Does Torah Endorse The Maiming Of Sinners?

Marc B. Shapiro writes:

The Bible, Judges 1:6, already mentions cutting off the thumbs and large toes of the defeated Canaanite king. R. Moses Isserles, Shulhan Arukh, Hoshen Mishpat 388:10, refers to blinding a moser or cutting out his tongue. R. Shalom Shachna, R. Isserles’ father-in-law, had an actual case in which he permitted blinding and cutting out the tongue of an evildoer. See She’elot u-Teshuvot Maharam Lublin, no. 138. This responsum is deleted from the Warsaw, 1881 edition of the responsa, but is found in the earlier editions which have the title Manhir Einei Hakhamim. R. Meir of Lublin tells us that R. Shalom Shachna’s ruling had a negative result in the end, as the man ended up apostatizing and marrying a Christian, and he and his children caused problems for the Jewish community.

In order to prevent such occurrences, both R. Meir of Lublin and R. Luria reject the punishments of blinding and cutting out tongues, believing that when necessary the wicked one should simply be killed.

R. Meir of Rothenburg stated that it is permitted to amputate the arm of one who continuously beats his wife. See She’elot u-Teshuvot Maharam Rothenburg, ed. Bloch (Budapest, 1895), no. 81. The same ruling is quoted in the name of R. Simhah of Speyer in Beit Yosef, Even ha-Ezer 154 (end). Already R. Huna recommended cutting off the hand of one who continuously struck others. See Sanhedrin 58b.

R. Jacob Weil (fifteenth century) of Germany ruled that it was permitted to gouge out someone’s eyes who violated Shabbat and Yom Kippur. See She’elot u-Teshuvot Mahari Veil (Jerusalem, 1959), section Dinin ve-Halakhot (at the end of the volume), no. 58.

R. Tzemah Gaon tells us that with a kohen who married a divorcee and there was a fear that he would perform the priestly blessing (which he was now forbidden to do), they would cut off the top of his fingers. See Halakhot Pesukot (Cracow, 1893), no. 84.

The penalty of blinding a murderer is mentioned in Sanhedrin 27a (see Rashi who assumes that this is the meaning of the passage). Blinding oneself was also occasionally used as a preventative measure to keep one from sin. A geonic source tells us that R. Joseph and R. Sheshet blinded themselves for this reason. See Sha’arei Teshuvah, no. 178. According to Yalkut Shimoni, Bereshit, parashah 49, remez 161 (p. 848 in the Mossad ha-Rav Kook edition), R. Matya ben Heresh blinded himself for the same reason.

Regarding cutting a tongue out, see also R. Moses Hagiz, Mishnat Hakhamim (Czernowitz, 1864), no. 405, who tells the story of a rabbi and martyr who was tortured before being killed. When it was decreed that his tongue would be cut out, he stated that this was a punishment for him having learnt Latin and other non-Jewish languages.

While we are on the subject of harsh physical punishments, let me call attention to R. Yitzhak Nahman Eshkoli, Tza’ar Ba’alei Hayyim be-Halakhah u-ve-Aggadah (Ofakim, 2002), p. 261, who cites a contemporary opinion that when dealing with an eved kena’ani who has not yet had milah and tevilah, if necessary one can remove one of his limbs! (Obviously, this is no more than a theoretical point resulting from a “hiddush”.)

שישראל שקנה נכרי כדי שיהא עבדו, אך עדיין לא מל ולא טבל לשם עבדות, יהא מותר הישראל לחתוך את יד הנכרי כדי לכתוב עליה גט

We all know that you need to do everything you can to save another’s life. Let’s say an evil ruler tells you that he is going to kill another Jew, and if you agree to let him chop off your arm he will spare the person’s life. Are you obligated to give up your arm to save another? R. David Ibn Zimra, She’elot u-Teshuvot ha-Radbaz, no. 1052, discusses this question and concludes that you are not obligated, although to do so would be an act of hasidut. (This responsum is often cited in halakhic discussions of living organ donations.) I am sure readers are not surprised with this answer, yet R. Menahem Recanati records that some did think that he would be obligated to sacrifice a limb.

