Monthly Archives: May, 2012

Spirituality of Science

May 29th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Does anyone wear a pacemaker produced in Pakistan?  Have you noticed any breakthroughs in electrical super conductivity emanating from Saudi Arabia?  Would you buy a sedan designed and assembled in Sudan?  Did the dental anesthetic, Novocain, get invented in Nigeria or Botox in Biafra?

I think that open inquiry is more important than avoiding multi-cultural insensitivity, so let’s ask why virtually all scientific and medical advances of the past thousand years occurred within western civilization.

There is no defect in the people of the countries I have mentioned.  Western civilization’s remarkable monopoly of progress is due to the qualities that Judaism and Christianity imbued in the cultures, societies, and nations they spawned. Widely held beliefs truly do have consequences.

It isn’t that hard to see how a Bible-based view of reality shapes a culture and fuels scientific discovery.  The opening words of God’s directive to humanity “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” strips away the illusion of a random world and sets men on the road to scientific discovery.

Science is mainly about seeking meaningful patterns.  Knowing that patterns in the natural world exist, no matter how elusive they may be, reinforces the persistence of the investigator.

People acculturated by Judaism and Christianity discovered calculus, the periodic table, penicillin, relativity, and planetary motion.  Those Bible-believers invented electricity, and most everything else that makes life today so much better than it was a millennium ago.  What drove their quest was the knowledge that the universe was not random along with the desire to understand God’s universe as a way to understanding Him.

The opening sentence of the Bible told them it had been created by a benevolent Deity to fulfill His grand plans and as such, it was knowable.

That first sentence, in its original Hebrew possesses a striking distinction.  Six of its seven words contain an aleph.  The aleph is not only the first letter of the alphabet, it also means one thousand.

Ancient Jewish wisdom links that first verse’s six alephs or thousands, to the six thousand years of human history starting from when Adam first spoke.  Furthermore, it links each of the six days of creation to its parallel millennium.  So, the sixth millennium, corresponding to the Bible’s account of the sixth day of creation, ran from the Jewish year 5001 to 6000.  The civil year 2012 corresponds to the Hebrew year 5772 which means that the sixth millennium began 772 years ago:

2012 – 772 = 1240

That sixth day of creation contains one instruction vital for scientific discovery.  God directs man to conquer the earth. (Genesis 1:28)  God urges us to discover ways of making the world safer, a place in which humans can live longer and better with less back-breaking, manual labor.   No wonder Isaac Newton’s discoveries resulted from him being a Bible-believing Christian.

The Hebrew word telling us to conquer, kovesh, happens to be the 76th word out of a total of 149 words in that sixth day account.

76 / 149 = 0.51.

In other words, there is a prophecy that exactly 51% of the way through the sixth millennium there will be a breakthrough which will dramatically increase the way that humans conquer the world.  Well, 510 years into this millennium brings us to 1240 + 510 = 1750.  The year that dates the beginning of the Industrial Revolution!

Just as the Bible impacts the scientific development of people, so it also shapes their economic development. Though there is an optimistically named Nobel Prize in “Economic Sciences” most question whether economics is really a science.  For instance, if electricity behaved one way this year, quite differently from how it behaved last year, we’d question whether the study of electricity belonged in the sciences.  Yet that is precisely what economics does.

This is because unlike electricity, economics is impacted by the spiritual condition of people.  The spiritual make-up of a culture shapes its economic fortunes.

Become a beneficiary of this compelling connection by making our best-selling book Thou Shall Prosper part of your financial plan for prosperity and abundance.  Save $8 off the regular price by ordering online this week and get better acquainted with God, economics and success.

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

On a very recent television programming on yes, TCT, you stated that Jacob had “bad/weak/tender” eyes. It was, in fact, LEAH that is described with such. Unknown to most, but to this Doctor of Optometry/Optometrist, a much remembered aside. LOVE your show, am one of the thirty-odd thousand subscribers and devour ALL of your television programming. G-d bless you in your endeavors.  READ MORE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Mind-Numbing Birds:

My daughter is laughing at me. Having received an iPhone as a present, I went to the library to get books on how to use it. “It’s all instinctive,” she says. “After I do something over and over, then it will be instinctive,” I reply.

