Republic claim to be selfless. As Caesar gains popularity among the Roman public, these noble men cower that he will proclaim himself emperor. The men decide the only way to stop Caesar is to lead him to the senate and slay him. Truth be told, their plan backfires. Caesar's murder leads Rome into a state of chaos. With what appears to be treason, citizens of Roman are appalled by Caesar's death. In the midst of protecting Roman democracy, the conspirators destroy it. Romans look to Mark Antony as their only hope of preventing Rome from falling apart. Antony eventually forms a triumvirate with Lepidus and Octavius. In accordance to Caesar's will, Octavius become Rome's first emperor.

At Caesar's funeral, Brutus defiantly proclaims, "But as he was ambitious, I slew him" (III.ii.25). Julius Caesar was an honorable man, but he was far too ambitious. The moment he stopped fighting for the rights of the Roman people, he was sworn dead. Like Napoleon and Hitler, he overstepped his bounds. A leader should be decisive, but these three men failed to learn the difference between executive and totalitarian. Even Cassius and Brutus let power go to their heads. In Rome's discombobulated state, these men try to rise to the top. They receive their own consequences, but one must read to find those out. Although Rome was the last empire of the ancient world, Caesar's fallings are still prevalent. Like Rome, US congressmen and congresswomen are letting personal ego inhibit their ability to reform society. Caesar was talented in communicating through political rhetoric, a valued asset of the modern politician. Sometimes society forgets the mistakes of the Romans. Although the successes of the Roman Empire are monstrous, the rights of its citizens were minimal. Their failing to preserve democracy resulted in an multi-century empire.

I recommend "Julius Caesar" to any sophisticated reader. This play exemplifies Shakespeare's mastery of turning a simple plot into something very deep. I advise any reader of this play to attempt to dwell in the motions of Caesar and Brutus. As their friendship falls apart, we should relate it our friendships that seemed to drift apart. For a rookie to Shakespeare, I would wait to read "Julius Caesar". The language is challenging and confusing at times. I read this play while I was a camp. Even with all the exciting activities surrounding me, this tale of the failing Roman republic could captivate me. Picking up this masterpiece will send a reader on a wild ride to society much like our own a long time ago.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Can We Sweep Evil From Our Midst?

In Parashat Ki Teizi, God reemphasizes laws stated in Leviticus. God reviews the process of dealing with a marriage or divorce with a slave, a defiant child, and kidnapping. In addition, God prohibits sex before marriage, prostitution, torture, and remarriage of the same spouse. The commandment to wear a tallis is also included in this week's text. Ki Teizi is full of dos and do nots for the Israelites as they enter the land.

Similar logic applies to every law. According to the Torah, these demands are not to be tedious, but rather sweep evil from our midst. Is it possible to purify society so there is no evil? Most likely, this is not probable. Humans' sense of right and wrong differs from person to person. Nobody can agree on what is truly justice. If society abided to the rules of the Torah, such as remaining abstinent, how better off would we be? A world without regulation would definitely be chaotic, but it seems like rules can get in the way of happiness. Could we lighten up on our legislature? For instance, look at a school. A wise person once said, "In school, you lose all your rights." It is perfectly logical that one is not allowed to shoot guns or smoke cigarettes in class. These kinds of restrictions protect the students. Would the world really end if a hat were kept on during the day? What about playing cards during study hall, which really is prohibited in some schools? The fine lines these institutions and the nations of the world operate by are considerably insane. Playing cards will not sweep evil into one's midst.

Furthermore, once these codes are broken one receives punishment. What kind of justice system is being run in this world? Criminals who do bad things are then put in a single room for an amounted time, sometimes even for the rest of their life. I am not denying that jail is an effective way to keep our neighborhoods safe. I argue the fact that criminals sit in cells where they may become more furious at the world than they were before their imprisonment is unethical. Rather than let our villains rot away behind bars, I suggest we figure out how to psychoanalyze the cause of their harsh actions. I was originally going to say that we should correct criminals' unacceptable behavior, but then I began to think. Is it sometimes necessary to break the law? Rosa Parks was breaking the law during her time, but she stood up for what she believed. In my opinion, laws are only unbreakable when the protest of said law will harm others. Perhaps, everybody should relax and enjoy life for a little while, rather than worrying about demands from an executive power.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

My Thoughts on Camp Shomria 2011

Coming back home from summer campo is a daunting task to undergo. Especially when one's camp feels like home, as does mine. Of all possible things to do to reconnect with society, I spent a gloomy day back going to the dentist and buying shoes. To make matters worse, it was rainy on this bleak Monday morning. That afternoon the joy continued with a visit to the orthodontist to get my braces tightened. After about three weeks in the "real world", I can honestly say all I want to do is get in the car, turn around, and return to Liberty, NY. To say the least, it was an amazing summer at Camp Shomria.

One of the greatest things about Mosh (as we call it) is the massive potential to witness instantaneous friendships form. On the first day, campers are split into age groups known as kvutzot. Besides a common age and grade, these groups can be totally dissimilar. Some come from Israel and others come from down the road. From my experience, I know all fourteen year olds learn, work, and interact with each other in different ways. Somehow, a kvutzah can come together to do number of tasks. For instance, they do the dishes for the whole camp or write and run an activity. By learning to work with my kvutzah, it eventually taught me how to understand people. Everybody in my kvutzah did not speak English fluently or agree on political issues. At Mosh, I learned to accept people's flaws. When someone new entered the kvutzah, they were welcomed. Of course, kvutzot get mad at each other and they fight. However, families are the same way. Arguments between members of the same kvutzah somehow get resolved. Lifelong friendships quickly take shape as one begins to live with their kvutzah. I know these bonds are indestructible and will only strengthen with age.

