Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

Rush Limbaugh’s Kidneys

posted by David Klinghoffer


Were you puzzled at all, as I was, over “comedian” Wanda Sykes’s stand-up routine at the White House Correspondents dinner and her curious choice of a medical image in assailing Rush Limbaugh? As President Obama smiled fondly and guffawed behind her, Sykes declared that since Limbaugh hopes Obama’s administration fails, “I hope his kidneys fail, how ’bout that?”
Quite the wit. The cruelty of this was obvious and shocking, but why specifically Rush’s kidneys? There are lots of things that could stop working right in a person’s life. Why not his heart, liver, lungs, or other vital organs? Why not his radio show? Why not his subscription to Cigar Aficionado?
It took me almost a week but I remembered something interesting about kidneys. In the Hebrew Bible’s system of symbols, kidneys are treated as if they were the seat of wisdom, the most fundamental source of wise counsel.

In the Jewish liturgical calendar, the idea comes up in this very week’s reading from the Prophets, specifically from the book of Jeremiah: “I, God, probe the heart and test the kidneys, repaying each man according to the ways of his [heart] and the product of his [thoughts, which are the] deeds [of the heart]” (17:10).
The same metaphor, kidneys as the source of thought, occurs in Jeremiah 11:20, 12:2, Psalm 16:7, and elsewhere.
Why kidneys? Because there are two of them, one on the left and one on the right. And do you know what else Biblical tradition says about the kidneys, regarding the distinction between left and right? “The heart of the wise man is to his right and the heart of the fool is to his left” (Ecclesiastes 10:2).
On the same verse, the Talmud notes, “A person has two kidneys. One counsels him to do good and one counsels him to do evil. It follows logically that good [counsel] comes from his right, while evil [counsel] comes from his left” (Berachot 61a).
Wisdom from the Right? Foolishness from the Left? Represented by the kidneys. Wanda Sykes wishes kidney failure upon Rush Limbaugh, an idea that President Obama seemed to find enjoyable. Do I really need to belabor the point any further?

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posted May 15, 2009 at 7:12 am

Or, it could have simply been in keeping with the quip about his prescription drug abuse. whichever it may be, and however deeply you may choose to read into it, it was in bad taste. Unless of course you’re a leftist minority, in which case you can say and do whatever you like and only a racist would have a problem with it.
and FYI – you might consider utilizing an anti-spam device that isn’t ridiculous.

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posted May 15, 2009 at 9:18 am

On the one hand, Sykes was out of line, and there have been liberals who have criticized her for this. On the other hand, Limbaugh has said plenty of stuff as bad or worse, and no one on the right criticizes him. Lest this seem to be the complaint of a “liberal”, I would direct your attention to this post by Beliefnet’s own Crunchy Conservative, Rod Dreher, on the policy of National Review and many other conservatives not to criticize Limbaugh no matter what he says.
The apparent implication that the quote from Ecclesiastes is somehow blessing conservatives and blasting liberals is just plain weird. Since most people are right-handed, the metaphor of the “right hand” usually has positive connotations in Jewish and other ancient cultures (e.g. “dexterous” vs. “sinister”). Thus, I’d assume that there’s no remotely “political” lesson to be drawn from that. Or is the fact that the name of the patriarch Benjamin comes from ben-yamin, typically translated as “son of (my) right hand” (yamin literally means “south”, but since typically the ancient Middle Easterners faced east, the south was thus associated with the right hand) indicative of Jacob wanting him to be a Republican?!

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posted May 15, 2009 at 10:24 am

rush can sure dish it out….hate hate hate when i heard the magic negro song…it made me sick….rush is a sick pig……he can dish it out but he cant take it….

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posted May 15, 2009 at 10:42 am

And Rush wants Obama and the country to fail. So Rush’s desires are an existential threat to the well being of our country, pretty serious stuff. He even has a certain amount of influence in politics to carry this out.
Sorry, but this ‘kidney as the seat of the soul thing’ is really out there.

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posted May 15, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Rush want socialism to fail to America. wrong wrong!! This is just another double standard for the black person.

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posted May 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Not only are certain organs associated with a certain quality, each body part is associated with a certain mitzvah:
This can be helpful for those of us who wonder whether by changing our actions we can cure or prevent our ailments. The Torah says in many passages that if we perform mitzvot we won’t get sick; this kind of thing is our tradition’s specification of this principle.

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posted May 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

I think perhaps that while her words were shocking (as they were meant to be), you reaching a little too far here. The point was that kidney failure is common enough to be easily identifiable by the people. My mother lost a kidney due to this. From a comedian’s perspective, keep it relative to everyone. As for the analogy: kidney failure is to death/diease : government failure is to america’s death. Torah need not be employed for this.