I certainly wouldn’t have bought an iPhone for myself, particularly after last Thanksgiving. At a lovely table, surrounded by close friendsREAD MORE

Mind-Numbing Birds

May 29th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

My daughter is laughing at me. Having received an iPhone as a present, I went to the library to get books on how to use it. “It’s all instinctive,” she says. “After I do something over and over, then it will be instinctive,” I reply.

I certainly wouldn’t have bought an iPhone for myself, particularly after last Thanksgiving. At a lovely table, surrounded by close friends, our host suggested that we go around sharing what we were particularly thankful for this past year. His rule was that family and health not be mentioned, prodding us to look past the true and important for more subtle blessings. To my amazement, two of the women present mentioned their iPhones. Not as one of many devices which improves their lives, but rather with the specificity and tone of voice usually reserved for a love-struck teen waxing rhapsodic about the adorable local lifeguard.  As a bit of a contrarian, that was enough to convince me that I didn’t want one of those machines.

But with one in hand, I have to admit that I have a sense of what my friends meant. I am discovering that the phone really does do some amazing things and is actually surprisingly easy for even a non-digital-native to manipulate. I have learned to download apps and find it very useful while traveling to have the Grace after Meals as well as an entire Siddur (prayer book) weightlessly at my beck and call. However, one of the apps that I was told is a ‘must have’, namely Angry Birds, is giving me pause.

I try (often unsuccessfully) not to have a knee-jerk reaction that the more old-fashioned way is the better way. While not exactly a first adapter, I love the fact that I can Skype with my daughter overseas and that I can order a wedding present without trekking to the local mall. Nonetheless, I am worried at the speed with which technology is replacing the rest of life. I have been reading Jonah Lehrer’s book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. In it, he makes the point that our brains are stimulated towards creative thinking in certain ways. We’ve all experienced putting a problem out of mind while we take a stroll or a shower and having a “Eureka” moment as the solution pops into our head. I have frequently had that experience while working on a jigsaw puzzle or doing some needlepoint. My mind is concentrating on my task just enough to stop me obsessing on a specific topic, but not so intently that my subconscious is distracted from chewing over whatever challenges I am facing.

But what happens when our ‘down time’ is not spent strolling, showering or in some other activity which engages our brains while still leaving room for rumination? Instead the task at hand completely absorbs us. I don’t know how many hours people are granting to games like Angry Birds, but judging by the T-shirts, pillows and other accessories based on the game, I have to think the answer is many. There are hundreds of other similarly captivating games of which I am unaware. I’m not about to declare these games the greatest threat to civilization (I’m not even willing to state that I will never, under any circumstances, play), but I do think there is a qualitative difference between these down-time activities and previous generations’ fads. Rather than the recess that refreshes, could today’s leisure activities of choice be the pause that numbs?

(If I may make a suggestion, a better use of spare time this summer might be spent reading my husband’s book, Thou Shall Prosper, which is on sale this week or my good friend, Judy Gruen’s just-released and very funny book, Till We Eat Again.)

 

Dots, Dashes and Dialogue

May 22nd, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

During July, 2061 Halley’s Comet will return as it does approximately every seventy-five years. During its November, 1835 appearance the great American writer, Mark Twain, was born. Years later, Twain told friends that since he was born during Halley’s visit, it would be “the greatest disappointment in my life” if he didn’t die during its next appearance. It is no surprise that he died in April, 1910. One could say he willed his own demise.

On July 4th 1826, exactly fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, two of the men most instrumental in its drafting died. Former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within a few hours of each other.

To me, it was God linking these two statesmen for all time. I can just see them approaching the Throne of Glory arms around one another’s shoulders in eternal bonds of brotherhood.

On May 24th, 1844 Samuel Morse transmitted the words “What hath God wrought” (Numbers 23:23) from Washington to Baltimore using electrical pulses and his Morse Code. That was the Bible holyday of Shavuot/Pentecost, which this year begins on Saturday night.

Shavuot, the anniversary of the day upon which God gave His message to mankind through Moses on Mt Sinai, was the first time in the history of humanity that people thousands of miles apart could communicate almost instantaneously.

