Tag Archives: Naomi Ragen

The Meaning of Life for the Rest of Us

A few days ago, I published a blog post based on an article written by the late Rabbi Noah Weinberg. Since then, for some reason, I can’t get him off my mind, even though I know nothing about him.

So I decided to use Google to find out more about Rabbi Yisrael Noah Weinberg. I received an Amazon gift card recently and it’s been burning a hole in my pocket. I could use some new books.

Although R. Weinberg was not a prolific author of books, he did produce a lot of other material. The Meaning of Life got my attention.

Live For What You Are Willing To Die For

I once met a man who lived by this principle.

“Zev” lived in Israel when the British were still in power. He was a member of a Jewish underground movement which aimed to rout out the British by force.

During the four years that Zev was in the Jewish underground, he was completely cut off from his friends and family – forced to work as an itinerant laborer, with no place to call home. Every day he walked the streets, keeping a steady watch because the British were constantly stopping people and searching them. Any Jew found carrying a gun was guilty of a capital crime.

One day, the British made a sudden sweep, and Zev was arrested. The British realized he was from the Jewish underground and tortured him to obtain other names. Zev lost a leg from the maltreatment.

In 1948, when the British retreated, Zev was released. He went on to get married, build a business, and raise a large family.

He says:
“Looking back over my whole life, unquestionably the best period was being a member of the Jewish underground. True, much of it was a miserable existence. But every moment I was completely alive. I was living for something that I was willing to die for.”

1389.4 Holocaust AThat seems pretty extreme, but then again, I’ve never lived what you’d call an “extreme” sort of life, certainly not one where my health, safety, and very life were constantly at risk.

But then again, R. Weinberg also wrote:

Over the past 2,000 years in the Diaspora, Jews have had many opportunities to display their courage to stand up for Jewish beliefs.

I’m not Jewish. I don’t live in Israel. There’s very little to threaten my life here in my little corner of Idaho, so I’m not continually being challenged with what I’m willing to die for.

Of course Christians all over the world are being persecuted for their faith, so you don’t have to be a Jew to know what you’d die for.

And as Naomi Ragen recently wrote, the majority of liberal Jews in the U.S. are more concerned about the latest liberal causes than they are about the well-being of the state of Israel or how Israeli Jews are living in constant mortal danger from Arab terrorists (not to mention harassment from the governments and news media of the west).

We live in relative comfort here in the U.S., so we have to work harder to get to a state where we know what we’re living for. Yes, many an American Christian says that they’re “living for Christ,” but how far would that living (or dying) go if they were abruptly imprisoned for their faith in a Muslim country?

Many of you may know that a number of political prisoners were recently released by Iran, including Pastor Saeed Abedini whose family lives here in Idaho.

Pastor Abedini was in prison for three-and-a-half years, and although he suffered greatly in Iranian hands, his difficulties, now that he’s free, are far from over. The various news outlets don’t tell the whole story (and rightly so), but it seems the Pastor’s marriage and family relations are under considerable strain.

I gather from some of the stories I’ve read that Pastor Saeed is far from a perfect person, let alone a perfect Christian Pastor, but he has suffered for his faith and he could have died for it. I can only hope and pray that now that he knows what he’s willing to die for, he also knows what (and who) he’s willing to live for.

Rabbi Weinberg
Rabbi Noah Weinberg

But what about you and me?

The other day, I felt that another of Rabbi Weinberg’s articles could be adapted for service by Christians or those rarefied individuals I sometimes call Talmidei Yeshua. Is there something about dying and living for our faith we can learn from R. Weinberg as well?

Comfort is very nice, but it is not meaningful. An idiot is more than capable of leading a comfortable life. He doesn’t suffer much, he enjoys ice cream, insults fly right over his head, he always puts on a smile… The world is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.

But he doesn’t experience anything beyond his ice cream. He lacks the capacity to appreciate higher pleasures beyond the physical – relationships, meaning, and spirituality.

Living only for material pleasure and comfort is not really living. We also need to understand the deeper existential meaning of life. Sooner or later, every human being is faced with the cold, hard reality: “What’s my life all about?”

You might tend to see “comfort” and “pleasure” as being the same thing, but not so, says R. Weinberg. From a traditional observant Jew’s point of view, performing the mitzvot (commandments) is a pleasure given to them by God.

