Each week, find a commentary on something connected to verses of Torah or another source of wisdom
Each week, find a commentary on something connected to verses of Torah or another source of wisdom
Wisdom Wherever You Find It
Honesty is the best politics. Arthur Stanley Jefferson
The public library in Wilmette, Illinois had a small collection of 8mm films available to borrow. Like every other middle-class family in the 1960s, we had a projector on which to watch the growing collection of home movies that featured silent figures waving at the camera and mouthing unheard witticisms. But when I discovered the treasure trove of classic silent films in the library, I was in heaven. My favorite comedians were Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (still are).
I met their work through my father, who was similarly a fan. I have seen just about every movie they made as a team, from “Putting Pants on Phillip” to “Utopia (Atoll K).” Like many, my favorite was their Oscar®-winning short “The Music Box,” though not for the long sequence of trying to hoist a piano up a long flight of stairs. I still laugh aloud at the scene in which Stan throws a hat out the window and forgets to let go.
Laurel and Hardy were among the few silent film stars who did not have to reinvent themselves when talkies came in. Their voices and dialogue fit their characters perfectly. The best of their feature films (IMHO) was “Sons of the Desert.” In it, at the very end, Stanley delivers one of his famous malapropisms: Honesty is the best politics.
In a world in which fungible facts and alternative truths are commonplace, Stan’s observation seems more naïve than funny. These days honesty is terrible politics – it can provoke harassments and threats, exaggeration and condemnation, and ejection from public office. I am not speaking of confession of wrong-doing; I am referring to taking a principled stand based on personal convictions that reflect demonstrable realities.
Instead, party loyalty is the best politics. It is my personal bias that the maxim is more true of Republicans than Democrats, but it may be only because I consider myself more Democrat than Republican. But I think there is evidence for my bias; some Democrats make stuff up and pretend it is true, but there are others who call them out on it. One Republican, on the other hand, makes stuff up and pretends it is true and dares others to call him out on it at the risk of their political careers.
Yet, no one is smart enough to be wrong 100% of the time (as my friend Rabbi Irwin Kula likes to say). The honest truth is that the Republican in question has been right and truthful sometimes, but the more reliable the Democrat, the less likely they are to acknowledge it. They won’t even give him credit for being accidentally wise. You can’t run a democracy if the only goal of governance is to be in charge.
“Sons of the Desert” is misogynistic, violent, absurd, and abusive (to be honest) and, to my mind, hysterically funny. The boys create a preposterous lie to sneak away from their wives and attend a fraternal convention in Chicago by pretending to go to Hawaii for Ollie’s nerves. When the ship they allegedly were to return on was lost at sea, Stan explains how they made it back to Los Angeles: We ship-hiked! Caught in their deceit, Ollie digs in, but Stan breaks down and tells his wife the truth. She rewards him with forgiveness, while Ollie’s wife breaks every plate in the house over his head (see my earlier description of the movie). In the end, Stan assures his friend, “Honesty is the best politics.”
It is more than a little pollyannish to believe that telling the truth cures all ills. At the very least, telling the truth avoids creating more ills. In politics, people will continue to disagree, but better to debate the issues than the truth. The is choice pretty clear in this trifle of a movie from 1932 – stick to your lie and provoke chaos and disaster, or swallow hard, cry a little and tell the truth, because honesty is the best politics.
It's another fine mess you won’t get into.
(PS – I know that what Stan actually says is “Honesty was the best politics,” but…context. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaTJcN4gYnU)
Wisdom Wherever You Find It
[T]he most basic fact of aesthetic experience [is] the fact that delight lies somewhere between boredom and confusion. Ernst Gombrich
A lot of years ago, my wife gave me a copy of Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. I was captivated by the vignettes that Lightman imagined were dreamt by Einstein as he tried to understand the nature of time. If you haven’t read it, go out and get a copy, but I offer two cautions.
The first is, don’t read it quickly. Like another of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, the short length of the chapters seduces you into reading just one more, just one more, just one more before you put the book down. Force yourself. There is so much to think about in each description of time that you will regret it if you do not pause sufficiently to reflect.
The second is, when you finish, you will want to read everything else Alan Lightman has written. And you should do that, too.