One of Camp Shomria's newest initiatives is to achieve self sustainability. With a hundred mouths to feed at each meal, this is quite the dream. Although this year was only the start, we turned a parking lot into a garden that produced dozens of vegetables daily. It grew a wide range of produce, including tomatoes, beets, spices, potatoes, and corn. This garden was entirely organic. Across from the garden were nearly eighty chickens which laid all of the camp's eggs. It was a daily activity to weed the garden or feed the chickens. At the end of a meal, campers would throw away their food scraps into one of two compost bins. One bin would be used as chicken food at the farm. The other decomposed to become rich soil for the garden. In addition, campers learned about a large array of ecological subjects. My kvutzah's topic for the summer was water. One week we boiled lake water to become tea, and another week we discussed how drilling for natural gas in the Catskills can taint New York City's water supply. I find it fascinating how unequally water is distributed in the world. My kvutzah discussed how to solve this problem. One of my least favorite moments of the week returning home was the reawakening of how ecologically unfriendly Americans can be. Like I said, I was sitting in the dentist office the other. A commercial came on about natural gas and how it was "the cleaner solution". I immediately became disgruntled that the ad left out how drilling can tamper with water supplies and the resource is non-renewable. It was an eye-opening experience.

Unlike regular summer camps, Shomria is part embraces the power of its campers. In fact, it is entirely run by youth. The oldest councilor at camp was only twenty-two years old. The camp is exactly what we want it to be. Shomria embraces this and really lets us call the shots. Every year the older kids hold a forum to make decisions about the camp's future. Mosh gave me the belief that one person can change the world at any age. Being home, I realize that youth are not encouraged as much as I would like. Adults run the banks, the institutions, and the countries, but children are the future. We constantly put our hopes on the back burner saving them for when we are older. I may not be eligible for the US Congress yet, but I know I can lobby for what I believe is justice. If the councilors tried to teach me anything at Camp Shomria is was to stand up for the causes I deeply believe are important. Hopefully, I can take this lesson as my part to perform tikkun olam- fixation of the world.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Genocide

In Parashat Shoftim, God briefly outlines the criminal justice system of Israel. God starts by describing how to prevent corruption. This includes the refusal of bribes. Members of the law are required to seek justice under any circumstance. Aaron and his descendants, the Levites, are assigned to rule over Israel's religious and federal practices. Later in the parashat, God declare that those who believe in magic or ghosts are a disgrace. Fortune tellers and seance goers alike are to be excommunicated from the community. All these laws were fairly non-shelaunt until the very end of Parashat Shoftim. To conclude this portion, God discusses militarily issues. God claims in order to receive the land of heritage, the Israelites must not let a soul live from a number of different tribes residing in Canaan.

Basically, God condones genocide. How could this be? The events of the Holocaust occurred less than a century ago. After the horrors Jews in Europe were forced to endure, it is inconceivable to believe God could order us to wipe out entire nations. Through a historian's eyes, the mass, Biblical murder is not as provocative as it seems. Killings like these were not considered genocide in the ancient world. If the ancient Israelites did not eliminate these nations, these enemies would have attacked us. Hindsight set aside, the ethics of how Israel went about dealing with these domains is purely despicable. In any age, the elimination of a race to prevent these peoples from leading us to abhorrent sins is ethically unacceptable. I find some of Jewish law unnecessarily strict,. like the forbidding of shaving ones sideburns, but I understand that daunting restrictions like these promote the teaching of discipline. There is no way to find a way to ethically defend this violent decree by God.

What can we do? This treacherous act was done over 3,000 years ago. It is impossible to change the past. I believe there a three steps we need to take in order to obtain full atonement over our ancestor's actions. First of all, we need to be willing to claim responsibility for the bloodshed that occurred. Hopefully, the other peoples of the world are willing to forgive us. Secondly, we need to teach about the horrors of genocide. Of all nations, Jews can empathize on the topic of genocide most often. As a generation of Holocaust survivors begins to pass on, we are responsible to tell their stories. Emotions make the Holocaust a touchy subject, but we can not let them get in the way. In my opinion, teaching youth about the Holocaust is the only way to prevent another mass extermination of the caliber. One may ask how we can educate others about genocide without experiencing the Holocaust, like our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Promote high schools to assign their students to read books like "Night", which are banned in some districts. Parents should sit down with their child and inquire what their knowledge is on this subject. The third step of our redemption is to prevent future genocides. It boggles my mind that genocide is still occurring after the Holocaust. Teaching our children is not enough to protect another from suffering. I do not even believe sending aid is enough to accomplish such a task. Although I am guilty of not doing so myself, I insist that we need to lobby against genocide. In the 1940's, the United States of America was too finically fragile to stop the Holocaust in its tracks. It was not until 1945 when numbers like six million began to reach the American public. It makes me wonder what the numbers look like in Darfur right now.

Friday, August 26, 2011

There's No Place Like Home, Is There?

In this week's, parashat God continues to discuss how to enter the Promised Land according to the Torah. God reviews which animals are considered Kosher and which are traif. In addition, God tells how an Israelite would be punished if they turned to other gods. These punishments include stoning and death. God also discusses how to deal with wicked people who attempt to invade an Israelite city. God teaches the Twelve Tribes to treat the poor with an open heart. According to the Torah, Jews are intended to lend to other nations but never borrow. Regularly, debts in Israelite society would be settled after three years. God demands Jews to be generous to the poor and expect no return. Asking the poor to pay one back is considered a sin punishable by death. FInally, God discusses how to celebrate the harvest festivals; Passover, Shavout, and Sukkot. Through these civil laws, God prepares the Israelites to live in a courteous society.