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How To Deal With Jewish Fornicators

Israel Zinberg, A History of Jewish Literature, vol. 7, p. 164, quotes R. Isaac ben Elyakim’s (17th century) Yiddish book Lev Tov, which indeed does give license to kill transgressors:

For the sin of lying with a gentile woman is more grievous than adultery with a Jewess, and anyone who finds a man lying with a gentile woman may freely kill him. Indeed, it is a great mitzvah to slay him immediately, and it is like bringing him as a sacrifice, as Pinehas did. There is no need to give him any warning. Also, there is no need to obtain permission from any rabbi or from any judge or from any leader of the community, but whoever finds him . . . should kill him at once. One who slays him without judgment and without legal proceedings does a great mitzvah.

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What’s The Torah’s Position On Intentionally Injecting Somebody With HIV?

Marc B. Shapiro writes: Finally, I want to discuss a recent article by Rabbi Shalom C. Spira and Dr. Mark A. Wainberg that appeared in Hakirah entitled “Criminalization of HIV Transmission.”[30] They begin by quoting R. Zvi Spitz who argues that one who knowingly allows his illness to be passed to someone else, under Torah law he is responsible for damages.[31] Therefore, one who knowingly injects another with HIV would be regarded as responsible for the result.

Following this, the authors cite R. J. David Bleich who thinks that according to Torah law one who intentionally injects another with HIV (today we could add Ebola) would not be responsible for damages since in order for actual infection to take place, a series of chemical steps must occur placing the initial injection in the category of gerama. This is a strange position, to say the least, and R. Bleich himself quotes R. Eliezer Waldenberg’s objection to this way of thinking, as it would mean that one who puts poison in another’s drink is not biblically culpable for murder.[32] Since there is a dispute about this matter, Spitz and Wainberg conclude that “Evidently, the principle of “kim li” would serve to exculpate the murderer before a human court.” (pp. 137-138). They further say that one who intentionally injects another with HIV cannot be sued for monetary damages in a Beth Din, “but will instead be responsible before the Heavenly court, as would be the consequence for any gerama.” The one who injected an innocent person with HIV will “bear a supererogatory obligation to voluntarily offer restitution to his victim.”

Although the authors have previously cited R. Spitz as disagreeing with R. Bleich, they nevertheless state that “R. Spitz would probably concede to R. Bleich, simply because it is difficult to envisage a compelling refutation of all the countervailing authorities cited by R. Bleich.” This is a ridiculous statement as R. Spitz’s entire argument is in direct opposition to what R. Bleich states, and he cites the Steipler in support of his position. Where do the authors get the idea that because they are convinced by R. Bleich’s argument that R. Spitz would have to concede?[33] (In general, it is very rare for a halakhic authority debating an issue to concede that he was mistaken in his understanding.)

Finally, the authors note the possibility of the secular government punishing someone who injects another, but their assumption is that from a Jewish standpoint a person can go around injecting others with HIV and not pay any price, neither criminal nor civil, for his actions. If this was indeed the case, then the non-Orthodox community would be absolutely correct in their assumption that Jewish law is completely unsuited for running a modern legal system. However, that is not the case, and the problem is not with Jewish law, but with presentations of the sort just described.

Reading Spira’s and Wainberg’s article, which deals with a real life, contemporary problem, is like reading an article dealing with Jewish criminal law in which it is stressed that there is a need for someone to warn the criminal before he commits his crime as well as an absolute requirement for two male witnesses. Such a hypothetical article would conclude that if someone pulled out a machine gun at a Hadassah convention and killed 30 women, that Jewish law offers no way to punish him, as he was not warned and the action was only observed by women. At best, the author might suggest, as did Spira and Wainberg, that the murderer would be encouraged to “voluntarily offer restitution.”

The fact is that if we had a Jewish state in which Jewish law was the law of the land, the murderer described in the previous paragraph would not get away with it, and neither would the guy who injects another with HIV. As I have already discussed in prior posts, Jewish law allows the authorities vast discretion in order to do what is needed to ensure order and punish wrongdoers.[34] See here where I quote the Rashba who said that to insist on Torah law in these sorts of matters would “destroy the world.”

