Third World

      I have been fortunate to visit dozens of countries on almost every continent on this planet, and the standard advisory when visiting any country that is part of the third world is: “don’t drink the water.” Too often the water is contaminated, unclean, unfiltered or insufficiently so, or just doesn’t rest well in a first world stomach. Tourists live off bottled water and hotels routinely provide bottled water (the good ones, for free) in every room. It is the price of visiting these countries and enjoying their other, non-potable, attractions.

     Then I realized that for many years most people I know do not drink the water in New Jersey or many other places in the United States. That is why the bottled water business is a $7,000,000,000 (that’s billion) industry in America. It might not be a lot compared to other industries –it is half of what was spent on the 2020 presidential election and a third of what Americans spend on chocolate – but it means that people would rather pay good money, billions of dollars, for something that they can get for free right from the tap. There are very few, if any, similar choices made by a consumer.

     What about infrastructure? It is not uncommon in the Third World to travel on potholed roads, rundown highways, and transit systems that are crowded and inefficient (although European trains are a marvel of efficiency and exactitude). Bridges and tunnels are often in disrepair and collapses are not unknown. Railroad tracks always seem to be on their last legs.

     Is the United States really that different? The subways in many cities compare unfavorably with the third world. Highways, bridges and tunnels are in such need of upgrade and modernization that it is a perennial promise by the politicians to spend hundreds of billions to do it, and never do. That little seems to be done is not only because politicians need something to promise in the future and the union demands grossly inflate the cost of any project but mainly because until anything breaks down completely, why fix it? That money can be spent elsewhere on something new and shiny.

     Likewise, the urban areas in third world countries are teeming with slums, old buildings and neighborhoods, and, too often, garbage and rubbish in the streets. These areas abound with dysfunctional families, aimless children, and poor educational frameworks. While the American poor have standards of living that far exceed that of the third world poor, the rest of the description is far too accurate. A slum is a slum wherever it is, and some slums seem to exist permanently. The inner cities wherever they are located remain places of high crime (and misdemeanors), homelessness, social maladies and disorders that seem to defy resolution. In the US as in the third world, there are areas of great opulence that are a short ride from places of great poverty and deprivation. The only difference is that the US has many more places of great opulence than one would find in the third world.

     What else characterizes a third world country? Typically, one finds debilitated social and political systems and even the latter is often tenuously held together by a strong man. In the third world, one expect to see lawlessness, mobs and riots in the streets, with the homes and businesses of the successful looted by the unsuccessful and embittered. One would expect the commission of crimes that will or won’t be prosecuted based on the personal whims of the prosecutor. One expects the judiciary to be so corrupt that it places its political predilections over the rule of law. Justice itself is not just illusory but it is altogether capricious, a veritable gamble as to who wins and who loses. The mob drives disfavored politicians from office and places its favorites into office. The government just prints money and distributes it in order to placate the people, oblivious to the fact that soon that money will be worth less and less.

     In the third world, it is quite common that the wealthy people are those who cozy up to government power brokers. Cronyism is rampant, sweetheart deals, contracts and monopolies are the norm, and politicians, oligarchs and their media acolytes are often interchangeable. There is a revolving door in which jobs and perks are exchanged regularly. The media, controlled by the elites, suppresses dissent, breaks and cancels its enemies, and sets the agenda for the society. Cabals in the establishment, usually military or intelligence, plot from within and attempt to overthrow any leader who does not conform to their wishes. Dissidents are cast out of civil society unless they do penance, often embracing views they previously found repugnant in order to regain entry into the world of the elites, and having to pay a premium price to do so. The crimes of the disfavored lead to their excision and incarceration while the crimes of the elites are overlooked, minimized or covered up. The rich and powerful get away with it.

     Well, how well does that describe modern America? Almost perfectly. The mobs and rioters intimidated and continue to intimidate decent people. A good percentage of Biden voters did so out of fear that the streets would explode and burn (again) if Biden lost. These threats were not subtle in the least. Cities across America deployed their security agents in force on Election Day lest the mob find the results distasteful. (As a general rule, Republicans don’t burn down buildings or businesses. Why would they? They own the buildings and businesses.) In many cities, property crimes, assaults and trespassing committed by the mobsters were not prosecuted. Literally, people committed crimes by the thousands and got away with it only because their politics of the rioters and the prosecutors corresponded. Some rioters were arrested, released without bail, and then arrested again for more crimes, and released again. Black supremacists are disgracefully hailed even as white supremacists are justifiably castigated.

