Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Mirror Images


    When our children were growing up we had an imaginary friend who lived in the house with us, whose name was AILAT – spelled A I L A T.  Ailat used to turn up in all kinds of places and situations, but mostly appeared when something had gone wrong.  If, for example, a glass of water spilled during dinner, it was often Ailat’s fault.  One time when someone had taken a pair of scissors and given a teddy bear a haircut, when we went to talk to Talia about it she told us that actually Ailat had done it.  And after a while it seemed that pretty much every time something went wrong, every time the children did something they knew they were not supposed to do, it was actually Ailat’s fault, and not theirs.  Ailat, you see, had essentially become the scapegoat in the Schwartz household.  

     The scapegoat is of course a central symbol of the most sacred day of our year, Yom Kippur.  Tomorrow morning we’ll read about the ritual the High Priest enacted on Yom Kippur day in ancient times at the Temple in Jerusalem.  One of the crucial moments of that ritual was the designation of a scapegoat, and once that goat was identified, the sins of the people were transferred onto it, and it was sent away into the wilderness.  Once the goat was banished, it was as if the sins of the Israelites were instantaneously taken away, never to return.

     That was essentially the function that our imaginary friend Ailat was playing in our home.  The children took whatever sin they had committed, whatever wrong they had done, and they conveniently placed it on Ailat’s shoulders.  And once you did that, like the scapegoat, Ailat was gone.  After all, you couldn’t find her to punish her, because she didn’t really exist in the first place.  

     The truth is, we don’t even need an imaginary friend to blame our faults and failings on.  If you are a parent you are certainly familiar with the following scenario.  You are driving somewhere, a long trip, and your children are in the backseat.  Things begin to get a bit unruly back there, and when you turn around to calm things down, the response is inevitably, ‘he did it first’ or ‘she started it!’  So forget about the imaginary friend – we are just as happy to blame our mistakes and wrongdoings on another person, who does exist!  Even if that person is our sibling!  Maybe especially if that person is our sibling!

     The thing about it is it doesn’t stop with that back seat bickering we are all so familiar with.  The blame game gets more complicated and sophisticated as we get older, but it continues, and we never stop looking for scapegoats.  It might be the student in high school who blames her English teacher because of the bad grade she got on her paper.  Maybe it is the worker who feels he is being held back by his boss, and if only he had a different supervisor, he would be VP by now.  And I’ve had more than one conversation with parents of students in our Hebrew school who have blamed our teachers and our bar/bat mitzvah program for the fact that their child didn’t do as much as they hoped the morning of their special day.  The blame game is played all the time in the business world.  When the VW diesel admissions scandal first broke the higher ups initially blamed it on the engineers who changed the software.  Or what about politics?  Politicians play the blame game as well as anyone, maybe better, blaming the media, or each other, or embracing bizarre conspiracy theories as a way of explaining why something went wrong. 

     What folks often don’t consider is that, as Cassius so wisely said to Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julies Caesar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…”  The fault is in ourselves.  You see it might be the high school student didn’t put the time in that she needed to do well on her paper.  Maybe the worker who thinks his boss is holding him back forgets that he shows up 10 minutes late every day, or the bat mitzvah girl’s parents don’t realize they never asked their daughter to practice at home.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing one day to see a politician step up to a podium and say ‘this is on me?’  But it is so much easier to blame someone, or something, else, than it is to look in the mirror and see the fault in ourselves.  

     Of course this is a natural human tendency.  No one likes to get caught doing something they know they are not supposed to be doing, and no one likes to be confronted with their mistakes, their faults, and their frailties.  The Torah makes this clear with the story of the very first humans, Adam and Eve.  You’ll remember for sure that they committed a sin – what was it?  They ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, a tree from which God had specifically told them not to eat.  

     But what you may not remember is the conversation between God, Adam, and Eve after the critical mistake had been made.  It goes something like this:  God asks Adam, “Did you eat of the fruit of the tree?”  Adam responds:  “Eve made me do it!  She gave me the fruit, and I ate it!”  God then turns to Eve, and says “What have you done?”  Eve quickly responds, “It is not my fault, the snake tricked me!”  The Torah seems to be telling us that our tendency to blame others for our problems and mistakes is as old as humanity itself.

