Monthly Archives: January, 2013

Reputation Robbery

January 29th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I have been injured.

A repugnant robber, without even the courage of a mugger, hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet in foreign countries has injured me.  Riding on my reputation, with resolute wickedness, this degenerate wretch has dispatched millions of emails to countless innocent recipients around the world pretending to be me.  Attempting to persuade people that his loathsome letters originate from me he peddles vile merchandise and shameless sleaze to the unwary.

He has stooped to using my photograph and bogus stationery to mislead those at whom he aims his electronic missiles.  Fortunately, most recipients recognize the emails to be the work of a vile hooligan. But some of you have asked me if these criminal communications are from me.   To my distress some, in a futile attempt to stop these emails, have unsubscribed from my weekly Thought Tools.  I occasionally find myself paralyzed by a mental mix of pain and rage, despair and revenge.

We have successfully shut down some of the servers he has used.  We have involved law enforcement and been guided by an Israeli cyber-intelligence expert.  The authorities are closing in on him.  Delete his emails. Eventually he will be caught or will move on to more gullible prey.

But he has injured me.  He has caused people I care about to sever their relationship with me under the mistaken impression that I am the author of the spam.  He has devalued confidence in the resources that I publish.  He has stolen money from people who probably thought they were investing in the ancient Jewish wisdom which is the only merchandise that I make available.  Above all, he has damaged my reputation which is a devastating injury.

Let’s see how ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that robbing someone of his reputation is a crime.

Although we speak of ‘The Ten Commandments’ throughout the entire Five Books of Moses they are called that only three times.  However, they are called the “Two Tablets” thirty-two times.

The reason for this is because, as ancient Jewish wisdom explains, rather than viewing them as ten separate statements, they are more correctly seen as five permanent principles stated twice; once on each tablet.  These five principles govern all relationships.  And relationships, of course, are the antidote to God’s first warning to mankind—“It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18)

The first principle is that for a relationship to exist between two entities, each must recognize the other’s existence.  Thus, acknowledging that “I am the Lord your God” is a prerequisite for a relationship with Him.  The first principle reiterated on the second tablet, commandment number six, prohibits murder.  Again, without acknowledging the other’s right to exist, no relationship is possible.

Jumping to the third Commandment, not taking God’s name in vain, we acknowledge God’s right to His name and reputation.  Similarly, the third principle on the second tablet which is the eighth commandment prohibits stealing.  Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that this includes stealing someone’s good name or reputation.

When Shakespeare’s Duke of Norfolk, in King Richard II says, “The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation…” he is correct.  A company’s treasure is its reputation; what we call brand.  When a murderer introduced poisonous cyanide into eight bottles of Extra Strength Tylenol and placed them on the shelves of Chicago-area stores thirty years ago he not only killed seven victims.  He also severely injured the company, Johnson and Johnson, by damaging its reputation.

Both companies and individuals possess value in their brands and reputations.  We ought to carefully build and protect our reputations. I appreciate the many letters of support you have written as I struggle to protect my reputation.

I hope you are intrigued by the idea that the Ten Commandments reflect five fundamental principles of friendship and connection. They are a practical guide to the relationships that enrich our lives materially and spiritually. This week you can acquire our audio CD resource The Ten Commandments: How Two Tablets Can Transform Your Life at a reduced price.

(For one more day, Tower or Power remains on sale. This 2 audio CD shows how a culture slides down the seductive slope towards not treasuring each other.)

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: HOW TWO TABLETS CAN TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE

audio CD available by mail or download

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Homeless Hopelessness (Part 1)

I am reading a disturbing book. I do not usually pick this type of reading material.  My general ‘go to’ books tend to those written by L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen and Dorothy Canfield Fisher. You finish them smiling. On the non-fiction front, I recently loved Moonwalking with Einstein, which stimulated my thought processes. Disturbing books are not my favorite choice.

Nonetheless, a dinner companion…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I was raised as a Christian by my English mother. Just before she died, I found out that she was Jewish and born in Germany. I was told that her father committed suicide and that by some means her mom and she were able to get passports (Visas) out of Germany around 1937 or so.

