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Monthly Archives: October, 2012

Giving God a Hand

October 30th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

After speaking for Hillsong at the Dominion Theater in London on Sunday, I was honored to speak on Monday night for a large audience including several hundred associates of the Genistar Corporation, UK, at the London Chamber of Commerce.  Walking to this event, I passed the imposing St. Paul’s Cathedral, which amazingly survived the bombing blitz the Nazis unleashed on the city of London at the end of 1940.

During those dark days, Winston Churchill issued a directive that St Paul’s Cathedral must be saved.  The prime minister knew that St Paul’s survival was vital for civilian morale.  During the third-last night of 1940 that entire part of London was set ablaze by Nazi incendiary bombs.

Virtually every building was destroyed and hundreds of civilians, soldiers, and firemen were killed.  Londoners endured one of their worst nights of World War II, but when morning came, they gazed upon St Paul’s Cathedral—largely undamaged; and were filled with resolve that England would prevail.

I don’t know if Churchill prayed for a miracle that night but he did assign to St Paul’s the very last few firemen he had available.  He also prepared for how he would use the building’s survival to help boost morale.

A poor, impoverished widow approached the prophet Elisha for help. (II Kings 4:1) He asked her what she had in her house.  Ancient Jewish wisdom indicates that he sent her to search her house several times until she finally discovered a previously overlooked tiny bottle of oil.

The next requirement necessary for a miracle to occur, said Elisha, was that she should borrow many containers, which she did.  He directed her to pour oil from her small bottle into the large drums.  Miraculously, the oil continued to pour from the miniature bottle until all the borrowed containers were filled with oil.

We know that Elisha wanted to help the widow and that he could summon Divine aid–a miracle.  So why did he force her to search her home repeatedly until she found the tiny bottle of oil?  Once he was going to use a miracle, why didn’t he just make oil flow from a tree or other source?  Furthermore, why make her borrow containers?  Couldn’t the same God who supplied plenty oil also have supplied many containers?

We study Scripture to extract specific life-lessons we must learn from each story.  These seven verses teach us two things about miracles.  First, in order to trigger a miracle that can transform your life you have to find within your ‘house’ which is to say, within yourself, some small reserve of resources.  Maybe it is one last bit of energy and optimism.  Perhaps it is the last bit of capital you still possess.  You have to search until you find your tiny bottle of oil.

Second, you must have ‘containers’ into which the blessings brought by the miracle can flow.

Imagine a man praying to meet a woman with whom to share his life.  But other than prayer, he takes no steps to trigger an encounter.  Furthermore, he has no job and no home and is nowhere near ready to get married.  He has violated the rules of Elisha.  He has failed to find within himself even a small catalyst for transformation.  Even if God brings him the woman of his dreams, he isn’t ready to do anything about it.  He has failed to have ready ‘containers’ for the blessing.

We want so many things: love, financial security, health, abundance, fulfillment and more. Yet, too often, we fail to reach deep enough inside ourselves and offer even more than we think we possibly can. Sometimes, we forget to ready enough containers so that our blessings don’t go to waste.

Every part of Scripture contains practical application for our lives. My wife and I love sharing these messages in depth on our TV show Ancient Jewish Wisdom. We have gathered four of our favorite shows on DVD so that you, family, and friends can watch, absorb and discuss them. Please invest in this valuable resource, on sale right now, and put God’s word to work in your life.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: When Society Doesn’t Fit?

Sometimes, approaching a familiar topic from an unexpected angle provides perspective. When a writer presents a peek into an unfamiliar culture and he is motivated by interest rather than by an agenda, he offers that opportunity. A book I recently read…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Do Jewish people believe in life after death? Since I was a little girl I have been terrified of death. As I have gotten older, the hope of heaven seems more and more like a scam. Did God really create us to share eternity with Him, or our own egos and pride unable to accept oblivion?

My faith in any God seems tied up in this paradox. So many religions have so many answers that make no sense to me.

Kathleen R.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

When Society Doesn’t Fit

October 30th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

 

I will be speaking with Mr. Mackall this coming Sunday when I
sit in for my husband on his radio show on KSFO
(560 AM). With the clock
changing this week, even the 5-8 a.m. Pacific Time slot won’t seem as early as
usual.  If you’re not local—listen online. I’d love to talk to you; call
in at 415-808-5600!

