Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, May 28, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

Rx for Better Living: Laugh More – Part 2
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: Rx, a familiar (almost universal) prescription designation, is an abbreviation for recipe (Latin), which translates to the imperative verb “take.” Today, I write you a prescription (Rx) for a happier life– take frequent doses of laughter (preferably, deep and hearty laughter). I continue from last week’s RR a few suggestions for finding ways to laugh more in life.

□ Collect jokes to laugh with others. If you have Internet access, there are numerous jokes available for your use. Enter “clean jokes” in a search engine (Google), and you will be directed to more jokes than you can ever use. If you want clean jokes sent to your email address every day, select one of many sites that will email funny, clean jokes to you. Enter “clean jokes sent by email” (joke of the day) in a search engine (Google) to select joke sites. Ask your spouse or laugh partner to have jokes emailed to him/ her. Then, try frequently to “out-funny” each other.

□ If you do something so outrageously silly that you secretly think, “I hope no one saw that,” is it something you can share with others? Many stand-up comedians have created successful careers by sharing self-deprecating, humorous anecdotes with their audiences. (An example is Rodney Dangerfield: “I don’t get no respect.”)

Find a time and place that you can retreat and not be witnessed by neighbors or family members. Create some activities that are outrageous and silly (stupid, really), but that make you laugh. Create, say, a “happy monkey song and dance” or recite a little poem with a Donald Duck squawk. If your activity is so absurd that you want to do it only in private but it makes you laugh or feel better, it is worth a few moments of your time.

□ Laugh at yourself (your humanity). If you are normal, you make little mistakes and do absurd things. I frequently make mistakes and do stupid things. Celebrate your imperfections– they are part of your humanity. God did not create the Universe to revolve around you. Laugh at yourself, when you do something absurd (as long as no one is physically or emotionally hurt by your goof). I believe one stepping stone to unhappiness is for a person to place him-/ her-self atop a pedestal, expecting to always be perfect and being offended when others do not recognize his/ her “perfection.”

□ Learn from your mistakes. “To err is human; to forgive, divine” (Alexander Pope: An Essay on Criticism, Part II, 1711), The Bible clearly teaches that we are imperfect and will make mistakes (Romans 3:23): … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…. When (not, if) you sin, there is a plan, well-known to Believers, to obtain God’s forgiveness.

You can make mistakes which do not rise to the level of sin. (Example; “Joe, you are gaining too much weight.” It is true that Joe is gaining too much weight, he would be healthier at a lower weight, and it is not a sin to state the obvious, but is there a kinder, more effective way to confront Joe’s eating habits?) If you offend someone, sincerely apologize and try not to offend again. It is, then, the responsibility of the offended person to forgive you. If he/ she does not forgive, you need not keep apologizing and you should not harbor guilt. You made a mistake, asked forgiveness for that mistake, and are trying never to make the same mistake again. Move on.

Also, accept valid criticism gracefully. I have had people praise me, and I have had people scream criticisms at me. I seldom learn from (and only halfheartedly listen to) praises, but I listen carefully and try to learn from criticisms. What did I do so wrong that I have a person screaming at me? Is this person correct? If so, what do I need to do to improve myself? If you are embarrassed by mistakes, learn not to make the same mistakes again, and your embarrassment will not recur. Criticism, if valid, is an opportunity to learn, not a self-defense trigger. Humility seems to be a dying virtue in modern life. Modern people seem to have difficulty saying, “I was wrong. I am deeply sorry that I offended you.”

□ Listen more than speaking. When I was a third-year medical student in my pediatrics rotation, I was taught by “Doctor Tom.” I cannot now remember Dr. Tom’s last name, but he was a most kind, gentlemanly, emeritus professor, probably in his eighties. He held weekly one-hour rounds with students to teach the art of medicine (philosophy of medical practice) and not the science of medicine. One thing I still remember is this advice from Dr. Tom: “Young doctors, you never learn anything with your mouth open.” He was telling us to listen to the patient (or patient’s parent) – that is, obtain a thorough history,  without interrupting.

I have noticed that many of today’s medical school graduates seem not to have learned the importance of the history and physical examination that was pounded into my thick skull in the early 1960s. They rely mostly on various test results. Tests are very important, but failure to obtain thorough history and physical examination data are sad omissions.

Dr. Tom’s advice is good for all of us in all situations. Try to listen to others more and interrupt less. Becoming sensitive to the needs of others by listening is one of the greatest communication skills you can develop. In many communication situations, your ear is more important than your mouth. Also when you speak, show respect for the listener. Do not gossip or drone on incessantly about negative topics. (I know, bad news communication is sometimes inevitable.) Be positive, as much as possible. If  the listener feel better after your conversation, you have communicated well.