     In New York City, police solve crimes at a rate below 30%, which is actually astounding. Criminals just get away with it, and the average citizen does not realize the extent to which they get away with it. Dissidents on moral issues have their religious liberties threatened and curtailed, even as the margin of victory in the Supreme Court (their last protection) is extremely narrow. Congress is as dysfunctional as any third world parliament, with the only saving grace is that Congressmen have not yet come to blows on the floor of the House or Senate, something quite common in the third world. Elements within the CIA and FBI plotted against a sitting president, and few if any will be brought to justice. Money is printed and distributed by the trillions, which is not to say it is fairly or equitably distributed, or distributed to those who need it most rather than to the oligarchs and political cronies of the powerful.

      And what better characterizes a third world country than election fraud? It is almost synonymous with the third world, as is the weaselly, politician/media cliché repeatedly uttered of “no evidence of widespread fraud.” Left open is why there should be any fraud at all, as well as a precise definition of “widespread.” Note this well: if 99 ballots out of 100 are legitimate, and 1 out of 100 is bogus, then most people would not construe that as “widespread” fraud. After all, it is only 1% of the vote. Yet, in the three key states of Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan, Biden defeated Trump by less than 1% of the vote. Widespread? Hardly. Determinative? Absolutely. And if we expand the definition of “no evidence of widespread fraud” to 3% of the vote (meaning that the election was 97% honest) then crunch the numbers and Trump won a smashing victory. I accept the outcome, but please do not insult our intelligence with the vapid banality of “no widespread fraud.” And at least acknowledge as well the oddity that all accusations of fraud went in one direction, not both.

      It is sad that the United States, to too great an extent, is becoming a third world country in all the aspects that define a third world country. The great irony is that, notwithstanding this political and moral collapse, only the United States could have produced the Coronavirus vaccine in such record time, and only the United States has the material and constitutional heft to lead the world, to be an example for other nations, and to fight the evil that persists in the world especially in countries antagonized by the American ethos. The United States has many places of astonishing beauty and prosperity, and successful people have long segregated themselves into communities that are gated, literally or figuratively. But Americans can also easily be fooled by the glitz, the glamour, the trappings of modernity and technology, and the soothing sounds of social media that indulge the worst facets of our nature and few of the positive ones. America is filled with soporific distractions, the bread and circuses of the Romans that lulled people into thinking that all is good and getting better even as every feature of civil society was breaking down.

      As Romans could tell you, nothing lasts forever. It is easy to get complacent, and easier, and worse, to deny what is happening in front of us because the consequences are too unpleasant to consider. “All are considered blind until G-d opens their eyes,” especially diehard partisans. Those who notice this should take it to heart, ignore the mindless cheerleading and empty platitudes, and draw the appropriate conclusions.

Free Speech

     Something curious has arisen in the recent past regarding this matter of the endless arguments without resolution that is a modern affliction. There are many occasions when I will disagree with someone who kindly informs me, “Well, you are entitled to your opinion,” or I will discuss with a third party a particular statement or position someone has that I find flawed, misguided or troubling, and that third party will respond, “Well, he has freedom of speech.”

     It is curious because I never questioned or doubted the person’s right to his or her opinion or the right to express it. What I questioned was the accuracy, wisdom, cogency, veracity, sensibility, logic or plausibility of that assertion. The “right” to say something is a procedural matter that it wholly unrelated to the substance of what was said. So when and how did that become an appropriate rejoinder in a discussion of a substantive issue?

     From one perspective, such a claim is intended to end the discussion. A mind having been made up and thus at present immovable, “he has a right to his opinion” is tantamount to saying “let’s move on.” So rather than further debate the substance, this plea is entered in order to allow the interlocutor to maintain his stance despite its senselessness, errors, illogicalities and untenability. It is still peculiar; given that in a free country people have the right to cling to and profess the most outlandish and erroneous ideas, that fact should go unstated.

