‘Mean what you say and say what you mean,’ may be the most under utilized piece of advice

A while back, I was having an argument with someone close to me. No, not my wife. Of course, not her. It had to be someone else . . .

So, I suddenly had this thought . . . I keep saying this thing (I can’t remember what it was), and then she keeps saying another thing (because I’m a guy, I definitely don’t remember what that was). And I thought, “It’s like no matter how many times I say ___, she never seems to absorb it. She always comes back with something that’s not related.”

Now, the obvious criticism on myself is, “Did you actually listen to what she said?” It’s hard to argue that I did, since I just admitted to not remembering what it is she said.

But in my defense, I also can’t remember what I said, so was I not listening to myself either?

Don’t give some elvish-riddle as an answer.

But let’s side step that. It occurred to me, as I thought about this empasse, that what I was saying, wasn’t actually what I wanted to communicate. There was something I wanted to communicate–in a crude fashion (not vulgar, I mean rough, unfinished)–but I believed it was unacceptable. So what I ended up doing was finding a polite lie to say instead. Now, I’m not about to go all Trump on the world and just start lashing out with whatever garbage is in my soul and call it, “Telling it like it is.” But sometimes I say something that I don’t really mean, because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, but then I get mad because they don’t get the message!

About this time, I read a part of B’resheit (Genesis), where Ya’akov (Jacob) is hearing about Yosef’s dreams. The scriptures say, Ya’akov reproves Yosef as if Ya’akov is disregarding the dreams as childish foolishness, but then says he guarded the sayings in his heart. Why would you do that if you were disregarding? And why, for a younger son who was prophecied to be greater than his older brother, who was the grandson of a younger son who was prophecied to be greater than his older brother . . . why would that person find offensive the idea that the youngest son of his beloved would rule over the older sons from a less beloved wife?

I think some commentaries make a good suggestion, that Ya’akov did believe the dreams, but didn’t want to offend the other brothers. But in fact, what follows is that the brothers get more angry. Before that, we had another situation (with Dinah), where the brothers also say something they don’t mean (terms for getting Dinah) that they never intended to keep–I think the terms were designed to be too high, hoping Shekhem would release Dinah rather than pay. And what happened? Turns out, Shekhem would pay and so they end up ’having’ to kill them instead to prevent an assimilation that they should never have agreed to.

So taking this altogether, I begin to think that not saying what we actually mean . . . actually causes the situation to escalate. That seems to be true in my life. Does it seem so, in yours? You stand there and ask why, does this person keep doing this, when they know how much it ticks me off! But the fact is, you’ve never truly told them how/why it ticks you off!

But again, is the answer just to verbally vomit on them? That can’t be true. Because that is also not saying what you mean. Do I mean to degrade this person? To exaggerate their wrong? To compare them to animals and disregard every good thing we’ve ever shared? No.

The only answer that I can think of is to be . . . slow to speak. I know, how boring. But we have to stop, and ask, What is this person saying, and what do I actually believe about that. When offended, rather than saying, “Don’t worry about it.” Out of reflex, I have to stop and say, “Actually . . . that makes me feel like you just don’t care about what I think. What I’m hearing you say is that you just don’t care how much work it takes to build a retaining wall?”

And if I said that, what they might then say, if I spoke in love instead of verbal vomit, “Maybe, I didn’t really think about how much work it took. I was just thinking, how much more work you’ll have to do because that wall is too high. You won’t be able to finish the project in the time either of us agreed to.”

Of course, that’s if everyone can calm down. But you get my point. If instead, I just get mad, then the real issue will probably never be addressed. Which means for all that blustering and arguing, the foundation of the argument was never discovered. Thus, the argument will be built again.

I think this also applies to national debates. People on the radio talk about the bathroom gender thing. And the argument usually sounds something like this. “I understand there are people who can’t tell if they’re a boy or girl, but I’m concerned about straight-guys who are perverts. So it’s a safety thing, not to have boys showering with girls.” The gay marriage argument is pretty similar. “I don’t have a problem with whatever they do in private, but they shouldn’t be able to call it marriage legally.”

Those seem like stupid arguments to me. Actually bigoted, because they’re proposing punishing someone for something they say isn’t a problem, and usually because of some other hypothetical problem. A lot like the argument that people shouldn’t have guns because someone else might abuse them. But if we were talking, directly, then we could say, “No, I believe there’s a problem with the initial behavior. I believe it is the sign of someone in the process of self-destruction. When I hear about medical disorders, where someone doesn’t see their own arm as part of their body and wants to cut it off. I don’t hand him a saw; I say we get him some help. Not knowing what gender you are, or that you are made for the opposite gender, is a sign of serious, deep-rooted confusion. It does not need to be enabled or dressed up; it needs to be addressed and us try together to pull them back from it.”

Of course, that argument would fall on deaf ears, unless both parties have possession of the truth. I mean, we have a large portion of society who thinks that relations that have not produced one-single human life, are the same as relations that are responsible for 8 billion human lives. Which is why, I would rarely make it, but if it must come up (say for voting), then we need to be able to say what we actually mean instead of abandoning the actual bedrock truth in favor of an argument that is disingenuous.

But I digress. And I understand there is a place for simply not making an argument at all, personal or nationally. I think that’s probably most of the case in America and in our personal relations, because the other person is probably not answering from the same place of truth. But in our personal lives between those of close relations, people we actually know, I think maybe we just need some more directness.

Strike that. I do think we need more directness. Say what you mean (instead of some convenient cliché), and mean what you say (stand behind what you’ve said).

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For All the Boring Guys, Out There!

Update: I’m way behind on my blogging, due to lots to do! I left my position at the unnamed giant retailer that I’ve been working at since the close of the Happy Turtle. I’m now once again, working for myself as a sole-proprietor in the form of a private contractor. However, being paid much better than previously, and with the hard to quantify value of being able to work pretty much as I want. Not unobligated, you understand, but no uniform, no pretending people are right when they are wrong, that sort of thing.

Bloggery: But I’ve been wanting to post. I’ve had several ideas. Some include continuing to open cans of worms of doctrine, but I’m kind of seeing the wisdom in why even the clearest revelation of Elohim (the Mashiach) chose to hide doctrine in parables. I’ve thought of political posts, but … blech.

But during the process of this new business venture, my woman and I decided to get a vehicle, requiring a car loan. Now, I’m anti-debt in the sense that I think debt represents the symptom of generational mismanagement. I include myself in that. With a more clear thought process and vision, I could have been a land lord by now. But it’s not a sin to take on debt, especially in a country that operates contrary to Torah anyway. Debt would not be nearly so tempting if the Yovel year was kept for example.

We did decide that any debt taken on must be payable within a schmita cycle so that the lender is not left incriminated for not forgiving our debt.

So we sit down to take out this loan, and frankly, we’ve over drafted our accounts with an embarrassing frequency, mainly due to our previous business venture. Needless to say, I was joyfully astonished to find that our rating was north of 800. I felt quite good, despite how much I listen to Dave Ramsey (who I respect).

And it got me thinking. Forgive me if I brag. But, I didn’t have good credit because of a moments decision or because I scored really well on some intellectual test. I have a great credit score because I’ve lived a boring life. I’ve never had a smart phone (though that may change). I’ve never bought a TV on credit. In fact, other than a car paid off nine years ago, and credit used in the course of business, I haven’t done much of that.

The point is that I did nothing exceptional. I simply had a habit of making those boring, adult decisions in terms of finances. So it occurred to me, that here I was benefitting because I’ve been boring.

Lately, I’ve become increasingly enamored with the idea of building an estate, and leaving inheritances, etc. Listening to Dave Ramsey, watching Downton Abbey, and restoring a farm haven’t hurt that. For example, the other day I looked at getting a tractor repaired. This tractor, used, goes for $5,000. It is 60 years old. Think about that, a piece of equipment that has been used consistently and still runs 60 years after it came off the line. And we’re lucky if a car makes it 5????

The other day, I heard about how some college students are leaving college with 120,000 in loans. And I thought . . . 50,000 would get you maybe 50 acres of land. You could built a decent economical, efficiency house for 20,000 maybe. Buy a tractor for 30,000. Clear any trees (you can sell those or use them for construction or heating for a good many years), make back some extra cash. Buy a butt load of farm implements (little stuff) say another 10,000. We’re at 110,000. Get a good farm truck for delivering. There you go. You’ve now got direct income potential immediately and all of that invested is directly secured by physical collateral rather than unsecured debt.

That was just an example to say, we’re throwing money at institutions so that they can train our children how to work for someone else–and they’ll need to because of the debt. Instead of using that same money to create the ability to build more wealth independently.

I may right a book to more elaborately explain this, but essentially it comes down to something I heard years ago:

  • The poor see money for spending. That’s not a criticism, because when you have little, it has to go directly to living. But you need to be looking, mentally, to graduating to the next worldview.
  • The middle class see money for saving. That sound’s like a good idea. And it is, that means you are not simply spending because you can, you are saving for future expenses. You are looking to the future, but even that needs to be graduated beyond.
  • The rich see money for investing. How is in investing better than saving? Saving retains the surplus that you already had. It means keeping things from getting worse. Investing means making the money make more money. But, we think that investing means buying stocks and making money off of other people’s efforts. The truth is that investing is simply growing your capacity to create new wealth.

