“Off The Derech” Is The Tower of Babel An Absurdity? Maybe Not: Genesis 11:1-9

Opinions can be based upon a variety of sources. Opinions can come from beliefs, from witnessing events, and through scientific knowledge. A number of Torah stories are viewed as mere mythology and presenting absurd facts. The Tower of Babel story is one of them. A moment upon which a group of people’s language changes and they are unable to communicate with each other? Inconceivable! Confounding this is the fact that we presently may not grasp or understand the ancient language and writer’s perspective with respect to the event. A writer’s perspective, without all the facts or knowledge, may lead to fantastic conclusions.

The Towel of Babel story in the Torah is as follows:

“Now the entire earth was of one language and uniform words…And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered upon the face of the entire earth.” And the Lord descended to see the city and the tower that the sons of man had built. And the Lord said, “Lo! [they are] one people, and they all have one language, and this is what they have commenced to do. Now, will it not be withheld from them, all that they have planned to do? Come, let us descend and confuse their language, so that one will not understand the language of his companion.” And the Lord scattered them from there upon the face of the entire earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore, He named it Babel, for there the Lord confused the language of the entire earth, and from there the Lord scattered them upon the face of the entire earth.” Genesis 11:1-9

When rationally looking at this story, the power to be able to change the language of others would be something quite preposterous. This part of the story allows skeptics to dismiss the story as fiction. Scientific evidence, shockingly, may be to the contrary. There is a medical condition recognized that involves people spontaneously changing their speech.

The medical condition called “Foreign Accent Syndrome.” It involves people suddenly speaking in a foreign manner. The condition can have both physical and emotional causes.

There is the physiological etiology. The term “FAS” was given a proposed set of diagnostic criteria: “(1) “the accent is considered by the patient, by acquaintances and by the investigator, to sound foreign”; (2) “it is unlike the patient’s native dialect before cerebral insult,” (3) “it is clearly related to central nervous system damage (as opposed to an hysteric reaction, if such exist)”; (4) “(t)here is no evidence in the patient’s background of being a speaker of a foreign language (i.e., this is not like cases of polyglot aphasia)” Keulen S, Verhoeven J, De Witte E, De Page L, Bastiaanse R, Mariën P. Foreign Accent Syndrome As a Psychogenic Disorder: A Review. Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Apr 27;10:168. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00168. PMID: 27199699; PMCID: PMC4846654.

Researchers also looked into a psychogenic cause FAS. They concluded “psychogenic FAS is elated to the presence of a psychiatric or psychological disturbance in the absence of demonstrable neurological damage or an organic condition that might explain the accent. Secondly, psychogenic FAS occurs more in women than men, in an age range which is likely to be prone to depression and mental problems (25–49 years)” Keulen S, Verhoeven J, De Witte E, De Page L, Bastiaanse R, Mariën P. Foreign Accent Syndrome As a Psychogenic Disorder: A Review. Front Hum Neurosci. 2016 Apr 27;10:168. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00168. PMID: 27199699; PMCID: PMC4846654.

With this concept in mind, one’s imagination can take over with respect to the story. It is possible that some of the builders sustain head traumas during the construction that could have caused the condition. The workers could have use toxic materials which damaged their nervous system and caused the change. There may have been some psychological trauma at the site that caused the change. The height of the building so high that a lack of oxygen could have impacted the nervous system and caused the condition. In response to the question would be “whether can FAS could impact multiple individuals at the same time?”

In sum, you never know….until you know more. With this, there is something to be said about having an open minds as to the possibilities. This is what makes life stimulating.

Is it possible that individuals language can suddenly change?

Scientifists are now studying a phenomena.

“Off The Derech” On The Eighth Day He Created Irony: Genesis 2:2

And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did.
And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it, for thereon He abstained from all His work that God created to do
Genesis 2:2-3

I wish to posit that there was an eighth day of creation. After the creation of the world in six days, and after the Sabbath day of rest, the Master and Creator of the Universe, on the eighth day, created irony.

Many things happen in the world and we cannot account for them. They are inexplicable. They don’t make sense. They are ironic. Irony is a term used to describe “weirdness” or “coincidence” in the world. Humanity’s lack of imagination and unwillingness to address possibilities may also be in play.

The concept that irony was unleashed on Humanity is something that I have long contemplated. With irony, a recent incident is evidence of the irony.

This week, I published a post on my other blog making the contention that sometimes there are moments when circumstances beyond one’s control. The premise behind this was that one should not covet something that makes sense or is logical. For example, someone else getting the job you were pursuing may be because the other person, for a variety of reasons, was in fact the best candidate. The fact one was not selected, therefore, should not be a slight to one’s self or be a basis for being envious of the other person. In my post, I also used the fateful story of our front yard bunny who left our lawn to find greener pastures with our neighbor.