 

Sometimes, approaching a familiar topic from an unexpected
angle provides perspective. When a writer presents a peek into an unfamiliar
culture and he is motivated by interest rather than by an agenda, he offers that opportunity. A book I recently read, Plain
Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish
by Joe Mackall gave me not only a
glimpse into the highly traditional Swartzentruber Amish community, but
unexpectedly set me thinking in new ways about segments of the Jewish
population as well.

As a neighbor of the Shetler family, developing mutual trust
and affection over the course of years, Mr. Mackall writes about his friends
and their lives from his outside position. It is clear that he values much of
what he sees, including their self-sufficiency, community support and deep
faith.   Much of their lives is alien to his
‘normative’ way of thinking, yet he doesn’t succumb to being negative about
something simply because it is different from his own path. When he does
respectfully reveal some reservations, the reader is drawn along as he reasons
through his ideas.

The area where Mr. Mackall faces greatest internal conflict
revolves around the dilemma of members of the Swartzentruber community who
choose to leave. While the overwhelming majority of children upon reaching
maturity pattern their own lives on those of their parents, there are those who
choose an alternate path.  Relating to
children who reject your belief system is difficult for any parent and among
the Amish the reaction can seem harsh in our ‘anything goes’ society. However,
what particularly intrigued me was the author’s thought process as he tried to
sort out his feelings about an unusual impediment placed in these youths’ way. Since
the education provided by the community is lacking by general society’s
standards, the ‘rebels’ are missing skills needed to thrive in the outside
world. In addition to the emotional toll, the practical roadblocks to
successfully leaving the community are many.

There are Hassidic sub-groups within the religious Jewish
world (sometimes incorrectly referred to as ultra-Orthodox) who similarly cap
their children’s learning at points that leave the students with poor mastery
of the English language along with ignorance of information necessary for
living in the modern world. Their children, too, are tremendously challenged if
they decide to live a more mainstream lifestyle. Being less emotionally
connected to the Swartzentruber saga than I might be with Jewish groups, this
book helped me think about this predicament in more of an intellectual rather
than an emotional way.

It is easy to have an immediate knee-jerk reaction, “Parents
shouldn’t be allowed to limit their children’s education,” but, in reality,
every parent does so. My children may have been exposed to Shakespeare and the
history of the French Revolution, but they have no skills in animal husbandry
or years of training in woodworking. Some kids have years of music lessons while
others spend similar hours on sports or in front of a large screen TV. Is it
more harmful to withhold trigonometry than to withhold a spiritual and
religious view of the world, as secular parents often do? As a society, why
would we accept that parents and schools might teach that abortion is harmless
and capitalism is evil, but not grant parents and schools the choice to limit
exposure to certain literature? Is it harder for an eighteen year old to catch
up on English and science skills or to undo the harm from a premature
introduction to sexuality?

The reality is, that every parent picks and chooses among a
limitless array of ideas and skills that he can present. The fact that the
majority of a culture may agree on certain requirements does not mean that those
choices are necessarily more valuable than others are. Leaving aside blatantly
abusive or disturbed parents, do we really expect government chosen standards to
do a better job than parents in nurturing children and adequately preparing
them for life? Those youth who leave the Swartzentruber community do need to
work hard to establish a new life, much as immigrants do. Paradoxically, had
they been better equipped for living in the mainstream when they were growing
up, they would have missed many of the benefits they did receive.

I have read and relished some truly thought-provoking books
in the past few months. This book is one of those that lingers in my mind. What
books set you thinking?

 

 

 

Name that Animal

October 23rd, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Dale Carnegie started it with his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. With Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg continues to stress the importance of “friends.”  But collecting “friends” because of the benefit they bring you is creepy and manipulative. It is certainly no way to form authentic relationships.

This Thursday night, God willing, will be the first of twenty-seven speeches I shall be delivering in the United Kingdom under the auspices of Jeffrey Lestz and the Genistar Corporation. I will be lecturing on the topic of authentic relationship building, chiefly for business but also applicable to friendship and romance.  Please forward this link to friends in the UK, so they can join me.

Here is one piece of helpful information I anticipate sharing. Carefully read this verse:

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them…

(Genesis 2:19)

God brought Adam two categories of creatures (i) every beast of the field; (ii) every bird of the air.

Next verse:

And Adam called names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field…

(Genesis 2:20)

Surprisingly, Adam named three categories (i) Cattle, (ii) the birds of the air (iii) the beasts of the field.

We have a problem:  Not only does Adam reverse the order of birds and beasts, but he names an entirely new category—cattle.

