Monthly Archives: July, 2012

Did Someone Say Values?

July 24th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 5 comments

Did you happen to catch the following news items? I am sure that I am not the only person to think that they just possibly might be connected.

Three headlines popped up my computer screen the other day. The first read, “California Bill Would OK families with more than 2 parents.”  That appeared right above, “Another California City votes to Declare Bankruptcy.” Within a few hours, I read that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, voicing his outrage at the shooting of a child said, “…if you do not think this is about a set of values…Near a child? How dare you?”

I thought values were those old-fashioned things that conservatives try to cram down liberals’ throats. I thought they were to be mocked and discarded. Commonly accepted values used to include the idea that one mother and one father having children after marriage constitute an honorable family. Commonly accepted values were judgmental about those who, except in the most extreme circumstance, lived off someone else’s labor. Commonly accepted values viewed life as sacred and did not determine that if an infant only exited its mother’s body three-quarters of the way, he or she deserved no more protection than yesterday’s trash.

This can’t be the set of values referenced by Mayor Emanuel, could it?  After decades of scorning what used to be universally accepted as American values perhaps we no longer have the right to expect a common language. Is it still reasonable to assume that having a gang fight when children are nearby is wrong? (Did the mayor imply that it is o.k. to kill innocent adult bystanders, or other gang members, in a gang fight?)  Don’t we have to respect a gang member’s opinion that fulfilling his own desires is more important than caring about the age of someone in the vicinity? Isn’t it judgmental to condemn his view?  After all, what is illegal today might not only be legal but also applauded tomorrow.

It is not immediately apparent what damage is done by redefining the family. The California bill is only the latest in a long list of changes made to what were once universally agreed upon family values. One needs a long-term view to see the effects of encouraging the idea that people are entitled to other people’s money, be it through unrealistic pension promises, by pandering to constituents, or by promoting envy.  It isn’t necessarily obvious what road one is heading down by treating human life at its beginning and end as a matter for human legislators and public opinion. Up close, these may even look like unrelated issues. They are not. 

Values are funny things. It’s hard to get anyone to respect them if they are constantly changing.  America may not have always lived up to her founding principles and those of us who claim allegiance to God may betray His ideals in heartbreaking ways. Nevertheless, having standards that one fails to meet allows individuals and society to make corrections. Once values are disconnected from a Source and subject to constant change, they no longer exist. Citing them, even if you are the mayor of Chicago, has no value.

Future is Spelled P-A-S-T

July 24th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

He struck success when his children were aged 10, 7, and 5.  He and his wife moved out of their dilapidated house near downtown Dallas and into a mansion in Preston Hollow.  They worried about their children becoming spoiled and never growing the will to struggle and succeed.  They dreaded their kids developing the decadent diseases of the pampered.

They wanted their children to know that the family could survive happily without the trappings of wealth. They wanted them to learn that financial success is connected to spiritual success.  They kept their run-down old residence and moved the family back into it for one week every year.  The rest of the year, a local church used it for youth programs.  But for one special week each year, the family strengthened its spirit by keeping alive the memory of where they came from.  By remembering their history they protected their values.

As part of their training, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces participate in a sunrise ceremony atop the heights of Masada where two thousand years ago Jewish soldiers died during a Roman siege.  They are taken to Jerusalem’s Western Wall where Solomon’s Temple stood and to the Valley of Elah where David defeated Goliath.  The Israelis know that to protect, defend, and guard something effectively, you must first remember why it is valuable.

Remember the Sabbath Day to sanctify it.

(Exodus 20:8)

Guard the Sabbath Day to sanctify it…

(Deuteronomy 5:12)

In both verses Scripture is recording the fourth of the Ten Commandments.  So which was it?  Back on Mt. Sinai, did God say “Remember” or “Guard”?  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that with His unique power, God said both words simultaneously because they are inseparable.  We must learn that before we can effectively guard, protect, or defend anything, we first need to remember why we are doing so.  It is impossible to effectively defend a country, a culture, a family’s values, a business, or indeed the Sabbath, without remembering the history that makes such defense worthwhile.

We find two other important distinctions between the Exodus account of the Fourth Commandment and its Deuteronomy counterpart.

Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.

(Exodus 20:8)

Guard the Sabbath day to sanctify it

as the Lord your God has commanded you.

