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Some Thoughts on Doing Hard Things by Aaron Hecht

I got a somewhat unexpected response to a blog I wrote a few weeks ago about ways we can love our neighbors. If you didn't read that blog, one of the examples I wrote about was how shortly after moving into my current apartment, I started sweeping up the dead leaves which littler the alley running behind our building and otherwise keeping the area tidy.

The response I got, in an email from a friend who also lives here in Jerusalem went like this;

"Kol Hakavod (a Hebrew phrase which roughly translates to "good for you") for sweeping up the trash, but isn't it kind of a waste of time since the municipality sends the guys around with the pressure hose and the sweeper/vacuum truck to clean all that stuff up"?

What my friend was referring to is, indeed, a process by which the Jerusalem Municipality periodically sends a crew to clean our streets about once every ten days or so. This crew includes two trucks. The first truck is equipped with a high-power water hose that they use to blow all the leaves and other junk into the middle of the street. Then another truck goes over these piles equipped with a mechanism that sweeps it all into the path of an installed vacuum that sucks it all up into the truck's garbage tank.

It allows a street like ours to be cleaned very quickly and without much manual effort.

By contrast, the manual labor of sweeping up the leaves is not easy. It makes my body work. It puts a strain on my joints, especially my lower back. It causes pain in my body. It tires me out a little bit too, especially if I do this work in the evening.

All of that could be avoided if I just ignored the leaves and the garbage that piles up in that alley behind my building and left the work of cleaning it up to the pressure hose and vacuum trucks the municipality are going to send there whether I sweep up any leaves or not.

And that, to answer my friend's question, is why I sweep up those leaves.

If you're confused, allow me to explain.

Life in the 21st century, at least for those of us who live in developed countries, is easier than it has ever been in all of human history. The amount of physical labor that most people living in developed countries MUST do daily is a tiny fraction of what our ancestors needed to do.

This is wonderful in many ways, but it has a downside. Simply put, it's making us soft, weak, and stupid.

More specifically, it's creating all kinds of physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health problems that there's no record of humanity ever facing on the scale that we're facing now. 

This includes obesity, which is WAY past crisis levels in most Western countries (it's a serious problem in many other affluent countries outside the West as well), and many related health problems including diabetes, heart disease, etc.

But it's not just that our physically easy lifestyles are making us flabby.

Our modern lives don't require us to think much. 

If you're unsure what I mean, I'll give you a simple example.

How many of you have even one telephone number aside from your own memorized?

I can't raise my hand to this one either. I don't even know the number of my wife's phone. Why should I? The phone I carry around with me everywhere has her number memorized so I don't need to memorize it. It also remembers the phone numbers, email addresses and other contact information for dozens of other people I need to communicate with on a regular basis. If I need to get ahold of one of my clients, or a member of my family or one of my friends, or my pastor, or anyone else, I don't have to remember their phone number or email or whatever. That's already in the phone, all I have to do is touch the screen next to their picture on a list of contacts, and the phone does the rest.

This lack of mental exercise leads to mental weakness, just like a lack of physical exercise leads to physical weakness.

It also leads to boredom.

Boredom is endemic in our modern world, as are the silly ways we've found to try and keep ourselves amused and entertained.

I'm not just talking about the mindless shows, music, video games, unhealthy food, alcohol and narcotics we consume in an effort to relieve the boredom we're collectively suffering from, all of which make a fair-sized contribution to the above-mentioned health crisis.

The problem goes far deeper than these superficial things.

The large-scale anti-Israel demonstrations we have seen in the past 9 months are a deeper symptom of this boredom. Many of the people who are participating in these demonstrations have no idea what it's all about. They're there because it's "something to do" to make them feel like there's some meaning or purpose in their lives. Many other social problems and political unrest we're seeing all over the world can be traced to the same root cause. 

People, especially young people, want and need to be challenged. If their lives are too easy, they'll go looking for something to challenge them, and many of the challenges that these young people will go looking for will involve unhealthy and/or self-destructive behavior.

That might include joining a "cause" and if being anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic is "trending" on the internet, (and it certainly is) then that's a cause that many people, especially young, bored, restless, disenfranchised, and confused people, will get behind.

In a recent blog, Judah said this is a spiritual issue and he's absolutely right.