For example, I got a tax return this year, and I planned to get solar power, to cut my energy costs. But a friend told me, “At some point you cannot cut your way to wealth, you have to increase your earning.” So instead, we turned to infrastructure upgrades that would allow us to make more, like the purchase of the vehicle. Pasture fencing. A grain mill.

I’ve gotten off subject, cause it looks like I’m talking down education. I’m not. It’s great if you have a specialized purpose for knowledge that you can’t easily attain. But I do believe that most people need a better basic training at home in the form of estate vision than they do college education. I mean if you build a company and hand it down successfully to your children, you should have trained them it. That means they have the real world knowledge to run a company and they have the company and the experience, what the crap would they need the degree for? And if people viewed their family wealth like a companies wealth (net worth and each family member as a shareholder) then they could create internally growing wealth, and each generation should be able to grow without “needing” to get a mortgage worth of education to learn what frankly they could have been learning all their lives.

And they wouldn’t need to go to the bank for a vehicle loan, they would go to the family. Or maybe the congregational body.

But the main point is that all this requires is those boring choices. The simply saying save instead of spend. Buying things that make money or improve the family infrastructure more than entertain it. Buy a chain saw, not a new cell phone every year. Start paying yourself a car payment so the car gets paid for and you get the interest instead of the bank. Encourage the generations to live together so they grow in assets instead of debt.

Little boring decisions. Be the boring guy. Does that mean you won’t be as cool?

It depends when you ask the question.

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Review: “Lina’s Holy Struggle” by Gary Riner

The following is an expanded review of Gary Riner’s Lina’s Holy Struggle (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/545477), an ebook available on Smashwords.com. A condensed version can also be found on Smashwords. My intent in the expanded edition is to help writers (myself and Gary Riner included) develop their craft. This review contains mild spoilers.


The book is a story in a planned series of stories about young godly women. The main character is a sixteen-year old Iranian girl, who is a follower of Yeshua (a Christian). And normally when I say, ‘Yeshua’, and I am mentally substituting the Hebrew name for “Jesus”, because that’s how I speak. But in this case, the girl actually uses the name Yeshua. Which helps develop the tone that this is not about a western Christian girl in an exotic setting, but actually about a middle-eastern disciple in her native setting. Gary does a wonderful job throughout the story of weaving in cultural details, such that many readers will find their horizons expanded.

And even though the villains in this story are Islamists, Gary does not make all Islamists out to be villainous. The title character clearly reflects a viewpoint of trust in the truth of scripture, that Yeshua is Mashiach, and Mashiach is the way of salvation. Yet many of the Muslim characters are presented as kind, wanting to do right as they believe it, and to have compassion. 

Another thing the story does really well is to portray the plight of someone (especially a woman) who converts to trust in Mashiach in a fundamentalist Islamic culture such as Iran. Gary does this fairly . . . realistically. Early on, a Christian character is tortured for their faith, while others are tortured and killed elsewhere. Gary does a good job not softening things for the readers. And that’s a hard thing to do, but how do you tell a story about the trial of holding to the faith, without communicating how real is the struggle? Would Yeshua’s sacrifice have meant so much to us, if had lived perfectly on a deserted island and died peacefully, or too suddenly to make a choice? Isn’t the magnificence of His perfection, that He was tempted? That He saw His gruesome death coming, and chose it anyway?

Gary’s story askes us just what we would endure and still hold true to our faith. Now, I do think he pulled a few punches. A few times he left out details that would have been difficult to read, but would have made it a little more true. But, I think every believing artist has to find a balance between what is necessarily graphic or distasteful, and what is unnecessarily graphic. I mean even the Bible uses euphemisms for horrible things in some cases, and goes into scandalous detail in others.

Overall, the story is pretty good. Diverse in activity, surprising at times, stirring, even (one particular scene had me near tears). But it’s not without its flaws. What comes first to mind was inconsistency. It seems it needed another scrub. Formatting stuff: numbers that would normally have been written out were left as numbers, strange uses of quotation marks, underlining, etc. Violating convention is fine, but it’s like driving on the right side of the road. Would it work if you drove on the left side? But in the wrong country, you’ll probably get some funny looks, wild gestures, and flashing lights. Don’t break convention unless you have a good reason. This felt like the writer just didn’t know it was a convention.  

Another inconsistency is the rotating of character titles. One person can be Jane and also the banker, Mom, Sis, the short brunette, all in the same story. But whichever title you use in a particular place, that title should have meaning beyond simply variety of word choice. For example, if I wanted to have some variety, and I had a scene where Jane was trying to turn on a light by pulling a string hanging from the ceiling, I might say, “The short brunette tried and tried, but that string waved just out of reach, silently saying ‘Neener, neener, neener.’” The title choice is relevant and descriptive. You wouldn’t have Jane nuking a burrito in the microwave in a home-life developing scene, and write, “The banker watched the burrito swell as if it would explode.” Her being a banker is irrelevant. So I think Gary could have done better in many cases (especially when referring to God), simply by referring to the characters by name or simply by pronoun when it was clear.

Besides uneven formatting and presentation choices, the main character comes off uneven. There’s a moral dilemma early on, the solution to which, left me aghast. But honestly, that was because I was expecting something more Hollywood. So kudos to Gary for not going that route. That’s one of his strengths. From that choice, Lina goes down a morally offensive path toward ‘redemption’; it’s Lina’s Holy Struggle, after all. But along her struggle, she is eventually hit by a bus—spiritually speaking. Afterwards she becomes a completely different person.

Now the event is of such magnitude that one would expect changes, but it felt like at that point that she became a full-time evangelist. Fine, great! But the annoying kind. The one who turns a conversation about pancakes into, whether you’ll go to hell if you choke on said pancake. Far be it from me to discourage anyone from sharing the Glad Tidings, but there’s a reason those people are annoying. It annoys me, I think, because for one its conversational hijacking. But also because the hijacking says the pancake itself has no value. Normal life events have no value. It devalues the very life of a person. Why would I listen to you if you’ve just told me the normal joys of my life have no meaning? Beyond being a turn-off, it doesn’t even make sense because we know it is God’s goodness that leads men to repentance. Rather than lowering the pancake, we should be elevating it. Ignoring basic goodness in life, makes it seem like the only moments that count are those that are printed with scripture and explicit gospel priming. Didn’t Yeshua point to birds to make a point? That would only work if you paid attention to the birds. What did YHVH say to Job when He made His appeareance? Did He say, “What if you choked on a pancake…?” No, He pointed to creation again and again and again. Why? The presumption is that life itself teaches us truth. The pancake’s innate buttery, fluffy goodness is innately telling us something; you either have ears to hear or you don’t.

So the main character becomes this kind of person. Of course, those people exist. I’d even daresay that most of the best believers probably are tempted by that pattern of behavior. I mean, if you grasp the fullness of what it is to be in a loving relationship with the Elohim of elohim, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth–from an intellectual standpoint–everything else seems like a distraction. So it’s perfectly, possible and realistic that, after such a traumatic event, Lina would become like this.  

Then what are the grounds for criticism? I think the problem is that Gary doesn’t show us the inside that justifies this shift. Early in the story Lina makes a decision that I found reprehensible, but the display of her inner workings made me see that it was hard to imagine how she might have avoided that decision. I understood—however I might have disagreed. In the later case, I saw a vacuum of normal reaction. As if Lina was actually some kind of impossible, robotic believer. Why did she not react to being nearly killed? Someone is trying to help her, and she just brushes aside their best efforts and condemns them for not being a believer, why doesn’t she see how unreasonable she’s being? Why don’t any of her believing friends say, “Hey, girl, you’re being a jerk.”  

I think that was where the story had the most potential to be improved, by letting Lina mature and become a powerful saintly figure, but while maintaining her humanity. Or else showing us that she was immature, but it was coming out of an honest internal process. 

One related area. Lina’s later shift, I inferred to be Gary focusing on delivering a specific message, rather than allowing the characters freedom to tell that message through who they were. So, being focused on the message, Gary passes up avenues for better story telling (IMO). For example, there was a scene where Lina goes to a pool. Now being an Iranian girl growing up with strict modesty standards, she’s had quite a culture shock moving to Isra’el which is mostly secular and therefore not concerned with modesty. So being at this pool, wearing something she never would have in the past, surrounded by others even more “scantily” attired, that could have had an influence. Someone might have seen her discomfort. Showing some scarring from a recent event, could have given her more difficulty. Thinking about a recent near death could have been a factor. Point being, lots of things could move the story on a personal level. Some of these are mentioned in passing, but the whole scene lasts a paragraph or two and concludes with Lina again talking about Yeshua to some people (who we only meet by summary). When I read that I concluded: that scene only existed so we could see that doors are opening for her to share. And because of that sense of the scene’s singular purpose, it felt like empty calories.