So in the real world, in a state run according to Jewish law, if someone purposely injected another with HIV he would not get off scot-free and encouraged to “voluntarily offer restitution,” as stated by Spira and Wainberg. What would happen is that the beit din would sentence the man to jail for attempted murder. In addition, assuming the man had any money, the beit din would confiscate a significant amount of it in order to cover the cost of medication for the man he infected. This is how Jewish law operates, and has always operated, in the real world when Jewish courts have had real authority. Any other portrayal is not only historically incorrect, but does a terrible disservice as it announces to both Jews and non-Jews that Jewish law is not equipped to handle the problems of the real world.

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Spinoza The Righteous

Marc B. Shapiro writes: R. Hirschensohn discusses Spinoza’s pantheism and states that he was not guilty of two of the big heresies: (1) regarding God as a corporeal being, or (2) avodah zarah. He was simply in error, and that was because he didn’t properly investigate matters. R. Hirschensohn even admires the way Spinoza stuck to his beliefs despite the persecution he suffered. He refused to give in to his opponents as from his perspective to do so would be a form of falsehood and idolatry. In other words, Spinoza and his opponents were equally well intentioned. In fact, all of them, including Spinoza, were tzaddikim! They simply had different perspectives on reality…

According to R. Hirschensohn, Spinoza made mistakes in his understanding of God, but this does not mean he was a heretic, since there is no obligation on Jews to investigate the nature of God. In other words, since there are no principles of faith regarding the nature of God, one such as Spinoza who errs in this matter cannot be regarded as a heretic as he has not uprooted any basic Jewish principles…

Following this, R. Hirschensohn states that since neither the Torah nor the Sages require that the masses educate themselves in philosophical matters, one cannot regard them as heretics for not being sophisticated in this area. The upshot of this, according to R. Hirschensohn, is that Rabad is correct in his criticism of Maimonides in Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:7. That is, an honest mistake even in basic theological matters does not render one a heretic.[8] What this means is that Spinoza also cannot be regarded as a heretic (and his mistake was not even in an ikar emunah). R. Hirschensohn concludes by saying that in Heaven both Spinoza and his opponents have made peace with one another (p. 118).

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Racial Disparities In Arrests

The USA Today writes:

Blacks are far more likely to be arrested than any other racial group in the USA. In some places, dramatically so.

At least 70 departments scattered from Connecticut to California arrested black people at a rate 10 times higher than people who are not black, USA TODAY found…

A dozen people stood or slumped on benches before sunrise in Dearborn on a recent morning, waiting for officers to unlock the doors of the 19th District Court, where they had been summoned to answer traffic citations and petty criminal charges. Almost everyone who lives in Dearborn is white (including a large population of Arabs). Almost everyone waiting in the morning dim was black.

More than half of the people Dearborn police arrested in 2011 and 2012 were black, according to reports they submitted to the FBI. By comparison, about 4% of the city’s residents are black, as are about a quarter of the people who live in Metropolitan Detroit. Over those two years, the department reported arresting 4,500 black people – 500 more than lived in the city. As a result, the arrest rate for blacks, compared with the city’s population, was 26 times higher than for people of other races…

The review showed:

• Blacks are more likely than others to be arrested in almost every city for almost every type of crime. Nationwide, black people are arrested at higher rates for crimes as serious as murder and assault, and as minor as loitering and marijuana possession.

• Arrest rates are particularly lopsided in some pockets of the country, including St. Louis’ Missouri suburbs near Ferguson. In St. Louis County alone, more than two dozen police departments had arrest rates more lopsided than Ferguson’s. In nearby Clayton, Mo., for example, only about 8% of residents are black, compared with about 57% of people the police arrested, according to the city’s FBI reports. Clayton’s police chief, Kevin Murphy, said in a prepared statement that “Ferguson has laid bare the fact that everyone in law enforcement needs to take a hard look at how we can better serve our communities and address any disparities that have existed in our departments for too long.”

• Deep disparities show up even in progressive university towns. USA TODAY found police in Berkeley, Calif., and Madison, Wis., arrested black people at a rate more than nine times higher than members of other racial groups. Madison Police Chief Michael Koval said most of the arrests happen in the poorest sections of the city, which are disproportionately black, and where some residents have pleaded for even more police presence. Still, he said, “I think it would be remiss to suggest the police get out of this whole thing with a free pass. We have to constantly be doing the introspective look at who we are hiring and how we are training.”

