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Monthly Archives: August, 2011

When a Man Loves a Woman (part 2)

August 30th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

This was a fine title for a Billboard 100 top hit by Percy Sledge in 1966, but it’s a really bad foundation for marriage. As we discussed in last week’s Thought Tool, feelings are frighteningly fragile. A man can fall instantly in love with a woman, but he can also fall out of love just as quickly. Any woman foolish enough to accept a marriage proposal on the basis of how much a guy loves her must be equally amenable to dissolving the marriage when, one day, he confesses that he no longer feels that way.

Turning to the brilliance of the Bible, where might we expect to find a man loving a woman? It would have plucked a sentimental chord in my soul had the first chapters of Genesis assured me that in the Garden of Eden, Adam loved Eve. Alas, no such declaration can be found.

Perhaps the founder of monotheism, Abraham, loved his beautiful wife, Sarah? I’m sure he did, but Scripture neglects to mention it.

Instead, we find that Samson loved Delilah (Judges 16:4). That didn’t end too well. How about the wisest man that ever lived, King Solomon? Well, even very smart men can make terrible mistakes and King Solomon loved many foreign women. (I Kings 11:1) Not much good came from this either.

King David had a son, Amnon, who loved his half-sister Tamar. (II Samuel 13:1) Regarding feelings as paramount, Amnon raped Tamar after which, Scripture records, he then hated her more than he once loved her. (II Samuel 13:15) Again this man loving woman stuff never seems to end well.

Here’s another fellow convinced that his feelings are all-important. Shechem the son of Chamor loved Jacob’s daughter, Dina (Genesis 34:3) He raped her leading to her brothers massacring him and his family. Why won’t anyone learn that when a man loves a woman trouble follows?

To report accurately on all Biblical instances of a man loving a woman, we ought also to mention the very first time this phrasing is used. Abraham’s son, Isaac, loved his wife Rebecca. (Genesis 24:67) According to ancient Jewish wisdom, even this exemplary man’s love for his wife subtly distorted his vision, contributing to his having weakened eyes. (Genesis 27:1) This left him vulnerable to his son Esau’s verbal seduction.

Isaac loved Esau because he (Esau) hunted him (Isaac) with his mouth,

and Rebecca loves Jacob.

(Genesis 25:28)

The last case we’ll examine is Jacob, who loved Rachel. (Genesis 29:18). It didn’t take long for domestic turbulence to raise its head. By loving Rachel, he inadvertently left her sister, Leah, feeling hated. (Genesis 29:30-31)

At this point, it would be both prudent and truthful for me to state that not only do I love my wife, but I favor all men loving their wives. However, that sentiment must not be the basis for the relationship. Marriages must be rationally approached and then based on commitment. The Biblical examples I cited warn that when a man allows his behavior with women to be dictated by his emotions, his judgment is often compromised.

There is no problem in loving God with all our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5) or in a parent loving a child (Genesis 22:2) but when a man bases his actions and behavior upon his feelings of love for a woman he risks making a fool of himself or considerably worse. In other words, men do far better in matters of love when they act according to the dictates of their heads rather than their hearts.

What about women loving men? That is a topic in itself. Despite social scientists ardent desire for equivalence, men and women are different. In my audio set, Madam I’m Adam-Decoding Marriage Secrets of Eden, comprising 2 CDs and a full color study guide, I look at both sides of many male/female relationship secrets which God embedded in Scripture. Please make it part of your marriage enrichment program. Coupled with Chana Levitan’s book, I Only Want to Get Married Once, it makes a powerful tool with which to bless another couple who could use a reminder of how the world really works.

Against the Tide

August 30th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Having been rather busy last week, I just got around to reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks powerful piece, Reversing the Decay of London Undone, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal. The incredibly articulate chief rabbi of Great Britain explored a historical precedent both for the recent riots in England and for believing that there is a way to prevent them from reoccurring. In his usual straight-forward and hard-hitting manner, Rabbi Sacks presents the case that only a religious reawakening can put the western world on the right track again.

In effect, he lays the onus on you and me. We may bewail the fact that universities, the media and government have abandoned the values which allowed them to flourish, but realistically they will only change when forced to do so. That force needs to be in the form of pressure by millions of ordinary citizens who refuse to take the path of least resistance and who are willing to be publically vilified by people including the president and popular pundits  as well as their children’s teachers and their neighbors. It means that we are responsible for demanding respect for our beliefs and unabashedly proclaiming our commitment to our faiths.

