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Jewish Geography

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Nov 22, 2017

In this episode of the Jewish Geography Podcast I discuss the root meaning of the word, "Jew," and the connection it has to thankfulness. Then we study the opening lines of Moshe Chaim Luzzato's famous work of Jewish ethics, 'Mesillat Yesharim' (The Straight Path, or Path of the Just), and discuss how keeping our own highest ideals in site can have very important and very practical consequences, and we relate this to the ongoing revelations of sexual offences by various powerful men in the US.

The following is text from the introduction to "Mesillat Yesharim,' from, which I go over in this episode. You can see the entire text HERE.

"1. The writer says: I have composed this work not to teach people what they do not know but to remind them of what they already know and which is very familiar to them. For you will find in most of my words only things which most people already know and do not have any doubt about.

2. But according to their familiarity and to the extent that their truth is evident to all, so too is their neglect very prevalent and forgetfulness of them very great. Therefore, the benefit to be gleaned from this book is not from a single reading, for it is possible that the reader will learn little that he did not already know. Rather the benefit derived [from this book] comes from review and diligent study. For [then] he will be reminded of these things which, by nature, people tend to forget and he will put to heart his duties which he hides from.
3. If you reflect on the current state of affairs in most of the world, you will see most people of quick intelligence and sharp mentality devote most of their thought and interest in the subtleties of wisdom and the depths of analysis; every man according to his intellectual tendency and natural desire.
4. There are those who toil greatly in studying the creation and nature. Others devote all their study to astronomy and mathematics, or to the arts. There are others which enter closer towards the sacred, namely, the study of the holy Torah. Among those, some occupy themselves with Halachic analyses, others with Midrash, others with law decisions.
5. But few are those which devote thought and study to the matter of perfection of [divine] service: on love, fear, clinging, and the other branches of piety. This is not because they do not consider these things as fundamental. For if you ask them, each one will answer you that this is of utmost importance and that it is unimaginable for one to be considered truly wise if he has not fully comprehended these matters.
6. Rather their lack of devoting more attention to it stems from its being so familiar and so evident to them that they see no need for spending much time on it.
7. [Consequently] this study and the reading of books of this sort is left to people of not so keen, almost dull intelligence.
8. These types of people you will find diligent in all this, not budging from it, until the situation has reached the point that if one sees a person engaging in piety, he cannot help but suspecting him of belonging to those of dull intelligence."

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The rendition of Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, which serves as the shows theme music was created by Andrés Rodríguez (“androz” on A tune titled, 'A New Beginning,' from was used as the transition from the first to the second section of the podcast.

Most importantly, many thanks to the Creator of the Universe, for bringing about all these wonders, without which, I would have nothing to talk about.