Relating To G-d Through Rules And Relationships

Arches

So we had some friends come visit last night. 


They are religious Christians (brother and sister) who love the Jewish people, and one of them actually attends our synagogue on a regular basis. 


We had a nice time talking and eating, and I also learned an interesting religious lesson.


The man told me how he understood that Judaism is very focused on rules (i.e. laws) that people are supposed to follow as laid out in the Torah.


But he said, it is also important to build a relationship with G-d.


The relationship being about sincerely knowing that G-d is there for us, that we are bound to him, that we express our gratitude for everything he does for us, and that we ask him for what we need. 


I think the main difference in how he described it was that is was not in a rote and ritualistic type of way, but rather as in a real relationship, where we talk to G-d naturally and recognize him benevolently and lovingly. 


As Jews, we know we cannot substitute a loving relationship with G-d for doing what we are commanded to do, but perhaps we can do both. 


We can follow the rules–the do’s and don’ts–AND we can bind with G-d in a one on one relationship–where we are and feel bound to him not just because we must, but rather because we really love him for creating us, sustaining us, and he is the ultimate good in universe.


When we are in a “relationship” with G-d, it’s because he is someone we want to cling to, relate to, talk to, and yearn for. 


This is a just little different than how I learned about this in yeshiva, where it was much more about loving and fearing G-d in a  rule-based way–again because we are commanded to do it.


But perhaps it is nice also to love and fear G-d, because he is G-d and we are in a deep and growing relationship with him. 😉

Leadership, Beyond Brainwashing and Beatings

Brainwash

Leading by decree rather than merit usually means that the people are either beaten or brainwashed into submission–this is oddly reminiscent of the age-old question, which is mightier, the pen or the sword?

History is full of examples of tyrants, dictators, and monarchs (this goes for some bosses at work too) who take “the throne” putting anyone who opposes them to either be put to death or be “reeducated.”

On one hand, the sword is straightforward though it comes in a thousand varieties–where those who oppose the ruler die:
– in open opposition on the battle field
– in public display in front of a firing squad, by hanging, or even by guillotine
– in more surreptitious ways such as with a knife in a back alley somewhere, languishing in a dungeon of old, thrown in a van from the streets with a hood over your head, or taken in the middle of the night never to be seen or heard from again, or even assassinated by anything from a well-placed bullet to a vial of radioactive poisoning

The sword of the dictator knows no mercy.

On the other hand, the pen is more shady and comes in but one form–where those who disagree with the power(s) that be are convinced to think otherwise. There are many examples from the gulag to the labor camp where reeducation, indoctrination, propaganda, brainwashing, hypnosis and other, harsher forms of mind control are employed.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, who lived through the Hitler rein of terror, I am keenly aware of the devastating impact that dictators can have by sword and by pen. Hitler (may his soul be cursed forever) used both to achieve and hold power, sending millions to die in concentration camps and brainwashing a generation of Germans into believing his rhetoric of hatred, superiority, and megalomaniac ideals for world domination.

This week, watching power pass in North Korea from father to son, now for a third generation gripping unto the leadership mantle there, the potential for abuse is certainly present, but there is certainly also the opportunity for positive change. It remains to be seen who this new leader really is and what he will stand for–especially since he is so young–only age 28 or 29.

Previously, I had read about the sword being used to hold unto power in that country with horrifying prison camps, such as the infamous Camp 22 with 50,000 prisoners (many of them political opponents) living under the most inhumane conditions.

This week, I watched on the news and YouTube, citizens apparently wailing over the death of their leader there–and I wondered with the people starving and living in one of the poorest and most isolated nations in the world, are they really that brainwashed to believe in the absolute greatness (almost like a deity) of their leader or was this whole display staged?

In 2010, the son, was given the rank of a 4-Star General–yet supposedly he doesn’t have any military experience.

This week, in the son’s first week in power, he was given the title “Outstanding Leader”–even before having the chance to lead.

Today, I read in the Wall Street Journal (23 December 2011) how the “Propaganda and Agitation” department there is working to “quickly bolster [the] new leader’s legitimacy.” According to the article, their responsibility is “for filing North Koreans’ minds with awe, devotion, and unswerving respect for the dictatorial dynasty.”

While propaganda and force can create yet another generation whose will is bent to serve its leader, my hope and prayer is that we have a possibility for a new way of thinking and leadership in North Korea, and in many other countries around the world today.

Wielding power can be an opportunity to show benevolence, encourage freedom, and win people over through the power of ideas rather than by physical or mental coercion.

(All opinions my own)

(Source Photo: here)