A common, Jewish nickname for Israel is the "Promised Land". Throughout this week's parashat, God describes locations in Israel as the "land which the Lord, Your God gives you". Why did God give us this particular place for our sanctum? It all started with Abraham. Abraham and Sarah dwelt in Israel, which was then known as Canaan. As patriarch of the Jewish people, God puts Abraham to the test. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham take Isaac up to the mountain, but an angel swiftly stops the murder. In that very instant, God forms a covenant that the land of Israel belongs to Abraham and his people. Two generations later, famine strikes Canaan. Jacob was notified that Egypt avoided was experiencing feast. this famine. He brought the Jewish people to live in the land of Goshem. Hence, we were enslaved by Pharaoh and liberated by God. The rest is history.

What makes a place sacred? For some, it is our household, alma matter, or place of worship that we think of as our cherished domain. I consider my camp to be hallowed ground in Liberty, New York. Sometimes I ponder if the people and memories from Mosh make it sanctified or the fact that it was founded in the 1930's. The Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the Red Scare are amongst some of the critical moments in the twentieth century that camp survived through. Some of the buildings are still intact from the opening. Sometimes I look on the walls and see signatures from the 1940's. As the six weeks of the summer go on, a microcosmic society begins to develop. It is almost as if we were our own kibbutz. I wonder if the camp would be the same if we bought the equivalent 117 acres somewhere else, say the Berkshires. We would sing the same songs, dance the same dances, and write the same activities. Natural gas companies are beginning to approach summer camps in the Catskills, and that may include a move for us in Liberty. We discussed the prospect of selling our lands to drill for natural gas. Although the opinion was not unanimous, a majority of campers did not want to take responsibility for destroying such a special, historical place. In the end, we decided to turn down any companies that approached us, no matter how much money they offered. This overwhelming decline to drill showed me that buildings and fields really matter. New York is essentially comprised of tall buildings and narrow streetways. It would not be right to see a Yankees home game outside the Bronx. It would be nearly impossible to move 8 million New Yorkers to different location, let alone convince them to still call it New York. Imagine San Francisco without the Golden Gate Bridge. A place is brought to life by the people who inhabit it, but the location is the foundation to making it special.

Israel is so similar yet so different. Different people claim ownership over this country. If this is new truth about location is universal, Israel needs to be between the Red, Mediterranean, and Dead Sea. Does it need to be sacred to only Jews? I am sure those Mediterranean sunsets are just as spectacular if one prays to a different deity. I am conflicted. I believe that Muslims and Christians should be able to call Israel their holy land too, but I also believe Israel is the Jewish state. The solution of this situation is extremely difficult. All I can say is to move forward in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, we must keep in mind what if feels like to call Israel our home.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Exclusion: That Horrible Feeling

Once again, the Israelites fail to believe in God. In Parshat Chukat, the Israelites complain to Moses about their standard of living. They are angered by the lack of water in their arid environment. God orders Moses to slash a rock with his staff. Instantly, water gushes out of the rock. This portion also features the unfortunate deaths of Aaron and Miriam. God decides that no person of the originally liberated generation earned their entrance into the Promised Land. Their lack of faith held them back. Moses and his caravan pass through two kingdoms in Parshat Chukat. Each time Moses asks permission to travel along the roads of these kingdoms. He promises to merely stay on the road and avoid interacting with the people of either kingdom and their possessions. Both kings deny Moses this right, claiming he is a threat to their sovereignty. Therefore, the Israelites are attacked. In their defense, they retaliate to gain access to these private roadways.

It is human nature to exclude others. Exclusion helps us demonstrate our power. By leaving others out, we appeal to those who already belong. Moses did the best he was capable of to persuade these kings the Israelites meant no harm. Perhaps, these kings heard of the plague in Egypt and feared God. At this point, I do not find Israel much of a threat. Almost every week, I read about the Jewish people complaining to Moses. Although God punishes them, they fail to learn from their mistakes. Are the Israelites really a threat toward either king?

If anybody knows exclusion, a middle school graduate, like myself, should know it best. In the Israelites' case, exclusion snowballed into a battle. Nobody enjoys being excluded, yet at one point or another we all were left out of the major group. =In my experience, exclusion is generated in two different ways. Sometimes it is unintentional. For instance, at my middle school the tables were square with seats attached. If all the seats filled up, kids could feel left out. The excluders were not trying to be malicious, yet the environment caused isolation. The other kind of exclusion makes the antagonized one feel much worse; intentional exclusion. At times, it is appropriate, such as not making a team or getting a role in a play. However, clubs that require no minimum or maximum number of participants should be welcoming to anyone who seems interested. In my last few weeks of eighth grade, I saw cliques in full force. A clique in its simplest form can be a bond of friends based on similar interests. When these groups refuse to let in new members, it can cause havoc. Unlike the kings in the desert, modern humans should ignore their self doubt and be open to letting people be part of a group, club, or activity. On Sunday, I leave for Camp Shomria. I went last year and met many people. Upon meeting these people, I decided to forget how they were last year. When I arrive on Sunday, I will refuse to listen to any prerequisites about campers, counselors, or the facilities themselves. I want to show up with a clean slate, and I hope my peers feel the same way toward myself. Like I said, we all know how horrible it feels to be excluded. By working and tolerating each other, we can redeem Moses in the desert.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shakespeare Series: "Taming of the Shrew"

