Observations  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , , ,

We share this world with countless other people, from all different walks of life. There are some to whom we feel a certain connection, perhaps because we share a nationality or a religion. Others remain strangers to us because we find nothing in common with them as we chance a glimpse of them when we venture out of our own homes. Whether we can relate to them or not, it is always fascinating to observe people. As a writer, it is one of my chief delights to sit on a train or in a Starbucks with big glass windows, watching those unsuspecting people as they walk past me, wrapped up in their own lives. Each one of them has a goal, a purpose, something they hope to achieve. As I see them hurrying by, I wonder where they are headed, and what is it that makes them rush. I wonder what meaning their lives have, if any at all.

Recently, as I was riding home late one night, I saw an Orthodox couple walking together, the only people visible in that quiet neighborhood. A few minutes later, as we turned onto a busy street, I saw a group of four teenage guys standing in a circle outside a store. Three of them were just looking down at the ground, while the fourth was smoking a cigarette. All four looked bored and unhappy, and somehow... empty. They were just standing around there at night, with nothing better to do, and that somehow made me sad for them, especially as I contrasted them with the couple I observed before.

I know people who try to fill the emptiness of their lives with more emptiness, and that is so sad. Why fill an empty space with more of the same? Why not put some meaning into life? There is so much we can do.... We can learn Torah, give some of our time to those who can use our help, do something that we can look back on without regret.

Today, there was a siyum in our shul, which reminded me of how fortunate I am to be a Jew. People do not always focus on the words said after the completion of a mesechta, or their meaning, but I noticed it because it is something one of my teachers mentioned in class that really had an impact on me.

We thank G-d for placing us among those who sit in the Beit Medrash and not on the streets, and we compare and contrast our lives as Jews to the lives of others. All people rise early, but we do it for the sake of Torah, while they do it for what is ultimately nothingness. We all toil, but we are rewarded for it at the end of our lives, while they are not. And we run, and they run, but we run toward eternal life, while they run toward destruction.

G-d gave us a life that has the potential to be full of meaning. Our lives are supposed to have meaning. How can we exchange it for the emptiness of the outside world? That is what makes me so sad when I observe or think of such people, some of whom are my acquaintance. But then, I observe people whose lives are full of purpose, significance, and awareness, and that inspires me.

May we all live meaningful lives and merit eternal life and the coming of משיח.

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 27, 2009 at Saturday, June 27, 2009 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

29 comments

There are so many things wrong with what you have written, that I don't know where to begin...

I will say the main things that bothers me.

1. Goyim have meaningful lifes. Many are spiritual people. They are connected to Hashem in their own way. If only Jews were able to attain eternal life and etc, than we Jews, would have been under the obligation to convert them to Judaism.

Goyim are people like you and I. The only difference, is that they are under no obligation to observe the 613 mitzvos of the Jews.

2. Christian and Moslem phylosophy is about the next life, or eternal life and all that it entails. Judaism is about bringing spiritualism to this physical life. Thinking about eternal life and eternal award is one of many examples Christinization of Judaism.

3. Learning Torah is not the only way to eliviate emptiness. There are many other avenues such as helping others, running business, national or international politics, arts, scientific research, pushing one's body and etc.

June 29, 2009 at 11:14 AM

Hm... I still don't see anything wrong with what I have written.

1. It depends on your definition of 'meaningful.' For some reason, I do not see many non-Jews having what I would call meaningful lives. I do not deny that chasidei umot ha'olam get their share in the world to come. But I am talking about the general public. I do not see many non-Jews living meaningful lives. For that matter, I also see many Jews whose lives don't have meaning. What I am trying to say is that we, as Jews, should try to bring some meaning into our lives. That is my concern; I do not care about the others much.

"Goyim are people like you and I." -- I would say that we are more than just people. We are 'am hanivchar.'

2. I disagree.

3. I was not trying to compile a comprehensive list of things people can do to bring meaning to their lives, but if that was my intent, I certainly would not include the examples you wrote, except for 'helping others,' which, coincidentally, I mentioned right up there along with learning Torah. When there is a void in one's life where spirituality and Torah should be, you cannot fill it with businesses, politics, arts, research, or physical workouts. That in itself is emptiness ultimately (unless you find a cure for cancer and save lives). You can't replace spirituality with all those things; sometimes, they only serve to make a person feel even emptier, just like the guys standing on street corners smoking cigarettes.

June 29, 2009 at 2:45 PM

Some may say that blogging is meaningless...

I do feel bad for your coworkers for when the time comes and you enter the workforce, and they'll recognize that you have a superiority complex.

you clearly don't know to many goyim, and you are clearly brainwashed by ignorant teachers who never experienced dealing with anyone not-frum, except for maybe Janitors or housekeeper's.

You have no idea how the real world runs. Many goyim have very meaningful lives. And I have some very religious coworkers, and very many positive comparisons can be drawn between the two.

- Not everyone can or even should learn Torah every waking minute, some people would go nuts if they didn't have "meaningless" things to fall back on.

-Things like running businesses and being involved in Politics, can alter many people's lives.

If not for the money that businessmen and politicians have and give over in form of tzedakkah, NO ONE, would ever be able to afford to send their kids to Yeshiva. And if these people didn't devote literally ALL their time into business, they never would've made it. Heck, its documented that many Jews were ignorant of World affiars, and that is why they remained in Poland and Germany. While the entire world knew Hitler was a maniac, Jews had your attitude and decided Politics was meaningless. Many Jews who fled, did so because they followed the news.

