a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - November 21, 1999
Mike Feder: Alright, here we are. This
is Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson. I am
your host, Mike Feder. Weíre here every Sunday night from 6-7pm
on WEVD 1050AM in New York. Tonightís topic is "Thanksgiving:
What Do You Do When Home Doesnít Feel Like Home?"
First of all, I want to mention to people that
we want your calls later in the show. This is such a personal,
agitating topic for people, that Iíd be fascinated to hear personal
stories from people or worries or things that are happening
with them this holiday season, especially on Thanksgiving. The
number in the studio is 212-244-1050.
Before we start off, I want to read a little bit
from the book that we depend on here, the blueprint for this
show, Toward a Meaningful Life by Simon Jacobson, and
I want to read from chapter 9, "Home and Family,"
because the writing is so clear and perfect in a way. It says,
"Why is home life so important? After many hours of looking
for food, a bird returns to its nest, taking supreme comfort
in a place that is warm and safe, far removed from the dangers
and distractions of the world outside.
"A human should feel the same sense of warmth
and security when he or she comes home. Your home and family
are your nest, the center of your life, the hub from which all
your daily experiences extend. Both as children and adults,
our home and family are where we should feel most comfortable
in the world.
"They determine how you make your life decisions,
they shape your attitudes, your awareness, your self-esteem.
A healthy home is obviously a vital ingredient in the pursuit
of a meaningful life. Home is where we learn to cope and be
productive, to work and play, to be comfortable with ourselves
and with others. Most important, home is where we learn about
happiness and about wholesomeness.
"Think about the warmth you feel when you
come home after being away for a few months or even a few days."
Thereís a lot more, of course, in that chapter,
but as Iím reading this, I am thinking aloud for a lot of the
people who may be listening right now, especially around the
time of Thanksgiving when home becomes more important for most
Americans than any other holiday, how ironic and bitter they
might feel upon hearing those words.
I do myself, and my feelings about it are clearly
due to my home life. In the modern world, in the last couple
of decades, you find millions of people who have experienced
nothing but dread, anguish, worry, doubt and ambivalence about
having to go home for Thanksgiving or having people to their
home for Thanksgiving. How is this? How did this come to be?
Itís a loaded question.
Jacobson: I feel and empathize very deeply
with people who find it difficult to go back home or perhaps
donít even feel that that place is home, particularly
in the holiday season when itís so pronounced. In a sense, the
saddest moments are on those holiday evenings when everyone
is rushing home and there are people just walking the streets
because they have nowhere to go.
And for many who are going to certain homes,
they feel dread in their hearts. I feel very deeply for them,
because precisely what you just read from the book which is
very warming to hear, by contrast, when you grow up in a healthy
home, you donít always appreciate what you have.
Itís like being healthy with a healthy body. You
donít feel anything when youíre healthy. When you start feeling
something, thatís when thereís a problem. Health is an invisible
or a non-sensory feeling.
Itís the same thing with a healthy home. Itís
like swimming in water for a fish; itís just a natural thing.
However, someone whoís deprived of that knows the consequences,
and though they may feel bitter when they see a healthy home,
that is from my point of view a healthy sign: at least they
know thereís something they want that theyíre not getting.
Iíve spoken to people who are so resigned that
they donít even believe that thereís such a thing as a healthy
home because their home is so broken that they think that every
home is that way. Except people play the game and put up a veneer
because they also remember smiling, and photographs on Thanksgiving
or the holidays and when they look at the photos they say, "Oh,
everyoneís so happy." But thatís the veneer, the surface.
Look beneath the surface and there is all kinds of stuff going
on, and I donít just mean necessarily overt abuse; Maybe itís
just a lack of that comfort that you just read about; a lack
of feeling like thereís a place to go to thatís not a battle
You see, thatís what itís about. I used the analogy
of the nest very intentionally. Think of it this way. Imagine
there are little baby birds and every time their parents bring
them some worms theyíre fighting with each other in the nest.
Feder: The parents or the baby birds?
Jacobson: The parents. What kind of education,
what kind of message is that? The whole beauty of the nest,
of a hearth, is the comfort that in those early formative years,
where you have not yet been subject to the battle zone of life
outside that threshold, outside your door, you have that comfort.
You know you are surrounded by people who love you unconditionally.
You feel the nurturing that no matter what happens out there,
you have a safe place where you will always be accepted and
will always be taken care of.
When thatís missingÖ let me equate it with a strong
analogy: itís literally as if a fetus has been ripped out if
its motherís womb prematurely, because in some ways, the home
is an extension of the womb. Of course, itís now an independent
child, but in a healthy home thereís still a womblike sense
of comfort, of warmth and of course this is a directly connected
not just to the physical home but to the parents as wellóthe
environment that they create. And when that becomes hostile
and thereís a battle going on, when a war enters the home, the
home ceases to be a home.