"Taming of the Shrew" revolves around a pair of sisters who antagonize each other. Bianca is the desire of every man in Padua, yet Katherina is just the opposite. Their father, Baptista, forbids her to wed until her elder sister does so first. As I read "Shrew", Disney kept coming up in my mind. One of Bianca's prominent suitors, Lucentio, resembles Gaston of "Beauty and the Beast". He assumes a man of his status and wealth deserves a girl such as Bianca. He decides with the help of his servants he absolutely must marry her. Among him, many other men try to court the Italian beauty. One of these methods includes intricate disguises in which the men try to earn Bianca's love. Of course, these admirers are quite aware of her father's restrictions. Petruchio was just the hero Lucentio and the others were looking for. He traveled from Verona to seek out a wife whose father will provide him with wealth. Hortensio, another desperate seeker of Bianca's love, offers Katherina as his bride. Although he warns Pertuchio of her rude demeanor, the offer still sounds enticing. Pertuchio develops a scheme in his attempt to tame his acquired bride. Shakespeare craftily mixes a clever wit and insightful commentary on the way people live.

This play is nearly bursting at the seams with relevance. As I said, Disney kept coming back up in my mind. When Baptista and Pertuchio decide that Katherina will be married at once, the discussion prompted me to remember the saltan and Aladdin boasting about how the phony prince would be right fo his Jasmine. Disney's princess and Shakespeare's shrew are a duo of strong-willed women. At first, I thought Katherina's struggle would bring out her inner feminist. When I continued reading the play, I realized her unattractiveness was insignificant. Her bitter nature stemmed from a far deeper plight all humans suffer. Katherina was plainly misunderstood. I believe Katherina was cruel because no one cared for her. Even Baptista favored Bianca. He did not know how to deal with his complex, eldest daughter. Perhaps Hortensio offers the most important advice of all the characters in "Shrew"; if a girl does not seem interested, move on instead of moping with heartbreak. Certainly, the Bard crammed some fairly deep concepts between his jokes.

I recommend this play for a truly experienced fan of Shakespeare. It was not my favorite show of all time, but I believe this is to due to the fact it is really a play. In order to fully enjoy this piece, I feel one must see an actual performance. I am sure that parts I found difficult to comprehend would be much more lucid on stage. Although this play is intended to be a comedy, one can not expect a laugh from every line. In modern cinema, most comic characters are shown continually stupider plunders. "Taming of the Shrew" is written with a more subdued tone. There are moments where Pertuchucio is flamboyantly funny, but the show is also centered around a complex plot that forces a reader to think. It was a challenge to read, but if one feels up to the task they are assured to enjoy a story full of joy and wisdom.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ancient Israel Was No Democracy

After a while in the desert, it would be expected that the Israelites doubt Moses' leadership. In this week's Torah portion, a man named Korah organizes a few, angry fellows to chastise Moses. They complain to Moses that he overstepped his boundaries. They claim, "You have gone too far!" Moses responds to them by telling them to sacrifice to God. He claims that Korah is the one crossing the line. Witnessing this uprising, God takes action. Suddenly, the Earth swallows Korah and his comrades. God brings them and their possessions into Sheol, the Jewish equivalent of Hell. God's bold discipline causes further panic among the young nation. A mob against Moses and God forms. Although they fear being sent to Sheol, the Israelites find their current situation abusive. They claim that dying in the desert for their rebellion is worth defying God. One man professes that they would die sooner or later anyways. Israel loses faith that they will reach the Holy Land. In haste, God sends a plague to correct this mob's comeuppance. Moses nor God will not stand for disobedience such as that demonstrated in Parshat Korah.

Throughout the Torah, God's personality changes. As Numbers and Deuteronomy progress, God's tendencies are harsher and more rash. In my opinion, God's attitude swing can be reasoned quite logically. I believe the Torah was written by authors based on oral tradition. The last two books of the Torah were most likely written at the turn of the common era. At this time, Judaism's numbers were dwindling due to the rise of Christianity. This population decline caused authors of the Torah to write about a wrathful God. On the other hand, the New Testament illustrates a loving, gentler God. Israel was no democracy. God was considered Master of the Universe and Ruler of the Israelites. Like some rulers, God enforces absolutism. Absolutely no corruption is tolerated under the command of God. How does the slaughter of rebellious subject reflect the image of the Jewish God? Just as God can be strict, I believe God creates beauty. I often ponder the question; Where do I think of God most? Many would say synagogue or while lighting the candles. Whenever I see a sunset, I imagine God. Sometimes I think about how only a master painter like God could make a sky look so spectacular. Occasionally, I just stare in awe trying to recognize how day turns into night and an entirely new world is at my beckoning. God is the only ruler of this Universe, but sometimes that can be a wonderful virtue.

