Love Your Neighbor as Yourself … Really?!

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

On the internet, on the radio, on television, in the newspapers. We began our summer at the end of May 2020 and into June with reports and graphic images of violence, outrage, tears of pain marching across the USA and around the world.

Right in front of our eyes we saw, over and over, the killing of a Black man on a city street. People stood around and watched. Some videotaped. Some created a human barricade around the dying man. NOBODY moved in to help!!

There are excuses for non-action, usually weak answers to critical questions. Why didn’t anybody do anything? It has become too frequent in our country to stand around and watch, then to respond with complaints and anger and violence.

The violence of the action of killing someone in real time and plain view does not seem to motivate the same kind of response as after the fact. What is wrong with this picture? Why don’t human beings reply to horrific events immediately, or work to prevent them? Why are we so jaded as to become voyeurs? Where are our values?

After the event, we will hear calls for “love your neighbor as yourself,” and we will listen to offers of assistance in the cleanup of the communities’ splinters and ashes. Where were the voices of support and caring prior to these acts? Where were the offers to reshape our society into a civil land for all, prior to devastation, riots and burnings?

Absent are the voices of national leadership. Missing are the offers to try and heal the historical pain of dysfunction that prompts these revolts. Lacking is an honest desire to create a planet with peace and harmony FOR EVERYBODY.

And sadly, when the terrifying acts and horrible images of death and fire soon become part of history, who will stand to truly love their neighbors as themselves?

Will you join me?


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. Serving as a volunteer police chaplain for more than 30 years, he regularly addresses civic and religious gatherings on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

Choose Life… Yours, Theirs

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

I try to teach my granddaughter to “make good choices.” In my hospital visits I meet with patients and families who must make good choices to stay alive. In all our lives we are making choices — turn left, turn right; go up or go down; say Yes, say No; take the doctor’s advice, or not; keep this physician or choose another.

But when it comes to living, or just prolonging life, many will forget to make a choice that can immediately save lives. While we are strong and healthy, donating blood should be a no-brainer. Every donation of blood when broken down into its constituent parts and can potentially save three lives. Vitalant (formerly, United Blood Service) provides nearly two-thirds of the blood needed in our local hospitals.

As we face deteriorating health, but are still able to make a rational decision, there’s another way to positively impact the lives of others — sign an Organ Donor form. And the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles (our Driver’s License folks) allows every driver to sign-up as an Organ Donor, which then is recorded, and a small heart is added to the front of the license.

Yes, our bodies are fragile. Yes, our blood and our organs can be vital in assisting to make someone else’s life better or giving life itself.

There are many excuses that folks will provide for not doing any of this. Every religion that I am aware of preaches the sanctity of life AND loving (helping in time of need) our neighbors as ourselves.

How beautiful it is to “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” Maxims and time-tested biblical quotes are only valuable when actually applied to real people. Tossing a bible phrase to show your knowledge of text is fine in the classroom or from the pulpit. Living that phrase in the real world, where lives depend on you, elevates the words to life-saving action.

Many fear needles: it really does not hurt, well, maybe for just an instant. Taking the time to donate blood (about an hour every eight weeks) to save a life of somebody in surgery or bleeding as the result of a car crash is what we call in Hebrew a Mitzvah, a righteous act.

And there are too many individuals who want their bodies left intact after their demise. To what end? If the organs can be used by another human being after they are no longer needed by us, great! Help somebody to live a healthier, more enjoyable and successful life, and in a way keep the deceased “alive.”

I’ve been a blood donor for decades, probably gallons of my blood have been used to save the lives of teens, adults and infants. And becoming a blood donor has truly saved my life (but that’s a story for another time).

On my driver’s license is that small heart indicating that I have a big heart — to share with unknown others what my body cannot any longer use, and which they cannot live without.

Daily, throughout life we make critical choices. Choosing to share life should be an easy decision. Contact DMV and Vitalant for specific details. Make your life even more worth living, by sharing it with others. It’s an easy choice, just like the good choices I’m trying to teach my granddaughter to make… and you will feel great knowing that you will give life to somebody who needs YOU!

Thanks.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


Photo: ID 161753002 © Andrii Zastrozhnov | Dreamstime.com

Musings for March 2020

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

With so much activity locally, nationally, globally speeding by us daily, I think it might be an appropriate time to take a few moments to sit back, relax and reflect on that stampede of news, sports, traffic that tramples us daily.

This month of March is a great way to start that dreamy interlude. In the play Oklahoma there is a song about March, which comes in “like a lion — a whippin’ up the water in the bay.” The quiet month of March at its beginning — no longer quiet. Now a wild and ferocious 31-days. What’s happening that causes such a critical transition from benign to nearly violent?

