Posts Tagged ‘mind’
Last December, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying, “Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims. The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens.”
It was a proper statement, expressing all the best sentiments regarding respectful interfaith relations, but its timing made it a potential disaster for the Israeli leader’s future relationship with the White House, should Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump win in November.
Back in 2013, Donald Trump announced his endorsement of Netanyahu for prime minister of Israel. It’s not clear why Bibi needed that show of support, but there it was. “I think he would have been a great president of the United States,” Trump said at the time. Now, the Netanyahu circle expected, Trump would expect to be rewarded in kind, with an endorsement from Netanyahu before the start of the primaries, which would have gone a long way to attract the pro-Israel vote.
It’s not even certain that Netanyahu was entirely against endorsing Trump, or at least giving the candidate a useful, very friendly photo-op. The meeting had been arranged two weeks earlier, according to the PM’s office, and Trump disclosed his plans to visit Israel in a Twitter post: “Prior to the end of the year, I will be traveling to Israel. I am very much looking forward to it.”
But then the Jerusalem Post reported that Trump wanted to visit the Temple Mount, and that “the campaign was looking into the logistics of visiting the site.” Talk about starting WW3. One can only imagine the Arab reaction had the US presidential candidate who promised to oust Muslims who tried to set foot in his country come to spread his message in the eternal city.
This is why Netanyahu felt compelled to reject Trump’s views openly, and to continue to state, in the same release, that the PM had decided this time around “on a uniform policy to agree to meet with all presidential candidates from either party” who visit Israel, but “this policy does not represent an endorsement of any candidate or his or her views, rather, it is an expression of the importance that Prime Minister Netanyahu attributes to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.”
In the context of the clandestine yet at the same time hyper-publicized relationship between Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu, that unavoidable error of December 9, 2015, where the modern-day ruler of Judea snubbed the modern-day Roman Emperor-to-be, had to be mended. Anyone who has followed the Trump campaign so far know that the candidate does not forgive slights, ever, and that being rejected publicly by “his friend” Netanyahu, as he had defined their relationship had to sting, and that there would be hell to pay.
And so Netanyahu’s patron Adelson has taken on himself the mission of mending the rift between the PM and the candidate. Adelson had initially passed on Trump in favor of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Texas Governor Rick Perry. It’s doubtful that Trump’s flashy public style appealed to Adelson, whose demeanor is reserved and secretive. But one week after the Netanyahu rejection note, Adelson asked for a meeting with Trump. At that stage of the race Adelson did not endorse Trump, but came out of the meeting telling reporters he found Trump to be “very charming.”
A few hours later, Trump issued the statement Adelson had been waiting to hear: “Sheldon knows that nobody will be more loyal to Israel than Donald Trump.”
Since then, Trump has stuck by his very positive views about Israel, and even endorsed continued settlement construction. Granted, he would have done it regardless of his meeting with Adelson. It is paramount for Trump to position himself as a greater friend of the Jewish State than his presumptive opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. But general sentiment and access to the White House for the Israeli PM are two very different things, as Netanyahu has learned so painfully during the Obama Administration.
Now, with the primary campaign all but over, Adelson told Trump in a private meeting last week that he was willing to contribute more than $100 million to his campaign. Adelson has also appointed himself Trump’s envoy to wealthy and influential Republican Jews, and this week sent fifty of them an email soliciting their support for the candidate. The Republican Jewish Coalition is not in Trump’s pocket. It is much more concerned with shielding Republican candidates in blue states from the Trump toxins than it is with endorsing the winning candidate. So Sheldon has his work cut out for him.
Meanwhile, as Trump has announced that he abandoned his plan to fund his campaign with his own money in favor of soliciting $1 billion from donors, Adelson would be a pivotal gain for him, on his way to reaching Jewish billionaires like hedge fund head Paul Singer. Singer is easily as pro-Israel as Adelson.
Of course, Adelson’s choice would have naturally been Trump, but it is doubtful their relationship would have been forged as it has done without Adelson’s concerns for Netanyahu’s political future.JNi.Media
Davening – praying – may not top physicians’ prescribed regimens for boosting health, but it benefits both mind and body beyond the spiritual elevation that comes with it.
Davening provides mental stimulation that helps keep the brain healthy, as an active mind has less chance of memory loss over time. With prayer services of substantial length, davening requires focus, concentration, discipline, and proper articulation, not only to get through the prayers and passages but to finish them on time, since in a minyan you’re praying together with others.