The post beset me with irony Thursday night. I arrived home about sundown, got out of the car, and checked the front lawn for a bunny sighting. The bunny was back. I summoned my partner to see. As we were both looking, I appeared to get double vision. After refocusing, I witnessed something beyond my contemplation. There was in fact a second bunny. How did this occur? One thought was the the lawn was freshly cut on Thursday was enticing. Another thought was that a vicious form of irony was cast upon me. Was my premise about coveting so poor that it could only survive a few days?

With this is mind, I asked how can this happen? The answer in mind is that we live our lives based upon odds. There is certainty, probability and possibility. We function with our lives and beliefs upon placing certain prospects in each category. We play the odds. Likewise, our imagination plays a role. I would have had to imagine long and hard that I would have encountered “two” bunnies on my lawn. My limited use of imagination perhaps opened the door for this moment of irony. occur.

As such, with the world complete, on the eighth day, the Master of the Universe set in motion these events of the world to occur. The lack of both imagination and knowledge on my behalf created the irony “irony.” With that said, the true question is “whether irony is a call to Humanity to open one’s mind beyond the mere certainties and probabilities and explore the possibilities?” In other words, did the creation of “irony” lead to the creation of imagination?

Be well!!

“Off The Derech” N is for Knowledge: Genesis 3: 9:20

College football rivalries have created great insults. There is the classic, “what does the “N” stand for on Nebraska helmets?” Knowledge of course.

Two stories from the book of Genesis touch the notions of “nakedness” and “knowledge.” Concepts concerning the moral compass are also revealed. The moral compass has been defined as “an internalized set of values and objectives that guide a person with regard to ethical behavior and decision-making.” Dictionary.com

The Adam and Eve story involving their consumption of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is as follows:

“And the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise; so she took of its fruit, and she ate, and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves and made themselves girdles. And they heard the voice of the Lord God going in the garden to the direction of the sun, and the man and his wife hid from before the Lord God in the midst of the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called to man, and He said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I am naked; so I hid.” And He said, “Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” And the man said, “The woman whom You gave [to be] with me she gave me of the tree; so I ate.” Genesis 3:6-12

Adam and Eve’s consumption of the fruit from tree of the knowledge of good and evil led them to recognize that they were naked. They now had a moral compass. They corrected their problem with nakedness by fashioning their own clothes. Thus, they were no longer naked. Despite being clothed, Adam lies to go that he was afraid because he was naked. The truth was that Adam was obscuring the fact that they had eaten the fruit. The two were not hiding their nakedness per se, they were hiding their bad act. One can argue that his answer was a lie. He was not naked. He was hiding because of his bad act. Thus, one bad act set in motion another bad act. Thus, is a moral compass compass weakened when one engages in a bad act? Does one bad act lead to additional bad acts?

Noah’s post flood story is one of nakedness.

The story is as follows:

“And Noah began to be a master of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.
And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent.
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness, and he told his two brothers outside.
And Shem and Japheth took the garment, and they placed [it] on both of their shoulders, and they walked backwards, and they covered their father’s nakedness, and their faces were turned backwards, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.
And Noah awoke from his wine, and he knew what his small son had done to him.
And he said, “Cursed be Canaan; he shall be a slave among slaves to his brethren.”
And he said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be a slave to them.
May God expand Japheth, and may He dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be a slave to them.”

Noah’s tale is exceedingly complicated. He gets drunk and then he uncovers himself within his tent. In those times, was one’s tent a place of privacy where it was appropriate to be naked? Or, was a tent a place in which there was the reasonable expectation of visitors and as that one would remain clothed?

The tale, in the end, is one of irrationality. It is Ham, the father of Canaan, who walks into the tent and sees the Noah’s nakedness. Ham enlists Shem and Japheth to assist in covering Noah’s nakedness in a respectful way. Canaan, Ham’s son, was not present and not an actor in what occurred! Noah, however, arises to condemn Canaan and curse him. Was this accusation one of irrationality? Was his intoxication the source of this false assertion? Is this story a lesson on how intoxication can cloud one’s moral compass? Is this a story a cautionary tale of how a moral compass can be so broken by intoxication to the point that an innocent can be accused of wrongdoing? In the end, the product of intoxication was that an innocent was cursed and made to be a slave. Is this an eternal message about the problem of substance abuse?

These two stories capture how conduct can impact the moral compass. Bad acts and intoxication can compromise one’s moral compass. The knowledge within these stories was hidden by the nakedness. So, we end this discussion with a “K.”