Feder: It seemsómaybe itís just from my
perspectiveóthat itís almost the rule rather than the exception
that thereís trouble these days, and people feel this way particularly
around Thanksgiving. I mean, I donít know how many people might
call up here and express that feeling, but I wonder how many
people will call up and say that theyíre really looking forward
to being with family unequivocally, that itís a wonderful thing
Jacobson: Iíd love to hear that, but as
usual, this show is geared to all people and particularly those
who do have warm feelings about home. The question is, how do
you share that warmth with people who donít feel comfortable
going home? Do you just criticize them or ignore them, or be
oblivious to them? Or do we have a message for them?
I think our show is not just to discuss the problem,
but also to share how you can recreate a home if you donít have
one: as you put it, what to do when your home doesnít feel like
home. Do you just accept it or do you take control of your life?
Feder: Or if you came from a home that
didnít feel like home, how do you build one out of thin air
later on in your life.
Jacobson: I think that to analyze the reasons
why thereís been such a breakdown of the home or family structure
obviously requires looking at many factors, but the one that
stands out most to me is the obsession with and consumption
of materialism in our time.
You see, if you ask most people what a home is
do you know what theyíll say? A dream house. A place where you
have enough roomsÖ.
Feder: A large screen TV.
Jacobson: You have enough room for all
the different activities you want. Thatís itís a luxury in a
sense. You see, a home is not a house, just like a nest is not
just shelter. There is an element of home thatís shelteróshelter
from the elements: itís cold outside and you need a place to
go, a place to sleepóbut thereís something much more profound
about a home. There are houses that Iíve seen, mansions with
20-30 bedrooms, and forgive the comparison, but itís like a
funeral parlor. And Iíve seen homes where there are kids running
around and itís a mess, and you say, even though itís not physically
comfortable to live in a place like thisóthe dishes havenít
been washed, and so onóbut thereís a warmth there and you want
to just sit there to take it in.
Now, Iím not suggesting that thatís a virtue per
se, but my point is that what defines a home is not driven by
physical comfort and materialism.
Feder: Maybe what you should do, and itís
in this chapter too, is to describe what the ideal home should
be or what a home is.
Jacobson: And I want to connect it to the
cosmic side in addition to what youíre describing because itís
interesting that in Jewish philosophy (based on the Midrash)
it says, "Why did G-d create this universe?"
And the answer is in order for us to create a home for G-d.
The word "home" is used. And the way this is explained
in Chassidic thought, Chassidic philosophy (Jewish mysticism),
is that initially this world is not a home for G-d: itís
a hostile place, a selfish place, and not what one would call
a sacred and holy environment on its own.
A human being can refine his or her particular
area of this world and make it a home for G-d. So, in a way,
thatís very much a microcosm of what each of us do when we build
our homes. A home you can say captures the essence of why weíre
here on this earth.
You come into a world thatís untamed, subject
to the elementsóand elements donít just mean the weather and
the seasons, but the elements mean people, corruption, greed,
aggression, violence, general hostility thatís inherent in our
type of existenceóyou take an area, you isolate it, an oasis,
and you donít just build walls to keep the rain and snow out,
and put up locks and alarms to keep the criminals out, you also
create a place where your soul can feel free.
At work, weíre in a battle zone. As soon as we
walk out the door of our homes, we all put on our masks and
our faces and the defense mechanisms that we need to survive
with. When you come home, you should be able to feel as if youíre
completely comfortable, as when you are all alone with yourself,
like you can just let it all go without anyone judging you.
This is the deepest type of comfort, recognizing that you matter
and have value.
Feder: I think I must know far more people
who are happier to leave their homes and go to work than they
are to come back home and deal with whatís there. Thatís the
way the modern world seems to be.
Jacobson: Well, letís take that back in
time. A little child doesnít want to leave home. For a young
child, walking outside, out over the threshold, is like walking
off the face of this earth. There is no reality outside of a
childís home. We adults find it hard to imagine why a child
wouldn't just leave an abusive home, why donít you just get
up and leave? But weíre talking about a very young child. The
answer is that for a small child there is no leaving. This is
his universe. The parents are like G-d. Leaving home is like
leaving earth. Can we just leave earth? Thereís no such thing
as leaving earth so for a child stepping out of the door is
a non option, period. And then, as that child grown into an
adult he often doesnít want to return to the abusive home.
Thatís how deep the problem is because, by contrast,
when a person doesnít have that type of nurturing environment,
not only do they not have the ability to grow up in a
healthy way, but they are thrown into the battle zone long before
theyíre ready and able and they lack the proper coping mechanisms.
And then when a child comes into this world and
doesnít have someone who cradles him or her or someone to say,
"I want you here," or someone who has prepared the
world, and the room, and a bed for himóif the child doesnít
get that message, either through words or through body language,
then the child never cultivates the self-esteem to be able to
go out to battle.
And then using the nest example, if a bird doesnít
have a nest to fly back to, then it canít hunt properly or do
what it has to do outside of the nest, because the roots are
missing, there isnít that springboard where it all begins, like
the central area around which life orbits.
The home has been undermined by instant gratification,
by the obsession with material gain, by thinking that if you
have material possessionsólarge home, many homes, vacation homesóyou
solve the problem and you are in a sense creating security.
