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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Material success carries theological weight?

By Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb




The Bible's message to those who believe . . . they're rich and righteous --- both secular and religious


JewishWorldReview.com | It is difficult to tell you much about my high school friend without disclosing his identity. He is now world-famous, having become a major figure in the field of high finance. So, in the interests of protecting his privacy, I will alter some of the facts of the story I am about to tell. For starters, let's call him Eugene.

Our friendship began in our freshman year. I was new to the school, but he had attended grade school in the same institution. He reached out to me and showed me the ropes. We were pretty close friends for a year or two, but then our paths diverged. His intellectual interests were in the areas of economics and politics; I was more inclined toward the fields of literature and philosophy.

By our junior year, the bond between us was ruptured. He chose to abandon religious observance at precisely the time that I was becoming much more committed to religion. We found ourselves in entirely different social circles and, by the time we graduated, were barely on speaking terms. He chose not to continue his post-high school Jewish education and enrolled in a very prestigious business college.

Within five years, he was a millionaire.

Had it been just up to me, I probably never would have seen him again. But in those years, I was under the influence of a very unusual, creative, and compassionate rabbinic mentor. Let's call him Rabbi Shmuel.

Rabbi Shmuel approached me one morning and asked whether I had any ongoing contact with Eugene. When I answered in the negative, he reproached me. "He was once a good friend of yours and he helped you acclimate to a new school. You owe him a visit."

My forceful attempts to argue that such a visit would be futile did not impress Rabbi Shmuel. "There are many things that one must do in life," he said, "even if they indeed turn out to be futile."

To make a long story short, I did visit Eugene. I came to his office in the financial district of Manhattan. He greeted me warmly, but the conversation soon deteriorated into a raucous argument about religion. We covered some of the usual ground of such arguments until he pounded his fist on the table and said, "I have absolute proof that the lifestyle I have chosen is correct."

I looked at him quizzically and asked incredulously, "Absolute truth? I am eager to hear that."


With a wave of his hand, he drew my attention to all of the luxurious trappings of his office and to the view of the New York Harbor that he could see through his window. "This is just one of my offices," he said. "And I have two homes which are even more lavish. Not to speak of my sports car and extensive financial portfolio."

"I am successful. Hence, I am obviously correct in my beliefs." I have heard this argument countless times since that visit. Sometimes it is offered by those, like Eugene, who have rejected religion. But it is also sometimes used by religious people who point to their material success as evidence of God's favor and of the correctness of their theological stance.

This was not the first time that I encountered this argument that material success carries theological weight. The first time that I encountered it was when I first reflected deeply on a passage in this week's Torah portion, Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-17:17).

The passage reads:


"If there appears among you a prophet or a dream-diviner and he gives you a sign or a portent, saying, 'Let us follow and worship another god'— whom you have not experienced— even if the sign or portent that he named to you comes true, do not heed the words of that prophet or that dream-diviner. For the Lord your G0D is testing you to see whether you really love the Lord your G0D with all your heart and soul."


Many of the students in the numerous Bible classes that I have taught over the years are put off by the above passage. "What relevance," they ask, "can there be in a passage which tells of a false prophet who can make all sorts of signs and portents happen? Perhaps he is a sorcerer? Is that what the Bible is teaching us?"

My confrontation with Eugene provided me with an answer that I have used again and again to respond to such a question.

"Truth to tell," I would argue, "this is one of the most relevant passages in the entire Bible, especially in our modern times. What we can learn from this passage is that the truth of a religious message is not at all related to whether or not material success is attached to that religious message. We cannot judge a prophet's authenticity by his ability to produce facts in the so-called real world."


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Rabbi Shmuel taught me another way of expressing this lesson. "Human beings," he would say, "live in two worlds. We live in a world of values, and in that world our beliefs reign. We also live in a world of facts, and that is where your friend Eugene resides. For us, however, facts do not determine values."

For a religious person values, are determined by sacred texts and time-honored traditions. The Jewish people especially have confronted nations and cultures which economically, politically, and militarily were successful and powerful, while we were weak and impotent. Our greatness lies in the fact that we remained immune to the glitter of the success of those nations and cultures. We resisted the temptation to base our values upon facts, however strong and powerful those facts seemed to be.

The Torah portion this week teaches us that we can often expect to see successful signs and convincing portents all around us. But we are not to follow them if they are inconsistent with the essential messages of our Torah. G0D tests us by exposing us to the glitter of success. Our greatness throughout our history is attributable to our ability to avoid the seductive trap of being attracted to that glitter.

We have learned, and we must teach our children, that material success has no bearing upon religious truth. Religion is good for you!

Comment by clicking here.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, PhD is currently the Executive Vice President, Emeritus of the Orthodox Union.


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Previously:



Is it appropriate to practice religion only for its health benefits?
When I didn't so 'humbly disagree'
The Inspired Loner
Words of Fire
Redemption
When the utopian idealist met the hardnosed realist in the park
Worrying about idolatry
What Moses knew about motivation
Commuting and Commenting: Conversations of a Life in Motion
Unanswered prayers force unlearning lessons
Dogs, too, have pedigrees
Count Me In
Open Eyes, and an Open Heart

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© 2013, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

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