Monthly Archives: December, 2011

Eighteen and Pregnant

December 27th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 5 comments

Shortly after hearing the news that four of our friends became great-grandparents, I came across a news item about an upcoming reality show. The producers are seeking women in their thirties who are grandmothers. Well, the daughter of one of our friends fits that description.

It seems though, that the grandmother in this case won’t meet the show’s criteria. Yes, she’s in her thirties, but she got married at eighteen and has, with her husband, built a beautiful, large family. Their daughter in turn, also got married at eighteen, and both her parents’ and the groom’s parents’ blessings accompanied the young couple down the aisle. The new baby’s arrival, about a year later, was anticipated and desired.

Not only is this new grandma’s family intact, a fact which makes it uninteresting to reality TV, but the family members’ lives are boring. Cameras placed in their home would show people working, living, loving and learning. Throw in some shooting hoops, piano practice and family meals and all in all there is little to engage the viewer. No hysterical quarrels with lots of profanity and violence; no dark secrets waiting to be revealed; not even a mid-life crisis on the horizon. There is certainly no thirty something woman appalled that her daughter is thrusting her back into infant care because the new mother is too immature to handle the baby herself. Not only is the family boring by TV standards, but they would never allow cameras into their home, understanding that the sanctity of a family deserves privacy.

Granted, very few eighteen year olds today are mature enough to marry and few couples as young as this are mature enough to begin families. Of course, more years don’t automatically add maturity and it is possible to spend those years destructively, doing things which add burdensome baggage to one’s life, making a healthy lifelong relationship less likely. Certainly, most girls who become single mothers in their teens are placing obstacles to success in their lives and the lives of their babies. Shows such as this potential new one or its predecessors, “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” may indeed show the difficulties young, unwed mothers face, but they also help to normalize those situations.  I think the overwhelming majority of girls who do get pregnant as teenagers would express disbelief that it is possible that girls close to their age could actually be mature enough to marry with reasonable expectations of having a long and happy marriage.  While they hopefully will discover that having a baby can propel one to maturity, they haven’t understood the equation that maturity should precede becoming a mother. They may have heard of women marrying young and establishing families back in the 18th or 19th centuries, but certainly not today. My friends’ families would baffle them.

I recently read the words of a highly successful woman who grew up in a home which was 180 degrees from that of my friends’ daughter, the new grandmother. Poverty, abuse, even child rape were this famous personality’s childhood companions. She wrote how watching the 1950 and 1960’s sitcoms which are derided today, like Leave it to Beaver or Father’s Knows Best showed her that her own shattered family wasn’t the only paradigm to follow. There were happy families in the world.

It may well be true that the old sitcoms didn’t depict the lives of all Americans. Certainly, many of the actors in the sitcoms were not privileged to have the wonderful homes they portrayed. But neither were these fantasy shows. There actually were and are homes where husbands and wives adore each other, where parents are respected and where children are brought up with both love and values.  There are families where a couple who has celebrated their own 50th wedding anniversary can gaze at their newborn great-granddaughter filled with optimism and faith that her young parents are committed to her and to each other. 

The books that students read in school and the movies and shows they watch may well reflect contemporary realities. How sad that they don’t provide visions of marriages and of peaceful homes where one man and one woman dedicate their lives to each other and their children. By not giving glimpses of what is, even in today’s day and age still attainable, we are depriving those who have not been blessed to have such examples in their own lives of even imagining that such a thing is possible.

Light Up the World with Torah

December 27th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

National Geographic Magazine’s final issue for 2011 featured—wait for it—the Bible! That’s right; the publication whose motto is “Inspiring people to care about the planet” put the Bible on its cover. Well, it is nice to have National Geographic confirm my view–the Bible is crucial for the well-being of the planet after all.

Their story speaks of the King James translation of the Bible and opens with this sentence:

“The extraordinary global career of this book, of which more copies have been made than of any other book in the language, began in March 1603.”

This year marks the four hundredth year anniversary of its completion.

Until late in the 14th century when John Wycliffe translated the Bible, if you didn’t know Hebrew and Greek, you were out of luck. One hundred and fifty years later, in 1535, William Tyndale angered both state and ecclesiastical authorities by translating the Bible and was executed. Finally the majestic King James translation was completed in 1611 and the genie was out of the bottle. Everyone could read the Bible and thanks to Johann Gutenberg, everyone could afford one.

