June 14, 2010

LKL Web Exclusive!

Posted: 05:33 PM ET

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network. He has just published “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life."  The opinions expressed below are his own, and we welcome your comments.

If I hear one more public fight about gay marriage or abortion I’m going to eat my yarmulke. Why does it irk me? Because it distracts us from the real conversation this country has to have on values. We need to start talking about materialism and greed. It’s not enough to survive a potentially catastrophic economic meltdown by the skin of our teeth. We need to focus on how we became so materially insatiable in the first place that we borrowed money up the wazoo until there was almost nothing left.

Americans are rightly terrified of a national deficit that is expected to hit $20 trillion within a decade. But can we really fix the problem without first addressing our addiction to public and personal spending and how enough is never enough? This isn’t politics. It’s primarily about values. The more purposeful people feel on the inside about a life that has meaning and spiritual import, the less they rely on buying junk on the outside to fill them up. That’s why I advocate, in my new book Renewal, that Americans replace their chosen value of ‘sacred space,’ meaning a love for property and objects, with ‘sacred time,’ an appreciation for human relationships and intimate moments.

And just look at how dumb we’re all becoming. How can a generation of Americans, sixty percent of whom have College degrees, ruminate endlessly over such earth-shattering issues like Lindsay Lohan wearing an ankle bracelet while we pay almost no attention to brave soldiers dying in Afghanistan? Simple. We value an education over enlightenment. The former is about getting a degree and then you’re done. The latter is a lifelong thirst for knowledge.  Unless we rediscover the value of Enlightenment, as I discuss in ‘Renewal,’ we risk leading lives characterized by endless boredom because we lack true intellectual inquisitiveness. We also risk having stultifying relationships because, unable to penetrate the deeper layers of the people we love; we quickly tire of them as well.

Finally, why are we Americans so miserable? We’re the richest country in the world, but we consume three quarters of the earth’s anti-depressants. There are many reasons but one of the most important is that Americans try too hard to be perfect. From the question of ‘What would Jesus do,’ in which we compare ourselves to a perfect being, to seeing magazine covers of women’s bodies airbrushed into perfection, to constantly reading about guys like Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet who never put a financial foot wrong, all of our heroes seem to be nearly flawless. We absorb the stories and images of these outsize personalities and then look in the mirrors at our flabby thighs or our dead-end jobs and we feel like failures by comparison.

In Renewal, I reject perfection in favor of struggle. Jesus was a Jew, and the Jews don’t have a single model of perfection in their entire Bible. All are people who struggled to the right thing and had imperfect families. All tried to do right before G-d even as they often messed up. Perfect people are boring, predictable, and monolithic. But those who struggle through life and embrace the full range of their humanity – from struggling to be happily married to struggling to raise good kids to struggling to pay bills – end up much more colorful, alive, vibrant, and deep. Let’s start forgiving ourselves for being human.

Follow Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. His website is and

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Mila   June 14th, 2010 6:36 pm ET

Yeah, a backstabbing leech is exactly who this world needed preaching around about values.

Thank you very much – we already know that to Shmuley nothing else matters but the 30 silver pieces in his pocket.

LacrosseMom (the real one)   June 14th, 2010 7:21 pm ET

Thanks, Rabii, you are correct. It is greed, that is at the heart of so many of our problems, look at the BP Disaster! They cut corners, they saved money on safety measures all because of the bottom line. The almighty dollar!

Our Financial Crisis, was all about greed the greed of Wall Street, Banks, people buying homes they could not afford; people getting into debt, etc.

@ Mila........... wow, are you judging and condemning the Rabbi? Why?

BTW Rabbi, let's talk about the end of civility, people have forgotten how to be polite.

IKHAN   June 14th, 2010 7:46 pm ET

Hi Larry,
Hi folks.
Thank you Rabbi Shmuley for warning us Americans of our topsy turvy values.
Well who in the first place put us on this road to self destruction? Corporations? Wall Street geniuses? Media ?
Deliberately created role models ?
All those who shoved credit cards in our hands & pointed our noses at TVs and zillion ads bombarding us with glorious shimmering images of countless goodies just a phone call away.
The cult of the unbridled 'personal freedom',to do whatever we like & want?
Who created this 'system' which has swallowed us irretrievably ??
That is the question.

Carol-Ann Lamothe   June 14th, 2010 8:50 pm ET

On the issue of materialism and greed, let's start with the investment companies. As a 60 year old woman, I wanted to remain single and independent. Certain Investment companies here in Canada just use people to advance their own wealth. They do not care about the investor at all. I hope that American people who have been exposed to a certain Canadian investment company out of Manitoba, who have purchased an investment company in the US, do not invest with them. I was with this investment company in Canada and after many years of investing, my investments were devastated by negligence and high fees. As a Canadian citizen, I urge US citizens not to involve yourself with any arm of investments that are associated with this firm...You will gain nothing. Do not get suckered in will lose. Inquire about who owns this company.