      Perhaps, though, that is why this unusual declaration has become so prevalent. The right to hold and express certain views is under assault from many quarters in society, particularly the political and religious left. A recent survey indicated how basic principles of free speech are unwelcome on American college campuses. Thus, “more than half of students (57 percent) think colleges and universities should be able to restrict student expression of political views that are hurtful or offensive to certain students… A majority of students (70 percent) think students should be excluded from extracurricular activities if they publicly express intolerant, hurtful, or offensive viewpoints.” That is ominous but explains the chilling atmosphere on many campuses and classrooms where some ideas are considered beyond the pale – including support for Israel.

      It has become fairly common, even outside campus life, to be impolitely informed that certain ideas are unwelcome and may not be uttered. It often is related to a moral notion, especially a defense of a traditional viewpoint. It has happened to me, usually when people felt their avant-garde, “enlightened” views should be the only ones heard in the public domain. Some feminists have become notorious for this, as well as the advocates for same-sex practices. It never much mattered to me but I would hear from others, including rabbis, who said they agreed with me but could never articulate such views publicly. That’s a shame, because then the mob wins, and this is just one aspect of the cancel culture that has made social discourse so toxic. The right of freedom of speech is not much of a right if those who enjoy it are afraid to use it for appropriate reasons.

     It’s an even bigger shame because, as has been well documented, those professing conservative viewpoints have been largely intimidated into silence. Just to give one example, there are thousands of work places where it is safe to express contempt for the President and unsafe to express any support for anything he has done. Even neutrality is considered repugnant. But extrapolate from there to places where you cannot express support for Israel, and from there to what has become a most widespread phenomenon: the sheer inability of people to discuss politics or religion without descending into vitriol at best and blows at worst. That is a sad commentary on society. I have heard that there are families where certain sensitive (but not personal or familial) topics cannot be raised at any gathering lest reasonable conversation be drowned out by the cries of the moralistic monoliths who can only tolerate their own opinions.

     Words that incite violence or otherwise dangerous are already proscribed, and rightly so. I always laugh when the limits of free speech are described by some pundit as ending at the point of “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” Justice Holmes prohibited “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater.” Obviously, if the theater is on fire, you are allowed to shout, and then get out.

      It might well be that the faulty citation is quite revealing. The context was “causing a panic” and thereby endangering lives, and such speech should obviously be illegal. But among the unduly sensitive, or censorious, speech that induces “panic” has been transformed into any speech that causes discomfort, offense, pain, hurt or even disagreement with the views of me and my friends. There are naturally religious bans on lashon hara, ona’ah and the like, which are quite edifying, but secular limitations on such speech are hazardous to the survival of any free society even if they come from civilians and not from government.

     It is understandable why discussions of religion and politics often bring out the worst in emotional people. Those two areas explore the best way to live, the values we should embrace, and how to implement those in the broader world. People’s opinions in these areas are often informed by their emotions and desires than by facts, texts, and traditions, and you can’t argue with people’s emotions. But these areas are not just the spice of life; they are literally life itself, and how to make the most of it. How pitiable that people can’t listen to and learn from each other and have their views shaped accordingly.

     Whatever opinions you hold, we can put an end to this pointless verbal tic of acknowledging people’s “rights to free speech” as a conversation stopper. The correct response to that is: “Of course they do. I never questioned their rights. They even have the right to be wrong. They even have the right to possess morally, logically, and religiously indefensible positions – but at least they should admit that.”

      That is because we also have the right to be thoughtful people who abandon our mistakes and are glad when they are pointed out. This is especially true in the subjects that are considered the most sensitive – because they are the ones that will influence our souls for good or ill and define our quest for spiritual and intellectual perfection.

Ask the Rabbi, Part 9

Last year, I was invited to be part of a panel of rabbis to submit answers to questions posed by the editor of the Jewish Press. The column appears bi-weekly, and I take this opportunity to present my approach to the questions raised.  Each question is fascinating in its own right, as are the variety of answers proffered.  All the answers can be viewed at Jewishpress.com.

Here is the ninth selection with my take on these issues    – RSP

If Albert Einstein were frum, should he have become a rosh yeshiva rather than a scientist?

Oh, would that Einstein have been frum! It is not as farfetched as it sounds. Although raised by parents who were diehard secularists, a young, rebellious Albert kept kosher and observed Shabbat as a nine-year old, to the consternation of his parents (“Einstein,” Walter Isaacson, Page 16). But he soon gave it up, and much else.