A fundamental of Judaism is that there is nothing a human being can do for God. God has no needs. Yet at the same time He gives us everything – air, water, food, sun. And He gave us the Torah as instructions for deriving maximum pleasure from this world.

In the Shema, the Jewish pledge of allegiance, we are commanded to love God B’chol Nafshecha – “with all your soul.” You have to be willing to sacrifice your life rather than deny God.

If mitzvot are for our pleasure… how does this give us pleasure?!

This is the pleasure of clarity and commitment. If you can perceive something as so important that you will sacrifice your own life for it, then your life has weight and purpose and direction. Because until you know what you are willing to die for, you have not yet begun to live.

charity-tzedakahWhat is so important about you being a Christian (or a Talmid Yeshua or whatever you call yourself)? If your pleasure is all about Sunday (or Saturday) services, “fellowshipping” with your congregational friends, maybe taking a class on Wednesday nights, and otherwise living an ordinary human life, you may be confusing your comforts with your pleasures.

If performing the mitzvot, charitable acts, acts of kindness and compassion, praying individually or with a group, living a lifestyle morning, noon, and evening when you are constantly blessing God for everything from your food to your spouse to your home and even your sleep, is considered pleasurable for an observant Jewish person, why isn’t this considered pleasurable for the rest of us?

I know I’m probably being unfair. After all, there are lots of Christians who do all of that (but not in the manner of a Jewish person, kosher, Shabbat, davening with a minyan and such). who give glory to God, and who are sources of much charity and kindness to their family, friends, and even strangers.

Unless you live in a war zone or some other place where you are in danger just by being who you are, you may not always be confronted by what you’d live and die for.

God has done everything for us and yet there is nothing we can do for Him. But there is something we can do for ourselves that will benefit others around us. We can take our “pleasures,” if you will, in doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

R. Weinberg wrote this article for a Jewish audience to describe why the self-sacrifice of the Jewish people is of a higher status than other people or groups who have also been willing to die for a cause:

Throughout the ages, the destiny and mission of the Jewish nation has been to teach monotheism. Jews are dying not for their own sake, but for the sake of humanity. By transmitting the message of monotheism and Love Your Neighbor, we continue to be a “Light unto the Nations” and thereby preserve the hope of world peace.

But isn’t that our mission too?

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB)

MessiahGranted, Rav Yeshua (Jesus) was also addressing a Jewish audience, so we can’t automatically assume his commandment can be expanded to the Gentile Talmidim who would one day desire to walk in his footsteps. After all, being a light to the world is a Jewish mission, so maybe the impetus remains with the Jewish people and we non-Jewish disciples are meant to be mere “consumers” of that light.

I don’t believe that’s true, though.

The short definition of a disciple (as opposed to a follower) is to imitate your Master, your Rav in every detail of living. This doesn’t mean that we non-Jews are supposed to play “dress up” and start wearing kippot and tallit gadolim (yarmulkes and prayer shawls). It does mean we are to imitate our Rav in the weightier matters of his teachings: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).

That’s what it is to be a light. If we profess a faith and then live that out in our daily lives, then we know what we are living for and what we are willing to die for.

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What Would You Do To Fight Against America’s War on Israel?

I don’t usually get political on this blogspot, but sometimes things just build up.

The trigger was my reading two articles. The first was written by Caroline Glick and called The Obama Administration’s Most Covert War, which I found on Facebook. The second was written by Naomi Ragen and titled Israeli and American Jews: The Grand Canyon. That one was sent to me via email by my wife.

From Glick’s article:

Over the past several weeks, we have learned that the Obama administration believes it is at war with Israel. The war is not a shooting war, but a political war. Its goal is to bring the government to its knees to the point where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu loses power or begs Obama and his advisers to shepherd Israel through a “peace process” in which Israel will renounce its rights to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

This pretty much makes my blood boil. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not any sort of Obama fan, but the fact that he’s playing political games to establish his so-called legacy by risking the lives of every Israeli Jewish man, woman, and child is reprehensible and vile.

obama
President Obama

Naomi Ragan wrote about her encounter with a liberal Jewish woman during a short car ride here in America to highlight the chasm existing between Israeli and American Jews.

She was silent for a moment, then shook her head. “He [Netanyahu] shouldn’t have come to America. He shouldn’t have addressed Congress. It polarized American Jews, politicizing the support for Israel,” she said emphatically.

