Preparedness – Popping the American Bubble of Denial

This blog is in no way bad-mouthing Americans. I am an American myself. It is simply pointing out an observation. 

When I’m in a restaurant or some other place, my wife will frequently tell me to stop staring at people. When I’m waiting somewhere for one thing or another, I like to spend my time people-watching. I really enjoy studying how people live and reasons why they live that way. People fascinate me – both the good and the bad characteristics. One of the characteristics I’ve noticed the most about the average American is a constant denial that bad things can happen to them or untruths they’re been conditioned to believing. This has manifested itself in many different forms. These are just a few of them I’ve personally noticed.

Form of denial #1: America is the greatest country in the world. 

America's the greatest country on earth? Please tell me more about how perfect it is and how every other country in this world sucks!

Most Americans would agree that America is by far the greatest country in the world to the extent that many would say that America is God’s gift to Earth. Many would say this not only without any knowledge of many of other countries, but also after not having visited many other countries. Many would say that America is great for it’s freedom and strength, but still haven’t researched what freedoms other countries and have no unit for measuring “strength.” Is national debt taken into account when measuring a country’s strength? I’m not necessarily debunking this myth that America is the greatest country, but simply asking the question to those who make this statement: how do you know?

Form of denial #2: All is well with our governmental system. We are not being lied to. 

Mother, should I trust the government? Pink Floyd, The Wall graffiti

While most Americans will yell at the politician on the television over something they said, many believe that the government is an all-around good thing and at the end of the day, wants what’s best for you. Most people will believe that all wars America takes part in, it takes part in for an extremely honest and straight-forward reason. Most will say that taxes are necessary for the building of roads and other infrastructure and that no politician takes office because they have a fascination with power or prestige. 

Form of denial #3: Our financial system is sound. My cash is worth something. 

When most people look at inflation, they just see it as things simply costing more than they used to. Most people do not really care to take a look at the nuts and bolts of the way our money works in comparison to how much it’s worth. Before the Federal Reserve was set up in 1913, the dollar in your pocket lined up to a value of precious metals. Cash was just a series of notes that said “this is a note that represents some cash somewhere”, somewhat acting as the deed to your gold or silver. When the Federal Reserve Bank – not a governmental entity – was put in charge the U.S. monetary system, the “value” of those dollars was determined by a group of economists who would decide how much American currency should be worth in order help the economy run more smoothly. Many people also know that this entity, the Federal Reserve Bank, has no governmental oversight and is under no obligation to report who it has been lending money to or how they came to the conclusion of how much money is worth. This has caused tremendous hyperinflation. Belgium went through a period  of hyperinflation when their currency lost it’s value and basically came trash: 
Belgium inflation - money in the streets.

It can’t happen here, though, right?

Form of denial #4: Guns kill people. 

Gun-free zone.
Whenever a report of a new shooting occurs, people are quick to show support for advanced gun restrictions. The common belief is that guns are dangerous objects and their mere existence is dangerous to the public. Still whenever someone bludgeons or stabs someone to death, the person is immediately blamed for their behavior. Why is this? Primarily, some a misunderstanding of guns. 

A gun cannot fire a bullet unless the trigger is pulled or the firing pun somehow makes contact with the car
tridge in some forceful way – such as being dropped or mishandled. In such a case of a misfire, safety precautions have not been maintained much in the same way that someone can be killed in a car crash because they do not wear their seat belt. More people die on the highways each year than at firing range or while in the proximity of people with firearms. The difference is that people do not think about the likelihood of being killed in a car than being shot to death with a gun. We are all dramatically more likely to be killed in a car wreck than shot with a gun. Also, it takes little more effort to stab someone in the throat than to shoot them in the throat, but we also see no ban on kitchen knives.

Form of denial #5: I will never have to actually experience death. 

The body of Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin has been on display since his death in 1924.
The body of Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin has been on display since his death in 1924.