As is so often true, the answers lie in the Lord’s language—Hebrew.

Here are the opening three words from Genesis 2:20.  I know you may not read Hebrew (yet) but gaze upon these words as graphic elements. (The middle word is Adam.)

And Adam called names

Now view the Hebrew names for the books of Exodus and Leviticus:

Exodus                                         Leviticus

Do you see the similarities?  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the answers to the mysteries of Genesis 2:20 can be found in the transition from Exodus to Leviticus.

The very end of Exodus describes how God cements his relationship with Israel by providing them with ever-present visible protection throughout all their journeys, via Heavenly clouds and a pillar of fire. In response, Leviticus opens with Israel strengthening its relationship with God by bringing Him offerings. The Hebrew word used for offering or sacrifice is Korban which actually means ‘getting close’.

In other words, close and authentic relationships are brought about by giving to the other. Find ways to do favors for friends. (If you mistakenly think sacrifice has a negative connotation—as in, “Look how much I sacrificed for you,”—there is an entire chapter on the word Korban and the practical life applications of it in our book Buried Treasure.)

Giving a name is an intimate act of closeness.  When we address people by name, we initiate connection and acknowledge their individuality. Parents name newborns; lovers give one another pet names.  In naming the creatures, Adam is establishing a relationship between man and animals. Thus, he distinguishes between them, ordering them by degrees of closeness to humans. He first introduces a new category— cattle.  Cattle include those animals that work together with humans to the benefit of both.  Adam places birds next because birds bring music and color to our homes and gardens. Finally, he names beasts, those animals that avoid human habitation and with whom we have least relationship.

“Friending” people on Facebook is easy. Real relationships demand that we discover ways to do things of value for our new acquaintances.  While business connections are essential, forging a special relationship with one individual in marriage is our most important bond. It is so critical, that God embedded directions for doing so in multiple verses at the beginning of Genesis. Delve into the mind-blowing ancient Jewish wisdom on this topic with me through my 2 audio CD set, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden.  It truly pains my heart to see couples starting marriage or struggling to maintain one without this treasure trove of information from their Creator. I’ve temporarily reduced the price to make sure you can get—and gift—this precious investment.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Does God Still Know Best?

Among all the hoopla that attends a presidential election, initiatives get less attention. But my voter’s pamphlet arrived last week, and along with choosing a president, governor and other elected officials, there are a number of initiatives on the ballot.

One of them, which polls show is likely to pass, allows for same-sex marriage in my state…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

In the Bible it speaks of the land being defiled because of gross sin. It almost is like the land or earth is personified as a living thing, I recall the blood of Abel crying out from the ground? What is the Jewish thought on this?

Rene C.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Does God Still Know Best?

October 23rd, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

I am going to be hosting my husband’s radio show on KSFO (560 AM) this coming Sunday morning from 5-8 a.m. Pacific Time.  If you’re not local you can listen online. Do call in at 415-808-5600. I’d love to talk to you!

Among all the hoopla that attends a presidential election,
initiatives get less attention. But my voter’s pamphlet arrived last week, and
along with choosing a president, governor and other elected officials, there
are a number of initiatives on the ballot.

One of them, which polls show is likely to pass, allows for
same-sex marriage in my state. I do believe that the majority of voters who
support this measure are not only good people, but that their vote is
predicated on that very fact. The argument that a kind and just society embraces
homosexual marriage is something that has been promoted over the years, and has
swayed opinion.

I don’t quite see it that way. I simply don’t believe that
society wins when it opposes God. My position is based on no more and no less
than that. While I can explore and see how God’s directives enhance my life and
I can make intellectual arguments in their favor, nevertheless, the bottom line
is that whether I understand His rules or not, I try to live by them. When I
give at least 10% of every paycheck to charity or I try my best to not gossip,
it is really because I think that our Creator knows how His creations live most
successfully. Trying to circumvent His instructions can only bring us pain and
sorrow. It may take years for the negative effects to play out but I am
convinced that while this referendum promises compassion, it will instead lead
to chaos and unhappiness.

I think the case can certainly be made that if the majority
of citizens no longer want God to be a decisive voice in their lives, they have
a right to vote that way. The move to remove references to God from the
Democratic platform may have been bad politics, but it was more principled than
leaving His name in but nullifying His impact. The “new and improved god,
created in our image” which various representatives of religion promote is
simply a way of eliminating God from society incrementally rather than
decisively.