"finding the cure for cancer" may be all noble, but it takes YEARS of research and trial and error until one actually finds a cure for anything. The cure wasn't found yet. And many people who devoted their lives to find one, have died. Were their lives meaningless? No! because they got research done for the next people to learn from. But they still haven't accomplished anything solid.

June 29, 2009 at 7:55 PM

1. You are saying that overall goyim are people who lead meaningless lives etc. etc. That is simply not true. You claimed to have read Jane Austin and Margaret Mitchell books among many others. As far as I know these authors were not Jewish, yet they wrote these beautiful novels. I have difficulty accepting that someone who wrote these novels lead a meaningless life.

Just because we are 'am hanivchar.' doesn't mean we are better than the others. All it means that we as Jews have a certain mission to fulfill in this world, others have their own missions. For example each company has a CFO and CIO. Both are necessary for the well being of the company. Each does his own job and neither one is better than the other.

2. You disagree? How? Do you have any basis to disagree on? Or you are just a mindless frum robot who repeats everything she is told by school/rabbi/father and if faced with oposition closes her eyes and says "I disagree"

3. As frumskeptic says there is more to life than just learning Torah. Business provides the whole society with comforts of doing their own thing. Imagine, without business, you would have to grow your own cotton, pick it yourself, spin it yourself... just to make clothes. Than you would have to go and do all those things yourself like growing food and domestic animals and making your own housing and etc. But we have people who get a vision and they work hard trying to sell this vision and improve it and implement it and viola you have a businessman and you are getting comfort from his success.

Imagine if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs decided to learn Torah rather than "play" with electronic equipment, today you wouldn't have a PC in every home and ease of communication and all that.

Same could be said about all other "meaningless pursuits" Imagine living in shacks because there were no one artistic enough to think of building houses and sky scrapers.

Imagine we would still be living in a lord/serf society had it not been for politicians and phylosophers.

Imagine our life spans would still be 35 years if there weren't people who proved how much more a human body is capable of.

All of these "meaningless" pursuits are necessary for our society. And how do you know that those teens you saw hanging out were not just taking a break from improving on one of their "useless" activities? How do you know they were not the next generation of Franklin, Edison, Gates, Jobs.

June 30, 2009 at 1:13 AM

mlevin: I was actually trying to prove to her a similar point recently. Though I side with her on some points against you as well, so..

The point I agree with is that non-Jewish religion is a perfectly legitimate religious manifestation for non-Jews as far as Judaism is concerned. It's wrong to think like the Christians and Muslims do that "only our form of religion is correct". I've actually seen many more non-Jews with much more meaningful lives than most Jews (I'm not sure why, but I'm actually thinking of Mormons and Evangelicals at the moment).

Also: You mentioned the fact that they're not obligated in the mitzvot, and that's fine. I think it's important to remember that the Midrash says that there's no intrinsic significance in the Jewish ritual laws..they're just ritual, and they're just for us (i.e. there's nothing "wrong" with eating pork).

"Thinking about eternal life and eternal award is one of many examples Christinization of Judaism."- That's obviously not the Orthodox opinion, though a form of that notion resonates with traditional Jewish thought..

In regards to "3" I side with Hannah over here (for the most part). I mean, business being a source of fulfilment in life is great for the modern post-atheist religion-devoid world. I mean, you've gotta' find meaning somehow. But as for us Theists, while it's true that full-time religion is only cut-out for a few, it's obviously wrong to totally replace religious meaning with secular endeavors. It all depends on the intent in our (religion) eyes; if you're engaging in politics and health for religious reasons, they're legitimate, if not, the actions are legitimate, but the reason is pointless as far as religion is concerned..

FS: Are you related to mlevin? ...

June 30, 2009 at 2:44 AM

Whoah, I had this page open and unrefreshed so long there's another comment already..

June 30, 2009 at 2:45 AM

Shlomo - I'm not talking about regular businessmen who see it as a money making place, I'm talking about people who get so into it that it becomes their live. They start it from nothing or sometimes they inherit it and then as if it's a little baby they nurture it and watch it grow. These people are completely fulfilled with it. They don't need anything else. At the end of their life they look back and are proud of their accomplishment.

And these types of "meaningless" accomplishments are not just the product of the modern athiest age, they existed through out times, but were just not as common because there were less freedoms to pursue one's dreams. For example, Peter the Great, looked at Russia and decided to make it a great country. For example, Galileo wanted to see more of the skies and he created a telescope and saw planets and saw satellites that we didn't know existed. Recently a few pages were found written by a Greek philosopher who was so much into his mathematics that he was on the verge of producing calculus (it's possible, that he did, but his writing were just not saved)

June 30, 2009 at 9:34 AM

"Thinking about eternal life and eternal award is one of many examples Christianization of Judaism."- That's obviously not the Orthodox opinion, though a form of that notion resonates with traditional Jewish thought...

Shlomo - we are in this life to make this world a better place to be. That is the Jewish thought. All the stuff about rewards when we die is a scare tactic to make masses do what you want without question. It was borrowed from Christians and Moslems of course perfected it with their suicide bombers and 70 virgins.

