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In this episode host Dustin Plantholt speaks to Rabbi Elie Abadie, MD, spiritual leader, renowned international lecturer, gastroenterologist, husband and beloved father and grandfather, about what it means to truly embrace diversity and how to balance our many roles in life. This is really a conversation on how to have a beautiful life, and if anyone is qualified to summarize such a topic, it’s Rabbi Elie.
Although he knew he wanted to be a doctor by age five, because in the Sephardic Jewish tradition it is common to have a dual career of both rabbi and any other profession, Rabbi Elie first became a spiritual leader. It was perhaps a normal course, having begun studying the Torah at age three at his father’s knee and moving on to memorizing the Bible by age 15 or 16. Born in Lebanon, raised Mexico, he moved in the United States to study medicine at 18 to fulfil his dream of being a physician.
Rabbi Elie credits the rich two-thousand-year-old Jewish traditions of both serving humanity and God with helping him to find balance. In his tradition, rabbis are obligated to get married and have children. It’s a religious imperative. Otherwise, how would a rabbi be able to effectively help other families in the community with marital and child-rearing issues? His wife is a “helpmate” as the Bible says, and as such plays an equal role in working and raising children. Children grow up helping in the congregation, observing their parents, and entertaining guests in the home. In this simple way, they grow up valuing their parents’ interactions with society at large.
It is this fellowship that can break down walls that divide human beings. And this is precisely why Rabbi Elie and his wife chose in 2020 to move to the United Arab Emirates. He’s lived in many countries, speaks seven languages, and has never felt more welcome anywhere. Incredible, considering he’s still somewhat of an anomaly—a Jewish rabbi living in a country where there are almost no Jews.
It was an easy transition for him to move from New York City to Dubai, both international mega-cities. He points out that Dubai is amazingly clean. There are no homeless people in the streets. There is no hateful speech. No disrespect. There is no crime—that was the shock.
But it’s not the pretty things that he loves about the UAE. It’s the fact that it is a country where elders are respected; tradition is revered. All religions and races are respected. God is lived. All of this brings stability to the country, its communities, and families. “It’s important to live in a society that you know you are respected, and you are expected to respect others…It’s a society that lives in peace.”
So, how does he help others to embrace unity? It’s not about changing how people feel, or even their opinions. It’s really a matter of respect. If we can learn to respect others, we can move on to seeing the beauty in other traditions and appreciate the differences not just tolerate them.
His parting blessing is a plea to recognize that all humans are created equal, by one Creator. If we accept that, we can work together for the good of one another and the planet.
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Rabbi Elie Abadie, MD