In its own way and for its own reasons reasons, ancient Jewish wisdom warns us about translations. It stresses that when you translate something technically complex you are not necessarily making it accessible.

For instance, here is an original German sentence from Max Planck’s groundbreaking Treatise on Thermodynamics published in 1897.

“Wenn ein gas oder ein Dampf den fur ideale Gase gultigen Gesetzen nicht folgt, mit anderen Worten: wenn e seine von der Temperatur oder dem Druck abhangige spezifische Dichte besitzt, so kann man dennoch die Avogadro’sche Definition des Molekulargewichts zur Anwendung bringen.”

You may not have grasped the full meaning, so I’ll take a shot at translating it for you:

If a gas or vapor does not follow the laws of perfect gases, or, in other words, should its specific density depend on the temperature or the pressure, Avogadro’s definition of molecular weight is still applicable.

There you are! Did that help?

No, of course it didn’t. Because even in English it is technical and full of words which possess no obvious meaning and themselves need explanation.

However, when you translate the Torah from Hebrew to English, what you get is something that sounds comprehensible and appears to be just a simple narrative. This misleads the casual reader into believing that he or she has captured all there is when the truth is that so much more lies just beneath the surface.

For instance, today is the final day of the festival of Chanukah which began eight days ago on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. Interestingly, it is the only event in the Hebrew calendar that begins on the 25th day of a month. Along with everyone else who has observed the holyday by lighting the menorah, I have now used a total of 36 candles. (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8=36)

Merely reading the English translation of the first five verses of Genesis would not help us discover that the first occurrence of the Hebrew word for “light”, OHR, is the 25th word of the Torah. We’d probably also remain unaware that this Hebrew word OHR occurs a total of 36 times in the Five Books of Moses.

We would miss that God’s original introduction of light is linked to the annual celebration of light—Chanukah— even though the historical nuances of the holiday were not to surface for thousands of years. Aspects of Chanukah reveal—or enLIGHTen— us to how the world really works, including an understanding of economics and how we should relate to energy.

As we post the final issue of our fourth year of Thought Tools, we appreciate that National Geographic recognizes that caring about the world means knowing the Bible. Delving beneath the surface of the Bible is what we help you achieve through our weekly email, our TV show, media appearances and through our audio CDs and books. This week, you can save an additional dollar off each of the five audio CDs in the Biblical Blueprint Set (including Festival of Lights) when you order the entire set online. Start your year the LIGHT way!

Successful Siblings

December 20th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Why is it that right now 80 million Germans are financing the siestas, supermarkets, railways and retirements of 120 million Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians? Germany is by far the largest contributor to the budget of the European Economic Community. In 2010, Germany exported double the total of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy all put together. Germany’s BMW sold $86 billion of cars last year while Italy’s Fiat wasn’t able to achieve 40% of its already anemic sales targets. Greece doesn’t even manufacture bicycles, let alone cars.

One important explanation is that the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century was largely centered in Germany and bequeathed to its host country the idea of the religious work ethic. Germany has never forgotten it.

Germans know how the financial realities of the world really work. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, also got it. In 1981 she said, “My policies are based not on some economic theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, live within your means, put by a nest egg for a rainy day, pay your bills on time…”

In other words, when Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, and Portuguese start working more than 30 hours a week; when they start spending less than they earn; and when they start working beyond the age of 50, they too will be able to live like Germans.

In The Jews and Modern Capitalism, German economist Werner Sombart argued that the religion of a people influences its economic life. Establishing the connection between Puritanism and Capitalism he wondered whether characteristics ascribed to Puritanism, “might not with equal justice be referred to Judaism, and probably in a greater degree; nay, it might well be suggested that that which is called Puritanism is in reality Judaism.”

What is true for nations is just as true for each of us. There are unchangeable realities about life and the more we endure the turbulence that swirls around the foundations of our lives, the more we need to depend on those things that never change. In building our businesses and our financial lifeboats, we need to know those timeless truths, understand them, and follow them.

Just before his passing, Moses blessed each of the twelve tribes separately in Deuteronomy chapter 33. Two of the tribes, however, were lumped together in the same verse:

To Zevulun he said, ‘Rejoice in your bursting beyond limits,

and [you] Yissachar, [rejoice] in your tents.’