Judaism doesn't even believe in eternal heaven. We believe in a temporary soul storage location until Moshiach come and we all reincarnate back on earth. But all that stuff that ISH wrote and I quote " And we run, and they run, but we run toward eternal life, while they run toward destruction." was taken directly from the Christian conversion manual 101.

June 30, 2009 at 9:43 AM

Okay... and now I have a few comments to reply to.

frumskeptic -- Yes, you're right. Blogging can indeed be meaningless for some people. I use writing as a means of expression, and as a way of getting my thoughts out there, some of which are about Torah. That is how I try to make my blogging meaningful.

And you know what -- I think that is the first time someone told me I have a superiority complex. But then again, perhaps I do. *shrug*

"you clearly don't know to many goyim, and you are clearly brainwashed by ignorant teachers who never experienced dealing with anyone not-frum, except for maybe Janitors or housekeeper's." -- I just love how you are making baseless assumptions about me. The same goes for mlevin. Without knowing how I life my life, who I communicate with, or who I am, you assume all those things. It's mind-boggling. I know plenty of non-Jews personally with whom I have spoken a lot. And I don't mean my cleaning lady. I have talked to them about life and meaning. And although they were Christians, they said that they felt like they did not have much meaning in life -- just running back and forth, doing what they have to do, with no time to actually find meaning in it all. Other non-Jews I talked to said that even though they believe there is a G-d, they will let Him do His own thing, and they will do their own thing without worrying about what He thinks.

"Not everyone can or even should learn Torah every waking minute, some people would go nuts if they didn't have "meaningless" things to fall back on." -- Did I ever say that people should be involved with Torah every minute of the day? I am just saying that when a person is feeling empty, why fill that emptiness up with something meaningless? It's just an idea.

"Things like running businesses and being involved in Politics, can alter many people's lives." -- But that's not the point, is it? My point is that people shouldn't spend their lives running after everything else and ignoring their need for Torah and spirituality.

"And if these people didn't devote literally ALL their time into business, they never would've made it." -- I am guessing this is where you and I differ. You think that an individual putting his whole life into a business is a worthwhile thing to do because it will ultimately mean success, while I believe that it is simply not worth it. I believe that it is better to be closer to the Torah and make more time for learning than to be the most successful businessman. I don't think that having a successful business is an important enough thing to be spending your entire life on.

"Jews had your attitude and decided Politics was meaningless." -- You are putting words into my mouth that I never said. I wish you would stop that and stop twisting what I do say. I never said it is meaningless to know what is going on in the world. I said that engaging yourself in politics is meaningless when you sacrifice even a bit of your spirituality for it. There is a difference between being steeped in politics and being aware of what is going on in the world around you.

And now before I reply to mlevin and Shlomo, I think I will get some lunch.

June 30, 2009 at 12:38 PM

Mlevin --
1. Ah, literature. Yes, Jane Austen and Margaret Mitchell were brilliant writers and they created a legacy for themselves through their writings. Yes, they wrote beautiful novels. Yes, they were successful. But that is not the kind of meaning I want my life to have. I am talking about a meaningful life in terms of Torah and spirituality, and you are bringing examples such as politics and literature. You don't get my point at all.

2. You know NOTHING about my personal life, so I will ask you NOT to make ignorant statements about me. If you knew me, you would know that I am the last person to believe everything I am told and just repeat it and live in my own little bubble. But you don't know me, so you don't know that.

I disagreed with your point on eternal life. You want me to elaborate? Fine, I don't mind. But please refrain from saying ridiculous things such as "Or you are just a mindless frum robot who repeats everything she is told by school/rabbi/father and if faced with oposition closes her eyes and says "I disagree"".

Judaism is not just about bringing spirituality into this world. This world is fleeting, temporary. When G-d created the world, it says He set aside a special light for the righteous. Are you saying that that is Christian or Muslim philosophy? It's in the Torah, why don't you check it out?

G-d gave us Torah and mitzvot as guidelines for how to live our lives, and also to enable us to earn reward for the next world. That's why you see that some mitzvot are written both as a taaseh and a lo taaseh. There are two forms to give Jews the ability to earn double reward. Is this not for the next world?

The idea that we are here for the sake of this world and not for the sake of the next sounds more Reform than Orthodox, honestly.

3. Did I ever say that businesses should just close down and everyone should fend for themselves? I am saying that we as Jews have a greater responsibility than just running our businesses and doing what we have to do to earn a living. For us as Jews, life cannot be truly meaningful if it does not involve Torah.

Yes, people should do what they need to do to support themselves. If people have talents, then yes, they should employ them. But this should not get in the way of Torah. This should not make people lose sight of the true meaning of life. We have to remember that life isn't just about being the most successful businessman or inventing the next great invention. We were put in this world for a reason -- to do what G-d wants of us. And spending our entire life on other pursuits and chasing all real meaning out of our lives does not seem like something G-d would want.

"Imagine we would still be living in a lord/serf society had it not been for politicians and phylosophers." -- You are determined to twist what I say into something else. I am grateful that we live in a society where we are able to do whatever we want and where we can easily acquire all the comforts of life. I am not denying the importance of that. But when we have the ability to do so and are not being persecuted, why should our lives not focus on Torah?