The “magic” of a story comes in hiding the structure. Why? Probably because living our lives, our own stories don’t seem to have structure. It’s like a magician’s tricks don’t work unless, he can distract you with the show. So how could Gary have worked this better? Stories have structure. In fact I would say, my poorest writing is when I’m just wandering without structure; failing to ask myself, “What does this scene have to do with the story?” Focus on the “reason” for each scene helps cut out a bunch of superfluous wordery. But once the reason for a scene is identified, then you have to add in the ‘superfluous’ details: the magician’s distractions. You fog it up. Hiding what the reason for the scene was, so the astute reader will afterward think . . . “Oh, that happened because of . . . ”  And that realization may never reach the conscious level; Kudos if it doesn’t! The reader shouldn’t know why something worked, they should simply sense that it does.

A great example is watching Castle or The Flash and watch the way the show explains things. A character will begin to say something, but then a question will come up. In the worst cases, the question is so obvious no thinking person would ever ask it. But then another person will dramatically enter the conversation to supply the answer. This ‘works’ because it makes the dialogue become a conversation with flare instead of a monologue. Usually, the person who supplies the answer will also begin to answer from off camera. As if they just rolled up, figured out the conversation, anticipated the question, and supplied the answer before there could be real-life dullness. It keeps the story moving, makes it kinetic. The only problem is when (like in Castle) you do it multiple times in every episode, usually with the same characters. Once you see the technique it just becomes annoying.

“Really? You couldn’t have explained that all where you were? How is it that you always begin your complicated explanation away from the computer screen with all the answers? What? Did they find you in the break room and started to ask you there instead of beginning the conversation at your work station?”

In a later blog, I intend to lampoon the abuse of these techniques, but when used right, these add those ‘distractions’ that hide the seams. And they aren’t just distractions. They are life. If you think of your life in terms of a list of items, actions, etc. It becomes boring, very very very boring. “What did I do today? Well . . . I got up. And I had breakfast. I went to work. Then went to the gym. Came home. Ate again. Melted my brain with The Voice and went to bed.” I got bored just writing that. It seems like nothing happened at all. But that ignores all the bounty of the life YHVH has given us. The way those pancakes tasted. That crisp breeze that slapped your face and antagonized you until you got in your car, feeling the cold of the seat grab you through your clothes. The funny dance you did to stay warm while the car defrosted.

Good writing needs to include those little details, because it is the little details that fill out the story and make a scene that was only ‘there for a reason’ into a scene with a reason in it. And in the best cases, this shouldn’t just be details hiding a reason, it should be two or three reasons. In the scenes where it works, characters are doing things, interacting with others, and giving exposition all at the same time. If Lina needs to be seen sharing, that’s great. Send her to the pool, but have her do something else in the same trip.

Conclusion: The premise is interesting; timely and relevant might be better descriptors. Gary writes a story that has a lot of pull, but suffers from rough patches in formatting, and more so a message getting in the way of the story. Again, the message is not the problem, but the delivery gets in the way of the story, making both feel artificial and unrelated. But that problem doesn’t really surface until the last third or so, and even then Gary shows some good scenes and ironic twists. 

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Presidential Candidates 9: Oh Forget It

To recap . . .

Oh forget it. I’ve tried, but the more I read, the less I care about this political process. I really like/liked Ben Carson, but even he is tainted as  I see more and more that the internet just doesn’t provide the information to find out if any of these guys are qualified.

You can’t trust the media because they’re all agenda driven, without any of them looking through the prizm of Elohim’s words. When they say someone is pro-life, you’re not sure what they mean. When Factcheck says Obama tells 75% half-truth or better and Hillary 71% or better, you’re left scratching your head about what standard these guys are using. And how do you begin to define who is covetous?

You just can’t tell because not enough is known about any of these guys really. You don’t know them (and that was one of the key qualities of the judges and kings: they were supposed to be known). You know some hand-picked soundbites, answers given to controlled leading/suggesting/implicating questions. Answers given so as to avoid a minefield if implications that will offend this base or that base, or the unicorn-like independent voters.

The whole process is just crap. What should the process be like? Have people tell us stories about the candidates, and than look for corroborating evidence. Like I would in an investigation. “Oh, so when you said ‘___’, I’m not sure that was true. Where did you learn that from? What music was playing in the background? Was that a Tuesday?” It’s those unrelated details that can be verified which lend credence to the narrative.

The bottomline is we don’t have a context of trust or distrust through which to view the claims and promises of the candidates. All we’re left with is emotional, jedi-mindtricks. “Oh this candidate made me angry about things I was already angry about! They’re the one for me!”

“This candidate made me cry about things I was already sad about, she really gets me!”

“This candidate said in vague terms that they were against what I was against; I like their conviction.”

Maybe this is a rant. Maybe it’s political verbal vomit brought on by the sickness that is a political process in a vacuum of morality or shared spiritual identity. Or maybe, I’m just up too late at night.

Either way, I’m gonna end this series. I’ll probably land on some candidate (who  will undoubtedly be eliminated in the primaries), but I’m not going to waste any more blog time on this.

Just remember for yourself:

Elohim told us how to pick leaders: They should be brothers (they call the God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov, their God). They should be able (able to lead, to move others by going-out and coming-in in front of the community). God-fearing (not perfect, but wanting, not just to ‘do good’ but to do the will of Elohim). Truthful (not maybe saying something that could be true or untrue, but seen to be truthful). And hating covetousness (or dishonest gain).

May Elohim give us wisdom to find a good candidate, and to have shalom if we can’t.

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A Journey of Calendars

If you’ve been studying “Messianic Judaism” or “Hebraic Roots” for long, you’ve probably realized there are differences in how to figure out what day to celebrate the Mo’edim (the appointed times/feasts).

…I have the feeling I’ve written this blog before…

When I first started in my journey, I simply accepted the predominant calendar, which seems to be the rabbinic one, which seems to have been handed down by the Pharasees. But over time, I came to distrust the Rabbis. I found points that I disagreed with them on. Such as whether Pesach is the evening of the 14th vs. the latter end of the 14th going into the 15th as they say. Does the counting of the Omer begin after the first of Matzah convocation or after the weekly Shabbat? Things like that.

Like many sincere disciples (and I think this is a good thing), I started to say, I don’t want to be bound by man-made traditions (which I still hold to . . . but with more nuance).

So I started editing my personal view of the calendar. I noticed some Hebrew calendars didn’t even start on the same day as others? Which lead to the question of when does the month start? It seems to be lunar, but what is the New Moon? Is it the first sliver? Is it the dark of conjunction? What if you don’t see it at all for days because of whether? Do you start counting when you see it or can you calculate it? If you can calculate it why look at all?

And when does the year even start? Scripture says Aviv, but what if you have 13 versus 12 months? Does barley have to be ripening? How did the Isra’el keep Aviv in the desert then when they weren’t growing any barley for 40 years?

And then you get into even harder questions where “Lunar Sabbatarians” suggest that the seventh day isn’t the Shabbat at all, but rather the Shabbat floats based on the cycle of the moon. Oh vey!

But the more I study, the more I think . . .

YHVH never told us whether it was the crescent of the moon or the dark. Or whether it had to be cited or calculated . . . He kind of left that up to us. And why is that so surprising? Didn’t He leave the naming of every species to Adom? He told Adom to tend the garden, but did He tell him how high to let the grass grow? Are there clues? Patterns we see in scripture? Sure. But just because Elohim had Isra’el walk around a city, doesn’t mean that every battle needs to start that way.

The Rosh Chodesh is a good example of that (translated as new moon but actually simple means “head of the new” or “first of the rebuilding” which is interpreted with wide consensus to refer to the moon’s rebuilding). The name tells us that it’s a time related to a rebuilding of something, tradition tell us that that it’s the moon that is rebuilding, and we can see that as we watch the phases pass through the sky.

Rosh HaShanah is like that too, by that I mean the one in Aviv. Aviv means green, naturally we would assume that its a month when things are turning green, whether that’s barley specific? That make sense because in the Shemot (Exodus) account we are told the Barley was up and smitten sometime before the 7th of Aviv. But with a time frame like that, one might conclude that the barley was well underway and perhaps somewhat green before Aviv.

The point is these descriptors give us frameworks, but the exact details may not be so clear. And what’s wrong with that? For example, I think the case against the so-called Lunar Sabbath is pretty concrete. B’resheit tells us that Elohim counted 4 days before there was a moon at all. The days up to that point are counted on the basis of a series of evenings and mornings, not moon phases. And when the moon did come, the Shabbat would have been on the third day, not the 8/15/22/29 as the more prevalent theories propose. And suppose He had it start not at New Moon to accommodate it’s late arrival? The only Shabbat pattern He showed us in B’resheit is the 7th day Shabbat, not the 8/15/etc plus the ‘fudge factor’ at the end of the chodesh due to the month not being evenly divisible by seven. Add to that the fact that YHVH specifically differentiates His feasts that do come on specific/certain days of the Chodesh and contrasting with Shabbat where no such specificity is given, and it seems pretty clear that Shabbat has been preserved by Isra’el uninterrupted since Moshe. And that’s before we look at all of the explicit impossibilities (like how you can’t have 50 days made of 7 Shabbats plus one with a lunar Sabbath cycle), or the considerable historical evidence that it was never this way.

