SPIRITUAL SEARCH

September 20, 2018 at 4:45 am

On this Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur we go in search of spirituality in the digital age. Is it impossible for millennials to put down their phones, disconnect and actually be fulfilled? We’ll find out.

Aired on September 19, 2018.

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>> FOR MANY JEWISH NEW YORKERS
THE HIGH HOLY DAYS OF ROSH
HASHANAH AND YOM KIPPUR ARE A
TIME FOR PRAYER, REFLECTION AND
FAMILY.
BUT HOW CAN THE WISDOM OF THE
TORAH AND THE JEWISH SAGES GUIDE
THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO ARE TODAY
A MESH IN A FRIEND ZEED AND
DISCONNECTED SOCIETY THAT'S
WARPING ALL THE CORE VALUES.
THAT'S THE QUESTION THAT RABBI
MARK WILDES ATTEMPTS TO ANSWER
IN HIS NEW BOOK "BEYOND THE
INSTANT: JEWISH WISDOM FOR
LASTING HAPPINESS IN A
FAST-PACED SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD."
HE JOINS US NOW.
RABBI, WELCOME BACK TO THE
PROGRAM.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING.
>> SO, RABBI, AS YOU POINT OUT
IN YOUR BOOK, IN THIS COUNTRY
AND BASICALLY IN ALL DEVELOPED
COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD WE
HAVE MORE COMFORT, MORE FREEDOM,
MORE OF EVERYTHING THAT MONEY
CAN BUY, JUST ABOUT, YET WE ARE
MORE DEPRESSED AND MORE ANXIOUS
THAN EVER BEFORE.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT?
>> IT'S A GREAT QUESTION AND
IT'S THE REASON I WROTE THE
BOOK.
MONEY AND AFFLUENCE, FINANCIAL
SECURITY, ARE ALL IMPORTANT
THINGS, BUT ALL THE STUDIES SHOW
THAT THEY ARE NOT FACTORS.
THEY ARE NOT DETERMINING FACTORS
IN HAPPINESS.
PROVIDED YOU HAVE YOUR BASICS,
FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING, THOSE
TYPES OF THINGS ARE NOT GOING TO
PROVIDE HAPPINESS BEYOND THE
INSTANT.
WHAT WILL PROVIDE HAPPINESS
BEYOND THE INSTANT ARE VALUES.
A VALUE-DRIVEN LIFE THAT HAS
PURPOSE AND MEANING.
ALL THE STUDIES DEMONSTRATE AND
THIS IS WHAT JUDAISM HAS BEEN
TEACHING FOR CENTURIES, IS THAT
IF YOU LIVE A LIFE BASED ON
CERTAIN VALUES AND YOU FOCUS ON
THOSE VALUES, ONE OF WHICH I
START THE BOOK OFF BY TALKING
ABOUT GIVING AND PROSPEROUS MORE
DEVELOPED SOCIETIES WE TEND TO
FOCUS MORE ON OURSELVES, MORE ON
OUR OWN PROFESSIONAL ADVANCEMENT
AND YET GIVING AND DOING FOR
OTHERS ACTUALLY PRODUCES MORE
LONG LASTING CONTENTMENT AND
HAPPINESS.
AND THAT'S WHY YOU'RE NOT GOING
TO NECESSARILY SEE HAPPINESS
FLOURISHING MORE IN A MORE
DEVELOPED PROSPEROUS COUNTRY.
>> YOU TALK ABOUT THE VALUES AND
THE VALUES THAT COME FROM
TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS BELIEFS,
BUT YOU ALSO WRITE ABOUT HOW WE
BECOME SKEPTICAL OF RELIGIOUS
BELIEFS IN OUR AGE.
YOU KNOW, IN AN AGE WHERE
RELIGION IS USED AS AN EXCUSE
FOR TERRORISM OR AS A COVER FOR
SEXUAL PREDATION JUST TO CITE
TWO VERY AWFUL EXAMPLES THAT WE
ARE FAMILIAR WITH, DOESN'T IT
MAKE SENSE TO BE SKEPTICAL OF
RELIGION?
>> YOU KNOW, WE'RE THROWING OUT
THE BABY WITH THE BATH WATER.
THERE ARE A LOT OF REASONS TO
HATE RELIGION TODAY.
YOU JUST MENTIONED TWO OF THEM.
THERE'S MORE BLOOD SHED IN THE
NAME OF ALLAH, GOD, HOWEVER YOU
WANT TO REFER TO THE ALL MIGHTY,
AND THE OTHER EXAMPLE YOU JUST
GAVE.
THEY ARE TRUE.
I CAN'T DENY THAT.
BUT I ALSO CAN'T DENY THAT