It also means that we need to start in our own orbit of responsibility.  How many of us believe that sex should be reserved for marriage, that God created the world and that capitalism is moral, but we still send our children to schools and universities which relentlessly preach the opposite to them? How many of us hold back from insisting that ‘social issues’ cannot be separated from economic ones? How many of us don’t take the time to research issues so that we can articulately and intelligently discuss these topics?  Or we speak the truth so bombastically that we end up chasing away people who would listen to and agree with us if we spoke more carefully?

The race is not necessarily to the swift but often yields to the persistent. Despite the Supreme Court, public opinion and the establishment’s attempts, abortion is less acceptable today than it was a few decades ago. The Pooh-Bahs didn’t change their minds, but thousands of heroic citizens refused to normalize the destruction of human life. Individuals opened their homes to unwed mothers, started pro-life clinics and refused to ‘get with the program’. They ignored those who mocked and hated them. They are winning.

I increasingly speak to friends who are seriously worried about the future their children will face. They would probably agree with Rabbi Sacks that the viability and security of our nation depends on fidelity to traditional Jewish and Christian values. Yet when polls show homosexual marriage gaining in popularity these same people suggest that religious Jews and Christians should keep their views to themselves; they stay quiet when colleagues or their children’s teachers mock their beliefs, and they refuse to tell teenage and adult children whom they support financially that the support comes with strings attached. Like me, they sometimes find it difficult to speak up and present an unpopular viewpoint.

Rabbi Sack’s article is both reassuring and challenging. History shows that successful civilizations can and do fall. Whether America and Western Europe follow that descending path, or revitalize themselves and bequeath our children a flourishing society, is in our hands.

When a Man Loves a Woman (part 1)

August 23rd, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

A few hours ago my wife and I stood beneath a wedding canopy gazing happily at one of our beautiful daughters, Miriam, and the young man she has chosen to accompany through life. The ancient phrases in the prayer book I clutched appeared a little blurred through my teary eyes. Actually, recalling the event now is making this computer screen a bit blurry too.

This wedding played my emotions like B.B. King played his famous guitar. Just as each of his string-bending vibratos I once heard on Beale Street in Memphis sounded unique, so this wedding felt unique. Which is strange because its format was virtually indistinguishable from 124 other weddings at which I have been privileged to officiate.

Obviously every couple was unique, but each ceremony closely resembled all the others. At every wedding I followed the same traditional script, exercising no creative originality. Furthermore, there was little of a personal and individualistic nature with which I could have embellished Miriam’s wedding. The structure of a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is tightly proscribed.

It would have been easy had I asked Miriam to prepare some personal prose for her chosen who, in turn, could have recited a few moving lines about his feelings. That way we could have had a truly memorable ceremony.

But I am only the messenger of a Boss who issued clear directions that leave me little room for spontaneity or creativity. These instructions specify how we introduce a man and a woman into the holy covenant of marriage. Chiefly, the man formally accepts upon himself legally binding obligations.

You might consider this unsentimental process to be unduly legalistic; ignoring the rapture and romance of the occasion. Yet, the ceremony’s structure is precisely what promises stability. Ancient Jewish wisdom observes that legalities lead to love while love can sometimes end in legalities.

Business partners know that beginning with a firm contract is the surest way to a happy and durable partnership. Though men and women usually feel the emotional intensity of love and longing, marriage can still benefit from listing all major expectations. Love is a frighteningly unspecific sensation upon which to build a life.

Obviously love and attraction are a prerequisite for a man and woman considering marriage. However, what distinguishes the covenant of marriage from the coupling of lust, are precisely the legal commitments.

A few hours ago a young man stood alongside his beautiful bride. Before official witnesses, he pronounced his commitment to support our daughter. He undertook to provide for her every need; emotional, financial, and physical. My daughter then plighted her troth to him in affection and sincerity by allowing him to place his ring upon her finger.

Uttering personal vows alone on the beach in Acapulco or having barefoot ceremonies in a grassy meadow with guitar-playing poets is not sufficient for a Jewish marriage.

