Showing posts with label Conscience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conscience. Show all posts

November 16, 2019

Avraham, The Ultimate Mensch

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, "Avraham, The Ultimate Mensch."
The Rabbi asked why did Hashem who is omnipotent even need to create us? And he answered because in G-d being the ultimate good, He “had to create us”—this in essence being the ultimate expression of good by sharing that goodness with us to learn and be good as well. In short, what could be a greater good than extending that opportunity to be be good to others.

Like our forefather, my Hebrew name is Avraham, and for me personally, this has been a critical life lesson: learning to see challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, and consistently be a person that tries to do what is right even when it is hard or the lines seem to be grey. In the end, I believe that G-d put us in this world in order for us to choose good over evil and demonstrate kindness to others. With the Torah as our blueprint, and Avraham, our forefather, as our role model, we must apply the great teachings of the Torah and always strive to act as a proper mensch!

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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September 4, 2019

G-d Is Good


What a cool barber shop in downtown Miami called, The Spot Barbershop.

When you are lying back in the chair, look what you see on the ceiling:
G-d Is Good.

The other day we went out to eat with some folks. 

And the question came up whether you think most people are good or bad. 

Interestingly, most of the people at the table thought either they are predominantly good or at least that they have the potential for good. 

Really, it is G-d that is the ultimate good. 

And to the extent that we are created in His image and have the opportunity to choose good from evil, then we too can be good. 

G-d is inherently good, but man is a toss up based on which direction he goes. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 22, 2019

Four Types of Desire

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "I Want What I Want."

There are four types of greed/jealousy:
  • I want what I’m missing
  • I want what I had
  • I want what you have
  • I want you to not have what you have

We can be slaves to our egos, emotions, and desires, or we can seek to control them and be better than mere animals. We have a soul, a conscience, and the Torah, so the choice should be clear even if not always easy.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 3, 2019

Finding Our Innerspace

I liked this painting and the caption:
Innerspace

There is outer space.

And there is innerspace. 

Outer space is the universe, the cosmos, the galaxies, the solar systems, the stars, and the planets--it's the big picture of what is all around us.

Innerspace is the our soul, conscience, thoughts, feelings, who we are, and what we're all about--it's the infinity of what makes us up and what's inside each of us. 

The perspective is infinitely big as we look upward and outward to the heavens, and infinitely small as we zoom inside ourselves to the subatomic levels. 

The innerspace makes me think of mindfulness, meditation, and finding purpose, meaning, truth, and inner peace. 

Our search for self is really the intersection of outer- and innerspace.

We are but a speck of dust and yet we have the power to do such immense good.  

It's a contradiction that is so powerful--for who are we that G-d is mindful of us and cares for us and gives us the power to choose good from evil. 

Yet that is exactly our world and our place in it--and this is where we find innerspace in all of outer space. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 23, 2019

Hopefully, All's Well That Ends Well

I liked this Hebrew sign that says (translated):
When the end is good, all is good. 

Or as we commonly say:
All's well that end's well. 

Lot of truth to this. 

And there are so many languages that talk to this.

I remember my father used to say it in German as well.

When things end well, it's as if everything went well. And when things end badly, it's as if everything was bad. 

The human mind seems to focus on the last thing (and forgets virtually everything leading up to it). 

Perhaps, we justify the means with the end (i.e. all the time and effort leading up to it). 

Or maybe we recap our lives as either a success or failure by how things ended up. 

In 20/20 hindsight, we can see the consequences of our actions.

- Was all the hard work worth it?

- Did we even focus on the right priorities and goals in life?

- Were the choices and decisions we made well-founded? 

- What was the impact on ourselves, our loved ones, and more broadly?

We look for meaning and purpose in our lives, and hopefully in the end when we look back, we are blessed to see that it was all for the good. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 9, 2018

The Dark Side

Thought this was a fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal's Review Section called, "The Dark Triad and The Evolution of Jerks."

Antisocial Personality Disorder is where people exhibit three primary symptoms:

1) Narcissism - Excessive focus on oneself.
2) Machiavellianism - Manipulating others for one's own gain.
3) Psychopathy - Overall disregard for others, including impaired empathy and remorse

Together, these 3 traits make up "The Dark Triad" or perhaps they  come across as being from the dark side, because of how badly they can treat others. 

Studies have shown that these three traits are positively correlated with one another, and that more than 10% of the population has these. 

In reading a little more online at WebMD, I learned that the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is that while they share similar traits, a psychopath typically acts as if they have no conscience, while a sociopath acts with a weak conscience. 

"At worst, they're cold, calculating killers," while at the less extreme, they may be okay with hurting others to get what they want. 

- Moreover, while "psychopaths are more cold-hearted and calculating," sociopaths are "hot-headed" and "act without thinking how others will be affected."

Another study found that people with these traits often "experienced low-quality or irregular parental care." Thus a harsh or unstable childhood may cause these symptoms. 

Whether these people come from the dark side, are going to the dark side, or just are scary and hurtful, it is important to be able to recognize who you may be dealing with.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 27, 2018

Keep A Cool Temperament

So this was amazing. 

I was working with someone for a number of weeks/months. 

All of a sudden, I got a complete blow off email from them that said they are done and they wished me well in a sort of very sarcastic and even contemptuous way--like a real f*ck off!

Were they just being nasty or trying to pick a fight or something?

First, I was taken aback and honestly hurt--like what the heck happened that they showed their true strips...did I miss it all along. 

I showed my wife their email, and she read it the same way, and said "What an asshole!"

I continued to hold my mouthpiece and feelings as I contemplated how I would respond. 

I have to admit that some choice words and wishes back to them definitely came to mind. 

But I said to myself, "Hold, hold, hold!"

It wasn't easy not to respond in kind--lash back out at them--and even then some for good measure. 

No, that isn't the way. 

You can rise above this. 

I kept my mouth shut and literally controlled my reactions.

Well, lo' and behold, I thought I would never hear from this person again the way they spoke to me, but then a few days later,  I received another email where apparently they rethought what they did.

It didn't have to come from me to them to "set them straight!"

Their own conscience seemed to have played on them and they came to their own senses about how they behaved and spoke. 

I learned from this that it is critical to maintain your composure and keep your cool under all circumstances, no matter how trying. 

Don't stoop to their level--you rise above it!

Sometimes, the other person may just surprise you and rise back up too and do the right thing in the end. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 29, 2018

The 3 P's Do NOT Matter

So I heard Joel Osteen give a great speech. 

He said that it's not any of these things that make a person worthwhile:

1. Possessions
2. Performance
3. Popularity

But rather, it is a person's inner self and soul that determine their value. 

Each person is a son or daughter of G-d.

I agree that our personal worth is a matter of how we act as human beings in choosing right over wrong and good over evil; and it is not based on how much we have, how successful we have become, or how much we are liked. 

In the end, a person must return to their maker alone to answer for their actions.  

You can't take anything with you.

Materialism and vanity all fade away and only your spiritual inner self will pass over and live on.  

So how will you spend your time and attention--chasing vanity of vanities or doing good in all your words and deeds? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 4, 2018

Living Your Values

So I had this great conversation today with someone about values.

Thinking about what I really value and whether I am living consistently with these...

For me, I was able to clarify for myself these critical values:

1) Being a good person and influence in the world (having a positive impact on people and ideas)

2) Being a good family man (a loving husband, father, and previously son)

3) Being spiritual and serving G-d (living selflessly for my Maker and not selfishly for myself)

4) Being a hard worker (living productively and not as a laggard or sloth)

5) Being a balanced person (living along the "golden path" or "middle of the road"--not an extremist)

6) Being a generally healthy person (living a lifestyle that includes activity, exercise, good nutrition, and no smoking, drugs, or excessive drinking)

What I realized is that when I need to let my values guide me every moment of every day. 

This ultimately means my success and happiness! 

Being what I think that I am supposed to be or what others would want me to be, just doesn't work--it's a strategy for failure. 

My father used to tell me:
"Let your conscience be your guide"  (that and the Torah, of course)

This is the answer to a lot of questions that I have in my life--about what to do with my life and what decisions to make.

Values--driven by conscience and integrity--that's where I want to go next and next. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 18, 2018

Listen Better, Empathize More

So I am working on myself to improve and be a better person.

Recently, I had a number of experiences with people telling me of some very trying circumstances.

And at first, I found myself listening and talking to them about it, but then my mind started to get distracted by other things going on and other problems in my life that I needed to deal with.

So after we finished speaking about their respective family, work, and even health problems, I felt that I may have cut off some of these conversations too early or without enough empathy. 

After clearing my head, I thought to myself, I really want to listen better and empathize more. 

And so I went back and did just that. 

I found each person (in person, by phone, or email), and I said that I felt sorry for what they were going through, and I asked more questions and tried to really just be in the moment and there for them.

They seemed to each really appreciate me taking the time and effort to come speak with them and that I cared. 

I know that I am human and make mistakes, but I want to continually grow and do better in life. 

In this case, listening better and empathizing more--it felt great and I learned to listen to my conscience and do more when I think it's right! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 2, 2017

Greatest Museum of Them All

So the greatest museum of them all is scheduled to open in just 3 months!

The Museum of the Bible.

Right here in Washington, D.C.--a few blocks from the Capitol. 

There is a wonderful video on their website

It's 430,000 square feet and 8 stories floors. 

With two 40-feet-high bronze doors that look like the Ten Commandments. 

And an overall tall and narrow shape with a curved roof that reminds me of Noah's Ark.

It encompasses: 

Religion.

History.

Art. 

It all comes together here. 

There is an interesting display of all the different versions of the Bible.

But what it all points to is how similar we all really are. 

The emergence of faith in The One G-d who created us all--his children--and the foundation in the words of His book. 

Yes, we share in common much more than what separates us. 

If we can just see ourselves in His eyes and be the people we can be and were meant to be. 

The museum should be an inspiration to be better, to be brothers, to have peace, to partner and progress to the future.

With our faith sustaining us, and the Bible and our conscience as our guides, we can overcome. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 3, 2017

Under The Feet Of Haters

So there is a saying in Washington, D.C....

"You know you've made it when you have your haters."

This is a very political town!

But more than that, a leader has to take a position. 

You have to stand for something. 

There are oodles of constituencies and no matter how hard you try, you will never satisfy everyone. 

Yes ideally, we always want to create a win-win situation. 

However, every give, usually has a take, since the pie isn't infinite. 

Compromise where possible, but hold your ground where necessary. 

The key is to choose a direction from your conscience and follow your moral compass and do the most good for the most people and what's right in the eyes of G-d. 

Unfortunately, some people will declare themselves your mortal enemy and try to stamp you out of existence just for being and following who you are. 

Many of us who have experienced racism, discrimination, slavery, and even genocide know this senseless hate all too well. 

Be strong of of good courage and do righteousness. 

G-d is our rock and shield. 
Psalm 27: "The L-rd is my light and salvation--whom shall I fear?  The L-rd is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid." 
So as your enemies advance to step on and try and crush you, remember that G-d will decide where their feet actually land and how they will fall. :-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 27, 2017

Loyalty To Others Vs. True To Yourself

So after the aborted Healthcare bill to replace failing Obamacare, President Trump tweeted about the alt-right's lack of support for the bill: 
"We learned a lot about loyalty [today]."

The Freedom Caucus refused to vote with the rest of the Republicans on the 7-year long awaited repeal and replace of Obamacare. 

Instead, they felt it didn't go farther enough to rescind everything from Obamacare they hated, and they chose to leave Obamacare as the solution for the foreseeable future, rather than get a replacement bill they felt was also subpar.

Whether this was smart or dumb, time will tell. 

- Smart - If down the road, they get a better replacement to Obamacare then what was being offered now. 

- Dumb - If rather than a better replacement, we end up either stuck with Obamacare indefinitely or get an even worse alternative later. 

It's a little like gambling Vegas--they decided to roll the dice again, rather than leave the table with their winnings. 

Sure, they could end up a bigger winner or they can lose it all, so we'll see. 

But there is another important question here:

What obligation did they have to be loyal and vote with their party vs. being loyal to their own conscience?

The Democrats have held the line better in terms of voting as block--and hence they have proved superior in many cases in wielding their share of power. 

In contrast, the Republicans have been more divided and hence, they can't get the votes they need to pass the legislation desired by the right--because somebodies are always holding out for a better deal. 

But Trump represents "The Art of the Deal,"--and a deal usually means negotiation, compromise, and that nobody gets everything they want.

So while everyone should vote and act their conscience, there is also something to be said for loyalty to the team effort. 

If everyone just holds out for what they want, then really that stoneheadedness will result in virtually nothing getting done. 

We've all got to give a little to get a little, as long as it doesn't violate our moral compass, core values, and faith. 

Loyalty also has to do with showing and acting with respect. 

And being disloyal to the team and leadership has ramifications.

Those who seemed as if they were being true to themselves and their constituents--may end up having really let themselves and the others down, and not just Trump and Ryan. 

Finally, loyalty is a two-way street, and I have a feeling Caesar is not yet done with the great treachery that was perhaps so callously inflicted on him and the greater national cause. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 4, 2017

Kosher Trust Or Not

Here's the big controversy in our synagogue this week. 

The Rabbi is having a Purim open house and he invited everyone to bring a pot luck.

"Only home-made food, no purchased food please!"

In Jewish circles, this is the opposite of what you'd expect, where checking the kosher labels and symbols is critical to ensuring the food has followed the strict kosher dietary laws and can be eaten. 

Yet as pointed out, kashrut has been made into a whole commercial business these days...does it still reflect the intent?

The Rabbi explained in services today, in a very well received way, that we need to get back to respecting and trusting each other. 

That these values are essential to being truly religious people.

It was a wonderful speech in that it evoked unconditional acceptance and respect for everyone. 

As we know, no one is so perfect, even though the goal of course is to be as perfect as we can be. 

So two things:

1) I really like the notion of treating people well and putting that high on the priorities as we are all G-d's creatures.

2) I myself am kosher, but not fanatically so, therefore, I personally appreciated the acceptance and love in the community. 

Yet, after I got home, and thinking about this some more, and despite my own failings religiously and otherwise, I asked myself, "Am I really comfortable eating from a parve and meat community pot luck?"

And even as I ask this question, I am sort of squirming at the idea of just eating anyone's food--and not knowing anything about it. 

How am I doing due diligence in even trying to keep kosher like that?

While maybe I'm not the most kosher of everyone, it certainly is important to me to at least try (to some extent), but I ask myself can this be considered really even trying--when some people aren't religious, may not have a strong religious education, and perhaps some may not even be (fully) Jewish?

Sure, someone can even have the best intentions and try to bring kosher food, yet it's certainly possible that the food may not be kosher. 

Perhaps, in prior times, it was an issue of more or less kosher, but these days, it can be an issue of kosher or not kosher at all. 

This is a very difficult issue--because we can't put people up against the law--we must by necessity respect both. 

So yes, I love the idea of respecting everyone and that's a given assuming they are good, decent people, but trust is not something you just have, it's something you earn, by...being trustful!

I'm not one to preach religion to anyone...I struggle myself with the laws and in trying to do what's right in the commandments between man and G-d. 

And while I am ready to accept all good and loving people, I am perhaps not ready to just trust them without knowing that the trust is dutiful. 

Love thy neighbor as thyself is paramount, but also we have a duty to G-d to try to fulfill his commandments the best we can. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 25, 2016

(Re)Kashering The Kitchen

So with all the 613s that we and are our friends and family are seeing, we are taking these as a sign and important message. 

Yesterday, I posted that I would show you today how it is personally affecting us.

So one of the things that we are doing is (re)kashering our kitchen. 

New and separate dishes and cooking utensils for meat and dairy meals.  

We got these beautiful French Perle Lenox in gorgeous lilac and ice blue (of course, no one better actually use one and break it). 

Being more a part of the synagogue and community now, we are hoping to host more people for Shabbat etc.