Itís a misplaced sense of where security comes
And I have to bring the story that Iím so fond
of (even though itís a sad story) which took place after the
Communist takeover of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution.
The Communists tried to obliterate all religion, including Judaism,
and there was one Chassidic Rebbe who greatly resisted and they
arrested him. During their threats to him, they stuck a pistol
to his head and said that if he didnít cooperate, "this
little gadget here has changed many peopleís lives."
The Rebbe said to them, "This little toy
can frighten someone who has one world and many gods, but not
someone who has one G-d and many worlds."
Security, as with investments, requires diversification.
If you put all your eggs in a materialistic basket, then you
will only have what materialism offers which is temporary relief.
A home is really a taste of eternity, because
that comfort, should it exist, that nurturing, lasts forever,
even when that child leaves home. Thatís the irony.
Feder: If things are worse now, and it
seems to me that they may be, why are they worse? What
went wrong in the last 20, 30, 40 years that people have such
experiences like this? On my other show on BAI I talked to people
about Thanksgiving, and people called in and it turned into
kind of a support network for people who are damaged. All you
have to do is say the word "Thanksgiving" and people
are all upset.
There are people who arenít even welcome in their
own homes. What has changed so much? What has gone wrong?
Jacobson: Well, as I said, Iím sure there
have always been issues in families and homes throughout history.
But I do believe that the heightened rate of prosperity and
the higher standard of living is definitely a contributing factor
because it creates an illusion of control and security.
Whereas once upon a time, when life was more difficult
physicallyóin the sense that the father went out to chop wood
and the mother prepared the mealóthere was a certain rustic,
and by extension, holistic sense to life that was not so complicated.
There was no career competing with home life.
There was no such thing as a profession competing with the center
of life. There was one center, one hub. As soon as there are
two hubs, it becomes: "Oh, itís fun out there!" So
it becomes fun to get out of the house and go do something,
while someone else stays at home with the nagging childrenÖ
When something outside the home became more fun than what was
going on inside the home, it became almost like a hassle to
go back home. When a parent walks into the home and feels like
he or she doesnít want to be there, they want to be elsewhere,
the children get the same message and assume the same attitudeóthat
this is not the place that I want to be as well.
So a healthy home has to be in a sense an extension
of your body, of your lifeónot just a physical place where you
rest your hat, but also an expression of your personal self.
You know, we hear about people hosting parties
in their homes. However, how many times do you hear of people
having a spiritual party at home? What I mean is, when they
get together and commune with friends, talk about things that
are very meaningful, with their children there.
I donít mean a dinner at the Waldorf or some other
social entertainment. I mean in a very natural, simple wayóand
that is what a home is about. Now, memories of holidays
have become just memories. Itís like someone remembers that
there must have once been a Thanksgiving or some holiday where
it was really that way. People really loved to come see each
other. There was a real spiritual reunion.
Feder: You see it on television commercials
sometimes: the good old days on the farm.
Jacobson: So today itís become an exotic
experience, to the point where we also in surprise say, "Oh,
thereís a wholesome family." And theyíre put up on a pedestal,
highlighted in museums.
Feder: Normal Rockwell paintings.
Jacobson: And it is regarded as extra special.
But Thanksgiving, I can only guess, but at the root of
Thanksgiving lies that type of deep connection to home and family
and faith. Who were the Pilgrims thanking? G-d. For saving them
and bringing them to a new world where they could experience
freedom from religious persecution. In how many homes, when
they celebrate Thanksgiving, do people think about that?
Feder: So are you saying here that without
danger, or conflict, without illness, poverty, struggle, that
the home canítÖ in order words, there has to be those things
for the home to be a retreat? You canít live in a world of comfort
and ease and still have a good home? Thatís a pretty harsh thing
Jacobson: Well, I wouldnít say that. Iíd
say you could butÖ Did you ever see the way a circle
is drawn with a compass on a piece of paper? You take a compass
and stick the needle in the center of the paper, keep it steady,
and then draw the circle. The comforts of life are the circle.
The center is the home. If a person doesnít have a steady center,
what kind of circle will it look like? Will it be jagged? Broken?
Distorted? All of the above?
The comforts of life can definitely complement
and be part of that center, but without the center, comforts
become a distraction, and prosperity can lead you to another
place which has nothing to do with your own personal center.
I would look at it this way. Forget about your
physical home for a moment. Where do you feel most at home in
your life? And I donít mean in the physical senseóI mean in
the psychological sense. Where do you feel most at home? When
youíre sitting at your desk in front of your computer? When
youíre traveling on a plane? When youíre in a restaurant with
a certain type of people? Or when youíre physically in your
living room or your bed? There are many options.
Feder: Or if youíre alone or with other
Jacobson: Where do you feel most at home,
Feder: Well, let me ask you this. Is there
a right answer to this question?
Jacobson: No, thereís no real right answer,
but that answer will reflect your experiences and whether you
have a true home. Indeed, this question can serve like a little
personal home test that everyone can do here. That answer will
reflect what your life is about and how much of a home you really
Some people will answer that question, "I
donít have any real comfortable place. My comfort is running
from one place to the next. If you stay in one place too long,
youíll get hurt."
