Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Rooted In Judaism?

What Christmas Day Means To Me

Would Christmas even exist if it were not for the teachings of Rabbi Hillel the Elder (110 BCE-10 CE)?

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus by Christians worldwide. In order to understand how Judaism may behind this religious holiday celebration we need to understand more about Jesus and what influenced his teachings through his upbringing.

It's no secret that a young Jesus went to synagogue in his formative years. Being a Galilean from Nazareth we can assume Jesus learned of the most predominate teachings of that time. Those of Rabbi 'Hillel the Elder'.

Most scholars link to the similarities of what Jesus later said and that of his earlier teachings of Rabbi Hillel. There are several examples. The most clear example was when Jesus said in Matthew 7:12- “do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”. This nearly parallels Rabi Hillel's words, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah;"

Another example from Luke 7:33, " Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” This too reflects the same teachings Jesus was taught in synagogue by the words of Rabbi Hillel who taught, “Whoever would make a name loses the name… whoever makes use of the crown perishes.”

Rabbi Hillel also taught, "Pass not judgment upon thy neighbor until thou hast put thyself in his place." In Luke 6:37 Jesus spoke saying "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.”.

Where Jesus differed from his mentors was on women's rights. He also tended to be outspoken more so then any other rabbi of his day. As we all know this led to his crucifixion. It is at this point Judaism and Christianity separate paths. One line of religious thought is, had he not been crucified he would have went down in history as one of the great Rabbis. As a result of him dying on the cross he became martyrized. As such a whole new religion sprung up called Christianity. Thus giving birth to the Christian holiday called Christ-mas.

Where things get off base is when people tend to assume Jesus wanted a religion based on him rather then his teachings. I am of firm belief Jesus would not be well pleased and would discourage this. He thought of himself as a teacher and a prophet. Not someone separate or any more important to God then anyone else to whom he spoke. Nor that others couldn't do what he did.John 14:12-14 "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these...".

John 10:34 "Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'?"

Psalm 82:6 "I said, 'You are "gods"; you are all sons of the Most High.'

Galatians 3:26 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.."

What Christmas Day Means To Me
It's a day to reflect on Christ teachings. Not a day to worship the man. All too many of us focus on Jesus the man at Christmas and not on his teachings that he gave his Earthly life up for. It's quite clear Jesus' main purpose in life was to educate. Not to cultivate a new religion.

Call him a prophet. Call him a great Rabbi. Call him what you will, but we should understand he valued his words and deeds much more then he valued his own life. It is on this day we should be reminded to focus on these rather then Jesus the man. We should seek to emulate his teachings, the way he treated others and the things that he had done. I think he would want it that way.

I'll leave you with this NPR broadcast...

Christmas Eve Yule Log

Have a VERY Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa's vBlog

Merry Christmas Everyone

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Santa's Not PC!

Everyone remember this poem?"The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!"
So what's wrong with this picture?


[Associated Press December 13, 2012] "The self-published Pamela McColl of Vancouver, Canada, has a mission for her story, to protect children and their parents from the ravages of smoking. She mortgaged her house and sunk $200,000 into her telling of the 189-year-old holiday poem, touring the states..

McColl said she ran into supporters during her travels, including children who fret about Santa's health."

Oy Veh

Friday, December 14, 2012

Allen Organ's 2012 Christmas Concert

This is special to me. Because I had a background in electronics, I once worked at Allen Organ in the "Final Inspection Department" as a first inspector. Trust me when I say they produce one of the finest instruments made in the world. Talk about being fussy.. they absolutely were.

"Allen Organ Company recently held their 2012 Christmas Concerts on December 6th, 7th & 8th. These concerts are performed annually by Allen staff members, family members, and some associates. They have become a fixture in the Lehigh Valley, helping to get the holiday season started for many in the area.

Approximately 1,600 people attended Allen's 2012 Christmas Concerts. As is Allen's tradition, proceeds from the concerts were donated to local charities, this year divided between the Allentown Symphony Association, the Community Music School, and the Lehigh County Conference of Churches.

Organists Aram Basmadjian and Barry Holben utilize both an Allen Q475 Classical Organ and an Allen LL-324Q-SP Theatre Organ to play this familiar holiday tune."

Deck The Halls performed by Macungie Freight Train

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rail Transportation Study (Mine) II

Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. wants to form his own task force to study rail travel. With that in mind I decided to do my own rail transportation study. Best part is, mine won't cost anybody a dime. Since I don't have horse in the race mine might be a whole lot less skewed then those who possibly stand to personally gain in some way with this tentative $659 million dollar project.