(Deuteronomy 5:12)

People who have just experienced a tumultuous event find it easy to obey the instruction, “Remember it.”  Like those who lived through 9-11, the Israelites standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai found it easy to remember.

However, Deuteronomy describes a new generation of Israelites forty years after Sinai.  These people need to be told to relate in a special way to the Sabbath not just because some powerful memory moves them but because God commanded it for all time.

Similarly, associates who worked with you to establish a business will always remember the values and vision that drove you.  But you must help later employees also to remember the beginnings that they did not actually experience.  Likewise, younger children need extra help remembering early family history.

Finally, one linkage to remembering the Sabbath is that God created heaven and earth in six days (Exodus 20:11) while another is that God took us out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).

This teaches us that when inculcating children or associates with the vision and values that drive our family or organization, we should start with general ideas that apply to everyone.  Thus, Exodus speaks of the creation of the world to which everyone can relate.  Later, Deuteronomy speaks of the unique Egypt saga experienced exclusively by Israel, teaching us that only subsequently should we talk to children or partners about the specifics that apply distinctively to our family, our business or club.

Many countries face crucial decisions over the next weeks and months. Too many who vote don’t know how to remember or what to guard. Our audio CD set, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel lays out timeless truths that define which systems of social organization work and which are calamitous. This resource can thrillingly transform hearts and minds, making a real difference to our future. Please enjoy this powerful tool and share it with your children and friends.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Did Someone Say Values?:

Did you happen to catch the following news items? I am sure that I am not the only person to think that they just possibly might be connected.

Three headlines popped up my computer screen the other day. The first read, “California Bill Would OK families…READ MORE

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

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

In hoping to attract more customers, how far can you go with friends? Mentioning what you are doing? Asking how you can help them? Asking for referrals? Offering them a deal? Other things? Or, nothing?

In “Thou Shall Prosper” you talk about expanding business by making more friends. You say that, almost mysteriously, more friends will cause one to have more business. And, if you try to get these friends to do business, it will backfire since they will sense you are desperate.

Donald

READ the ANSWER

Good Old Massapequa High

July 17th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 5 comments

Recently, I stopped off to take a few pictures at my alma mater, Massapequa High School. While, admittedly, most readers will gloss over those words, those of you who have known me for years will say, “Susan, you didn’t go to Massapequa High. You didn’t even live anywhere near there. ” They are correct, and therein lies a story.

Recently, one of my daughters and sons-in-law were guests at a wedding. To protect the guilty, for the purposes of this Musing, I’ll call them Michelle and Andy. (Though 99.9% of those who know our children will accurately guess which girl this is.) Since Andy was participating in the ceremony, when they arrived at the hall, he left Michelle and went to confirm the details of his duties. Waiting for him, Michelle became aware that a man, about her parents’ age, was staring at her. She looked elsewhere, but kept on feeling that she was under scrutiny. After a few minutes, the gentleman came over to her. “I have to apologize for staring, but are you by any chance Susan’s daughter?” When Michelle said yes, he burst out, “I knew it. You look exactly like her. Your coloring is different, but you have the identical smile and eyes.”

These words were a balm to Michelle’s soul. As a young child, she harbored suspicions that she was adopted based on how different her complexion was from her mother, father and siblings. In the timeless manner of overflowing love that brothers and sisters accord each other, one of her sisters confirmed her fears, adding that she was originally born to a local Indian tribe. Since Michelle kept her concerns from her father and me, we inadvertently added proof by giving her a “make your own moccasins” kit as a Chanukah present one year. While the adult Michelle had long since accepted that her childhood misgivings were incorrect, we never quite outgrow ideas that dominate our early years. When as a teen, Michelle met my Uncle Freddy she felt an immediate kinship based on his coloring. Similarly, the stranger’s words at the wedding delighted her.

The man, Mark, carried on, telling Michelle what good friends he had been with her mother and how they were both part of a close group throughout high school. While a small part of Michelle’s brain thought it odd that I had never mentioned such a merry band, she enjoyed hearing of high school exploits that I had, for some unknown reason, kept under wraps. The conversation ended cordially as Michelle went to look for Andy and the festivities commenced.