"All of these "meaningless" pursuits are necessary for our society." -- I don't deny it. I do, however, believe that our lives should not revolve around those pursuits.

"And how do you know that those teens you saw hanging out were not just taking a break from improving on one of their "useless" activities?" -- Such as... stuffing burgers in themselves?

June 30, 2009 at 1:28 PM

It's interesting how a point I wanted to make about the beauty of our religion sparked this argument. It looks like nobody here really wants to focus on the beauty of Judaism, or take the post for what it is: an observation with an inspiring message.

Shlomo --
"The point I agree with is that non-Jewish religion is a perfectly legitimate religious manifestation for non-Jews as far as Judaism is concerned." -- I just read my post over, and I am trying to figure out why you are so concerned with the religions of the non-Jews as opposed to appreciating your own religion. What is interesting is that I cannot find ONE sentence in my original post in which I explicitly mentioned non-Jews. I was writing about people in general. Religious Jews, non-religious Jews, Christians, Muslims, paganists, atheists. I agree that for non-Jews, it is fine that they have their own religions. Religion is good (unless it's encouraging suicide bombers, in which case, draw your own conclusions). The teenage boys I saw WERE Jews, and I think that is what made me sad. It seemed as though they didn't really care.

When I said that I felt fortunate to be a Jew, I meant it in the most positive sense. My readers are the ones who chose to focus on the negative and assume that it was meant against those who do not share my religion. When I mentioned the prayer said at the siyum and wrote that it contrasts "our lives as Jews to the lives of others," I was talking about being religious Jews. Perhaps I should have made that more clear. Non-religious Jews definitely don't have the same meaning in life as that prayer describes. And that emptiness of the outside world that I mentioned was not just about non-Jews. It was about the Jews who chose to abandon their religion too.

That prayer was originally said by Rav Nehunya ben Hakana, I believe. If you don't like it, that is not my problem.

"But as for us Theists, while it's true that full-time religion is only cut-out for a few, it's obviously wrong to totally replace religious meaning with secular endeavors." -- Someone finally got my point. :]

Mlevin --
"I'm talking about people who get so into it that it becomes their live." -- That's what I'm talking about too -- people whose businesses become their lives. That is what I think is so sad. When people are consumed by this and leave no time or energy for what is truly meaningful.

"These people are completely fulfilled with it." -- And yet there is this part of them that feels completely empty, because this is all they have... their business. Material success does not bring full happiness.

"All the stuff about rewards when we die is a scare tactic to make masses do what you want without question." -- I am trying to figure out if that sounds more Reform or just atheistic. Either way, you sound pretty bitter, both in your comments on this post and on my mention of translated sefarim, about Gedolim and Rabbanim.

"But all that stuff that ISH wrote and I quote " And we run, and they run, but we run toward eternal life, while they run toward destruction." was taken directly from the Christian conversion manual 101." -- Try Rav Nehunya ben Hakana and the Talmud.

June 30, 2009 at 2:00 PM

ISH: "I just read my post over, and I am trying to figure out why you are so concerned with the religions of the non-Jews as opposed to appreciating your own religion."- I'm sorry madam, my comment wasn't directed towards the post at all, but towards your ensuing discussion with M Levin.

"My readers are the ones who chose to focus on the negative and assume that it was meant against those who do not share my religion."- Yes, I agreed is was a misconstruing of your original words..

"That prayer was originally said by Rav Nehunya ben Hakana, I believe. If you don't like it, that is not my problem."- I'm quite aware of who it's author was. One thing that was very apropos about it that you didn't mention is that it's said in opposition to "those who sit on street corners" (i.e. people who's lives are totally devoid of meaning--very much like the teenagers you mentioned), not non-religious Jews and not Goyim.

June 30, 2009 at 2:15 PM

I DID mention the contrast between sitting in the Beit Medrash and being on the streets, and that was the point I was trying to make.

June 30, 2009 at 2:21 PM

ISH: "The idea that we are here for the sake of this world and not for the sake of the next sounds more Reform than Orthodox, honestly."- Oh yes, this is also important. I might as well take allow myself to speak my mind on this as well.

I think what she was getting to is the fact that the Tanach makes little-to-no mention of any kind of reward or punishment in an afterlife, which is obviously a point used by modern thinkers to mean that early Judaism had no concept of an afterlife.

I don't know about Islam's influence, but the earliest Judaic writings about an afterlife, whether worldly or otherworldly was after the appearance of the Pharisee, Essen and early Christian-Jewish sects, which, according to modern scholarship, means that the concept was in fact initiated by them.

But like you said, even in Talmudic and rabbinic thought there is much more of an emphasis on "this world" than in Christianity (perhaps to an extent Classic Islam as well). So it's difficult to determine if she's saying it from an Orthodox perspective or a Marxist one...

June 30, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Oh, I see, you say "and we compare and contrast our lives as Jews to the lives of others". Perhaps that was a source of confusion. I think we're contrasting the life of the talmid chacham to that of the am haaretz, the one who sits in the beit hamidrash to the one who sits on the street corner. Taking it any further than that is already assuming a bit about what it means..

June 30, 2009 at 2:31 PM
~Lady E~  

ISH:

"That is what I think is so sad. When people are consumed by this and leave no time or energy for what is truly meaningful."