Lightman is a physicist and a writer who held appointments in both on the faculty of M.I.T. When my daughter had the opportunity to study engineering in the graduate school there, I asked her as a favor to meet Alan Lightman and tell him what a fan boy I was. He welcomed her into his home and signed a lot of books for me.
He is an atheist, but both spiritually and faithfully unparalleled among the many atheists I know. His poetic abilities to describe our physical universe are exquisite. Many is the time I have sighed with delight as I read his explanation of some aspect of physics I might otherwise never have approached.
And that brings me to the quotation from Ernst Gombrich. I never heard of the guy until he was quoted in an essay in Probable Impossibilities called “In Defense of Disorder.” Gombrich is an art historian who believes that the space between the human being’s penchant for order and the experience of some level of chaos in the world is where we find delight. Alan Lightman uses the insight to illustrate the paradox of a universe that follows rigid rules of physics yet seems to be hurtling into entropy. (We have only a few hundred billion years left before things begin to get really bad.)
It is in that gap between order and disorder that we live our lives, both on a macro level and a micro level. Our expectation that everything is predictable – sunrise, gravity, the second law of thermodynamics, Oreos – is matched by our desire to be surprised by the unpredictable – falling in love, the colors of a sunset, roller coasters, Pop Rocks. I don’t know that Gombrich (who had very defined tastes) would have enjoyed Vonnegut, but one of the delightful details in his novel Slapstick is the discover that gravity is variable. It is a silly detail, but worth a giggle every time it appears.
I find it wonderful that Gombrich reminded us that two aspects of our individual lives that generally provoke complaints – boredom and confusion – are existential constants that allow for meaningful life in between. And I find it more wonderful still that Lightman found that observation to help him explain the place we occupy in the universe, bounding and rebounding between order and entropy, structure and chaos, reliability and complete unpredictability.
Unlike Alan Lichtman, but like Neil Diamond, the Monkees and Smash Mouth, I’m a believer. A place has been carved out between two contradictory constants that are ultimate truths to make room for us. Each of us in our own way can reach to both places at once and become the conduit from one to the other and back again. That’s where I find my faith. That’s where I find my delight.
Wisdom Wherever You Find It
Celebrate your birthday by counting your blessings and finding a tzedakah (charity) to match each one. Jack Riemer (paraphrase)
Rabbi Jack Riemer is an inexhaustible fountain of wisdom. Among other things, his sermon-writing is legendary. Another rabbi once said to me he was tempted to steal Rabbi Riemer’s trash just to get the sermon drafts he threw away. Of course, it’s not necessary – he is as generous as he is prolific.
A long time ago, he made the suggestion I cited, and I jotted it down in notes I kept of smart things people have said. I rediscovered the idea when I was going through some old files while I was trying to decide how to celebrate my big birthday on August 10. Inspired by this notion, I sat down to make a list of seventy charitable organizations that had been a blessing to me. It was not hard to do, though I am sure I left some out.
I then wrote a note to each one, enclosed a check for a very modest $18, and sent them off to arrive on or about my seventieth birthday.
Just to avoid insult to anyone, each of the recipients was a blessing to me personally at one or many points in my life. There are a lot of synagogues, most of which are nowhere near where I live today. There are plenty of groups that have morphed into something completely different than when I was connected to them. And in one case at least, my blessing is not available to others; Loretto Hospital no longer has a maternity department. You can’t get born there anymore.
My choice of how to commemorate my milestone is not meant to criticize those who encourage others to donate to a chosen cause. Even if social media companies get a few pennies from every such donation, there is value added from the generosity of spirit that motivates the suggestion and the response.
The point of sharing this with you is not to make myself look good. The small donation means very little to any recipient, and I am just fortunate to have the resources to share with others in this way. It is not even to lift up Rabbi Riemer, though he unquestionably deserves it. Instead, it is to encourage you to take stock of your own blessings and find a way to acknowledge them with a note, a call, a gift, even a prayer of gratitude. The satisfaction of counting your blessings, cliché though it seems, can see you through hard times and elevate the good ones. In my case, acknowledging my age and recognizing that I have arrived at it qualify as both.
Happy birthday to me.
