Entries in the 'New Publications' Category

24 Hours: “The Meaning Of Life”

In San Francisco, the the Russian newspaper 24 Hours published my article “The Meaning Of Life”:

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Newsmax: “What’s Next When US Is Divided Like Vietnam War Days?“

The largest portal Newsmax published my new article “What’s Next When US Is Divided Like Vietnam War Days“?

It comes as no surprise to me that a majority of Americans said in a recent Washington Post poll that divisions in the U.S. are at least as big as they were during the Vietnam War, and that American politics have reached a dangerous low point.

America’s socio-political climate is looking more and more like a prison yard where you have to choose your gang to get a sense of support: you’re either on the left or the right. The country is torn between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, and the pluralism, equality, and independence that define the American spirit have been tossed out the window. Instead of a healthy exchange of ideas, there is intimidation and smothering of free speech, and fear that if you exhibit certain political or religious affiliations, you will face verbal or physical abuse.

Moreover, what’s dangerous about this divisive atmosphere is that when there is no unity in mainstream society, it appears on the fringes in forms of Nazism and fascism.

Letting matters develop as they have been will result in an even more divided, contentious, and violent American society. Therefore, unity of the entire American people is imperative to keeping the American society intact.

Having said that, I do hold great hope in the unity of the American people. It requires major changes in the country’s socio-economic infrastructure, most notably in education and the media, but I believe that America’s pioneering spirit can bring about a positive, creative transformation during these tough times.

In terms of education, as I proposed in one of my previous columns, the establishment of basic income for participating in connection-enriching educational programs would tackle the problem of social division directly, and bring about improvements in the economy, as well as in social health and well-being.

In terms of the media, instead of the constant barrage of divisive messaging, the media should aim to promote ideas and examples of the kind of unity America needs. It should primarily address America’s main problem head on: the country is divided, which negatively affects its citizens and weakens the country, and that the way to a greater America is to work on achieving nationwide unity.

By coupling a more unifying media discourse with a connection-enriching educational agenda, people would learn how to accept, understand, and get along with everyone, and become influenced by a new atmosphere of mutual understanding, support, awareness and sensitivity. As a result, there would be reduced violence, crime, substance abuse and increased happiness in society.

America still has a chance. By emphasizing the unity of the entire American society, the American spirit can be revived. Today’s American Dream, however, needs to revise its surge of motivation through a new vision: people of different cultures coming together to find happiness through social cohesion. If the American people don’t realize their need for unity in a positive way, then the negative versions of unity—Nazism and fascism—will increasingly close in on society from both sides.
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Newsmax: “Trump Can Awaken Nation By Declaring Opioids Emergency“

The largest portal Newsmax published my new article “Trump Can Awaken Nation by Declaring Opioids Emergency

When President Donald J. Trump declares the opioid crisis a national emergency, it should give his administration the power to divert more funds, assign more manpower, and cut some red tape. Declaring national emergency to address an addiction epidemic is an unprecedented move, as it is typically reserved for short-term emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

Yet there is much debate on whether this move will actually help in solving such a complex matter. With 91 Americans dying from opioid overdoses every day, this number has now quadrupled in less than two decades, making opioids the number one killer of Americans under 50. That’s more than guns, car accidents and cancer. If we once thought that only certain communities are affected, today it’s all over the map.

In order to address a rapidly growing addiction of such magnitude, it is not enough to equip police officers with naloxone, expand controlled medications for addicts, or open more detox centers. These could alleviate the symptoms of the crisis, but won’t treat the addiction epidemic at its root.

What’s more, trying to hold the gigantic pharmaceutical companies accountable is a battle lost from the outset; Cracking down on doctors pressures them to under-prescribe, driving users to look for heroin on the streets a lot sooner, as was clearly shown in the case of Florida; the so called “war on drugs” has been recognized as a colossal failure; and that leaves some to blame the addicts themselves, which is like beating the messenger instead of reading the message.

The message we should heed is clear as a bell: we must look into the sociological factors that drive this addiction to massive proportions. In other words, we have to ask more profound questions such as “What makes people in our society turn to opiates to begin with?” And, “What is our society not doing to prevent the making of ever increasing numbers of opioid addicts?”