It's one of many spiritual issues that we're grappling with in our modern world, and one of the root causes of these problems is that our lives are just too easy. We don't feel challenged, so we're bored, so we go looking for excitement and adventure in all the wrong places.

How did this happen?

In 2024, machines do most of the manual labor that must be done and computers do much of the thinking that needs to be done. This was happening long before robotics and AI came along.

Even the people who operate machines, like the guys who drive the pressure hose and vacuum trucks that clean up the alley behind my apartment building, for instance, are required to perform only light manual and mental labor. It requires a tiny fraction of the physical effort that almost any peasant farmer in medieval Europe had to do every single day, just to stay alive.

Some of the machines we use to clean our homes, such as vacuum cleaners, require a little bit of manual effort to use, but not much.  Beyond that, most of us have machines that wash our clothes, the dishes we eat off of, etc. Once again, loading and unloading these machines is sometimes the most physically demanding thing many of us do all day. Needless to say, there not much mental effort required for this either.

Speaking of eating, statistics show us that a very large percentage of the food we eat is ordered from restaurants and delivered by guys on scooters, sometimes to our homes but more often to the places where we work. Even for those of us who still bother to prepare meals at home, we have machines that produce the heat we need to cook or bake by turning a dial or pushing a few buttons. Even preparing a recipe "from scratch" is fairly easy, since most of the ingredients come in cans, bags or boxes.

Cooking a meal made up of ingredients one gathered from the forest over an open fire, which was the only way human beings ever had a hot meal for most of recorded history, is considered a quaint leisure activity in our day and age. But there are several other examples of this phenomenon.

Several years ago I wrote a blog about prepping, and I deliberately described the five things I suggested that anyone who wants to prep should do as "hobbies." They were, fitness, camping, gardening, woodworking, and needlework.

All of these things are difficult. They require physical and mental effort above and beyond what is required in most normative situations one encounters in the modern world.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution which started roughly in 1860, all of these things, except perhaps fitness, were considered basic skills that everyone needed to have in order to simply stay alive. Even up until the 1970's or so, they were still somewhat common even in wealthy countries in the developed world.

All of this brings me back to the sweeping up of leaves in the alley behind my apartment building.

I do this sweeping up not because the leaves need to be swept up, I do it because I need to do difficult things for my own sake. I do it so my mind and my body don't forget how to do physical labor. I do it to toughen myself up, emotionally, for the difficulties that will inevitably come in my life. I do it to spend time with God outside in His creation. I do it to remind myself, even just for a few minutes, what it felt like to have chores to do at the rural homestead I grew up on.

Last but not least, I do it to prepare myself, mind and body, for the hard work I'll have to do if the things I've grown accustomed to that make my life so easy ever disappear suddenly, for whatever reason.

BTW, I also make my sons help me with these self-assigned chores sometimes. I want them to know what it feels like to do difficult things, for all the same reasons I do them myself.

I force my sons to play sports too, and in a couple of years when my eldest becomes physically developed so it'll make sense for him to do so, I'm going to tell him he has to join me in lifting weights and doing regular aerobics. It's difficult to do these things, but it's even more difficult to be in poor health, and that's a difficulty I don't want my sons to have.

So to sum up, brothers and sisters, I urge you to find difficult things to do and do them.

An easy place to start is cleaning your own living space, especially the bathroom. Look around your outside surroundings and see if there's a difficult task that you can do on a regular basis. Try to decrease your dependence on technology and the services that are provided by the authorities that govern your town, state, country, etc.

Here's a few more suggestions for easy places to start.

Go to the gym to lift weights and/or do aerobics, or maybe go to a nearby park to run for 15 minutes in the morning. If you'd rather work out at home, there's a great website for that called HASfit which is run by a Believer married couple.

Learn how to bake bread and otherwise prepare and cook meals from scratch. Using cast iron pots and skillets is optional, but highly recommended.

Go to the fabric store and get the materials you need to make a quilt for yourself or as a present for someone else. 

Go to the hardware store and get some tools and materials to build a bird house and then keep on making one or two small projects like that every month. Build a dog house, even if you don't have a dog. You can put it out in your yard and it might scare away potential troublemakers.

