Rabbi Daniel Lapin
April 13, 2014
The aftermath to my appearance on The 700 Club with my friend Pat Robertson last Monday astounded me. Like noxious mushrooms after a rain, articles suddenly sprang up condemning Pat for something people thought he said, and condemning me for not condemning him. Also, I received a bunch of negative communications, almost all of them from self-proclaimed Jews. I find myself sadly amused by hostile letters written to a rabbi that are filled with Yiddish curses.
They ranged from one or two politely critical ones to the majority, featuring vile and vulgar expletives about me and my family; two contained explicit death threats. I am not complaining, I'm a big boy and can take care of myself. I am accustomed to telling the Truth and living my life accordingly in spite of the anger this occasionally generates among fervent and extremist secular fundamentalists of all ethnic backgrounds.
What drives people with extremely limited data to rush to judgment and quickly criticize, condemn, and excoriate others? What happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt? I think it is collateral damage from the retreat of religion. I believe that it is Biblical wisdom that lubricates human social and economic interaction and when that becomes eroded, people rush to judge one another harshly.
...in righteousness you shall judge your friend. (Leviticus 19:15)
Still, this is a bit vague. After all, what does 'righteousness' really mean? Fortunately, ancient Jewish wisdom tells us about very important paragraph markings that can be seen in a traditional Torah scroll. These divisions provide a graphically visible separation of a Torah column into specifically related topics. This verse is part of a paragraph which includes another verse:
...and you shall love your friend as you love yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
Thus we see juxtaposed two parallel ideas (1) judge one another righteously, and, (2) love one another as you love yourself.
In other words, judge others the way you'd like them to judge you-giving the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, those who wrote angry denunciations were rushing to draw the very worst of conclusions. They were hardly judging the way they'd like to be judged themselves.
I do have to say that the impact of these few vitriolic letters was utterly overwhelmed by the colossal cascade of positive and enthusiastic letters from friends and fans who saw the 700 Club interview on CBN.
Which brings me to an interesting aspect of most of the vituperative letters: most of those who scrawled them did not bother to view the twenty-minute show. They wrote to me after reading Internet reports written by ideologues not shy about their hatred for religious conservatives such as Dr. Robertson and me.
Disregarding the obscenities and threats they contain, these letters revealed that their authors view Pat Robertson as virulently anti-Semitic and me as a hateful and unworthy member of the Jewish people for associating with him.
Let's see what the interview was about and what Dr. Robertson actually said. We were discussing my new book Business Secrets from the Bible which is a sequel to the best-seller from 2002, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money.
In this new book, I reveal forty business secrets from the Bible, but in a short interview, I focused on only a few examples. One of which was that many start-up entrepreneurs mistakenly try to do everything themselves. I explain that you should try to do those things that only you can do while hiring others to do everything else.
Attempting a humorous example, I observed that you seldom find Jews tinkering with their cars or mowing their lawns on weekends. I did not say that there are no Jewish lawn landscapers or Jewish car mechanics. That would be nonsense; like other successful groups, Judaism does not view any form of work as menial.
My point was that auto-mechanics should hire plumbers to fix their water pipes, and lawn maintenance specialists should hire auto-mechanics to fix their cars. This frees each to become more competent in his own field and better able to serve his fellow humans. I explained that not only would my mechanic repair my car more competently and more quickly than I could but that in the time he did so, I could probably make more money than he would charge me if I applied myself effectively to my own trade.
During the 700 Club interview I mentioned the Biblical foundations for this principle of the morality of specialization which western economics only grasped when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations at the end of the 18th century.
Responding to me, Dr. Robertson laughingly alluded to diamond polishing as a popular Jewish specialty. This is to say that diamond polishers should not repair their own cars any more than auto mechanics should spend months polishing a raw diamond to present to their fiancées. Instead, they allow the diamond specialist to do the polishing while they pursue their own work.
There was nothing troubling in this conversation. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the industry knows that over 90% of the diamond business, whether in Manhattan, Antwerp, or Tel Aviv, is conducted by Jews. So what?
There was nothing anti-Semitic in this conversation. There was no suggestion that all Jews are rich. I explicitly stated that obviously there are poor Jews but at the same time, it is hard to ignore that Jews are disproportionately represented among the Forbes Four Hundred and other listings of the financially successful.
The entire point of much I have written and published is that Jewish financial success is not racial and genetic but cultural. Furthermore I demonstrate how anybody can learn, understand and apply the cultural principles rooted in the Bible just as so many Jews have done over the centuries.
However, there are always a few bitter and hateful individuals. People whose loathing of Judeo-Christian tradition and repugnance for Biblically based conservatives makes them abandon facts and focus with frenzied fanaticism on microscopic morsels they scoop up and transform into bogus evidence to justify their hate.
Pat Robertson, regularly honored and loved by Israelis for his remarkable generosity to the Jewish state has yet to be shown to have ever caused harm to any Jew. It is a frighteningly dangerous precedent for Jews to abuse the terrible term anti-Semite in order to bludgeon those with whom they disagree into silence and submission. It is not only dangerous but it is also stupid and evil. Some of my fellow Jews should be ashamed of themselves. I know I was embarrassed to see a friend so insulted by those to whom he has always been kind and gracious.
The only people left in the whole world who still openly like Jews and support Israel are America's Evangelical Christians. I sometimes worry that God might wonder whether we Jews really do deserve these good friends.
Meanwhile, let's remember that we unnecessarily jeopardize relationships by failing to judge others the way we'd like to be judged. Furthermore, those to whom you do extend the benefit of the doubt will never forget your goodness.
3,326 years ago, God judged the Egyptians while bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. Each year, we relive this Exodus by celebrating Passover, including refraining from work and earning money on the first and last two days. See the sidebar for next week's details. Take advantage now of our remaining open hours to enjoy holiday savings on our Library Pack and Library Pack PLUS (including free shipping in the continental U.S.). These packages provide hours of stimulation, enjoyment and growth, improving your economic, family and social life at an unbeatable price. Enjoy!
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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.
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