Smash Lies: Easy-To-Condemn VS Must-Condemn

Coming out of Christianity into a Torah-observant lifestyle, one of the most surprising aspects of the shift has been discovering that many more things are “kosher” than I thought. I found this particularly amusing because Christians typically refer to the Jews as being “in bondage” to the Torah while they’ll turn around and make rules against alcohol consumption, smoking, dancing, saying certain words, and even consuming caffeine. Here are some things that aren’t as “unkosher” as you thought. 


1. Drinking. 
While it is very true that letting alcohol (or anything, for that matter) control your life is against Torah, consuming alcohol is certainly a kosher activity. Heck, in the ninth chapter in Judges, it reports that wine not only brings joy to man, but to God as well….and that’s in a book entitled “Judges”! King David said in Psalm 104 that wine gladdens a man’s heart and even the Apostle Paul even wrote in the New Testament in a letter to Timothy saying to drink wine to help ease the stomach (1 Timothy 5), which it has been shown to be a very remedy for the common “rumbly-in-the-tumbly”as wine eases digestion. My wife and I along with my in-laws welcome the Shabbat every week with wine and we frequently use wine to bless God. While, yes, it’s very true that drinking can be taken too far, the same can be said for eating or shopping. The key is to take all things in moderation.

2. Dancing. 
It has always perplexed me why some denominations ban all dancing. I can understand some modern forms of dancing because they aren’t really dancing; more like fully-clothed, simulated you-know-what. Still, dancing remains the body’s expression of the soul. Even though David did end up inadvertently flashing the help with his moves, it was because he was dancing before the Elohim with “…all his might” in a linen garment; not the best material for immense sweating from dancing as vigorously as you humanly can. Even though this didn’t put David on good terms with Michal, it didn’t keep him from writing extensively about the joys and benefits of dancing. I have a feeling if “the worm” dance had existed in his day, David’s tunic would have been dirtier than it probably already has from gettin’ down. 

3. Cursing. 
While some words might not sound as pretty as others, they certainly aren’t always sins to utter. The modern stigmatization of certain forms of speech has more of a cultural background than Biblical significance. While the Scriptures do not really put much emphasis against saying certain words, the Torah is very thorough in Its instruction to not take the Name of God (יהוה) in vain (Exodus 20:7) and further explains to the extent of saying those who do so will not be held guiltless. What does it mean to take It in vain? That means to make His Name common or devoid of meaning. This can be done by swearing by Name of the Creator in promises you don’t intend to or just don’t have the ability to keep. When a promise with His Name added to it is devoid of weight, that detracts from the importance of His Name and lessens Its holiness in the world. Another concept that blows my mind is when religious individuals will criticize someone over their use of a certain culturally unsavory four-or-five-letter word, yet the same individual will tell bold-faced lies about themselves or others. So, while it is prudent to be mindful of what you say, a lie is much more frowned upon Scripturally than a certain four-letter-world uttered when you hit your thumb with a hammer. 

4. Smoking. 
Again, smoking is yet another activity that has much more of a cultural stigma than Biblical stigma. I personally find it extremely interesting that tobacco smoking has been a cultural normal since before the exodus from Egypt, and the Torah takes no stance on its consumption. Even though the Torah does make statements forbidding certain types of meat, it never mentions tobacco once. In fact, God specifically says in Genesis 1:29 “…’Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” David goes on to describe herbs as being “for service of man” in Psalm 104. Many will make the claim that “Well, that’s because they did not know the potential harm that tobacco smoke can pose that the body”, yet that argument wouldn’t hold up when tobacco is compared to the consumption of pork or shellfish; which modern research has revealed these foods to be harmful to the human body beyond any understanding that the ancient Israelites could have had; yet God forbade them anyways. While it may not be the most savory of habits, smoking cigarettes, cigars, or tobacco from a pipe is certainly not a sin according to the Scriptures. In fact, smoking a pipe has been shown to lower stress levels in many individuals and stress kills more people  than all other substances combined.

While many of these “kosher” habits aren’t always the most favorable in religious circles, most of the same religious circles have much greater issues to attend to. While it’s very easy to forbid the usual frowned upon activities, many of these communities suffer from gossip and lies that tear their communities apart, infidelity that tear their families apart, and abuse that leave children and spouses permanently emotionally and spiritually damaged. 