Somewhat later in the evening, Michelle and Andy were standing at a buffet table when Mark happened to be in line right behind them. Michelle proceeded to introduce her husband, telling Andy that Mark was a high school friend of her mother’s. Andy commented, “Oh, you went to Flatbush,” naming my high school, whereupon Mark said, “No, Massapequa,” and turned back to the table.  This is the point where 99 out of 100 women would realize that there must have been a case of mistaken identity, blush, giggle and set the record straight. It is the point where Michelle made a split-second decision that since she would never see Mark again there was no reason to dent his obvious joy at reliving school memories. A tenderhearted soul, she never likes to disappoint people. Her perplexed husband looked at her confusedly, but she signaled him to silence as well. The deed was done and Sir Walter Scott’s words, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,” kicked in.

The wedding was a large one, and as she anticipated, Michelle was seated nowhere near Mark. Aside from the usual wedding chatter, there was quite a bit of buzz around the room that a Hollywood actor was among the guests. To Michelle’s amusement, she actually recognized his name. When she was growing up, our family didn’t watch many movies, but there was one children’s film that we showed annually on a VCR on our summer boating trips. Even after not having seen it for years, lines from this movie serve as shorthand in family communication.  This actor played a prominent role in that film.

During the meal, Michelle noticed the eyes of her tablemates growing larger as they looked over her shoulder. She glanced behind her and saw Mark, accompanied by three other men, including the much spoken about actor, heading her way. At this point, Michelle started channeling Lucy and Ethel when one of their innocent plots began exploding. It turns out, all these men were part of the “her mother’s” high school clique and coming to meet Susan’s daughter! Feeling the hole she had dug to be too deep to climb out from, Michelle posed for pictures with the group.

In today’s social media world, Michelle is sure that her unintended deception has been uncovered by now, and that a group of men is wondering why anyone would pretend to be Susan’s daughter. Michelle shared her story with my husband and me, and considering my complete lack of a poker face, I began to wonder if perhaps we are not truly related. Nevertheless, when my husband and I were on our way to an event and saw signs for Massapequa from the highway, we couldn’t resist taking a side excursion and sending Michelle and Andy the picture above.

 

Strange but True

July 17th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“Their horse cavalry, of which they had twelve brigades, charged valiantly against the swarming tanks and armored cars, but they could not harm them with their swords and lances.”

Thus did Winston Churchill describe Poland’s attempt to defend itself against the German invasion of September 1st, 1939.  In his war memoirs, German general Heinz Guderian wrote, “The Polish… in ignorance of the nature of our tanks, had charged them with swords and lances and suffered tremendous losses.”  In his 1959 novel, The Tin Drum, German novelist Gunther Grass likened the Polish horsemen’s doomed assault against a Germany Panzer division to Don Quixote’s hopeless idealism.

There’s only one problem—it never happened.

In reality, at 2:00pm in the afternoon on the first day of World War II, the commander of the 18th Regiment of the Pomorska Cavalry Brigade, successfully attacked and overran a badly exposed battalion of German infantry near the Polish village of Krojanty.  Suddenly German tanks appeared and began firing at the retreating Poles, most of whom were killed.  The next day, the Germans brought war correspondents to the scene and told them that the Polish cavalrymen had charged the German tanks.

This was a falsehood preserved as truth.  However, some truths eventually become thought of as false.

In times to come, people will assume that some of World War II history was fabricated.  They will claim that it’s hard to believe that the ‘bad guys,’ Hitler, Stalin, and Molotov really had sinister-sounding names that mean ‘wolf’, ‘steel’ and ‘hammer’ respectively while France was led by a man, De Gaulle, whose name just coincidentally means ‘Of France’.  England’s leader just happened to be a ‘Church-on-the-hill’ and America’s a ‘Field-of-Roses’ whose speeches were written for him by the rose-man, Samuel Rosenman.  Let’s not forget that the hull of the ship of state was in the hands of Secretary of State, Cordell Hull and that the man who nourished the roses with money or morning dew (morgen thau in German) was Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau.

They will say that historians made up the name of the man who led the allied invasion from England to Normandy on D Day in 1944, Eisenhower.  The general’s real name must have been lost in the mists of time so the literary academics decided to be poetic.  One of the invading leaders of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 was Taillefer whose name means ‘Hewer of Iron’.  Improvising a name for the World War II leader, they simply translated Hewer of Iron into German and got, yes, Eisenhower.