Adat Ari El
Agudas Achim Congregation of Northern VA
American Civil Liberties Union
American Jewish Congress
American Jewish University
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
Bend the Arc
Beth El Hebrew Congregation
Beth Hillel B'nai Emunah
B'nai Israel Congregation
Charles E Smith Jewish Day School
CLAL / Rabbis Without Borders
Clergy Leadership Incubator
Danny Siegel c/o The Good People Fund
Faith and Politics Institute
Friday Morning Music Club
Gesher Jewish Day School
Good Faith Media
Hebrew University (AFHU)
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
Jewish Funeral Directors Assn.
Jewish Publication Society
Jewish Theological Seminary/Rabbinic Training Institute
Loretto Hospital Foundation
National Council of Jewish Women
New Trier Scholarship Fund
Religious Action Center
Scholarship Fund of Alexandria
Shoulder to Shoulder
Sutton Place Synagogue
Temple Ramat Zion
Temple Rodef Shalom
The Forward Association
The George Washington University
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism/USY
University of Connecticut (UConn Foundation)
University of Virginia
Virginia Theological Seminary
Weinstein JCC Richmond VA
Westminster Presbyterian Church
World Central Kitchen
Wisdom Wherever You Find It
Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics, and the Catholics hate the Protestants, and the Hindus hate the Muslims, and everybody hates the Jews. Tom Lehrer
It’s the big laugh line in a sardonically hysterical song – “National Brotherhood Week.” Tom Lehrer satirizes the artifice constructed (and later abandoned) to pretend that we can all just get along. Rich and poor, Black and White, New Yorkers and Puerto Ricans are all at odds, and in recordings of his performances of this song you can hear the uncomfortable laughter of recognition from the audience beneath the tinkling of the piano. And then comes the big laugh line, sung by the Jewish math professor with the wicked insight.
The speech and drama team from Evanston High School (with whom my own New Trier team shared a bus) loved to sing this song on the way to tournaments. I must have heard it fifty times over the years, and each time the lyric in question was sung with particular gusto, followed by laughter that mystified me because all those kids had sung it themselves so many times. And so many of them were Jews!
I was fortunate to have a rich Jewish upbringing and a home in which the customs, rituals and values of Judaism were central. I won’t say that everything positive in my life had a Jewish element to it, but almost every Jewish element in my life was positive. (Except fasting. Hated it then, hate it now.) Even the devastation I felt as I learned about the Holocaust and other tragedies before and since came with a certain lack of comprehension about why it seemed that everybody hates the Jews.
Eventually I lost patience with the hatred and decided I was unwilling simply to ignore it. I will admit to some small pleasure in watching people wriggle uncomfortably when they were confronted for intentional bigotry (like the young woman who asked if she could “Jew me down” on the price of a waterbed I was selling) or for bias of which they were unaware (like the use of “Pharisee” as a pejorative).
Ironically, it was my own evolution on the subject of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews that set me free from my own constant worry about the persistence of Jew-hatred. Here’s how it went. At first, I believed that the marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew was a betrayal of the Jew’s identity. Then, I came to believe it was a threat to the future of the Jewish people. Then, as I realized that for every Jew who married “out of” their tradition, a non-Jew also married “out of” their tradition, I understood that those marriages were overwhelmingly factual rather than political statements for both families. And at this point in my life, I understand that the prevalence of intermarriage (and the embrace of Jewish partners by non-Jewish families) means that there are more people who love Jews than hate us. And setting aside everything else about intermarriage (just do me the rhetorical favor, please), that evolution in my thinking has persuaded me that while some people are haters, it is most certainly not the case that everybody hates the Jews.
Do you think you know where I am going? You probably do not.
There is without doubt still antisemitism in the world, and a lot of it. But I cannot think of a worse reason to cling to a personal Jewish identity than the idea, promoted by too many Jewish organizations explicitly and implicitly, that people will hate you for it anyway, so you might as well embrace it. That attitude is only one small tick above the pathetic adage popular among some Jews, “scratch a gentile and you will find an antisemite.”
Not every act of antagonism – including violence – that has a Jewish victim is motivated by antisemitism. Yet the intensity with which the accusation is leveled says more about the accuser than the perpetrator. The condemnable shooting in Highland Park, Illinois on the Fourth of July 2022 is a notable example. The murderer grew up blocks away from the site of the crime, had difficulties with local law enforcement and a variety of residents, and fired randomly into a crowd, murdering seven (two of whom were Jewish) and then headed to Wisconsin expecting to shoot up another town with a smaller Jewish population. But because Highland Park has a large Jewish population, the speculation that the shooter was after the Jews was dominant, especially in the Jewish press. And I write these words as a proud Jew, unafraid of being identified as such.