Grow a garden, even if it's just a few pots of flowers on your balcony if you live in a city.

Go to a campground and try to start a fire and cook something over it, even if it's just hot dogs that you put on a stick and hold over the flames.

If for whatever reason you can't do any of these things, at least try to do some old-fashioned crossword puzzles for mental exercise.

If you start with these simple things and continue trying to get more sophisticated with it you'll learn all kinds of things and have fun doing it. But more than that, it's worth doing difficult things for their own sake.

Yes, brothers and sisters, I'm suggesting that we all do difficult things for the sake of doing difficult things. If you take my advice, you'll be amazed how much good it does you.

That's what I've got for you this week brothers and sisters. I hope it blessed someone.

Some Thoughts on the Eve of War by Aaron Hecht

Israel has been in a war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip for almost nine months now, but we appear to be on the eve of a much bigger conflict that will make everything that's happened so far seem fairly mild by comparison.

Since October 8th, 2023, there has been a low-intensity battle on the northern border with the Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah firing a small but steady drizzle of weapons into northern Israel, and the IDF responding with air and artillery strikes on Hezbollah targets.

In the last few weeks, there's been growing indications that the IDF has accomplished all that the political leadership thinks it is possible to accomplish in the Gaza Strip, and so forces that have been fighting there are being withdrawn and re-deployed to the northern border. There are many other anecdotal indications that an Israeli attack on Hezbollah is imminent. It is meant to severely weaken this evil organization and at the very least push them far away from the border so that the 100,000 or so residents of northern Israeli communities who have been forced to evacuate their homes amidst the Hezbollah attacks can return and live peacefully there.

Last but certainly not least, there was a report in a German newspaper this week saying that a date has been set for this attack, and although the exact day wasn't mentioned, the report said it was in the second half of July.

All of that has got me thinking, a lot.

There are some very serious people who have warned that Hezbollah will likely be able to fire up to 4,000 rockets, UAVs, and missiles into Israel every single day for several days following the outbreak of war. It could take the IDF up to 10 days, according to some estimates, before there would be any large reductions in this number, and long before we got to that point, Israel's vaunted air defense systems will have been depleted and overwhelmed. Large numbers of casualties and massive damage to civilian infrastructure is expected in this scenario, including heavy damage to cities, especially in the northern third of the country. Much of the country will be without electricity for several days and possibly longer in this scenario. Internet connection is also likely to be lost, along with running water and many other things we've long taken for granted.

Other people say the IDF will level Lebanon as far north as Beirut in a week or less and there will be very few rockets being fired after the first 72 hours. In this scenario we might lose power for a few hours but otherwise it'll be pretty normal for most of us who live in the center and south of the country.

All this reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld's famous quote from a press confrence he gave back in 2002, saying "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones."

This quote is often in the back of my mind at times like this, when I find myself on the eve of some really big event that's likely to bring big changes to my situation. Candidly, I think everyone, including the former IDF generals and all the other "experts" who have made these predictions about what's about to happen in Lebanon, are just guessing. We won't know for sure what's going to happen until it happens.

In any event, I don't have the luxury of doing anything other than expecting the worst and preparing as best I can accordingly. I believe I've done all I can to prepare myself, my home, my family and even the building I live in for what's coming. The bomb shelter in our building has been cleaned up and stocked with enough bottled water and canned food, toilet paper, and other basic necessities so that if the nearly 40 people who live in this building need to stay down there for several hours or even a day or two, it'll be bearable, if not comfortable. I've got a respectable supply of water and non-perishable food and other neseccities in my own apartment, including a camping stove and other gear that'll come in handy in case the power goes out.

I've done all I can, and now I'm sitting here writing this blog and hoping it gets read far and wide, especially this last part.

The last part of this blog is going to be a request to anyone reading it to pray. I know most of you already are praying for the safety of Israel, the success of our soldiers, and all the rest. But I'm asking you to pray for individual people in this country, especially the Body of Messiah here. Almost anyone who reads blogs like this one knows at least a few Israeli believers. Please make it a priority to pray for these people by name.

I know many of you are also donating to ministries and organizations that are active in Israel. Please keep doing that, because the economy here is in very bad shape, the cost of living keeps going up, and soon there's going to be a lot of new immigrants coming from France, the US, Canada, and many other places. These new Israelis are going to be a great blessing, but they're also going to make a lot of things that were already difficult even more difficult, including the housing crises and the rather right job market and many other things.