Be well!!

“Off The Derech” The “Bunny” Idolization: Exodus 20:4

At Hardware and Gardening Stores, decorative front lawn statues of gnomes, pink flamingos and other offerings are often for sale. What drives individuals to place these items on their yards?

Recently, I discovered a tenant to our property. Rent free, a cotton tail bunny has taken up the front lawn as a dwelling. The bunny, as expected, is skittish. Any movement or loud noise can cause it to take off. The bunny is not easy to notice. Its coloring blends in with the surroundings.

The bunny has become a source of entertainment. When leaving the house or returning home, i play a quick game of “where’s bunny.” It is stimulating as it takes a a pair of sharp eyes and a sharp mind to catch a sighting. While the sighting can be for seconds, it provides a level of satisfaction. Other times, from inside the house, I am able to see it. There is something special over the fact that this animal chose to share this piece of land with us.

With this in mind, my thoughts returned to the Hardware Store and Gardening Center’s statues. Bunny statues were also available for purchase. The acquisition of a such a statue would guarantee a bunny sighting all the time. In effect, I would have a bunny idol.

If I put a statue on on the lawn, it might provide me some satisfaction. The statue, however, would not likely evoke that the feelings from seeing a real one. The real one is elusive. The real one impacts my behavior. The real one stimulates my senses as I look for it. The real one, I am in search of.

In a perverse way, my bunny worship thoughts have the trappings of idolatry. In the instance of the bunny, the statue or idolatry served would serve as a cheap and unsatisfactory alternative to the real thing.

Taking this to the banning of idolatry in Exodus 20:4, one can see how idolatry inhibits one’s spiritual development. When one is in search of a divine presence, they are on their best behavior. When one see signs of a divine presence, one’s faith is strengthened. Obsession and focus upon an object will likely stunt ones understanding and appreciation of the world.

In sum, it is a wonder how all of this can from one of God’s creations, a little bunny who considered our lawn to be safe and secure place to be at peace.

Be well!!

“Off The Derech” Motherhood’s Domination

The Torah, early one, addresses relationships and power between the sexes. “A man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24. Impliedly, a Human consists of two pieces, a male and a female. In modern times, this notion persists. People still commonly refer to their spouse as their “better half.”

Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden reset the balance of power between husband and wife. In Genesis 3:16, God established that established that man would rule over woman. This position, however, never made it past the Book of Genesis.

With an established covenant, Abraham was to be a father of a great nation and Sarah it’s mother. Sarah giving birth to Isaac introduced conflict as Abraham already had a son with his concubine, Hagar. Hagar’s son Ishmael produced uncertainty as who would become Abraham’s successor.

Eventually, Sarah forced Abraham to address the matter. It is written: “[a]nd Sarah said to Abraham, “Drive out this handmaid and her son, for the son of this handmaid shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac.” But the matter greatly displeased Abraham, concerning his son. And God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased concerning the lad and concerning your handmaid; whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice, for in Isaac will be called your seed.” Genesis 21:10-12.

This passage seismic shifts the relations between Men, Women & God. Even God defers to Women on family matters. God does not direct Abraham what to do. He tells him to accept his wife’s directions. Apparently, Motherhood tips the scale with respect to power.

As the institution of marriage has fallen into disfavor in modern times, the appreciation of the power of motherhood has diminished. Women choosing to not have families are not particularly fond of it. Husbands tolerate it. As Women enter the workforce as equals to men. Men may lack power in both at work and at home.

As a professional, there have been a number of women who have put a stop on their careers to stay at home to raise their children. Others, who are still working, wish to take more time to spend more time at home. This struggle is a common day occurrence in modern society. Mothers often appreciate the power and influence they have being able to raise their children.

In modern times, businesses and governments promoted women entering the workforce. This source of labor is too irresistible to let go. Is this a reason for business offering abortion assistance to their employees now since Roe vs. Wade was overturned? Is there a societal fear of the power women have when they become mothers?

In sum, in the past, becoming a parent was valued within society. Motherhood was once recognized as perhaps the most important and powerful station in life. As society moves away from valuing parents, the institution of motherhood will be at risk. Governments see the motherhood’s power as a threat and are seeking to diminish it.

Be well!!

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“Off The Derech”: From Garden to Jungle: Genesis 3:17-19

Expectations shape one’s perspective. Genesis 3:17-19, the expulsion from the garden of eden, lays out that life is going to be tough.