Side Note: After it's completion it is estimated to cost $11.7 million in operation deficits yearly, according to one study..

Inventorying What We Already Have Available
Bieber BusesBieber makes 13 trips from Kutztown between 3:45 AM and 9:30 AM with an additional 6 more up until 8:00 PM. I will focus on those commuter hours for purposes of this analysis.

Depending on the bus size, each bus holds from 49 to 56 passengers. For the sake of this discussion I'll use the figure of 50 passengers per busload. This means currently there are 650 seats available between 3:45 AM and 9:30 AM.

Anyone who has taken the Bieber into NYC also realize that they always have a standby backup bus to accommodate additional passengers if the need arises. On more then one of our trips into NYC, Bieber used the backup bus. Meaning more then 50 were accommodated on that regularly scheduled run. No one is denied a seat who wish to leave on one of the runs which are scheduled 15 minutes to 1/2 hour apart.
Trans-bridge BusesI will use the NYC runs that depart from their terminal in LVIP. They have 15 runs between 4:10 AM and 9:30 AM. So they are making another 750 seats availableThis brings about 1,400 riders into NYC daily.

My Conclusions
(1) Commuters who claim they are so interested in mass transit fail to use what is already available. They whine about the clogged conditions on I-78 but still insist on sitting in their cars. Why not get out of their cars right now and take the bus? It seems to me if your not using public transportation now, why would any of these be any more likely to take a train?

(2) If these drivers already don't like the bus, which in Bieber's case makes only one stop between Allentown and NYC, they certainly will object to a train making dozens of stops. Also considering they'd have to delay their travel even further by having to switch trains in New Jersey I simply don't believe they'd use this rail system.

(3) It is highly unlikely all 1,400 riders would switch from their current bus seats to board trains. So you'd need 1,000's of commuters into addition of those who presently use buses.

(4) Ask me why we should invest $659 million in a rail to High Bridge, New Jersey when you can drive the 20 miles into High Bridge, NJ only 28 minutes away and catch the train which is there already! Or from Allentown it's 42 miles in 52 minutes. Too far to drive you say..

(5) Well then drive to Hellertown or LVIP which is less then 10 miles from Phillipsburg. Sure beats driving from Allentown for the 91 miles for 1 3/4 hours into NYC yourself.

(6) Private bus company's are making profit from these runs. Why should taxpayers foot over $11 million every year in deficits when we already have efficient transportation that creates profitable jobs and businesses? Note that these didn't require millions in taxpayers' $'s for their initial startup costs.

(7) The rational is because people have moved to this area from the 'big city' there is now is a transportation need. Well people come and go. Housing developments move from time to time to other areas. Buses can reroute to serve those needs. Once those tracks are laid, they cannot be moved.

(8) Buses currently leave the terminal every 10 to 20 minutes during peak hours that fits the requirements of their ridership. How many trains would it take to schedule all these back to back departure times? The obvious answer it would be impossible.

(9) Here's a sample of what most likely the train schedule will look like. It's the old LVRR passenger train time table from 1952 (page 5).

Note on page #5 there were only three trains a day that left Allentown for New York City (5:18 AM, 6:49 AM and 9:09 AM). Each of the runs to New took between 2 hours and 25 minutes to 2 hours and 42 minutes. Consider that this was w/o switching trains in High Bridge, NJ. and to a third train going into New York City itself as the current plans are indicating.

My Final Thoughts On This Matter
From the standpoint of economic costs, travelers' commute times nor passengers' scheduling requirements, does any of this meet the criteria to bring this project to a successful conclusion.

Yes I would like to see passenger trains once again. But as long as drivers willing to sit 30 minutes waiting to get in the Lincoln tunnel. Driving around Manhattan for another 20 minutes to their $20 a day parking decks. You'd most likely have to pry their cold dead hands from their steering wheels before you'll get them on public transportation. Until buses can no longer handle capacity, then and only then could a see a need for alternative mass transit.

Fortunately I will always have yesteryear's memories of the gorgeous views from the train ride into NYC when I was a kid. It's sad, really.

Here is a video from 1955 when Jim Lantz retired from being the engineer of the famous Black Diamond train for Lehigh Valley Railroad

Here's Why The LVRR No Longer Exists