“I think it’s been politicized for a long time,” I answered drily. “Democrats voted for Obama. Republicans didn’t.”

That seemed to surprise her. “So, Israelis don’t like Obama?”

“They hate his guts.”

She shrugged. “Yes, I can understand that. What do you think happened to him?” She seemed honestly bewildered.

“Nothing happened to him. Anyone who did the slightest bit of research understood that he had been a member of an anti-Semitic church for twenty-five years; a church that gave an award to Louis Farrakhan.”

Ragen pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. It also seems quite true that Israeli Jews have a lived experience many American Jews (or Americans period) are clueless about.

The Ragen article continued:

If I’d had any doubts, her reaction put them to rest. She had been one of the 70 percent of American Jews to vote Democrat and elect Obama. Twice.

“You know, American Jews vote for the things that are important to them. Those are not always the same things that are important to Israelis.”

I looked surreptitiously at my watch, calculating how much more time we would be locked into this conversation. Too long to say nothing. So I ventured mildly: “What is important to you?”

“Well, women’s rights, reproductive rights. The environment. And fighting the evangelicals.”

I suddenly remembered something my Harvard-educated son recently told me: “Many American Jews will blindly follow any agenda created by the Liberal establishment because it makes them feel virtuous and like part of the in-crowd.”

“So,” I said unwisely, my temperature rising, “let me get this straight. You’re worried about abortions, climate change and being converted to Christianity?” I didn’t let her answer. “And those things are more vital, more important to you, than whether Israel’s greatest enemy gets an atom bomb to blow the next six million Jews off the face of the earth?”

ragen
Naomi Ragen

And the article ended…

Just at that moment, the hotel loomed into view. I thanked her for the ride, opening the door and stepping out as swiftly as possible. Before I closed the door, I turned back and looked at her.

“Please,” I begged her. “Don’t vote for Hillary.”

It was the last straw. “She’s better than Trump!”

“I don’t think so,” I told her with full confidence.

She rolled her eyes. I rolled mine.

And then the door slammed shut, and she disappeared in one direction, and I in another.

But then, why should you care about all this?

Here’s why.

The question shouldn’t be “Why are you, a Christian, here in a death camp, condemned for trying to save Jews?” The real question is “Why aren’t all the Christians here?”

-Joel C. Rosenberg, The Auschwitz Escape

I’m going to assume that the majority of people reading this blog aren’t Jewish but rather, American Christians or perhaps what I call Gentile Talmidei Yeshua, non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua (Jesus).

My experience in various Messianic Jewish and (largely Gentile) Hebrew Roots groups is that their members, Jewish or Gentile, tend to be pro-Israel politically. Of course, I live in Idaho, which is a pretty “red” state, so folks here are generally conservative about a lot of things.

I have to believe that when Ragen says Israelis hate President Obama’s guts, it’s because they see Obama all but handing Muslim Iran the keys to a nuclear arsenal and showing them how to aim it at Israel.

glick
Caroline Glick

Caroline Glick’s article outlined the nuts and bolts of Obama’s (not-so) covert war against Israel in less passionate but no less disturbing terms. The country we’re citizens of (I’m assuming most of you live in the U.S.) is deliberately acting against the Israeli people, putting all their lives in jeopardy. It’s terrifying to think that the other people I share this nation with voted to elect a man into the office as President twice who is capable of such heinous acts.

Naomi Ragen complains about the liberal Jews who are more worried about “abortions, climate change and being converted to Christianity” than “whether Israel’s greatest enemy gets an atom bomb to blow the next six million Jews off the face of the earth.”

What about the rest of us?

If you’re religious and you’re a political conservative, you’re probably pro-Israel and in some fashion, oppositional to abortions and the idea of human created climate change. You may indeed want to “share the Gospel” with Jewish people, but if you’re Gentile Talmidei Yeshua, that might seem a somewhat different process to you than how Evangelicals might approach it.

Whoever you are, if you say you are pro-Israel, how far does that go?

I learned from this Aish article about Swedish journalist Petter Ljungggren, who tested anti-Semitism in his own country by putting on a kippah (he’s not Jewish) and letting himself be publicly cursed at, threatened, and harassed.

holocaustI’m not a big fan of non-Jews wearing traditionally Jewish apparel, but in this case, Ljungggren had a good reason. It makes me wonder if we all shouldn’t start donning kippot, not to imitate Jews but to stand in solidarity with them and with Israel.

