Tag Archives: saint

The Broken Saint

James, you are the most confusing person. I think sharing your confusing life on a blog is doing more harm than good. I’ve seen you change more directions than the wind and I’m convinced you still don’t know where you’re going. My advice, do what I did, shut down the blog until you can get a grip on your own life before sharing with others. Or, stick with things your 100% sure of and write on that. You have a wide reader base and writing articles for FFOZ has gained you even more. This is the kind of stuff that causes confusion and arguments in MJ and frankly it’s embarrassing. Based upon this article (and forgive me if I am wrong), I would say, make sure you don’t keep the Sabbath. Go out and mow the grass just to make sure you’re not resting on that day. Also, eat pork at least twice a week, preferably in public, so you’re not keeping kosher. Go to church, keep your mouth shut and be a good christian. I’ve cut down my visits to your blog to about once a week. Now, I think I’ll be un-bookmarking this site and I’d suggest the same for others as well. I’m a very nice, easy-going guy, but somethings just light my fire. Sorry you were the match, James. Much love, my brother. Just think about it.

Comment on one of my blog posts

While I tried to take this comment in the spirit it was written, I have to admit, my first response was to want to “bite back” a little bit. I probably communicated some of that “sting” in my actual reply, which I regret, but my reaction must mean Keith has a valid point. After all, did I create this blog just to whine about what could be called first world problems in Christianity?

My reply (since I should be honest) to Keith was this:

I’m not “required reading,” Keith. People who think I don’t make sense (sometimes life and living don’t make sense and people experience dissonance and contradiction) and who are disturbed by that don’t have to read my blog. As of 2013, there were an estimated 152,000,000 blogs on the Internet. I’m only one of them.

It’s not my intention to do harm, it’s my intention to illustrate a real, lived experience as a person of faith. I’m not a textbook and I’m not the Bible. I don’t live a linear life and I’m not trying to say that I’ve got it all together. Clearly, I don’t.

However, I suspect most, real, live, human beings who are disciples of the Master (or anything else) don’t have life completely settled, either.

I appreciate that you are commenting for my sake, and maybe at some point, I’ll stop blogging, but when and if I do, that will be a decision I make in relation to my understanding of God and who I am in him.

Cheers, Keith.

Too snarky?

walkingI hope not. But I think I make a really valid point, too. Unlike most other, similar blogs, I didn’t create “Morning Meditations” to just be about my theological and doctrinal conclusions, but rather, about my theological and doctrinal journey.

A journey implies a changing landscape as one progresses in their travels. If I were to take a road trip from Boise to New York City, I’m sure the scenery, what I’d see and experience, would change, sometimes rather dramatically, as I was moving along down the road.

I believe that’s true of any journey in life, particularly one in the company of God and God’s (imperfect) people.

But I can see Keith’s point. I often toggle between some review or assessment of a theological “product,” such as a book, sermon series, lecture, article, whatever, and my personal reactions and responses to what it’s like being a “Messianic Gentile,” dealing with other people’s expectations, dealing with my own expectations, as well as just kvetching and complaining.

The downside to reading such a blog is that it can seem like I’m terribly inconsistent. The upside, or so I’ve been told, is that my writing can seem raw, authentic, real, and relatable by (many) others who are going through the same or similar experiences on the trail to “faithland”.

“You don’t need to be perfect to be impressive.”


That isn’t a direct quote. I derived it from something I read in an article by Marc Chernoff called 12 Common Lies Mentally Strong People Don’t Believe which was posted on Facebook. I generally avoid inspirational blogs, stories, and speakers because the effect they create is like eating a spoonful of sugar. You get an immediate boost but soon afterward, there’s a profound let down as well as the realization that what you’ve eaten is nutritionally deficient. I looked up the “About” page for the article’s source, Marc and Angel Hack Life, and the youthful appearance of the authors made me question if they’ve experienced enough life to qualify them to suggest how to “hack” it to others, especially “old guys” like me.

But if nothing else, I found several other quotes and “quasi-quotes” that were useful and applicable to my current situation and perhaps a new project.

In order to avoid the confusion Keith speaks of, I’ve been toying with the idea of creating two “environments” in which to write, one for more uplifting commentaries, reviews, and the like, and the other being more gritty and human, a place specifically designed for me to be able to “let my hair down,” so to speak, “tell it like it is,” and yes, to kvetch.

Broken AngelI have a couple of options in mind. The first is administratively the easiest. I can just create an additional page to “Morning Meditations” (It would appear as another navigation tab across the top) called something like “The Broken Saint” and write separate content in that venue. The other would take a greater investment in work and a few extra bucks but be more creative. I could make a second blog, solely for the purpose of expressing my humanity as a person of faith, and actually call that blog something like “The Broken Saint” (I’ve yet to settle on a final title). I could place “buttons” on each blog, linking to the other, so readers could navigate easily between them if they desired.

It’s still the middle of the week as I write this but approaching Shabbat, so I’ll give myself the weekend (maybe) to mull things over. What do you think? Would you visit two related blogs, reading uplifting and informative commentaries on “Morning Mediations” and pursuing my personal humanity in living faith day-by-day on “The Broken Saint”?

“If religion is a crutch, who isn’t limping?”


Repairing Life

R’Simlai notes that the posuk (Yeshayahu 45:23) teaches that everyone in the world takes an oath before God. What is this oath, and when is it administered? The oath is the one referred to in Tehillim (24:3-4), “Who shall ascend into the mountain of God, and who shall be able to stand in His holy place? He who is of clean hands and pure of heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.” The oath itself is that at the time of birth the soul is commanded, “Be righteous, and do not be evil!” It is given when the soul is sent to the world. We recite Tehillin 24 – the paragraph of “L’David Mizmor” – at Maariv immediately after the silent Amidah on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Chaim Hager, the Rebbe from Viznitz, was also known as the Imrei Chaim. When he would read this posuk on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur he would cry. A visitor to his community was taken aback to hear the Rebbe whimpering at the particular point where false oaths are mentioned. The visitor could not fathom how the Rebbe could be so moved about the possibility of having taken a false oath.