Daylight Savings Time — becomes “curiouser and curiouser” to quote the fabled monkey George. Although our state thankfully does not comport with most of the rest of the USA, this time-travel is silly. When in my lifetime, or yours, has anyone seen farmworkers who are out picking field crops, requesting more daylight? When in a blazing 113-degrees Fahrenheit Arizona summer has anyone requested more sunlight, heat? And what school system has so much in reserve monies that it doesn’t care how much it costs to air-condition their school buildings? Need extra personal outdoors time, switch your start time to whenever its cooler, change your watch, and drink a lot of water. “L’chaim!!”

St. Patrick’s Day — a bigger festival time in the USA than it is in its home country Ireland. Prompted by initiatives to be green — but not in the global warming sense — St. Pat’s Day is a fun day, unless it falls near a weekend during which several days may be set aside to remember the Irish Priest. Clogging, soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and of course beer — or green bagels (my attempt at humoring intergroup relations for more than a decade). “L’chaim!!”

Purim — the Hebrew word translates as ‘lots’ as in lottery. This annual Jewish holiday based on the Book of Esther recounts another occasion where the challenge to an anti-Semitic megalomaniac succeeds. Our heroine, Queen Esther — whose true name is Hadassah — facilitates the downfall of a wicked Persian Minister. His plan to choose the day (by casting lots) for the extermination of the Jewish community backfires. The Queen details to the King the palace intrigue surrounding the plan to misappropriate the royal document seal. A time of revelry in Jewish communities worldwide. “L’chaim!!”

With so many festive times, special events, activities and creative opportunities for revelry and celebration our formerly quiet month of March has become a beast, busy at least in the sense of filling huge amounts of time and space with big stuff. Reflecting on the once quiet month of March now is exhausting with so much zipping by.

I am going to need more time for musing and lying back on a lawn-chair looking up at the clear March sky, while conjuring up and fantasizing about all the animals and their antics up in the clouds.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


Photo: K. Miller

God is Greater Than any Challenge I Have

Pastor Paul Witkop

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By Paul Witkop –

What is your challenge today? We all have them. The older we grow, the more we realize that despite all of our education, expertise and experience, we don’t have the answers to every problem we encounter. Sooner or later, there comes a challenge that will bring us to the humbling conclusion that we are not invincible.

One of my favorite accounts from the Bible is David and Goliath in I Samuel 17. All the odds were against David. He was young and inexperienced. Goliath was gigantic, bigger than anyone had ever seen before. I have been to the place where the battle took place. Even the geography was against David. Goliath seemed invincible.

It could be that the Goliath in your life is a medical problem, yours or someone close to you. Maybe you need a job or wisdom to decide your college major and your life’s direction. It might be a relationship challenge with your spouse, your child or a friend. Maybe it is more personal, a struggle with unhealthy habits with drugs, alcohol, food or even sexuality.

Whatever our challenge, we have two choices. We can move away from it and avoid or deny it. Or we can run toward it armed with the appropriate resources.

David told Goliath, I Samuel 17:45 You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty.

David’s strength did not come over night. He had spent lots of time with God. His heart had been fortified so that he knew that his strength was not in his own cleverness or his own weaponry. His strength and boldness came because he knew he was never alone. He attacked every challenge, armed with the power of the Lord Almighty.

God calls each of us to grow in our strength which is, in fact, not our strength at all. Our strength is the presence and power of the Lord. Always begin with prayer and the acknowledgement of our need for God’s guidance. Then, with God’s help, we invest the time, do the hard work, and go after it. God, with your help, we are going to conquer that giant.

Whatever your Goliath is today, there is no challenge on earth against which the power of God and your willing open heart cannot prevail.


Teaser Photo by Lucinda Lovering on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

2020 for Good — or Not?

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

As you read this column, the newest year 2020 has already arrived. It’s the year we will refer to in the phrase “hindsight is 2020.” So, if this newest year does grant us the opportunity to reflect on the past, what do we see?

2019 was a year of amazing pain and conflict in the United States, not just in the streets of our cities, our schools, our houses of worship, but even in the halls of our government. It was 12 months filled with murder, rancor, swearing, bullying, harassment and mis-statements or lies. No matter the side of the aisle where you sit, 2019 presented itself as the opportunity to challenge and argue, besmirch and belittle anyone and everyone who is different. Hardly a day went by without someone using public or social media to verbally spit in the eye of someone else, without apology.