It’s time to shift the focus from the easy-to-condemn to the must-condemn. 

Shalom. 

Responsibility and the Aurora Massacre

In the wake of the Aurora, Colorado massacre, people have been trying to come to terms with what led up to this senseless tragedy and what can be changed to prevent this from happening in the future. 

– Do we, as a country, enact strict gun control laws that limit the access of firearms?
– Do we, as a society, attempt to enact industry limitations on the amount of violence that can be present in television and movies that may end up inspiring such acts? 

Here is how the scene sounds when you remove outside influence: 
On July 20th, 2012, a man injured 70 people; 12 of them fatally.  

To change the scene, let’s say instead of a theatre, it was instead a synagogue, church, or mosque and instead of opening fire with a gun, Holmes decided to burn the structure down using gasoline and matches. 

– Would there be a sudden rush to enforce new regulations on the purchase of gasoline and matches? 
– Would the media suddenly put a spotlight on the potential influences of religion on what inspired this senseless act of brutality against his fellow man? 

The fact is that James Eagan Holmes could have just as easily burned the theatre down or blown it up using explosives either rigged throughout the theatre or attached to himself. The theatre could have just as well as been a Chuck E. Cheese Pizza restaurant, a YMCA, a bus station, or a coffee shop. 

Violence is violence. Murder is murder. A gun has never killed anyone. A book of matches has never caught anything on fire. A bomb has never taken a life. 

Let us all take a moment to pray for the families of the victims of the Aurora Massacre and for the continued recovery of those who were injured; both physically and psychologically. 
Let us all take a moment to meditate on how precious life is. 
Let us all take a moment to, as humans, take responsibility for our actions and remember not to blame our own misdeeds as a species on inanimate objects and outside influences. 

Shalom. 

The Statement of Faith Vs. The Quest for Truth

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to belittle any specific faith or denomination of religion, but instead act as instrument of mind stretching and heart testing. 


A week or two ago, I was talking with my mother-in-law about religious individuals. She was sharing a story with me about a conversation she had been engaged in with a religious young man who had started the conversation in hopes of winning her over to his religious viewpoint. As she is very learned in Torah, the conversation quickly tilted and she ended up as the one imparting spiritual knowledge and the man was then the listener. Overtime, another religious man who was supposed to be supervising the younger man came over in attempts to inhibit the conversation and take the younger man away from the situation before she imparted some bit of knowledge that caused the younger man to possibly re-think his religious beliefs. 


I was perplexed by this scenario. I began to scratch my head about why the older, more experienced man hadn’t let the younger man ask his questions and receive knowledge. My mother-in-law’s reply to this question hit me right between the eyes. 


“Some people are truly seekers of truth and others are not.” 


She went on to explain that she sensed that the younger man, who was not as experienced within his religion, was a genuine seeker of truth and the old man who broke up the conversation was more concerned with the convenience and comfort his specific organization currently enjoyed. He could see that his student was starting to “stray from the path” of their specific religion even though everything my mother-in-law was saying was straight from the same Bible. The reason why the older man was growing concerned was because what he believed to be true based on his religious sect’s pillars of faith did not align with the texts they claimed to base their faith on. 


We live in a world where religious people have lifted other’s interpretations of their sacred texts above the very simple meanings of their sacred texts. The “statement of faith” on the congregational website has grown to be more powerful than the holy text itself. This “don’t go there” mindset has completely removed the possibility for growth and hindered the quest for ultimate truth within a movement for the sake of convenience. The most detrimental outcome of this strict unquestioning devotion to any specific sect’s interpretation of their source of truth is that the source of truth is then truly shifted elsewhere and any new quest for truth outside of those guidelines is not tolerated. It is for this reason that I am very proud of my spiritual community’s distaste for the “statement of faith” which has allowed for us to truly dissect holy texts and question their true meaning and implications. Is there a possibility of two people disagreeing on a subject in the text? I would hope to God that there would be or else I would highly doubt our ability to have any progress towards seeking truth. 