What lesson did the Lord intend when He guided Morse to give the world electronic communication precisely on the festival commemorating His bestowing upon us the Ten Commandments?

In true rabbinical fashion, I will answer the question by asking three others.

What words can the pacifist professor of philosophy utter to engage the vicious predator with cold eyes and no conscience who has just put a gun to the professor’s head?

What meaningful dialogue can possibly flow from a meeting between the president of Planned Parenthood and the Pope?

Wouldn’t it waste your time eavesdropping as a Bible believer debates a militant atheist? All these encounters I’ve described are between people who don’t speak the same language. Because they share no matrix of meaning there is little basis for communication. While the feathers may fly and the fireworks might be sensational, nothing of true consequence is likely to emerge.

It’s no coincidence that Samuel Morse’s breakthrough communication technology debuted on the very day upon which God presented His ultimate system of values to the world. The message is clear. To put it starkly there can be no lasting creative communication and collaboration between people who share no values.

Marriage with a very attractive individual, but one with whom no ultimate values are shared, enjoys very little probability of long term success.

Diversity of values is no asset in a business, particularly in a smaller entrepreneurial endeavor. The effective business professional will hire associates who possess the necessary skills and drive. However, just as importantly, they must also share the company’s value system, set by the founder.

Families should not expect their children to receive the education they anticipate at schools and colleges that do not share the family’s value system.

Values must precede all else. For this reason, Israel’s journey from slavery in Egypt to its own geographic and spiritual destiny in Jerusalem has a date at Sinai as its pivotal point. The quest for independence and development can only succeed when the people are fortified and fashioned by their common value system, the Torah.

The upcoming shared anniversary of both the telegraph and the Torah reminds us to communicate our value system effectively to our families and our social and business organizations. It is far more productive and far less stressful to live with and direct a group of people who share common values and vision.

We specialize in creating resources to help mold value systems for families and organizations from Sinai’s eternal message. By absorbing these entertaining, yet compelling books, audio CDs, and videos, you can enhance your intuitive sense of the system and by gifting them to those you live and work with you can lubricate lives. For the next few days, use promo code SHIP at checkout and receive free shipping on online orders over $49 within the continental United States.

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

The Bible asks us not to serve two masters: God and Mammon but I was startled about you adding a spiritual dimension to money.While most religions view money devoid of spirituality,what is your justification?. Please throw some light..READ MORE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: The Politically Correct Cad?:

What’s a man to do? Last week my husband was put in an uncomfortable position. He had to choose between either betraying his standards for acting as a gentleman or else potentially harming a long time business relationship.

What happened? A lot of our work…READ MORE

The Politically Correct Cad?

May 22nd, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

What’s a man to do? Last week my husband was put in an uncomfortable position.  He had to choose between either betraying his standards for acting as a gentleman or potentially harming a long time business relationship.  What happened? A lot of our work entails flying. On many fronts, flying has gotten less pleasant over the past few years, yet arriving at a destination fresh and ready to start work is imperative.  One of the ways we meet this challenge is by using a car service to get to the airport rather than driving ourselves. Not only do we get extra time to collect our thoughts, but the driver stays on top of the latest traffic news and picks the best route. The biggest bonus is the driver’s handling of the luggage, which can be both bulky and weighty when we need multiple changes of clothing for TV tapings as well as books and papers for speech preparation. Over the years we have come to trust one particular company, providing reliable income for them and the above-mentioned benefits for us. Everyone was happy.

Until last week, that is. Instead of one of the drivers we have come to know over the years arriving at our house, this time a slight woman drove up.  Having been trained as a gentleman by his mother and having instilled the same values in our son, my husband was uneasy standing aside while this young woman wrestled with the luggage. Despite her cheerful assertion that, “I’ll handle that,” my husband loaded the car. Had she been built like a stevedore the dilemma would still exist. Neither her ability to lift the bags nor her desire to do so would make my husband feel less like a cad if he stood idly by.