And not every attack on the State of Israel is motivated by Jew-hatred either. (At this point, I am almost obligated to include the phrase “but some certainly are” lest I be accused of minimizing the problem.) The insistence of some individuals and groups to equate being opposed to Israel’s conduct or policies with being opposed to Jews strikes me as a desperate attempt to frighten Jews to remain in or reenter the fold. And I write these words as a proud Zionist, unafraid of being identified as such.
I still laugh at Tom Lehrer’s lyrics even as a I still wonder, more than half a century later, at the enthusiasm of the Evanston HS forensics team for them. But not everybody hates the Jews. We should save our outrage for those who actually do.
Wisdom Wherever You Find It
Here, I am just about seventy years old. Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah
For some things, you have to wait a lifetime. I have attended Passover seders from before I can remember, and at each one, this incidental remark by an ancient sage was part of the telling of the Exodus. It is not clear if the rabbi was indeed 69 or if his reference is to the presumed “years of a person’s life” mentioned in Psalm 90 (“eighty if granted the strength”). Whichever it is, the point of his remark is the same – it is never too late to learn something new.
Whatever the case, for the first and only time, when I recited this sentence this past spring, I was just about seventy years old, quite literally. There have been other milestones of recognition in my life (and I have written about them), but this one reaches farther back into my own history than any other. It is also a destination which I have measured, incrementally by the year, from the unimaginable to the inevitable to the immediate.
I have always cautioned people not to take the numbering of years in the Bible too seriously. I guess it is possible that people used to live for 400 or 600 years, or that the Israelites wandered exactly 40 years between the Exodus and the Promised Land, but I don’t think so. If I take those numbers as completely accurate then I have to take every representation in Scripture as literally true, and I have resisted such an abandonment of logic and intellect for too long to turn back now. After all, here, I am just about seventy years old.
Besides, if the Bible is literally and completely true and accurate, there is nothing to learn from it. Maybe that sounds ridiculous when I express it so explicitly, but it is the conclusion that the architects of my own Jewish tradition reached an exceedingly long time ago. We posit two corpuses of Torah, one which is written (maybe the Five Books of Moses, but perhaps the entirety of the Bible – even though some of the Bible, like the Book of Psalms, is attributed to human authors) and the other of which is oral (at least the Talmud and interpretive literature called midrash, and some say every commentary and conversation about Torah from the closure of the canon until your eyes scanning this column).
Sitting in this 58th century since the creation of the world (according to the Bible – again, I caution taking it too literally), I look back across the millennia and recognize that there have always been people who yearn for the authority of literalness. The plain contrast between true and false, authentic and manufactured, godly and sinful is very appealing, but it is simply unknowable. The believers in absolute certitude of meaning and intent in every era have either disappeared or evolved, thus destroying their claim to certitude. It is always the interpreters who survive, though not always their particular interpretations.
What is true about the holy and venerated Torah which has a source in the divine fabric of existence is at least equally true about documents that were inarguably produced by human beings. For the sake of illustration, I will choose one: the Constitution of the United States. The oldest person to sign its ratification was Benjamin Franklin at 81. The youngest was Jonathan Dayton at 26. The primary author was James Madison. When he completed the task, he was 36. Of the fifty-five delegates to the Constitutional Convention, all but one – Franklin – were under 70, and all but a handful were a long way from it. They could not have been smart enough or old enough to have intended their words to cover every future circumstance.
The immutability of text is alluring in every belief system. It removes the responsibility of the reader to do anything other than cite sacred words as a justification for belief and behavior. But it is never true, not immediately after the text is written and increasingly with every day that passes. Things change, words acquire new meanings and lose old ones, and the reader/listener/student who was once 26 eventually becomes 81. It is never too late to learn something new.
The rabbi who first proclaimed, “here, I am just about seventy years old” was acknowledging that the story of the Exodus should be told at night, not only during the day. Pulling an all-nighter on Passover seems a pretty small lesson for someone who is almost seventy. (Honestly, I have trouble making it much past ten o’clock these days.) It seems almost incidental. But if the small lessons can still be learned that late in life, then I think there are larger lessons an old dude like me can yet learn from the presumed “original meaning” of the Torah. And the Constitution.