     Now of course sometimes there are other factors that cause us to fail, despite our best efforts.  Both nature and nurture do play a role in who we are and what we can achieve.  A rough path early in life can create huge obstacles that a young person might struggle to overcome.  Our genetic makeup can work against us, confronting us with physical and emotional challenges that others don’t face.  And there are people out there who can hold us back, teachers who genuinely don’t like us, or a boss who is jealous of our talent and sets us up to fail. 

     But I worry that we’ve become too comfortable, even too eager, to find someone or something else to blame for our own troubles.  Judaism insists that we have free will, and that we can use that gift wisely or poorly.  When we use it wisely, when we choose well, we’ll tend to do better, to be better, and to be blessed more often and more deeply in our lives.  It is true, we don’t control everything!  But some things we certainly do control.  Most importantly of all, how we react to the difficult circumstances that life tends to put in our way.  In an age when we commonly flee from responsibility, Yom Kippur comes along and reminds us that we should actually embrace it.

     I think that is why the tradition asks us to recite the Al Cheit list so many times in the next 24 hours.  In a traditional service, that list of sins is recited twice tonight, twice tomorrow morning during Shaharit, twice more during musaf, and just to top it all off two more times during the minhah service.  Eight times!!  Why all the repetition?  Have we really sinned that much in the year that has just ended?  

     I think that almost constant repetition of the Al Cheit list is intended to remind us of two things.  The first is that we often have a hard time admitting we were wrong.  And the second thing is, if we do admit we’ve made a mistake, we tend to blame it on someone else.  Just like Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the snake.  And so we say, again and again, Al Cheit she’chatanu – On the sin that we sinned.  That reminds us, you see, that we have done things that are wrong.  It also reminds we might have chosen to do otherwise, so the blame, as Cassius said to Brutus, is in ourselves.   

     Let me just for one moment return to my children’s imaginary friend.  Anyone happen to remember her name?  Ailat.  Spelled?  AILAT.  I am sure you all know the trick of holding letters up to a mirror.  What happens?  The letters appear in the mirror in reverse order.  So if you were to take Ailat, write it on a piece of paper, and hold it up to the mirror, you would have T A L I A – which spells?  Talia.  The name of our oldest child.  She was quite surprised when she one day realized her imaginary friend was a reflection of herself.

     Yom Kippur reminds us of how important it is to look honestly into that mirror.  To see who we truly are, what mistakes we have made, and to let go of our scapegoats.  We don’t do this to feel shame or sadness.  We do it instead to embrace both responsibility and possibility.  Responsibility for what we have done, and the possibility that we can make amends and do better in a new year. 

    That is the message of this sacred day.  May we take it to heart tonight, and enter this new year with confidence and faith.  

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Filed under Beth El Congregation, Bible, High Holy Days, Jewish festivals, Rabbi Steven Schwartz, sermon, Uncategorized, Yom Kippur

When Mercy Seasons Justice

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice. (Merchant of Venice act 4, scene 1)

This a text version of my Shabbat sermon from 8/27/16 –

I would like you to think with me for a few minutes this morning about two starkly contrasting stories that came out of the health care industry this week.  On the one hand if you follow the news you heard a lot about the epipen.  This is the mechanism that will quickly inject medication into someone’s thigh if they are having a serious allergic reaction.  The best example probably is allergy to bees – if you are highly allergic to bees and you are stung it can be very dangerous, even life threatening.  So you carry an epipen with you.  If you are stung, you inject yourself with the device and the allergic reaction is stopped.  Just out of curiosity – how many people in the room have an epipen?

This week, Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that makes the epipen, announced a fairly significant price hike in the device, which will now cost you around $600 for two pens.  The public outrage was immediate and vociferous.  Internet campaigns were launched, social media was brought to bear, and just Thursday the company announced that they would give some consumers access to coupons which would make the devices more affordable.  But they didn’t change the price – that stayed at the $600 level.  And the fear is that some families will not be able to afford the devices which I believe are supposed to be replaced every year – and that potentially someone will need it and not have.  That is story number one.