Fortunately, on our return trip one of our regular, husky male drivers picked us up. We are cautiously optimistic that these men will continue to appear at our doorstep. But what if a woman driver does come again? Play out some of the scenarios with me. While I certainly support a woman’s right to earn a living as a driver if she so desires, I also support my right as a customer to patronize a business only when I am receiving value. I don’t like seeing my husband handling the suitcases and I like the fact that he is a gentleman. As such, the company’s benefit to me is heavily reduced when they send a female driver.  Let’s say we request that only male drivers be sent to us. If we are the only ones who do so, there is no problem. Other customers, perhaps ones needing a small child to be driven, may prefer a woman driver and make the opposite demand from ours. But what if most of the customers are men with lots of luggage who feel as my husband and I do? In today’s society will the law require the company to keep someone on payroll with whom its customers aren’t comfortable in order to avoid litigation?

It is all well and good for the law to call for gender equality in employment. But unless we become a socialist or tyrannical state, individuals still have the choice whether to patronize a business or not. I know women who specifically seek the services of a female obstetrician. Should those women be chastised for depressing employment opportunities for male doctors? One of our daughters turned down a nanny position when she discovered that the toddler’s father had fluctuating work hours and would be in the house much of the day. Had the mother worked from home she would have had no problem.  We applauded her decision. Is our case of the female driver the same as or different from those examples? If on our next trip a woman driver appears, what do we do? If we complain we put the company in a difficult situation. If we stay silent, we will inevitably begin to opt more frequently for driving ourselves, which obviously threatens the company’s viablility as well. What would you do?

Educated and Clueless

May 15th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

There are weeks when I want to grab my husband, children and grandchildren and sail off to an uncharted island, cocooning us away from the rest of the world. Needless to say this idea has serious downsides including that I have yet to effectively grow anything in a home garden and that this voyage would render my library card useless. I’m not even sure that Google Earth, let alone government satellites still allow for the existence of uncharted islands.

Nonetheless, the desire to block out a confused world remains strong. After hearing of the president’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage last week, one of my son’s friends told me that among his peers are those who have strong religious beliefs. They agree that following God’s word on organizing both families and society leads to more successful and long-lasting results.

But, and this is a big but, they also believe that if they vote according to those beliefs, they are not good citizens. Years of higher (mis)education have convinced them that a Marxist can take his views into the polling booth; an atheist can vote his convictions; someone who believes that his cactus tells him how to vote can follow his plants’ imagined conscience, but that the good citizenship forbids one to take religious beliefs into account when voting. These are intelligent, personable and well-intentioned young adults. They are also abysmally ignorant as to the foundations of America (while waving diplomas that inform them that they are superbly educated).

I would like to think my son’s friend misunderstood his peer’s comments.  I fear he did not. Years ago, a very bright graduate student told me how shocked she was to discover that the wording of the First Amendment to the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” did not mean that Congress was forbidden to show any respect for religion.

If I had an island I could ban ideologically biased newspapers, manipulative books, TV shows or movies and teachers with an agenda.  In the real world, however, these influences are pervasive.  The onus is on each of us to articulate to our children ideas which are so fundamental that we assume they don’t need to be stated. Unless we make sure that our input is paramount we risk our children’s opinions being formed by other.

 

May 15th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Every year or two there is one person you really, really want to reach. Perhaps it’s the potential major donor for your charitable organization; the executive who could say ‘yes’ to the transaction that would change your life; or the aloof relative with the power to restore family harmony.

Say, Oscar-winning actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, wanted to speak with you? I think you’d return the call. Perhaps you’d prefer Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. We tend to respond to those whom we regard as further up the ladder than we are. Calls from people who are prominent, famous, or conspicuously successful in their fields generally get returned.

However, we tend to ignore those whom we see as supplicants. We subconsciously erect walls that insulate us from those we think want something from us. This is why the profession of sales requires such deep understanding of human nature.

Failing to reach someone for a conversation is a profound predicament because seldom is anything resolved, sold, or accomplished without two people talking. Let’s explore the solution that ancient Jewish wisdom provides to this dilemma in human communication.

Wicked king Yeravam (Jeroboam) tried to create his own empire in Bethel in opposition to God’s directions and against the House of David based in Jerusalem. (I Kings 12:25-33) He built an illegitimate temple and altars and even scheduled the consecration in a transparent duplication of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.