Feder: Flying around on a plane.
Jacobson: On a plane or just in concept.
You know there are people who are runners; theyíre always moving
about. And they look like the adventurous type, but when you
get right down to it, theyíre really running out of fear. They
donít want to stay committed anywhere for too long because theyíre
afraid that theyíll get hurt, as they have in their past.
Some people are very comfortable with lack of
comfortócrisisóalways running. Thereís always a fire burning
Anyway, I think every one of our listeners should
ask that question, "Where do you feel most at home?"
I wouldnít say thereís a right answer, because this is a very
personal and subjective experience, but Iíll tell you this:
there is a healthy answer and an unhealthy answer. The answer
reflect either a healthy experience or an unhealthy experience.
Look, if a person says, "I donít have a home.
I never felt a home." Thatís a very true answer and a right
answer for that person. So what that person needs to do is build
a home somewhere. You have to have a comfortable place in this
world or else you will remain a victim of circumstances and
simply always be in that high-adrenaline mode of survival.
Feder: I hope later on youíre going to
explain what you see as a comfortable and a good home. Meanwhile,
we have Mike on the line.
Caller: Good evening. I have to admit that
I never suffered any of the pains that youíre talking about.
I grew up in a home that wasnít threatening at all and I know
that there are a lot of people who really do have a lot of conflicts
in family situations. Have you ever seen the film "Avalon"?
Are you familiar with that film? Itís one of my favorite films.
If you talk about it on a societal levelÖ As the Rabbi was saying,
as we become more affluent, more materialistic, a lot of the
things that spiritually kept people together disappeared, and
I think that there is a search for that now, but weíre hooked
on a lot of things, do you know what Iím saying?
Feder: Well, let me ask you. Do you feel
that there has to be controversy and adversity and difficulty
and lack of ownership for us to be comfortable in or homes,
safe and secure? Does it have to be hard for us to be good?
Caller: Perhaps not. I donít think there
were any "good olí days." There have always been tensions,
and adversity has its own problems. But I think we have to go
beyond where we are, in other words, we canít look backwards
to a time when people faced more physical adversity, we have
to go to a new spiritual level, at least in this society. And
we are the world leaders. Weíre exporting our culture
at a rapid rate, and if we canít come together even on a family
level, what does that say about the future of the world?
Feder: What are we exporting? Weíre not
exporting the ideas of home and family. Weíre exporting jeans,
Caller: Exactly. So these are things that
really dissolve traditional situations; in other words, traditional
cultures come apart when assaulted by this. We have.
Feder: I agree.
Jacobson: Thanks Mike for your call. My
comment echoes obviously what weíre saying here, and itís good
to see someone who does have a healthy home lifeÖ
Feder: Heís going to be the only one, Iím
Jacobson: However, I would say to Mike
that itís incumbent upon him to share his experience with those
who donít have that warmth, perhaps inviting someone who does
not have a home in the same sense to his Thanksgiving dinner.
Feder: Invite a stranger into your house?
Jacobson: Well, obviously a stranger that
youíre comfortable with. I wouldnít just go out in the street
unless youíre comfortable with that, but Iím sure there are
people at work, associates, or others who donít have a place
to go, and maybe create that home environment, because when
we warm others in our homes, our homes get warmer as well.
Feder: Okay, we have Maria on the line.
Caller: Iíd like to comment about what
the Rabbi said before about being on the run, and it being adventurous.
You know, you have to understand that sometimes what looks like
a high adrenaline level can be a lust for life. It really isnít
something that youíre running away from personally. In some
situations that may be, but sometimes people just love to be
on the goÖ
Feder: So itís a positive thingÖ
Caller: So you canít look at it like a
bad thing either.
Jacobson: Oh no, Maria, I completely agree.
When that experience is coming from a point of strength and
not fear that is adventure. But I believe that even that adventurous
type, I must say I have a sense of it myself, also needs a nest.
Not just a place to rest from adventure to adventure, but that
type of comfort and security. And I would think that a real
exciting home, a dynamic home with parents, is adventurous as
well; that itís part of the adventure. And that experience just
extends out from thereóyou bring the home life out into the
world and the world back into the home in a very positive way.
That would be the ultimateówhere you have the benefits of all
levels of experience, where you have both the nest and the ability
Caller: See, we donít live in a traditional
world anymore, and like things donít happen with tradition.
Tradition is very good but you know you have to let a new aspect
of life come in. You know, some people donít have the luxury
of being at one with their family, and maybe theyíre just totally
different from their family, you know? Maybe their family doesnít
understand them or they donít understand their family, and they
need to live totally different destiny than what the traditional
family is living.
Jacobson: I would agree with that. The
question really is, can a person really survive without any
family at all? Even if theyíve been alienated or canít identify
with their familyís life, I still think that in this world that
we live in, a person like that would have to build their own
home and perhaps their own family in their own image.
Caller: Oh no. Everybody should have a
nest to come home to, but it doesnít necessarily have to be
a traditional nest. It can just be a set address.