RELIGION HAS PROMOTED VALUES FOR
CENTURIES THAT HAVE KEPT PEOPLE
NOT ONLY HAPPY, BUT PRODUCTIVE.
THERE ARE ACTUALLY UNFORTUNATELY
HAS BEEN MORE BLOOD SHED IN THE
20th CENTURY NOT DUE TO
RELIGION, DUE TO OTHER FORCES,
BUT IF YOU STRIP DOWN WHAT
RELIGION IS SUPPOSED TO GIVE,
IT'S SUPPOSED TO GIVE ETERNAL
VALUES AND YOU RAISED A VERY
IMPORTANT POINT WHICH IS HOW DO
YOU DO THAT IF EVERYONE IS
SKEPTICAL?
WE DON'T BELIEVE IN OBJECTIVE
MORALITY ANYMORE.
WHAT I'M TRYING TO ARGUE IN THE
BOOK IS THAT WE NEED TO GO BACK
AND WE NEED TO ASCERTAIN THAT
THERE ARE CERTAIN TRUTHS.
THERE ARE CERTAIN RIGHT AND
WRONGS.
WHEN WE CAN EMBRACE THOSE AND WE
CAN LIVE OUR LIVES ACCORDINGLY,
WE WILL BE HAPPIER.
ONE OF THE STUDIES THAT I
DEMONSTRATE IN THE BOOK WAS
ROSETTA, PENNSYLVANIA.
THE MOST STUDIED TOWN IN THE
UNITED STATES.
IN THE 1950s THEY HAD LESS THAN
HALF THE RATE OF HEART DISEASE
OF THE REST OF THE NATION.
THERE WAS NO SUICIDE, THERE WAS
NO ALCOHOLISM, THERE WAS NO DRUG
ADDICTION.
NOBODY WAS ON WELFARE, VERY
LITTLE CRIME.
IT WAS A VERY BORING PLACE TO
LIVE.
AND THEY DISCOVERED SOMETHING
VERY, VERY SIMPLE.
ROSETTA, PENNSYLVANIA, WAS
SETTLED BY ITALIAN IMMIGRANTS
FROM SOUTHERN ITALY, A PLACE
CALLED ROSETTA, AND THEY BROUGHT
WITH THEM A TREMENDOUS SENSE OF
VALUES AND COMMUNITY.
THEY WOULD STOP TO EACH OTHER
AND TALK TO EACH OTHER ON THE
STREET IN ITALIAN, EVERYBODY
ATTENDED THE MASS EVERY SUNDAY
THERE, THEY ALL WENT TO CHURCH.
THEY COUNTED 22 CIVIC
ORGANIZATIONS IN A POPULATION
LESS THAN 2,000, WHICH MEANS
EVERYBODY WAS VOLUNTEERING.
EVERYBODY WAS PRAYING AND
EVERYBODY WAS LOOKING OUT FOR
EACH OTHER.
AND THEY WERE HAPPIER.
>> SO WHAT DO YOU SAY -- I'M
SURE YOU HEARD IT, PEOPLE TELL
YOU, YOU KNOW, RABBI, I WANT TO
BELIEVE WHAT YOU SAY.
I WANT TO BELIEVE, FIRST OF ALL,
I WANT TO GIVE OF MYSELF MORE
THAN I EVER HAVE, I WANT TO
CONNECT MYSELF TO SOMETHING
GREATER THAN MYSELF, BUT I JUST
CAN'T DO IT.
I CAN'T CHANGE.
>> SO I HAVE A CHAPTER DEVOTED
TO THAT.
THE POWER OF CHANGE.
IF JUDAISM STANDS FOR ANYTHING
AND THE HIGH HOLIDAYS ARE UPON
US NOW, ALL ABOUT CHANGE.
WHY GO AND PRAY IF YOU CAN'T
CHANGE?
WHY GO FOR THERAPY?
I LIKE TO QUOTE MY FAVORITE
JEWISH PHILOSOPHY, HE WAS
GRAPPLING WITH THE
PREDETERMINISTS, THE EXTREME
ASTROLOGISTS HOBBLED EVERYTHING
WAS IN THE STARS AND YOU
COULDN'T SHAPE YOUR OWN FATE,
YOUR OWN DESTINY, AND WE BELIEVE
YOU CAN.
YOU CAN CHANGE.
JUST TAKE BABY STEPS.
DON'T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING
OVERNIGHT.
AND WE HAVE A VERY IMPORTANT
PRINCIPLE IN JUDAISM THAT AFTER
ONE'S BEHAVIOR FOLLOWS THE
HEART.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE FEELING
EVERYTHING, JUST PERFORM AN ACT
OF KINDNESS.
DO THE RIGHT THING.
THE MORE RIGHT THINGS A PERSON
DOES, THE MORE WE DEVELOP, THE
MORE WE'RE SHAPED.
YOU KNOW, IT'S JUST A QUESTION
OF TAKING ONE LITTLE STEP.
>> WELL, RABBI, THE BOOK IS
"BEYOND THE INSTANT: JEWISH
WISDOM FOR LASTING HAPPINESS IN
A FAST-PACED SOCIAL MEDIA
WORLD."
AS I TOLD YOU IN A PRIVATE
CONVERSATION, THE BOOK ALREADY
AFFECTED ME PROFOUNDLY.
THANK YOU SO MUCH.
>> IT'S REALLY AN HONOR.
PLEASURE.
THANK YOU.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, and Judy and Josh Weston.

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