Seldom did we hear or read of people doing good for each other, except the occasional tribute to America’s military or vets. All the rest of us were fair game for targeting. We sent our “thoughts and prayers” to millions around the world who became cannon fodder for monarchs and oligarchs. Many praised ill-informed leaders. Thousands attempted to bury — online, sometimes in person — those who did not uphold their “values.” We felt the derision of those who saw human beings differently, and who made us the objects of their lunacy, the focus of their fury. Compassion and truth evaporated.

2019 was not a good year. True, we had some successes in medicine to heal the hurting; we saw advances in communication to connect us; and we responded with millions of dollars to care for victims of man-made and climate-made disasters. Nevertheless, 2019 now is over. How many hundreds of thousands remain hostages to war and displacement, seeking freedoms no longer offered, because of squandered resources.

Ours now is the responsibility to make 2020 a year where we can proudly say next year at this time — in hindsight — 2020 was better, because we worked together to make it so.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


Photo by Andrew Zuber; courtesy of Scopio.

A Most Important Season

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

So here we are again. The season of Jewish High Holy Days and Festivals has concluded, with hope and joy. November brings us closer to another set of holidays, another season… Of shopping and parties and good wishes, beginning with Thanksgiving Day modeled after the Jewish (harvest) festival of Sukkot.

Prior to a single day of thanksgiving, we will have a day of voting…and exercising our significant privilege as Americans to participate in the formulation of our government. How many will register, and more importantly how many will actually vote, is now the critical issue for our American democracy.

Americans — and others around the planet — will spend millions of dollars to buy products for themselves and others that have little lasting value beyond “the season.” Granted some gifting is more long-lasting, but much is purchased because we feel it necessary to do so. Much thought goes into that gift. Little time is granted to the value of voting, and its existential impact and potential to change everyone’s life.

When we vote, we become participants in the future of our country, and its future relationships around the world. When we vote, we need to take a little time in evaluating the nature of the candidates, the issues, the initiatives on our ballots. That is time well spent, and critical.

So, it’s a new season. Not the toys and games and perfumes season, but the season of democracy. The season that will impact our world well beyond our time on this planet. What we vote for, for whom we cast ballots, how we view our participation in America’s most sacred requirement will show our friends, families and people of the world whether we care or whether we don’t give a damn.

Let us also make this new season a valuable one. Register and VOTE!


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

What Do You Feed Your Mind?

Pastor Paul Witkop

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By Paul Witkop –

I am reading a very informative and convincing book by Dr. Mark Hyman, a nutritional expert. He has reminded me that anyone who wants to be an Olympic athlete would probably not adopt a diet of donuts and Twinkies. If you wanted to create a gourmet meal, would you start with inferior ingredients?

Most of us understand that what we put into our bodies is vital in determining our daily performance as well as our ongoing health. Even though we know this, eating intelligently is a battle.

The same principle applies to the most important part of our lives, our minds. Like our bodies, what we allow into our minds is a constant battle. I have learned these three truths:

  • You are what you think.
  • Your mind will think about what you put in it.
  • Your actions result from your thoughts.

How do we win the battle for our minds? The Apostle Paul wrote these words: And fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable —Philippians 4:8

Long before the age of computers and smart phones, Paul knew the input-output principle of “garbage in-garbage out.”

  • Where are your thoughts these days?
  • What food are you feeding your mind?

Think with me about some healthy alternatives on which our minds could feed.

  1. Respect true heroes — Instead of revering the opinions of overpaid Hollywood actors and sports players and misleading politicians, make it a point to notice authentic heroes who are making a real difference in the world…devoted teachers, principled businessmen and women, diligent people working to feed the hungry, tireless behind the scenes volunteers, self-sacrificing community leaders etc.
  2. Replace screen time — Television and smart phones all reinforce passivity and seduce us to adopt values which are not ours. Don’t just automatically revert to your smart phone during idle time. How about a good book? How about some time to talk with God?
  3. Substitute face to face conversations for social media — Conversation is becoming a lost art. Yet, we have so much to learn from each other.
  4. Spend time with older people — Schedule time with a few older people whose lives, wisdom and attitudes are refreshing and inspiring.
  5. Listen to Jesus — The greatest source of positive input is Jesus. We can get to know Jesus by reading about him in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We can discover Jesus’ plan for our lives, one that is full of joy and purpose. He wants us to know his plan and to know him personally.

… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. —Romans 12:2

Join me in asking God to transform you, your family, your workplace and the world, one mind at a time, starting with you.


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Words Hurt and Heal

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

A few years ago, I delivered a sermon expressing the need for civility, integrity and honesty in government. It seemed like a normal appeal to do right, speak appropriately and act within norms established by society.

