In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
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 June 12, 2007 / 26 Sivan, 5767

Social and political causes as religion

By Rabbi Avi Shafran

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American idols

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I already have a title: "Ferry Tales." Now all I need is the time to write the book in my head about the interesting things I've witnessed over the years on my daily commute aboard the Staten Island Ferry.

Not long ago on the boat, for instance, I was trying to concentrate on a page of Talmud. The din of nearby conversations doesn't disturb me; the voices commingle and provide a sort of white noise actually conducive to withdrawing into a difficult text. But when someone enamored of the right to free speech and animated by a cause undertakes to pace the aisles and loudly share his convictions, well, it's a little harder to focus.

"The war in Iraq is about OIL!" he announced. Over and over. Louder and louder.

"Get our troops out NOW!" and "Bush is EVIL" came the next refrains, similarly repeated and amplified.

Of late, I realized, fewer of the maritime evangelists had been thumping bibles, and more of them proclaiming political and environmental beliefs, like opposition to the war, the President or Global Warming.

What struck me, though, was the similarity in tone of voice and body language. Whether the prophet was speaking in the name of the Lord or of George Soros, only the words were different. The eyes, the gait, the tone of voice, the air of certitude, were all indistinguishable.

Which observation led me to wonder if perhaps social or political causes have come, for some, to replace religion. Or, to muse further: Have they become religions themselves?

I was apparently not the first to think the thought. MIT Meteorology Professor Richard Lindzen has labeled environmentalism a religion (not intending a compliment), as its devotees are convinced "that they are in possession of a higher truth" and are intolerant of "heretics, or 'climate change deniers,' to use green parlance." Author Michael Crichton has asserted much the same, even paralleling environmentalist credos with Biblical accounts of the Garden of Eden, the fall of man and an eventual Day of Judgment. "Environmentalism," he told the Commonwealth Club in 2003, "seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists."

I don't know if anyone has made the case for a religion-parallel among those passionately opposed to the war in Iraq or those who label President Bush the scourge of humanity. But the fervor of some of the sentiment out there — like that of the politics-preacher on the ferry — would seem to lend the contention support.

None of which, of course, is in any way to implicate reasonable environmental concerns or political positions. By political "faiths" I mean the all-consuming elevation of a concern or position to the status of Ultimate Truth. It's the difference between enjoying an occasional glass of wine and alcoholism.

The morphing of social or political beliefs into quasi-religions was noted in the mid-1930s by a renowned, sainted Orthodox Jewish scholar (who, although he was in America shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, refused to abandon his students and returned to his yeshiva in Poland, where he and they perished at Nazi hands). Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman warned that "isms" — he mentioned, among others, socialism, communism and various forms of nationalism — are modern-day "idolatries." Although the primal urge to pay homage to wood and stone no longer exists in our world, a residue of idol-worship persists — in the form of such "isms." Were he alive today, Rabbi Wasserman might well add "liberalism," "conservatism," "feminism," "environmentalism" or "pacifism" to the roster.

Some say that contemporary "isms," unlike earlier ones, are innocuous. But one is given pause by things like a paper recently published by a British environmental group, Optimum Population Trust, which promotes the prevention of babies, positing that "the most effective personal climate-change strategy is limiting the number of children one has." Or by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which claims to have sunk ten whaling ships and whose leader has called human beings the "AIDS of the Earth." He explained further that "curing a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and, therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach." One can't help but wonder just what he has in mind.

The 18th century Jewish scholar and mystic Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato famously explained that human beings seek pleasure, even beyond our biological needs, because we are created for pleasure — not the ephemeral and elusive sort so many mistakenly pursue, but the ultimate, eternal one attainable only through closeness to the Divine.

Perhaps, similarly, what impels people to embrace idolatry, whether of the ancient sort or the modern, is the recognition, deep in their souls, that there is in fact something worthy of devotion.

What is ironic is that, in the eyes of Judaism, the first step out of any environmental or geopolitical morass is recognizing just what that Something really is.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

© 2007, Am Echad Resources