Yes, we all know we are going to die one day, but do we all really accept this? If you’ve ever ridden in a car, you should understand that there is a possibility of not making it to your destination alive. Still, thanks to modern Christian theology from present-day teachers along with the funeral industry, death is something few people actually have to face until they are on it’s doorstep. Modern Christian theology states that when your body dies, your soul immediately leaves you body and ascends to heaven. Though there is little actual evidence of this scientifically or Scripturally, it sounds really nice so most people readily accept this interpretation. Most accept this because they don’t want to actually face the reality that one day, they’re going to die and they’re body will either be burned or placed in the ground for decomposition to take place. In Judaism, not much about heaven is taught other than it’s somewhere other than here. There is little mention of at what time a soul goes there or if the person actually experiences their own death. Still, if one subscribes to the notion that they will immediately be beamed into immortality forever, death is something someone can unconsciously forgo ever having to face until they are moments from it and they may not be ready.

Evidence of American denial of death can be seen in the “traditional” method of burial – which is quite unique to America. When someone dies, their body is preserved for optimal viewing for loved ones – embalmed so as to remove the evidence of death. They are often placed in a “sealed” coffin which is places in a concrete burial vault, which prevents the casket from leaking or decomposing within the ground. Many like this idea, as no one wants to think about their loved one actually being dead, in the ground, decomposing. It’s altogether too much to handle. 

Let’s pop the bubble of denial. 

Once people are allowed to pop the bubble of denial, they can begin to face their own fate and prepare for the truths on the other side. 
If someone could happier in another country, why not move there? 
If someone is being lied to by their government, why not call them out on it and attempt to change things for the better?
If your money may or may not be worth anything, instead of losing money or being the victim of a possible economic collapse, why not invest in gold or silver in order to help maintain the value of your savings? 
If guns are nothing more than tools, why put any more restrictions on them anymore than drugs, knives, or automobiles?
If you accept that you’re actually going to die one day, why not take a more active role in planning for a burial that is more financially and environmentally responsible as well as treat people with kindness as though you may not have the opportunity to do so tomorrow? 

Living in the denial is simply postponing important decisions that need to be made now instead of later. Today, think about a few things you may be in denial about and see if there’s anything you need to question or accept before it’s too late. There are few things we are absolutely immune to. The sooner we realize this, the better. 

Small Town Synagogue: Oklahoma's Jewish Beginnings

I’ll admit that part of the shtick of my blog is that I talk about Hebrew concepts and living by the Torah in a predominantly non-Jewish place, but there once was a time when Oklahoma had several thriving Jewish communities. Any T-Town resident can see the evidence of Tulsa’s once-burgeoning Jewish beginnings in the names of buildings and foundations all over the city; from OU-Tulsa’s Schusterman Center at 41st  and Yale to the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art off 71st Street. Though there remains a Reform Jewish temple, a Conservative synagogue, and an Orthodox shul in Tulsa along with various Jewish congregations around the Oklahoma City area, most would be surprised to hear about some of Oklahoma’s first Jewish communities. 

While many Jewish populations are attracted to larger cities (like New York City; which is rumored to have more Jews per square foot than Jerusalem), Oklahoma didn’t have too many larger cities until a little later on in the game. If you were to ask the average person where the first Jewish congregation started, most would tell you Tulsa or Oklahoma City, but the answer surprised me once I found out. 

Organized when Oklahoma wasn’t even yet a state (still Indian territory), the small Jewish community of Ardmore, Oklahoma organized the first Jewish congregation called Temple Emeth (Hebrew for “truth”); though it would be a while before they’d have a building of their own. The records are somewhat unclear about their original buildings, but the synagogue closed its doors for good in 2004. Because of the immense cost of tearing the building down due to its asbestos construction, it still stands in Ardmore as a memorial to small-town Oklahoma Hebrew folks. I’ve heard that the building is for sale if anyone is interested in restarting a Jewish community in Ardmore, OK (current population of about 24,000).

Temple Emeth Jewish Synagogue Ardmore Oklahoma
Photo credit:

Temple Emeth Jewish Synagogue Ardmore Oklahoma
Photo credit:
Temple Emeth Jewish Synagogue Ardmore Oklahoma
Photo credit:

While Oklahoma’s current Jewish population is only about .1%, there was a time when many thousand Israelites proudly called Oklahoma home. Though only around a thousand Jews lived in Oklahoma around the time it became a state in 1907, that number exploded to about 7,500 in the 1920s. 