The Craving for Opiates Is a Craving for Connection

First, it’s important to recognize that the vast majority of opioid abusers don’t start from taking them for genuine physical pain. Rather, in most cases, those who abuse opiates turn to them due to a different kind of pain — an emotional pain.

There are opioid receptors all over our bodies, and they are designed to balance emotions such as panic and anxiety, in addition to physical pain. When we were babies, the milk we got from our mothers was rich with opioids, and when someone gives us a hug today, our brain stem generates opioids.

Many might be surprised to learn that, likewise, social support, mutual trust, a romantic relationship, a loving family or even just a safe and positive social climate, all drive the production of opioids right within our body. Thus, the need for opiates is deeply intertwined with our inherent wiring for human connection.

With this in mind, let’s look at what’s happening today: Our society actually makes people so stressed, anxious and lonely that their naturally balanced, healthy supply of opioids just doesn’t cut it. To put it into a simple social equation: We generate a lot more alienation, uncertainty and stress than we generate safety, compassion, and camaraderie.

Therefore, masses of people turning to artificial opiates can be seen as a natural counter-balance to an off-balance society.

A Wakeup Call for American Culture

Trump stated that the entire world has a drug problem, not just America. He’s right about that. What’s interesting about the opiate crisis is that it’s as if nature is telling us exactly what we need to change within our society.

This crisis exposes the deeply interconnected nature of the social species called humanity. We are connected with each other to our core, like cells in a single organism, and we are naturally drawn to each other for a sense of support and security. Both our biological and psychological resilience depend on positive and healthy relations within our social environment. And just like cells in a body, when we lose touch with the body as a whole, we grow sick and degenerate until we die.

However, this drug crisis also joins a list of other painful symptoms, all converging to show us that we cannot escape a massive transformation of Western culture. We have to acknowledge our dire need for healthy human connections and positive social climates. And sooner or later, we will have to actively heal our broken society.

In order to do that, we need to tap into the same mechanism we currently abuse – our inherent wiring for human connection. There is a method of circle-style workshops that provide safe and positive social interaction. These should be introduced into our workplaces, schools, retirement homes, and even kindergartens. They should be on our TV screens and all around the virtual world, so that anyone, long before they turn to opiate abuse, could easily find a supportive community that generates warm human connection.

Once we begin to do that, people will discover the natural high we are wired to experience just from being positively connected to each other. This kind of high won’t just solve opiate addiction, it will take us out of the narrow prism through which we view our social reality and empower us to envision how to reshape our societies.

We live in a time where the nature of human development compels us to deepen our connection to each other and enter a new level of human experience. The longer we stall, the more frustrated we will become, and more addiction will ensue. Instead, we should open our eyes to see the great opportunity for social progress that lies at hand.
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The Times Of Israel: “Who Else Wants A New Reason To Celebrate Simchat Torah?”

The Times of Israel published my new article “Who Else Wants a New Reason to Celebrate Simchat Torah?”

Simchat Torah marks the conclusion of the Tishrei holiday cycle with a celebration of joy in the Torah.

What is the deeper meaning behind this celebration and joy that this holiday signifies? Why is there such an atmosphere of happiness? Where is this joy rooted?

To understand the deeper meaning behind Simchat Torah, we should first understand what is the deeper meaning behind the Torah itself.

What Is the Torah?

The Torah is the “light that reforms” [Midrash Rabah, Eicha, “Introduction,” Paragraph 2]. The term “light” doesn’t stand for any physical notion of light, like sunlight or candlelight, nor does it mean the emotional light we refer to when we resolve some situation, e.g. when we say that we see “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Instead, the “light of the Torah” refers to the life-giving creative energy that transpires through nature’s every detail. As the light is a life-giving energy, opposite the light is that which it creates, sustains and develops: The light sustains the form of all objects, and vitalizes the growth, movement and development of all living organisms.

The light is a desire to give, and its creation—including us, everything in the planet we live in, and the whole universe—is a desire to receive.

The joy we feel during Simchat Torah symbolizes our discovery of this light, i.e. the attainment of its characteristic quality of giving upon our innate desire to receive. Such attainment about the feeling of a much more expansive reality than the one we feel when we only receive.