I was invited not to return to that pulpit.

Ever since, I have been trying to decide whether words really do matter and whether they are more significant than actions.

Children are most often cautioned about the use of ‘naughty’ verbiage. We don’t want them cursing, making nasty comments, or today — bullying online. We tell our kids what is appropriate and what is not. We set standards for our family vocabulary and offer punishment when those standards are violated.

Words mean something, to me. Ethnic slurs, extraordinary hyperbole, swear words have impact. Using inappropriate language is just plain WRONG. Likewise, words of love, kindness and support can heal.

The letters of the English alphabet by themselves are merely symbols for the sounds we want to connect into words. By themselves, letters are totally innocuous, without impact or meaning. Joined with other such symbols, they take on a life, a reality, a meaning — for good or for evil.

When these sounds emanate from our mouths, we become responsible for their impact, or we should be held accountable for their meaning. Letters when combined with other letters yield words, and words when blended into sentences have import and impact well beyond the individual letters.

Teaching children not to use ‘dirty’ words is something parents just do; it’s the proper way to educate the younger generation. When ‘dirty’ words are used by adults, kids often call us to task and rightfully so. (Even if the hammer smashing on my thumb does feel better by my offering an expletive.)

So why did that group feel so challenged by my words? Why were so many offended by my use of the words “integrity, honesty and civility”? Maybe it hit home, putting them on notice that language that violates these standards is a critical error in the public forum. We’ll never know.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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Envy Will Make You Miserable

Pastor Paul Witkop

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By Paul Witkop –

When I was about 12, my close friend Jeff had a gold colored Schwinn Stingray bicycle with a banana seat and 3-speed stick shift. I wanted one too…very badly. It is called envy and it starts young.

Experience has shown me that envy is a very destructive force. It is a relationship killer. It is impossible to envy someone and love them at the same time. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” James, Jesus’ brother, also wrote, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16)

Comparison is at the root of all envy. Nothing good ever comes from comparing. Comparing leads to either pride or envy. If I compare my looks, my accomplishments, my possessions to yours, two things can happen. I might think, “I am doing better than you,” and that will lead to pride. I could also think, “You are doing better than I am,” and that will lead to envy. Neither are helpful. Both are very destructive. Many times, when we compare ourselves with others, we don’t know the whole story behind their success or their hardship. If we knew the whole story, the sacrifices they have made and the hurts they have suffered, then we might not want it.

Envy is resenting God’s goodness to others and ignoring God’s goodness to me. The remedy is to start enjoying God’s gifts to others and his gifts to us. Somehow in our minds we think the world is some big giant raspberry pie and it’s all divided up into slices. If somebody’s slice gets a little bit bigger, then that must mean my slice is going to get smaller. That kind of thinking is wrong. God’s got all the pie filling in the world. God doesn’t run out of blessings. He doesn’t run out of grace. There’s more than enough to go around. When God blesses somebody else, it does not mean there is not enough blessings for you. He blesses all of us in different ways.

Instead of asking, “Why them and not me?” God teaches us to appreciate his undeserved blessings. Instead we ask, “Why me?”


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A Palm Tree, a Ficus and Some Chimes

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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

It was one of those unusual Sunday afternoons when not much was going on. The temperature was below average, and a cool breeze woke the hanging chimes prompting them to ring every now and again.

I took a sip of my drink and lay on the chaise on the back patio. Not much happening. Cool breeze, the chimes, an unusual quiet.

Then I looked up and the palm fronds were synchronized in their swaying, side to side. Long narrow stalks expanding into full, broad fronds that looked like horses’ heads nuzzling each other. Like a mother and her foal.

And the birds began a chorus of sounds starting nearby and being answered from a distance. Back and forth in their private language, only interrupted by the sweet chimes in the breeze.

As formidable as were the palm frond horse heads, was the happy face of a Disney dwarf, formed by the years of trimming branches from the ficus tree. Now the knots showed a smiling profile of a seemingly mischievous cartoon figure.

And the silence was broken by yet another bird call, and a breeze blowing through the swaying horse head palms, and the playing chimes.

Not the usual afternoon, because above the swaying horse heads and round face in the trunk of the ficus tree, were light clouds. White, fluffy and continuously moving west to east. Snails and bears and giant eagle wings hovering but for a moment, then moving on, transforming and reshaping as the chimes rang and horse heads swayed.

The little Disney character, looked like one of the seven dwarfs, still smiling as the breeze wafted by.

Just a quiet Sunday afternoon with nothing much happening, but with so much going on. I’m sitting and watching and listening as these forever friends do what comes naturally. A great day for all of us.


Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.


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