So, I was intrigued by a postcard that I received from
supporters of the referendum basing support for the measure on God’s
commandment to love one another. It seemed a bit like suggesting to Jews that
God really wants them to eat pork because He also said, “You shall eat, be
satisfied and bless the Lord your God.” You can’t lobby for one sinful activity
by quoting a general unrelated verse.
Yet, there is a push to make passing this referendum a religious
obligation, suggesting  that God actually
didn’t mean what He said about homesexuality in Scripture or has thought better
of it lately, rather than arguing that His will should be ignored. To me, that
simply doesn’t seem like an honest argument.

Americans worship in many different ways. Nevertheless,
certain Judeo-Christian fundamentals have underlain American society. In
general, we have adhered to the basics of the seven laws given to the children
of Noah. I can happily watch my Christian neighbor eat pork and he can embrace
my refraining from work on Shabbat. But we must share certain values for our
society to flourish. Roe vs. Wade did not end the debate surrounding abortion
because it struck at one of these fundamentals. Homosexual marriage does the
same. It is unclear how those of us who still believe in serving the eternal
and omniscient God who gave instructions to Moses on Mt. Sinai can share a
country with those who, like the group who built the Tower of Babel, think humans
can forge a better path.

 

Take to the Desert

October 16th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In the 1970s, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided to open a business.  They wrote a business plan for a bagel delivery company.  Fortunately for dessert-lovers, that business didn’t do too well. They switched direction, opening an ice cream factory.  Mr. Toyoda spent the 1920s trying to build a fabric weaving loom.  After ten years of struggle, he switched direction—starting the Toyota car company in 1937.

William Wrigley founded his company in 1891 selling baking soda and soap, but not terribly successfully.  Discovering that chewing gum sold better, he switched direction.  Many modern companies like Google and Apple have similarly made major changes.

Families also switch directions.  Parents unhappy with their children’s friends move to another neighborhood.  Sometimes a husband and wife switch directions to escape the unhealthy rut into which their marriage has fallen.

Switching directions can save a floundering firm or a failing family. Nevertheless, conceiving of the new corporate direction or family makeover is incredibly difficult.  We all tend to think the current way is the only way.  How to escape these shackles and open up limitless possibilities?

The fourth book of the Torah, opens with these words:

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai
(Numbers 1:1)

After setting the scene “in the desert of Sinai” the book continues with a detailed census of the Israelites followed by an equally detailed description of how the Israelite campsite must be laid out.

Isn’t it odd that the Children of Israel are to be counted when the Torah records God’s promises to Abraham  (Genesis 15:5 and 22:17)  and to Jacob (Genesis 32:13) that their descendants will be too numerous to count?

Second, why spend so much time arranging the camp site when, at this point in the narrative, they are heading directly for the Promised Land?  (Numbers 10:29) The decree of spending forty years in the desert hasn’t happened yet.  Why worry about a few camping occasions until they reach Israel?

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals how both the counting and the positioning are crucial preparations for the permanent settlement of the Land of Israel and the future of the Jewish people.

The Hebrew name for Numbers is Bamidbar, meaning “In the desert.”  However, ancient Jewish wisdom offers a second name for the book, “Sefer haPekudim.” This can translate as “The Book of Numbers,” but Pekudim also means appointments, positions, purposes, or assignments, or the “Book of Assignments.”

It follows that the numbering and positioning in the first two chapters of Bamidbar share a function, namely establishing everyone’s physical position in the community as well as everyone’s purpose or assignment in the community. Switching direction from their earlier lives in slavery was essential if they were to succeed as a nation.

Determining how all the elements in the organization would dovetail is best accomplished in a desert!

In ancient Jewish wisdom a desert does not suggest a physical place like the Sahara, Kalahari or Mojave Deserts. In Hebrew, “midbar” or desert means barren emptiness.  No sight of wildlife, no sounds of birds, nothing growing. Just the people and God.

This desert is a metaphor for a place of no distractions, no preformatted reality, and no life pattern into which the visitor must fit.  It is the place open to almost anything.  In other words, when having to develop a new paradigm for your family or your business, get yourself into a desert.  Strip away all structure and let your imagination soar. It is a ‘place’ increasingly difficult to find in today’s world, and increasingly necessary to access.