Einstein believed in G-d as the Creator but, alas, rejected the notion of a Providential G-d who is involved in history and transmitted a moral code to mankind. Perhaps if he had learned a little more, with the right teachers, he would have understood better that not everything in life can be explained by science.

A frum Einstein, who would have embraced all those ideas, could have engendered an even greater revolution in our understanding of the universe than he did. It certainly would have been more meaningful. A “godless” world leaves man empty and searching aimlessly, without a moral compass, and is ultimately despondent and hopeless. An Einstein who understood not only the grandeur of the universe but the majesty of the G-d who created and governs it could have effected a sea change in mankind and hastened the Messianic era when the world will be “filled with knowledge of G-d.” He could have had a greater impact than do most Roshei Yeshiva.

Our objective in life is to cleave to Hashem and use all of our talents to promote knowledge of G-d and His morality. One need not be a Rosh Yeshiva to accomplish that, and arguably frum educated laymen – lawyers, doctors, businessmen, scientists and others – can succeed in arenas where Roshei Yeshiva do not enter. Like the rest of us, Einstein should have followed his heart and mind into the path of his own choosing – and served Hashem faithfully in that capacity.

Is following sports a waste of time or harmless pleasure?

It would be quite facile to assert that sports are an utter waste of time, although obsessing over who wins or loses and suffering mood swings accordingly is both excessive and foolish.

Interestingly, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook contended that not everything that isn’t pure talmud Torah should be construed as bittul Torah (Ein Aya, Berachot 1:30). It’s impossible to prescribe in precise terms how assiduous each individual person has to be in his Torah study as every person is different.

People have to work, shop, and become involved in life’s affairs, each person to a different degree. Torah, though, is the barometer by which everything is measured and the lodestar that both guides us and refines our character.

Certainly “Talmud Torah k’neged kulam” (Peah 1:1) – Torah study is the equivalent of all the mitzvot and must be one’s primary pursuit in life. But the Rambam notes (perek 5 of Shemona Perakim) that our essential purpose in life – to seek knowledge of G-d – must characterize all our life’s endeavors.

Even indulging in physical or psychological pleasures must be rooted in the desire to be better divine servants: “May all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven” (Avot 2:12). “All your deeds” includes even things we do to relax, boost our spirits, or give our minds a temporary respite from the rigors of Torah study.

That, the Rambam says, includes music, hiking, exercise, and even “looking at pleasant images.” To live and die based on a particular score – or to be “kove’a ittim” for sports – is ultimately vacuous. But as long as the right balance is kept and priorities remain straight, and sports are seen as just an amusing, fleeting distraction, it is indeed a harmless pleasure.

Is it okay for a young man to leave his parents’ mesorah and join another (e.g., for a chassid to become yeshivish, for a dati le’umi/Modern Orthodox Jew to become black-hat, etc.)?

      We are adjured “do not forsake the Torah of your mother” (Mishlei 1:8), which is often explained as an admonition not to discard the customs of our parents. That is admirable – but this question relates to deviating from a particular Mesorah that is not halachic or even necessarily behavioral.

      The notion that there is only one acceptable Mesorah or only one path that truly conforms to G-d’s will is a prevalent error in the Jewish world. There are various approaches in the Torah world that obey halacha, are rooted in the Mesorah and are invaluable to the integrity of the Jewish people. To assume that we all have to think or look the same way does not enhance but rather denigrates, even trivializes, our divine service. It promotes a robotic form of observance that is difficult to transmit to children.

     One great canard always circulated about Orthodoxy is that it is monolithic. The opposite is true! There is greater diversity in Orthodoxy than in non-Orthodoxy. The Gemara (Taanit 31a) states: “Rabbi Elazar said in the future, G-d will arrange a circle dance of the righteous, and He will be sitting among them, and each and every one of the righteous will point with his finger, as it says, ‘Behold, this, is our G-d…’”

      Rabbi Akiva Eiger commented that in a circle, everyone is equidistant from the center where, in this parable, G-d “sits.” In the future, the righteous will realize that each might have had different approaches – Chasidic, yeshivish, Modern (in the sense of being shomer mitzvot in a Western milieu), religious Zionist, etc. – but each one intended to serve G-d sincerely, and each was equidistant from the Center.