(Deuteronomy 33:18)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Zevulun represents commercial enterprise and wealth creation. Almost every act of entrepreneurial creativity demands “bursting beyond limits.” Perhaps a new product or a new way of delivering a service—thinking outside the box is essential for building a business. Yissachar, however, represents the timeless truths that anchor us to reality.

And of the sons of Yissachar, knowers of wisdom for all time…
(1 Chronicles 12:32)

Out of all the tribes blessed by Moses, only Zevulun and Yissachar are linked by a joint blessing. This teaches that their talents must be linked for both to succeed. If you wish to succeed with money like Zevulun, you must exit your comfort zone and escape stifling restraints while simultaneously absorbing God’s permanent principles by which the world operates. Likewise, if you wish to become wise like Yissachar, you must increase your understanding of God and His words, while simultaneously comprehending financial realities and the relationship between money and people. Individually and separately they fail, but as a team, Zevulun and Yissachar are powerful and unstoppable.

This is what I mean when I constantly recite my slogan, “The more that things change, the more we need to depend upon those things that never change.”

Ancient Jewish wisdom’s teachings on increasing revenue and making more money enjoy the unique advantage of incorporating the attributes of both Zevulun and Yissachar. The sale on our Income Abundance Set is ending this week and I ask you to take this opportunity to prepare for a 2012 in which you prosper financially as well as spiritually.

We cherish you, our subscribers, and wish you each a happy and fulfilling Chanukah or a joyful and uplifting Christmas.

Bigots Anonymous

December 20th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

There are meeting of Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Clutterers Anonymous and, of course, the granddaddy of them all, Alcoholics Anonymous. I would like to suggest a new addition – Bigots Anonymous, and Rabbi Joshua Hammerman should head the effort to get it off the ground.

Rabbi Hammerman has apologized for his twisted remarks about those who applaud Tim Tebow’s public declarations of faith. The New York based newspaper, Jewish Week, which published his thoughts rather than sending them back to him with a big red X through the offending article, has apologized as well. I am quite sure that both the newspaper and author were taken aback at the furor their words provoked, and I am willing to concede that the apologies may be authentic rather than simply backpedaling to get out of trouble.

Pretty much anyone who speaks or writes publicly, including my husband (and even me!), has occasionally said something poorly in a way that leads it to be misconstrued. Other times one sometimes gets a reaction which stems from the fact that the reader is reading poorly, bringing tons of chips on his shoulders to the writer’s words and reading things which no objective observer would see. Case in point – I was recently accused of racism for my blogs , Dear O and Lucy, Lucy and Herman Cain . I wasn’t sure if I had been insensitive – though I thought racist was a bit strong – or if my accuser was over-sensitive. After re-reading my words and not seeing anything I wanted to retract, I asked the reader to please post her comments publicly so that others could let me know what they thought. As of yet, she has not done so.

There is another experience one can have after articulating an idea. Strong negative reaction can cause one to step back and re-evaluate.  Perhaps one’s convictions are entirely wrong! In one of my blogs, I used a word for which I was taken to task by a reader. I honestly had no idea that the word had a reprehensible history and so his comments taught me that a word which I assumed was benign actually wasn’t. Or perhaps an author or speaker discovers that something which one assumed was a standard, perhaps universally accepted concept actually isn’t. This happened to both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The former’s comments as a candidate trying to share in the pain of the public, “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” reflected a lack of awareness that arugula is not as American as apple pie and that Whole Foods isn’t quite Safeway.  The latter candidate similarly showed that his thinking isn’t instinctively that of most of us when he threw out the sum of $10,000 for a bet as if we all think in those types of numbers.

Rabbi Hammerman’s comments were obviously in a different category than either Obama or Romney’s. This is why they need to be treated seriously and not dismissed simply as foolish or careless. I don’t know Rabbi Hammerman and I don’t regularly read the Jewish Week, but I assume that the rabbi and the editors see themselves as good and enlightened people. This incident is a wake-up call that they hold prejudiced and bigoted views about Christian America. These views aren’t surprising as the circles they travel in are probably quite narrow: liberal, east-coast and academic.  As with most holders of prejudice, they aren’t aware of how intolerant they are because everyone with whom they interact shares their views.  It would do them all good to get out of their sheltered cocoon and get to know some actual Tim Tebow supporters, instead of the caricatures in their minds.  Perhaps, in addition to a twelve-step program for anti-Christian bigots, they should undertake a sensitivity training journey around America. I’d be happy to introduce them to pastors and congregants in amazing churches in the Bible Belt.  I don’t think that in their wildest imaginations they envision these fervent, sophisticated, charitable, and diverse congregations.

