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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Especially wrong: How not to de-pamper a self-absorbed society

By Rabbi Benjamin Hecht






The challenge -- and cheapening -- of 'specialness'


JewishWorldReview.com | The Talmud states that saving the life of an individual is comparable to saving an entire world --- the underlying message: one individual is equal to the entire world. What the Talmud is actually directing us to consider is the distinction between, what I would term, a qualitative and quantitative view of human life.

Quantitatively, we work in objective, hard numbers and of course, two is greater than one --- yet can numbers alone truly and accurately reflect an essence of a human being? It is easy to compare one person with another when applying a quantitative yardstick; and it is also easier, then, to render a supposed evaluation of each one's relative worth. The specialness and uniqueness of our being, however, should truly be measured by a qualitative yardstick of which there is no comparative value, a ruler by which each individual is equal to a whole world and by which we are all special.

David McCullough, the two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award, sparked controversy not long ago when, during a commencement address, he informed the graduating students of Wellesley High that they are not special.

There are those who commend McCullough for telling a pampered generation that they are spoiled and there are those who attack him for weakening the necessary positive self-image of a young, student population. What caught my attention, though, was one of his last lines: "you're not special because everyone is." I was actually considering this very idea as I listened to his speech.

The real issue is not whether one is special or not. The real challenge is knowing what it means to be special.

The difficulty which I believe McCullough is addressing concerns pronouncements of specialness based solely upon quantitative yardsticks. Applying such standards, the way that someone stands out -- and, thus, is defined as special -- is through a high score in some quantified measurement. In the attempt to allow everyone to declare themselves as special, our modern response is, thus, to simply make it possible for everyone to receive the highest score. The problem is that this will still ultimately fail to bolster everyone's self-image for, in the end, it is the comparative nature of the quantitative yardsticks that are its focus. Any declarations of such universal specialness will, thus, eventually be lost in the equality. Specialness demands uniqueness and we cannot all be special if we all are the same --- even it means we all have the same highest scores. Trying to promote a positive self-image through such a declaration of specialness will simply fail.

There is, however, a further problem with declaring this type of broad specialness based on quantitative factors. There is also the potential for the advancement of mediocrity.



In the various quantitative realms, there are distinctions between individuals which, for the benefit of the self and the community, do need to be enunciated. There are quantifiably special people who are unique in these quantifiable ways. Trying to universalize such a standard through all scoring the highest can eventually translate into a lack of excellence. Those who could truly advance to greater heights would not be so identified.

The truth is that we are all not special in every realm of quantitative measurement and, no matter how good it may make us feel, it is simply a lie, and detrimental to all of us, to declare that we all are. There is a need to distinctly mark the quantitatively special --- and this must be done even if it results in others suffering a loss of no longer being described as special in this manner. The greater problem, though, is declaring the quantitative yardsticks the only, or even the major, evaluators of human specialness.

The more important realm is actually that of the qualitative and, within that realm, the truth is that we are all actually special for we are all actually unique. I am the only one who can be me --- the only mixture of human traits that forms the gestalt of my specific personality.


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I am the only one who can perform my life tasks in my specific manner; the only one who can live life in my unique and special way. This is not just rhetoric; achieving this goal also demands toil, thought and direction. The challenge that we face is that, even qualitatively, it is not enough to just declare someone special. What must be further transmitted is the responsibility to actualize this uniqueness of each individual. Each of us is a whole world because each of us is a unique creation who is the only person able to live our life with that specialness that is our singular and distinct personality.

A task of education must be to further the development of whatever quantitative skills we may possess --- and that is a most important undertaking. But that is not what makes all of us special and to base a recognition of individual uniqueness and specialness on it is not only a falsehood but injurious. A further task of education must be to develop our qualitative distinctiveness, to further the positive development of the uniqueness that is me.

And in that regard, all of us would be able to proudly declare that we are, each one of us, special.

Comment by clicking here.


Previously:


How to Know You're Right While Thinking You Could Be Wrong
Can You Respect a Religion You Disagree With?
Does Following a Methodology Make You Religious?

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Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


Rabbi Benjamin Hecht is the Founding Director of NISHMA, an international Torah research, resource and educational endeavour devoted to the fostering of individual inquiry and the critical investigation of contemporary issues. He also serves on the Rabbinical Advisory Board of Koshertube, as Rabbinic Advisor to Yad HaChazakah: the Jewish Disability Empowerment Center and has a regular monthly column in the Toronto-based Jewish Tribune. In addition to his rabbinical ordination, he holds degrees in law (Ll.B.), psychology (B.A.) and administration (M.B.A.).



© 2013, Rabbi Benjamin Hecht. This appeared on the Huffington Post

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