• Arrest rates are lopsided almost everywhere. Only 173 of the 3,538 police departments USA TODAY examined arrested black people at a rate equal to or lower than other racial groups.

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The Lady Defense Minister

Martin Van Creveld writes: As Margaret Mead, perhaps the greatest female anthropologist of all time, wrote in 1948, in all known societies whatever men do is considered most important by both men and women. As she also wrote, when any number of women enter fields previously reserved for men the latter start leaving. Unless the hemorrhage is stopped, the social and economic rewards attached to the field in question decline. As the history of professions such as secretaries, teachers, social workers, and the like show, often the end result is a female ghetto with few if any men about.

The process also works the other way around. If women start entering a field previously dominated by men, one can be well-nigh certain that, in one way or another, that field is in decline. That is true both in terms of the prestige that is attached to it and the economic rewards it can provide. Dozens of scholars, many of them female, have confirmed Ms.
Mead’s findings in fields as diverse as pharmacy, book-editing, and school-teaching. For good or ill, it is the way the world works.

So what do we make of the fact that the number of female defense ministers is growing and that, as of November 2014, no fewer than five European countries had female
secretaries of defense? Does this prove, as many feminists claim, that even the last “male bastions” are crumbling in front of the onslaught of the fair sex? Or is there a different, and
perhaps better, explanation?

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WP: Bachmann: Obama turning ‘illiterate’ immigrants into Democratic voters

From the Washington Post:

In a sign of the difficulties GOP leaders face in keeping their unruly caucus on-message, retiring tea party firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said Wednesday that the immigrants given new protections by the president could become “illiterate” Democratic voters.

“The social cost will be profound on the U.S. taxpayer — millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language,” Bachmann told reporters at the Capitol. “Even though the president says they won’t be able to vote, we all know that many, in all likelihood, will vote.”

Bachmann added: “The president has a very single-minded vision. He’s looking at new voters for 2016…. People do vote without being a citizen. It’s a wink and a nod, we all know it’s going to happen.”

When asked by The Washington Post why she chose to use the word “illiterate” to describe a group of mostly Spanish-speaking workers, Bachmann said her view was informed by trips to the border.

“Some are, some aren’t,” Bachmann said of the literacy of illegal immigrants. “I’ve been down to the border. The reason why I would say that is I spent four days at the border and spoke to American Hispanics on the border. That’s what they told me. Those are not Michele Bachmann’s words, those words came from Hispanics who live on the border…. I’m not using a pejorative term against people who are non-American citizens. I’m only repeating what I heard from Hispanic Americans down at the border. That’s what they told me.”

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, nearly half of Hispanics in the US have below average literacy aka they are illiterate.

IQ surveys show that American Hispanics average around a 90 score, ten points below whites.

I’ve lived in the US since 1977. It’s clear that the country is becoming dumber every year and a major reason for that is hispanic immigration. Jason Richwine did his PhD thesis in this at Harvard. jasonrichwine

The IQ disparity between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites has major implications for immigrant IQ. Over 56% of immigrants living in the U.S. in 2006 were Hispanic— that is, born in either Mexico (32% of total immigrants), Central American and the Caribbean (17%), or
South America (7%). And while a few Hispanics have roots in the southwest going back centuries, nearly 75% of Hispanic Americans in 2006 were first or second generation immigrants. An accurate measure of IQ among Hispanic Americans is thus a useful proxy measure for the IQ of Hispanic immigrants.


They’re the fastest-growing ethnic group but the most poorly educated. Do we have what it takes to close the gap?

From their first day of kindergarten to their last day of school, Latinos, on average, perform far below most of their peers. They now constitute the largest minority group in the United States and the fastest growing segment of its school-age population. As such, they are inextricably bound up with the nation’s future.

The Latino public school population nearly doubled between 1987 and 2007, increasing from 11 to 21 percent of all U.S. students (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2009b). The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2021, one of four U.S. students will be Latino. In key states in the U.S. Southwest, such as Texas and California, the Latino school-age population is already approaching one-half of all students. In these states, the future is already here.