The second story is the opposite side of that coin.  In Orlando the major health care network and the hospital where many of the shooting victims from the Pulse nightclub were treated announced they would not charge the victims for any of the services they provided.  Health insurance they’ll take – whatever it pays will go to the hospital.  But the patients will not be asked to cover any additional costs.

Now on the surface, just in and of itself, it is an odd thing to see those two stories sitting side by side in your morning newspaper.  And I don’t mean to suggest that the pharmaceutical company should give up all of its profits and do its work purely for charitable purposes.  To me it is a question of a number of things.  Balance is one of them – what is the proper balance?  If you are in an industry where you are creating life saving medications, how much should you be making?  Should you be making profit to the point where some people will not be able to afford you medication?  How much is enough?  How much is maybe too much?

The idea of ‘doing well and doing good’ has been floating around in the business world now for a number of years.  I remember that as far back as 2009 Bill Gates, the multibillionaire founder of Microsoft, began to publicly talk about the idea of large corporations figuring out how to make money and maximize prophets, while at the same time maintaining a conscience and a sense of social justice.  His argument was that doing good – in other words, giving something back, and making the world a better place – in the end will enable the business to do well, also – to make money and be profitable.

That idea always struck me as a very Jewish idea.  Judaism never – at least in any serious way – was attracted to asceticism, to giving up all of your worldly possessions.  In fact Judaism says there is nothing wrong with doing well – it is something you should strive for, that material goods and wealth are not inherently bad or immoral – they can in fact enhance the quality of your life.  At the same time Judaism does remind us of the importance of giving back, mostly through its idea about tzedakah, the giving of charity, considered in the tradition to be a commandment that every person must fulfill.  So in Judaism it is about balance – you should certainly strive to do well, to succeed and be financially comfortable.  But as you do well, you should also do good – have a social conscience, make the world a better place, and give something back along the way.

In this morning’s Torah portion there is one of those verses that just captures my attention in a particular way.  I do in my life – and I know may of you do as well – try to figure out what God wants of me.  What are the actions I can take in the course of a day, or in the course of a year, or in the course of a life, that would cause God to look down and say ‘that was pretty well done.’  B+  And in this morning’s portion there is one of those verses that raises that question, and answers it.  מה ה׳ א׳ שואל מעמך – what is it that the Lord your God requires of you?  Asks of you?  And the answer the Torah gives is this:  to love God, to serve God with all of your heart and soul, and to keep God’s commandments.

Now, as they say in the vernacular today, TBH – what does that mean?  To be honest, although I like the question quite a bit, I am not a big fan of the answer.  Not that I reject it – I understand the idea that you need to have a spiritual life, that tradition and faith and God should play a role in determining who you are.  What I don’t like about the answer is that it doesn’t give me any practical information that I can take with me when I go out into the world.  It just all sounds a bit vague to me – ‘serve God with my heart and soul, keep God’s commandments’ – I want some specifics.

Luckily for me there is another verse – a very famous verse – which echoes the verse from this morning’s Torah portion that gives me the specifics I am looking for.  It comes from the prophet Micah, we read it as part of the haftara just a few weeks ago, it is the concluding verse of that haftara.  And in that verse Micah the prophet asks the same question the Torah is asking this morning – מה ה׳ דורש ממך – what is it that Lord requires of you?  And then the famous answer – Only to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

As you may imagine there is a wealth of commentary on that one verse – pages and pages and pages.  I’ve always understood the three parts working together, in two ways.  First, if you apply the ideas of justice and goodness to everything that you do, at the end of the day you will be able to walk humbly with God.  This is classic Jewish thought!  Do what you are supposed to do, do things the right way, and the rest will follow.

But also you need to have both justice and goodness to bring God’s presence into the world.  Justice and goodness are very different animals.  Justice is cold, calculating – think of the image of the scales of justice, always held by a woman, and the woman is always blindfolded – justice is impartial, at least in theory.  So it shouldn’t matter if someone is rich or poor, black or white, it simply is what it is.

But  that kind of blind justice needs to be tempered by, combined with, mixed up in goodness.  It is when justice and goodness are working together that a sense of the sacred can be felt in our world.  It is not just about doing it by the books.  It is also about doing it the right way, with goodness and kindness and mercy.  It is not just about doing well – it is also very much about doing good.  May we all remember that – as individuals, as a synagogue community, and even in the corporate world, a place where maybe that idea is needed most.