Anyway, back to my journey. So our home fellowship is looking to get one calendar that we can agree on. Not because we’re so divided or because we want everyone to walk in lock step, but how can you have community when you can’t agree on which day is Kadosh and which is ordinary? You simply can’t function that way. How can we admonish each other to keep Torah if we each think we’re breaking Torah while professing to keep it?

So we’re trying to get a calendar together. And being the motivated and somewhat arrogant person I am, I start to hammer one out. It’s pretty good-looking if you ask me. In big print it gives the cycle of months as named in scripture. A little explanation for the name and what the month is about. But beyond that, I found as for the real mechanics . . . I kind of was reinventing the wheel.

To keep Aviv from slipping into the wrong season, I went with the popular advice to simply put Aviv as the first Rosh Chodesh after the vernal equinox. It seems like a good idea because while the months are lunar, the Biblical years seems to be solar. But then . . . how is that different than the Rabbinical calendar that adds a leap month every so many years to do the same thing?

The Bible also seems to put forth the idea that months are supposed to be 30 days long (you can see this in Noach’s 5 30-day months or Daniel’s prophecies). Some suggest this can only be fixed when YHVH restores the timing of the Heavens that has been modified by various miracles and calamities. Others have suggested counting the first day as zero so that you end up with 30 even though there’s 29.

If that last part sounds crazy, I don’t any way to say it so it sounds better. “Wait, we’ll count 0-29 because the first day doesn’t really count, but we’ll count the zero as if it is something so that we end up with 30 somethings . . . even though we’re counting to 29. Why don’t we just count to 30 starting with 1, like we would with any other item?”

But that 29 = 30 idea is really an attempt to solve this problem that lunar months aren’t 30 days, but they’re supposed to be! I had my own eloquent solution. Since I’ve heard in Hebraic thought that part of a day counts for a day, and since in some cases (like the counting of the Yovel/Jubilee years) the first is also the last (the Yovel year is really also the first year of a new count) . . . couldn’t that indicate that the last half day of a lunar month really counts as a full day so that 29.5 is really 30!

I was really excited because the idea seems so brilliant and poetic! That’s right I just solved this huge problem sitting behind my computer.

But then it slowly dawned on me. Those half-day fudges would solve the problem if they were only one day out of a month . . . but if the last day is also the first day then I’m really taking two half-days out of each month which means 30 = 29! AAARRRGRGRG!

So then I thought, ok. Just make one month have an unshared 1st day and then share on the back end, and then repeat that pattern with the month after. So you’d have in reality 29.5 counted as 30, then 29.5 counted as 30. Sounds good, but then which months are the unshared versus the shared? And then the other shoe fell. All this gymnastics accomplishes the exact same thing that the rabbinic 30-29 alternating month setup does.

So that brings me up to the present. For all my effort, all I’ve managed to do is change the look of the rabbinic calendar. And as far as I can tell, with the exception of the lunar-Sabbath model (which simply displaces the Shabbat), that’s all any of these calendars do. So I’m back where I started, thinking what’s so wrong with the Rabbinic model?

What have we gained for all this tusseling, trying to replace a model that we then recreate? Do we really think YHVH is less honored by the traditional calendar which makes a good-reasonable attempt to keep the Mitzvot, than by each congregation and family and individual coming up with a private calendar that they are dead certain is THE way YHVH wants it done? Even though He never gave us the specifics on how to do it?

Or is it perhaps that He gave us the framework and simply trusted us to express it in community and that the precise details weren’t so important?


Tell me, did Elohim tell the Kohen what kind of knife to use for the ritual slaughter? If He did that would have been in oral tradition. Did He say exactly what constituted evening? Did He tell Noach how to build the ark, step by step? Which board to use? Which hammer? Why is it so hard to believe, YHVH simply wanted us to use a little bit of collective human reason and compromise? Is He too small to have accounted for what we might do?

Heaven forbid.

Let’s stop freaking out about the ‘precise’ way of the calendar and try to just get on the same one with anyone who is trying to just follow the Torah. You make your case, that person will make theirs, and lets simply vote and stop worrying if we got it perfect. YHVH knows what we meant to do.

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Wrestling Mashiach and Deity

Returning to the Hebraic roots of the faith called Christianity, I found over and over again that many unquestioned doctrines of the church seemed in fact to be shaded by paganism and rejection of Torah. But most didn’t seem to have much impact for good anyway, so it wasn’t hard changing my mind.

So what if hell wasn’t the way Evangelicals feared? If it were what they thought, why did YHVH seem to have so little concern about it for 3-4000 years of scripture?

So what if the trinity wasn’t really in scripture? It does seem a stretch to take a handful of verses in such dangerous proximity to the explicitly stated, “YHVH is one” of the Shema, and I still can’t see anyway that if affected my walk for the better?

But lately, I’ve been facing a very dear doctrine: the Deity of Yeshua HaMashiach. Is the Mashiach God?

My Christian upbringing, verses of scripture, and fear of the expectations of brothers and sisters whom I respect, have all said, “Yes! Mashiach is Elohim!”

But the voice inside says . . . “Or is that just another pagan manifestation? Didn’t the Sumerians believe that god became flesh? Didn’t the Greeks? Didn’t the Egyptians?” And verses of scripture seem to be as clear that Mashiach cannot be Elohim. If Mashiach is Elohim how can Elohim know what Elohim does not know as Yeshua seems not to know the day of His return while the Father does? If Yeshua is Elohim, how can Elohim turn His back on Elohim as it is taught that happened at the cross? To a Christian, those seem easily remedied by saying it’s a paradox, and theoretically that would be an answer. But that quick answer ignores the gravity of the greatest commandment of scripture:

Mar 12:29  And Yeshua answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear [listen attentively so you can obey], O Israel; YHVH Elohenu is one YHVH:

Is there a compound-unity possibility in echad? Yes, but the far more prevalent use is echad = one. When YHVH had made light, and there was evening and morning, was it many mornings together (echad)? Or day one? When YHVH gathered the seas together into (echad) place, was that many places together or one place? When YHVH taught us that the man and the woman shall be echad, did He mean many or one?

Alright all of those could be understood as multiples. Plural unities. Certainly a man and a woman (since they remain a man and a woman) are a plural unity. That point is conceded, but in that we miss that they are treated as one! So even if YHVH is plural (as Elohim suggests), He is indivisible. We are not allowed to believe in divisions within Him. That is why I cannot embrace the trinity.

So since YHVH is indivisibly echad, how can an indivisible One turn His back on Himself? I suggest, the Aramaic reading for the passages on the cross. Not Yeshua crying, “Elohenu, Elohenu, why have you forsaken me?”, but as the Peshitta records it “Elohenu, Elohenu, for this cause have you spared me.” No division; we see a Mashiach who trusts His destiny in the hands of the Father.

But what about the other? How can Elohim not know what Elohim is doing or going to do? That is harder to reconcile that the cross’s seeming abandonment. And beyond that, how do you deal with Heb 10:5? “A body hast though prepared…” or Col 1:15 “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:”, who was called the Image of Elohim? Adam, a created being. YHVH certainly cannot be created.

So what do we know, thus far? Elohim cannot be divided. And Elohim cannot be created. Yeshua showed distinction/separation from the Father, and Yeshua is created:

Heb 2:16-17  For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham [which were both created things] . . . made like unto his brethren . . .

I put to you that Yeshua cannot be Elohim. Yeshua is a man, the image of YHVH, not YHVH himself.

But . . .

What about the other verses? I’ll skip of 1 Timothy 3:16, “…God was manifest in the flesh . . .” because again the Peshitta (Aramaic “New Testament”) gives a different reading and I’m inclined to trust it over the greek.

But what about Yochanon (John) 1? The famous verses every Sparky learned, “The word was in the beginning with God and the word was God”? Rather than trying to unravel the later writings, let us go back toward the beginning. None of the angels bear the name of YHVH. They bear His title Gabri-el, Micha-el, Rapha-el. But in Shemot 23:21, speaking of a Malak/angel or dispatch, YHVH said “My name is in Him.” Yeshua does have the letters of YHVH in His name. So YHVH has set some particular being (who is not YHVH Himself–in some understanding) apart from any other.

Another powerful verse, Yermiyahu 23:5-6 clearly speak of Mashiach, a branch of David who shall be called “YHVH tzidekenu” “YHVH our Righteousness.” Who is worthy to bear the name that is HaShem?

I believe the answer comes from Yeshiyahu 53:1 “Who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of YHVH revealed?” The one who is the Arm of YHVH is clearly shown to be Mashiach, the suffering servant at His first appearing.  The is an interesting title for Mashiach when you consider what you see the Arm doing throughout scripture.

When you consider that Hebrew is a very concrete, very picturesque language, the “Arm” tells us a lot about Mashiach. For example, if you pinch my arm, you are pinching me, but my arm isn’t a person. My arm can be cut off and die, without me dying. From this we see that Yeshua as part of YHVH could indeed be “separated” from YHVH and be “pierced” as the Psalms say, without it being that YHVH Himself could somehow be killed like a mortal (which is a major objection raised by the unbelieving among the Jews). But even in that separation, the arm is not feeling its separation; it is the core that feels the loss of the part. Thus the Mashiach would not be saying, “Why have you forsake me?” Separated from YHVH, He would be silent and powerless. It would not be like two persons divided, but like a person separated from a limb.