Feder: So where are you going to be next
Caller: Home with my mother and father
and my boyfriend. I mean, I would love to be away traveling
somewhere, experiencing something else, but for financial reasons,
unfortunately thatís not going to happen.
Feder: So youíre forced to go home, Maria.
Caller: No, not forced. I choose to be
home. I wanted to be with my mother and father, especially since
the millenniumís coming and you have to thank G-d every day
because you never know when itís going to go.
Jacobson: Well Maria, I wish you a happy
holiday. I have to say, just to add one point that I think is
goodóbecause Mariaís points were really good about adventureóbecause
another factor is that I think a lot of people see home as being
boring. The same people, the same walls. It can be boring if
thereís no life going on there. If no oneís around, itís going
to be very boring.
Feder: So what is the life that
should be going on in a home? Letís get down to it. I mean,
aside from my wife, who happens to be an exciting person, itís
Jacobson: The way Maria was describing
the "traditional home," doesnít sound like anyone
would want that. Allow me to define what a healthy traditional
home is. I would say that a vital, dynamic home is directly
connected to spiritual energy. And spiritual energy, just before
anybody jumps on this, does not mean necessarily religion and
tradition in the traditional and stereotypical way. Spiritual
energy means people who are embracing life, celebrating life,
celebrating the marrow of life. It means people who talk about
things that are really meaningful, where thereís a certain level
of intelligence (people are intelligent in different ways),
an honesty going on, itís a place that promotes growth, you
look forward to speaking to the people in your home, whether
itís parents or children or a spouse. Itís not just a place
of comfort, where you can just lay back, but a place where you
can really talk about things comfortablyónot where you
have to measure every word because your employer or some other
person may not like it. Egos are not as dominant in a healthy
home as spirit, as common goals, or larger visions. Even a discussion
like Maria implied where you completely disagree with your parents
is welcome in a home, where there can be a dialogue, disagreements,
arguments (on an intelligent levelónot just out of insecurity
or emotional outbursts)Ö
Feder: One of the recommendations in this
book of yours here is to throw the TV out. Iím putting it bluntly,
but it sort of says that in a polite way.
Jacobson: I had many thoughts before I
put that line in; it was definitely a suggestion from the Rebbe
that I quoted here, particularly in our time and age. But you
know, in the 50s and 60s it was a more innocent time and people
thought, "Television is a necessity in life." Today,
in many, many homes, it became so much a part of our life that
itís difficult to just amputate, but yes, I would definitely
recommend not necessarily throwing it out but minimizing it,
because television is a perfect symbol of what is wrongóand
Iím not one of the fire and brimstone typesófor example when
you see the mesmerizing, hypnotic effect on children. That alone
is enough reason to understand its power.
Now, television could be used in a very powerful
way, a very educational way, but when the number of hours spent,
the consumption of it to the point of obsession (and I know
what television is, Iíve seen television, I canít say I grew
up with it to the same extent, but Iíve been exposed), besides
numbing the mind, the visual images have very little to do with
the soul, with your soul. And television just accelerates the
process of creating an identity outside of yourself. Whreas
the idea of being at home is creating a home for your spirit.
In answer to the question, "So whereís your home?"
ultimately youíd better have a home right hereóinside your heart
Feder: The rabbi is now pointing to his
Jacobson: And itís being at home with the
soul, with the spirit, with meaning, with a higher purpose and
a higher calling, and in a sense the bricks and the mortar and
the walls all are there to be a vehicle for that type of expression.
The healthiest thing I can hear is when someone says, "Iím
going home for Thanksgiving, and do you know what Iím going
to talk about there? Things that really matter to me this year.
And I have someone to talk to, because I have a wise father
or a wise grandfather or a wise grandmother or mother, aunts,
uncle, brothers or sister."
Feder: Okay, we have Mark on the air.
Caller: Hi. Itís a very good show. What
I wanted to talk about was the situation where there has been
a divorce and a child is growing up in more than one home. Number
one, how do you make a child comfortable, and then, if you look
at it long term, the fact that children are in a separated home,
or divorced homes, how can a person create an appropriate environment
for their kids?
Feder: Are you speaking from personal experience?
Caller: Yes I am.
Feder: So next Thursday, whatís your situation?
Caller: This year I donít have my son.
Feder: That must be pretty bad.
Caller: Well, I think itís good for him
to be with his mother. I think itís a question of making the
child comfortable and being comfortable with both his mother
Feder: So where will you be?
Caller: Iíll be with friends.
Jacobson: Well, Markís point is very good
because with so many broken familiesóbroken I mean as far as
parents goóitís critical to address the idea, how do you create
a home when there isnít a home?
Feder: A traditional home?
Jacobson: Yes. Like if a person is going
home and they donít feel that thereís a home for them there.
I think thatís why, to continue the thought about the spirit,
that when thereís a certain comfort with your soul and an understanding
of why youíre here on this Earth, then you can begin to create
a home in an unconventional way. A person growing up, for instance,
in a family that they just canít go back to on the holidays,
or they do go back and theyíre gritting their teeth, for a person
like that itís critical that they donít ignore that and just
say, okay Iíll get over it until next year. They have to create
their own environment, as Mark just suggested, being with friends,
friends who are nurturing. Perhaps you canít replace your father
and your mother, or the same type of home experience, but it
should be nurturing, not just superficial. A nurturing type
of environment where you can talk about values that matter and
the pure parts of life.