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Star Crossed Lovers

this a text version of my sermon from Shabbat morning services on 2/13/16

It is a story that has been around probably almost as long as people have been telling stories. At its heart, it is a boy meets girl story, but it is boy meets girl complicated by the fact that the boy and girl come from different worlds. They might come from warring houses, great families that disdain one another and wish each other harm – think Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. They might come from different ethnic backgrounds or gangs, or classes, like Tony and Maria of West Side Story, or Catherine and the dark skinned Heathcliff from Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, or Lancelot and Guinevere from the King Arthur legends. These are the couples we have come to call ‘star crossed lovers’, from the phrase in the prologue of Romeo and Juliet – “a pair of star crossed lovers.”

The classic pattern of the story seems to suggest that love does triumph, but only for a time. Remember that Romeo and Juliet are both dead at the end of Shakespeare’s play. Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights are not together until the end of the novel when Heathcliff dies and is buried next to the woman he has loved throughout his life. And in exploring the tensions that ultimately keep these couples from ‘living happily ever after,’ these stories challenge the conceptions we have not only about romantic relationships, but also about the way different groups in our society can and do relate to one another. When are people permitted to marry, when are they not? What boundaries are too great to cross in terms of a relationship? Is a religious boundary too great? An ethnic boundary? A gender boundary? A socio-economic boundary? Underneath the love story there is an exploration of class differences and ethnic tensions, of the stereotyping that commonly goes on when one group thinks about another group, of the fear and distrust that often exist between people of different backgrounds and different communities.

I would argue that it is necessary to confront these questions and to wrestle with them, to put them out on the table and to talk about them. It is part of the process of understanding who we are, both internally, our own group, what defines us particularly – but also on a larger scale – in an open society, where are the boundaries, what are people comfortable with, and what makes people uncomfortable, and why? Is that right or wrong, is it something that needs to be talked about, something that the society needs to come to terms with? And what art does – whether Shakespeare’s play, or Bronte’s novel- is enable us to wrestle with these issues in a safe way – to process them, think about them, and understand them more deeply. Think of it like this – if you can’t wrestle with a difficult issue in a novel, how are you ever going to be able to wrestle with it in real life?

And so it was disturbing to me to hear that just a few weeks ago Israel’s Ministry of Education asked schools across the country to remove a novel called Borderlife from high school reading lists. The novel, written by Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan, is essentially a modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet. It is the story of a young Israeli woman and a young Palestinian man who meet in New York City, fall in love, and then struggle to maintain their relationship once they return to the Middle East. It has all of the classic elements of the star crossed lover narrative – the boy and girl come from different worlds, their communities don’t understand each other, their families will not accept the relationship between them, and what is more, their culture, their society, will not accept that relationship either. You would think that the Ministry of Education should protect values like academic inquiry, and freedom of speech. But instead they have decided to close a conversation for their students before it even got started.

One of the arguments we make all the time in the Jewish community about the Palestinians is that the curriculum they teach in their schools contains an inherent anti-Israel bias. And I wonder in my own mind if in Israel you start telling your teachers and students that some books are permitted while others are not, and if the books that are not permitted are those that present Palestinians in a positive light – are we not falling into the same trap that has swallowed up the Palestinians? Isaac Herzog, who is the leader of the opposition in the Keneset, worth this on his FB page: “Tell me, are the People of the Book afraid of books?”

Are we afraid of books? Are we afraid of thinking that a Palestinian and an Israeli might fall in love? Are we afraid of a story that portrays a Palestinian as a full human being, with thoughts and feelings, with bad qualities and good qualities? If we are afraid of those things I would argue we’ve come to a place that first of all isn’t a Jewish place, and second of all isn’t a human place. And I don’t mean to suggest that Israelis and Palestinians should suddenly start marrying one another. But I do mean to suggest that denying the common humanity on both sides of a painful and difficult situation doesn’t do anyone any good.