There are only 24 hours left in our Appreciation Day Sale. Before heading into your desert, make sure you know how the world really works. Our low-priced library packs (Complete and PLUS) are always such a great value that we don’t often put them on sale. Right now, for only 24 more hours, prices are reduced by 15%. Act quickly and get incredible savings on hours of enjoyable growth and inspiration through understanding ancient Jewish wisdom. Invest in resources that provide practical application of God’s wisdom for your finances, family and community life. Bless yourself and others and choose the best direction for your life.
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This week’s  Susan’s Musings: Protecting the Planet…or People?

I’m not sure of a delicate way to put this, but I’d like to talk about toilets. You see, we were in Israel for the Biblical holyday of Sukot (Tabernacles) and in addition to the fantastic experiences we had (along with seeing our daughter, son-in-law, incredibly cute grandson, friends and relatives) I also had an environmental epiphany…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

What response can I give my son when he states that he doesn’t believe in God?

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Protecting the Planet…or People?

October 16th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

I’m not sure of a delicate way to put this, but I’d like to
talk about toilets. You see, we were in Israel for the Biblical holyday of
Sukot (Tabernacles) and in addition to the fantastic experiences we had (along
with seeing our daughter, son-in-law, incredibly cute grandson, friends and
relatives) I also had an environmental epiphany.

Israel is a desert. Although it is a desert that has bloomed
since the return of her people it is still a desert. Water is scarce and valued.
This brings us to the subject of
toilets. Israeli toilets have two levers allowing one to instigate a ‘less
powerful’ or ‘more powerful’ flush. Both of these choices effectively complete
the necessary job.

By contrast, many municipalities in the United States have
made water-conservation a priority, mandating low-flush toilets. I have been in
numerous private homes and hotels where free choice in toilets is non-existent.
(Have you noticed that to certain groups free choice is a phrase that applies
to abortion, but never to schooling, toilets, light bulbs, food or any other
area of life? But, I digress.)No matter who is paying the water bill, anemic
toilets dot the landscape.

 These low-flush
toilets rarely work as promised. They often need to be flushed three or four
times to accomplish their mission. It is difficult to believe that flushing
four times per use yields water savings, nevertheless, politicians, bureaucrats
and social engineers pat themselves on the back for “caring about the planet.” It
seems irrelevant whether their “caring” actually solves a problem and improves
life. They certainly appear indifferent to the annoyance they cause human
beings. Completely unimportant is whether their machinations damage businesses
and by extension, their present and potential employees.

Why do Israel and the United States deal with the same
concern of saving water in such different ways? I think the answer may lie in
the motivation. Environmentalists in the United States who have gained
political power see nature as holy and supreme while people are annoying
intruders. In Israel, each human life is precious and nature is to be respected,
but its purpose is to serve man. Israeli toilets are engineered to allow
citizens to live with dignity and prosperity, while recognizing the reality of
a water shortage. In the States, environmental policies seem to be crafted to
provide absolution, punishing ‘regular’ people for existing, while providing
financial reward and prestige for a chosen few who find government favor.

We end up in the States with wind turbines that kill birds
and yield no energy savings. Astonishingly, highway projects are designed to
slow down traffic in the hopes of forcing people into mass transit. Government
money is distributed based on rhetoric rather than reality. Meanwhile, Israel
successfully harnesses alternate technologies such as solar energy and manages
with limited resources. When the goal is for humans to follow God’s directive
to “be fruitful, multiply, fill the land and conquer her” rather than to deify
nature and scorn humanity, both nature and humans are better served.

I don’t want you to miss out on our “Appreciation Day Sale,” which is in its final few hours. Get either of our library packs at an even greater discount than usual and enjoy hours of investing in enhancing your life and/or the lives of those you want to bless.

Royal Recommendation

October 9th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Imagine a remote island never touched by civilization.  Its primitive populace possesses limited livestock and subsists on ineffective agriculture and inept fishing.  Violence and brutality are common; tribal warfare and disease shorten life expectancy.

Now imagine being parachuted onto this island.  Let’s stipulate that the natives venerate you as a god-from-the-sky, feed you and care for you.  How do you start improving their lives?

It would be good to get them clean drinking water.  However, neither PVC piping nor filtration material is available.  If they had boats from which to fish and sharp steel hooks they’d catch more fish, but there are no tools and no steel.

You could teach them to keep disease at bay by washing with soap and reduce malaria by spraying for mosquitoes, but unfortunately, neither soap nor insecticides are available.  You could increase productivity by teaching them about specialization and barter.  You might even be able to introduce the idea of currency and capital accumulation but in order to do so you’d first have to get them on the same moral page so they would trust each other.