A legal ceremony binds together, not only my daughter and her husband, but also binds the two of them to the past, the present, and the future. Present at the wedding today were both the visible and the invisible generations that carried the couple to this day. Miriam and AJ looked out at all their family and friends knowing that their bond ties them also to the community. And gazing into one another’s eyes the two of them knew they are forming a magical and mysterious bond with the future.

My wife and I smiled knowingly at one another. This ancient legal ceremony precisely echoed our own wedding of a few years ago. We pray that theirs will bring the knight and his lady the same joy, creativity, spontaneity, and romance that ours brings us.

God lays out His blueprint for marriage in the early verses of the book of Genesis. Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals insights from the original Hebrew text and I present many of these permanent principles packaged in practical and useful ways in my audio CD set Madam I’m Adam—Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden. It makes a wonderful gift for both the newly-wed and the long-wed eager to enhance their partnerships. We’re offering $10 off online orders this week. Next week we’ll explore the peculiar examples of love in Scripture.

Hair Comes the Bride

August 23rd, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

When Miriam was three years old and noises from her room indicated that she had woken from her nap, I went to get her and was greeted by a bright, beaming face. While she somewhat resembled the child I had put to sleep, there was one distinct difference. She had taken the opportunity to give herself a haircut, and tidily hidden under the bed was a mound of hair and a scissors. She seemed quite astounded that I knew what she had done, which enhanced my image as super-Mommy but did little to restore her looks.

That night was the start of a Jewish festival and my day was hectic. Fortunately, my friend, Mary, was taking her daughters in for haircuts and added Miriam to her entourage. My little girl returned a while later sporting a slightly lopsided pixie cut which almost looked as if it was intentional. It certainly was adorable.

Miriam’s hair grew back but this week, once again, when I come into her room there will be a distinct difference. This time, a bridal veil will sit atop her tresses. When a Jewish baby is born, the parents receive a blessing from their friends and relatives. The traditional wording is, “May you have the merit to raise (him) (her) to Torah, chuppah (the wedding canopy) and maasim tovim (good deeds).

My husband and I were the recipients of those good wishes when each of our children was born. Enveloped by those words, from the very early days our focus inevitably extended beyond those events which initially preoccupied us. Certainly we reveled in the first smiles, rejoiced at the initial halting steps and marked hundreds of momentous events during our children’s infancies, toddler years and childhoods. But from the very start we were reminded that our task wasn’t one of child-raising but one of nurturing a future adult.

The blessing encompasses an important thought.  It opens with the recognition that being present in your child’s life is a gift, a concept that is all too easy to forget in the daily routine. It is with deep gratitude to God and with hearts overflowing with emotion that my husband and I this week escort our daughter, Miriam, to the chuppah. We pray that she and her chosson (bridegroom), Anshel, build a home where Torah and good deeds are ever-present, where an impish sense of humor thrives, and where bright, beaming faces greet all who enter their home.

Bear With Me, Please

August 16th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I’m serious. So is this riddle. A hunter leaves his cabin and strides exactly 2 miles due south. He turns and marches exactly 1 mile due east where he shoots a bear. Dragging the bear exactly 2 miles due north, he reaches the door of his cabin. What color is the bear?

Most of us imagine the hunter as strong and vigorous. But, whether hunting bear or building a home or business, it is tough to achieve meaningful goals if you feel puny and irrelevant. The Torah teaches how vital it is to feel powerful and purposeful when embarking on important challenges.

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals useful information from words or phrases that occur infrequently. For instance, the four cardinal points of the compass, North, South, East and West are mentioned together only three times in the Five Books of Moses.

Case #1- God to Abram:
…raise now your eyes and look out
from where you are North, South, East and West.

(Genesis 13:14)

Case #2 – God to Jacob:
…and you should spread out
to the West, East, North and South…

(Genesis 28:14)

Case #3 – God to Moses:
…raise your eyes
to the West, North, South, and East…

(Deuteronomy 3:27)

When Scripture mentions the four directions of the compass, it is not talking simple geography. This is abundantly clear in the following instance.

So Lot chose for himself the entire plain of the Jordan,
and Lot journeyed from the East…as far as Sodom…

(Genesis 13:11-12)

Many translations mistranslate the preceding as “Lot journeyed TO the East…” however the Hebrew unambiguously says “Lot Journeyed FROM the East.”