Why can't business be meaningful. Why can't someone become successful both spiritually and materialistically through business? How? Well the reason the person conducts business is obviously to make money(materialistic)so that he can support a family and give charity(the spiritual reason)---Philanthropists, very charitable people, are usually big business men. So if someone spends their entire life building a successful business and finds that through that they helped to fund many charitable causes and to help their families, why can't that be considered spiritual?
You can learn torah all day long, but if you just sit and learn you're never putting anything into practice. The point of this world IS to live in it, if there is no purpose for us here g-d takes us out...meaning be a part of this dreaded "outside world" but do it within the confines of torah values...live materialistically spiritually.
You have to stop viewing life as Black & White. As a Jew everything should be Grey(that's probably why we have 2 jews and 3 opinions :)). Something that is seemingly 100% Materialistic can and probably should be used for spiritual purposes, if you do this I think you'll find your life is successful both materialistically and spiritually.
My point is: What you call empty space consuming is really spiritual for many.

June 30, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Shlomo - lol, yes we are related. FS's computer is broken now, so she using my daughter's computer. And I am using her computer too. You probably noticed the same IP address.

June 30, 2009 at 3:31 PM

Shlomo --
"I think what she was getting to is the fact that the Tanach makes little-to-no mention of any kind of reward or punishment in an afterlife, which is obviously a point used by modern thinkers to mean that early Judaism had no concept of an afterlife." -- It depends on how you look at it. There are some references to an afterlife in Tanach, although they are not explicitly written out. For example, kareit. According to some explanations, that means losing one's portion in the next world, from which one can logically conclude that there IS a next world, and an afterlife.

Many mitzvot are also based on the interpretations the early Rabbanim made of the Tanach.

Either way, I guess we'll see when we get there.

Hello ~Lady E~... Haven't seen you around here before.

"Well the reason the person conducts business is obviously to make money(materialistic)so that he can support a family and give charity(the spiritual reason)" -- Is that really the 'obvious' reason? I don't think so. People do not necessarily go into business with the intention that it is so that they can give charity.

"So if someone spends their entire life building a successful business and finds that through that they helped to fund many charitable causes and to help their families, why can't that be considered spiritual?" -- It is certainly charitable and kind, but I would not consider it spiritual.

Don't get me wrong; I am not saying people should not get into business. People should do what they need to do in order to live, because physical needs must be met, but it should not become their reason for living and their very life. It should be understood that our purpose in life is not our business, but rather the Torah and mitzvot. While giving charity is admirable and is certainly a mitzvah, it does not absolve one from all the other mitzvot.

This reminds me of the whole Yissachar/Zevulan situation, in which one man learns Torah, while the other man works in order to support the Torah learning of the first. In this day and age though, I don't think it is enough to just support someone else's Torah. You need to have it in your own life too and make it a reality for yourself.

"You can learn torah all day long, but if you just sit and learn you're never putting anything into practice." -- That is why I am NOT advocating learning Torah all day long. I am saying that Torah adds meaning to life, which is necessary for us. People have to find the balance that is appropriate for them between business and Torah learning.

"The point of this world IS to live in it, if there is no purpose for us here g-d takes us out..." -- Yes, that is true. We are meant to live in this world, but there are different ways of doing that, and I think that is what this discussion is about.

"meaning be a part of this dreaded "outside world" but do it within the confines of torah values...live materialistically spiritually." -- I agree with you. It is important to find a balance in life, so you can live in this world and still be a Jew who is true to the Torah. I am just trying to say that it is important to have some meaning in life, and not to just let your life revolve around the physical world.

"You have to stop viewing life as Black & White." -- I don't. That is why I have a blog -- to express thoughts, opinions, ideas that come to me, because nothing is ever obvious. Everything requires thought, and different people come to different conclusions. This blog is about MY thoughts, MY conclusions, and MY spot on that scale of gray.

"(that's probably why we have 2 jews and 3 opinions :))." -- Yeah... It's a good thing -- it adds some spice to life and is much better than everyone having the same opinion. That would be quite boring, I think.

June 30, 2009 at 3:39 PM

"You probably noticed the same IP address." -- I did not notice that actually. I assumed that you were related when you first commented on my blog.

June 30, 2009 at 3:42 PM

ISH- I apologize for jumping to conclusions about the type of person you are, but this post really irritated me. It really sounded as if you have a superiority complex (just because you're a Jew your life has meaning), as well as made you sound like a person who just absorbs everything the teachr tells them (meaning in life can only be found by learning).

Im not really going to argue to much, for the fact that other people seem to be doing it for me. THere are just a few things I want to say:

You said: "I use writing as a means of expression, and as a way of getting my thoughts out there, some of which are about Torah. That is how I try to make my blogging meaningful."

Like you use blogging, bome people use business as a means of expressing themselves. They find themselves spending 30-40hours a week focusing on work, to support their families. They basically are exhausting themselves to make other people rich. So the brave few pick up and start their own business. Whether its a private practice for a doctor or lawyer or accountant, or just a business providing a specific product or service to the general public. In this way, they not only have a means to support themselves, but they actually LIKE how they're doing it. Now, starting a business is as mlevin put it, like raising a baby. You have to literally nurture it, or else you won't accomplish your goal in it.

Yes, some people go overboard, and they literally become greedy, stuck-up,nasty snobs, but others, find fulfillment, because they are happy to provide for the community, and simultaneously receive generous returns (hopefully).