What Does the Torah “Reform”?

While we’ve established that the Torah is the light, what does it mean that this light “reforms”? What does it reform, and what kind of reformation is made?

Although we are a desire to receive, completely opposite to the light’s giving quality, we don’t feel the full intensity of this oppositeness, its “evil” (“the inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” [Genesis, 8:21]).

What we do feel is that we develop slowly over a long period of time, and the more we develop, the more problems and pains emerge. The purpose of the unfolding crises in every field of life we’re experiencing today is to make us seek why they’re happening, and how they can be resolved. Moreover, today’s globally interdependent situation shows us that the more we develop without resolving the many personal, social, ecological and financial issues pressing on us, then we’re bound to tumble into deeper and deeper chasms.

These escalating crises today are in order to bring us to the discovery of our nature—the desire to receive pleasure for self-benefit alone—as the cause of our problems, and that we need to learn how to redirect our desires in order to fix these problems at their core. As it is written, “I have created the evil inclination,” and “I have created for it the Torah as a spice” [Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Kidushin, 30b] because “the light in it reforms them” [Midrash Rabah, Eicha, “Introduction,” Paragraph 2.]. In other words, our egoistic desires were created with a means of redirecting them into a form of giving (“the Torah”), and by doing so, correct (“reform”) them, thereby adding an additional fulfillment and pleasure to our lives (“a spice”).

How to Redirect Our Desires and Feel a Whole New Reality

By accessing the light of the Torah, we gain the ability to relate to each other and to nature in its entirety through its quality of giving. We then feel a more advanced, harmonious reality, balanced with nature’s life-giving energy. The question then is: How? How can we work with this light? How can we invite it into our lives, let it work on us, and allow it to bring about positive changes?

The answer is in society. When we gather with people who also wish to change their lives for the better and exert a positive influence in the world, we can literally “train” ourselves with the Torah to give as the light does. By doing so, we set the foundation for a society that is capable of switching the current chaotic direction the world is treading to a positive, harmonious one.

The creation of such a society of “givers” is emphasized in the tenets of the Torah, where it writes to “love your friend as yourself,” “that which you hate, do not do to others,” and become a society connected “as one man with one heart.” These sayings are not morals, but practical tools for their adherents to achieve the quality of giving and set the foundation for a harmonious society, balanced with nature.

While We’re Far from the Real Simchat Torah, Here’s a Good Reason to Celebrate the Joy and Happiness of Simchat Torah Right Now

At its core, the Tishrei holiday cycle expresses our shift as a divided, egoistic society to one of connection, altruism and balance with nature’s quality of giving. Its final day, Simchat Torah, celebrates the favorable outcome of this shift.

Although the basis of Simchat Torah is far from where we see our society heading today, it’s an opportunity for us all to think about where we are as individuals and as a society in relation to this harmonious state. We can rejoice in our recognition of the real cause of all our problems—our egoistic nature—and that we have the means at our disposal to redirect this nature to a positive direction. That’s already a major step towards the reformation the Torah speaks about.

Therefore, we have a very good reason to be happy this Simchat Torah. Let’s use the opportunity to consider how we can train the light’s quality of giving, love and connection among each other, and show that there is indeed a positive alternative to the escalating divisions, struggles and conflicts around the world.

May it be a happy holiday to all!
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Bestseller: Unlocking The Zohar

My book Unlocking The Zohar has become a bestseller on the largest site Amazon.

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The Russian Canadian: “Tent Under The Stars”

The Toronto newspaper The Russian Canadian published my article: “Tent Under the Stars” (page 13)

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The Russian Canadian: “The Whole Life Is Like “Day One”

The Toronto newspaper The Russian Canadian published my article: “The Whole Life Is Like “Day One”:

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7 Days: “Simchat Torah: The Day We Take The First Step”

Chicago’s Russian periodical 7 Days published my article: “Simchat Torah: The Day We Take the First Step”

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Newsmax: “Paddock’s Motive Unknown But Motive for Violence Is Everywhere“

The largest portal Newsmax published my new article “Paddock’s Motive Unknown But Motive for Violence Is Everywhere

As expected, the Las Vegas massacre has refueled the gun control debate in America. But no one seems to consider a much wider debate to be had on the ongoing breeding of violence in the U.S.