Lot travelled from Beth El to Sodom by the Dead Sea which means that he did in fact travel TO the east. But, we are not discussing geography. East always means the spiritual source close to God. (See Tower of Power) By parting from Abram, Lot was indeed travelling FROM the East. When God says North, South, East, and West three verses later, it likewise means spiritually not geographically.

Case #3 offers another tip-off that compass directions are not geographical.

After being told that he will never enter Israel, Moses climbs Mt. Nevo to see the land from afar. Mt. Nevo is on the east side of the Jordan. God should have told him to gaze West, North and South. There was no point in Moses looking eastward from where he had just come. He wished to see Israel not Jordan. Clearly the four compass points represent something greater.

Each of the above 3 cases describes a crucial transition in the destiny of the Jews. Abram was on the threshold of forming the Hebrew nation. Jacob was establishing the centrality of Jerusalem in the Jewish experience for it was on that holy site that he had his famous dream. Moses’ life was drawing to a close, and he is about to deliver his final speech of guidance and prophecy to the Children of Israel.

In order to face these formidable tasks, each man had to visualize himself in the very epicenter of power, passion and purpose. Hearing the phrase North, South, East, and West signifies that you are at the center of everything. The world lies spread before you. Now go and do what you must do.

As we each face the formidable and virtuous task of increasing our revenue we must overcome the handicap of seeing ourselves as diminutive pygmies at the periphery of the action. No, instead, envision yourself at the very epicenter of power, passion, and purpose in your own enterprise. Look out to the North, South, East, and West, and go do what you must do.

Precisely how to achieve your purpose I discuss far more comprehensively in my book Thou Shall Prosper. I hope you will equip yourself with it and also give it to anyone else in your life who must still transform the rest of 2012 into a financial success. Its price is substantially reduced right now.

Oh yes, and the bear was white. The cabin had to be situated at the North Pole, the only point on the planet where the events of my opening riddle could happen.

Everyone’s Loss, continued

August 16th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

Last week’s Musing got quite a response. I would like to respond to one comment, from Tom, which was posted. (If you are comfortable posting your comments rather than sending them privately to me, I do appreciate it.) I gave my thoughts on the Ramadan part in the comment section following the last posting, but decided that further elaboration was threatening to turn my answer into a short story. I said there that I would expand further in a new Musing. Here is the continuation:

As to other, tragic, loss of life, I did think about writing more -including about abortion as another comment mentioned – but the Musing was turning into an essay rather than a blog. I don’t begin to understand how God values different lives, but as a human being, I try to keep a few complementary, if on the surface seemingly contradictory, thoughts in mind. Firstly, as an American and a Jew, I do mourn more for American and Jewish dead.  This is no different than my being more emotionally involved with my own family than with my friends’ families, my neighborhood’s families or millions of other families around the world. I believe that the concept of ‘loving everyone equally’ paradoxically leads to less generosity and compassion rather than more.  Since we can’t take care of or help everyone, there is a danger that we end up taking care of or helping no one. There is a Jewish concept which gives a hierarchy for charity, which says that, “the poor of your city come before the poor of another city.” In practical advice the phrase, “your city,” means your ‘group,’ be it family, institutions from which you personally benefitted, friends and co-workers, etc.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t feel an emotional shudder when tragedy strikes people far away with whom we’ve had no contact. And as individuals we may feel the desire to do something rather than just feel something, which is praiseworthy. But like most other things in life, if we let emotion take over too much, we can cause problems rather than solving them. I have too frequently seen good-hearted people neglect their own spouses and children while heading a charitable event for a worthy cause. If this becomes a constant in their lives they sometimes end up doing tremendous harm to themselves and their family. It turns out that someone else could have replaced them in running the charitable event, but no one can replace their unique role as husband, wife, mother or father. Likewise, I know many church groups which most commendably send missions to Africa, South America and Asia to deliver medical care, work in orphanages and the like. When there is a disaster like a tsunami or earthquake, they raise large quantities of money as well. However, while it is less dramatic, they also consistently work with people needing assistance in their own neighborhoods, whether by providing homes for unwed mothers, tutoring or buying school supplies for kids whose families can’t afford them, etc. In my mind, if they only helped those far away or who made the headlines news, or even disproportionately helped those while ignoring the needs in their own back yards, it would be misplaced emphasis and the end result would eventually be less available for everyone.