Do you know some good references about that time that would give me a better understanding of how the Jews perceived things and what really happened at that time? I am curious why my mother would become a Protestant when she was safe in England during W.W. II, as I had heard that many Jewish people tried to become Christians to save themselves and their children.

Thank you for reading this email.

Peter W.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Homeless Hopelessness (Part 1)

January 29th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

I am reading a disturbing book. I do not usually pick
this type of reading material.  My
general ‘go to’ books tend to those written by L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen and
Dorothy Canfield Fisher. You finish them smiling. On the non-fiction front, I recently
loved Moonwalking with Einstein,
which stimulated my thought processes. Disturbing books are not my favorite
choice.  

Nonetheless, a dinner companion recommended Breakfast
at Sally’s
, the story of a once successful businessman who ended up
homeless on the streets of Bremerton, WA. The Sally in the title is a nickname
for the Salvation Army, one of the many locations where he regularly ate.

Having not finished the book, I still don’t understand
why the author’s family and friends rejected him when he most needed them.
Whatever the reasons that propelled him to the street, he has used his talents
to paint a sad and desperate picture of a large and lost population. Although
he differs from most of his homeless companions in his lack of drug and alcohol
abuse, he does introduce the reader to many sympathetic characters.

Why is the book so depressing? Aside from being a window
into a world that is bleak and shows no signs of shrinking, for me the book is
a booming indictment of both the Democrat and Republican parties. Already
disheartened by the last election cycle –by both parties’ words and
actions—this book is exacerbating my feelings of hopelessness and reinforcing
my concerns that only a huge, and by definition disruptive and disturbing
upheaval, can reverse this country’s downward course.

What do I mean? Author Richard LeMieux and his fellow
homeless are understandably bitter when they see government money going towards
stadiums and fancy buildings, while they, many of whom saw active duty in our
nation’s military, have no shelter. A quote from a man known only as ‘C.’,
however, reveals why the Democrat Party’s lofty promises will get votes while
not solving any problems.

          “It would
be so, so, so easy to fix poverty in this country. Just give each of those
people a hundred thousand dollars… That’s how much the IRS estimates is stashed
away in offshore accounts by American businesses to avoid taxes…”

C. is a homeless hero of the book. Gentle, giving, well
read and intelligent, he certainly refutes the image of the dangerous, violent
homeless male. Yet, his theme, which repeats throughout the book, that if only
the rich had less or if the government played Robin Hood, stealing from the
rich to give to the poor, everyone would be well fed and happy, is sadly
quixotic and untrue. Aside from numerous other flaws in that thinking, many people
would quickly run through a hundred thousand dollars and be no better off.
Having money does not automatically free people from addictions or keep them free
from others taking advantage of them; it does not feed souls and teach people to
use money wisely; it does not provide loving relationships and the self-respect
that working provides. As too many lottery winners have found out, getting money
handed to you is not a panacea.

Meanwhile the Republican Party, with its inability to
winningly articulate or take principled stands for what should be one its core
principles, that all human beings are created in the image of God, will
likewise bring no relief. Too many Republican “leaders” don’t actually believe
in the foundations of the Party or the greatness of the human soul. Despite the
fact that studies show that those with conservative politics proportionally
give more in both dollars and time to charity that those with liberal politics
do, that benevolence often seems disconnected from politician’s statements and
actions.

Frankly, both parties have too many entrenched
politicians who have lived too long in, and benefit too greatly from, the
corrupt bog that politics has become.Government programs and proposals will not, in my opinion, be the solution.

(End of Part One)

Touching Me Touching You

January 22nd, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Sweet Caroline sung Neil Diamond, and like any newly dating couple, he knew that something significant changes the instant he touches her hair or she touches his arm.  Even a respected associate’s hand on the shoulder or the social kiss on the cheek sends a subtle signal of intimacy.  We should understand both the potency and the peril found in this powerful tool of human connectivity.