Maybe we’d just feel social pressure like this young fellow, or maybe we’d experience a whole lot more.

Millions of human lives are at stake. Millions of Jewish Israeli lives are at stake. We happen to be living in a nation that’s at least contributed to if not acted as the direct cause of the danger to Israel.

If the Jews were once again rounded up and sent to the camps tomorrow would we Gentile disciples of Rav Yeshua (or just regular Christians) go with them?

The Lie Being Told about Ferguson and Israel

This is one of those rare occasions when The Mike Report is speechless. These photos were taken in downtown Seattle earlier this evening in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury verdict. Upset with the verdict in Missouri? Then boycotting Israel makes perfect sense.

The banner was carried by members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee. The same group was associated with protests this Summer in downtown Seattle which featured swastikas and comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany.

-from “And Now they Blame Ferguson on the Jews”
The Mike Report

“When in doubt, blame the Jews.”

-commenter on Twitter

I feel just a tiny bit guilty about posting this one because a “morning meditation” (or “extra meditation” as the case may be) should be about something encouraging that inspires us to launch into our day with renewed energy and purpose. This one feels like it’s either a downer or something to make you mad.

It made me mad. It made me even more mad when I posted a link to the article on Facebook and was chastised by a lone “moral” warrior who wanted to argue that it wasn’t really about blaming the Jews, and then he just wanted to argue and argue for the sake of being a nudnik.

Or so it seems.

Anyway, I’m not going to comment about Ferguson. I didn’t follow it closely on the news so I’m not exquisitely familiar with all of the intimate details of the case. I only know some rough outline of the facts surrounding the shooting and the verdict coming from the grand jury.

And the riots and looting.

However, I am concerned about two things.

The first is the blatant and totally erroneous comparison between whatever happened in Ferguson and its consequences and the perception that the nation of Israel and the Jewish people are doing some sort of injustice to the “Palestinians.” What does one have to do with the other? The other is the associated fallout on Jews and Jewish institutions (synagogues, Jewish schools, the JCC) in America. Any attempt to associate Ferguson and Israel is a desperate ploy by the Seattle protesters to “blame the Jews” for just about everything, riding the coat tails of a current crisis in America to mobilize the emotions of those people angry at the verdict and redirect that anger against Israel. What crimes will be committed against innocent Jewish people as a result?

And some people are going to fall for it. Some otherwise well meaning, compassionate, and caring people are going to “knee-jerk” a reaction and say that the Jewish people and the nation of Israel can be compared to Ferguson (and remember, that situation has been manipulated by the media, too). We don’t have to be bad people to do wrong, we just have to be sheep.

I’d love to write a scathing rebuttal, but someone who is smarter than I am and a better writer than I am did it almost four months ago. I won’t quote the entire article here, but let me get you started:

By supporting Hamas, you are supporting the use of Palestinians as human shields, the use of Palestinian children to dig terror tunnels in which 160 have died, and the summary execution of Palestinians by Hamas thugs whenever they open their mouths to protest the use of their homes, school, mosques, or hospitals as weapons caches and missile launching sites.

I’m not sure the people who need to hear this will ever hear it, but I want my conscience to be clear that I said it to them.

Dear Human Rights Activist, Leftist Liberal, Crying-for-the-poor-children, Israel-hating, Hamas-forgiving, marcher, celebrity, news anchor, journalist, writer, media star, politician, head of state. We have seen you marching along the streets of Europe, America, and the Middle East with your signs and kafias and Palestinian flags. We have heard you screaming to whoever will listen that Jews and Israelis are murderers, war criminals, and baby killers.

You think you are telling us who we are. But actually, you are telling us who you are.

-Naomi Ragen
“This Is What You Are Really Telling Us,” August 1, 2014
NaomiRagen.com

Please click on the link and read the entire article. It’s not very long. Especially if you’ve disagreed with everything I’ve written in this blog post, please, please click the link and read. You really need to see what Ragen has to say. I (vainly) hope it opens your eyes.

Justice isn’t what NBC or CNN tells you it is. It isn’t what you view on television. It isn’t at your favorite online news venues. It’s in the real world. You’ll have to work to find it.

If you accept what the mass media tells the masses without question, then you are telling the rest of us something about you and frankly, that scares me half to death.

For more about the media and Israel, read If CNN Had Reported The Crucifixion at the Rosh Pina Project.