It could be argued that with the repetition of the same prayers week after week, year after year, the congregant is more or less able to daven by rote. That may be true, but there are a lot of words to recall, so even when the prayers are recited by rote, the mind is still stimulated. Indeed, whether one davens from memory or finds new challenges with each recitation, davening, for those of us who do so regularly, is like a daily mental workout.
If Hebrew is not your native language or one in which you are fluent, carrying out this endeavor has additional mental benefits; the recitation is even more challenging and therefore provides a better workout for the brain.
Davening is not a sedentary act; there are specific motions that accompany particular passages. During the course of the service the davener stands, sits, stands, bows, straightens up, turns, takes steps backward and forward, sits, stands, sits, stands, bows, and so forth. It’s not running, it’s not bench pressing, it’s not a high-energy workout, but it’s movement – and that can only be counted as positive.
For some people, particularly the elderly, davening may be one of the few forms of exercise they get. Done multiple times daily or weekly, it contributes to the minimum daily exercise recommended by various health authorities to increase longevity.
There are ancillary benefits that may be associated with davening. How does the davener get to synagogue? Walking is, of course, always healthy, particularly at a brisk pace. Davening at shul is a communal activity, and the camaraderie can lead to higher self-esteem and well-being and thus to better mental health. Singing prayers as part of a group can have similar benefits.
Some who daven are able to read or recite the Hebrew in the siddur but don’t know what the words mean. It behooves the davener to be able to translate the words properly in order to get the full benefit of davening. This provides further mental stimulation.
Because the text has so many layers of meaning, even the seasoned davener who understands what is being recited may discover new interpretations or challenges, which also helps keep the mind active.
Of course, correlations have been made between faith and well-being, and some elderly people have attributed their long lifespan to their faith. So these are benefits on top of the act of davening itself.
Davening can be a conduit to a sharp mind and a limber body. For religious fulfillment and mental and physical stimulation, it is a win-win practice. It’s never too late to start davening your way to good health.Harvey Rachlin
Readers of my column are aware that I returned to Africa to further my understanding of the Rwandan genocide and highlight the slaughter so that humanity can learn from its deplorable record of atrocity.
But I ended up learning perhaps even more about human and animal nature from the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Charles Darwin believed that we are all caught in an escapable struggle for survival where the powerful prey on the weak. This idea was one he garnered from watching animals, primarily and famously, in the Galapagos islands (I wrote a column on my visit to the Galapagos that can be found here. If only he had come to the plains of the Serengeti.
I have previously been on safari in African countries, primarily the excellent Kruger Park in South Africa. But nothing prepares you for the sheer brilliance and violence on display in the Serengeti. Today we saw three Cheetah move, with seemingly infinite patience, through the tall grass of the savannah, toward a Thomson gazelle which, in one short final burst, they fell in an instant and devoured almost totally in just fifteen minutes. When they departed the vultures appeared almost instantly along with other scavengers who were happy to feast on the scraps.
What went through my mind was that I was bearing living witness to every platitude I had ever heard. How only the fittest survive. How naiveté can be deadly (the gazelle stood enjoying the shade utterly oblivious to the impending disaster). And, more than anything else, the rewards of patience. The Cheetah crouched idly in the grass, moving only a step or two every few minutes, slowly and stealthily encroaching on its prey until it utterly destroyed its target. I, who has never excelled at patience, was in awe.
We were to witness the same sneak attack on the part of a female lion who, for over an hour, moved so slowly through a ridge in the grass, drawing ever nearer to an antelope, that it beggared belief she move that slowly. Baking in the sun and breathing heavily to deal with the heat (lions don’t sweat and regulate their temperature through respiration, or so I’m told), she waited and crouched in order to kill the antelope and feed her cubs. And after that monumental exertion, all was for naught as the antelope, seemingly oblivious to her approach, suddenly darted away.
But there was another emotion that I shared with my wife as we watched and watched, anticipating the kill. Were we no different to Roman hordes gathering in the coliseum to witness bloody spectacle as entertainment? Were we not the ones who would have signaled ‘thumbs down,’ begging the emperor for permission for one gladiator to disembowel the other for our enjoyment? Were we innocent bystanders as the weak were being devoured by the strong?