“And to man He said, “Because you listened to your wife, and you ate from the tree from which I commanded you saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed be the ground for your sake; with toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life. And it will cause thorns and thistles to grow for you, and you shall eat the herbs of the field. With the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, for you were taken therefrom, for dust you are, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-19

Arguably, Adam and Eve would leave the Garden to in the Jungle.

Today Genesis’ words explain the nature of life and living. Life is a struggle. Everyday, is a proverbial battle to put food on the table and maintain a roof over one’s head.

The Creator, however, did not provide a complete depiction of the struggle to Adam and Eve. As Humanity has multiplied, there an additional twist to the struggle.

I was told the story of a woman took her life savings to purchase a “Ben & Jerry’s” ice cream franchise. From the onset, it looked like a great idea. “Ben & Jerry’s” , at the time, was a popular product and the location, Century City, was a great location. Century City is an outdoor mall in Los Angeles with many office buildings in walking distance.

How could it go wrong?

One word. Pinkberry.

Pinkberry was a frozen dessert product which became a nationwide sensation.

A Pinkberry concession opened up in Century City. With consumers wanting the brand new shiny confection , the demand for “Ben & Jerry’s” dried up. Eventually, this woman’s business failed and she lost her money.

As such, it is likely that the Creator of the Universe would have added more advice to Adam & Eve had they have to leave the Garden of Eden to go to a Concrete Jungle. He would most likely caution them that the world is full of others who are competing with them. These others are competing for their food and competing for the roof that is over their head.

With that, the wisdom is to never rest or be content with your surroundings or station in life. Always be mindful of the world that surrounds you. Competition changes and times change. Perhaps, the intensity of this struggle is perhaps a reason for all of humanity to take one day of the week out as a day of rest.

Be well!!

“Off The Derech”: What Is The Meaning of Being In God’s “Image and Likeness:” Genesis 2:26-27

“And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth. And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 2:26-27.

What is the image of God? God is full of emotion. The Torah documents a God that is angry and a God that can experience disappointment. The Torah documents a God who feels satisfaction creating something that is good as well as something that is very good.

God’s experience with mankind has been a difficult road. Adam & Eve, Cain, and those who lived at the time of Noah were disappointments. The residents of Sodom & Gemmorrah as well as those involved with the crafting of the Golden Calf were also sources of anger and disappointment.

God, however, is a God of second chances. A God who is willing to listen to wise words from his creation. Abraham’s reasoning before the destruction of Sodom & Gemorrah, and Moses’ plea to not destroy the Children of Israel mark perhaps the two of mankind’s greatest achievements within the Torah. These episodes displayed the mankind’s capacity to reach high levels of morality.

While we should consider it a great honor to be made in God’s image, it is likely that we share some of God’s experience of mankind. To us as individuals, we may have anger and disappointment in our fellow human beings. We see humans who have hatred toward humanity and act to destroy it with senseless acts of murder. Thus, we are challenged, like Abraham and Moses, to possess optimism and hope that Humanity can be improve; that Humanity can be good.

In Japan, Mr. Toko-San’s existentialism as a Human Being arguably came to an end. This Japanese Man has rejected his gift of being created as a human being. Instead, he has chosen the life of a dog. It is reported that he, with great expense, commissioned a life-like costume of a collie. dailymail.com

Apparently, an Adult man can learn new tricks. As a dog, Mr. Toko-San, since his transition, has mastered rolling, walking on fours, shaking with a paw, and fetching objects.

Mr. Toko-San’s move from Human to Dog, however, was not made in private. His transition is part of the Social Media landscape. There, Mr. Toko-San is receiving likes, retweets, and positive and negative comments. He has a YouTube channel.

Has Mr. Toko-San really moved away from Humanity? While dogs are social animals that crave attention, they are not social media animals. A real dog would be content having one master and some additional human interaction to be content. Mr. Toko-San, however, seeks to get approval from the very species he rejects.

Mr. Toko-San is perhaps well aware that dogs can have a powerful effect on human beings. Dogs have the power to brighten up humans and put a smile on people’s faces. They have the power to make humans act happy. They have the power to make humans want to care about something other than themselves. They have the power to make humans make physical contact via petting.

Is it possible that Mr. Toko-San, subconsciously, is attempting to improve humanity by changing his species? Has he achieved something that the Master of the Universe has long desired? After all, isn’t dog, god spelled backwards? A Youtube comment of “freak god level! well done” is telling. dailymail.com

In sum, I would like to throw Mr. Toko-San a bone for his questionable achievement. In a strange and bizarre way, his craziness has given many an opportunity to pause with the difficulties of daily living and have a moment of levity. Mr. Toko-San’s desire to publicize his efforts to reach more people is a sign that he was truly created in God’s image more than he would imagine. As we cannot all live the dog’s life, we must appreciate that we, as Humans, can act in ways that can uplift other Humans around us. This is not an easy task. It can require knowledge, talent, practice, and understanding. Hopefully, for most, it will not have to resort to a customized realistically looking dog suit.