God sent a prophet from Judah to remonstrate with King Yeravam and return his heart to atonement. However, Yeravam insultingly ignored the man of God. Finally, the man of God, recognizing that his attempts to reach Yeravam were futile, no longer addressed the king but he still spoke, addressing himself to the altar. (I Kings 13:2) You could say he left a message.

When Yeravam, pointing his arm at the man of God, called upon the guards to arrest him, he found his arm paralyzed in that position. Now the straying king was eager to talk to the prophet.

The king then spoke up and said to the man of God, “Please entreat the presence of your God and pray…that my hand may return to me”…

(I Kings 13:6)

You could say the prophet got a call-back.

Uncharacteristically, the Hebrew root word for ‘return,’ SHaV, appears in this story fifteen times, hinting at the essential theme; God wanting Yeravam to return to his original Divine mission. (I Kings 11:31). Though that never happened, we see the king returning the prophet’s call as it were. Getting someone to return your call is exactly what we’re discussing.

Let’s see what the man of God did. Recognizing that trying to speak to the king wasn’t working, he spoke to an inanimate object, the altar. With God’s help, he got the king’s attention, and he gave him a gift—the return of his arm’s usefulness.

Though we mustn’t expect God to intervene so dramatically in our cases, we can still learn two lessons from the man of God. Firstly, figuring out how we can offer something, rather than just requesting attention, helps to melt psychological barriers. Secondly, the voice is our best communication tool. Listen to yourself leaving a message. Do you sound weak, whiny or arrogant? Do you speak too quickly or too slowly?

The sound of someone’s voice will always trump an email. Here’s one way to utilize the above principles for the occasional “must-speak-to” person. For about the same price that you’d spend on a special delivery overnight letter (which many use to try and get our attention) purchase a tiny hand-held digital voice recorder. Speak a carefully scripted short message into it and have it delivered as a gift to your ‘must-reach’ person and mark it clearly “Please press PLAY”. Don’t be surprised if you get a call back.

We achieve our best accomplishments together with other people. Learning how human hearts and souls function helps us open communications and forge friendships. There is no better instructor than the Creator of all life. We bring His message to life and enhance your skill set in our audio CD program Boost Your Income: 3 Spiritual Secrets to Success which is on sale online this week.

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

Shalom: My husband and I are both I.T. Engineers. He has more certifications than I, but right now I am working and he is not. It is NOT due to a lack of experience; and I need not “echo” this nations current dilemmas. He has been running another business for now, but customers most often cannot afford his services…READ MORE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Educated and Clueless:

There are weeks when I want to grab my husband, children and grandchildren and sail off to an uncharted island, cocooning us away from the rest of the world. Needless to say this idea has serious downsides including that I have yet to effectively grow anything in a home garden and that this voyage would render my library card useless. I’m not even sure that Google Earth, let alone government satellites still allow for the existence of uncharted islands.

Nonetheless, the desire to block out a confused world remains strong…READ MORE

Parchment of Protection

May 8th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

During April, I had the pleasure of speaking for three different companies. Each company successfully established its unique identity and its own culture that informs customers and associates and helps them make productive decisions. We should all do the same in our own financial enterprises.

Rather than allowing neighborhoods, social trends, advertising or schools to form your family’s culture, sculpt one that reflects your deepest values and make sure your family gets it. Ancient Jewish wisdom’s advice on how to create a culture for your business and family makes both more effective.

The mezuzah found on the doorposts of Jewish homes is the expression of just this advice.

The Torah clearly instructs us to ‘write these words’ upon our doorposts (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 & 11:13-21), yet neither archeological nor other evidence exists that Jews ever inscribed words upon their doorposts. Instead, we have always carefully written the specified words upon a parchment and affixed that to our doorposts. This is one of many instances where a universal and timeless Jewish practice cannot possibly be understood just from the text. It validates for me the great Transmitters who faithfully conveyed God’s details and whose work is so lovingly enshrined in ancient Jewish wisdom.