This could clarify what happened when Mashiach died. Elohim was not separated from himself, it was rather that a part died and was raised again. Perhaps Yeshua (the man) became only human upon the cross? Suffering the separation that Adam endured, but without sin.

It also shows that I can know something that my arm does not, but my arm cannot know what I do not. If my arm touches something hot, I know it. If I know that my hand cannot punch through an object in front of it, my arm does not know that.

In a sense what we see is that the arm is me, but the not the fullness of me. But what of Colossians 2:9, how does the fullness of the godhead dwell bodily? Well, my life is not contained within my arm. But in a sense, my fullness does live in my arm. For one, every cell of my arm contains the code of the rest of me (just different parts are on/off). But also, what does my arm do? What the rest of me decides. My arm lives because my heart beats (though not inside my arm). My arm receives oxygen, but not because my lungs are in my arm. My arm stands about a meter and a half off the ground, not because it flies, but because that’s the height of my shoulders atop my torso atop my pelvis atop my so-on. So my arm does embody or manifest all that is me.

So what does all this mean for Mashiach? Have I just shown that the Christian doctrine of the ‘hypostatic’ (god-man) union is correct? In a sense, no, in another yes. The standard doctrine seems wrong in that Yeshua’s humanity is downplayed. Yeshua is a man, therefore created, therefore not Elohim. But He is the Image of all that is YHVH. He is the manifestation of it. So where Yeshua is, YHVH is through Yeshua. A brother once suggested to me that just being the bearer of the message does not make you the same as the message giver. But again I’d say, if you pinch my arm, you pinch me. If Mashiach is the arm of YHVH, then to pierce Mashiach is to pierce YHVH.

Now we could get lost in this theological minutia . . . but what difference does it make to say Yeshua is YHVH versus Yeshua is the Arm of YHVH which is the manifestation of YHVH through a man (His Image) which is countable as YHVH Himself?

For one, it removes the dangerous idea of some ‘other elohim’, the appearance that we are polytheists who worship three (or even two) gods. The arm of YHVH is definitely not another ‘person.’ My arm has no identity apart from me. It only is MY arm because it’s doing my will.

But another difference is the implication for us. If Yeshua is YHVH as some kind of ‘eternally distinct’ being as many churchs teach (is your arm eternally distinct? No, divided from the body it dies), then we are eternal spectators, watching the work of Yeshua. But if Yeshua is a man . . . and yet the fullness of YHVH manifests through Him, then “Mashiach in you, the hope of glory” has a whole new meaning. If Yeshua is the first fruits, then the latter fruit will look like the first fruit. If YHVH can manifest through Yeshua, He can do it through you.

The fact that Yeshua is fully human, implies a connection to humans. And in that is the implication that we ought to follow in our master’s footprints.




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2016 Presidential Candidates 8: Jeb Bush

Recap of the ongoing series: Politics is unimportant of itself, but Torah does give us instructions on how to pick leaders, so we should look to follow, not look to ignore.

I’ve been basing my conclusions on the following:

1) The president must be a brother. Devarim/Deuteronomy 17:15 says when we set up a king, he is to be someone whom YHVH chooses. He is to be a brother (or by interpretation sister), and not a foreigner. I take this to mean not a blood brother, but someone who has the same Father, namely YHVH.

2) A judge ought to be able, god-fearing, truthful, and hating covetousness/dishonest gain (Exodus 18:21). This is fairly straight forward, but I note that it doesn’t say “knowing Torah”. These characteristics when confronted with truth found in Torah would be inclined to obey it, but there have been god-fearing truthful people in scripture who did not know Torah. David and Yoshiyahu, for example.

Since the Torah gives us qualities to seek, judging fruit is an obvious necessity. This is not to say that I presume to know a soul’s destiny, but YHVH expects us to act upon what we know, not what we can’t know. Conclusions so far, based on a command to find POSITIVE evidence of each quality?

***Current Candidate***

Jeb Bush(R)

Brotherhood? On CBN news (http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2015/October/Jeb-Bush-on-Faith-Government-and-His-Campaign-Shake-up/), Bush says that he was raised Episcopalian, but then makes a distinction: “And I started reading the Bible, and I think it was like, Romans. I got about to there and I realized Jesus was my savior, and I accepted Him in the late 1980s.” I really appreciate specificity. Not a it-can-be-whatever-you-read-into-it faith. On the other hand, the critical hand (I guess that would be the left hand?), I note that he said this in a Christian forum to Pat Robertson. It would be more impressive to a ‘secular’ source.

More ‘secular’, in the Nytimes (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/18/us/politics/jeb-bush-20-years-after-conversion-is-guided-by-his-catholic-faith.html), Jeb is quoted openly saying that he thinks faith should be a guide for how one views public policies. In the 90′s he made several attempts to restrict abortion. In 2007, responding to criticisms aimed at those who try to “impose” their faith on others, he said, “Well, it’s not an imposition of faith. It’s who you are.” And like GW, he was a “champion” for faith/religion based services.

His decision to ‘convert’ from Protestantism to Catholocism  came after a political defeat in running for the governorship. On the one hand, seeking God after a defeat is a right expression of faith; on the other hand, I presume that Florida with its higher Hispanic population is probably also higher in Catholics. Does that mean it was insincere? No, but it’s worth noting.

Conclusion: there does seem to be substantial evidence that Jeb Bush is a brother.

Able? He’s a two-term governor of a large and diverse state. I think that’s some evidence that he’s able.

God-fearing? According to ontheissues.org (http://www.ontheissues.org/Jeb_Bush.htm), Jeb is okay with abortion when the life of the mother is at stake. I’d disagree on that, as I’ve argued before, but it does show some limits, a “reasonable” limit even if wrong. On the other hand, he doesn’t see defunding the nations largest abortion provider as worth “shutting down” the government. He also believes in “respecting” committed gay couples, but not recognizing marriage.

At a faith and freedom conference, the Christian Post quoted Jeb (http://www.christianpost.com/news/jeb-bush-christian-faith-should-influence-policies-we-must-put-most-vulnerable-at-the-front-of-the-line-140637/) tying many of his previous reforms (bans on partial birth abortion, and other pro-life items) and respecting of “Christian conscience” over “traditional marriage” as coming out of his faith. On the one hand, in terms of words, he is showing the link between what he believes and what he has enacted. On the other hand, where has he been particularly bold? Which of those policies were particularly controversial, and not fairly easily pegged to wanting to win voters? How many people are openly for partial birth abortion? How many openly want 13 year olds to get abortions without parental notification? He’s not taking much of a risk.

My point with that last comment is that godliness isn’t about the result and tallying a score of how many things this person “gets right”. Those are only indicators. Godliness is living a certain way because that is how Elohim lives. So the question is, does Jeb Bush govern the way he does because it’s how Elohim would, or because its how the voters like?

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt (at the moment) because he does say unpopular things on religious grounds. But I can only find some evidence that he’s godly.

Truthful? Politifact (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2015/jun/12/jeb-bush-truth-o-meter-2/), which for perspective I will re-quote myself from the Ben Carson analysis:

Ben Carson’s half-true to True at only 19% of the time. To put that in perspective, Hillary gets 71%, Bernie Sanders also 71%, and Trump gets 17%, and Rick Santorum 44%. Now, I’m not saying those numbers are slanted (really, who believes Hillary is telling some majority of truth 71% of the time?) . . .

Or even more telling, President Obama’s rating of half-true to True is 75%. So keep that in mind when Jeb Bush comes in at 70%. Pretty good for a republican on politifact. But Jeb is also seen as the moderate republican, in other words perceived as the most democratic-like republican. In fact, 538 (whoever they are?)(http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/jeb-bush-president-republican-primary-2016/) has an interesting anaylsis of where candidates stand on the basis of voting records, compared with who funds them, and what they say publically. In their anaylsis, Jeb is funded by those who are less conservative, and that his public statements are more conservative. That is a warning to me. So what ‘lies’ is Jeb guilty of?

  • He tells an anecdotal story about Obama’s lack of invitations to Republicans for dinner
  • Under his tax plan the biggest break would go to the middle-class if the “wealthy” used the standard deduction instead of itemizing, but most of the “wealthy” will itemize
  • Playing fast and loose with a claim on tuition rates

So the same kind of ‘lies’ as we’ve seen before. Items that could be true or false, mostly, depending on what you assume the person believed. However, even the less than impartial politifact rates him as fairly honest. Conclusion: Some evidence that he is truthful.

Hates covetousness? According to the Miami Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/elections-2016/jeb-bush/article26004640.html) Jeb and his wife, gave between 1.5 to less than 3% of their grosses. In comparison, Carly Fiorina (R) gave between 13-15% in recent years, the Clintons and the Obamas gave between 15-33% (depending if you count their own foundations). Interesting note the Herald also notes that with the Clintons and Obamas (as well as Jeb) went up as they approached elections. Jeb’s has about doubled, Obama’s was even lower (1.2%) than Jeb’s before rising after 2004. The Clinton’s also 1.2% before rising to about 14% in 2007.