I could say a lot more, but that really is the essential part.

Please keep praying, giving, advocating for Israel and otherwise doing whatever you can to support this country. Even in a best-case scenario, we're in for a difficult few weeks and months, and we're going to need all the help we can get.

Spiritual Affliction: The Left's Growing Anti-Semitism Problem

When Hamas carried out the October 7th butchery, many progressives cheered

Progressive groups held rallies in support of Hamas:

The leftist Democratic Socialists of America praised the attacks.

You might think this is just nutpicking: looking only at extremes. 

But mainstream and prestigious left-wing institutions, leaders, politicians, university faculty have joined the rising chorus of anti-Semitism. 

The Huffington Post, for example, framed October 7th's Jewish victims as supporters of a new Holocaust, framing Palestinian murderers as escaped prisoners.

NBC and TeenVogue contributor Najma Sharif praised the bloody butchery of Jews:

This week, press secretary for US Sentator Bernie Sanders is spreading wild conspiracy theories about Jews, claiming Israel trains dogs to rape Palestinian prisoners.

While on the topic of Senator Sanders, he was booed at a leftist political rally this week for the milquetoast position that while Israel's war against Hamas is disproportionate, it still has the right to defend itself.

Last week, leftwing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC), an outspoken supporter of the Palestinians, had to distance herself from far-right Nazis who began praising her support for her anti-Jewish stances.

And, perhaps most visibly, over the last several months, leftist students and faculty encamped, rioted, and agitated for the murder of Jews at Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Albany, Brandeis, University of Washington, UCLA, Berkeley and dozens of America's most prestigious universities. Jewish students were harassed, blocked from entering school, their dorms firebombed. They were singled out in class by leftist professors, shouted at with bullhorns on campus, demonized by leftist political groups they were once part of.

Anti-semitism under the guise of anti-Zionsim

Might the issue just be Zionism, the belief that Jews should be able to return to their historic homeland? Are these leftwing folks simply misguided about Israel? Maybe they don't really hate Jews in general?

The answer is found in this week's headlines.

Leftist rioters surrounded Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles this week. Armed with bullhorns, pepper spray and bats, the rioters shouted, "Long live the intifada!" at Jewish worshipers entering and leaving the synagogue.

The mob predictably moved towards violence:

This has led some leftists to poignant introspection"If the issue is Israel and Zionism, why are our people attacking synagogues and Holocaust museums?"

A dark future for the left

I tend to be a wild optimist. (Co-blogger Aaron Hecht will tell you this is a fault of mine.) The world is getting better in tangible ways; the future is bright. I've blogged many times over the years about reasons for this optimism.

Today, I'm concerned for the US's future because of the rising anti-Semitism of the left.

What does it say about our future if our young people, our university students, our university faculty, large segments of the press, and members of Congress are deceived into anti-Semitism? What does the western university look like in 20 years? What do western governments look like in a few decades years? What does a 2050s US look like?

Today -- today! -- there are open beatings of Jews, anti-Israel graffiti spraypainted Holocaust museums, violent riots at large synagogues. Almost all of which are carried out not by far-right Nazis, but by far-left radicals and revolutionaries. 

What does that say about the future of the left?

A great internal reformation is needed to weed out the increasingly mainstream anti-Semitism in the left. Perhaps such a reformation sparks only when the left is trounced in the elections, as is happening across Europe

But I suspect that isn't sufficient. The hatred of Jewish people is a spiritual affliction. It won't be solved by politics alone.

When Russian author and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was asked what caused the downfall of his nation, he answered,

“Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.”
Might the same be said of the secular left? The far left celebrates the murder of unborn children. It champions extreme sexual deviancy, not merely practicing such things but handing out awards to people who practice it most visibly. It rejoices at the murders of Jews. It opposes all things Judeo-Christian. At risk of sounding sensationalistic, has the left forgotten God?

Politically-approved anti-Semitism is a spiritual condition resulting from a culture devoid of God. If unaddressed, in the next 50 years we may join Solzhenitsyn and say, "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this calamity has happened."

Appending "You might like" to each post.