Interestingly, from the first time mezuzah is used in Scripture, we can see that the word means doorpost:

They shall take some of its blood and place it upon the two

mezuzoth (plural of mezuzah) and on the lintel…

(Exodus 12:7)

Yet, the piece of parchment itself along with its housing has forever been known as a mezuzah. Hebrew is rich enough for it to have had its own name, but no such name exists. It is called a mezuzah – a doorpost. How strange; the parchment is the doorpost?

In reality, yes it is; the mezuzah itself is the spiritual equivalent of the physical doorpost. Just as a doorpost allows passage between public space and the private home so the mezuzah does the same.

After all, neither a business nor a home would be much good if there was no communication between it and the outside world. The effectiveness of a home depends upon family members going out to work and becoming involved in the world, then returning for restoration and warmth. The effectiveness of a business depends upon information, raw material and cash moving in while goods and services move out. For this reason, the word mezuzah is derived directly from the Hebrew word zuz meaning move.

There are homes which have a weak or non-existent internal culture and members of those families unthinkingly import destructive values from outside. Other families attempt to defend themselves by blocking off all contact with the outside. Neither of these extremes works well. Happy homes have mastered the secret of the mezuzah as have flourishing businesses.

The mezuzah teaches us how to move safely, easily, and effectively between inside and outside. The fifteen verses handwritten onto the mezuzah parchment direct us to inculcate a strong and unique culture with clear expectations of conduct both inside and outside. (Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God…you shall speak of these words when you sit in your home and when you walk upon the road…)

They promise protection, support and backup. (I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you shall eat and be satisfied.)

They provide a core of strength to those leaving and a filtering detoxification system for those returning. (Beware…lest your heart be seduced and you turn away…)

The custom of a groom carrying his bride through the door probably originated with the spiritual importance of that portal. As my bride and I celebrate our wedding anniversary this week, we want to impart the specific spiritual strategies that strengthen our marriage. Naturally, we got them from our Biblical Blueprint and now, so can you. We treasure the practical wisdom in our 2 audio CD set, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden and we ask you to buy some for yourself and for others while it is on sale this week.

King David refers to the mezuzah with these words:

The Lord will protect your departure

and your arrival from now until forever.

(Psalms 121:8)

Amen.

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Happy (Homeschooling) Mother’s Day

If you want to be enthusiastic, hang around enthusiastic, people. And there is scarcely a more enthusiastic group than homeschooling parents. I had a wonderful time this week as a keynote speaker for the 4th annual Torah home education conference.

Homeschooling has grown rapidly in the United States, and there are churches I know where a majority of parents educate their children at home. However, it is only in recent years that the number of Jewish homeschooling families has grown significantly. There are reasons why Jews lagged behind in this American trend…

Happy (Homeschooling) Mother’s Day

May 8th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 1 comment

If you want to be enthusiastic, hang around enthusiastic, people. And there is scarcely a more enthusiastic group than homeschooling parents. I had a wonderful time this week as a keynote speaker for the 4th annual Torah home education conference. Homeschooling has grown rapidly in the United States, and there are churches I know where a majority of parents educate their children at home. However, it is only in recent years that the number of Jewish homeschooling families has grown significantly. There are reasons why Jews lagged behind in this American trend, including ongoing loyalty and well-deserved respect and affection for the system of religious Jewish private schools which has burgeoned in America since the end of World War II. Nonetheless, each year, more parents are assessing their individual children’s academic, psychological and spiritual needs as well as their family’s overall circumstances and declaring themselves homeschoolers. This year’s conference in Baltimore attracted parents from Denver and British Columbia; from Florida and upstate NY. It was a privilege to be there.

While fathers were well in evidence at the Torah Home Education Conference and homeschooling is almost always a joint decision, the bulk of the job usually falls on mom. Why would a Harvard graduate, a successful corporate lawyer, or an entrepreneur whose business is showing signs of exploding, walk away from the possibilities the world offers them? Why would they make a decision that nothing is more important than nurturing their children? How did we become a generation that can even ask that question?