Hmm… If someone is changing their giving because they realized how stingy they were being, that would be showing their faith . . . if they’re doing it because it makes them electable . . . that shows they really don’t see a reason to give away “their” income. That sounds like covetousness to me. And really, you’re going from 1,2% to maybe 3% (if his income hasn’t increased). That’s pretty stingy. Since I’m supposed to look for evidence of hating covetousness. I’m afraid, Jeb fails that in my assessment. Conclusion: no evidence that he hates covetousness.

Conclusion: No vote.

***Past Candidates***

Ben Carson (R): Substantial evidence he is a brother. Some evidence that he is able to lead/do the job. Substantial evidence he is god-fearing. Some evidence that he is truthful. Some evidence that he hates covetousness. Conclusion: possible vote.

Donald Trump (R), Jim Webb (D), Martin O’Malley (D), Lawrence Lessig (D), Lincoln Chaffee (D), Hillary Clinton (D), Bernie Sanders (D): No vote for a variety of reasons, mostly lacking evidence of brotherhood or godliness. 


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Backwards Looking Thoughts and the Search for Avraham

Finally finished Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy and wanted to take a break from the political series to talk about it.

Mainly, I just wanted to take a break from studying candidates.

Looking Backwards is a utopian delusion that gave me a headache and took a year to slog through. Synopsis: man from the 1800 falls asleep with drugs and hypnosis inside a vault and wakes up in the year 2000. Why’d I do it? Well, it was in my personal library and I’d been made to pay for it in college. So I figure, why not pay for it again?

But why talk about it? Do I want to spend 500 words mocking the idea that mass production could accommodate the infinite human spectrum of taste? Do I want to relive the nasally sounding condescension of the future inhabitants mocking their cavemen like ancestors even while they proclaim that the only reason their ancestors were so stupid was because of the environment? Do I want to lampoon the obvious problem that in 200+ pages the author could not describe how to get from the ancestral dystopia to the future utopia, other than just to say it happened?

No. As much cathartic fun as that would be, no. But believe  it or not, as much as I wanted to slap the author around, the story did push me to give up my conservative political leanings and cause me to actually ask, what does Elohim’s nation look like? So reading, I noted a couple of interesting things.

1) The author gives a very good appraisal of the problems of capitalism and the free market. The disregarding of the welfare of neighbor and brother inherent in a competitive system. The competitive trap of hoping for a rival’s failure. Using your energy to make it happen. Pushing merchandise and service because you have to sell, nevermind whether its actually good for the buyer. The way Bellamy put it, it really was hard to see how anyone could not see the problems, especially for those disciples of Yeshua. How could we not see that any system that tempts us to come against our neighbor and brother is automatically wrong?

2) Bellamy has no solution. As the story progresses (which is really the future guys lecturing the 19th century guy because he is like an amoeba to them), time and again, the reader is told that the year 2000′s system is nothing like before, having no money for example and no banks. But they do have credits and someone to keep track of the credits. People in the alternate future are no longer motivated by money . . . but since not everyone pulls their share do have systems of honor. And the more honorable (read that useful to the nation) get better career options, more fame, and better women . . . but that won’t create envy like money, fame, and women do now.

The more Bellamy tried to reinvent the world, the more he reinvented the same one.

But the big idea, the one that left me scratching my head, was that I could see the advantages of his system overall. Besides the injustice of our present system, he makes a very good argument based on the military. In short, no one sends a mob to fight a well trained army. He argues, why then do you have a mob execute the industries/economy of the nation? It is obvious (myself speaking) that the military, what it is supposed to do, it does very effectively because there isn’t a lot of choice. The PFC’s lack of choice in which hill to fight for, or the bomber pilot’s lack of choice about which bunker to obliderate, streamlines everything. The economy of scale allowing the purchase of a hundred thousand rifles, a thousand planes, and a million bullets and bombs is what makes it so versatile and effective. True, the modern military is learning that autonomy of smaller units allows for a more flexible and quick fighting force, but even these do not decide their missions alone.

I’m forced to say yes, our industries as a whole, would run smoother, our goods be cheaper, our employment better, and all the outlying affected systems (like law enforcement) improved by a more industrious working populace.

But do I see that in the Torah? In a dozen ways no. Elohim gave control of most of the nations resources to families. Now, Isra’el was coming out of Egypt where the Pharoah/government owned everything. They were all slaves, and you can tell by their failings that they still thought as slaves.  Ready to be directed as long as they were provided for. Why then does YHVH take that fertile slave-mentality ground and undo it, by giving property to each family? Why does He create an army organization, where people can refuse to fight for almost any reason? Why does He put judges over communities, but not a national leader when Moshe was already filling that position? Who would be replaced by Y’hoshua, another national leader, who then gives command away to tribal and municipal judges? Why does YHVH count it a rejection of Him in 1 Sh’mu’el when Isra’el chooses a king for the purpose of directing them?

The only conclusion, I can come up with is that YHVH values relationship with Him, over efficiency of system. That a live-line with Him is better than a system of bureaucrats even if they can churn out cheap abundant goods for everyone.

But it’s not that simple. Because He did give property to families. And what mitzvoth goes with that? “Honor thy Father and thy mother . . . fear thy Mother and thy Father. . . ” (Shemot 20:12/Vayikra 19:3). We could debate what this means, but does it honor your father to disregard the vision they have for the family? Does it show fear for your mother to take the resources she saved for you and squander them? Look at Yitzchak, a forty year old guy who allows his father to arrange his marriage. Ya’akov also accepted Yitzchak’s charge to take a wife from a certain place. The sons of Ya’akov went to Egypt for food on the instruction of their father. Yirmeyahu 35 tells about the sons of Yehonadav who on his command continued to not drink wine, and YHVH blessed them because they obeyed him, many years later as adults.

As far as I can see in scripture, the requirement to obey your Father and Mother continues until they release you, or they ask you to do something contrary to YHVH. If that is the case, then the parents are supposed to still shepherd the family regardless of whether their children have become adults. If that is the case, then while the government may have no authority to direct our lives from cradle to grave, wouldn’t we have to admit that a godly father does?

I used to think this was a terrible prospect, but the older I’ve gotten, the more I would like someone, older, wiser, and godly, to tell me what to do so long as like a father they are willing to also provide what they can to help. I’m not talking about a long-lost deadbeat dad coming into the picture and rearranging the life of a successful son or daughter. I’m talking about a father whose been there all along, who shows that relationship with Elohim and has invested and continues to invest.

I know I’m not alone because that’s essentially what someone told me just a week ago. We’re searching  for our Avraham. Someone who will show that leadership. Can you simply adopt someone? I don’t know, they might have those qualities, but can they just adopt someone to invest in? Well I’m seeing it happen in our home fellowship. I find myself in a group of mostly people who are older than me (the exception being my wife and children), and all of them are giving of their resources financial, physical, and spiritual.

I guess, I’m not really saying anything, other than observing in a rambling route. Maybe, the only advice I can think of is, that the young of my generation and younger, who are used to associating with ‘peers’, should start cultivating relationships with elders. Maybe they can’t be a ‘father’, but maybe you’ll be surprised at the direction they can give. Maybe they can’t give you a vision, but maybe they can help you shape yours.

If nothing else, don’t forget if you want your children to honor you when they are older, you need to show them how to do it now.


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2016 Presidential Candidates 7: Ben Carson

Recap of the ongoing series: Politics is unimportant of itself, but Torah does give us instructions on how to pick leaders, so we should look to follow, not look to ignore.

I’ve been basing my conclusions on the following:

1) The president must be a brother. Devarim/Deuteronomy 17:15 says when we set up a king, he is to be someone whom YHVH chooses. He is to be a brother (or by interpretation sister), and not a foreigner. I take this to mean not a blood brother, but someone who has the same Father, namely YHVH.

2) A judge ought to be able, god-fearing, truthful, and hating covetousness/dishonest gain (Exodus 18:21). This is fairly straight forward, but I note that it doesn’t say “knowing Torah”. These characteristics when confronted with truth found in Torah would be inclined to obey it, but there have been god-fearing truthful people in scripture who did not know Torah. David and Yoshiyahu, for example.

Since the Torah gives us qualities to seek, judging fruit is an obvious necessity. This is not to say that I presume to know a soul’s destiny, but YHVH expects us to act upon what we know, not what we can’t know. Conclusions so far, based on a command to find POSITIVE evidence of each quality?

***Current Candidate***

Ben Carson (R)

Brotherhood? Inquisitr.com (http://www.inquisitr.com/2547760/ben-carson-talks-about-faith-love-and-his-career-on-the-kelly-file/) quotes Carson as saying, “faith played a huge role in my transition when I almost stabbed someone.” I like this, especially in that he goes on to say how he prayed for God’s help to take away his temper. I like that interaction, inspite of the vague nebulus “faith” reference, which in this case I chalk up to lack of attention on the summary of the article.

The Christian Post (http://www.inquisitr.com/2547760/ben-carson-talks-about-faith-love-and-his-career-on-the-kelly-file/) quoting Carson’s own writing, Gifted Hands, says that Carson was twice baptized as a seventh-day Adventist because he didn’t feel he’d fully understood the importance when baptized as an infant. Baptism is itself a profession of faith isn’t it? Especially as 12 year old, so that is substantive to me as a mark of faith. And isn’t it really? How many other candidates have mentioned being baptized? An archaic, kind of weird ceremony (at least when done to an adult)?

