Jewish Journal


June 14, 2013

The Lies of Perception



Jonah Lehrer
Photo credit: npr.org

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

I have found myself getting less angry and more resolute in being addicted to redemption. When I would read op-eds like the one written last Saturday in the New York Times by Joe Nocera, I would go around ranting and raving about the injustice and insanity of people. Now, I just experience sadness and a shaking of my head. My sadness comes from the knowledge that people want to believe lies and accept, condone and excuse people who are incapable of doing T’Shuvah, true repentance and return.

The article is about Jonah Lehrer who is a plagiarist and has written a new book about love. He has been out of journalism for about a year and has never really done more than say "I'm sorry.” My question is: is he sorry for his betrayal and lies or is he sorry he got caught?

The article goes on to chronicle another disgraced writer, Stephen Glass. Here is a man who has done T’Shuvah, he has been serious and resolute in his repentance. He has changed and is doing work to change the world around him. What is Jonah Lehrer doing? He is trying to make money off of his infamy with no real Repentance/T’Shuvah. Why would anyone buy his book? Why would a publisher even publish it?

Stephen GlassMr. Glass has a story to tell, yet no one is "covering" him. It goes to the sadness I opened this blog up with. I am sad that people are so willing to accept lies and excess as entertainment and learning. A movie about kids breaking into the homes of stars is coming out this weekend. TV shows about the Kardashians, etc are making money for people who haven't done anything. Yet, we, the public, lap it up! Why?

I have come to believe that while we love stories of people who were down and made it back, we will pay to see people who are vapid and liars. I think it is because we can feel better abut ourselves by saying, "I'm not like them.” Yet, we won't really pay attention or anything else to a man like Stephen Glass because then we have to look at the ways we "plagiarize.” I use this word in the broad context of how we try and live the life scripts of others, rather than our own. I use this word in the context of how we are being carbon copies of fame, celebrity, etc rather than being our unique selves. I use this word I. E context of how we are afraid to admit our own imperfections.

Mr. Glass is a hero! He is a role model! Yet, I hadn't heard about him until last Saturday, after his fall from grace. In his book, Raising Your Child to be a Mensch, Rabbi Neil Kurshan speaks about the lack of notoriety and "press" for just being a decent person. I suggest that we write and teach more about the Stephen Glass' of the world than the Jonah Lehrers. Then, we will have a society that is Addicted to Redemption rather than a society that is addicted to the lies of perfection.

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