Here is my challenge to you this day: 
Completely turn off all outside influences, all commentaries, and all interpretations of your faith’s ultimate source and study the words completely for yourself. Make your “statement of faith” the text itself and no other man-made condensed versions. Take your sect’s “statement of faith” out and as you find concepts the in “statement” that have no foundation in the text or are outright untruths, feel free to mark them out. There is nothing blasphemous or wicked about this if you are using the text that your denomination says is the source of holy truth. As you discover new truths, feel free to make note of them; but not on the paper – make them in your heart. Feel free to update the list as you study and if a concept doesn’t feel right, restudy it to make sure that’s what the text says.


Your statement of faith should only be a true dedication to a quest for ultimate truth. If your internal statement of faith changes, there’s no need to shun those with a different statement of faith because yours may not be the same as anyone else’s. Instead, commune with those who have the same hunger for truth that you have. It may be uncomfortable at first, but true comfort will come once you are completely honest with yourself and with God. 


Shalom. 
– Ken

There's No Shame In Looking Away

The other day, I was scrolling through some blogs that I like to read on different topics. I was reading one blog from an Orthodox Jewish source and when I noticed on the sidebar an advertisement for a website that sells t-shirts. It didn’t seem like any big deal that the female model was showing off a regular t-shirt with a catchy slogan on it, but as I scrolled down, I was shocked to see that she was only wearing underwear from the waist down. All of this was on website that was supposed to be wholesome! I know that the author of the blog, who makes most of his living from the advertisements on his blog, had no control over the kind of content that was in the advertisements on that side bar. A quick refreshing of the page changed the advertisement to something else. Later, I was walking with my wife in the local mall. As we rounded the corner, a Victoria’s Secret shop with 15-foot tall pictures of women in their underwear adorned a good 50 feet of window space. I quickly had to dart my eyes to the shops on the other side as we walked past (and yes, I would have even if I had been alone). Another such instance occurred while my wife and I were rooting for our Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA Finals and a Kia Auto commercial came on. The commercial involved a man dreaming about driving a Kia and about a very scantily clad woman. I guess the advertisers had to throw the woman into the commercial because no man fantasizes about driving a Kia. They have run out of ideas and are relying on the tried and true in order to sell products. 


This post is not a message to the advertisers who are using sexual imagery to sell products. We live in a free country where people are free to use whatever means necessary to advertise their products just as we are free to look away. This is for those who feel funny about looking away from such advertisements. If you feel like you will endure ridicule, fear being called “uptight”, or fear being accused of acting superior because of how you guard your eyes, don’t feel that way. You are not alone. There are many others out there who don’t want to do anything to contaminate the purity of their hearts and their relationships with their spouses by deriving pleasure from looking upon such things. 

For those of your who enjoy looking at such things, you’re more than free to do so. Keep looking and capture such images in your mind. Still, know that what you’re looking at is not an attractive man or woman, but rather a symbol of sexuality that has been developed by unoriginal advertisers in attempts to hack your body’s own sexual nature. These women and men are not representative of the whole of their gender’s sexual appeal, but are picked from a slew of others for their look, are cosmetically, digitally, and sometimes surgically enhanced, and made to be stripped of self-respect and individuality. Indulging in fantasies based on these images will only warp your perception of what a woman or man is supposed to look like and finding satisfaction with those within your own physical “league” will become difficult.

By looking away, you’re not a prude; you’re simply not believing the lie. 
Shalom. 
– Ken

Why Ken is a Libertarian: "I Don't Know."

It’s not unheard of for a kid to rebel against their parent’s political views or religious beliefs. So, why on earth was my rebellion one that lead me to a faith that has more rules and a political philosophy that is even more “conservative” than that of my parents’?

I know it’s typically the trend of rebellious kids to push against the strict ways of their parents, but my rebellion, like many other aspects of my thought process, was kind of backwards. My parents were never shy about discussing politics or religion as I was growing up and respected whatever views my brother and I happened to have. Oddly enough, this freedom to express ourselves did not result in an all-out pushing away from our parents’ views or heated discussions over certain political issues, but rather I feel that because our parents respected our views and encouraged us to figure out things for ourselves, it made us respect their views and actually give them some thought before deciding to take them on as our own. Today, my brother and I are both extremely conservative in our political views; though I’m a Libertarian. 


