Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


The Celebrity You’ve Never Heard Of

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Last week my colleague Rabbi Jason Miller shared the story of a 21-year-old college student named Brett Cohn.

Cohn decided to do a little experiment. He hired a film crew, some body guards, and several photographers with bright lights and microphones. He then asked them to accompany him as he walked through Times Square in New York.

Guess what happened? He was inundated. Kids wanted his autograph. Tourists had their picture taken with him. The film crew asked random pedestrians what they thought of Brett Cohn. They raved that they were his biggest fans!

We All Worship Something

What does this story say about our culture? What does it say about what we value? Do we admire for people for what they do or for how famous they are?

Before we get too hard on ourselves, we should remember that people have always been impressed with what seems big, shiny and new. Before people worshipped celebrities, they worshiped different gods. That’s part of the story told in the Hebrew Bible.

The big celebrity of biblical times was a god named Ba-al. The Hebrew word literally means “master.” He had lots of raving fans. The Hebrew God was very different.

He was not flashy, loud and surrounded by raving fans. The story of the prophet Elijah illustrates this beautifully. Elijah is alone upon Mount Sinai. The Bible tells us that a whirlwind appears. God was not in the whirlwind. Then an earthquake. But God was not in the earthquake. Then a raging fire. But God is not in the fire. Then God speaks to Elijah in a still small voice. (1 Kings 19)

True Heroes

Judaism resists the idols of the ages. Celebrities are the idols of our age. They can block us from appreciating our true heroes.

The great historian Daniel Boorstin makes this argument from both an historical and contemporary perspective. “The hero,” he writes, “was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark. The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name. Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused.”

Humility

How true! Making idols of celebrities not only creates embarrassing stories like Brett Cohn’s experiment. It also undermines our gratitude for the people who really do make a difference. The antidote to a culture of celebrity is a culture of humility.

Humility is not meekness. It is an openness to something larger than the self. It is found in listening rather than speaking. In looking at other people as ends and not means. It is listening not to the loudest voice. But to the still, small voice of conscience within us.



Previous Posts

Will God Condemn Brittany Maynard for Choosing to Die?
On the most sacred Jewish holiday of the year--Yom Kippur--we literally imagine our own funeral. Men traditional wear a white sash that will also serve as their burial shroud. The purpose is to picture our own death in a way that helps us live more fully. What if, however, we could not only imagi

posted 10:06:23pm Nov. 02, 2014 | read full post »

The Strange Book of the Bible We Read in Sukkot
Tonight begins the Jewish “Festival of Tabernacles.” Known in Hebrew as Sukkot, we spend time in  temporary outdoor dwellings. They remind us of the fragility of life our ancestors experienced during their journey across the Sinai Desert. Vanity, Vanity, All is Vanity!  The biblical book

posted 3:57:40pm Oct. 08, 2014 | read full post »

When a Rabbi Announces He is Gay
Religious leaders are public figures. We live on display. People look at what we drive, what we eat, what we wear. Unfortunately, sometimes we hide parts of ourse

posted 8:01:44am Oct. 08, 2014 | read full post »

Is 75 the Perfect Age to Die?
Dr. Ezekiel Emauel, the well-known bioethicist and brother of the mayor of my town, argued recently in an essay in the Atlantic Monthly that 75 is the perfect age to die. After that, he said, most people have little to contribute to society and are a burden rather than a benefit. I can think of f

posted 9:02:23pm Oct. 05, 2014 | read full post »

Yom Kippur: The Happiest Day of the Year
Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It is filled with solemn prayer, and most Jews fast. How, then, can it be the happiest day of the year? Allow me to explain... Picture the scene: It is 1944, in Glasgow, Scotland, in the midst of the Second World War. Kol Nidre is about to

posted 1:29:44pm Oct. 03, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.