So it just happened that back in the 20th century, the bad guys all had malevolent names and the good guys all had benign ones? Puh-leez.

That these things are all true, challenges rational belief.  Yet they are true.

We are in the annual three week period of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, two millennia ago.

It defies rational thought that through the centuries so many Jewish tragedies, instead of being randomly dotted around the calendar, cluster in this 3-week period.  Yet it is true.

It defies rational thought, that people, exiled from Israel and facing discrimination, persecution and mass murder wherever they set foot, are still alive and again in their homeland. Yet, it is true.

Moslem radicals deny that a Jewish Temple ever stood in Jerusalem.  In the 1970’s, Arthur Koestler wrote an academically acclaimed book charging that present day Jews do not descend from Abraham and those who built Jerusalem.  His denial of Jewish history made rational sense. No other people has survived in this way.  Yet Jews have done so.  I am mourning during this period just as my father and grandfather did before me and just as my ancestors who watched the temple burn also did.

Some things, no matter how strange, really are true.

This unbroken chain of transmission is not confined to mourning. More importantly, it is how ancient Jewish wisdom passes down through the generations. We currently face turbulent times. Our audio program, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah, on sale now, will help you understand the dangers and the road to survival as laid out long ago. You’ll enjoy it.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Good Old Massapequa High:

Recently, I stopped off to take a few pictures at my alma mater, Massapequa High School. While, admittedly, most readers will gloss over those words, those of you who have known me for years will say, “Susan, you didn’t go to Massapequa High. You didn’t even live anywhere near there. ” They are correct, and therein lies a story…READ MORE

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

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

Although I am not a religious Jew, I consider myself always to be Jewish. I’m also proud to be American and do my best to uphold the American tradition of being self-sufficient.

In patriotic circles, one constantly hears that unless and until this country gets back to its Christian roots, we’re doomed (I’m, of course, greatly paraphrasing here).

How, as a Jew, can I fully participate in being a patriot while at the same time being involved in a process that so promotes Christian values? Even Glenn Beck, who I think is a true hero and leader, bases his work in his Christian-based values.

Thank you.

READ the ANSWER

Thinking in the Box

July 10th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In April 1956 the president of the longshoremen’s association stood on the dock at Port Newark watching a ship depart for Houston.  It was the Ideal X—the world’s first container ship.

The powerful labor official famously commented, saying, “I’d like to sink that son of a b—-h.”  From his perspective, he was right.  From that day, the labor needed to load and unload ships dropped by nearly ninety percent.

That ship loaded with steel boxes was the brainchild of self-made transportation tycoon, Malcom McLean.  He watched the inefficient process of loading and unloading and realized that sealing cargo into containers reduced pilferage as well as labor requirements.  Ships bearing the name of his company, Sealand, can be seen on all the oceans of the world.

Malcom’s idea antagonized powerful people but he pushed ahead where others were intimidated and only dreamed.  It is easy for fear to destroy dreams and annihilate ambition.

Much of Joseph’s life is described in Genesis 37, ending with this final verse of the chapter:

The Midianites sold him to Egypt, to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s functionaries…

(Genesis 37:36)

Wouldn’t it make sense if the narrative continued in chapter 38 with this verse?

Joseph was taken down to Egypt and Potiphar, a functionary of Pharaoh…purchased him from the hand of the Ishmaelites who brought him down there.

(Genesis 39:1)

However, this verse only appears as the opening of chapter 39.  The story is rudely interrupted by chapter 38 containing a different story altogether.  Or is it?

Chapter 38 relates a slice of Judah’s life covering his marriage, his public embarrassment and the birth of Scripture’s second set of twins.

There are similarities between chapter 37 and 38 which cannot be missed and which teach an important lesson.

1) 37: Judah (with his brothers) used a goat to deceive his father Jacob. (v. 31)

2) 38: Judah offered a goat to his daughter-in-law who was deceiving him. (v. 17)

1)37: Judah (with his brothers) removed Joseph’s garment and gave it to Jacob. (v. 31)

2)38: Judah removed his own garment and gave it to Tamar. (v. 18) [Note: In Hebrew, PTiL is some form of garment, wrap or cover as we see in Numbers 19:15 and as explained in ancient Jewish wisdom]

1) 37 Jacob loses Joseph (Genesis 37:34). This leads to later losing son Simon (Genesis 42:36), and engaging in perilous conduct to try to save his 3rd son, Benjamin (Genesis 42:38)

2) 38: Judah loses two sons, Er, and Onan, and engages in perilous conduct to try save his 3rd son, Shelah.

