An apology for my travels

An apology for my travels February 8, 2024


Katoomba Falls in the Blue Mountains of Australia’s New South Wales
(A Wikimedia Commons public domain photo from Jerrye and Roy Klotz MD)

Amazingly, something new has appeared on the website of the Interpreter Foundation!  It is “Conference Talks: Consecration and Sacrilege in Early Rabbinic Judaism

Avram Shannon spoke on “Consecration and Sacrilege in Early Rabbinic Judaism” at the fourth Temple on Mount Zion Conference, held on Saturday, 10 November 2018 in the Tanner Building at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

The presentations were filmed, and both video and audio recordings of each presentation are available. The videos are currently available both at and on the Interpreter Foundation YouTube channel at A YouTube playlist is also available at The audio recordings are available at

The Three Sisters
The rock formation known as the “Three Sisters,” as seen from Echo Point, in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

Although we met some of them informally yesterday, today marked the first actual day of this current tour.  Slightly more than half of our group met early this morning for a drive up into the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney.  Our first stop was at the Featherdale Sydney Wildlife Park, where we gawked at wallabies, Tasmanian devils, emus, echidnas, cassowaries, koalas, dingos, a venomous Inland Taipan, kangaroos, wombats, red-legged pademelons, and other reminders of the genius of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.

We then continued into the mountains, focusing on three overlooks, the railway and aerial trams of Scenic World, a walk through a beautiful temperate rainforest, and a slightly late lunch in the town of Leura.  Our driver/commentator, Rohan, was superb.

Jamison Valley
Another view in the Blue Mountains (of the Jamison Valley)
Wikimedia Commons public domain image

It’s time, I suppose, to rehearse once again a few of the reasons why we travel so much, and to explain why we’re on this particular trip.

First of all, my wife and I enjoy traveling.  We like to see new places, and we very much like to revisit our favorite places.  As we’ve saved money over the years (through such simple measures as having only one car between us, and keeping it for many years and hundreds of thousands of miles), we’ve very deliberately and specifically saved money in order, among other goals, to enable future trips after retirement.  That’s one factor.  Many people have hobbies, some of which (e.g., golf and skiing, boating, horses) can be quite expensive.  We put money toward our own hobby, which is travel.

However, we quite often don’t pay for our own travel — or, at least, we commonly don’t pay our full cost for it.  Why is that? What sordid explanation can account for it?

It’s because, at least two or three decades ago, travel companies and, a few times, certain families began to approach us to accompany tours that they intended to take (and, on a very few occasions, actually to plan and arrange those tours).  Somewhat more than a decade ago, the owner of the “Cruise Lady” company invited me to serve as one of the “headliners” for some of her various tours.  Her company has now been absorbed by Bountiful Travel, and it is under their auspices that my wife and I are currently here in Australia.  Tomorrow, we will begin a cruise around New Zealand.

Why do commercial enterprises like the former Cruise Lady and the current Bountiful Travel pay my food, travel, and lodging on such trips?  (To this point, I’ve not actually been paid for them, though my expenditures have been covered.)  Is it a covert way of paying me for my efforts with the Interpreter Foundation?  No.  This current trip has no connection with the Interpreter Foundation whatever.  And, anyway, when I first began to lead tours fairly regularly for Cruise Lady — to say nothing of the small handful of tours that I led prior to my affiliation with that company — there was no Interpreter Foundation.  If a tour is an Interpreter Foundation tour, that will be explicitly stated.

So, again, why do they do it?  I doubt that there is even the slightest tincture of sentimentality involved in their decisions.  I’ll use myself as an example.  They calculate, whether prudently or misguidedly, that announcing me as the “headliner” for a particular tour will further their business interests.  It will attract at least a few paying customers who wouldn’t otherwise have signed up.  Do they bring me on because of the brilliance of my wit or the keenness of my intellect or the depth and breadth of my learning?  (Presuming that there were even any actual evidence for such chimerical attributes.)  Again, no.  I’m aware of several specific cases in which profoundly cultured and learned individuals who wanted to get the gig that I’ve somehow gotten, unsought, have failed to do so — almost certainly because, again rightly or wrongly, the commercial calculations of the travel companies in question did not suggest that bringing those particular people on board would further their business interests, did not suggest that a sufficient number of people would sign up because they were present.

Am I becoming wealthy via these travels?  Scarcely.  As I’ve already noted, although my expenditures have been covered I’ve not actually been paid for them.  Do they interfere with my writing?  Yes.  (Though I’m doing much better on this trip.)  And that is a real concern for me.

So why do I do it?  First of all, because my wife and I enjoy traveling.  We like to see new places, and we very much like to revisit our favorite places.

I feel that I need to be as clear as I possibly can be in this regard, because, once again and as usual, I’m being anonymously criticized for exploiting, via my “luxurious” travels, the supposed dupes who innocently contribute to the Interpreter Foundation.  I can’t hope, of course, to convince those who take pleasure in imagining me to be self-serving and completely corrupt.  But I want to ensure that sane, normal people, and particularly those of them who contribute (or might consider contributing) to the Interpreter Foundation, to be under no illusions about this matter.  I don’t want the Foundation to suffer for my sins, whether real or (as in this case) completely and malevolently fictional.

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.  (Shakespeare, Othello III.iii.160-166)

Blue Mountain sunset
An evening view in the Blue Mountains
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)

I’ve discovered another horror in the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™.  Please try to restrain your outrage at it.  Don’t give the theists the enjoyment of seeing your righteous anger:  “How to ‘subvert the culture’ with love, according to happiness expert Arthur Brooks: The Harvard scholar offers a new formula for being happy and improving the world”

Posted from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia



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