Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This Rabbi Gets Me Excited About Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism is tough. There are so many required rituals, it can drive you crazy if you're not born into it. One thing that keeps me going is inspiring Torah study and my favorite teacher for the past decade is historian Marc B. Shapiro.

I've often gotten discouraged with my Judaism. I feel like I'm just doing things by rote. It's so hard. I feel like my mind is dying. Then I put on a Marc Shapiro lecture and I get excited again about Torah.

From Wikipedia:

Marc B. Shapiro (Hebrew: מלך שפירא, born 1966) holds the Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton and is the author of various books and articles on Jewish history, philosophy, and theology. His writings often challenge the bounds of the conventional Orthodox understanding of Judaism using academic methodology while adhering to Modern Orthodox sensibilities. Shapiro is a popular on-line lecturer for Torah in Motion and often writes for the Seforim Blog.
Shapiro received his BA at Brandeis University and his PhD at Harvard University, where he was the last of the students of the late Prof. Isadore Twersky. His father is Edward S. Shapiro who has published books on American Jewish history.

[edit]Books authored

  • Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966 (London, 1999)
  • The Limits of Orthodox Theology: MaimonidesThirteen Principles Reappraised (Oxford, 2004)
  • Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox (Scranton, 2006)
  • Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters (Scranton, 2008)
  • Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History (scheduled for 2013)
  • Ed. Kitvei Ha-Gaon Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, 2 vols (Scranton, 1999, 2004)

[edit]External resources

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Do I Want In A Woman?

I don't want to go to bed with Rachel and wake up with Leah. I want someone who does not repulse me when I wake up in the morning and see her without make-up. I don't want to have to explain when I'm being sarcastic. I don't want to have to do a lot of explaining period. The more we have in common the better. I don't want a woman who's high maintenance. I'm not high maintenance. I don't need a ton of care and catering to. I'm solid. Reliable. My behavior isn't all over the map. I'm predictable. I want a woman who's reliable. Someone who reads social cues. Somebody who shows up on time, who pays her bills, is responsible and hard-working. Orthodox Judaism is hard work. I need someone who can shoulder the load. I want a woman who wants to take what I have to give and a woman who wants to give what I want to take. I want a good loving woman. I want someone who reads books. That way we're not likely to get bored with each other. I can bring to the relationship the qualities of the hard-working responsible man with good credit and good health. I'm well-read, curious about life, constantly seeking to grow and to improve. I'm committed to my weekly psycho-therapy and my daily writing, my daily Judaism and my daily 12-step work.

What Did I Think Love Was?

Love for me has primarily meant romantic love. Sexual love. Agape love is great in real life but it is not the stuff of fantasy. So love for me has primarily been a fantasy rather than a reality, an aching need rather than an actuality, a yearning, a wishing, a desiring, a song, a cloud floating by. My love always has an object, a young attractive female object, who takes away all my pain. Love meant to me connection, union, an escape from loneliness. Love meant rescue. Love meant transcendence from my self-destructive patterns. Love was a high, a fix, a pulsing rock song, a focus for my attention, an obsession. I first tasted steady reciprocation of my feelings at age 16. It was very sweet but its potential loss set off my jealousy, which doomed my fumbling connection. What do I think love is now? I fear that my emotional instincts and yearnings are not much changed from my earliest years. I want to suck that breast dry because I have no confidence it will be around later. My dad says propinquity breeds love. It's true. Women I've considered not worth a second look become over time the most attractive thing in the world. When I get to know a woman, her looks transform. My relationships have been sobering. I will never be able to relate to somebody on a different level of differentiation aka emotional maturity than myself. I'm stuck with my level. I can't climb. I'll have to love somebody as flawed and frightening and dangerous as myself. There's no escaping my limitations. There's no salvation in this life.

What Creates A Sex Addict?