     As long as everyone observes the mitzvot, we need not wait for the “future” to realize this.

Minds Made Up

     Why is it impossible today to convince anyone of anything they don’t already believe?

     I have found this to be so at least for the last decade. People’s positions have hardened and most are impervious to reasoned analysis. Even being shown how their arguments are logically flawed, factually incorrect or intellectually unsustainable makes absolutely no headway. Providing examples of their assumptions being proved dead wrong falls on deaf ears. I have been told by too many people whose views were just incorrect or whose opinions I saw as misguided and subject to adjustment based on facts or the disproof of their assumptions something along the lines of: “You are a good debater. I can’t debate you. But this is my opinion and I am sticking to it.” Whether or not words like this are uttered to you, this sentiment is widely held and happens more than we care to admit. It seems as if people would rather donate a vital organ than change their mind about something.

     It doesn’t even matter if the subject at hand is politics, science, history, sports, religion or some other weighty topic. People would rather disengage from a dialogue in which their beliefs might be challenged or refuted than actually confront them, defend them or change them. How did we arrive at such a stage, in which minds are so made up that true dialogue is dead?

     One answer often suggested, and it strikes a chord, is the lack of mutual respect accorded to contrary viewpoints. The oft-repeated trope is that many people on the left perceive people on the right as not just wrong but evil, whereas many people on the right perceive people on the left as fools. It is hard to have a rational conversation with people for whom you have such disdain, although, in truth, it is always tempting to try to educate the fool; that is why people on the right have become the great defenders of free speech. It is distasteful, even morally repugnant, to try to educate people whom you believe are irredeemably evil; hence the contempt on the left for the Western norms of free speech. If people on the right can only articulate “hate speech” (defined as anything with which the left disagrees) then such “hate speech” must be banned. It certainly should not be confronted in any type of discourse, public or private.

     But I think the problem is even deeper than that.

     Leo Tolstoy wrote (The Kingdom of God Is Within You) that “the most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.”

     Too many people don’t know what they don’t know, and what they think they know is often wrong but so entrenched in their personalities and value systems that a refutation of those notions followed by a transformation in their thinking would be unbearable. They are thus subject to confirmation bias, assimilating only those points, vignettes, anecdotes or studies that validate their thinking and rejecting (sometimes not even hearing or even entertaining) all others.

     Part of the problem is the existence of “alternate facts,” a phrase unwittingly coined by Kellyanne Conway and mocked by the left-wing media but something, properly understood, that has a ring of truth to it. This is what she meant: people only internalize the “facts” that support their positions and do not recognize the flaws, weaknesses or questionability of those facts. For example, much has been made about the imperative of following the “science.” But what if the science is in dispute? Many scientists tout the effectiveness of mask-wearing during the current pandemic, but others argue and say its effects are positive but limited. Non-transmission requires other factors beyond, and more important, than mask-wearing.    

     Scientists differ on whether or not people with antibodies can be re-infected. Scientists differ on the effectiveness of the hydroxychloriquine protocol, with formal studies bashing it and case studies (I personally know people whose lives were saved by it) endorsing it. Obviously, one’s opinion about these “facts” is influenced by the politics of the matter.

     “Alternate facts” are also fueled by the rise of the self-appointed expert class who presumably know more than the rest of us. Their errors, though, are doozies. In late February, one well known expert, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a top Obama/Biden aide, decried the “overreaction” to the Corona virus and predicted the “warm weather” of summer would end it anyway. He is still advising, opining, and dictating. Not to pick on him, but he is typical of the expertocracy that are as wrong as often as they are right and almost never held accountable for their mistakes. But their mere existence provides the argument that their acolytes are seeking and precludes any dialogue. After all, the science has spoken.

     In another and less polemical or sensitive realm, social science studies that are endlessly circulated by a lazy media have been routinely exposed as bogus. In the language of the trade, it is called the “replication crisis,” because as many as 70% cannot be independently duplicated. They make a big splash upon release, shape people’s attitudes and even values, and turn out to be based on gossamer. Thus, “people who are more analytical are less likely to hold religious beliefs.” Bogus. Or, “students exposed to a text that undermined their belief in free will were more likely to engage in cheating behavior.” Bogus. Add to this list the studies that “prove” that coffee is harmful or not harmful, that low-fat, high-fat, low- carb, high-carb diets are good or not good.