Meg   June 15th, 2010 2:48 am ET

Rabbi no different than any corporation ...he also likes $$$$$. He may preach against greed & materialism...isn't he the person who had Jon Gosselin confess all his wrongs...please & if I'm not wrong...didn't he have a reality show?

Lori - Justice for Michael   June 15th, 2010 5:24 am ET

I see the good Rabbi is hawking another book. I wonder if he followed his professed values when he published the transcript of the Michael Jackson tapes? Without Michael the Rabbi would be just another unknown.

kathy 40   June 15th, 2010 7:47 am ET

Hear,hear. Isn't this ORACLE OF DELPHI the same Rabbi who stabbed MICHAEL JACKSON in the back by airing a tape to the whole world in which he was confessing to the Rabbi. Didn't the "RABBI" publish a book about MJ he was supposed to years ago before the 2005 trial and thus still CASHED in after Michael died? How dare this character preach to others about MATERIALISM and GREED. Please Larry, we don't need this TRAITOR to tell us how we should or should not live.

Ted   June 15th, 2010 7:58 am ET

Rabbi, I appreciate your words, however you should start teaching people in your synagoge. It is known that discussing the stock market in synagoges is a common occurence and all through the history the jews were known as the money baggers. Even Jesus chased the money changers out the temple.
We can thank the great financial crises we are having to Greenspan, who kept the interest rates artificially low and the money supply abundent, so companies like Goldman Sachs can really make a fortune.
However we should not forget that everytime someone makes a buck it comes out of the pocket of an other individual.
Who invented the credit cards, the buying power and other instruments to make people spend more than they have?
Rabbi, you are just out to make a few bucks with your book.

Bo in AK   June 15th, 2010 8:06 am ET

Thank you, Rabbi Shmuley, for reminding us what is important, and what is NOT important. Our entire retail system is designed to "sucker us in" to buying something, and it takes a strong character to resist. So, to avoid the temptation, I avoid stores, with the exception of grocery stores. It is a challenge, when I need something like socks (because a pair I had actually wore out), to just get what I need and leave. We would all be happier if we spent our money generating good memories with our loved ones, so that when we've moved on, there is lots to talk about at our memorial service! Who cares whether Kathy Griffin is still on the D-list? Is she using her celebrity to raise money for the people whose beaches are being oiled, and whose lives are being ruined? Not that I've heard.

MJS HONEY   June 15th, 2010 9:15 am ET



jan   June 15th, 2010 9:28 am ET

People in glass houses should not throw stones! The guy is a hippocrite.

babycarie   June 15th, 2010 12:14 pm ET

This person is preaching values and materialistic frenzy...all the while doing it by pimping his new book!! Available at a book store near you with proceeds go to...Schmuley!!!
Ian Halprein would like to be you BFF Schmuley!!!!

HAHA   June 15th, 2010 1:36 pm ET

I know this person gained in the inside book of MJ.
What does he say with an air of superiority?
I am Japanese.
It did not know what the rabbi's work was.
It knew by this person's way.
Is person's secret made money?

IKHAN   June 15th, 2010 2:12 pm ET

Hi Larry.
Let me ask all you guys at Larry King Live.
Why can't you have really respected & learned Jews on your show like Sheldon Richman, Naom Chomsky,Uri Avnery, Alan Horowitz,Philip Weiss or Rabbi Brent Rose. People who can make a difference in this troubled world of ours??

Rose   June 15th, 2010 5:09 pm ET

It's no coincidence that Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's book is coming out now, about a week before the first anniversary of Michael Jackson's death. Boteach had clearly exploited his "friendship" with MJ for financial gain. This sad anniversary will give him more opportunity for self-promotion.

His previous book: “The Michael Jackson Tapes" was based on 30 hours of private conversations from a decade ago. Boteach said it was Michael’s wish to make them public – however Boteach waited until after his death to profit.

Michael and Boteach had a bitter falling-out many years ago. The assumption can be made that any "agreement" they had about the publication of these interviews would be null and void – once their friendship ended.

Boteach states: "We need to start talking about materialism and greed." – really? His publication of Michael Jackson's private conversations is the worst kind of posthumous cash-grab and a betrayal of trust. Perhaps we should look elsewhere for our guidance on "values".

luis perez   June 15th, 2010 9:41 pm ET

I'm pretty sure that America really understant the ramifications of this disaster, but I'm sick of hearing about how this event will affect the way of living of the hard working men and women that make a living in the oil rigs.......Our nation is been impacted by an economic downturn that is severely impacting so many more industries that the fishing and oil folks in the Gulf coast.

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