Future actions will determine whether Rabbi Hammerman and the Jewish Week’s apologies reflect a willingness to expand their thinking or if they only regret the crassness with which they revealed what they believe. If the dogmatic, doctrinaire, intolerant and insular thinking of the liberal Jewish community which they represent remains entrenched, an opportunity for growth will have been wasted.

 

 

 

Of Parcels and People

December 14th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Between them, Fedex and UPS deliver about twenty million packages a day. If they operated with 99.5% reliability, each day one hundred thousand packages would go missing. That does not happen.

If they operated with 99.95% reliability, each day ten thousand packages would vanish. Now 99.95% is pretty good, but that doesn’t happen either. In fact, they function far, far more reliably than that. Regardless of whether you use Fedex or UPS, and regardless of which office you drop off your package at, there is virtually a 100% likelihood of it reaching its destination.

You don’t need to inquire about the educational background of the clerk who accepts your package or about the driving record of the employee behind the wheel of the truck. Fedex or UPS will deliver your package to wherever you instructed them. They’ve got the package delivery business down to a science.

Dr. Atul Gawande, a distinguished physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, pointed out that although we like to think of medicine as purely a science it seems to also behave like an art. Even when doctors receive the same education and training and have access to the same technologies, the range of results is considerably greater than is found in, say, the package delivery business.

This is because people are not packages and both doctors and patients are people. There are many jobs and occupations in this world that allow you to choose to work mostly with packages or other objects rather than people. For instance, repairing a modern car is largely limited to plugging the car into manufacturer-supplied diagnostic equipment. A shop owner could make the adjustments that pop up on the screen or replace the indicated defective component leaving to an associate all interaction with customers, vendors, and employees.

It is far easier to confine oneself to the mechanical than deal with the human. After all, let us agree that most of the frustration and pain in our professional lives comes from our interaction with people rather than things. However, the more interaction with people there is in your professional life, the more opportunity and potential there is too. Working with people is where the magic is.

Regardless of how talented the introverted software designer may be, forcing himself to also become involved in the outside work of sales and investor meetings will assure him of a far more rewarding life both psychically and financially.

Many new lawyers fall into the career trap of becoming emotionally attached to the logical structure of building a case or the thrill of demolishing an opponent’s case. These of course are basic tools in the practice of law but the person who confines himself to wielding the tools has less leverage than were he also to connect with people.

Whether your profession is operating machinery, writing software, practicing law or anything else at all, avoid the temptation of retreating from human interaction. I believe that even at a certain well-run chain of coffee shops all associates, including coffee-masters and other specialists, have to spend some time actually serving customers.

Avoid becoming detached from the people who are important to your business while keeping busy with the objects and things of your business.

The assembly line worker envisaged by Ford can ultimately be replaced by machinery. This was captured by Henry Ford’s quote: “Why is it that I always get the whole person when what I really want is just a pair of hands?”

It cannot escape the attention of any reasonably alert reader of the Bible that God’s Message to humanity largely describes people relating to people. There is not a lot of Scriptural narrative about some lonely man’s struggle with nature or an artist working on his masterpiece alone for years-themes often found in meaningless post-modern literature. Even our relationship with God is completely intertwined with our relationships with people.

To truly succeed in business and in life, one has to develop, nurture and increase connection with others. There are marvelous objects in the world, but none as marvelous as human beings.

P.S. Our half-price sale on the audio CD Festival of Lights continues for only a few more days.

Darkness to Light

December 6th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Before dawn that Sunday, Jerry Westfield and his two excited boys boarded their runabout at Ala Wai Harbor. Stowing the fishing gear along with their lunch, Jerry yanked the cord and started the Evinrude while his sons tossed the mooring lines onto the dock.

The black sky turned to cloudless cobalt as they slipped out to sea, past the enormous gray hulls of the battleships lying quietly at anchor. It was going to be a glorious day of fishing, and their spirits rose along with the sun. The fish were already biting, and the glinting windows of distant Waikiki Beach hotels seemed to be applauding their prowess. All was well until eight o’clock that morning, December 7th 1941.