Believe it or not, many small towns in Oklahoma at one time had Jewish populations. Enid was home to Congregation Emanuel. Chickasha’s Jewish population met at B’nai Abraham. Services were conducted in Hebrew in the small town of Hartshorne at B’nai Israel; which had been in existence since 1916. Though these congregations have long since dissolved due to a number of factors, little specks of Jewish activity still exists throughout rural Oklahoma. Most have no idea of their existence, but Temple Bethahaba in Muskogee, Temple Emanuel in Ponca City, and the Seminole Hebrew Center in Seminole, OK are still home to small-town Torah study. 

What is the reason for the decline in Israelite life amongst the Chosen People or lack of community? Could it be intermarriage, bombardment by Christianity, a lack of a Jewish infrastructure of kosher eateries and neighborhoods? The answer is anyone’s guess, but even with Oklahoma being the belt buckle of the Bible belt with places like Oral Roberts University and RHEMA Bible College, the remaining population of Okies of the Hebrew variety have remained dedicated to the Torah and their roots. 

They say it’s easy to be Torah-observant in places like Chicago, Dallas, New York City, Los Angeles, or Jerusalem. Oklahoma just makes you work for it. 


Though Temple Emeth was Oklahoma’s first Jewish community, it was not Oklahoma’s first synagogue. That honor belonged to the building of Temple Israel in Tulsa, OK. The building was nestled in a neighborhood about a mile from my home in Midtown Tulsa. Built in 1914, Temple Israel’s congregants from the surrounding neighborhood met there for services before they moved to another location a few neighborhoods over in 1955. 

Temple Israel Reform Jewish Synagogue Tulsa Oklahoma

Sadly, just days after it was announced that the old then-abandoned synagogue was to be restored, it was consumed by a fire. Though the cause of the fire was unknown, many blamed faulty wiring which caused an electrical fire. Not being far from my home, I remembered seeing one of Tulsa’s most beloved historical landmarks burn to the ground with my own eyes. 

Temple Israel Reform Jewish Synagogue Tulsa Oklahoma on fire

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. 

– Ken

When Your Tzitzit Come Untied: More Than a Blog About Fringes

There is a Jewish tradition of making a brakha (blessing) over the ritual fringes that are commanded in the Torah: 

דבר אל־בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם ועשו להם ציצת על־כנפי בגדיהם לדרתם ונתנו על־ציצת הכנף פתיל תכלת
“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.”
– Numbers 15:38 

The verse continues to explain why Israel is commanded to wear fringes with cords of blue in them: 
You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.” – verses 39 & 40. 

That was just a little background on tzitzit (tassels/fringes). Now, I will get to the subject matter of the post. 

Anyways, like I was saying; there is a tradition of making a blessing to God for giving us the opportunity to wear these fringes everyday so that they might serve the purpose for which they were intended. That blessing goes like this: 
בָּרוּך אַתָּה ה’ אֱ-להֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אַשֶׁר קִדְשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ עַל מִצְוַת צִיצִת

“Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us regarding the commandment of fringes.” 

There is another tradition that accompanies the first one; examining the tzitzit to make sure the fringes are suitable to be worn. This means checking out the strands of the fringes to make sure they are tied and that the strands are not overly frayed. In many instances, these fringes can be metaphors for one’s spiritual life. I had an encounter with this recently. 

Though I’m devoted to Torah observance, my practice of certain traditions that surround different mitzvot (commands) of Torah isn’t all that strong. I don’t always kiss a mezuzah when I pass it, I don’t always make a brakha before I eat, and I don’t always check my tzitzit. 

Lately, I had been pretty immersed in things going on at work, things going on with my band, my friends, hobbies, and additional activities to the point of it cutting in on my prayer life and my study of Torah. I was very stressed out about a whole number issues going on in my life one morning, when I went to don my tzitzit, I noticed that the double-knot in the bottom of a few of them had come completely untied. These were not easy knots to untie and I know my cat had not been in my room, they must have been coming untied over the course of a few days.  Instead of just immediately stopping to tie them, I sat on the edge of my bed, held them in my hands, and just stared at them for a couple minutes. 