Friendly readers, after almost fifty installments of this project, I am interrupting weekly musings on “Wisdom Wherever You Find It.” Here is why.
Though I cannot be exact, I know that the “open rate” on these columns has decreased significantly. If you are one of those people who reads my writing religiously (thank you both), you may disagree, but trust me – I am not wrong.
I am also contending with major transitions in my life, professionally and personally, and my ability to focus on innovative messages has dwindled. These changes are all for the good, thanks for your concern, but as you likely know, all change is difficult.
I began this blog in 2015 determined to spend some time reflecting on the weekly Torah portion presented in synagogues around the world. I no longer had the opportunity to learn with others in a satisfying way, so I spent some time each week thinking about what I would like to hear. Within a year, I started my project of chapter-by-chapter commentary on a single verse, and when I reached the end after more than five years, I turned to wisdom that was not from the Torah. If you want to review, you will find more than 325 entries archived on www.jackmoline.com under “Weekly Column,” or let me know to subscribe you to my Google group, “Aliba D’Rav” (a slight Talmudic pun meaning “according to a rabbi.”)
Maybe I will be back at this in a few weeks, maybe during the summer or maybe when autumn leaves start to fall. By then, an email from me will have become unexpected again, and you will wonder if maybe you should give it three minutes.
PLEASE do not write to tell me I am making a mistake. I am not fishing for affirmation or taking my ball and stomping off. Likewise, I am not looking for compliments; I have received many of those, and I thank you. If you want to tell me I am making the right decision…well, why were you reading these in the first place?
Some of these columns will continue to appear in other places, including www.goodfaithmedia.org, which I will note on my Facebook page. Occasionally, you will hear something from me when I am inspired or peeved.
Meanwhile, thank you for your attention for almost six years. See you soon!
Wisdom Wherever You Find It
You have a choice whenever you encounter something from another tradition. You can look for the differences, or you can find the resonances. I advise you to find the resonances. Sadruddin Patel
Here is a piece of advice that a young Eboo Patel received from his father. It is among the things that propelled him down an extraordinary journey among people of many faiths and none at all. Sadruddin was a Shia Muslim, a Gujarati from the Indian subcontinent. (Gandhi, a Hindu, was likewise Gujarati.) Eboo was raised in a multicultural community outside of Chicago, and not always happily.
I think about this piece of advice a lot. It strikes me as one of the more effective antidotes to the poison we have ingested as a society in which every difference is weaponized for local gain. There is simply a stunning amount of umbrage that is provoked by the plain notion that someone may have a distinct point of view from your own. And while I might find some level of understanding if the subject were the now-infamous “deeply held personal convictions,” the fact is friendships and families have been torn apart over the gentlest exercises of constitutional rights.
The senior Patel’s instruction was about religious diversity, and I will stick with it for a moment before I come back to its larger implications. I have written before about my own reluctance in my younger days to consider favorably the beliefs and practices of others. I looked for the differences. I will go so far to admit I took offense at the affirmations of others that differed from my own. I think I was probably pleasant enough about it outwardly, but I know my inner commentator was insisting that these poor self-delusional religious folks (including some who were Jews) were somehow missing out. I have spoken with enough people about faith and tradition in the intervening years to know that many of them felt the same about me.
What changed? Honestly, it began with a conversation I had with a Presbyterian. I won’t do well explaining how a Presbyterian church works (or, at least, is supposed to work), but the premise is that everyone is taken care of. Like any congregation, the lay leaders deal with budget and bylaws, but there is an entire structure that makes leaders responsible to keep in touch with and address the concerns of every member. There are formal names and guidelines (which I never committed to memory), and the traditional iteration was pretty much White and male, but the notion struck a chord within me as a rabbi. Somewhat accidentally, I found a resonance. And once I was able to adapt that resonance to my own Jewish congregation, I found others from many other traditions.
(Let me commend the Sikh practice of hospitality, for example.)
The junior Patel used this and other bits of wisdom to become a remarkable leader in interfaith relations. As his father inspired him, he has inspired others to find resonances in other traditions.