When a sperm touches an egg, the limitless potential of a human being is triggered.  The chromosomes carried by the sperm and egg combine and soon the tiny zygote starts multiplying.  Nine months later a bouncing baby completes its journey into the world, a journey that began when a sperm touched an egg.

When toxic sodium and chlorine atoms touch, they combine into sodium chloride, otherwise known as common table salt, without which no plate of fries can be considered complete.  The power of these two atoms touching produces an energy gradient that transforms two poisonous substances into a vital and tasty condiment.

Each time you start your car or turn on a light you are utilizing the amazing power of touch.  That starter button or switch is nothing more than a mechanical device that makes one electrical conductor touch another.  That touch allows an electrical current to flow from the battery to the starter motor or from the power source to the light bulb.  The car surges to life or the dark room lights up due to the magic of touch that allowed energy to flow.

Nothing much would happen to a big, lonely ball of uranium.  However, if another twenty-five pound ball of uranium touched it, critical mass would be instantaneously achieved and the fifty pounds of radioactive metal would begin a nuclear fission process that could produce enough energy to light a town.  It could also unleash sufficient energy to destroy that same town.

Touch causes creativity, transformation, and energy.  Touch is an immensely powerful force in the universe and like all powerful forces it can produce positive change but it has just as much potential to devastate and destroy.

Touch is a waypoint on the road to intimacy and as anyone who has loved knows, intimacy can release rapture and joy but it can also cause anguish and despair.  Like all powerful forces, to make it safe and productive, intimacy must be harnessed and channeled.  Unrestrained intimacy can burn itself out like a plunging meteorite.  Intimacy without structure can result in embarrassment and awkwardness.

Not for nothing does royal etiquette in the United Kingdom prohibit any touching of Her Majesty the Queen.  Even a handshake has to be initiated by the monarch.  Extending one’s hand or taking her elbow to guide her, not to mention an unthinkable hug counts as a colossal breach of etiquette.  No anachronistic court custom, this recognition of the power of touch is a wise determination to keep it strictly under control.

As long time Thought Tool students know, many key words in the Lord’s language have the opposite meaning when read in reverse.

Reversing NaGO, the Hebrew word for touch, we obtain OGeN (anchor) as when Naomi urges her daughters-in-law to stay behind, rather than being anchored to a barren future (Ruth 1:13).

NaGO                                                                                                                                       OGeN

The implication is that an anchor, by design, prevents you from moving. It keeps you anchored exactly where you are!  By contrast, NaGO (touch) does the opposite.  Right! It prevents you from remaining exactly where you are.  In almost any context, touch is a propellant of change.  Be aware of its potency and monitor its application in your life so that you use it in a safe and wise way.

Secular societies suppress human connection, substituting citizen/government directives.  It’s valuable to understand why we so easily succumb to the allure of secularism and quickly reject Godly guidance.  If you want your life and that of your family and nation to thrive under Divine direction, you absolutely need our audio CD, Tower of Power.  It reveals history’s first organized rejection, the Tower of Babel.  Read more about this resource (on special right now) and recognize how seductive trends will destroy our social and economic lives and how we must combat them.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Still Mothering

My baby came home. O.k., as a third year medical student, he isn’t technically a baby. He isn’t even technically my baby as three younger sisters arrived after him. And he only came home for four days. But any mother reading this knows what I’m feeling.

There seems to be so little…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I recently purchased the Day for Atonement CD and I was quite disappointed when you were speaking on the horoscopes. My disappointment arose when Rabbi Lapin did not name or go through the entire zodiac. Or, are the few mentioned the only ones represented on the Jewish calendar?

Thank you so much I really enjoy and benefit from Rabbi Lapin’s wisdom.

Collota T.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Still Mothering

January 22nd, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

My baby came home. O.k., as a third year medical student, he
isn’t technically a baby. He isn’t even technically my baby as three younger sisters arrived after him. And he only
came home for four days. But any mother reading this knows what I’m feeling.