If you were in services last night you know that the Torah portion we read this week, Trumah, describes the ancient tabernacle that the Israelites wandered with in the wilderness. Virtually all of the items from that tabernacle are symbolized in our modern sanctuaries. The table is the altar that the sacrifices were offered on. The ark is a symbol of the ancient ark that carried the tablets with the 10 commandments, the eternal light reflects the light they kept lit in ancient times, and the list goes on and on. One thing we looked at last night was the ark, and you’ll remember that the ark in the Gorn is supposed to look very much like the ancient ark. Anyone remember how? Poles to carry, and also the sweeping top, one arc (arc with a ‘c’) going in one direction, one arc going in the other direction, is supposed to symbolize what is described in the Torah on the top of the ancient ark, which was a sculpted image of two angel like figures with their wings outstretched over their heads.

And the Torah is very detailed in its description of these angels, to include the following: ופניהם איש אל אחיו – literally what that means is that the face of one must be against the other. I like the translation in our Humash, which says the figures must confront each other. Confront. There is a tension contained in that word, almost as if one figure is facing off against the other, standing its ground.

And I would say it is the same thing with the problems and difficulties and challenges in our lives and in our world. They have to be confronted. If you hide your head in the sand, and pretend they don’t exist, and wait for a while, they will still be there when you look out again. Removing a book from a reading list is not going to make a problem go away. If anything, it will sell more books. But by taking it away, you also take away the opportunity to confront the problem, to wrestle with it and think about it and struggle with it. And hopefully come to a deeper sense of wisdom about it.

It seems to me that is also what the Ministry of Education in Israel needs – a little bit of wisdom, and also faith – faith in its students and teachers. Is the subject difficult, is the book hard, will it take its readers out of a comfort zone? Absolutely. But perhaps what that means is that it is all the more worthwhile to read it and teach it, to talk about it, and wrestle with the challenges it presents to all of us.

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Rage Against the Machine

Imagine that. They had it right all along, the science fiction prognosticators, the paranoid prophets who saw in early computers a danger to humanity. The Terminator, Clark’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – all envisioning a world where the created over takes the creator, where the machines rise up and rebel, changing the course of history forever. Heck, even Mary Shelley saw it in the fevered opium dreams that produced her great novel Frankenstein. The funny thing is we don’t see it, but we very well may be living it.

The midrashic literature, speculating about the way the Israelites became slaves to the Egyptians, paints a picture of gradual and subtle deception. Over a long period of time, a decree here and an edict there, a new responsibility added one month, a new freedom taken away the next. And then, seemingly suddenly, they were trapped. What is happening to us is not so dire, nor restricting, and it is true, more than anything else we are doing it to ourselves. OK, the huge corporations, the Microsofts and Googles, the Apples and Amazons, they are complicit, perhaps even driving us. But still. And we are going along for the ride earnestly, not hesitating, even saying ‘faster, faster.’ Where are we headed?

To an age of ‘post humanism,’ according to Leon Wieseltier. In a scathing essay published recently in the NY Times he argues that by so fully entering the machine age, by becoming so dependent on data and so connected to screens, we are leaving our humanity behind. Here a quote that brings his point home: “Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers.”

Text without context is dangerous. Information without understanding, without wisdom, is meaningless, and perhaps even worse a path to apathy, to disconnection and dismay, to believing that nothing truly matters. What we must remember is that data can only describe our reality, it cannot make meaning out of it. The human element – intuition, insight, wisdom, inspiration – these are the impossible to quantify ingredients that are necessary for human intellectual life. Without them we do become like robots, responding to 0s and 1s, to code and data, knowing that a rose is beautiful, but not feeling that it is.

One of my favorite lines in all of Shakespeare comes from Lear. Gloucester has been blinded, and he wanders on the heath with Edgar. By seeming chance they run into Lear, who asks Gloucester how he manages to navigate the world without his eyes. “I see it feelingly” is Gloucester’s timeless reply. (Lear act 4, scene 6) And there you have it. To see feelingly means to be sensitive to what is invisible. It is precisely what machines cannot do, and data cannot show us. And it is also, precisely so, the source of our humanity.

