By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
December 26, 2010
I love this season. I don’t celebrate Christmas but I respect it and enjoy its sights and sounds. I enjoy the music in the malls. I enjoy the lavishly lit displays and colorfully decorated homes. All this is far more noticeable in cities than in remote rural areas.
Cities are places where the highs are higher but the lows are lower. In large cities, people can find friendship and connection no matter what their interests, but in large cities some citizens languish in excruciating loneliness.
Cities contain culture; music, art and dance. But they are also where the degenerate sell the degrading to the depraved.
In cities fortunes can be made and affluence achieved but it is also in cities that drifters and derelicts exist.
Cities harbor strident secularists and ardent atheists. But cities also accommodate multiple centers of worship from simple synagogues to towering cathedrals. Cities possess vast churches teeming with worshippers and countless other expressions of faith including entire neighborhoods of Christmas decorations.
History’s earliest mention of a city is the one built by Cain as part of his penance for homicide.
…and he became a city builder and named the city after the name of his son, Enoch. (Genesis 4:17)
Contributing to the lives of many was a way to atone for taking a life.
This observation of ancient Jewish wisdom is substantiated by the Torah’s most conspicuous cluster of cities—the six cities where accidental murderers sought refuge:
You shall designate cities for yourselves, cities of refuge shall they be for you, and a murder shall flee there—one who takes a life unintentionally. (Numbers 35:11)
Rather than retreating into isolation, living in a city gives opportunity for connection with others.
Cities offer opportunity to flourish or fail.
And they (the men of Reuben and Gad) approached Moses and said, “Pens for our flocks we shall build here and cities for our children. (Numbers 32:16)
Moses reversed the order when responding:
Build for yourselves cities for your children and pens for your flocks… (Numbers 32:24)
Flocks represent wealth and pens represent the infrastructure for building wealth. The tribes had the order wrong and Moses corrected them. Go ahead and build cities but the priority is first family then wealth. Cities, where there is close contact with many other humans, are places where you can best achieve your maximum potential. But it is also terribly easy to mistake priorities in a city. Yes, there is risk and that is why you need God’s Guide for how the world really works.
Cities remind us that life is at its most thrilling when we strive for the highest highs despite being aware that the lowest lows are also possible.
I know someone who won’t get married because he fears perhaps facing one day the possible loss of someone he loves. There are many who abandon dreams of building their own businesses because they fear the humiliation of failure. Some renounce the joy of having children for fear of potential heartbreaks waiting down the road.
Yes, it is possible to live a bland life minimizing the lows by foregoing the highs, a life in which the green graph barely flutters above or below the base line of life. But is such a life what God intended for us? No!
“Come hither, and I will show you an admirable spectacle!” said Rev. Cotton Mather in a speech entitled Theopolis Americana that he delivered to the General Assembly of Massachusetts in late 1709. He continued, “’Tis an heavenly city, descending out of Heaven, from God.”
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This is a great time of the year to commit to a new year of living with passion and fullness and experiencing what the city represents in our lives. Reach for the heights while following His word to avoid the depths or cope with them.
Our struggle to extract the fullness of life that God intends for us captures the flavor of my teachings. This week, use the promo code SAVE for $5 off any online order and head into 2011 with tools in hand for striving higher while keeping God’s direction as your guiding blueprint.
My wife and I would like to wish all our Christian subscribers a joyous and uplifting Christmas.
© 2010 Rabbi Daniel Lapin - All Rights Reserved
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Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.
You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.
Web Site: www.rabbidaniellapin.com