But it seems to me this is good advice not only for engaging with practitioners of other faith traditions. My aforementioned larger implications are about society in general, especially but not just politically. There are, to be sure, people who are immovable in their convictions. In other contexts, I have wondered whether they are motivated by conviction or fear, but it does not matter. Mr. Patel’s model was not addressed to the “other,” but to you. Independent of campaigns and elections, nominations and appointments, legislation and policy declarations, there is always – always – a resonance for you, however deeply muted. In any situation, the matter at hand can be most effectively dealt with when both parties’ concerns are addressed. Will someone be unhappy when they don’t get their way? Yes. But they will be less unhappy if the resolution resonates than if they are defeated by mere power.
This is not the place for an extended example, but I will mention one: marriage equality. In less than a generation, the vast majority of the American community turned 180 degrees on the question because advocates presented the matter not as a matter of law but as a matter of love. Civil rights implications still present challenges to those whose “deeply held personal convictions” define their concerns, but overwhelmingly Americans resonated with the similarly deeply held personal conviction that you love whom you love, not the person you are told to love.
For those who, like me, lean hard to the left on social issues, finding the resonances is no less important. There is always a choice when you encounter some from a different perspective. Like the senior Mr. Patel, I advise you to find the resonances.
By the way, the picture above is not of Sadruddin Patel, but of his son, Eboo. More resonance.
Wisdom Wherever You Find It
It’s one thing for the minority to speak up. It’s up to the majority to say they are right. Bob Roberts, Jr.
I think that if I am going to quote a Baptist preacher, I myself ought to begin with the Bible. In recounting the oppression of the Israelite slaves, the Book of Exodus (2:23-24) notes that when Pharaoh died, the Israelites groaned, which God took note of. The ancient rabbis looked at that text and wondered what took God so long to notice their groaning. After all, they had been enslaved to that Pharaoh for many years!
The answer they formulated was this: the oppression was so severe, they were not allowed even to groan under their burden. Only when the king died could they cry out under the guise of mourning Pharaoh.
I think it is pretty easy for people who are comfortable to imagine that everyone is comfortable. Intellectually, the person with a roof and a refrigerator and reliable transportation knows that some folks have less, but it is hard to feel another’s pain when you have none of your own. And when something happens to challenge the good life a person is living, all too often the focus is on the return to comfort rather than considering that others might be suffering as well.
Mostly, we live at a time and in a place rife with blessing. We enjoy opportunities and freedoms never imagined even by the elite of generations past. But it is undeniable that some of us are much more richly blessed than others.
The thing is true not only in a material sense. I am trying hard to avoid introducing the word “privilege” into this column, but I won’t succeed. Many, many, many people in the United States enjoy the automatic advantages that come with being White, or financially secure, or well-educated, or all of the above and more. They are well-documented and indisputable. Intellectually, people with those advantages (like me, just so you shouldn’t think I am merely pointing fingers) know that life is tougher for lots of others, but it is hard to feel another’s pain when you have none of your own.
And here’s where it gets more than a little dicey. When those seeking a more equitable society speak up, those who are living on the plus-side of equity begin to worry that the (ouch, here it is) privilege they have enjoyed is going to be diminished. They hear the criticism of their advantages to be a judgment against what they have earned, if not by their own specific efforts, then by the community to which they belong.
It is not worth denying it. When the minority wants what the majority has – material wealth, influence, earning power, representation, security, respect – those who believe any or all of those benefits exist in limited supply can hear only, “they want what I have.” And deep inside a voice responds, “but it’s mine.”
Bob Roberts is a conservative Evangelical pastor who lives outside of Dallas. And he came to understand that there were a whole lot of people who practiced Islam who were considered less-than by the members of his community even thought they likely never met a Muslim. You can look up what his personal revelation led to by visiting his website, www.glocal.net. Bob knows that all the advocacy in the world will not result in justice and equity if those with power – the majority – will not acknowledge legitimate grievance. As a White man, a Christian, a person who lives a comfortable life, he knows there is enough respect and opportunity to go around.
If those of us with privilege are only just hearing the groans of the oppressed, it is worth wondering not what took them so long to speak, rather what took us so long to hear. And if what they are saying is anywhere near the cries of the ancient Israelites, then it is up to us to say they are right.