     Part of the problem is small sample size, another is the need to be published (which gets the author fame and more money for grants) but the biggest problem is that the researchers are “searching” for the answer they want, and they almost always find it even if they have to fabricate the conclusions.

     And then, many of the easily replicable studies are replicable because they are so obvious, to the point of being frivolous. Take the recent study that offered the stunning revelation that “children of intermarried Jews grow up with a very weak Jewish identity.” Gee, who would’ve thought that?! I could have saved the sponsors of the study a lot of money. This notion too has been confirmed by a study published this past August: “Laypeople Can Predict Which Social-Science Studies Will Be Replicated Successfully.” You can’t make this up… or maybe you could. Who knows if that study is accurate!

      The idea of “alternate facts” exists in the Torah world as well. The citation of an opinion, no matter how obscure, is accepted on the religious left when it justifies their predetermined conclusion. “I follow Rabbenu Simcha – but only on this!” The recent travesty of the media trumpeting “Orthodox” rabbis performing same-sex marriages is a perfect example. No “Orthodox” rabbi would do that, any more than he would officiate at an intermarriage, endorse the consumption of pork on Yom Kippur or embrace the Trinity as Jewish doctrine.

      When each side to a debate possesses “alternate facts,” reasoned dialogue becomes impossible. And when the “alternate facts” are based on personal stories of hardship and struggle, often very compelling stories but not objective facts at all, then it becomes impossible even to relate to the other side, much less convince or be convinced by them.

     The existence of “alternate facts” has also played a role in the rejection of the concept of objective truth. Each person can possess his or her own truth if there really is no truth – and then go try to persuade them that there is. It is a dialogue of the deaf. Additionally, there was a time not long ago that reasonable people could disagree on issues without making their dispute personal and therefore irreconcilable. It was not just the matter of disagreeing without being disagreeable but mostly that there was a distinction between what is considered “business” and what is “personal.” I certainly had that in the rabbinate for many decades and was blessed with it in Teaneck (we didn’t always agree but it was never personal). Those lines have been blurred, partly because of the determination that some Torah ideas are intrinsically immoral, G-d forbid, and those who express them are beyond the pale. One who holds the “wrong” views on women’s issues, for example, can easily be castigated as benighted, unworthy or worse.

     Finally, minds are made up because, for all intents and purposes, we all live today in an echo chamber of our own creation. (Not me! I’m happy to say that I’ve changed my mind on a couple of things. Like the old saw goes, you should have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.) In the United States it is certainly true. The political division reflects a physical division in the country. Most people live in states that, for example, voted overwhelmingly for Trump or Biden. People now live among their own (certainly in the Jewish world it is like that also), thinking and acting in similar ways, and sharing values and religious beliefs. The coasts tend to be secular and progressive, and the heartland is called the “Bible Belt” for a reason. In New York and California, the free expression of religious ideas is under attack and religious worship is not fully valued by the state.

      The explosion of media has allowed people to get their news from the source that bolsters, but never challenges, their opinions. The “other side” is not presented, as much as it is ridiculed – and, I will say it, the exception being the news programs on Fox News. (The other networks generally offered a Democrat who hates Trump, and for balance, a Republican who hates Trump.) In the prevailing environment, most people therefore simply do not know what they do not know, few have an interest in finding out, and they will never discover that what they “know” just might not be so. Minds can never change as they do not have access to other information that might cause them to change.

     There is a handy solution, which is not to say that it is simple. Seek the truth rather than an intellectual triumph over the other person. Be prepared to act on that truth, for that is intellectual and moral honesty. Be open and intellectually curious. “Who is wise? He who learns from all people” (Avot 4:1). You cannot learn anything while talking to people with whom you agree. So seek out people with whom you disagree, engage them, do not demonize them or their views, and the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions will be refreshing. Focus on facts more than feelings, and rather than refer to numerous studies that prove nothing, can’t be replicated and are often just tendentious, search for moral clarity in the Torah and the Talmud.

      It is there. It is real. “Uncover my eyes so that I may behold the wonders from Your Torah” (Tehillim 119:18). And remember that we are “all presumed blind until G-d enlightens us” (Midrash Breisheet Raba 53:14). We might surprise ourselves and even better our world.