OK, I get it. This is the law of the jungle and I’m not meant to intervene. The beauty of the Serengeti is its utterly natural habitat, nearly unspoiled by human interference. We were meant to be spectators, innocent bystanders, on looking tourists, to the working of nature.
Was not human society built on something utterly different that proved Darwin wrong? That human beings developed something called ethics which mandated, contrary to Nietzschean ideas of the ubermensch, that the strong are meant to use their might to protect the weak. That we are not animals but are endowed with a soul that gives us an innate conscience, a feeling of right and wrong, a desire to intercede when the powerful are guilty of injustice against the weak.
With all the tourists watching in utter silence as the Cheetahs and lions approached their prey, I whispered to my wife, perhaps only half jokingly, that my mind was drifting toward the famous doctrine known as R2P, or “Responsibility to Protect.” Samantha Power, the world’s foremost voice against genocide, was just confirmed as America’s new Ambassador to the United Nations. She is a personal friend and I campaigned hard for her confirmation. Once, I studied with her what I believe to be the only ancient source for R2P, namely, the Bible’s injunction in Leviticus, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
I am beginning to believe that reading the mind of God is a predilection of Haredi rabbis. At least a certain type of Haredi rabbi indigenous to the holy land. Increasingly it seems that tragedies are attributed to ‘the evil of the day’. Which almost always is connected to sex. Which makes me wonder about the Gemarah’s s statement ‘Avira D’Ara Machkim’ – that the mere air in the land of Israel makes one wise.
Here is the latest one from a letter in Hamodia republished in Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel. It was signed by Rav Shmuel Littman. I have no clue who that is. But it seems obvious to me by what he writes that he a Haredi Rav. Although certainly not a moderate.
His problem? Mixed seating on buses. He has determined that mixed seating on buses is the cause of their being bombed by suicide bombers.
Rav Littman can now confidently join the ranks of all those others that blame every tragedy on their myopic biases of what plagues the Jewish community. They ‘know’ that that the biggest tragedy facing Klal Yisroel is the lack of a ‘proper approach’ to sex. No matter what the tragedy, some element of that is pointed to as the reason God found it necessary to send us a message. In Rav Littman’s case he is telling us that God found it necessary to tell us about the importance of segregating buses by blowing up a few of them killing and maiming all the innocent people aboard.
How did he determine this great piece of ‘wisdom and insight’? Isn’t it obvious? There hasn’t been a suicide bombing ever since Mehadrin buses were implemented in the Haredi neighborhoods. Here is how he put it:
As soon as these chariots of kedusha started running, the suicide bombers stopped.
That is what is protecting us. Why does he bring this up now? He is worried. Israel’s supreme court has made Mehadrin buses illegal. Although segregating the sexes may still be done on a voluntary basis – no one has the right to tell a passenger to change their seat. So if a woman sits in the front of the bus in the so called (unofficial) men’s section, no one is allowed to ask her to get up and move to the rear – even if they do so politely. This – says Rav Littman ‘compromise(s) the safety of our nation’.
Rav Littman almost begs people to take heed, arguing that even married couples should not object to sitting apart for the ‘short’ bus ride. They need to talk? – he asks? They can do it when they get home, for Pete’s sake!
Of course an elderly couple where one of them needs the support of the other because of health or medical issues does not occur to him to be an issue. Maybe he thinks that Tznius issues require that an elderly couple like that simply stay home. What if they need to see a doctor? Well I suppose they can just take a more expensive cab. That they live on a fixed income is certainly no issue when it comes to the Kedusha that is generated by those who worship the concept of the Mehadrin bus.
Like the Kedusha of those valiant Haredi Kannaoim who beat women up that violate said Kedusha by sitting in the men’s section of a relatively empty bus. Or the dozens of other similar incidents were women were subjected to all manner of violence and/or humiliation for doing that.
If this attitude weren’t so tragic, it would be funny. How anyone could claim to know the mind of God and thereby imply that the victims who were so brutally and suddenly murdered in bus bombings because buses in general were not sex segregated. How can anyone know – or believe so strongly he feels the need to warn us – that God’s wrath will descend upon us and start blowing up innocent people again if we don’t all adhere to Mehadrin bus rules voluntarily.
Need I add that the lack of ‘Kedusha’ that happens when a woman is occasionally found in the ‘men’s section’ of a bus is minuscule (if it exists at all) compared to the lack of Kedusha in the way the many rabbinic leaders handle sex abuse?Harry Maryles