Then again, I am an Israelite's descendant. I see their point. If God is an omnipotent being, why do I stand on an Earth corrupt with hunger, disease, poverty, and all other travesties among men and women? Korah's anger with Moses in this week's portion reminded me of the American government. Often times, I hear people discussing politics. Like Korah, I understand a number of Americans are angry that politicians are driven by the personal gain rather than the betterment of the country. Nowadays, it seems like Democrat-Republican is a rivalry just as much as Yankees-Red Sox. Just like the baseball teams, their feuding drama inhibits progress. When the Yankees come up to Boston, the games stretch for three to four hours. Every election, Americans are promised our imaginable land flowing with milk and honey. After 235 years of democracy, we are still out wandering in the desert. Earlier in the year, my history class studied the decline of Rome. Obviously, we are failing to learn from the Romans. Shakespeare wrote that Julius Caesar's ambition slew him. It could be Obama, Palin, Trump, or Pelosi, politics are corrupt from either side of the spectrum. Instead of being ambitious as an emperor, our leaders need to be ambitious as a nation. To be fair, American citizens need to stop being so skeptical. Change is an experiment. Like all experiments, there is room for improvement. If we refuse to let the government implement change, how can Americans expect progress? Maybe, we all just need to open our eyes and watch the sun set.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Shakespeare Series: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a play which contains four stories meshed into one overall plot. First of all, King Theseus of Athens prepares to marry the amazon queen, Hippolyta. In addition to their wedding, Theseus requests that his merchants perform a play at the ceremony. Many scenes include these merchants, such as Peter Quince, Francis Flute, Robin Sterveling, Tom Snout, and Snug. They rehearse for their king while dealing with their occasionally spacey friend named Nick Bottom. As the play continues, readers learn of a second royal couple. Queen Titania, King Oberon, and Robin "Puck" Goodfellow are a trio of mischievous fairies. Meanwhile, four mismatched lovers stow away to the woods. Lysander and Hermia are in love, but Hermia's father disapproves of Lysander. Ironically, Hermia's sister, Helena, falls for Demetrius, the suitor chosen for Hermia. In a turn of events, Robin Goodfellow casts a spell that makes Lysander and Demetrius both fall in love with Helena. From that point, confusion ensues, which makes for a hilarious masterpiece by the Bard.

When I go on the Barnes and Noble website, the Shakespeare books are labeled teenage novels. At first, I found this label quite precarious. How many average teens read Shakespeare's plays in their spare time? "A Midsummer Night's Dream" shed some light on this peculiarity. Through our foursome's romantic predicament, Shakespeare illustrates how a teenager sees love. In an adolescent's eye, everyone seems to be enamored with the wrong person. My sister and I often laugh at the idea of a middle school relationship. Young love does seem like a fairy's magic spell. Like Puck, it is mischievous yet benevolent. Helena expresses strong feelings of jealousy just like any kid growing up. William Shakespeare was no teenager when he wrote "Midsummer". However, the ever-changing interests of Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander remind me of what I see at school. Of course, the play ends with a hilarious production by the merchants of Athens.

No reader can go wrong when choosing "A Midsummer Night's Dream". I recommend it to readers of all levels of Shakespeare, especially teenagers. Nick Bottom's blunders always put a smile on my face while Helena's struggle with her self conscious nature touch my heart. Honestly, it takes getting used to the utter confusion of this play. I constantly confused Hermia and Helena throughout the first act. My advice would be to concentrate and really give this hilarious piece a chance. For some odd reason, this play made me picture no stage at all. I could vividly envision the characters and woods. Whether one is looking for a nice laugh or a deep theme, pick up "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and prepare to be taken away.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Was There A Better Way?

Over the past week, I spent my time touring Washington D.C., the nation's capital. I viewed monuments, museums, and memorials. Among these sites, we toured the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. FDR numbered many accomplishments over his sixteen year administration. He was the only president to be reelected four times. How did he do it? Some would call him the father of the greatest generation that ever lived. He lifted a nation out of a depression through his innovative New Deal and defeated evil in its most triumphant hour. One ink blot lay on Roosevelt's impressive resumé. While World War II put democracy into jeopardy, Roosevelt overlooked the horrid tragedy of the Holocaust. Until 1944, our nation's leader was very hesitant to take action against the genocide occurring in Nazi Europe. At least, I thought Roosevelt was unfairly ignoring the Jews of Europe. It turns out he did a lot more than meets the eye.

I can honestly state that Roosevelt was not antisemite. How can a man juggle a economic sinkhole, a grievous war, and a genocide at the same time? Even Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis gives this president credit for trying to prevent Hitler from rising to power. Contrary to Winston Churchill, Roosevelt demanded Hitler be taken down from the first year of his presidency. While Congress refused to allow Roosevelt to lift particular quotas set in the 1920's, he helped Jewish refugees obtain visas in a more efficient way. People constantly came to Roosevelt with plans of ending the Holocaust. Contemporary historians discredit Roosevelt thinking he simply refused to listen to the American Jews. Contrary to this theory, Roosevelt took the time to go over each plan carefully. Taking these plans into consideration, he placed defeating Nazi Germany as a higher priority, even though Japan was a larger threat. He denied the American attempts to put an end to genocide in order to win the war. Roosevelt felt that defeating Hitler would bring Nazism to its end. He knew if Hitler was kept alive, his philosophies would also remain vivid. Franklin Roosevelt did not hate Jews, but developing a plan to save them was a difficult task.

These feats shed light on Roosevelt's views of the Holocaust, but many of his policies were executed too late for the Jews to be saved. Our thirty-second president's greatest impediments were Congress and the American public. Franklin and Eleanor pitied the persecution of Germany's Jews, but Americans did not. Of course, how could a nation with 25 percent unemployment worry about policies overseas? In his first term, Roosevelt's priority was to uplift the country of its depression. Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover diminished the legacy of Woodrow Wilson throughout the 1920's. By 1932, the nation's greatest success story was Babe Ruth calling his shot in Wrigley Field. The legislative branch of the United States found it skeptical that Jews would find jobs in 1930's America. By the start of the European war in 1939, there were over 4 million Jews already displaced by the Third Reich. How could Roosevelt obtain visas for 4 million Jews? Presidents, like other leaders, must make tough decisions. Turning away persecuted Jews for the sake of his nation was part of Roosevelt's job. Unfortunately, Roosevelt hardly made an effort to liberate concentration camps until 1944. Luckily, he refused to bomb Auschwitz and the other death centers. Over half the world's Jews died from 1933 to 1945, but Roosevelt tried his best to save as many as he could.