Jacob and Judah and both made mistakes. Jacob was punished for his mistake in favoring Joseph over the other sons, who themselves were also wrong to sell Joseph. Yet, God arranged for it all to turn out well.

Judah’s behavior in Genesis 38, for which he was later punished, was inappropriate. Genesis 38 opens with the words “…Judah descended (morally) from where his brothers were at…”  Yet, though he sinned, God again arranged for it to turn out well.

Does this suggest that mistakes or sins don’t matter? Certainly not. None of us should deliberately seek out sin.  However, restricting our actions and repressing our drives to utter passivity because of a fear of failure, moral or otherwise, is not a correct way to behave either. Doing so deters our ambitions and suppresses our potential; that does not please God.

For there is no utterly righteous man on earth who achieves any good without sinning.

(Ecclesiastes 7:20)

We were driven from the comfort of the Garden and must strive and struggle to build and create. Sometimes in that pursuit, we stumble. Then we must atone, accept our punishment, and move on.

One of the reasons I enjoyed reading Noah Alper’s book, Business Mensch: Timeless Truths for Today’s Entrepreneurs is because he is strikingly honest about his failures as well as his successes. The book provides practical advice for starting and running a business, but it is also encouraging as a model for bouncing back from mistakes and obstacles. It is a fascinating read, on sale this week, and can help energize you to aim higher.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: A Parade of Emotions:

Did you find this Fourth of July as inspiring as usual? Or, coming on the heels of the Supreme Court Obamacare decision, was it disheartening? Celebrating the Fourth in a different part of the country than usual brought that question home to me. Many years, I have attended grand firework displays, synchronized with stirring music. However, there is another Fourth of July tradition that…READ MORE

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

Hello Rabbi,
I am an African American woman raising children in a rural part of America. My children have received some negative interactions / insults from their peers in regards to their skin color.
I am torn as to how appropriately respond to these attacks against my family. I am quite angered by these insults but I do not wish to cultivate hatred in my children. Do you have any biblical insights on how to deal with this infuriating issue? I cannot allow my children to endure harrasment without a swift and thoughtful response on my part.   READ MORE

A Parade of Emotions

July 10th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 5 comments

Did you find this Fourth of July as inspiring as usual? Or, coming on the heels of the Supreme Court Obamacare decision, was it disheartening? Celebrating the Fourth in a different part of the country than usual brought that question home to me. Many years, I have attended grand firework displays, synchronized with stirring music. However, there is another Fourth of July tradition that takes place in thousands of less populated areas. It is the small town parade, and last week, my husband and I were privileged to see one.

A number of hamlets combined forces, so the parade boasted many a volunteer fire department along with representatives from a variety of schools and businesses. The crowd wore red, white and blue and cheered their neighbors as they passed by. It didn’t take much of an imagination to see this parade as a replay of one that might have taken place a hundred years ago. The parade we watched may have lacked the large budget, famous personages and “wow” effect of a huge fireworks show, but it beamed out a blowtorch of warmth and patriotism.

What surprised me were the different reactions as we compared notes with others. Although everyone agreed that the parade was charming, there was a definite split of opinion as to whether it was uplifting or depressing. Half the people with whom we spoke felt optimistic as they were reminded of how many Americans love their country and retain the values of their forebears. The other half saw the parade as a remnant of America past. They were saddened as they pictured the parade as an emblem of what was being lost. Since most of us chatting were of the same political bent, we all wondered how many of those marching might vote for those pushing the very policies that we clearly see as destroying America.

I can’t remember any presidential election that pundits did not describe as “the most important election of my lifetime.” Perhaps it always is. Building and nurturing are slow processes which need to continually happen; tearing down is quicker and easier. Each set of elected officials has the ability to do some good, but great harm. This Fourth, did you feel elated or resigned, ready to battle for our country or prepared to surrender?