But it’s a troubling picture. Latinos are the least educated of all major ethnic groups (see fig. 1, p. 27). Although a large gap exists between the college completion rates of whites and blacks, both groups show steady growth. However, the growth in college degrees for Latinos is almost flat. The failure over more than three decades to make any progress in moving more Latino students successfully through college suggests that what we have been doing to close achievement gaps is not working…

Can schools close these gaps? It is instructive to look back to the first days of schooling to see the differences that exist at that point. Data from the 1998 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study show that only one-half as many Latino children as white children fall into the highest quartile of math and reading skills at the beginning of kindergarten, and more than twice as many fall into the lowest quartile. The gap is even wider between Latino and Asian students (see fig. 2)…

Latino students are many more times as likely as students from other ethnic groups to come from homes where parents do not speak English well—or at all—and where parental education is low. More than 40 percent of Latina mothers lack even a high school diploma, compared with only 6 percent of white mothers; and only about 10 percent of Latina mothers have a college degree or higher, compared with almost one-third of white mothers (see fig. 3). Although Latino students may come from loving homes, limited education and resources do affect their education outcomes. There is no better predictor of how well children will fare in school than parents’ education attainment (Murnane, Maynard, & Ohls, 1981).

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Rabbi Antony Gordon Cops To Fraud

Conceding to fraud in this stipulated judgement with Brent Goldman means that it was so obvious that Antony Gordon had no other choice but to admit to it.

An attorney tells me: “People stipulate to fraud judgments for a variety of reasons. The main reason they stipulate is because if fraud is not stipulated to, if the person who agrees to pay money under the settlement later files bankruptcy the debt can be discharged. So you would have to look at the complaint to see the actual claim and then review the agreement that was entered into along with the stipulated judgment. If the agreement calls for full payment plus interest then the person probably did stipulate to the fraud judgment because the case against him was overwhelming. But if the settlement is for substantially less than the claim, then the stipulation to the fraud judgment is the creditors way of making sure the debtor performs under the agreement.”

Antony Gordon is better known to some as Rabbi Channan Gordon, a long-time macher in Rabbi Gershon Bess‘s shul. Rabbi Bess is the guy behind the RCC (Rabbinical Council of California).

The plaintiff Brett Goldman describes himself as a baal tshuva (newly Orthodox) who was taken in by Mr. and Mrs. Antony Gordon’s religiosity.

Many shuls in Fairfax/La Brea are denying Antony Gordon entry.

Here are the details on Ontario Ltd & Howard Fialkov’s judgment against Antony Gordon.

According to “Rabbi Chanan (Antony) Gordon, is a former student of Rav Noach Weinberg, Z’tl and Aish Hatorah, Jerusalem. A Fulbright Scholar and graduate of the Harvard Law School, Chanan has been very involved in outreach since leaving Aish Hatorah including having co-authored (together with Richard Horowitz) the oft published demographic study and accompanying chart entitled “Will Your Grandchild Be Jewish.””


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Blacks, Whites, Jews & Asians Evolved Different Moralities

Much of the tension between blacks, whites, asians and Jews is because these groups evolved different moral norms. For instance, asians are more quiet than the rest of these groups, more orderly, more law-abiding and have more stable family structures.

The black guy who stole a football from a child last Sunday in New Orleans does not believe he did anything wrong because in the jungle of Africa, that behavior is not considered wrong, but in white places, it is thought wrong.


New Orleans Saints fan Tony Williams unwittingly turned into one of sports’ biggest villains Sunday when he intercepted a souvenir ball away from Cincinnati Bengals fan Christa Barrett, a moment that quickly went viral after being caught on CBS’ broadcast.

Williams, 70, was clearly surprised by the backlash that followed. A season-ticket holder since 1968, Williams has explained to several media outlets that he saw it as a ball that was up for grabs — just like maybe 100 others that he has seen in similar situations over the years. And he wanted to keep the ball for his 8-year-old grandson, who also was in attendance, which is why he wouldn’t give Barrett the ball when she pleaded for it afterward.

Plenty of whites have done similar things to what Tony Williams did, so why am I talking about race? Because if you were to show them the video of what they did, a higher percentage of whites than blacks would say they were ashamed of their actions. Whites care more about reputation and have greater embarrassment over this type of behavior.


Tony Williams, the longtime Saints season ticket holder who on Sunday caught what has become a controversial touchdown relic, said Monday morning he kept it for his eight-year-old grandson, who plays football.

