SPIRITUAL SEARCH

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.

TRANSCRIPT

> 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.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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