Businessmen have to deal with people, and parnassa. As you know, there are plenty of halachos regarding both those issues. One may incorporate his Torah learning with his business. HE can study with a chavrusa the laws of ribbis for example.

Same goes for a politician. Some people aren't content with just reading the news. They want to make the news, and change it. So they go into law or politics. They lobby for Israel, or some lobbiest in Bergen County are trying to change the blue laws, while other's try to promote school vouchers to make it easier for parents to send their kids to private schools.

You also said about the Christains you know:

"just running back and forth, doing what they have to do, with no time to actually find meaning in it all."

Firstly, I'd like to apologize. Clearly you know christains. Unfortunately the few who are messed up. Sucky. Maybe I know the few who aren't. Dunno.

Secondly, the same could be said for Jews. THey get married, learn together, have kids, send their kids to yeshiva, so that their kids could get married, so that they could have kids, so that they can send them to yeshiva ...all to "serve Gd".

WHats the point? THe same could be said about our lifestyle. If we learn a little extra Torah, I don't think that will fulfill us. I think its how we practice Torah, in relation to our personalities (becoming a businessman people who follows halacha -people want to deal with him- or a lawyer who helps bring justice into the world by locking up criminals, or a politician trying to eleviate random stresses of Jews trying to shop on SUnday in JErsey, etc).

June 30, 2009 at 5:42 PM

FS -- Apologies accepted.

"(just because you're a Jew your life has meaning)" -- No... I am fortunate because I have the opportunity to put meaning into my life. That 'meaning' happens to come from Torah, which G-d gave to the Jews.

"as well as made you sound like a person who just absorbs everything the teachr tells them" -- What's funny is that I am actually the kind of girl who questioned every single thing the teachers asked. Some of them couldn't stand me because of it.

Now, I try to stay silent in class even if I disagree. (Of course, I sometimes end up blurting something out anyway and earning a glare from the teacher, but that is not a regular occurrence.) I listen to what the teacher says, and then I pick and choose what I want to absorb. I think about things before believing them.

"Like you use blogging, bome people use business as a means of expressing themselves." -- Good for them, as long as this does not become the center of their lives and does not detract from their living as Torah Jews. If business brings them satisfaction, that is wonderful. It should still not take over their lives.

My writing brings me satisfaction. I love writing even when I know nobody will read it, just because it is something that is a big part of my life. What I am working on right now is making sure that it does not actually take over my life. All good things must have a limit, especially if they are not related to Torah learning or to mitzvot.

"One may incorporate his Torah learning with his business. HE can study with a chavrusa the laws of ribbis for example." -- If he can, that's great. But then what about the countless Jews whose lives revolve around their businesses to the point that they don't have any more time for Torah and don't care to learn the halachot?

"Firstly, I'd like to apologize. Clearly you know christains. Unfortunately the few who are messed up. Sucky. Maybe I know the few who aren't. Dunno." -- Difficult lives, I guess. Some of them have difficult situations at home, in school, or in the workplace, and since those tend to be the most important things, all of life takes on a gloomy shade. Some of them expect too much of themselves, and it consumes them. Even though they do end up accomplishing some of the things they are striving for, it's not what I would call meaningful. Anyway, I think that they are basically good, decent people. I'm just saying that that is not what I want for my life.

"If we learn a little extra Torah, I don't think that will fulfill us." -- I feel differently. Of course, everyone is different, but I think that this is something standard that would apply to most religious Jews.

I saw another new comment from mlevin but I can't find it on the comments page.

June 30, 2009 at 8:48 PM

...today while seeing people sitting at a corner I had an idea that at that time, sitting around and watching life pass you by was the equivalent of what television is today..(i.e. sitting outside was more entertaining).

July 1, 2009 at 6:56 PM

shlomo - again I don't agree. What a surprise! Watching TV could be a useless activity or it could be educational activity. Although, I admit to occasionally watching pointless shows for relaxation purposes, I usually watch something that has meaning. Even stand up comedy could educate one about politics or history. When my girls were younger, we would watch drama shows (7th heaven and such) and compare it to real life. We would have discussions about what we had just seen and how it would play out in real life. For example, teepeeing a school's gym will not destroy one's life in real life, but making out with multiple boys would affect the outcome of what kind of a person one's husband would be.

July 1, 2009 at 11:16 PM

""These people are completely fulfilled with it." -- And yet there is this part of them that feels completely empty, because this is all they have... their business. Material success does not bring full happiness."

Huh? Since when running a successful business considered a material success? Being able to say that you had build it from scratch is a great accomplishment and is looked back at with pride at the end of one's life. Imagine, Bill Gate's tomb stone. "This man's vision brought a computer to every home" or "If it hadn't been for this man, information age would've never been upon us" or "This man shrunk the world. Because of him someone in America could easily communicate with someone in China"

I know you are too young to remember, but in the very recent past looking up information required a trip into the library and a long, cumbersome search through the indexes and books. Or if you were fortunate enough to give up a monthly pay, you would end up with shelves full of encyclopedia, which would become outdate as soon as it got published.