Personally, I feel he waited too long. The evidence I provide may contradict my opinion, but the way Roosevelt ignored this genocide for so long makes my heart wrench. On the other hand, it got me thinking. How can you judge a president based on one policy? Obama and Roosevelt are very alike. They are Democratic presidents who were inaugurated when our nation was inundated with problems. So far, both of these men worked with economic pressures, national insecurity, and a skeptical American public. Jews were up in arms as Obama discussed Israel with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Is Roosevelt truly to blame when we here that six million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust? Is Obama to blame when the death toll of the Darfur genocide is released?

Works Cited

Vanden Heuvel, William J. "America, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust." Franklin D. Roosevelt - American Heritage Center, Inc. 2007. Web. 11 June 2011. .

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Franklin Delano Roosevelt." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 11 June 2011. .

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Rage of War

Before this week, it was a mystery to me how the book of Numbers got its names. As I started to read Parshat Bamidbar, it all started to make sense. This less popularized book of the Torah starts with a census. God called on Moses to count the number of Israeli men who could bear arms. Hence, it was named Numbers. In addition to counting the number of these men, God commands Moses to do a census of the Levites above the age of one month, and then specifically the Kohanim. The Levites are known as the priestly tribe of ancient Israel, which is probably why there was a specific census dedicated to them. However, why did God demand Moses back track to the age of one month or above? How can a one month old child even be recognized in the priestly class? Anyways, Numbers so far is ironically about Numbers.

Parshat Bamidbar becomes very repetitive as one reads along. According to the portion, each tribe's chieftain created a census which lists name by name, the men who are both above twenty and able to bear arms.Why is it important to bear arms? At this point in the Torah, the Israelites are not far into the wilderness. I believe God is preparing them for their departure. In fact, God is creating the first Israeli Defense Force. If any foreign tribe attacks these travelers, God wants them to be ready to retaliate. I found it interesting how God abruptly changes the census tasks from one of a future army to the counting of the Levites. It is almost as if religion and war are closely related in the eyes of God. Perhaps, I am reading into to it too much. On the other, I may not be. Who knows how God thinks or expresses said thoughts?

I definitely believe God is in favor of peace over war. The only reason I could see that God would need to count those who could bear arms is one involving foreign attackers. God is omnipotent to a point. In my opinion, God can not control free will. Therefore, God can only help protect the Israelites. God can not stop their foes.At every Friday night service, my synagogue recites Shalom Rav, the prayer for peace in Israel and the the world. Contrary to what we pray for, Israel is still in a state of danger. Will there ever be a time when Israelis are not forced into the army or need an army at all. Of course, the Middle East is a hotbed of religious tension nowadays. Jews believe Israel was stolen from them when they were exiled by ancient Rome. Some but not all Muslims feel the creation of Israel is an extension of the Medieval Crusades by the West. I am not quite sure if either side can justify its argument. I know that religions preach peace for the most part. I just do not experience their lessons in action as I turn on the evening news. Since God can not bend the powers of free will. Hopefully, the true teachers of peace can bring us out of the darkness of war.

What are my thoughts on war? I can say that for the most part nobody approves of war. In my eyes, even the "bad guys" in a conflict are against ruthless fighting. What about Momar Gadafi? Even he does not want war, he just uses war as an outlet for his desire for power. It may seem far fetched, but I feel war is getting less brutal overtime. For instance, neighbors rarely fight against each other anymore. Back in the Dark Ages, life was about surviving. If one did not starve to death, invaders were always a thought in the back of one's mind. Nowadays, people live in communities and defend each other. Then again, can war get any better? Mass amounts of fighting and killing are despicable no matter how war develops. Maybe war is increasing in its disgust. Imagine the difference between Medieval sword-fighting knights and the armed forces of the United States. Religion is not at fault for the conflicts of today. I believe it is merely an excuse. For example, a person may not like me. That is perfectly okay because I know the entire world is not going to love me. It bothers me when that person is asked, "Why do you not like Adam anymore?" and their response brings up my Judaism. The person in this example is hiding their true reasons by the blinders of hate. I will conclude with a thought on war. Today, the United States is spending billions or maybe trillions of dollars on their military. If the cost of war is so high, why are we wasting our money on it? Why not use that money for NASA anymore? War not only inhibits our ability to come together as a society, but it prevents our ability to advance as one.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

It was early on a Monday morning. I was just waking up after I crashed on the couch. A combination of just finishing my production of "West Side Story" and allergies caused me to be in a somewhat dazed state. My dad says that I will never believe what happened. He told me that Osama Bin Laden was killed. At first, the news did not quite resonate. It was impossible. Was he just trying to jolt me awake with an outrageous story? I turned on the television, and there it was. That is my "Where I Heard Osama was Killed" Story.

Does this rank with moments such as John Kennedy's assignation or Pearl Harbor? Most likely, it does not even come close. I know, I l know, "Adam, the subject is too sensitive". As a writer who believes the work of the pen is an art form, I feel it is my duty to provoke thoughts on this situation. The sensitivity of Osama bin Laden's death makes it hard for an opinion on either side to be shared. I hope that you will respect what I have to say as I will listen to what you say. Somehow this news felt big. A wave of patriotism felt like it was sweeping the nation. Later Monday morning, someone was vigorously waving the American flag. Since 2008, times have been tough. The economy is just starting to recover. We are fighting two wars, and some say we are on the verge of a third. Snap shots of good news slivered into the news reel, like the Royal Wedding and the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Generally, Americans were not given any reason to skip and cheer as a nation. To me, Monday felt like Americans were back on top. As China ascended its way to becoming a superpower, the United States was put into denial. Osama and his gang of terrorists threw us into a dark place. Just like a bully teases on the playground, our country felt cornered and embarrassed. We needed something to jolt us awake, as did I on that Monday morning, and we got it.