Wonder Bread

July 4th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

A friend sadly described his mid-twenties son to me.  “He’s taken one college course after another and now he’s dropped out of school.”  “What’s he doing this summer?” I inquired.  The answer amazed me.  My friend was paying for his son to spend the summer counting birds on a Costa Rican nature preserve!  “What can I do to help my son get on track for life?” he asked.

I’m sure you know the answer.  Maybe my friend also knew it, but it is hard when it is your own family.  I taught him how to gently but firmly withdraw almost all financial support.  This would help his son acquire self-respect through financial achievement and independence.

As regular Thought Tool readers have learned, the Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions or sedras, each with its own name and theme.  Which one would you guess contains the most frequent usage of the word ‘bread’?

Would it perhaps be Bo, the third sedra in the Book of Exodus, containing extensive instructions about eating unleavened ‘bread’ or matzoh on Passover?  Wrong!

How about Beshalach? The fourth sedra in Exodus describing ‘bread from heaven’ or Manna contains many references to bread. Wrong again.

Terumah, the seventh sedra of Exodus, mentions bread several times in the context of the Tabernacle table upon which the bread was displayed.  It too is not the correct guess.

It turns out that Emor, the eighth sedra in the Book of Leviticus contains no fewer than fourteen mentions of bread, making it an easy winner.  Yet the theme of this sedra seems to have little to do with bread.  It is chiefly about developing and maintaining closeness to God; first by means of purity (Leviticus 21 & 22), then festivals (Leviticus 23), and finally by rule of law (Leviticus 24).

To understand why bread is so central to maintaining closeness to God, we need to remember what bread means in Scripture.

He who works his land will have enough bread…

(Proverbs 12:11)

In Scripture “bread” means money just as it does in colloquial slang: “Got any bread?” “Can you lend me some dough?”

Similarly, ‘field’ means the work you do to obtain your bread.  To this day, when inquiring about professional activity, people ask one another, “What field are you in?”

Prepare externally your work, and make it fit for yourself in the field;

afterwards build your house.

(Proverbs 24:27)

Acquire from outside yourself a means to earn a living.  In other words, find out what people around you need that you can supply. Once your field is producing, get married (build your house).

A lightweight who can afford servants is better

than one who honors himself but lacks bread

(Proverbs 12:9)

This is amazing! It’s better to have enough bread to pay for the services you need in life and be considered a lightweight by some, rather than thinking a great deal of yourself but being poor.  My friend’s son fancies himself, but what he really needs is a dose of reality. Making your own bread can really help.

Again and again in the Bible, the word bread plugs us into reality.  Bread/money reminds us to keep our feet on the ground.  Unless you are in the fraud and robbery business, making money means you are serving other people as well as helping yourself.

Regardless of what drives you, forgetting finances is sheer folly.  My friend enabled his son to bounce from one interest to another while ignoring the role of money.  By repeatedly mentioning bread, Emor teaches that even if you are deeply dedicated to getting close to God, you still have to remain rooted in reality.

So often, in their passion for God and His Word, rabbis and pastors overlook financial realities.  Even Faith is not a justification for stressful poverty. God does not want His children to make their love for Him a refuge from reality.

Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes how studying Scripture connects us to timeless truths such as money’s role.  For a repeatable super dose of how the world REALLY works, make our powerful resource Genesis Journeys, now on sale, a regular part of your life and that of your friends.

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

Hello Rabbi and Susan,

I am aware that there have been various questions already been asked regarding observing the Sabbath and keeping it Holy, but my problem is the company I work for has offered me a promotion but it entails me studying on a Saturday morning. What is your stance on studying secular studies on the Sabbath? READ MORE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Having it All by Not Expecting it All:

For a number of reasons Thought Tools and Susan’s Musing posted 24 hours behind schedule this week. Why am I mentioning this? In addition to apologizing for being late, I thought that what occurred provided an apt introduction for what I had planned to write concerning Anne-Marie Slaughter’s lament, Why Women Still Can’t Have it AllREAD MORE

Having it All by Not Expecting it All

July 4th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 5 comments

For a number of reasons Thought Tools and Susan’s Musing posted 24 hours behind schedule this week. Why am I mentioning this? In addition to apologizing for being late, I thought that what occurred provided an apt introduction for what I had planned to write concerning Anne-Marie Slaughter’s lament, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.  Many, including my friend Diane Medved, have written insightful pieces about The Atlantic magazine article, in which the author expresses her disappointment that society hasn’t progressed enough to actualize the feminist vision of being highly successful in one’s career while also having a stellar marriage and an exemplary family life. She is perturbed that her prestigious and powerful job responsibilities conflicted with her children’s needs and her desire to be more involved in their lives. I wanted to ignore the article and comment on the misconception the title reveals.