So, I do not apologize for mourning the loss of American troops more than the loss of other country’s citizens.

As to the United States not having a monopoly on virtue, I would agree that we don’t have a monopoly, nor was virtue the topic of my Musing. But I think one would be ignoring reality to posit that all countries and populations are indistinguishable in the blessing they bring to the world. I think that it is a reasonable hypothesis to think that the entire world loses more in potential benefit through the death of American SEALs than by the death of an equal number of Pakistani or Iranian soldiers. It would be wonderful if other societies would change and evolve so that wasn’t so, and certainly there can be and are outstanding individuals, but statistically speaking American society does produce citizens who contribute more than the citizens of most other countries. Should America aspire to be greater and better than she is? Of course she should.  But the world would be a better place for all if hundreds of other countries aspired to be as great as America is right now. 

Once again, I am not speaking of the value of a specific human life in God’s eyes; I certainly cannot speak for God. But I think we diminish humanity’s potential by not recognizing that certain societies live in ways that produce more prosperity, technological progress and peaceful living. If we think that all societies are equal, then those of us who are blessed to live in America won’t examine what is special about our country, which places us in peril of changing in ways that will lead us to lose our advantages. If we insist that all ways of organizing society are equal, then citizens of other countries who face abject poverty and danger every day have no hope that they can seek to better their own lives. If countries’ successes and failures are random, the future can only be bleak.

So, while I certainly agree with you that America has made mistakes and is currently making mistakes, I give no apology for feeling more deeply when American troops are killed.  I do not apologize for believing that America is a blessed and unique country. I pray that she will continue to be a blessing to her own citizens and to the world by cleaving to the special characteristics which have made her so and which so many urge her to abandon.  

L-M-N-P-O

August 9th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In 2001, Standard and Poor’s awarded a top grade to Enron until five days prior to its collapse. It also rated Lehman Brothers Holdings highly while that company was sliding inexorably towards bankruptcy in 2008.

I am not suggesting that Standard and Poor’s generally lacks reliability. My intent is to show that very smart people with a lot on the line can sometimes say things they wish they hadn’t. We all do.

Even a cunning and experienced politician like British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain landed back in Britain on September 30th, 1938, and told the crowd:

“This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine…We regard the agreement signed last night…as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again… I believe it is peace for our time…And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds.”

In less than a year England was plunged into the bloody misery of World War II. Chamberlain surely came to regret his hasty words.

It would have been wise had Standard and Poor’s as well as Neville Chamberlain used their eyes before they used their mouths. Careful scrutiny would have revealed flawed internal accounting in Enron and valueless underlying securities at Lehman. Looking at Hitler’s visible military buildup since his invasion of the Rhineland two years earlier would have shown that Germany was hardly planning “never to go to war” again.

So how do ordinary folks like us avoid making similar mistakes in our own lives? How do we remember to use our eyes before using our mouths?

I suggest that we study the Bible regularly. Yesterday was the 9th day of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. This fast day has always been the most calamity-filled day in Jewish history. For that reason, on this day we read the unbearably tragic Book of Lamentations (Eichah in Hebrew).

The book’s five chapters enjoy intriguing symmetry. Chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5 each contain 22 verses, while chapter 3 contains 66 (22×3). Things fall into place when you discover that the Hebrew alphabet contains 22 letters.

The first letter of each verse of chapter 1 moves through the alphabet in consecutive order.

Chapter 2 does the same except that two letters are reversed. The letters AYIN and PAY are the 16th and 17th alphabetical letters respectively, yet the 16th verse starts with a PAY and the 17th verse opens with an AYIN.

Chapter 3 contains the same anomaly except that each letter of the alphabet gets three verses. Verses 46, 47, and 48 start with a PAY, while verses 49, 50, and 51 start with an AYIN.

Chapter 4 possesses the identical structure to chapter 2 while chapter 5, also containing 22 verses, exhibits no ordered sequence at all.

You need one final clue to solve the ancient Jewish wisdom puzzle. All Hebrew letter names possess meaning. Stunningly, AYIN means eye and PAY means mouth.