And I know people sometimes say, "Hey, letís
just party." Yes, thereís a time to party and thereís a
time to be in a nest. If you donít have one, you must create
one, because it will come back to haunt you one day. You need
to have that type of comfort.
In situations where people are divorced (and often
those divorces are for the best, because life was not just working:
there was too much tension and hostility in the family, in the
home), obviously G-d blesses in all different ways, and in Markís
situation I give him my blessing that his son should find peace
and be able to reconcile and come to peace with the fact that
he may celebrate one Thanksgiving here and there. This situation
is becoming more of the norm, but I still believe that thereís
a lot of hope, because a child like that may learn, if he doesnít
get bitter, he may learn from the mistakes of his parents or
others how to build a home one day.
The key is not to get so resigned that you say,
"I donít want to build a home and family and to my children
what my parents did to me." In other words, to find a way
to build a home and family and not do what your parents
did. And I go back to my initial statement about G-d wanting
a home in this world. That should give us all encouragement,
because G-d is also homeless, in a way.
Feder: Could you expand on that a little?
Jacobson: Well, I mentioned it earlier.
The fact that G-d said, "I desire to have a home, an abode,
in this universeÖ"
Feder: But G-d created this world.
Jacobson: Created the world, but created
an agnostic world that is hostile to anything thatís G-dly.
The fact is that so many people deny G-dís existence, so many
people are greedy, so many are selfish and unjust to each other,
which is hardly what G-d planned.
G-d gave us free will. And that means that G-d
gave us elements, He gave us the raw elements and said we can
do two things with them. We can hurt each other with them or
we can build a home for our souls, which by extension, is a
home for Me.
So until we do that, G-d roams (so to speak) the
spiritual cosmos in His own way, and does not feel comfortable
in your home and my home unless you make Him comfortable. And
that requires creating an environment that is G-dly, that is
holy, that is sacred.
Feder: Should we feel guilty if we donít
do this? Are we responsible for G-d being homeless?
Jacobson: If guilt will help and itís constructive
guilt, great. If itís just guilt thatís demoralizing, then donít
feel guilty. I would think of it as a gift, as an unbelievable
power, that itís not just that we build homes for each other
and for ourselvesÖ In a way, yes, we have the power to create
something thatís real, even for G-d. Itís not just a game between
human beings that humans play; life has real stakes.
I think that when we create that comfort for ourselves,
for our purpose, for our mission, we are inviting G-d into our
home. Iíll put it to you in simplest terms: Building a home
is inviting G-d into your life.
When I say G-d, obviously it means different things
to different people. What I mean is a higher purpose, something
thatís not human, something thatís beyond, thatís Divine. And
that is really what itís about. Building a home for G-d and
allowing G-d into your life, your meals, into your room, into
the intimate part of your life, whatever you are doing.
Itís the difference between eating a meal and
just indulging in it, and eating a meal and acknowledging that
it was given to me and Iím going to use it for something constructive,
something that promotes growth.
Feder: Weíve been talking about homes,
traditional homes. Now, it says in the book Toward a Meaningful
Life that the mother is the foundation of the home. Now,
this could probably cause a little touchiness in a lot of people
out there in the world these days, for reasons which could be
complex. But thatís what it says here. The mother is the foundation
of the home. Can you explain whatís meant by that?
Jacobson: I hope itís not taken as sexist.
Itís actually taken from a verse in the Bible, in the Torah,
and in the Midrash, which talks about the foundation of the
home. In many ways you find that though a healthy home requires
both a mother and a father, in some ways the nurturing element,
and also that sensitivityóthe sixth senseóof what is right for
the environmentóa mother often has that gentleness and sensitivity
more than a father does.
That may be as a result of the fatherís perhaps
being involved more in the expression and aggressive parts of
life and the mother being the carrier of lifeÖ
Feder: Sheís the original homeÖ
Jacobson: But I want to make it clear,
as weíve discussed several times on the show, that thereís a
masculine and a feminine side to every human being. And therefore,
thereís a mother in each of us and a father in each of us. And
when we talk about mother and father, weíre talking about
the mothering and the feminine qualities.
Feder: And thatís whatís the foundation
of a home.
Jacobson: Exactly. Obviously, if a woman
is not doing it in a feminine way it will not be a true home.
But obviously a woman has been blessed with that feminine
natureóletís call it the "dominant" gene, and in that sense
she has that sensitivity. And often it is the woman who will
be the strong spine that will keep a home together.
Feder: We have Steve on a car phone.
Caller: I think we should tell our women
not to think itís undignified or something less than a career
to become a full-time mother. I refer you to Proverbs 31 which
talks about the G-d-fearing woman, that raising a successful
family is something to aspire to, and it shouldnít be frowned
Jacobson: Okay, thank you Steve. I appreciate
that. You have Proverbs with you while youíre driving?