Frequently, authors don’t get to choose titles, but even if the title was crafted by an anonymous editor, it is still telling. What immature calculation suggests that anybody – man, woman or child, can “have it all”? One of the major tasks that good parents perform is teaching their children to deal with a finite world. A newborn infant wants everything he wants, RIGHT NOW! To the best of their abilities, his parents comply. Yet, as the months and years go on, toddlers and young children learn to deal with realities of the physical world. It won’t snow just because I want it to; my ball won’t change trajectory and avoid the neighbor’s window no matter how much I wish for that to happen. Expanding maturity teaches them to consider others’ wants and needs as well. At a relatively young age, we teach our children than they cannot have both friends and the option of only playing the games they choose; they cannot ridicule a classmate one day and expect to be invited to her birthday picnic the next. High school and college students continue learning truths. “If I go to the party tonight, I might do poorly on tomorrow’s test.” “If I go out for football I can’t also go out for baseball and track.”

In what alternate universe does anyone have it all?  What does that even mean? In a passage of Genesis, after fleeing the house of Lavan, his father-in-law, Jacob encounters his richer, outrageously more powerful brother, Esau. The interchange between them gives a different perspective on having it all. Despite his wealth and position, Esau tells his brother, “I have much.” Two verses later, Jacob says, “I have all.” (Genesis 33: 9-11)

Esau, like most human beings, can find more to want, no matter how much he already has. Money, status, power, satisfying work, vacation time, lack of stress, a wealthy lifestyle, marriage exactly when it fits one’s schedule, a happy marriage, commitment, a lack of commitment when desired, a younger, more attractive spouse, health, no children when you want, children when you want, perfect children, a longer life, a society free from want, a world free from war… If you put on ‘dissatisfied’ glasses, you will always see what you don’t have. In contrast to his sibling, Jacob’s spectacles look at what he has. “I have all.” That doesn’t mean objectively having every possible desire fulfilled nor does it mean meekly accepting the status quo. It does mean living in reality, shouldering the consequences of one’s decisions and choosing appreciation over grievance.

Having it all is a result of working on our attitudes and perceptions. Neither women nor men can “have it all,” anywhere but in their own minds. What does this have to do with Thought Tools and my Musing being late? I have enough of an ego to believe that had I wanted to pursue an esteemed professional life, with attendant stature and income, as Ms. Slaughter did, I could have done so. Certainly, with his many talents, my husband could have taken a different path as well.  Instead, we chose, and continue to choose, a road that allows us to integrate our love for God, for each other and our children, while we hope that we strengthen our country and offer resources of value to many of its citizens and others around the world. Not being in the corridors of power and having the concomitant benefits that Ms. Slaughter had, we have more flexibility than she did in her position. Unlike her, we don’t think that society is at fault if we can’t “have it all.”

On Friday, just before Shabbat, my husband and I discovered that one of our grandsons was hospitalized with a serious infection. We were filled with gratitude to God (and to the scientists, doctors and nurses who were His messengers) when we heard after the Sabbath that the infection was under control. Nevertheless, our grandson needed to stay in the hospital for a few more days. We agreed that I should head over to our daughter’s home a few hours away, to provide an extra pair of hands as she and her husband juggled caring for their eldest with the needs of their younger children and their other responsibilities. I was delighted to do so, but I was also reminded what an undertaking caring for young children is. My computer was barely opened from the time I got to their house until I left, certainly not enough to post these weekly messages.

Once again, I apologize for the delay, but on this Fourth of July, I am grateful for so much, including the freedom to make choices.  It is a wonderful day to be reminded that the illusion that government and societal intervention can solve every problem and fulfill every desire is false and that pursuing that path is dangerous and destructive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our store is temporarily closed for the Sabbath. We will reopen Saturday Night at 8:00 pm.