Imagine how frustrating it would be for you, with all your knowledge of wonderful 21st century solutions, to visit an 11th century society and be utterly incapable of implementing any improvement.  With none of the early building blocks of technological development, no tools or raw material, no cultural cohesion, no common morality, and no institutional structures, all your knowledge of the benefits of civilization is practically useless.

Now, imagine if you could paint a compelling picture of what island life could ultimately become. You could get the entire island working together towards that common vision.  You could set up many different teams, each focused on advancing one area of need. Progress would follow as expertise increases.

As an effective leader, you should not be digging wells or carving fish hooks.  Instead, you should be projecting a picture of bright possibilities onto the hearts of your people.  You should have the larger picture in mind, assemble effective teams and delegate responsibilities. Understanding the enterprise’s destiny lets you overcome challenges and setbacks.

This is exactly what King David and King Solomon did to build their empires, and because the goals differed, the type of team that each assembled was unique.

David, building a political and militarily capable commonwealth, selected his team and governing cabinet in this order: (1) Supreme commander of the army (2) Chiefs of staff (3) The taxing authority (4) Chief civil administrator (5) Scribes (6) Priests (II Samuel 20:23-26)

His son, Solomon on the other hand, inherited a stable and secure country and intended to develop it spiritually and intellectually.  Not surprisingly scribes and priests now get mentioned earlier in the process of assembling the team indicating their relative importance.

(1) Priests (2) Scribes (3) Chief civil administrator (4) Supreme commander of the army (5) Additional priests (6) Provincial administrators.  (7)The taxing authority (I Kings 4:2-6)

The lesson is clear. Great things are achieved by having clear goals, inspiring others, organizing correctly and directing teams to carry out the details.  You could view your own business potential as parachuting onto that island.  Do you dissipate your energies with ineffective attempts to solve short-term problems and frantically put out fires?  Or, do you focus your efforts on knowing your unique vision, inspiring others, and empowering a team of individuals with suitable talent and experience to unleash their skills and creativity?

Believe in the infinite capacity of other human beings created in the image of an infinite God. Carefully understand your needs and then invite others into your team. Incentivize them, inspire them, guide them and supervise them, but don’t smother them.  Their capacity to create will astound you.

Immense teamwork goes into producing our resources. Our library packs (Complete and PLUS) are such a great value every day that we don’t often put them on sale. Through Sunday, however, prices are reduced by 15% to thank you for your patience during our store and office holy day closures, and KSFO radio absences, over the past few weeks . Act quickly and get incredible savings on hours of enjoyable growth and inspiration through understanding ancient Jewish wisdom.

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This week’s  Susan’s Musings: ATVs, Guns and Ballots

My husband and I always have fun and learn something new when we spend time with our friends, David and Cheryl Barton (www.wallbuilders.com ). The time we shared a few weeks ago was no exception. They graciously introduced us to their friends, Pastor Tim and Terri Brooks who had invited my husband to address the annual Biblical conference they host.  While the highlight of our trip to Arkansas for my husband was meeting hundreds of excited and exciting participants, I have to admit to being a bit more self-centered.

One afternoon, the Brooks invited us to their ranch…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

My question is about a good friend of mine, who works as a housecleaner, whom I respect and love.

When she is servicing the families that have hired her for cleaning, sometimes these families give her used things that don’t need any more. I consider this normal, but…

READ the rest of the question and Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

ATVs, Guns and Ballots

October 9th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

My husband
and I always have fun and learn something new when we spend time with our
friends, David and Cheryl Barton (www.wallbuilders.com ). The time we shared a few weeks
ago was no exception. They graciously introduced us to their friends, Pastor Tim
and Terri Brooks who had invited my husband to address the annual Biblical
conference they host.  While the
highlight of our trip to Arkansas for my husband was meeting hundreds of
excited and exciting participants, I have to admit to being a bit more
self-centered.

One
afternoon, the Brooks invited us to their ranch to ride around on ATVs. This
was a new experience for me and it was a bunch of fun. There was even a bonus
activity – shooting with an 1890’s rifle owned by the Bartons – check out my
form below.