I was struck by these few sentences by Patrick Carnes in his groundbreaking book on sexual addiction called "Out of the Shadows": Addicts report that as children they felt desperately lonely, lost, and unprotected. Not only was there a lack of nurturing, but also there was no one to show them how to take care of themselves or keep them from harm. Not being able to count on, depend upon, the adults in one's life to meet needs is a key element in addiction. As the child matures, there begins a search for that which is dependable -- something that you can trust to make you feel better. Trust and dependency are the issues that determine personal strength and confidence of vulnerability to enslaving addiction. For in the lonely search for something or someone to depend on -- which has already excluded parents -- a child can start to find those things which always comfort, which always feel good, which always are there, and which always do what they promise. For some, alcohol and drugs are the answer. For others it is food. And there is always sex, which usually costs nothing and nobody else can regulate.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's My Role In Judaism?

Sometimes I think I'm the court jester. Other times, I think I have a powerful role. More people read me than hear any Shabbos morning sermon. People don't treat me trivially. I remain an outsider. Almost group I join (with the exception of 12-steps), I'm still an outsider. I could do with ten times as much personal connection in Jewish life. People read my blog. They come to my talks. I'm a circus attraction. I have a freak appeal. I think I'm slowly moving towards normality, connection. At times, I fear I'm recreating my father's stirrer role in Adventism. Was there any comfort in converting to Judaism? I'm happier since I pulled it off, particularly the Orthodox one in 2009. Much of the rage has dissipated from my blog. Every day, I feel more a part of Judaism. I know my purpose, my community, my direction, and what I'm good at. I know what's available in Jewish life.

Why Did I Convert To Judaism?

* I wanted to be part of the most effective group for making a better world. A group that had a divine recipe (Torah). * I wanted to improve myself. * I wanted to belong to a transcendent community (without sacrificing my rational inquiry). * I wanted to benefit from a wise tradition where God was the author. * I wanted some of that higher quality of life that Jews have. * I wanted to feel at the center of the world. * I wanted to get close to Dennis Prager and other great role models I met in Judaism. * I wanted to get emotionally and intellectually engaged with a tradition, a people, a text, and a country. * I wanted to be inspired, stimulated and pushed to be more. I wanted guidance and direction. * I wanted something worthy to struggle with.

Why Do I Keep Seeking Out Substitute Father Figures?

I was blessed with a good father. My dad is righteous. He's a rock. He's reliable. He's predictable. He's stable. And with my mother (who died of cancer before I turned four) and my step-mother, he gave us three kids a much better upbringing than he had. I'll always be grateful. My father taught me right from wrong. I didn't always listen to him, but he implanted good values within me. More importantly, he lived them. Dad took a great interest in my intellectual development as well. By age eight, I was in love with reading. Dad suggested many great books to me. He tried to dissuade me from wasting so much time following sports and watching TV. When I was nine or ten, he took me to the Avondale College library and explained how it worked. When we moved to Pacific Union College in 1977 when I was 11, he showed me how that library worked as well. Libraries became a second-home for me. Even though dad always had a frantic schedule, he frequently took time to play with me, be it soccer or Monopoly or the like. Dad had clear priorities. Number one was God (embodied in Jesus). Number two was family and religious community and health and learning. Dad never had hobbies. He had too much to do. Dad would rest and relax at times but only for the sake of accomplishing more in the long run. From an early age, I sought the mentorship of older men. I wanted people I could discuss politics and sports with. I wanted to just hang out. Dad was very busy and while he'd always make time for me when I asked, I didn't want to be a bother. It was easier to seek out other men. From grade school on, I was frequently more interested in hanging out with the fathers of my friends than with my friends. I loved to just kick back and talk. I always picked good friends and I always picked good mentors. Even though I've never been particularly righteous myself, I always had a good sense of the decency of others and always prefered to surround myself with those who wouldn't needlessly hurt me.