Why am I a Libertarian? My best answer is that I simply do not know. No, I know why I am a Libertarian, but my own ignorance is the reason for being a Libertarian. Here’s what I don’t know: 

  • I don’t know what religion, if any, will make you happiest. 
  • I don’t know how you should raise your children. 
  • I don’t know what is the best way you should spend your money. 
  • I don’t know what career path will make you the most successful or happy. 
  • I don’t know what certain lifestyles, medicinal goods, or other practices are best for you.
  • Simply put: I don’t know you. 
My personal views:
Government always assumes that it knows. It assumes that it knows what’s the best way to spend your money. It assumes that it knows what your best interests are with other countries in the world. It assumes that it knows what is best for your health. It does its best to remove personal responsibility and decision from your life. 

If it were up to me, I’d have it pretty simple. The laws would run in a vein of “Do what makes you happy as long as it doesn’t harm or inconvenience anyone else.” The government would exist only to protect people’s ability to do what makes them happy and make sure these actions or ideas aren’t harming or inconveniencing anyone else. Though this is contrary to my religious beliefs for myself, my religious beliefs only extend to my household or some form of religious community in which we have agreed-upon standards. I do not wish to push religious legislation on everyone else. Why not? Because I don’t know everyone else. 
“…if it is evil in your eyes to serve יהוה, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve יהוה.” – Joshua 24:15 

 And you can completely disagree with me. Mmmm, can you smell the liberty?
“Any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” 
– Benjamin Franklin

How We're Wired: Day of Rest

In this very fast-paced world, many are looking to ancient ways of dealing with modern problems. Today, stress is a huge contributor to illness and the reasons why seem to elude us. Hundreds of years ago, people who worked with their hands and minds still lived considerably long lives; even with the lack of breakthroughs in medical innovation that we enjoy today. Many are discovering that the reason why their desk job is actually generating higher levels of bodily stress than, say, working manual labor on a farm or in a carpentry shop is because while our ancestors were dedicated to their craft, they also understood that you need a break.   


Now, this post is not an “Enter into the Sabbath because the Lord commanded it or else” type of post; really you don’t even need to believe in God in order to benefit from this bit of information. Still, being a person who believes in God, I personally feel that God did not design us to function at full speed throughout the week which is why He commanded us to rest on the Sabbath. Just like a bear hibernates seasonally, so our bodies are designed to need a weekly break from pursuing material gain. Not only that, but our bodies become accustomed to a cycle of a specific day of the week on which to rest that, regardless of looking at a calendar, our bodies will be able to detect. I discovered this when I was wondering why, on Saturday afternoons, my body goes into a state of near exhaustion in search of sleep while at the same time of day on, say, a Thursday, my body is in a completely focused state; even having had much less sleep on a Wednesday night than a Friday night. 

Knowing that one needs to take a break and have a regular day off work is not the same as experiencing one, but many have trouble understanding why all business must cease; even if the business is buying and selling using wireless device while laying on a bed. The fact is that we have trouble entering into a true state of rest if our minds are still participating in our own quest or monetary or material gain. To think that we can fool our minds into thinking that we’re engaging in leisure is fool-hearty. Your mind control all you nerve impulses, respiratory function, digestion, and blood flow simultaneously; what makes you think you can fool it into thinking you’re resting? 

For those who are having trouble grasping with the subject of not resting, here is an exercise you can do:

– On a lunch break from work when you’re clocked out and on your own time, eat your lunch and do whatever you do to unwind a bit on your lunch break in a main area of business traffic in your office or work place. When someone approaches you asking for a favor or question that could wait till after you’re through having your break, focus on the internal struggle that is happening in your mind. You want to relax, but you’re being asked to break your rest in order to get back to business. Well, whether you can actively feel that struggle or not, it is happening within your body and spirit when you do not give yourself a day of complete rest from your weekly work, business, or commerce duties. Over time, this struggle can have disastrous effects on your physical health and make it more difficult to spiritually align your mind with your body.  

Relaxing on Shabbat with my niece,
Madeline Rose.
I personally challenge you to select a day, any day, and make that your day off from your job, your shopping, your chores, and rest. Read a good book. Watch a funny movie. Gather around the table with family and friends over a good meal to tell stories and jokes. Take a nap. There doesn’t have to be anything religious about it. Make it habit. After a few weeks you will see positive results not only in your health, but in your frame of mind. 

If you’ve already taken on this day of rest, comment about your experiences for others. I hope you all have a very relaxing day of rest. 

Shalom.
– Ken