Sharpshooting Susan with ATV, Arkansas, Sept. 2012, smaller
ATV, Arkansas, Sept. 2012, smaller
Shooting in Arkansas, Sept. 2012C
Learning to
ride an ATV and improving my marksmanship definitely qualify as learning experiences.
However, there was a much less pleasant piece of knowledge that I also gleaned.
David Barton informed us how many potential voters sit out elections. We are
not talking about apathetic individuals. Many of these people belong to
organizations that oppose the liberal agenda on issues such as abortion, gun
control or anti-business tax positions, yet they don’t cast a ballot.

It seems
that there are a number of reasons for this dereliction of duty, including keeping
off voter rolls in order to avoid jury duty and not believing that one vote
counts. Hearing about the enormous numbers involved was demoralizing.

When one of our
daughters was a young teen, she wrote an essay for a homeschooling newspaper
suggesting that not everyone should vote. She proposed that ‘get out the vote’
drives that encourage those who have no interest in educating themselves on
vital issues to nevertheless vote, damaged rather than helped our country. Have
you ever laughed when late night comedy hosts send camera teams to the streets
to pose questions such as, “What do you think of President Obama dropping Joe
Biden as his running mate and choosing Sarah Palin?” or “Do you think it is a problem
that Mitt Romney won’t release his college records?” It is, of course, not at
all humorous that the people who don’t know that these are facetious questions
might actually sway the direction in which America goes.

The Jewish
community in which I was raised considered voting to be a sacred and cherished
right.  Even though I believe that the
majority of Jews vote against their own interests, that concept of civic
responsibility is valuable. Until our Arkansas visit, I had no idea that many
conservative Christians feel differently.

There is an
old ‘joke’ about a  man caught in a flood. As the waters rise,
the city sends out four-wheel drive vehicles to evacuate the residents. The man
turns them from his door saying that he depends on God for salvation.  As the water deepens, he moves to the second
floor of his house, where a couple in a rowboat comes past his window and
invites him to join them. “God will save me,” he replies. An hour later, he is
on his roof, when a Coast Guard helicopter hovers above, offering to pick him
up. He spurns its help, insisting he depends on the Lord, not on human beings.
Eventually, he drowns. In Heaven, he turns to God and says, “Why didn’t you
save me?” To which the Divine reply comes, “I sent you a jeep, I sent you a
rowboat and I sent you a helicopter. You sent them away.”

Maybe the
vehicle had no shock absorbers, maybe the rowboat was damp and maybe the
helicopter would have been a scary ride. They were available even if they were
imperfect. Each mode of transport had drawbacks, but a heavenly chariot wasn’t
one of the options offered.

Maybe you
see sitting on a jury as a hassle rather than an opportunity; maybe you are
convinced that one vote won’t make a difference; maybe you think that prayer is
the only correct option for a believer.
Perhaps it is time to consider that God offers us opportunities to participate
in our own rescue and He won’t look kindly on those who spurn the responsibilities
of freedom that other of his followers worked (and continue to work) so hard to
ensure.

Laundry Curmudgeon

October 2nd, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

I realize that there are urgent and important stories making
the news or being under-reported. Nevertheless, I ask your indulgence while I
vent about a seemingly minor topic.

Over the past year, our laundry has frequently piled up. We’ve
often been on the road doing speeches and appearances for two-week periods with
seldom more than two days in one city. Rapid-fire travel has meant packing,
unpacking and repacking without much time to run a few loads in between trips. When
possible, I gladly settle down for a major washing day.

I am truly grateful for the plethora of clothes on the
market. Most years I can even find items to fit my needs.  Still, the sheer volume of clothes made me
aware of a problem I have been increasingly noticing. The clothing industry and
I seem to be living in different realities. While I don’t want to sound
curmudgeonly (which probably means I am about to do exactly that) please excuse
me while I voice a pet peeve.

Dear clothing manufacturers: I don’t know who does your laundry,
but I think I speak for many who wash our own clothes. If I am buying an outfit
in which to be introduced to the Queen of England or to wear to a child’s
wedding (one of those events happens more frequently than the other) I will
look at items with a “dry clean only” label. Otherwise, that wording leads me
to move on to the next item. Have you seen dry cleaning prices lately? I prefer
spending money on different options like food and housing.

Perhaps you have a laundress working full-time for you. I am
grateful not to be scrubbing clothes on a rock down by the river, but I load
and unload my washing machine myself. What exactly do you intend to
happen when you label something ‘wash separately’? Seven blouses should take
seven cycles? Get real!

Ditto for ‘hand wash only’. I might on occasion wash a very
special item by hand. However, saving time is more important to me than owning an
item that catches my eye in a store, but demands that I stay up an extra five
minutes at night.