As the chassidim passed by the Rebbe after davening, this visitor followed along in the line. When he asked the Rebbe for an explanation, the Rebbe answered: The Gemara (Niddah 30b) tells us that before a soul is sent into this world it is administered an oath which states “You are to be a tzaddik! Do not be a rasha!”

The oath continues with the person being adjured that even if everyone in the world tells him that he is a tzaddik, he must never become complacent by believing their compliments. Rather, the person must always strive for perfection and consider himself to be a rasha.

“Now,” continued the Rebbe, “who can confirm that he has fulfilled this oath which his soul has taken and that he is a tzaddik? Who can insist that he has not taken a false

Daf Yomi Digest
Gemera Gem
“Be a tzaddik! Do not be a rasha!”
Niddah 30

This is midrash and not (as far as I know) literal fact, so I don’t suppose that before we are physically born, our souls take an oath before God to be righteous and not to be evil. Still, what if you happen to feel obligated to do good but find yourself doing the opposite? Who are you accountable to and what are the consequences?

I commented in yesterday’s morning meditation about the ongoing debate between Atheists and Christians (and other religious people). I mentioned that atheism as a belief system, does not have a built-in moral or ethical structure. The only requirement to be an atheist is to not believe in God or that any supernatural being had anything to do with the creation of the universe, or is involved in the course of human events.

But if you choose to be a person of faith, you are agreeing to a certain set of moral and ethical standards. If you fail to meet those standards, even occasionally, you have not only reneged on your agreement with your religion and with God, but you have dragged the Name of God through the mud for all to see, especially those who disdain religion and religious people.

If you believe that you have taken an oath before God to be a “tzaddik” and not be a “rasha,” you’ve failed that, too.

The problem is, being human, sooner or later, you will fail. If a non-religious person fails, who is hurt? It depends on the failure. They may hurt themselves, people where they work, their friends, their family, and so forth. Of course none of that is good, but when we who claim faith in God fail, particularly in a moral or ethical area, we fail all those people and we fail God as well. We become a “rasha” and not a “tzaddik.”

I’m exaggerating here. Not all people in religion can be considered tzaddikim, since these are the most righteous, noble, and holy in the world of faith. Christianity would call them “saints.” How many Christians can truly be called “saints” (although some Christian denominations consider all Christians to be worthy of being saints because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ)?

Most of us are “mere mortals” who are doing our best to try to make it through one day at a time. Some days are better than others. Some days we’re better at honoring God and His desires than others. Some days seem pretty crummy, but we try to keep going because of our faith and our belief that God is with us, regardless of our circumstances and, in most cases, regardless of how badly we fail.

That’s why anti-Christian and anti-religious rhetoric on the Internet or in real life is so disturbing. Not because secular people don’t agree with my choosing to have faith, but because it means that I or someone like me has failed. We have failed to show that we are doing our best to follow a moral standard that was set for us by the Creator of the Universe and the lover of our souls. We have given the world the opportunity to believe that our faith is not only a lie, but an excuse to actually indulge in selfish, moral attacks on those we deem weaker or more vulnerable in the world.

I wish I could find the image I saw the other day on the web (thought it was on the atheism sub-reddit but I can’t find it). It was a “rant” on how a young atheist found himself in church (not sure how this happened) and listened to the Pastor preach on how young people don’t have values today. The person listening to the sermon reasoned that the Pastor meant that young people don’t have the church’s values, which the commenter described as repression, inequality, exclusivism and so forth. He defined atheist values as inclusiveness (except if you’re a person of faith, but that’s beside the point), equality, compassion and so forth (I really wish I could find the image because it was just brilliant).

The conclusion is that the church wasn’t particularly moral at all and that atheism, by comparison, was a much better belief system. Of course, the commenter wasn’t really describing atheism but rather western political and social progressivism which includes atheism as a core element. Nevertheless, there are times when Christians do not take the moral high road and liberal progressives do (and I should mention that there are more than a few Jewish people who have doubts about God, too).

But the argument against religion has to discount the times when Christian programs really do feed the hungry, send visitors to the sick, comforts the mourning, defends the widow, the orphan, and the disadvantaged, but those people and programs don’t make it on the news or, for the most part, in the popular social networking sites. It also isn’t generally advertised that the civil rights movement was started and supported by Christian and Jewish activists rather than atheists and scientists.

Whether you as a Christian like it or not, the world is watching and waiting for us to fail (they never expect us to succeed). Some of those watching are really anxious for us to fall face down in the sewer. When we do fail, we fall far, and we hit hard, and we take the reputation of God with us when we go over the edge.

Debating atheists on their own terms will not sanctify the Name of God. You will never elevate God’s reputation by trying to “prove” He exists and created the universe. Living a life of faith and devotion to your ideals by helping others and repairing our damaged world will. You may never convince even one atheist to consider a life of faith, but at your finest, you will be fulfilling your oath, doing your best to live as a “tzaddik,” and helping vulnerable and needy people in the process. But you should always question your own motives before criticizing someone else’s.

If you have not yet succeeded in fulfilling the criteria to be a critic, yet still feel a necessity to provide criticism, there is an alternative:

Sit and criticize yourself, very hard, from the bottom of your heart, until the other person hears.

If it comes from your heart, it will enter his as well.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Last Word on Criticizing”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

Repair the world one day at a time. And for Heaven’s sake, be a tzaddik! Do not be a rasha!