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November 9, 2017
The World as We Are – Parashat Vayera


My colleague, Rabbi Michael Gold, tells the story of two monks who were arguing about a flag blowing in the breeze.  One monk said, “It is the flag that causes the waving.”  The other monk said, “No, it is the wind that causes the waving.”  “If there was wind with no flag there would be nothing to move,” insisted the first monk.  “But if there was flag with no wind, the cloth would remain still,” retorted the second.  Back and forth they went, arguing and challenging one another, until they finally brought the matter before the great Zen master Hui Neng.  “My dear friends,” began the sage.  “Ultimately, you are both wrong.  It is neither the flag that causes the waving nor is it the wind that causes the waving.  In the end, it is your very own mind that causes the waving.”  And with that, the matter was settled.

Indeed it is the case that our very own minds shape how we see and experience the world around us.  Even matters of a so-called “objective” nature are often perceived differently by different people as the famous blue-black vs. white-gold dress controversy illuminated a few years back where individuals looking at the exact same garment saw its color in different ways.  How much more so do idiosyncratic elements shape perspective when it comes to subjective elements of human existence – what we value or believe in and even what we think or consider to be true.  We are influenced by our personal histories and by our preferences, by our outlooks and by our emotions.  Our thoughts are not necessarily consistent and often in flux.  How we feel on a particular day can affect how we see the world. 

Over the last year much attention has been paid to the increasingly siloed nature of modern experience, whereby more and more we come in contact only with others who think and believe as we do to the exclusion of those who might challenge our ideas.  We choose newspapers and TV broadcasts and websites that align with our perspective, rejecting opposing ones as being overly biased or practicing poor journalism; our Facebook feeds are intentionally designed to favor content consistent with our political leanings; we tend to consult for advice or information friends who share our viewpoints.  Psychologists have documented a phenomenon called confirmation bias whereby humans seem hard-wired “to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.”   As Dr. Shahram Heshmat, of the University of Illinois at Springfield, writes, “Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively [but rather] pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices.  Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions.” 
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Rabbi Annie Tucker












Rabbi Tucker's Wednesday Morning Bible Class:
This class meets weekly, on Wednesdays, from 10:00 am -11:00 am in the youth lounge. 
Bible Class Fall Syllabus

Bible Class Schedule:

November 1 Multiple Gods



November 22* Resurrection

November 29 Messianism            
December 6 Jesus

*Please note: these are changes from the original syllabus!

Sat, November 18 2017 29 Cheshvan 5778