□ Do not needlessly worry. Before retirement, I held a high-stress job with numerous questions and problems surfacing every day– questions I had to answer and problems I had to solve personally because I was chairman of a hospital department. (Fortunately, I love stress. I do my best work when I have the most stress.) Since retirement, I now attempt to solve only problems I create or that must be solved for the sake of persons who may depend upon me. I have created an imaginary “Do Not Worry About This List.” When my wife and I discuss things over which we have no control, I tell her that I will add it to our “Do Not Worry About This List.” This list grows longer and longer, as our “Worry About This List” grows shorter. My list may actually have a Scriptural basis (Matthew 6:34): [Yeshua said] “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I have noticed that many things I have feared the most or envisioned as having bad outcomes do not actually take place, as I had feared.

You may recall one of Robin Williams’ best movies, Dead Poet’s Society. Williams played an English teacher (John Keating) in a boys’ prep school. Taking his class into the hall, he had them stand before the trophy case. Pointing to a photograph of boys in a class many decades earlier, he compared the similarities between those boys in the photograph, many of whom were likely dead, and the boys standing, very much alive, in the hall. He began whispering, “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your life extraordinary.” Carpe diem is Latin (translation: “Seize the day”).

Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) also quoted from a poem, “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May” (Robert Herrick, 1591-1674), of which the first stanza reads: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying: and this same flower that smiles today to-morrow will be dying.” Keating (Robin Williams) was emphasizing that the students should grab onto and hold every day while they can. Williams’ screen advice and Yeshua’s Biblical advice have much in common. The psalmist also gave us good advice (Psalm 118:24): This is the day that Adonai has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

□ Participate in a safe sporting activity– especially if you are absolutely terrible at it… and have fun (laugh), as you display your incompetence. With your spouse or laugh partner, participate in a sporting activity (such as, bowling or miniature golf). Pick an activity at which you are especially incompetent. Be safe, though. You may be incompetent at climbing the rocky face of a steep mountain, but you will not laugh if you fall a thousand feet from the side of the mountain to the valley floor.

Through your fun activity, you will get a little exercise, perhaps (which is in itself helpful in relieving stress), but you can laugh at yourself, when you fail. If you bowl five gutter balls in a row, laugh. If you take nine strokes to complete a miniature golf hole, laugh. You have succeeded, not in bowling or golf, but in having fun. Since you will never become a bowling or miniature golf pro, do not become obsessed with scores or who wins or loses. Have fun with your spouse or laugh partner, and learn to laugh at yourself. The latter benefit will keep you from taking yourself too seriously. Accept with grace any shared laughter, if your spouse or laugh partner laughs with you at your lousy play. Celebrate your humanity by accepting that you are not “perfect” in every endeavor.

When I suggest laughing at yourself, I do not suggest you belittle yourself or seek to destroy self-confidence or self-esteem. I believe a person’s ability to laugh at him-/ her-self is healthy. We all make little mistakes. We are human! Learn to overcome little embarrassments. I suggest there is an order to life priorities you should assign, from Number 1 (most important) to Number 4 (least important):

Number 1: Your God ►
Number 2: Your family ►
Number 3: Your neighbors (synagogue, community, world) ►
Number 4: Yourself.

If you occupy position “1” in this order of importance, is this a good thing? Are you proud of assigning yourself the highest ranking– a ranking higher than God?

Incidentally, the list shown above follows Yeshua’s three commandments for us; (1) love Adonai with your entire being; (2) love your neighbors (your fellow humans), as you love yourself; and (3) love fellow Believers, as Yeshua loves us.

I once served as a jail minister in the Blount County Correction Center. This was a most rewarding ministry, and I miss it. I planned to deliver a message one Sunday evening,on these three commandments. I thought for some time: Can I commit a sin, if I follow these three commencements? I could not (cannot now) think of a loophole. The Bible succinctly summarized its entire message in a few sentences. When Yeshua taught these commandments, He recognized the entire message of God contained in these commandments (Matthew 22:40): [Yeshua said] “The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Two commandments? Yeshua had not yet given the third commandment.)

□ Spend as much time as possible with the young. Babies and small animals (puppies, kittens, lambs, calves, and so forth) bring out the best in all of us. Their innocence and early, clumsy attempts to acquire motor skills are charming and amusing. If you are fortunate to be able to spend time with a young child/ grandchild or a young animal, such time will not be wasted. You will come away feeling much more relaxed and happier.