A rush of shame washed over me. No, not shame of a couple knots that weren’t tied correctly (the Torah makes no law about how exactly tzitzit should be tied, so that part of it has been left up to the wearer’s discretion), but about myself. I had been so wrapped in my life that I had it took God causing my tzitzit to become untied to get my attention. In that instant, my tzitzit were me. They were starting to come untied just like I was letting stress and other activities make me begin to unravel. 

It took me a second to gather up my thoughts, make a blessing to God for my tzitzit, and get to work, but the thought stuck with me the entire day. Wearing tzitzits has been one of the weirdest experiences of my life, but also one of the most rewarding. Just like these strands of white and blue are never far from me, this helps me remember that God is never far from me either. 

Because we can’t see God just like we can’t see the wind, God instructed B’nai Israel to wear these weird fringes on the four corners of their garments so that we can begin to see the good that He brings to the world everyday. They are a reminder that He is always there. Baruch HaShem (Blessed be The Name [of God]).

– Ken

Just a Simple Hebrew Okie

As I try and help shed some light on the spiritual wisdom found in the Torah to the masses, I have a confession to make to all of you: I’m kind of an idiot. While I’ve studied Torah and have read multiple volumes of different holy books, much of my perspective comes from being a perpetual student who is constantly learning; but the more I learn, the more I find out how little I know.
Some of you might be disappointed to find out that I’m no Torah genius, but rather a simple Okie Hebrew who studies the Torah for the simple nuggets of wisdom and truth. Actually, if any of my Torah observance seems more rigid than the popular interpretation, it’s usually because of my own ignorance in the reason why certain mitzvot (commandments) exist. My aim is not to wow people with my intellect; a task which I think I would continually fail to be successful at performing. My aim is to be able to provide just a dash of peculiar perspective on the Hebrew Scriptures, those who have been inspired by them, and what relevance the Hebrew Scriptures have with our modern society.  
I find it’s important to celebrate how little I know and use it as a constant motivation to never stop learning. 
“When you’re through learning, you’re through.” 
– Will Rogers
World Famous Okie Philosopher
If you have any topics that you’d like to see discussed on this blog or that you’d like this simple Okie Hebrew to address, feel free to submit them to me and I’ll do my best to address them.

I Don't Eat Kosher. I Eat Food.

While I was in college, I held many part-time jobs that allowed me to come in contact with many people I normally would not have come in contact with. While I was working at a printer cartridge re-manufacturing store, around the same time I was really shifting away from Christian thought and more into a Hebraic perspective of the Scriptures, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation one day with a certain customer who really shined new light on eating kosher. Interestingly enough, this man was a Christian. By Christian, I mean he probably believed that his salvation came from Jesus, but other than that, I bet this guy had been kicked out of a couple churches just by the way he spoke. 

At this point in my conversion, I did not consider myself B’nai Yisrael, but rather since I kept many of the tenants of the Torah, I considered myself a “weird Christian.” That was the best way I knew how to explain it to anyone who asked by I was wearing blue-accented fringes and didn’t cut my beard. 

I think the customer was waiting on some of his printer cartridges to be refilled and he asked me about my fringes and beard. I explained to him where I was, spiritually, and didn’t really know what to expect in reply. He gave me an approving “hmmp” with “will ya look at that?” happy frown and raised slightly surprised raised eyebrows. 

“Well, ya know, Jesus kept kosher. So did all the disciples; even after Jesus’ resurrection. No, I betcha money even Paul never touched a ham sandwich. The Bible plainly says eating certain things is forbidden and there’s no getting around it.”