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posted May 16, 2009 at 10:17 am

Most assuredly, Mr. Klinghoffer is no Biblical scholar.
In the Pentateuch (Ex. 29:22, Lev. 3:4,10, 15 etc.), the kidneys, in the context of sacrificial offerings, are associated with fat. Which is what makes it symbolically appropriate in the case of the girth-challenged Mr. Limbaugh.
Good translation renders the meaning of the text more than the words.
In Biblical anatomy as a whole, lev – literally translated ‘heart’ – is the seat of intelligence, while keliyot-
literally, ‘kidneys’ –is the center of feelings and emotions. Thus, the Revised Standard Version – the Christian Bible translation which is a Discovery Institute fave –in Jer. 11:20, translates keliyot- since emotions are the referrent here- as ‘heart’, because in American culture, the heart is the center of emotions. Similarly,‘lev’ is rendered as ‘mind,’ once again translating the cultural and idiomatic meaning more than the words.
The same holds true for Jer. 12:2 and Ps. 16:7.
So much for the peripherals. Now to the crux of the matter.
The reason for Mr. Klinghoffer’s consummate disdain for Mr. Sykes and her remarks is simple: he believes in adherence to a single standard and views difference as deviance. Ms. Sykes is as different from Mr. Klinghoffer as one can possibly get: she is black, female and a lesbian.
More to the point, she has concretely and OBJECTIVELY demonstrated her American patriotism, while Mr. Klinghoffer can not, VERIFIABLY, claim to have done.
The proof is that, earlier in her life, Ms. Sykes served as a procurement officer at the vaunted National Security Agency (NSA). (Source: Washington POST) That job requires a security clearance, which is only granted after an individual passes a battery of mental health and lie detector tests, as well as a thorough background investigation.
Could Mr. Klinghoffer withstand such rigorous biographical scrutiny?
(Needless to say, deleting this post will only confirm the veracity of its contents.)

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posted May 16, 2009 at 10:21 am

Add the word “so” to the end of paragraph #8 in my original posting
It should read “More to the point, she has concretely and OBJECTIVELY demonstrated her American patriotism, while Mr. Klinghoffer can not, VERIFIABLY, claim to have done so.

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posted May 16, 2009 at 11:29 am

Hmmm… no brain to speak of, so wishing that to fail is silly. There never was a heart, (at least so far as anyone can tell.) Liver failure would reduce bile and be a blessing to everyone. Stomach failure might also be useful as the man can stomach almost anything done to those he opposes. There are other organs to be sure, but given those I have listed I vote for liver failure and suggest a combination heart and brain transplant.
(As an aside, the Democrats must love Rush. He and his ilk will leave the Republicans in the electoral desert of the far right into the foreseeable future.)

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posted May 16, 2009 at 2:04 pm

I have two questions.
Why does Mr. Klinghoffer think that Wanda Sykes carefully researched
” kidneys ” when making this comment? I don’t think that she did.
Also, although it is obvious to me that Mr. Klinghoffer clearly does not like President Obama, why does he appear to be on the side of Rush Limbaugh ?? ( who’s values any thinking, mindful human being should find offensive )

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posted May 16, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I think the minute you started this ridiculous article you belabored the point! And I doubt very much that Wanda Sykes researched just how “significant” kidneys are! Personally, I think Limbaugh’s outrageous comment hoping that President Obama’s administration fails is tantamount to treason and should be treated as such. Limbaugh should be asked a few questions…. perhaps about the significance of loyalty and patriotism to his country.

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posted May 16, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Dear Sheila,
I totally agree with your comment but the word you wanted was “whose” not “who’s.” If you don’t write correctly you won’t be taken seriously.

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Your Name

posted May 16, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Oh, puh-leeze. “Right and left, need I say more?” I agree that Wanda Sykes was not funny, but it’s just because she wasn’t funny. No political implication need be appended. When Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails, he crossed a line so wide it would have to be considered a Rubicon, not a line in the sand. Whatever he gets from comics, pundits, and politicos is his own fault. Our country is in crisis and whatever Mr. Limbaugh thinks of the president, he’s the one we’ve got, and his failure would mean more suffering for the country. To make such a brazen statement in total disregard for what is best for the country reveals him as the blowhard egocentric he is. And to see you, Mr. Klinghoffer, go off on a rant like this and end it with that kind of statement – be careful of the company you keep, Mr. Kllinghoffer. Fleas can be hard to get rid of.

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posted May 18, 2009 at 1:31 pm

I am grateful that Mr. Klinghoffer “belabored” the point. The whole point of Judaic teachings rest on belaboring the point, digging through to the very core of the issue and searching for the truths that may be hidden. As to Wanda, I thought she was hillarious, and if there were a choice between Obama failure and Limbaugh’s kidneys, well let the kidneys fail. Neither are held to a high religious standard and should be allowed to make fun and a fool of themselves.

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posted May 23, 2009 at 6:40 pm

It seemed obvious to me that the B-list comedienne, Sykes, was referring to kidneys because of Osama bin Ladin’s kidney problems. Sykes wants the Rush to understand how much her hero, Osama, suffered at the hands of the evil US military under Pres. Bush, whom Rush supported. See how easy it is to read a lib?

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posted May 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Hey guys, wouldn’t you also want a thief to fail?

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posted June 4, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Silly people: 1. She used kidneys because of the egregious Osama bin Ladin’s kidney disease; 2. She used failure because of the egregious Rush Limbaugh’s failure-wish statement; 3. President Obama feigned amusement because he had to – the president can’t sit there and scowl.
This was hardly a complicated puzzle. Gee whiz.

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