The horror of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish people’s suffering grows as we read through Lamentations. Catastrophe threatens Israel in chapter 1, though order still exists. By the time misery overwhelms us in chapter 2, the reversal of the AYIN and PAY give us a clue that the Jewish people’s error can be symbolized as speaking without enough analysis and thought. Chapters 3 and 4 continue to reflect that fatal error. Finally, in chapter 5, Israel’s downfall is complete and there is simply no order or coherence to be found. Total chaos envelops the nation and its people. Through its very structure, one message of Lamentations is how thoughtless speech can cause calamity.

Hasty speech is one of the ways we sabotage our lives. My audio CD, Boost Your Income teaches three practical ways to enhance our lives, particularly our finances. Many industrious and good people are struggling economically right now. I am making Boost Your Income with its practical strategies for success available online at half-price this week.

Everyone’s Loss

August 9th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

Does any American heart not constrict at the news of the twenty-two SEALS and eight other troops who died when their helicopter was hit in Afghanistan as they went to rescue comrades under fire? Yet the way of the world is that other than those personally affected, the rest of us move on rather quickly to other events. Our individual lives, economic concerns and even other tragic incidents rush to displace our momentary mourning. And for the most part, we are sadly unaware when troops die one at a time rather than in an attention-riveting number.

The tragedy of the deaths of these outstanding young men is far reaching. We have no way of knowing what potential benefit to the world went down in that crash.  We do know that every SEAL team member faces rigorous physical, psychological and spiritual testing and that it is fair to project that these troops would have much to offer the world after their military service. Recently, there has been a spate of obituaries of elderly businessmen and scientists. Men whose accomplishments improved the lives of thousands through medical and technological advances they pioneered.  Men who founded successful businesses that provided employment to thousands and useful products for millions. How many medical techniques and cures might these SEALS have found? How many business allowing thousands to live with dignity might they have formed? How many families would they have established or expanded which would have blessed all of us? We will never know.

As this blog posts, it is the tail end of the Jewish observance of Tisha B’av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. This is the saddest day of the Jewish year, and one on which we recall tragedies dating from the Israelites’ years in the desert up to the current day. One’s thoughts naturally go to the millions of Jews over the ages whose lives were also violently cut off prematurely. What might the world look like had they lived? We will never know.

Small Change; Big Change

August 2nd, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“I need to start going home to Arizona each weekend,” the long-time campaign manager told the candidate, “but I’ll be back here in Idaho early Monday mornings.” The uneasy candidate responded, “Well, if I lose, it will be your fault.”

The engaged couple was discussing whether to set up home closer to his job or hers. He preferred closer to his job which was also near friends. Her curt response: “Well fine, as long as you don’t get upset when I lose my job for tardiness.”

The sales professional disagreed with the corporate decision to bundle services in a new way. His manager insisted that this was the way it had to be. The salesman responded, “Well, it’ll be your responsibility if I fail to reach target.”

In each of these three examples, both parties mishandled the discussion. Both people forgot they were a team with one common goal. Instead of finding a mutually agreed-upon solution when confronting a new situation, the encounters ended with a silly ultimatum and unhappy individuals.

These real-life examples could have been more successfully handled by following these five steps:

A: Form a bond of trust. (We are a team and we will find a solution that works for both of us)

B: Agree on objective (We need to win this election/We want the best place to live/We want to keep sales growing)

C: Depersonalize the conflict by recognizing that change triggered the problem (the campaign manager’s child was ill/two people uniting their lives/corporate decision)

D: Cooperate in discovering or creating at least three possible solutions.

E: Find agreement in a solution that both parties can own.

There are small changes in life and then there are drastic ones.

See this passage:

He (Abraham) proceeded on his journeys from the south to Bethel to the place where his tent had been at first…to the site of the altar which he had erected there at first…

(Genesis 13:3-4)

Many translations suggest that the phrase “at first” is repeated in that passage. In reality, the original Hebrew text uses two quite separate words. The first ‘at first’ is the Hebrew word TeCHiLaH while the second is the word RiSHoNaH.

This verse can help distinguish between the two Hebrew words.

And I will restore your judges like RiSHoNaH and your advisors like TeCHiLaH.

