This year, Rosh Hashanah ran into Friday night/Saturday, which made it a three day holiday for all intents and purposes. There is nothing more pleasing to my senses as that delicate aroma of several hundred male college students who haven't washed for three days packed in a close space. Ahh, true bliss!
In all seriousness, the next week is part of the Ten Days of Repentence, when we are called upon to examine our deeds and resolve to improve them. The principle of self-examination is a good one whether you are a Jew or not, as nobody is perfect. Most people (I hope) do not have problems with things like theft, abuse of others or other things of that nature; but one issue that many, many people (myself among them) get tripped up by is "Lashon Hara," evil speech, variously translated as gossip or slander. It really is neither, but is closer to gossip.
Evil speech is when you should speak badly about a person when there is no specific need to do so. Exact definitions I will leave to the many great scholars who have written on the subject, but the snide comment behind someone's back, the casual tale-bearing of juicy gossip, the subtle undermining of trust with a well-placed remark, all are considered evil speech.
This is one of the easiest and yet most destructive transgressions to commit. Social discord, ruined reputations, simmering enmity, humiliation, estrangement, all these come from the uncontrolled use of speech. As you examine your deeds and look for ways to improve, do not neglect the seemingly minor hurts you do to others with speech. May you have much success in making yourself a better and kinder person, and may the next year be sweet and good for all of Creation.
Moving on… thinking about my last post, it seemed as though I were endorsing immoral behavior in the interest of perpetuating American power. I think that needs to be clarified. Rather, certain classes of behavior which would seem immoral (spying, economic and military coercion, war if need be) can be legitimate tools for a state; but it all depends on context. For example, I believe the Iraq War to have been justified; but a war on Turkey would not be. But the history of U.S. policy in the last decades has convinced me that U.S. support for dictatorships can never be moral (unless the alternative is pure anarchy). We are now reaping the bitter fruit of our support for the Shah of Iran, the House of Saud, and the Egyptian pseudo-parliamentary dictatorship, just as we did from our support for a dictator in Vietnam and China prior to the Communist takeovers (though that was more complicated). Sometimes the needs of the hour would seem to force us to support a dictator, but we must know that such support will never be without great cost down the line.
I did a lot of reading over the holiday, and though it's starting to blend together it was interesting. The main practical conclusion I came to is that we need to get our forces out of Europe as fast as we can without leaving a power vaccum, so that the Europeans will be forced to defend themselves. Their absurd neo-Socialist statist systems are possible because they don't have to pay for decent armies. If they have to raise armies, two things could happen depending on whether they have the guts to cut back their social programs to pay for it. If they do, their societies will benefit from the increased commerce and free-market activity. If they have become so infested with Socialism that they try to support both an army and their welfare states at the same time, they will a horrible death as did the Soviet Union before them. Seems like a win-win situation to me…
Have fun, buy silver, and good night.