You can read the Wieseltier article at this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/books/review/among-the-disrupted

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The Thread

I’ve seen it a thousand times, over and over and over again. The ark is opened, and the congregation rises reflexively. The Torahs are resting there, dressed in their finery, the elegant cloaks and silver crowns that beautify them and remind us of royalty. Someone reaches into the ark to lift the scroll, placing it carefully in the arms of the hazzan, the leader of prayer. There is a jingling of metal, silver bells ring softly, the breastplate slides slightly as the Torah moves from one person to the next. Everyone watches, eyes alight with – what? History? Tradition? Yes. And perhaps also a sense of connection and continuity, of momentarily touching something that is eternal, that was, is, and will be. A ritual enacted, the same each time with subtle variations. Same as it ever was.

But this time, for some reason I will never know, my breath caught in my throat. I was moved, struck in some new way by the power of that simple moment. Maybe it was the way the young man so reverentially lifted that Torah, with grace and almost awe reaching forward to grasp it, carefully and gently placing it into the Hazzan’s embrace. Maybe it was how I know the men, the respect I have for them, the love I know they have in their hearts for our tradition. I suspect the way that shadows cast from some tree’s leaves danced on the wall had something to do with it, and also the soft early morning sunshine slowly rising. And that powerful sense we sometimes have of time’s compression, of the swiftly moving years somehow collapsing, of these particular men with their phylacteries and prayer shawls, enacting this ancient ritual that has been going on uninterrupted, century after century, generation after generation.

There was an imperceptible shift in the air and the moment passed. But as the old scroll was carried through the congregation something sacred hung in the air, just out of site, just there. Remember the great and enigmatic line at the end of King Lear? “Look there! Look there!” Whatever did he see? I looked, and it was gone. But a soft soul-tingling sense lingers on.

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The Numbers Game

I am sure it is merely coincidence that the week we begin reading the book of Numbers in the Torah an article appears in the New York Times about how obsessed we’ve become with metrics (measuring and quantifying everything in our lives).  The Bruce Feiler penned piece appeared under the title ‘Statisticians 10, Poets 0,’ and described the rapidly growing trend in our society to track and describe everything – and I mean everything – with numbers.  The opening paragraphs of the article revolve around a new smart phone app that somehow tracks the duration and intensity of sexual experiences.  The data from the app is uploaded to a web site, which you can log onto to see, in the form of a map of the country, which states have the best sex.  If you have to know it is New Mexico.  Alaska came up on the short end of the stick, ranking dead last.  

Yes, this is an extreme example.  But it is also the tip of the iceberg.  Today we measure how many steps we walk daily, what our sleep patterns are, our heart rhythms, of course our weight (some things never change), and who could forget the number that confronts so many of us each morning when we log onto our Facebook accounts, namely how many ‘friends’ we have (in case you are wondering, the average is 338).  Feiler goes on to show how metrics, more and more, rule in every area of life – health, social media, sports, social science, lifestyle.  It is a reflection of the impulse behind ‘big data.’   If you can just get enough information, you can know everything, and the mysteries of life – why we do what we do – will be resolved, once and for all.  

I can’t help but think it is all some kind of big con game.  Numbers can tell a story, but I firmly believe only part of the story.  Case in point, a man I recently buried.  Long life, living into his late 80s.  Three children.  Six grandchildren.  Multiple great grandchildren as well.  Long marriage, close to fifty years.  It all looks pretty good on paper, and most folks, seeing those numbers, would say ‘sign me up.’  But the story behind the numbers was much more complicated.  There was an earlier failed marriage that he never was able to come to terms with.  There was a deep sense of unease, a restlessness that never allowed him to feel he had what he was looking for.  Professional success came and went.  Family relationships were challenging and rarely satisfying.  His numbers were great, but his life was in many ways difficult.

Judaism has long been uncomfortable with counting people.  In the Bible, a census was completed by using a half shekel to represent individuals, so as not to directly count human beings.  King David commissioned a census of the people, and was punished for it by God.  Even today the tradition is to not directly count individuals using numbers when checking if the required ten are present for a prayer service.  Numbers can be misleading.  I had a statistics professor in graduate school who told us that statistics are like a bikini – they reveal general curves but conceal essentials.  After all, how do you quantify laughter, love, Shakespeare, Torah, sadness, how you feel on a bright summer morning, or when you watch a baby take her first steps.  Somewhere in all of those things, and so many others, is a sense of what it means to live a human life.  And that is something the numbers will never be able to capture.

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