His reply surprised me. All the other Christians I knew had quoted the classic “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?” line from Matthew 17; which goes on to say “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” as well as “…to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” What most Christians will claim is Jesus’ way of abolishing the laws of eating kosher in the Torah (which doesn’t make sense because the rest of the Bible says that if anyone comes claiming to be Messiah, but teaches against the Torah, cannot not possibly Messiah) is actually a teaching against speaking evil and also enforcing man-made laws as though they are in the Torah. Though washing one’s hands before eating might be a good idea, the command to wash one’s hands before eating bread isn’t found anywhere in the Torah. 

The customer didn’t quote that famous Matthew 17 verse, instead he started to speak about Torah by quoting verses from Leviticus 11. According to the Torah, Israel is forbidden to eat: 
  • Mammals that don’t both have a cloven hoof AND chew their cud 
  • Fish that don’t have both scales and fins 
  • Birds of prey
  • Winged insects that go on all four besides those that have jointed legs above the feet for hopping
  • Any reptiles or amphibians 
  • Pretty much any animals that eat other animals
This man did not bring the usual argument about these creatures being disgusting or cursed or anything. He made it even more simple than that:

“These animals were not designed to be food. Animals that die in the wilderness are eaten by scavengers; wild pigs, vultures, wolves, some tinier than you can see, and the like. When fish die, they fall to the lake bottom or ocean floor and are eaten by bottom-feeders like crabs, lobsters, and catfish. You wouldn’t try and eat the garbage truck, would you? I wouldn’t eat these creatures any sooner than I’d eat my own shoe. It’s not because I consider my shoe to be cursed, but simply because I need my shoe. God designed these creatures to take care of the earth by keeping it clean.” 

It was very bizarre that this Christian was bringing a very Jewish perspective to eating clean foods, but he was absolutely right. These animals are not necessarily non-kosher food, but they simply weren’t meant to be food anymore than my shoe is meant to be food. 

When I look at a big piece of ham, I don’t really think “Oh, disgusting! That’s sick!” After my chat with that guy one day at work, I see a big sizzling sneaker on a plate and that bacon hidden in the salad is more like little pieces of rubber. 

So, I’m not really against eating non-kosher, but more about eating what the Torah considers to be food.  

Gay Marriage: Chill Out, People

Ok, this is my chance to be political and religious without being political or religious. I hope you enjoy.

Right now, the Christian right is claiming that the institution of marriage is under attack through many state’s attempts to legalize same-sex marriage. They are claiming that homosexuals should not be able to be married because it is a perversion and goes against the will of Almighty God. 

To that, I only have this to say: WELCOME TO AMERICA!

Being a religious person who devoted to the Torah, many people expect that I will simply come down on the side of the religious wing nuts and scream against same-sex marriage; that homosexuality is what is killing this Christian nation. 

Well, I got news for you; I ain’t no Christian. 

The Torah was given as a guide to Israel on how to serve God and how to get along with your fellow man. I do not believe that the Bible was intended as a means of cramming the will of God down the throats of every person that crosses your path. It was given to those who are in covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If someone doesn’t want to be in covenant with that God, I have no problem with that. That is their path and I believe people should have the right to do whatever they feel as long as aren’t bringing harm to anyone else or bringing injustice into the world.  

Why people have decided that a piece of government legislation that doesn’t even have anything to do with them is worth fighting against is beyond me. Two guys getting married or two women getting married is not going to change my relationship with the Creator. Why should people let it change their’s? Marriage has not always been a legal issue in the United States and I don’t think it should be any longer. I am a supporter of zero legally recognized marriages and anyone who wants to be legally bound to another for whatever reason should be able to be without the title of “married” on any government paper work. If you want to be married, that should be between you and God and not you and the government.

Now, I’m not wanting to bash Christians. I have many God-fearing Christian friends who feel the same way I do about the whole gay marriage topic. However, for those who feel the need to go out of their way to bark in everyone’s face about how homosexuality is an abomination, need I remind them that the same book of the Bible that says homosexuality is an abomination also says the same about eating shrimp and lobster. So, unless you’re eating kosher, please do us all a favor and shut up. To join this particular fight, check out for more info. 

Do not be mistaken; I am not pro same-sex marriage and would not attend a gay wedding if I were invited because it goes my personal spiritual legislation – the Torah. However, I would not protest one if it were to take place. 

– Ken