Each and everyone of those businesses has a story and has it changed all of our lives for the better. Henry Ford made cars affordable. Imagine, without him going out to the country would have been a luxury that only the super rich had access to. Imagine without successful airline travel, going on vacation or for a year to Israel would never been common. Imagine without AG Bell, talking to someone in the next town would have required a long trip. All of these are the results of what you think are unimportant material successes.

July 1, 2009 at 11:35 PM

ISH- whenHashem gave Jews the Torah, he did it to provide us with guidelines on the way to live. If we follow his mitzvohs we will be happy. Torah or commentray says that (or atleast that's what I learned).

-we are told to "be fruitful and multiply", why? technically because that makes the Jew nation grow, but from a fully human standpoint, its because parents shep nachas from their children.

- we are told to keep teharas hamishpacha. the Torah doesn't explainwhy. But from a psyhcological standpoint, a bit of abstinance in a marraige once in a while helps tremendously for the relationship.

we do his mitzvohs- we are happy.

Just learning halachos we won't apply to ourlives is relativelly useless (dont take this out of context- learning isn't in vain, but it isn't necessarily effecttive understanding wise).

so. my point is. without people opening businesses and fulfilling whatever physical/material aspirations they have, they cannot fully feel the spiritual benefits of Torah learning anyway.

and so, u cannot separate a businessman or a politician or a mathmetician or whatever from a Spiritual lifestyle. just being frum makes them go hand-in-hand.

July 2, 2009 at 12:18 PM

mlevin --
"We would have discussions about what we had just seen and how it would play out in real life." -- If only more people would actively engage in thoughtful conversations about what they have just watched instead of just spending half the day in front of their screen, that would be great. Unfortunately though, not everyone does this. Most people just watch, absorb the images, and don't really get anything out of it except some entertainment.

"Since when running a successful business considered a material success?" -- So perhaps 'material' was not the best word to use in this case. But it certainly is not a 'spiritual' success, and that is the point I'm trying to make. Business can make you successful, sometimes satisfied, but for a Jew, it cannot replace Torah or a Torah lifestyle.

I never said that I'm not grateful to those who made so many things easier and more accessible for us. I try not to take it all for granted.

But what I am trying to say (over and over again) is that now that Jews have the ability, thanks to all this technology, to spend some more time on Torah and make their lives a bit more meaningful, why not do it? I'm talking about us, living in the twenty-first century, already provided with all this technology.

"All of these are the results of what you think are unimportant material successes." -- Did I ever say I think those are 'unimportant' material successes? They ARE important, but that is not what makes a Jew's life meaningful.

I just feel like we're going in circles here because you do not understand what I'm trying to say, and you're focusing on business while I am trying to focus on spirituality.

frumskeptic --
"If we follow his mitzvohs we will be happy. Torah or commentray says that (or atleast that's what I learned)." -- That's actually something I was trying to explain to Shlomo on one of his blog posts.

"we do his mitzvohs- we are happy." -- Yes, and when a businessman gets so wrapped up in his work that he does not have much time anymore to do mitzvot, to make it to minyan, to learn Torah, what then?

"Just learning halachos we won't apply to ourlives is relativelly useless (dont take this out of context- learning isn't in vain, but it isn't necessarily effecttive understanding wise)." -- I think that there is something fulfilling just in learning Torah too. Torah isn't just about the technical halachot. There are many other things you can learn from it, and the more you learn, the more things you can find. Obviously though, this isn't for everyone, but I think every man should spend at least some time each day learning Torah, even if it is only half an hour.

"and so, u cannot separate a businessman or a politician or a mathmetician or whatever from a Spiritual lifestyle." -- Unless the business or the politics start taking control of his life, leaving no room for anything else. This happens to people. Not everyone is able to properly balance work and spirituality. For those who can, it's wonderful. But for every person who can, there is another who pushes Torah and spirituality out of his life because there's just no room in it. And life becomes a pattern... going to work, returning from work and still thinking about it, going to work again. That's not meaningful.

I guess the bottom line is to know how to balance these things in your life.

July 2, 2009 at 12:43 PM

"Yes, and when a businessman gets so wrapped up in his work that he does not have much time anymore to do mitzvot, to make it to minyan, to learn Torah, what then?"
Well, yea, no one is for extreme's in either direction, learning all day or working all day. But if your foundation for everything in life is being an observant Frum Jew, you'll manage your hours to fit whatever it is in. As I said, he can even accommodate what he's learning into his business or whatever is going on in his business with his learning. Like whatever business he has, may need to be open on shabbos to properly function (A guy at my shul has a business like that), he discussed it with the Rabbi, and they worked out a "partnership" with a goy. The guy from my shul literally does not profit from any shabbos business, but the business would not function if not open.
"I think that there is something fulfilling just in learning Torah too. "
Like I said, don't take it out of context. SOme things aren't fully understood unless they are put into practical use. I'm taking kallah classes now, and my teacher said to us (my bestfriend is engaged too, so we merged the class), a lot of this you won't get until you actually need to put it to use. It's like that with many halachos. Like if you work for a Jewish company you'll never understand why people have issues with attending treif-restaurant held holiday parties. If a guy chooses to learn halachos for his business, he'll end up learning hashkafa behind it as well. Like all the stories behind each halacha, and then they stem to questioning other things. Like with conversations, you may begin discussing which restaurant has the best chocolate cake, and end off talking about current events. What motivates the guy to learn is irrelevant (even if his business), because as long as he feels that learning is required, he'll learn things he didn't even intend to learn, and probably will find many of the tangent learning interesting as well.
You said: "There are many other things you can learn from it, and the more you learn, the more things you can find." - my point exactly! You start off with the practical, and you end up everywhere else as well!
"even if it is only half an hour. " - Sure, he can buy a good book for the train ride, or his lunch hour. I know people who do this, and on shabbos they learn with other people.

