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HOLY SMOKES

by Elly Berlin    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Smoking causes cancer and greatly increases serious risks to your health." seen recently on a pack of cigarettes.

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"Smoking causes cancer and greatly increases serious risks to your health." seen recently on a pack of cigarettes.

One of people's worst medical fears is hearing a doctor say, "I'm afraid its cancer." If cancer is so feared, and tobacco products warn you that smoking actually causes cancer, why do so many people continue to smoke?

The answer lies in desensitization a stimulus that draws a strong response with the first occurrence draws progressively weaker responses with each successive occurrence. Desensitization hardens our emotions and impairs our capability to make rational decisions. For example, the first time that medical students work with cadavers, many of them become faint, weak, dizzy, or nauseous. By the third week they show no signs of discomfort. So too, the first time a person sees the warning on a pack of cigarettes, he may resist the urge, but by the third or fourth time he smokes the words of caution become meaningless. Desensitization is what allows us to flip quickly from the ethnic cleansing on channel 4 to the high school shooting on channel 7 and then settle on the situation comedy on channel 11.

The second part of this week's double Torah portion discusses heavenly blessings and curses. First, the Torah lists the Divine blessings that G-d promises to the Jews if they study the Torah and fulfill its commandments. One might incorrectly think that neglecting the Torah and its commandments merely causes the absence of those Divine blessings. However, after listing the blessings, the Torah enumerates an extensive list of curses which will befall the Jewish people should they depart from the Torah.

The Midrash lists seven stages in the course of departing from Judaism. Step one failure to involve ourselves with constant Torah study. Step two failure to fulfill the mitzvot. Step three despising others that fulfill the mitzvot. Step four hating Torah scholars. Step five preventing other Jews from observing the Torah. Step six denial that G-d gave us the mitzvot. Step seven denying G-d's existence.

If we are departing from Judaism, where do we fall on this list? The number of observant Jews pales in comparison to the numbers who do not observe. Among the remaining observant Jews, how many involve themselves with constant Torah study? Among the non-observant, the rate of intermarriage is at an all-time high.

The warning signs are out there. We, as a people, are well into the process of departure from the Torah. We all see it, but we are desensitized. We should be working feverishly to counter the current trend and reverse the process, but our emotions are hardened and our capability to make rational decisions is impaired. We need to take a step back and observe. When we realize how serious the situation is, we should ask ourselves what we can do to change our collective forecast from the list of brutal curses to that of Divine blessings.

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Elly Berlin is studying the art, philosophy, and science of chiropractic at Life University in Atlanta.

You are invited to read more Parshat Behar & Bechukotai articles.

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