In my sixteen years as a homeschooling mom, one or two days stand out when I hid from the kids in my closet crying that I just couldn’t do this anymore. I remember many more days when I was filled with gratitude for being present when I saw my child’s face beam as squiggles on a page turned into words or when I was able to facilitate a discussion of a current event or book, raising ethical and moral issues. I loved hearing my children answer that question beloved of pediatricians and random people in check-out lines, “What is your favorite subject?” with “history,” “chumash (Bible)” or “poetry” instead of “recess.” The fact that they never even considered reading or critical thinking or hashkafa (Jewish worldview) as a school subject was the hot fudge on the sundae. In the dark days of September 11th or when a personal family loss occurred, I appreciated hurting together rather than apart. I cherished hours of reading aloud with children ranging from pre-schoolers to teenagers and giving those young adults hours to explore their own interests and transition safely to adulthood. I love that trips and experiences were shared with siblings and parents rather than only peers.

I miss my homeschooling days though I live it vicariously as one of my daughters continues on the adventure with her children. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of mothers love their children including those who work out of the home and those who focus on the home; those who work for pay and those who volunteer; those who have one child and those who have many; those who homeschool and those who send their children to schools. Nonetheless, in a country filled with intelligent, creative, powerful women who buck the establishment by declaring that encouraging, mentoring and cultivating one’s own child is a worthwhile career choice, not only the children but the nation should say, “thank-you.”

 

 

 

Paint by Words

May 1st, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

How easy it is to become impatient with a long story being recounted to us by a toddler, colleague, client, customer, or patient. Unfortunately, leadership, whether in business or the family, sometimes depends upon making the best decision after receiving nothing more than a written or verbal report.

When we are the ones relaying information, we can get frustrated as our listeners tune us out. Instead of our employees, spouse, children or patients paying attention, they seem uninterested or distracted.

How do we become better at both giving and receiving information?

This verse can help:

Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the words which your eyes saw,

… and you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.

(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Why does Deuteronomy 4:9 refer to words that are seen? We see things, not words. I sympathize with the plight of translators who often mistakenly write, “Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the things which your eyes saw…”

While ‘things’ is a possible alternative meaning for the Hebrew word, DeVaRiM, which is used here, it is not correct in this context. DeVaRiM, meaning words, is the Hebrew name for the fifth of the Five Books of Moses and is the second Hebrew word of the book.

These are the words (DeVaRiM) which Moses spoke to all Israel…

(Deuteronomy 1:1)

As our verse reveals, central to the entire theme of inter-generational Torah transmission is that we must transmit to our children and grandchildren specific words and not general things. But spoken words like the Torah taught by Moses are heard not seen!

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the unusual language in the verse refers to the fact that the entire Sinai revelation was an integrated, comprehensive, multi-media experience; a sort of son-et-lumiere show. There was a visual depiction of the words spoken by God.

Why was this necessary?

When we see a landscape, a statue, a battlefield or a building, we instantly grasp the entire picture. No translation is necessary.

Many of us still prefer watches with hands because by merely glancing at the position of those little hands, we instantly understand that we’re late. Seeing a colorful graph reflecting sales figures immediately lets us know how the company is doing compared to last year. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

When we look at details or hear a recitation, our brains need to convert the information into useful real world information such as “you’re late!” Listening to a lesson, a speech or a piece of music requires that we concentrate through its entirety since it imparts meaning only once our brains have assembled hundreds of words or musical notes into one integrated totality.

Our verse teaches the correct technique for coping with the challenge of conveying and receiving information. As listeners, we need to exercise our memory muscles in order to concentrate on converting a long flow of words into one complete picture that we can almost see in our mind’s eye. Only then can we exercise judgment and leadership in arriving at the right conclusion and taking the best actions.

When relaying important information, try to make it come alive, using words and imagery which captivate your listener and help him visualize what you are saying. Try making your listener see a picture rather than just hear words.

In directing the children of Israel to convey words to children and grandchildren, God taught us how to effectively do so. The words must be so alive that they can actually be seen just as they originally were when God presented them.