“We still don’t have a clear motive or reason why,” says Undersheriff Kevin McMahill of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, about a week after the massacre. But it’s not just police detectives who are tenaciously looking for answers. It’s everyone.

The default answer that comes to mind is that Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white male with no criminal record, was some sort of a psychopath. A madman. One of those deeply disturbed people whose senseless actions may never be fully understood.

But there’s a problem with that answer. It casts Paddock and everything about him as an outsider, detaches him from our social values, and rejects any association of his image with our culture. And by doing so, it prevents us from taking a good hard look in the mirror as a society.

Paddock could have very well been a psychopath, and some even suggestthe criminal genes of his father played a role. But Paddock was also a replica of the horrific scenario that repeats itself in America, over and over again. He managed to leave a painful scar in America’s collective memory as the deadliest mass shooter in U.S. history, but do we realize that there were six other mass shootings in America the very week before?

Broadening the Discussion

It’s frightful to discover that a mass shooting, defined as at least 4 people shot in a single incident, happens in America every 9 out of 10 days on average (!). More than 30,000 people die every year from gun-related incidents in the U.S. — more than HIV, malnutrition, and fires, to name a few. No other country in the developed world even comes close to these numbers. Moreover, sociologists from Yale University have shown gun violence to be a social epidemic that spreads over time.

But even more eye-opening is the fact that overall assault death rates — including but not limited to gun-use — reveal a similar picture: the U.S. is significantly and consistently more violent than other OECD countries since the 1960s. With this in mind, what we should be debating is a social epidemic of violence, of which guns are simply the loudest and most detrimental expression.

So instead of limiting the discussion to Paddock’s motive and the gun control debate, I believe Americans should expand the public discourse to ask the question: What keeps fueling America’s extremely high rates of violence?

Like Something Out of a Movie

Officer David Newton of the Las Vegas Police Department told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that breaking into Paddock’s hotel room and finding his body alongside his weapons arsenal was like something “out of a movie.” Newton, without noticing, pointed to one of the major variables that are usually left out of the equation that explains the extreme levels of violence in America — the countless visualizations of violence seen by the American people.

With television programs displaying 812 violent acts per hour, the typical American will watch 200,000 acts of violence, including 16,000 murders, before they turn 18. And this is just television. When you take a moment to consider the impact this has on our social climate, is it really so surprising that similar violent scenes are playing out in real life?

We are trapped in a vicious cycle that makes it easy to overlook its psychological consequences: Content producers are taking their violent scenes to greater extremes, giving audiences a bigger fix to keep them watching. At the same time, viewers are becoming increasingly desensitized to what they see. The result is a society whose attitudes and norms concerning violence are reaching a new low each time.

Gradually, we get used to the ongoing appearance of extremely violent acts and they become a “normal” part of everyday life.

Every couple of days, the same amount of people as in the Vegas shooting are intentionally killed by guns, but these killings don’t make the headlines. Every day, domestic violence takes the lives of nearly 3 women, but these deaths don’t break into the public’s awareness. It takes a mass shooting of hundreds of people at once from the 32nd floor to shock society.

Systematically Nurturing Common Humanity

So, regardless of where you stand on gun control, if we want to treat the violent tendencies in America from their root, we have to deal with something much deeper: the culture that breeds them.

The morning after the Las Vegas shooting, President Trump said: “We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community, and the comfort of our common humanity. Our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence.”

Every sensible person would agree with this statement. But in order for its effect to last more than a day, we have to consistently work on our unity so that it is more powerful than our evil, which is the potential eruption of the human ego. And only if we regularly strengthen our bonds and our common humanity, then violence between us will rarely happen.

Social scientists have long established that we are all highly susceptible to the examples, norms, and values of our environment. We must open our eyes to this and cultivate a social climate that nurtures our common humanity on a daily basis. If we begin to do so systematically, we will surely see a much less violent America, and we could hope to prevent the next Paddock from happening.
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The Russian Canadian: “Is Judgment Day Waiting For American Jews?”

The Toronto newspaper The Russian Canadian published my article: “Is Judgment Day Waiting for American Jews?”

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