Feder: Steve, donít be reading the Bible
while youíre driving! Donít be calling up either while youíre
Okay, we have Jennifer on the line.
Caller: Hi Rabbi Jacobson. First of all,
I want to say what a beautiful show that you have. And secondly,
my question is about Thanksgiving. How does an American Jew
make this secular holiday of Thanksgiving a more Jewish experience?
Are there any special brachas to say or anything to do?
Jacobson: Thatís a good question! Well,
there are kosher turkeys.
Feder: Thatís a start.
Jacobson: I didnít mean it in the metaphorical
sense. I meant it in the literal sense: a turkey thatís slaughtered
in the proper way. But I must say this, and I heard it from
my Rebbe: Thanksgiving is a very universal and non-denominational
holiday, so therefore itís not considered to be anything thatís
not Jewish in a sense. Itís thanking G-d for miracles, for salvations,
for religious freedom.
How to make it Jewish? Well, look, itís not per
se a Jewish holiday either. Chanukahís coming just around the
corner and it has a very similar message as Thanksgiving, where
we acknowledge the victory and the conquest of the few over
the many, of religious freedom as well. I think Thanksgiving
is more of an opportunity to use the message to share with others
and say, "Hereís an opportunity for us to bring G-d into
our lives and recognize what it really is to build a home in
a proper way."
Iím not aware of any particular blessings that
should be said on Thanksgiving. I donít know that we need to
make it into a Jewish holiday per se.
Feder: Well, itís not.
Jacobson: No, I mean for a Jew to go out
and try to make it Jewish. I just think that the message is
a very G-dly one when itís used properly, but itís a great question.
Feder: Okay, thank you. We have Jim on
Caller: Hi. Itís a great show. Iím just
curious what your opinion might be. Two parents at war, three-year
separation and two teen-age daughters that are pulled and pushed
and all that. And every year, what itís been is that we split
them upódinner at her house, dessert at mine. And the kids are
getting sick of it. Forget about G-dóG-dís not even in it. Do
I just give in and let them stay at their motherís and enjoy
the festivity and the peace that comes with just being at one
Jacobson: Painful question, but Iíll say
this. Since I donít know the details and the particulars, itís
hard for me to respond because Iím not sure what you mean by
giving in. Are you giving in or not giving in for something
that is petty and egoisticÖ?
Caller: Petty. And Iím just looking for
something that might be an inspiration to do the right thing.
Jacobson: Well, you have to remember, Jim,
and Iíll put it to you as bluntly as I can, that your children
are your legacy. Ultimately, the children are more importantÖ
Do you know the story with King Solomon and the two women? There
was a child born and no one knew who the mother was, and King
Solomon said, cut the child in half, and one woman said, "Great!"
And the other woman said, "No. I would rather see the child
be whole even if it means that I have to give it up." And
King Solomon realized that that was the real mother.
Even if giving in is difficult and hard to swallow,
we have to remember that our children are our future. We pray
to G-d that our children will live long and be healthy, and
how they see you behave is how they will behave. The fact that
there are things that sometimes we swallow, that itself is the
message, and just step away from the personal side.
Now I would be happy to discuss this further.
Leave your number with Steve the engineer and Iíd be happy to
speak to you more about it later. But thatís the general statement
that I would make and I think itís more of a personal issue
that probably would better be discussed privately.
Caller: Thank you and I appreciate it.
I like your word "legacy." I think youíre right; the
kids are watching us.
Feder: Good luck to you Jim.
Okay, we have one last call here before we move
on. Ellen, youíre on the air.
Caller: Good evening Rabbi and gentlemen.
The one word that Iíve been listening for since the beginning
of this broadcast is the word "love." Now, a home
is a beautiful place, itís the center of everybodyís life; itís
sort of like your magnet that holds you together, but the word
love is so very important because if thereís love in the home,
if you have love for your family, you have love for whomever
is living with you, you have love for yourself, then you automatically
have love for G-d and the rest of the world and then your home
is a beautiful place.
Jacobson: I find it actually surprising
that we didnít use the word love. Thatís very interesting. I
thank you for that.
Feder: Thatís because weíre men and weíre
not natural nurturers, you see.
Jacobson: No, the point is very well taken.
When I was talking before about nurturing and acceptance and
G-d, I really obviously meant the word love, but the word love
captures it all. However, people will ask, how do you bring
love into a home where there is no love? Or when there was broken
love or broken trustÖ, and I think it has a lot to do with parents
disliking themselves, not loving themselves, that causes them
to not allow love to arise, to emerge to the surface in the
But, yes, love is an extremely important word.
Feder: So where are you going to be Thursday,
Caller: Iím going to be with my daughters
and their children and a lot of love.
Feder: So youíre going to be at their house?
Caller: Yes, weíre going to their house,
my son and I, and they are going to cook. And weíll be with
friends and family, but the main ingredient in our lives, and
itís always been in our lives, is love. Love for each other
and love for G-d, and that is the magic circle that you spoke
about before, love. Itís almost like the planets going around
or us going around. The center is love and G-d and itís such
a beautiful thing.