Was our national prowess too overbearing? Yitzhak Rabin said, "We do not celebrate the death of our enemies." Being former prime minister of Israel, a nation with many enemies, makes this all the more dignified. In my opinion, the first wave of national pride was a way of covering up the original shock of the event. I could not have written this piece of Monday evening. The news was too fresh, too unbelievable. When that wore down, Americans began to realize that an actual man died. It feels somewhat strange to dance about the streets when others are grieving. Did people feel this same bittersweet sensation when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945?

What is hate if it is love in another's eyes? Yitzhak Rabin was hated by the man who shot him 1995. An entire group filled with delight the day Rabin was shot. Another weeped rivers of tears. Folks who agreed with bin Laden have just as much a right to grieve as Rabin enthusiasts.

Osama bin Laden is perhaps a little different. He was not just a contradiction to the United States. He killed 3,000 civilians and damaged a nation's moral completely. The navy seals went after Osama on Yom Hashoah, which remembers a separate massacre of innocent people. Just like the casualties of the Holocaust, each man, woman, and child who died on 9/11 has a name, a story, and a family. President Obama made a bold choice to do what he did and then share his opinion of it on the television. Leaders have to make tough choices sometimes. The key is choosing the right time.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is There Really Freedom?

All over the world Jews are observing the festival of Passover this week. Passover is one of the three harvest festivals where Jews celebrate their liberation from Egypt. Freedom is the very precious treasure Jews rejoice over this time of year. As a citizen of the United States, freedom comes easy to me. The first amendment of the constitution automatically states my freedoms as a member of this union. In the United States, I can say whatever I want and be whoever I want. Israel is a similar situation where Jews are allowed to practice their religion free of persecution. As a religion, Jews have won many rights that our ancestors would have thought unthinkable.

Unfortunately, not everybody in the world can be as free as us Jews are. As I am sure any of us knows, the youth in the Middle East have been fighting constantly for the simple liberties we enjoy everyday. In early February, I wrote a piece on the Middle East while Egypt was overturning Hosni Mubarak. The storm of protests across the region are known as the Jasmine Revolution. They are inspiring and give hope that the hostility towards American throughout the area is finally coming to an end. On the other hand, the Jasmine Revolution could release a new wave of extremely dangerous terrorist government. I feel the same way I felt in February, only time can tell what will and will not happen.

It is a Passover tradition to recline a pillow while we eat the delicious Passover meal. In the Middle East, specifically Libya, turmoil removes this sense of comfort from millions of people. Egyptians suffer a fight that has had no results since Mubarak left his office. Yemenis are harshly fighting a tyrant who claims the United States is controlling the protests from a small office in Tel Aviv, Israel. Worst of all, Momar Kadafi is massacring his owns people. I feel that many times we see these images and see only images. The news can not illustrate the actual suffering one feels when one's leaders turn against them. I believe it may be like when we take in too much horseradish at the seder. We are all alone and have no one who can help us. Not even the stabilities of water and other foods can completely dilute the bitterness of the maror.

How free can the world ever be? Even in developed countries, laws and political disagreement strain our ability to live free and progress as a society. Do religious and political laws restrain our freedom? I believe that without such laws people would stop aspring to perform acts of love and kindness. Evil is caused by human's ability of free will. Every human has the free will. In Kadafi's Libya, someone can still speak out against their dictator. The only difference is that in the United States' someone still has a chance of living. At the conclusion of the service, we ask to all be free in Jerusalem. In my opinion, we not only mean the Jews, but anyone who is still fighting the fight of freedom.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Modern Debate from Biblical Times

Parshat Acharei Mot is one of the more provocative of the Torah's passages, especially chapter 18. To keep it blunt, Chapter 18 is the part of Leviticus where laws on sexual practice are discussed. Sex laws, just calling out the elephant in the room. Most times, our religious views on sex are taboo. As a writer and scholar, I wish to view my opinion on one of the most discussed commandments in the Bible. The Torah states, "You shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is an abomination" (Lev. 18:22).

Abomination, now that is a firm word. In my bright red pen, I wrote the word "why" seven times in the margin. Now such a quote could turn people off to Judaism for good. In the parshat, I got a couple of reasons to my septuple why. First of all, the Torah claims that the restraints put on sex are to distinguish the people of Israel from those who enslaved them in Egypt and dwell in Canaan. Another response is that such practices would defile one's name and the name of God. The final response to conclude the parshat is the God's way of saying "because I said so. God declares, "I am the Lord your God". What will happen if one finds a homosexual in their midst? According to the Torah, the person shall be shunned, or worse banished. That word still bothers me, abomination.

Psychologists believe and have nearly come to prove that being gay, lesbian, transexual, or bisexual is not something one can control. It is merely the physical way a particular type of brain functions. People can not prevent what Judaism calls, "an abomination". This is not to say that homosexuals are cut off from the community today. I am a Jew, but I fight for the civil rights of those who have a particular sexual orientation. In Christianity, it is nearly the same way. Christians protect homosexuals, but some still proclaim this a sin. Muslims abstain from the birds and the bees between the same gender, yet a mere relationship between gays or lesbians is under debate. Depending on which branch of Buddhism one belongs to, homosexuality is either accepted or seen as a tad bit obscure and unnatural. The Bhudda does not particularly discuss his view in his writings. Hindus disagree on their views, but their writings have no particular preference. As one can see, Eastern ideals are more accepting than those of the West.