Increasing your comprehension, vocabulary and fluency is one of the most important steps you can take to improve effective communication in your business and family lives. Whether or not you use it, the foul language which abounds in our culture impedes success. Every word you speak and hear affects your income, your family and your soul. Our best-selling (and on sale) audio CD, Perils of Profanity will help you become aware of the poisonous effect of profanity and provide guidance for combating it.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Profiling, Racism and Reality

I am humbled by the responses to last week’s Musing. I asked for readers to participate in a conversation and you did. I truly appreciate the kind words from many of you and I am grateful for those who affirmed, gently chided, and wrote so passionately and eloquently. Race is an emotional topic and as a country (and a world) we need to feel comfortable speaking openly. I encourage you all to read the comments; it will be a good use of your time. (I have a culture gap admission to make here: the first comment which used the letters AA had me scratching my head trying to figure out what Alcoholics Anonymous had to do with the topic. It took a bit of pondering to realize that it stood for African American.)

Rather than quoting from and responding directly to your comments, I’d like to continue the dialogue…READ MORE

Profiling, Racism and Reality

May 1st, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 12 comments

I am humbled by the responses to last week’s Musing. I asked for readers to participate in a conversation and you did. I truly appreciate the kind words from many of you and I am grateful for those who affirmed, gently chided, and wrote so passionately and eloquently.  Race is an emotional topic and as a country (and a world) we need to feel comfortable speaking openly. I encourage you all to read the comments; it will be a good use of your time.  (I have a culture gap admission to make here: the first comment which used the letters AA had me scratching my head trying to figure out what Alcoholics Anonymous had to do with the topic.  It took a bit of pondering to realize that it stood for African American.)

Rather than quoting from and responding directly to your comments, I’d like to continue the dialogue. The word ‘profiling’ garners much bad press. Profiling has been used as a synonym for racism. But is it? When I am in a building and about to enter an elevator, I profile. When the doors open I look to see who is already in the elevator.  Is it a woman rocking a baby carriage? I enter and her race doesn’t make a difference. Is it a couple dressed up for a night on the town? I enter, and their race doesn’t make a difference. Is it a young man? My mind races through more questions.  How is he dressed? How do I read his body language? What city and type of building am I in? What time of day is it? And yes, what is his race?  In the final analysis, with a split-second in which to make the decision, I go with my gut. One of the strongest pieces of advice women are given by police departments and self-defense experts is to hone and pay attention to their instincts. Those instincts are certainly shaped by one’s culture and past experiences.  

I grew up in New York City. The local college I attended had signs on the women’s bathroom doors which discouraged going to the bathroom alone. I was taught to carry a purse in a manner that discouraged pickpocketing and to survey the occupants of a train car before entering. We called these tidbits ‘street smarts.’ And my peers and I were very aware that criminal behavior was not evenly distributed among all races, genders and ages. Serial murderers? White males. Muggers? Young black males. Pretending otherwise in the name of utopian daydreaming could cost you a great deal.

If I decide not to enter an elevator because a young, black teen in a hoodie with a scowl on his face would be my sole companion, I think it unfair to call me racist. I most likely would turn the same ride down if a white teen presenting himself in the same unpleasant way was there. But I admit that race is one of the factors involved in my decision. I also understand that rather than protecting myself from a criminal, I just might be causing pain to a young man who has just returned from visiting his mother in the hospital or from an all-night shift at a job. Even if my action is the same, the white teenager would not feel the same level of rejection. This is the real world.

I do not know what took place between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Neither does anyone else. I do know that many in the media misreported, manipulated and slanted coverage to fulfill their own agendas. Every American citizen was harmed by this malfeasance. As more information comes out, after anger was stoked (leading to violent attacks on whites) and few are left paying attention, a different story than originally promoted is coming out. A Reuters piece included information which makes clear that depicting Zimmerman as racist is incendiary rather than factual. It also put the episode in context, quoting a neighborhood resident. “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m black, OK?” the woman said, declining to be identified because she anticipated backlash due to her race. She leaned in to look a reporter directly in the eyes. “There were black boys robbing houses in this neighborhood,” she said. “That’s why George was suspicious of Trayvon Martin.”

Trayvon’s death and George’s part in it are personal tragedies for their families. The race-hustling, hatred-filled responses expand that heartbreak.  The policies which erode moral clarity and personal responsibility; the liberal attitudes which discourage strong two-parent families; and the failing public schools and programs which keep large groups trapped in the past, are national catastrophes.