Jacobson: Thank you so much for the call
Ellen because itís really been warming to hear.
Feder: Somebody called in earlier and asked
how to get the book Toward a Meaningful Life; so let
me just say that the book is still available in bookstores from
Jacobson: On amazon.com
Feder: You can also order it by getting
in touch with us. And by the way, if you want to get in touch
with us to give us your comments or ask questions, you can call
us at 1-800-3MEANING, which is 1-800-363-2646. You can also
email us at email@example.com
and we have our website which is www.meaningfullife.com,
and you can download transcripts of the radio program from past
shows. Also, if you want to write to us, the address is: The
Meaningful Life Center, 788 Eastern Parkway, Suite 303, Brooklyn,
Before we go into our final few minutes here,
did you want to mention anything about who is bringing the program
to us tonight?
Jacobson: People who are helping to build
a home, as a matter of fact, the people who support this show
are some of the pillars helping to build the Meaningful Life
Center, are some who grew up in very healthy homes and some
who did not, and want to help bring a home to people everywhere.
And that home means human beings who have a message that makes
you feel that you matter, that you have something indispensable
to contribute. I just want to mention some of those people,
beginning with Ivan Stux, Sharon Ganz, Robert Klein, James Garfinkel,
James and Anne Altucher, Dina and David Reis, Ted Doll and
all those others who know who they are and those who donít know
yet who they are yet who help us out.
Feder: Now, speaking of which, although
WEVD, which should obviously be giving us free airtime out of
the goodness of their hearts, they donít. So we really do need
your help as listeners, and we get a lot of people who call
up and send emails and contact us in all different sorts of
ways, and we really could use your help here to keep the programs
going, to sponsor them. We have requests all the time how to
do it, and itís simple: you just call us up at 1-800-3MEANING,
and you can pledge money. A dollar or $100,000, weíll take whatever
you want to give us.
You keep reading in the papers all the time that
people are making tens of thousands of dollars week after week
in the stock market. Throw a little our way so that we can help
fund these programs and bring this kind of meaning and light
into peopleís lives, if we do.
Jacobson: If you call in, ask for our newsletter
which weíll be sending out in the next few weeks called "Meanings,"
and it will have in it a lot about this issue of how to create
a home and how to create that type of personal connection, a
loving homeÖ there, we used the wordóand weíll be happy
to send a free copy of the newsletter to anyone who calls in.
Feder: So next Thursday is Thanksgiving,
and obviously, weíve been hearing from a lot of people who are
divided and in pain and are wondering what to do; some people
have the answers, some people donít. As we go into next week
and we all celebrate the holiday in a different way, how do
we make the best of it? What do we look for? What do we try
to create next Thursday?
Jacobson: Everyone in his or her own particular
situationóweíll have to cover several extremesóthose of us who
have found love in our lives, and a home in our lives, whether
itís a home within our family structure, within the building,
the actual house where we grew up and where weíre going for
the holidaysóobviously it gives us a great opportunity to reinforce
and reaffirm the contract of that type of loving homeóbut also
recognize that it shouldnít just suffice to have our own gifts,
but we should share them with others. Invite someone to your
home perhaps that has not had that opportunity, bring light
to others, remembering that when itís cold outside, there are
two ways to warm up: one is to put on a fur coat and keep warm
yourself in your own environment and the other is to light a
fire, a flame, a hearth where others are warmed as well.
So those of us who are celebrating the holiday
and have that, and appreciate that gift, should give thanksgiving
for it and at the same time recognize that thanksgiving also
means an obligation, a gift, a responsibility to share that
Feder: Well, there are indeed shelters
where people can goÖ
Jacobson: On the other extreme, for those
of us who do not have that, who have been deprived of that type
of home and wonder what kind of thanksgiving weíre givingÖ Iíve
advised some friends of mine who really had a great difficulty
going home, that maybe they shouldnít go home this year if they
really donít feel that theyíre at home there. Because perhaps
theyíre just perpetuating the myth, the illusion, and maybe
they should go to friends and travel somewhere where they do
find someone who they really feel good with, and comfortable
And though itís a break of traditionóbut the break
has happened under the surface anyway sometimesóand itís just
carrying on a façade. For some people thatís healthier
because it allows them perhaps to explore other options.
For those of us who have no choice, because weíre
either stuck in the situation or we have to be in that photograph
for one reason or another, or there may be a will thatís being
Feder: I canít believe you said that!
Jacobson: Then in that type of environment
I think itís critical to recognize that you should stop being
a victim of your family, a victim of circumstances. Maybe you
should bring some love into that home and just say, "You
know, once and for all, Iím going to do something thatís really
the way the home should be lived." And maybe start building
your own home and bring your future spouse or your spouse and
say, "This is what my home is like." Not in a way
of pushing it into their face, but in a way of expressing that
we are in control of our own circumstances.
And on a final note, I do want to invite people
to my Wednesday night class, every Wednesday night at 8pm at
346 West 89th St., on the corner of Riverside Drive.
Feder: Okay. Thank you very much. Happy