Be well!!

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“Off The Derech” Begins: The Tale of the (Not So) Giving Tree: A Life Lessons’ Tale: Genesis 2:15

Life Lessons from the Bible

Bible interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. Amazing scholars versed in ancient Hebrew and other languages search for the bible author’s true intent. Equally impressive are scholars well versed in the many bible commentaries that can address esoteric issues. Additionally, scholars with knowledge of extra-textual sources bring light to the text’s meaning via comparative studies of with other ancient cultures. Finally, there are the not so scholarly. Those who read the bible through their life experience. They read the bible in the context with everyday life’s happiness, sadness and indifference. They read the bible with a perspective of accomplishment, failure and hope. They read the bible as it relates to current events.

Thus, the purpose of this blog’s interpretation is to extract meaning from the text as it relates to modern life. It is not intended to be a scholarly endeavor. Rather, to take its words as it…

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“Off The Derech” Begins: The Tale of the (Not So) Giving Tree: A Life Lessons’ Tale: Genesis 2:15

Bible interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. Amazing scholars versed in ancient Hebrew and other languages search for the bible author’s true intent. Equally impressive are scholars well versed in the many bible commentaries that can address esoteric issues. Additionally, scholars with knowledge of extra-textual sources bring light to the text’s meaning via comparative studies of with other ancient cultures. Finally, there are the not so scholarly. Those who read the bible through their life experience. They read the bible in the context with everyday life’s happiness, sadness and indifference. They read the bible with a perspective of accomplishment, failure and hope. They read the bible as it relates to current events.

Thus, the purpose of this blog’s interpretation is to extract meaning from the text as it relates to modern life. It is not intended to be a scholarly endeavor. Rather, to take its words as it relates to the generations present. The bible’s words during the middle ages may bring different meaning in present times. Thus, passages are to be considered with a modern times’ perspective.

This blog’s interpretation, it will be done based upon three views of thought: a legal view, a psychological view, and a management view.

Finally, the blog will seek out the greater over arching themes in the Torah. Each individuals story cannot be taken in isolation.

The Hebrew word “derech” means the road or the path. With this blog, the path taken is not meant to be the ordinary one. I hope that you will find it insightful, meaningful and entertaining.

Thus, we will begin with Genesis 2:15.

To begin with, we will first jump to modern times and Shel Silverstein’s childrens’ classic book “The Giving Tree.” The book’s premise is how a tree values his relationship with a child. The relationship grows over time with the tree offering all of its parts, leave, branches and wood, to the boy for the sake of the friendship. The tree gave and gave and gave to the child. The tree’s only desire was friendship. The boy, short of friendship, offered nothing to the tree.

In the Garden of Eden, God lays out, not the oldest profession, but the oldest vocations. “Now the Lord God took the man, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.” Genesis 2:15. Thus, Man’s initial vocations were of gardening and security work. Man’s qualities were to both care and maintain as well as guarding and protect. This notion illustrates the concern, even in ancient times, over strangers or invaders damaging or stealing crops.

Like the boy from the “The Giving Tree,” I have a relationship with a tree. I live on land with a historic tree that is reportedly over one hundred years old. Unlike Shel Silverstein’s tree, this particular tree is arguably the “Not So Giving Tree.”

The “Not So Giving Tree” is like an elderly person. It is cleaned up after it every week due to both leaf shedding and bark shedding. The bark shedding visually is excrement-like. It is like an old person who has become incontinent. It requires constant watering and requires an expensive haircut or trim once a year.

When workers come on the property, we become hypervigilent to remind them to be nice to the the tree. Over time, every person who has lived on the property has assumed stewardship and custodial obligations to the tree.

The tree itself is truly a tree of life. During the course of the day, it serves the neighborhood animals. Squirrels, Orioles, Crows, Lizards, Hummingbirds and Woodpeckers come visit the on a daily basis. One can literally watch a live nature program sitting outside and staring at the tree. Beyond the entertainment factor, for those who have lived on the property, the tree’s shade and beauty.

Perhaps, the lesson learned from life’s first vocations is that special things, a Garden of Eden or a precious tree, require humans to assume the roles as both tenders and guardians. It is quite remarkable how the vocation of security guard is often dismissed in modern times when in fact it was one of the earliest vocations. Perhaps, there should be more appreciation and pride associated with those performing security work.

be well!!

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