If Cincinnati Bengals fan Christa Barrett was a child or if the ball was handed to her, Williams added, he would have relinquished it, which Bengals receiver Jermaine Gresham threw into the stands following his one-yard TD reception.

Neither was true, so Mardi Gras rules applied.

“He tossed the ball,” said Williams, a Saints season ticket holder in the end zone since 1968. “It’s fair game, to me. My whole mindset was my grandson.”

Barrett pleaded for the football in front of a nationally-televised audience – he politely declined – actions which were replayed in social media: the poor, blonde Bengals fan, missing an opportunity at a game ball and the Saints fan, poker-faced, unwilling to surrender his prize.

Philosopher Michael Levin writes:

However, different levels of intelligence are not likely to be the sole cause of racial differences in morality. Data reported in The Bell Curve (and noted in the February issue of AR) show that black and white populations differ in crime and illegitimacy rates even when IQ is held constant. Thus, in one large-scale study, blacks in general were 6.5 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites, but when the comparison was restricted to blacks and whites with IQs of 100, blacks were still 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated.

Temperament therefore appears to have an effect on behavior that is independent of intelligence. This is intuitively obvious, as aggression easily becomes heedlessness of the rights of others; we should therefore expect black and white standards of behavior to differ.

Examples of this difference abound. “Trash talk,” the stream of arrogant banter with which black basketball players seek to intimidate and humiliate opponents, is alien to white ideals of sportsmanship. Likewise, Montel Williams, the host of a television talk show, claimed to have discovered racial bias in a question on an IQ test that asked children what they would do if they threw a baseball through a neighbor’s window. The answer scored as correct was offering to pay for the window, but Mr. Williams, who is black, objected that in his old neighborhood a “Sorry, man” would have sufficed. No doubt, Mr. Williams was right that blacks do attach less urgency than whites to compensating damage.

Numerous fights among blacks result from “dissing”-males seeking dominance over each other by shows of disrespect — a practice that indicates disregard for the golden rule. Moreover, it is hard to imagine a more blatant violation of the golden rule than the constant demand for royalties by Martin Luther King’s estate whenever his speeches are published — especially when his own plagiarism is justified as “voice merging.”

What Morality Is

Evolutionary biology suggests an explanation for race differences in moral values. But first, to begin with a definition: An individual’s “morality” is the rules he wants everyone to follow, and that he wants everyone to want everyone to follow. Honesty is a moral value for him if he tries to be honest, tries to make his children honest, hopes others will be honest, and encourages others to reinforce honesty. A group’s morality is the moral rules its members share.

The clause about “wanting everyone to want everyone” is needed to distinguish moral questions, like honesty, from other “universal” concerns. If you are like most people, you think others ought to be honest. But you may also think everyone should exercise, without considering exercise a “moral” value. The difference between the two is not in their usefulness, since both are useful: jogging is healthful, and honesty facilitates such profitable activities as trade. But honesty, unlike exercise, is advantageous only if everyone else is honest. Jogging strengthens my heart whether or not you jog, whereas being honest helps me only insofar as it induces others to reciprocate, allowing me to rely on their words. This is also why it is smart to be honest even when tempted to lie — if you are found out, others will feel no obligation to be honest with you.

On the other hand, if everyone else is a liar, honesty only lets others take advantage of you. Therefore, since honesty, self-restraint, and other moral virtues are good ideas only when everyone thinks they are good ideas, you not only want everyone else to be honest, you want everyone to encourage others to be honest, and to ensure that honesty is widespread.

The advantages of honesty and other virtues have a biological dimension. Since moral individuals in a moral community do better than scoundrels, they live longer and have more children. Obeying and reinforcing moral rules is adaptive. If there is any genetic tendency to obey and reinforce moral rules, a tendency to obey and reinforce them and to be susceptible to reinforcement will be passed on to offspring.

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What’s My Excuse?

At work, I am asked: “When you look in the mirror, aren’t you embarrassed by who you are?”
Luke: “I evolved in a warm climate where food was plentiful year round. I did not have to plan ahead. I did not have to work hard. I did not need a good reputation. I did not need to cooperate with others. All I needed to do was to to hold forth under the coconut tree about salvation and the Time of the End. I was bred more for beauty than for diligence.”

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