I Love The 12-Step Share

I've been going to 12-step groups for the past 18 months to find recovery from my emotional addictions. An integral part of meetings is the "share." Many meetings will have a lead speaker who'll give a share from 8-15 minutes on average. He'll talk about how his addictions ruined his life and how he found recovery through working the program. A good share is brutally honest. The person talks about his own struggles and which specific parts of the program helped him. A mediocre share is filled with advice-giving, theory and quotations from spiritual masters. Advice-giving is not the 12-step way. Instead people are encouraged to speak about their own experience and to not give cross-talk commentary on others shares. Two months ago, for the first time, I was asked to give the lead share. Then a couple of weeks ago, I walked into a meeting and five minutes before it was due to start, I was asked if I would mind substituting for the scheduled speaker who couldn't make it. On my first talk, I had a few days to prepare. This time I had but a few minutes. My talk wasn't as smooth, but I just spoke from the heart, shared what I had struggled with, and related how I had worked the 12-steps and which ones were the most difficult for me, starting with step one. I grew up a preacher's kid. I heard hundreds of sermons. Some were inspiring, some were boring. Right now, I prefer the 12-step share where people open up about how their addictions have destroyed their lives and then describe how a power greater than themselves restored them to sanity. As a writer, I rarely feel comfortable prescribing for others. I'm much more comfortable sharing my own struggles and things that have helped me. Take it or leave it. Your mileage may vary. My personality, my writing style, my life position, all feel much more comfortable with sharing rather than preaching.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Is My Writing Toxic?

In the first 11 years of my Jewish journey, I never wanted to write anything bad about any rabbi. I revered rabbis. I knew there were bad ones, but I revered the profession as a whole. Then I got kicked out of three Orthodox synagogues in Pico-Robertson in 2001 (after one expulsion in 2008) and my heart got very cold. About three years went by and I read the book "The New Rabbi" and I decided that rabbis deserved at least as much journalistic scrutiny as high school basketball coaches and I started writing about them, with few exceptions, with the same sort of detachment that I brought many years ago to writing about high school basketball for the Auburn Journal. One leading Conservative rabbi called my writing "toxic." That shook me up. The word is so powerful. I recognized that there might be something to what he said but I could not deal with it at the time. Now I'm 12-stepping and I'm willing to look anew at myself, my writing and my behavior and to look for the resentment and fear I'm exhibiting as I pursue my own selfish ends and decide to instead turn my will and my life over to God, to let go of my resentments and to stop depending on my own competency (which is not very competent or I would not be in the position I am in) and to instead turn to God constantly, asking, "What is your will?" I'm taking a second look at my toxic behavior and there's a lot more of it than I would like.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'm A Serial Enthusiast