More plainly written in another of his works, America the Beautiful,  he also said “As a Christian, I am not the least bit offended by [other religions] . . . ” Some (myself included) might take issue with the smell of pluralism, but I can also see that Carson might have just been responding to the idea that Christians purportedly ‘hate’ or ‘fear’ other religions as opposed to simply believing their wrong without an emotional aversion. But there, I really wanted to note that he explicitely says he’s a Christian (and more specifically identifies as a Seventh Day Adventist).

And while denomination isn’t important, as he himself points out, I notice that Seventh Day Adventist is a little bit ‘fringe’ in the minds of some (even Christians), which makes it seem more believable to me that he is legitimately of the faith he claims.

There are more references, but to me the most powerful claim Carson has to being a brother is the frequency and ‘ease’ with which he talks about God. To me it just looks like the real deal, so I say there is substantial evidence that he is a brother.

Able? Ben Carson is being criticized on the basis of his political lack of experience, that can be taken for granted, he’s not claimed to have it. But is that the same thing as ability? Clearly no, since we’ve seen lots of ineptness from those who have had experience. Plus, the Biblical standard of leadership is not experience, but the ability to go out and come in, the ability to persuade others to act because of your actions. David had no kingly experience, but he did get others to follow him. Y’hoshua (Joshua) was born a slave, but distinguished himself by actions.

Political.com (http://www.political.com/Post/31629/dr-ben-carson-has-no-business-experience-no-military-experience-and-no-political-experience-so-why-do-republicans-want-him-to-run-for-president-in-2016) starts out by pointing out that Carson has no experience. But how does Political explain Carson’s rise? After all, when did Carson become a national figure? The article itself tells that Carson became a figure when he as an obviously educated man, had the gall to criticize President Obama to his face about the Affordable Care Act. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in a political mythos where all African-Americans have the same concerns/interests/views of government, one black man making such a statement sounds a lot like “going out and coming in”. And what happened? People flocked to him. That doesn’t mean he’s the best, but it shows  ability to move people to follow.

But what experience does Carson have? Bencarson.com (https://www.bencarson.com/meet-ben), talks about his medical achievements such as successfully separating conjoined twins (at the head). Do you think you get into that position without moving people to see that you’re exceptional? He received numerous awards including from the NAACP and President Bush (GW), do you think that happens from a medical background without someone thinking you’re a leader? He started a foundation to help fund scholarships, that spread to all 50 states, and other programs. Do these look like leadership to you? They do to me. As such I have to say there is some evidence that Carson has ability.

God-fearing? Carson is Seventh-Day Adventist, that means that despite the influence of more than a thousand years of entrenched tradition, Carson knows that the only Shabbat that YHVH endorsed was the one on the seventh day. He’s also vividly pro-life.

In his account, told to CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/25/politics/ben-carson-2016-religion/index.html) of his near stabbing of another person, his reaction to that was a plea to God to change him. And he talks specifically about reading from Proverbs and seeing the bad stuff the Bible has to say about an angry man. He talks, defending Adventism, about how his denomination believes the entirety of the Bible.

When it is pointed out to him that Adventists generally don’t get involved in politics, He points to Yosef and Daniel.

In addition to recognized Shabbat and being pro-life, he also recognized homosexual behavior as a choice (though shows no efforts to overturn the recent ruling . . . but then neither would I unless it comes out of a national repentance as opposed to a top down enforcement). These things don’t show that he is god-fearing, but taken in the over-arching context of his frequent/easy professions of faith, and that many of his decisions are influenced out of his relationship with the Father, I conclude there is substantial evidence that he is god-fearing, even though I’m sure I disagree with him on many specifics of Torah and faith.

Truthful? Politifact.com (http://www.politifact.com/personalities/ben-carson/) puts Ben Carson’s half-true to True at only 19% of the time. To put that in perspective, Hillary gets 71%, Bernie Sanders also 71%, and Trump gets 17%, and Rick Santorum 44%. Now, I’m not saying those numbers are slanted (really, who believes Hillary is telling some majority of truth 71% of the time?) . . . but, when you’ve reached the place our media currently has, how can you trust them to tell you who is lying? I scroll through some of their examples, and I say, “That’s not a lie, it’s an opinion. That’s not a lie, that’s a perspective. That’s not a lie, it’s hyperbole.” Especially when it’s often paraphrased.

Most of those on politifact.org, seem to fall in this category. Ben Carson makes a statement that when I read it looks like hyperbole/an exaggeration like “every time we raise minimum wage, we get more joblessness” etc., that doesn’t sound like a precise  statement it sounds like when I tell my wife “everytime you do ____” Now does that make Carson right? No. But it doesn’t convince me he did anything more than speak imprecisely.

The one that seems a legitimate concern to me, is the question of Manotech. Apparently they settled in a lawsuit about deceptive practices in marketing. Now, you and I both know that sometimes for economic reasons, companies decide to settle rather than fight a more expensive battle, even if they may be not guilty. So settling doesn’t mean the company did anything wrong (other than possibly settling). But the ‘moderators’ attack Carson as to his judgment in being involved with them. Now ‘involved’ isn’t defined. It’s vague. Am I involved with a company like McDonald’s because I eat a cheeseburger? Or better yet am I “involved” with (insert large retailer) that I work for because I take their money for my labor?

Some would say yes because there is a relationship of exchange in both cases. So in a sense yes, but does anyone say I work for ”STORE CHAIN” and count that as ‘involved’? Or do they usually use a phrases like “it’s a job” or “I collect a paycheck”? It depends on how you feel about that association. See by using association, I imply a distance. So Ben Carson doesn’t think he is being swayed by a business dealing or that it was anything more than money for speeches (which he freely admitted) or that he thought they had a good product, but that was his honest judgment, then involvement my have a stigma that he doesn’t believe is true.

Now is that being deceptive? Maybe, yes, maybe no. If he’d just said, ”I have no involvement”, I’d say that’s a lie, but he qualified it freely admitting that he’d given speeches for them. So he’s admitting some ‘involvement’ while denying the term ‘involvement.’

So I have to say that he comes uncomfortably close to lying. I’d have to say, that he walks a thin line, that like Donald Trump as mentioned earlier, that he isn’t careful enough with his speech . . . but since these utterances  seem to have come from the debates, I find it a little extenuating when someone is trying to get ‘gotchas’ instead of truth out of you. I have to say there is some but not a substantial evidence that he is truthful.

Hating covetousness? I’m out of time, but I point to his charity foundation and work on giving back to the community. But I’m not sure how to tell, so I guess as with Hillary I have to find some evidence that Carson hates covetousness.

Conclusion: Finally someone I could vote for.


***Past Candidates***

Donald Trump (R): No evidence he’s a brother; substantial evidence he is able; no evidence he is god-fearing; no evidence he is truthful; little evidence he is

Jim Webb (D): No evidence he’s a brother: no vote.

Martin O’Malley (D): Some evidence that he’s a brother. Some evidence that he is able. No evidence that he’s god-fearing; conclusion: no vote.

Lawrence Lessig (D): No evidence he’s a brother; conclusion: no vote.

Lincoln Chaffee (D): No evidence he’s a brother; conclusion: no vote.

Hillary Clinton (D): Some evidence she is a sister. Some evidence she has ability. No evidence she is god-fearing. No evidence she is truthful. Some evidence she hates covetousness/dishonest gain. Conclusion: No vote. 

Bernie Sanders (D): Does not look like a brother. Has some ability. Is not godfearing. Somewhat truthful. Somewhat anti-covetous. Conclusion: No vote. 


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2016 Presidential Candidates 6: Donald Trump

Recap of the ongoing series: Politics is unimportant of itself, but Torah does give us instructions on how to pick leaders, so we should look to follow, not look to ignore.

I’ve been basing my conclusions on the following:

1) The president must be a brother. Devarim/Deuteronomy 17:15 says when we set up a king, he is to be someone whom YHVH chooses. He is to be a brother (or by interpretation sister), and not a foreigner. I take this to mean not a blood brother, but someone who has the same Father, namely YHVH.

2) A judge ought to be able, god-fearing, truthful, and hating covetousness/dishonest gain (Exodus 18:21). This is fairly straight forward, but I note that it doesn’t say “knowing Torah”. These characteristics when confronted with truth found in Torah would be inclined to obey it, but there have been god-fearing truthful people in scripture who did not know Torah. David and Yoshiyahu, for example.

Since the Torah gives us qualities to seek, judging fruit is an obvious necessity. This is not to say that I presume to know a soul’s destiny, but YHVH expects us to act upon what we know, not what we can’t know. Conclusions so far, based on a command to find POSITIVE evidence of each quality?

Jim Webb (D): No evidence he’s a brother: no vote.

Martin O’Malley (D): Some evidence that he’s a brother. Some evidence that he is able. No evidence that he’s god-fearing; conclusion: no vote.

Lawrence Lessig (D): No evidence he’s a brother; conclusion: no vote.

Lincoln Chaffee (D): No evidence he’s a brother; conclusion: no vote.