(Isaiah 1:26)

Israel’s first judge was Moses:

… Moses sat to judge the people…
(Exodus 18:13)

Moses was a radical new paradigm. There never was a judge in Israel before him. However, no one is highlighted as the pioneering advisor.

Why are these two different words used in our verse about Abraham? There was nothing groundbreaking about his first visit to Bethel so the text uses the weaker word TeCHiLaH. However, “…to the site of the altar which he had erected there at first,” alludes to the very first altar constructed by Abraham (Genesis 12:7-9) Never before had Abraham built an altar to God. It was a new paradigm, different from the altars which others built previously, thus the text uses the word RiSHoNaH.

So we see that ancient Jewish wisdom distinguishes between minor incidents and major developments.

What is the life lesson for us? We must differentiate between small changes and paradigm shifts. A campaign manager needing to spend nearly 30% of the week away from the battleground presents a major adjustment. Getting married is an enormous life change. A significant change in corporate policy is always momentous. Recognize that the change is precipitating the problem, not your partner. Don’t act as if the change is no big deal or pretend it doesn’t exist. Instead, solve it as a team, not as adversaries. For the relationship to thrive, recognize that you both win or lose together.

Practical lessons like these emerge from subtle language differences and other startling secrets which ancient Jewish wisdom reveals. Each of my five Biblical Blueprint audio CDs delves into Scripture and extracts concrete messages from God which will improve our lives. You or someone you love will be blessed by this set. It is always a good deal and for forty-eight hours it’s an even better one.

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Email Overload

August 2nd, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

I was sent to my room last week and told not to come out before the job was finished. To be completely accurate, I sent myself. The job under question was to reduce all my email inboxes to no more than 75 items.

Year ago, when I got my first email address, 75 entries would have seemed a huge number. Years previously, when I started babysitting as a teenager, 75 cents an hour seemed like a lot of money too. At last count, my respective daughters earn or pay up to $15 an hour for babysitting. Times change. I now have three email addresses; one personal and two for work. They fill up frighteningly quickly.  Everyone’s email baseline comfort zone differs. Just as for one family, tightening the budget means not taking a summer vacation in Europe while for another family it means walking or taking the bus, one person’s overloaded email box means a few thousand  entries while another might blanch at seeing twenty-five unread messages.

Personally, I like to see fewer than 75 items per email address, but especially when I am distracted by important or atypical events going on in our business or personal life, the numbers rapidly increase. Since important or atypical events come about as often as rain in the Northwest (the T-shirt which claims that Seattle’s rainy season runs from January 1st to December 31st isn’t completely accurate, but it rings true all too frequently), I need to delete a few hundred entries before feeling in control.

The easy part is searching for store names and deleting everything which comes up. I really have no need to get daily emails from places at which I shop once or twice a year – or less – but since I pretty much only buy when things are on sale, I like staying in the loop. Since ads also give me some insight into what industry and fashion are doing, I appreciate scanning them. After all, how else is one to know that whalebone corsets went out of style or get clever ideas for wedding gifts? On the work side, various business updates may be unimportant most of the time, but I can’t afford to miss the occasions that an essential item comes in.

Once I get rid of those types of emails the job gets harder. The worst part is finding months’ old messages which went unanswered and sometimes even unread. It is painful to delete correspondence which had it only arrived at a different time, would have merited a response. Aside from feeling silly answering after such a long period of time, there are too many to deal with in this category. A mixture of ruthlessness and guilt activates my finger as it strikes the delete button.

My room exile was not as protracted as this month’s debt negotiations but it engendered similar feelings of futility and exasperation. Fortunately for me, I could send myself out of the room as easily as I could send myself to it. I released myself in time to fill the fridge and welcome three daughters, one granddaughter, one son-in-law and two pending sons-in-law for Shabbat. A few truly wonderful days later as the house empties out, the email reduction scheme stands exposed as a sham. Trimming around the edges without blocking new entries doesn’t yield a great deal of progress. Even boldly clicking on a few “unsubscribe” buttons seems ineffectual. I will only make headway if my marathon session leads to consistent, unrelenting, daily doses of action. I wish I had more confidence that, both in the case of email overload and debt reduction my fellow citizens, my country’s politicians and I will buckle down and follow through.