If this is what isolating looks like, I'm doing fine! I spent about five hours in shul today. My main website,, has been felled by an attack of malware and is currently blocked by Google. My feet still hurt from plantar fascitis despite four expensive trips to the physical therapist. I know they're getting better. I seem to be expending so much effort and money into just staying in place. I've spent all this money on security for my website and in switching to a different template yet it is in vain because of inadequate security on my host's end. I'm out about $200 I'll never get back. I wish I had produced some good writing over the past five days. I journal and journal but nothing compelling. I don't want to waste my weekly writing class. I need compelling human interaction. That's where I get good material. Man, I have friends who are just bottomless pits of need but there's nothing anyone can do for them. They'll have to hit bottom and then the pain will be so bad that they'll become willing to do the work, the therapy, the 12-steps, etc, that can restore her to sanity. I'm so grateful for my 16 months of 12-step work. I feel like I'm just scratching the surface of what the program offers. Why have I shifted the enthusiasm I used to have for Judaism to 12-step work? My behavioral and intellectual commitment to Judaism is as strong as ever, but I'm more sober now than ever before. Yes, I admit that I am a serial enthusiast. I'll pick something up for a few months, suck the life out of it, and discard it. Other things I pick up, however, such as journalism in eighth grade, have remained lifelong pursuits. I decided at the end of 1989 to convert to Judaism. Twenty years later, I felt sobered that the way I was practicing Judaism was not improving my moral character much. I was still miserable, filled with shame, fundamentally ill at ease with life, and largely alienated from the people around me. I went off all my medications (lithium, clonazepam, clonidine) in early 2009 (after going on them in 2001 and 2002). I felt that with the daily Alexander training, I did not need them anymore. I feel more creative without the meds. Since 1998, I've had about eight years of weekly psycho-therapy, and that has been a big help. I completed in December of 2011 three years of daily Alexander Technique teacher training. That was a big help. But what I want to wax lyrical about this evening is 12-step work for co-dependency, fantasy, sex and love addiction. So despite all my Torah and mitzvos and pyscho-therapy, I knew over the years that something wasn't right with me. Many times these realizations came to me painfully such as when someone I respected, such as Dennis Prager, said to me bluntly, you're sick. Part of me part of the time knew he was right. A lot of other people said the same thing. Sometimes when I'd awake around 2 a.m., I knew they were right. Sometimes when I Googled for particularly sick videos (never children!), I knew I was sick. At times I've felt in the grip of sexual compulsions that strained my self-control. My desire for sex would challenge my moral boundaries. I'd demean myself by getting with ugly girls I'd be ashamed to be seen with in public because I was so desirous of getting that release, that sense of oblivion. Twenty years ago, I thought that Judaism and ethical monotheism and the other teachings of Dennis Prager were going to be my cause but right now I mainly want to talk about 12-step work. After 20 years of Torah, my love for porn was unchanged. My desire to obliterate myself through sex with many different partners was unchanged. My feeling of getting high just looking at an attractive woman was unchanged. When I walk down the street and see my type, I forget everything else and for a few seconds or minutes or, surely not hours, I obsess that if I could just have her, all my problems would go away. Nothing else matters to me when I am in the grip of this fever. Since the age of eight, I think I've spent about 5% of my life in this kind of high obsessing over some member of the opposite sex who if she would only love me, all my problems would go away. So, this 5% number does not sound like a big deal, right? Only 5% of my time given away to harmless day-dreaming. But I fear that it reflects an inner sickness, an intimacy disorder. I had this Dennis Prager induced conviction that ethical monotheism was the best solution to the world's ills and that Judaism embodied ethical monotheism and that Orthodox Judaism was the only form of Judaism proved to be to sustain itself. Now I am sobered by how little this conviction improved my own behavior and quality of life and the behavior and lives of many of those around me. Orthodox Jews don't tend to be any more ethical than any other group of Jews. Devotees of ethical monotheism are rarely transformed. It now seems to me that goodness and decency are not usually available to direct assault. Telling yourself each day, "There is one God and his primary demand of me is that I treat other people ethically" strikes me as less effective on average than simply developing bonds. And what stops people like me from human connection? Deep-rooted patterns of shame, addiction and other baggage. If you are not a mentch, then you're will is probably corrupt, and simply willing yourself to be a mentch is unlikely to be effective. What can be effective is if you join a group of people who have the goal of developing their character. Community is a powerful spur to righteousness and to evil. Most of us don't see or hear God, but we can see and hear our communities, and they transform us in their image much more than we transform them in ours. There are probably people who can transform from bad to good through sheer will, but most people have to work a program.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Luke Ford Shabbaton In Westwood Aug. 3, 4

Westwood Jewish Center: Join us for an elegant Shabbat at our state of the art banquet hall in honor of the holiday of Tu B'Av on August 3, 4. @@@@@@ FEATURED SPEAKER: Luke Ford @@@@@@@ The son of a Christian evangelist, Luke Ford is a convert to Orthodox Judaism. He's an Alexander Technique teacher and author living in Pico-Robertson. He's been interviewed on 60 Minutes, ABC News, Entertainment Tonight and has been written about in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and GQ magazine. Luke is the author of the book, "Yesterday's News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism." Here are some things that have been written about him: "He breaks legitimate stories that have a huge impact." (Emmanuelle Richard, Online Journalism Review) "Aggressive, eloquent, he’s a kind of shaggy-haired, acid-washed Brad Pitt." (Matt Labash, Weekly Standard) "Smart, insightful and with a charming Australian accent, Ford is one of the most fascinating characters." (Michelle Goldberg, Speak magazine) Come eat, drink and be merry while socializing with members of the tribe on our magnificent rooftop with beautiful 360' views of the city! Tu- B'Av- is Judaism's designated day of matchmaking. According to Jewish tradition, the day has special powers to help one find their soul mate. Back by popular demand, our Shabbat programs for young professionals draw an engaging pool of young professional Jews who are serious about their Judaism and relationships. The $20 minimum donation includes dinner, lunch and all alcoholic beverages if registered by Friday, July 20th. $36 afterwards. to register: Please specify "Shabbat dinner" in the "other" field

Friday, June 29, 2012

Don't Confess Your Journalistic Sins!