Hillary Clinton (D): Some evidence she is a sister. Some evidence she has ability. No evidence she is god-fearing. No evidence she is truthful. Some evidence she hates covetousness/dishonest gain. Conclusion: No vote. 

Bernie Sanders (D): Does not look like a brother. Has some ability. Is not godfearing. Somewhat truthful. Somewhat anti-covetous. Conclusion: No vote. 


Current Candidate: Donald Trump (R)

Brotherhood? The Christian Post (http://www.christianpost.com/news/6-interesting-facts-about-donald-trumps-christian-faith-140522/) quotes Donald as being a “believer” and a Presbyterian member/attendant. Religionnews.com (http://www.religionnews.com/2015/06/16/5-faith-facts-donald-trump-presbyterian-collects-bibles/) says similar things, but I notice the . . . segregated language: “I’ve had a good relationship with the church…” “I think religion is a wonderful thing . . . I think my religion is a wonderful religion.

Making it more muddy, Ben Carson, in a CNN article (http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/09/politics/ben-carson-donald-trump-faith/) questioned Donald’s faith on the grounds basically that Trump lacks humility. A concern I share with Mr. Carson with no response from Donald. Later in the article, there is a quote that during a Family Leadership Summit, Trump was asked directly if he ever asked God for forgiveness, to which Trump replied, “I am not sure I have.”

Say what? How do you have anything like a Protestant, Presbyterian, or ‘Christian’ faith and not be sure if you’ve asked for forgiveness?

That’s a big problem to me.

Again, while I have given the benefit of the doubt to several candidates because they “claimed” to be brothers or sisters, I more and more lean toward the men/women who are known. There has to be a commonsense (as in a “sense” held in “common”) that such a thing is so. That is really what made God’s way so amazing. Why could you an I both go to the same judge? Because the judge is known by each of us to be a brother, capable, god-fearing, hating covetousness, truthful.

So is it enough to ‘give’ the benefit of the doubt? Or should I be able to point to something positive? I think it’s the latter. As such, do I get the sense or is there substantial evidence that Donald Trump is a follower of Yeshua? The Mashiach of the God of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’acov? For me I find no evidence that he is.

Able? Because, Trump is the front running Republican, I feel I should give more than a summary judgment. Is Trump able? Well, he has the ambition. He appears to demonstrate an ability to learn new material. And his experience is fairly well established by his business record. Running a country could be considered to be like a company, so it seems he is capable. Most of the critiques I have seen relate to his depth of experience or his controversial opinions, but I’ve seen nothing that questions his mental capabilities or determination or leadership. Certainly, his poll numbers would indicate that he can move people and that is a sign of leadership. So I have to say the is substantial evidence that he is able.

God-fearing? Referencing his earlier comment about not “not being sure” he’s ever asked God for forgiveness, being God-fearing, seems doubtful. He also has an inflammatory personality. And while that isn’t wrong, consider how often his loudness takes the form of insulting people? The comments toward John McCain come to mind. Does he have a point? Does being captured make you a hero? No, but not giving into torture does make you something to be respected. Plus McCain is older, and thus under Torah is due a little more respect from a youngster like Trump.

According to ontheissues.org (http://www.ontheissues.org/donald_trump.htm), Donald is pro-life except when it comes to rape, incest, and health. And while I have struggled with whether or not to save the mother’s life was a legitimate reason for abortion (as an act of self-defense), I can’t see any way in scripture to suggest this would apply to rape or incest. As for the self-defense issue. Studying it further, I came to this conclusion. Scripture allows for self-defense, in the face of a crime (Shemot/Exodus 22:2). But the baby is committing no crime. Is self-defense viable in the face of unknowingly threatening someone? If you found yourself wandering into the wrong hotel room and the occupant pulls a gun on you, if in that split second you realized your mistake, would you be justified in killing them? Or if there are two people in the water, but only one vest, would it be right for you to take the vest by force to preserve your life at their expense? I think the continually self-sacrificing narrative of Torah would tell you no. How can you love your neighbor (the baby) as yourself, and choose to save your life over theirs?

On immigration, Trump (https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/immigration-reform) is all about enforcing our laws and making it our economy and benefits focused on citizens. While this is somewhat correct, Torah is clear that the immigrant is not to be vexed. “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the YHVH your God.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 19:34). While laws should be enforced, should an unjust law be enforced? Didn’t we condemn the Nazis and a thousand others for upholding unjust laws? Was southern slavery right because it was legal? Is abortion to be protected because its legal? I understand those are difficult questions. How do we respond to godless laws? But what should be clear is that if there is a movement of people to stop upholding an unjust law, we should not be blindly upholding it! The immigrant must keep out laws, but the laws that make it difficult for immigrants to come to safety are wrong. Devarim/Deuteronomy 23:15, tells us that the slave fleeing from a harsh master is to be given a place to live among God’s people. Not to be sent back. And if the slave from a harsh master, who has an obligation to serve, why would you not extend the same to someone fleeing oppression who was not obligated to serve? We are commanded to open out hearts to the stranger, but Trump’s view seems to be “what good will the immigrant do for us?”

And where in all this, does Trump show that it’s because of God? In “ontheissues.org”, when stating why his abortion views changed, does he say it’s because of God and his word? Or because of ‘personal stories’? Does he view immigration as a economic thing or a moral thing? Does he view same-sex marriage as a states-right thing, or an issue of upholding God’s design for man and woman? In each case, the reason for his views, seems to have no connection to conviction over what YHVH has said. I must conclude there is no evidence that Trump is a god-fearer.

Truthful? MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/does-donald-trump-have-truth-problem) finds fault with Trump on a number of claims such as being “self-funded” saying that his latest federal filing shows only 33% of his campaign’s financing is from his own pocket. Politifact (http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/) gives him only 8% “mostly true”. Fibs include “embellishments” of his accomplishments in negotiations, discreditings of Kasich, etc . . .

In defense of Trump, a lot of what they call “lies” appear from a plain reading to be hyperbole. Which seems to describe a lot of what he says. He’s saying larger than life things, but does that make them lies? Some people (like myself) talk in this way for comedic effect, because we like to entertain people. So some of this I think should be taken that way.

However, if you are ‘able’ to do the job of leading a nation, the nation has to know who you really are. They have to know you can be serious and truthful, so wouldn’t someone tell Trump, “Hey, people can’t tell when you’re joking!” I would take extra care not to joke, and simply admit that I’d used hyperbole. “Is Bernie Sanders really going to tax at 90%? I don’t know, I’m not Bernie Sanders! But is he going to tax a lot more? Yes, so what I said was substantively true, with a little dramatic embellishment, but that’s what it will feel like.” I’d have not problem with that. But left as it is, is to leave it in doubt about whether dramatic flair was the case or just a disregard for truth? I have to conclude no evidence of truthfulness.

Hating Covetousness? . . . portion of his wealth comes from casinos. Now . . . I don’t think Torah forbids gambling anymore than it does drinking. However, if you love your neighbor as yourself, are you going to let them drink themselves into oblivion? By the same token, did Trump have special protections in place to keep people from gambling what they didn’t have? Or did he just let them take their chances?

In 2011, in American Business Mag ( But I just loved my lifestyle and I didn’t want to give that up. I figured the best way not to change my lifestyle was to cut back where I had to and, secondly, keep making lots of money. A lot – See more at: http://www.americanbusinessmag.com/2011/01/donald-trump-exclusive-insight/#sthash.5TFifYHF.dpuf), Trump said in an interview that the reason he didn’t quit business was ”But I just loved my lifestyle and I didn’t want to give that up. I figured the best way not to change my lifestyle was to cut back where I had to and, secondly, keep making lots of money.”

But how do you quantify hating covetousness? It’s like honesty and many of these questions. How do you see what someone’s motivation is? Is merely wanting to make money covetousness? It can’t be because the laborer is worth his reward is in the Torah. God tells us not to delay paying our employees because his heart is set on it. The desire for the reward of your labor is not covetousness. But rather a desire for what isn’t yours. Now some would argue that wanting to do well in business is a virtue all in itself. But Torah teaches us to look on the wellbeing of one another. We are to help each other succeed. Not only that, Torah comes with the perspective that God gives shares to people that are not to be taken away permanently. We see this in the Yovel year (jubilee year).

So it is not a godly (god-like) thought to want to drive anyone out of business. So our business efforts must be tempered by the desire to help even our business rivals succeed. The idea of taking business from another, just because you can (even if you’re ‘better’) is not amoral. So has Trump pursued business in a way that disregards the success of his rivals? Does he use his deal making skills to get more than a fair deal in negotiations?

I’d suspect he does, because so much of his talk revolves around money. This would seem consistent with his apparent conceit as well.

However, that’s just an assumption, so I’ll say that I find little evidence that he is against covetousness.

Conclusion: No Vote.

[On a side note . . . just academic. I can't help thinking that a white male, business man, who voices the most offensive views of conservatives, is almost a dream come true for someone like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. None of those qualities are bad, but I just can't help thinking he seems made to order as a boogeyman for liberals. If he wins it could be like Abraham Lincoln and the south's reaction. If he loses, it could be the same. I don't know . . . ]

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