□ Play with a pet. You may not be able to play with a young child for amusement, but play with a pet. A pet usually does something amusing. Celebrate your pet’s uniqueness in God’s natural order, and let the pet entertain and relax you. It has been shown that playing with a furry pet improves physical and mental health.

□ Smile more, frown less. A smile is the first stage of a laugh. Laughter is contagious, and so is smiling. “Infect” as many people possible every day with smiles and laughter.

□ Count your blessings. In the mid-1950’s, there was a popular Irving Berlin song, “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep).” This song gives the following excellent advice: “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep and you’ll fall asleep, counting your blessings.” You have far more of God’s blessings than Satan’s stumbling blocks. This song is reminiscent of 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18: Rejoice always,…. || …  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Yeshua

When you feel “down,” think how much the Creator of the Universe has invested in your life, and recall 1 John 4:4b: … greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. You are truly blessed. God loves you. The Kingdom of God is your inheritance. You should be giddy with happiness and laughter!

YOUR ULTIMATE WEAPON TO DEFEAT DESPONDENCY: The world roils with the evil that is here now, and will even more so for the evil that is coming. I will not repeat all of the evil and instability in the world today. The social stability of America could even degenerate into civil war, given the right circumstances. Globalists are planning America’s demise through various known strategies (and strategies known only to them). Judeo-Christian faith is weakening, as we approach the prophesied great apostasy. Bible prophecies are being fulfilled on a daily basis, and those prophecies warn of a collapse of world governments and civilizations, as we rush into the Tribulation.

Do we have the right to fear the future? Do we have little about which to laugh and rejoice? No. A Believer’s best days are ahead of him/ her. If you are a true follower of Yeshua, you are His forever (John 10:29): [Yeshua said] “My Father, who has given them [My followers] to Me, is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

The Bible carefully reassures us that God will sustain us and help us through trials. In future RRs, I hope to suggest supernatural help for us in trying times. I will mention several Scriptures in those RRs, but I will present just one today (Matthew 11:28-30): [Yeshua said] “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and ‘you will find rest for your souls.’ For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 

PRESCRIPTION FOR HAPPINESS– “HELP ME, DOCTOR JESUS!” When I was in my obstetrical rotation at the John Gaston Hospital in Memphis (in 1963), we would have “multips” arrive in labor. “Multip” is medical slang for a multipara– a woman who has given birth to more than one baby, usually several babies. This was the early 1960s before widespread use of oral contraceptives  and women, especially women in the socioeconomic class receiving care in a large Shelby County charity hospital, commonly had many children.

These “multips” knew better than the medical students attending them when delivery was imminent. These “multips” usually had two characteristics, as they were rolled off the elevator onto the obstetrical floor just minutes before delivery: (1) they commonly wore bandanas on their heads; and (2) they cried out in pain, “Help me, Doctor Jesus!” We young medical students soon learned not to waste time taking these “multips” into labor rooms, but to get them quickly into delivery rooms and in stirrups.

Many years later, I can still hear the cry, “Help me, Doctor Jesus!” We all should rely more on the Great Physician, “Doctor Jesus.”

Read one of the most remarkable Messianic prophecies– Isaiah, chapter 53. Isaiah prophesied the future Messiah, whom we believe is Yeshua HaMashiach. Isaiah described a Messiah who would come for the healing of the three parts of humans (mind, soul, and body). An apprehensive Yeshua went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray to the Father that another way than crucifixion could be found. He prayed three times (once for each part of humans?). Afterwards, he was shown why He must be sacrificed, and He went calmly to His horrific death. Concerning physical healing relative to this section, the Messiah died for our physical well-being (Isaiah 53:5): … and by His stripes we are healed.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SACRIFICE: Memorial Day is celebrated in the United States on the last Monday in May. In 2023, this commemoration is held on May 29 (tomorrow).

We give gratitude to the many American men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our liberty by forfeiting their lives for our country. Preparing His disciples for His death, Yeshua taught that all who follow in Yeshua’s footsteps by sacrificing life for others demonstrate a greater love (John 15:13): [Yeshua said] “No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Although inadequate, I offer my sincerest thanks for the sacrifices– the greater love– of the many patriots who have secured liberty for me, my family, and my country. America’s fallen soldiers are martyrs for our freedom. How long will we Americans continue to know freedom? Freedom is fading fast. Will the red flag of China fly over America’s town squares? We know the Antichrist’s flag will some day fly over many nations of the world.

But, praise Adonai, a bloodied, roughly hewn, wooden cross will rise over the flags of all governments. And, all peoples of the world will kneel before and confess Adonai as Lord of all (Romans 14:11, quoting Leviticus 10:10): For it is written, “As I live, says Adonai, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.

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