Poynter writes Jeff Meade’s boastful column in the Monroe, Mich., Evening News about sins he committed as a reporter — making up quotes, getting two sets of quotes from a coach so he could quickly write up a game no matter the outcome — is no longer online. (Here’s a cached copy.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pamela Geller Speaks In Los Angeles This Morning

From Pamela's blog Atlas Shrugs:

I will be speaking this morning at ZOA at LA Jewish Federation. The Islamic supremacists and Muslim Brotherhood groups are apoplectic that a Jewish group would dare have a passionate zionist speak to the gravest threat that faces the Jewish people: Islamic Jew-hatred. Hamas-CAIR sent out a press release this morning condemning ZOA and Jewish Federation for hosting (but still no condemnation of the calls for Jewish genocide in the quran or the 1,400-year history of Islamic persecution, subjugation and slaughter of the Jews).
Press release: Interfaith Coalition Decries Hate Group Leader's Appearance at L.A. Jewish Federation

(LOS ANGELES, CA, 6/23/12) -- A Southern California interfaith coalition today expressed "deep shock and alarm" over the Jewish Federation's decision to offer a platform to the leader of an anti-Muslim hate group.

Pamela Geller, who will deliver a lecture on "Islamic Jew hatred" and "the root cause of war in the Middle East," is co-founder of Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and author of a book offering step-by-step instructions on how to stop mosque construction in America. Tomorrow's event is sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and is hosted by the Federation in Los Angeles.

SEE: Pamela Geller on the Islamic Jew-Hatred

The interfaith coalition released the following statement:

"We are extremely shocked and alarmed to see a mainstream Jewish organization associating itself with one of the nation's leading Islamophobes who doesn't hesitate to share the podium with European racists and whose admirers apparently include Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik. Religious leaders and institutions have an increased and urgent responsibility to promote tolerance and mutual understanding among all Americans, instead of giving aid and comfort to fear-mongers like Geller. Imagine how hurt Jewish community members would be, and rightly so, if they discovered American Muslims hosting an anti-Semitic speaker."
Really? Amir Abdel Malik-Ali is typical of the kind of rabid Jew-hating speaker Muslim groups host all the time. Muslim speakers on college campuses are rapidly anti-Israel. I, on the other hand,  speak against an ideology that calls for the annihilation of the Jews.
Jews were silent against the Nazis (and the Muslim world who allied with them.) Never Again.
No word from Hamas-CAIR and Jew hating coaltion os this news:
. "Palestinian" Muslims make clear their desire for peace and harmonious relations with the Jews in Israel: "Praise for Mohammed on Synagogue Walls," by Maayana Miskin for Israel National News, June 22 (thanks to Benedict):
Residents of the small agricultural community of Maor, east of Hadera, went to their synagogue Thursday for afternoon prayers and were appalled to find that it had been vandalized.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Seeking A Los Angeles Dermatologist? Try Daphne Panagotacos In Westlake Village

For more information, see "Dr. Daphne I. Panagotacos, M.D., specializes in dermatology. A dermatologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats conditions of the skin, hair, and nails. Common conditions treated by dermatologists include acne, eczema, psoriasis, and skin cancer."

Daphne Panagotacos has great reviews on Yelp.

I've heard nothing but good things about this doctor from my friends.