I understand that fear of complaints from litigious
consumers may encourage you to put the most restrictive cleaning instructions
on your labels. This is not without cost. I will callously pass up an item that
says, “hand wash cold” while if it has the option of going in the machine it
may very well make it into my shopping cart.

Am I a laundry curmudgeon? Or do my shopping habits reflect
those of millions?

 

Turn, Turn, Turn

October 2nd, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

With gratitude to God, I write these words overlooking the walls of Jerusalem just two hours before the holyday of Sukot starts and just two miles from where King David himself celebrated Tabernacles.

Yet, even while wrapped in Jerusalem’s eternal spiritual transcendence, I am typing on a first rate computer connected to high speed Internet in an air-conditioned office.

Many cities like Istanbul, Prague, and Tallinn display similar contrasts between ancient and modern.  But Israel’s ever-present ancient aura is the fuel propelling the country into modernity.

With fewer than 10% of the population of her four contiguous neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, Israel’s Gross Domestic Product is about equivalent to the aggregate of those four countries.  Imagine if tiny Rhode Island produced more wealth than Georgia.  Instead, as you’d expect, Rhode Island’s GDP is about 1/10th of Georgia, which has about ten times the population of Rhode Island.

One explanation routinely offered for the abysmal economic performance by Israel’s four neighbors is Israel’s existence.  There are problems with that excuse.  One, they weren’t doing any better before 1948 or before they launched several unsuccessful wars against Israel.  Two, being surrounded by enemies, the monumental costs of self-defense impose a disproportionate burden upon the tiny Jewish state.

The truth is that the four countries I named are not really doing much worse than many other countries in the world like Upper Volta, Nigeria, Romania, or Sri Lanka.  It is neighboring Israel’s incandescent performance that makes them look bad.  Thus, our question is not really why they are doing poorly. The mystery is why Israel is doing so well.

The world-record for the biggest-selling popular song with the oldest lyrics belongs to the The Byrds’ rendition of Turn, Turn, Turn from 1965, containing words from the third chapter of King Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes. This book, Kohelet in Hebrew, is read during this holyday of Sukot each year. It contains a credible explanation to our mystery.

A time to be born         And a time to die
A time to plant             And a time to pluck…

(Kohelet 3:2)

The seven verses of Ecclesiastes we’re examining (3:2—3:8) contain twenty eight events for which “there is a time.”  Some events are under our individual control. Other times, we can only respond to events in our world.  By scrutinizing each verse from the perspective of strong individual control, we find that verses (3:2—3:4) deal with events in our lives where we need to follow external triggers.  Verses (3:5—3:7) deal with events under our control.

In Kohelet 7:8, Solomon provided the clue to the pattern he followed:

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…

This verse tells us to look at the end of the section we are studying for a clue.

A time to love         And a time to hate
A time for war         And a time for peace

(Kohelet 3:8)

This verse contains both types of events. Loving and hating are decisions made by each of us.  Whether our nation is at war or peace lies outside our personal choice.  King Solomon teaches that our lives contain both kinds of events and we need to learn to distinguish between them.

Knowing the difference between the two is one big secret of Israel’s success.  Fatalistic people deem everything in life to ‘just happen’ so they attempt little and achieve less. Foolish people imagine they can control every aspect of their lives and fritter away their time and energy fighting reality.

King Solomon’s wisdom is a great part of Israel’s stupendous success.  It can do the same for you.

As I share some of the deeper mysteries of Hebrew with fluent Israelis, I have been struck by how even they are not always aware of the secrets God placed in His language. Our book, Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language explores 29 Hebrew words and the life-enhancing messages embedded in the very structure of those words. To our dismay, a fraction of the printed books did not physically meet our quality expectations. We have decided to make these available at a steep discount, but special terms apply. Please read about these books and decide if you are interested.

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This week’s  Susan’s Musings: Laundry Curmudgeon

I realize that there are urgent and important stories making the news or being under-reported. Nevertheless, I ask your indulgence while I vent about a seemingly minor topic.

Over the past year, our laundry has frequently piled up. We’ve often been on the road…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I run my delivery business for 10 years. My drivers and I are always sharp and effective in doing deliveries. I put all my time and efforts into this business. I have tried different marketing tools, joined different networking groups. Unfortunately, I am stuck at the same level I was at 3 years ago. Even my best clients give me less and less business.

What am I doing wrong?

Alex S.

READ Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE