What does the Torah really say about marijuana?
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Jewish Mixers and a lesson on why mixing isn’t always what it is cracked up to be: A lesson on Leshon Horrah….
So it is clear that Jewish mixers are an invention from the Jewish grandmother. They’re sly and cunning and deceptively alluring with food and other freebies. As the summer time warms our beaches and many of us have our outdoor activities, we crave company of friends and significant others. At one particular mixer, I was thrilled to have the pressure off. I was dating someone and was there purely for the social aspect. A-ha! A window of opportunity to not feel pressure within the Jewish community.
I had previously asked a friend if his group would like to join mine for coffee. As I was taking off to go to Aeroma (the wonderful Israeli filled coffee house on the west side of town), I stopped my friend mid-conversation to discuss if they would join us. As I overheard his friend speaking to him she stated, “That girl has no chance with him (speaking about her male friend and a woman off in the distance). She has a huge nose and she’s ugly!” My heart stopped. The first thing I thought was holy crap. What if I was the girl she was talking about? Secondly, I looked at the girl exchanging a pleasant conversation with handsome male company and this girl making the comment. I figured her Jewish mother had told her she was absolutely beautiful her whole life. Such a warped sense of self. This girl looked like she did not know what a vegetable was. I was shocked such mean things came into my mind and gained my friends attention. The girl who had just said such harsh things waits for me to get in a word to my friend.
I had a very quick inner monologue that went like this:
Holy crap she just bashed another Jew.
Does she know she’s not a 10, not even a 5?
Why am I thinking such horrible things?
I think I am angry that she spoke horribly about this defenseless woman.
What to say? What to say?
Be smart about this, but do not allow her to act like that.
After the monologue, this came out, “ Hey ___________, I was going to ask you if you and your friends were coming, however, as much as I deeply wish you could come, I do not want to expose my wonderful group of loved ones to someone who not only publicly demeans people they don’t know, but seems to take joy from it to make her own esteem flourish.” Her mouth dropped and I suppose she decided to take her anger out on me after I up and left.
The moral: When we open our mouths publicly, we earn judgment from others. It is not always right to judge, but it is ALWAYS right to realize when something should not be socially accepted. Leshon horah, the restriction of speaking with an evil tongue. There is always a reason for G-d’s rules and guidance. A mixer only works when mixing is allowed.
Be true to the streets!
This week’s Torah portion is about accepting change. And I’m not talking about loose change.
A guy named Zelophehad dies…and unlucky for him, Zelophehad had no sons, no one to pass his inheritance to. But he did have daughters. And these daughters were angry that their father’s lot would not be given to them. So they protest to Moses and Moses talks to G-d. The result: G-d agrees that sexism is unfair, and the law of inheritance is passed so that women would be included.
Another change happens: Moses knows that his time is running out on this Earth. The Hebrews are about to enter the Promised Land and Moses does not get to go with them. So G-d tells Moses that Joshua will be the new leader. Moses is commanded to lay his hands upon Joshua in front of the Hebrews showing his status as the future Jewish Commander In Chief.
Change is tough: it forces people to confront their boundaries and limits. It’s easier to keep life as static and simple as possible, so you’ll never experience growing paints. But change is a part of life. Get over it. Move on.
So Moses hands the keys to the kingdom over to Joshua. Here’s this guy, hand picked by G-d out of all of the Israelites, to be the new leader. Even with how Moses must have felt about turning things over to “the new guy”, there had to be some sense of trust there. I mean, G-d chose Joshua!
G-d told Moses who would be the next leader. I know that if I were retiring from a company that I started if G-d told me who would be my successor I would trust His judgment. So in this there is some comfort to Moses, that the guy taking his place was at least good enough to be selected by the Divine. And that is important.
G-d knew Joshua wasn’t Moses, and he never would be. G-d knew the time for Moses was over, it was time for a fresh perspective, some new leadership. Was Joshua going to screw up? Of course! Obviously even Moses messed up. But that’s okay.
What that says to me is that Hashem knows that things change (He made them that way!) so sometimes new leadership is necessary. And even Moses had to learn that, to trust in the way that things were going and that G-d wouldn’t let things get out of hand.
In this week’s Torah portion, a sorcerer named Balaam is sent by Balak to curse the Israelites. But G-d appears to him and turns his heart saying, “you shall not curse them but bless them” (Numbers 22:12). After protesting to Balak’s people that he can’t do it, Balaam reluctantly agrees to carry out his mission.
But something crazy happens. Balaam is riding a donkey toward the settlement where the Hebrews are, when his donkey sees an angel of the Lord, blocking him from going toward the camp. Balaam doesn’t see it: only the donkey sees it. So Balaam tries, unsuccessfully, to go in different directions toward the camp, hitting the poor donkey over and over again. Finally, G-d gives the donkey the power to speak! The conversation went a little like this:
Donkey: Hey Balaam, why you keep hitting me? What did I ever do to you?
Balaam: Donkey, you’re embarrassing me! If you were a person, I’d freakin’ cut you!
Donkey: Why you playin’ like that? You’ve been riding me this whole time and I haven’t given you trouble at all.
And then, the angel appeared to Balaam and called him out on his awful mistreatment of the donkey:
Angel: Yo, Balaam. Why are you beating down your donkey? Obviously I’m in the way and the donkey can’t go anywhere you want it to!
So Balaam has something of a roadside conversion and the angel lets him know that, instead of curses, Balaam will open his mouth and bless the Hebrews.
Balaam goes back to Balak and lets him know this weird news. And Balak basically says, “heck with this. Let’s go to the Hebrew settlement and try this cursing thing out either way.” Long story short, it didn’t work. Apparently when G-d does something, it happens.
I’d like to ask an honest question: what’s in your way? What is keeping you from getting something done? For Balaam, it was an angel, standing in his way. What is it for you?
And an even bigger question is, “is what you are wanting to do, really that important, anyway?”
Balaam was trying to curse the Hebrews, so G-d steps in his way. And there are angels on Earth who get in our way all the time: the father who locks up his drug addict kid who he won’t shoot up, the nurse who gives out condoms to prostitutes so they won’t get AIDS.
So what’s in your way? Maybe it’s not as self destructive and the examples I gave earlier, but maybe it will take you down a path that you really don’t want. I used to think that every time my old band couldn’t get a show or every time I got fired from a job, that it was just another thing getting in my way. And to be honest, if I had a sword, I’d prolly cut some people up, too.
But then an angel stepped into my life and made me realize, “OK Patrick, maybe you need to evaluate whether this is a good use of your time.” And sure enough, those things weren’t. And now, things are going great. I have a new band, and it doesn’t stress me out at all! And my job…well…PunkTorah is my job!
There’s always an obstacle to every goal. Maybe that obstacle is an angel of the Lord saying, “don’t pass Go, don’t collect $200. You’re going to do G-d’s work instead.”
Why do the same things keep happening to us over and over again? Why do we fall into the same relationships, same types of jobs, etc. etc. Sometimes life feels like a gigantic rerun that you can’t escape: a constant Bill Murray-style Groundhog Day.
Just like all the other Torah portions in Bamidbar, the same predictable plot happens:
1) The Hebrews wander the desert
2) The Hebrews get angry that they are wandering in the desert
3) G-d gets pissed off and performs a miracle
This time, we have snakes on fire, which to me sounds like a stoner metal band. At any rate, these venomous snakes bite the ankles of the Hebrews, and naturally they freak out.
So G-d says, “build a bronze altar with a snake on a pole. Stare at it, and you’ll be healed.”
Yay. Miracle. But pretty anti-climactic.
I guess you could say, “well, it all worked out for the Hebrews. They built a shrine to the snake and G-d healed them. Some lesson, huh?” But you have to remember that idolatry is a sin. G-d’s not letting them off the hook, G-d’s forcing them to do something that’s completely against their culture. It’s like a dog that pees on the carpet, and you turn around and rub their nose in it.
There’s a reason why life for the Hebrews stays the same: they keep doing the same things! It seems like a no-brainer, but perhaps if they adjusted their attitude a little bit, they wouldn’t be wandering around in the desert!
This is the way life works: you’re fat because you keep eating, you’re single because you keep going out with losers, and you’re an alcoholic because you keep drinking. It’s like my dad says, “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
Maybe it’s all the motivational posters at my gym, but I see this week’s Torah portion as an inspiration to quit whining and do something! Maybe then the snakes that are biting your ankles (bill collectors, a crappy boss, whatever) will leave you alone.