To remind oneself of how quickly circumstances can deteriorate, one doesn’t need to reflect back seventy years. A little over ten years ago, on a sunny Tuesday morning in September, the lives of every American changed for the worse. On a personal level, most of us can identify a moment in our lives that dashed our dreams.

Whenever pain intrudes into our lives, our first reaction is usually gloom and despair. However, we also enjoy moments that light up the darkness, catapulting our souls from despondency to joy. Because we were created to be happy, even small things can trigger delight though we might still be suffering pain.

Few things banish my personal storm clouds as effectively as a rainbow. When that miraculous interplay of light and water arcs its colorful way across the heavens, I break into a grin regardless of any melancholy I might be feeling. This verse always resonates with me:

I have placed my rainbow in the cloud and it shall be a

sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

(Genesis 9:13)

Actually, every interplay of light and water cheers me. The silvery sheen of a lazy river; a waterfall on a bright day and sunshine sparkling off the ocean’s whitecaps all work wonders for me.

I don’t think I’m alone in finding my spirits lifted by water and light. This might be one reason people flock to beaches, lakes, and rivers for their vacations; also why the fabled Strip in Vegas is kept so bright at night that it can be seen from space.

Why is this spiritual uplift caused by water and light rather than, say, peanut butter and pickles? Water and light are the 21st and 25th Hebrew words in Genesis respectively. Until they appear all we read about are heaven and earth, chaos and darkness. Then God’s spirit appears on the water and God creates light.

Scripture uses the same Hebrew word for “light” as it does for one form of water, a river. That Hebrew word is NaHaR.

Then you shall see and be filled with light {NaHaRt}

(Isaiah 60:5)

They looked at him and were lit up {NaHaRu}

(Psalms 34:6)

A river {NaHaR} flowed out of Eden…

(Genesis 2:10)

By the rivers {NaHaRot} of Babylon, there we sat and cried…

(Psalms 137:1)

Water and light are linked both by Creation and by the Lord’s language. This parallelism reflects the reality that in both water and light we can see particles and waves, and both water and light carry energy. In ancient Jewish wisdom, both water and light represent God’s word. When dark times drag us down, water and light revive us.

It is thus no surprise that this month in the Jewish calendar, Kislev, is symbolized by the rainbow, a phenomenon caused by the interaction of water and light. Now that days are short and nights are long, as well as in our own personal dark times, we draw on God’s gift to us, Creation’s primeval energy.

Boosting our spirits banishes paralysis and procrastination and unleashes our creative energies. This is a major theme of the holiday of Chanuka which encourages partnering with God to overcome human limitations such as age, economic, and material scarcity. We share this message and guidance in our Chanuka-themed audio CD, Festival of Lights. It is half-priced this week for online orders, making it an inexpensive, value-packed way to brighten up lives. We prepared this audio CD program as an effective antidote for times when hope seems extinguished.

With Charity from All

December 6th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

Many years ago, my mother-in-law asked a friend to pick up four strawberry jellies for her at the store. When her friend returned with four jars of strawberry jam, she was dumbfounded. It turns out that they weren’t speaking the same language, though English was both their native tongues. As they discovered, British English and American English don’t use the same words to describe the same item.

I don’t believe that there was a similar linguistic explanation for my horror when I read an article in last week’s Wall Street Journal. I do believe the author and I speak the same language; however our worldviews are distinctly different.  In a debate entitled, “Should Philanthropies Operate like Businesses,” Michael Edwards made a statement while seemingly unaware that it was at all arguable or controversial. He said, ‘For starters, let’s not forget the reason we have philanthropy in the first place. It’s to support work that will never be funded or supported effectively by the market or government. “

That is certainly not my definition of philanthropy. As I see it, philanthropy is charity writ on a large scale. And I suspect that many people, like me, give charity because we believe that God directs us to. If the marketplace and/or government were super-efficient and flourishing, I would still be commanded to assign 10% of my earnings to others.  By this measure too every individual, no matter how little he or she has, is obliged to give.

Before we can argue how philanthropies should be run, we need to agree first on a worldview. Is charity a concession to the failures of the market and government or is it an affirmation that speaks to the triumph of the human soul?  How we answer that question says as much about our views on the marketplace and government as it does about our ideas about charity.