There are other small (and large) ways that we are coming back to more of our traditions, but we are far from perfect. 

Sort of a blend of the secular world, the religious one, and just being ourselves. 

But that is our road, and we strive to do better in all aspects of our lives and pray for G-d's mercy and blessings all along the way and at the destination. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 4, 2015

L@@king The Other Way

So recovering from surgery and with my cane in hand the last number of weeks, I've had a chance to see the worst and best of people. 

Especially on the Metro, I've had people who quite simply refused to let me sit down--can you say look the other way or ignorance is bliss?

One guy the other day saw me holding on to the overhead rail with one hand and the cane in the other, he looked me in the eye, and then looked back down again to work on whatever notes he was writing...certainly more important. 

And even early on a couple of times (this was when it was still hard to really stand up for long) when I asked for one of the special access seats from completely healthy people sitting there, I usually got the stone cold kvetchy faces like "You talking to me?"

At other times, waiting to get on the Metro, I've had people rush in front of me, try to push me aside, or even nearly trample me when they felt I just wasn't moving my limp leg fast enough. 

I think this has been particularly disheartening especially when I see this behavior coming from people of different faiths who were clearly observant at least in other ways...uh, don't we answer to an even higher authority?

When some empathic folks at work recently asked me, how people were treating me on the Metro (yes, they know how it is!), I said feeling frustrated one day that the only difference between DC and NY is that in NY there was probably a greater chance of someone trying to actually push me (G-d forbid) in front of an oncoming train--yeah, at times it seriously felt that way. 

I will say that thank G-d not everyone is such a you know what!

Although truly it's been the exception and not the rule, there have been some very nice people that did offer me a seat, let me go first, or didn't rush me on/off the moving escalator. 

One lady in particular was extraordinarily wonderful, and when I was crossing a very wide two-way street with lots of cars and the light was getting ready to change, she walked by my side--literally shielding me from the oncoming traffic, and she said "Don't worry, they won't hit both of us!"

I remember learning in yeshiva some very basics of human decency...get up before the aged, remove an obstacle from before a blind person, and to take off a heavy burden from even your enemy's stumbling animal.

I think these and other lessons in school and at home sensitized me to people's pain and suffering and where possible to try and help--not that I am a saint, I'm not, but at least I feel my conscience talks to me.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 22, 2015

Might Does Not Make Right

I heard from someone the other day...

"Do what is right--the others be damned!"

And this is right on the money.

You should always follow the dictates of your conscience.

Do not worry about pressure from others or what others will do that you cannot control. 

My dad (A"H) used to say:

"YOU do what is right--YOU be the example!"

He was my example, and I will always follow in his footsteps. ;-)

(Source photo: here with attribution to cursedthing)
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January 9, 2014

Watch Out For Organizational Psychopaths

Ever feel like this at work?

The knives are flying and you're the target--where's the next one going, the heart of head?

Harvard Business Review has a telling blog about bosses at work that are borderline psychopaths.

Hard to spot because of their "chameleon-like qualities," they are:

- "Self-serving"--basically they have what I call the selfish disorder, they want power, money, and status but don't really care about the organization, mission or people, just themselves!

- "Manipulative personalities"--they hide their agendas, but work over others with charm, favors, even pretend friendship to get what they want.

- Domineering--corporate psychopaths are bullies, who assert themselves over others; they are insecure and endlessly competitive and abuse the people that work for them rather than recognize and reward them. 

- Win-lose---they play corporate gamesmanship, appearing collegial enough, but really are always trying to get one up on their colleagues, staff, and even their bosses. 

-"Unburdened by the pangs of conscience"--they don't care what it takes to get what they want for themselves: they will lie, cheat, steal, and try to get rid of the competition (even if that is everyone that works for them or around them).   

Estimates are that "perhaps 3.9% of corporate professionals" have these psychopathic tendencies--With all the crazies out there, that seems on the low side. What do you think?