"Not everyone is able to properly balance work and spirituality. For those who can, it's wonderful. But for every person who can, there is another who pushes Torah and spirituality out of his life because there's just no room in it. And life becomes a pattern... going to work, returning from work and still thinking about it, going to work again. That's not meaningful."

It's not as 50-50 as you think. It's more like for every 4 people who can balance 1 cannot. A lot of people specifically don't go into business because they know they won't be able to balance. Often a spouse or a parent will tell a person who is in the extreme, to not be so extreme, and they'll calm down. There are many successful businessmen in the frum world. If it were so black and white we'd have many more dysfunctional families.

"I guess the bottom line is to know how to balance these things in your life."
Exactly. But just because someone is proud of his business, that he invests a lot of his life into, that doesn't mean he shuts Gd and learning out of his life.

I think that on a core level, we actually sorta agree. lol :-)

July 2, 2009 at 5:46 PM

mlevin: About the TV, I actually agree with both you and ISH here. In other words I understand that it's wrong to ban TV altogether, since television programming is not at all uniform.

(I actually blogged about this not long ago, but I didn't feel that what I wrote really represented my opinions in any meaningful way, so..)

First of all are public-supported educational networks like PBS, WLIW and CSPAN on public-access television. Obviously most of the programming there is educational and informative. The same is obviously true for many of the cable channels that provide educational programming on a large variety of subjects.

Watching sports is a massive waste of time, and in my opinion accomplishes just as much as watching the weather channel all day..

Then of course is general programming that the regular networks have. You mentioned television drama/sitcoms. The truth is those kinds of shows usually try to come out having some sort of moral lesson, but theoretically there can be more evils with such shows than good. Have you ever heard Jewel's first hit single (Save Your Soul)? The first words are "People living their lives for you on TV, they say they're better than you, and you agree"! In other words it's somewhat unideal to spend your whole day watching "Darma and Greg", and feeling more pleased at their "presence" than the presence of your acquaintances. ..but that's all obvious..

One kind of television program that's sort of fun to watch but a huuuge waste of time is, of course, competition shows (reality TV). Like with sports, you gain little from watching other people compete.

Whoah, I just covered almost every type of TV show! ..I guess all I'm getting at is that TV isn't a uniform entity, but a huge variety of programming.

But even in the genre of educational programming one can go too far. You're better off reading than watching, like ISH said, endless hours of anything "just to pass the time". If you want to do some research on ancient Inca culture, and feel the book's explanations are too try, than sure, maybe a good DVD will help you, but watching the history channel for 18 hours straight is just ...well, that's just not normal..

OK, I just realized I'm going on and on with no point. All I was trying to say there was that the kind of person, who, in the past, just sat around and watched life pass them by were not the go-geters, not the philosophers, not the innovators and not the inventors. They were just retards. The same thing today; while watching an episode of Scrubs is not the end of the world, the arch-typical television watcher is, as was the arch-typical street corner sitter, someone who doesn't take life by the horns and conquer it, but is reserved to watching others do it.

Way too wordy, but..

July 2, 2009 at 6:59 PM

FS --
As long as a person can balance it, that's wonderful. I don't even know how we got to talking about business though, because in my original post, all I was saying was that Torah brings meaning into a Jew's life. I wrote that some people have so little purpose in life and are just so empty, and it is sad that they have no spirituality in their lives. I was talking about those guys standing on the street, with nothing better to do than to stay there and smoke. In comparison, I said that there are people in Beit Medrash, learning Torah. It was nothing against business. The only problem I have with business is when it starts taking over a person's life, or when a person thinks that business is all the meaning that life needs. I was just trying to stress the importance of Torah in a Jew's life. That's all.

"It's not as 50-50 as you think. It's more like for every 4 people who can balance 1 cannot." -- I was just trying to put out the idea that not everyone can balance it; I wasn't trying to give an accurate number. Math is definitely not my strongest point, although I did decently on my regent. (Yay!)

"I think that on a core level, we actually sorta agree. lol :-)" -- Surprising, eh? I guess it's just the details we're getting caught up with.

Shlomo --
I am not particularly interested in TV... I don't think I have turned it on in over a month. Sometimes the History or National Geographic channel has something interesting. I also remember this one fascinating program I used to watch in the winter about antique houses and the discoveries people made when they moved in. There's another show I like that's on for only a few months in a year. So really, I don't spend much time on TV. I prefer reading or writing.

"Watching sports is a massive waste of time, and in my opinion accomplishes just as much as watching the weather channel all day.." -- I never seemed to understand the whole interest in sports.

"All I was trying to say there was that the kind of person, who, in the past, just sat around and watched life pass them by were not the go-geters, not the philosophers, not the innovators and not the inventors." -- And they weren't the ones with the Torah knowledge and the Torah lifestyles. That's what I was trying to point out.

July 2, 2009 at 10:23 PM

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