Here's a typical review: "Dr. Panagotacos is still the best. Her excellent recognition of what needs to be done and her ability to perform the procedure needed are cutting edge. More important she takes that personal interest in her patients that makes one feel better the moment she walks into the room. You can be positive that you have made the right choice with Dr. Panagotacos!"

Monday, March 26, 2012

'What Is Your Email Address?'

I keep having these conversations on Facebook with people who ask for my phone number and/or my email address when both are on my Facebook profile. It's annoying when people ask me things that are staring them in the face. I hate it when people waste my time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lori Gottlieb Is Now A Therapist!

Lori is one of my favorite writers. She's just so honest! She's compelling. She cuts through pretense to get to the heart of a matter.

I just got an email from her today talking about her new therapy practice.

I was intrigued. I clicked on through and found this:

I provide therapyconsultationreproductive counselingspeakingmedia, and executive coachingservices. I’m also an award-winning author who loves stories – all kinds of stories, but mostly stories about the ways we get lost before finding our path. We all have unique stories, and I like to help clients to rewrite theirs.
I have a master’s degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from Pepperdine University, and did my undergraduate work in language, literature and culture at Yale College and Stanford University, where I graduated with highest distinction.  I then worked as a film and network television executive and attended Stanford University School of Medicine before focusing on writing.
My books on relationships and eating disorders have become New York Times and international bestsellers and I write about the intersection of psychology and culture for national publications including The New York Times and the Atlantic. I also appear regularly as guest on such programs as The Today ShowCNNMSNBCThe Early ShowGood Morning AmericaDr. PhilNPR and Oprah Radio.
I did my clinical training at the Wright Institute’s Susan B. Krevoy Eating Disorders Program, where I developed the curriculum for its body image process groups; and at The Maple Counseling Center in Beverly Hills, where I worked with a wide range of clients in the intensive Intake, Adult, Couples and Mindful Parenting programs and continue to remain involved with the clinic.
In addition to my therapeutic and private consultation services, I  give speeches and workshops ranging from keynote addresses for large audiences to parent education in school settings; speak to medical residents about eating disorder treatment modalities and management;  work with fertility physicians and surrogacy and donor agencies to help clients navigate the path to parenthood; offer expert opinion on parenting, relationships, family building, and body image to publications ranging from Elle and Self to the Washington Post and Time magazine; consult on film and television projects from a psychological perspective; and do executive coaching to help corporations and individuals perform at their best.
Contacting me is easy. Just call (310) 853-3567 or simply click here to let me know how I can help. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Running Without Injury

I used to have a horrible running style. I'd land heavy on my heal with each step, jarring my whole body. By age 12, I had bad knee problems and had to quit jogging.

Susanah Baker writes:

For those of you who have been following the barefoot and minimalist shoes debate, the recently published research by theHarvard ‘barefoot’ team led by Daniel Lieberman adds weight to the argument that what matters most in preventing injury is how you are running rather than what if anything you are wearing on your feet.  
In their latest published research Foot Strike and Injury Rates in Endurance Runners: a retrospective study the team from Harvard did a retrospective study to test whether runners who habitually forefoot strike have different rates of injury than runners who habitually rearfoot strike.  They concluded that runners who habitually rearfoot strike have significantly higher rates of repetitive stress injury than those who mostly forefoot strike. But they also found that some runners were fine with a rearfoot strike, while others were injured with a forefoot strike.   The team “predict that these runners have better form than those who do get injured: they probably land with less overstride and more compliant limbs that generate less severe impact loading (…). These predictions are supported by several recent studies, and they emphasize the hypothesis that running style is probably a more important determinant of injury than footwear (with the caveat that footwear probably influences one’s running style)”
This research certainly backs up much of the theory that Malcolm Balk aims to put into practice during his Art of Running workshops.  Applying the principles of the Alexander Technique helps runners to achieve the ease and efficiency of movement needed to prevent injury. 
There certainly seems to be a good case for using barefoot running or minimalist shoes as a way of improving one’s running style and to overcome nagging injuries which can often be caused by a heavy heel strike action.  But looking to these as a panacea is not the best way forward.  Instead the focus should be on running form.