Thank G-d, however, that there are some good bosses out there--seek those people out who act like mensches, who elevate others and do not treat them like the enemy within--those people are true gems. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 6, 2013

Adaptability And Integrity In The Face Of Catastrophe

The Walking Dead is the #1 TV show--and this past Sunday was just amazing not only in terms of the plot, but the lessons it provided.

The big question raised was can people change?

The Governor went through a seeming metamorphosis after the destruction of his prior town and murder of his people (by his own hand) and now he has a newfound family and tribe. 

When he comes to attack Rick and the prison to take it for the protection of his own people, Rick says let's just share it, it will be hard to overcome old rivalries, but we can do it--we can change!

But the Governor, yells in a blood curdling voice, "Liar!" and proceeds in a craze to chop off Hershel's head. 

What is particularly dramatics about this--aside from their opposing views of change--is that Hershel is the doctor who not only takes care of the physical health of his people, but also is the conscience of his group seeing that they don't lose their moral way. 

The Governor is a cold killer that truly can never change--and he not only executes Hershel, but screams "Kill them all!"

He also kills his newly adopted daughter after she is bitten by one of the walkers..he shoots her right in the face. 

At first, this seems like the Governor has changed, he can kill a Walker even if it's from his new family, as opposed to his own real daughter that he kept (unwilling to let her go) until Michonne kills her. 

But this was not real change for the Governor, because as he told Hershel about attacking and killing someone else's children to survive, "they aren't mine!"

The Governor is all about himself and will do anything selfishly to survive without consideration of others--this does not change. 

On the other hand, Rick and others survive by their ability to change and grow--they kill when they must, they have empathy when they can, they live by a code of right and wrong--in every situation, they adapt. 

For example, in a prior episode, Carol is forced to leave Rick's group because she brutally killed and burnt two of people in the prison when they got sick and were a threat of spreading the disease. However, Rick understood that this was wrong and banished her for what she did. Not all killing is justified, even if it helps you survive.

The Governor (and his new cohorts) are finally killed off in this episode, and although the safety of the prison is gone, and Rick and the others must leave and wander again, they continue to survive another day--changing with ever new challenges and adhering to an informal code of conduct that they maintain, even in the face of a world catastrophe.

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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November 3, 2013

12 Years A Slave, But Not Anybody's Property

I saw the movie "12 Years A Slave."

I have seen other movies on slavery, such as Amistad and Glory, but none were as potent and realistic as this was. 


I came out with my head full of feelings of pain and injustice, as if I had just lived through those 12 years as a slave myself. 


I literally felt sick to my stomach and the room felt as if it was spinning and I could hardly breathe. 


My wife said to me, "You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel bad."


And I responded to her, "I feel bad that they (the slave owners and traders) weren't human."


I cannot tell the story of Solomon Northup or of the horrors of slavery any better than the movie in fact did. 


But what I can convey is my shear disgust for how anybody could enslave and mistreat others the way the Black people and others throughout history were. 


As a Jewish person, my own people have a history of 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and this took on a whole new meaning. 


As great actors as Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner were, The movie, The Ten Commandments, did not show the depths of Hell of slavery as much as the breadth of Heaven of redemption. 


And while the Pyramids of Egypt were built not with massively powered Caterpillar earth movers and construction equipment, but with the flesh and blood of my people under the whip of servitude 3,500 years ago, similarly the Capitol of the United States and The White House were built with Black people in chains and hung by the noose. 


In the movie today, the plantation owners said they could do what they wanted to the slaves and without fear of retribution or sin, because the slaves were their property. 


What is unbelievable is that anyone can believe that anybody can be the property of anyone other than G-d, the Master of the Universe, him/herself. 


The slave trader in the movie, tearing apart a family and selling the mother and her children separately, when questioned on his ability to commit such atrocity, says matter-of-factly,"my sentimentality extends the length of a coin."


For a buck, what will a person not do?


In history, we have seen individuals and whole societies cheat, steal, rape, enslave, torture, murder, and commit every treachery and treason...for a buck or even just because they could. 


What is the lesson for all of us?


People can do great good in this world, but unfettered by faith, conscience, reason, or fear of justice, they can do great, great evil--and for that we can never let our guard down.

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