Homosexuals of today are to black people of the 1960's. What will happen if we do not change our ways? On the show "Glee", Kurt Hummel is an excellent demonstration of homosexual bullying at its worst extent. His public school failed to protect him and eventually drove him out. It may be a fictional TV musical, but the point is still rigid. Just this past week, Kobe Bryant got ticked off at a referee. He called them a "homo". Such behavior can make homosexuals feel like aliens on their planet. In the United States, a citizen can marry their cousin in 26 states. As of 2009, same sex marriage was legal in 6 states. Homosexuals are trapped without a voice, a place, or a time.

There are many ways to put an end to the isolation of homosexuals. Just today was the Day of Silence, a day where people go without talking to show what it is like for a homosexual, transexual, bisexual, someone questioning their orientation who are deprived of their ability to come out and say what they feel. Empathy is a quality that ranks above bravery, strength, and intelligence anytime, anywhere. We must take time now to treat this minority of people like anyone of us. They treat straight people no differently they interact with each other. Like standing up to antisemitism, we have to rise against this bullying and defend those around us. Never again should someone defenselessly be called a "homo" or "fag" by some ignorant coward. Never again should a situation be described as "gay". The most influential of actions an adult can take is sitting down and talking to their children about how to interact with those of a different sexual orientation. The conversation is simple. It goes, "If you ever came home and said that you were gay/lesbian we would support you all the way?" We have the chance to change our world, especially the millenium generation.

How do we react as Jews? Reform Jews have generally abolished this law from their repertoire and are open to accept even rabbis who prefer to love someone different than the opposite gender. Conservative and Orthodox Jews are hesitant to defy the Torah, but may be getting exponentially more liberal. As a Jewish nation, we are commanded to change the world. Is one allowed to abstain from eternal law to bring themselves into the modern age? Whenever the debate comes up, we Jews just go "Oy!" Everyone knows the old saying that with two Jews comes three opinions.

Cited Sources
-Annoymous. "Homosexuality and Buddhism - ReligionFacts." Religion, World Religions, Comparative Religion - Just the Facts on the World's Religions. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. .
-Annoymous. "Homosexuality and Christianity - ReligionFacts." Religion, World Religions, Comparative Religion - Just the Facts on the World's Religions. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. .
-Annoymous. "Homosexuality and Hinduism - ReligionFacts." Religion, World Religions, Comparative Religion - Just the Facts on the World's Religions. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. .
-Annoymous. "Homosexuality and Islam - ReligionFacts." Religion, World Religions, Comparative Religion - Just the Facts on the World's Religions. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. . "Facts about cousin marriage." Cousin Marriage Resources. 15 Apr. 2011. 15 Apr. 2011 .
-Vestal, Christine. "Gay marriage legal in six states." Stateline. 4 June 2009. 15 Apr. 2011 .

Friday, April 08, 2011

Spanish in the United States

¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás? ¿En qué puedo servirle? Get used to hearing such vernacular as this. For a majority of a century now, English has been the primary language of the United States, yet Spanish speakers are growing in numbers. According to the 2010 Census, 15.8% of the United States has Spanish as their native tongue. Already, Texas has a Hispanic population of 36.8%. These statistics can only grow in number. Good or bad, Americans need to brace for change.

Just as immigration was vibrant in early twentieth century Europe, Hispanics are searching for a better life. In many Central American countries, times are very rough and drug sellers are creating animosity. Often times, the anarchy of the Middle East overshadows these Latin countries in the news. From a Hispanic perspective, it makes sense why one would want to flee their country. Chile has the highest Latin American Human Development Index, and it is number forty-five. Although we feel our economy is tanking, even today, come to our country in search of the American dream.

What does such a change mean for us? On the occasional trip to Lowe’s, we find ourselves looking at bilingual signs. We see FLOOR in large, bold lettering and PISO under it. Soon enough, signs like those of Lowe’s will be found in a majority of U.S. merchandisers. At Barnes and Noble, we will begin to see more and more books in Spanish print. A change in the tongue of the United States could cause communication problems. In Belgium, the Dutch north and French south are pondering a split because of the lingual divide. I doubt the United States will break off from itself, however the challenges may become adverse and tough for our government to handle.

To ease ourselves into this transition, we must be aware of a few things. First of all, we can not try to prevent this change from happening. Just as the South could not prevent the Civil Rights Movement, we can not try to rid our country of “Latinos”. Often times, especially in young adults, I find that we assume every Hispanic is an illegal immigrant. The claim is not preposterous, however can be very offensive for those who went through the entire process many of our grandparents and great-grandparents had to struggle through. Secondly, I feel that a majority of Americans should begin to take Spanish. When push comes to shove, we are losing of linguistically monolithic society. Times are changing and the only way to overcome communications issues is to learn how to communicate with Hispanics ourselves. I love the language of Spanish and believe it rolls off the tongue. On the other hand, I feel many Hispanics should aspire to educate themselves in the ways of English. Finally, I feel that we should embrace each other’s cultures. We should welcome Hispanics by appealing for Cinco de Mayo and Day of the Dead celebrations. Maybe some immigrants coming to this country are well trained dancers in the ways of the tango, flamenco, and salsa. If we refuse to welcome such Hispanics, we can only hope a real life "West Side Story" does not erupt all over the country.