There seems to be so little I can do for my children now
that they are grown. It filled my heart to be able to cook his favorite meal,
prepare his bed with clean sheets and pick him up at the airport. Forgotten is
how tiring it was to prepare nutritious meals every night, to do constant
laundry (though from about the age of nine my children were responsible for
their own clothing) and to be the on-call chauffeur. Also forgotten (almost) is
the exhaustion of sleepless nights when he was an infant, the disgust at his
joyful eating of slugs in the back yard as a toddler and even the fright and
annoyance when as a teenager he almost drove my car off a cliff.

At least when he was younger I could take care of him. I could
nurture the illusion that I could keep him safe. For a few precious years my
kiss or hug cured most ills, my attention fed most needs. Even later, when my touch
wasn’t quite as magical, I could welcome his friends to our house and expose
him to books, various skills and nature. Not so today. As much as I would like
to smooth his path, I cannot produce his soul mate. I would do more harm than
good by contacting the powers-that-be and explaining to them why he will make a
fabulous doctor and they should give him his first choice of residencies. I can’t
spare him the pain of maturing or save him from his, altogether human,
mistakes.

I do what I can. First and foremost is prayer. A distant
second comes grabbing whatever opportunities I have to feed and nurture him.
For which I am most grateful for the past few days.

Forty Fractured Years…and Counting

January 15th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

Do you remember the days when you weren’t supposed to bring
up religion or politics in polite company? They are long gone, perhaps because
there is almost nothing that affects our lives these days (including the weather)
that doesn’t fall into one of those categories. Most meaningful matters seem to
fall into both.

As we near the 40th anniversary of the Roe v.
Wade Supreme Court ruling, raising the topic of abortion is particularly
divisive. There are many people for whom either the ‘Right to Life’ or the
‘Right to Choose’ constitutes the sole criteria on which to evaluate a
politician. We are passionate about our views of abortion, no matter on which
side our hearts and minds lie.

The opportunities that exist today to save the lives of babies
who are months away from sustaining life on their own (see this
heart-tugging story
) can’t be ignored.  The widespread availability of 3D pictures
that early on show an active baby with a beating heart refutes the concept of a
fetus as ‘just a clump of cells”. Testimonials from women who, despite being
told that abortion is ‘no big deal,’ are tortured by the memory of their
abortions—including Roe v. Wade defendant Norma McCorvey—belie the underlying
assumption that this legislation would be only a positive step forward.  Points made in the 1973 case are
anachronistic, yet emotions on this subject are so easily inflamed that few
people are able to sustain a reasonable discussion.

Rather than abating, the divisiveness is becoming more
aggravated. Contentiousness about abortion is not going away. The ability to
talk to each other with empathy and sensitivity is. Forty years later, Roe v.
Wade hasn’t settled into the history books. Since it deals with human life, it
shouldn’t. Competing views on slavery eventually could not be ignored, though
generations pushed the issue down the road until it exploded. Competing views on the
sanctity of life, or even life potential
, cannot be ignored either. If the
Justices had the foresight to see into the future, would they still have voted
as they did?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chimp and I

January 15th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Several readers have notified us that someone is using our Thought Tools format for Internet spam.  According to our investigators they are trying to piggy-back on our credibility to sell a worthless book on choosing babies gender.  If you received such spam, we are sorry for the inconvenience and are working to make this impossible in the future.

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Most human activities can be located along an imaginary line anchored at one end by “Spiritual” and at the other by “Physical.”  We’d put praying near the spiritual end; reading and music would be its neighbors.  As the source of both sensual pleasure and new life, sex might be mid-spectrum, while eating and other bodily functions belong near the physical end.  Where do commercial transactions fit?  Is exchanging money for something we’d rather have a spiritual or physical action?

Scripture teaches us to ask this question. Genesis opens telling us that God made the firmament ‘…and called it heaven’ in Genesis 1:7-8  and that God decreed ‘dry land’ and ‘called it earth’ in Genesis 1:9-10. In that case, what do the words ‘…God created heaven and earth’ in verse 1 tell us that we wouldn’t have understood from subsequent verses?

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that in the Torah’s opening verse ‘heaven’ means all things spiritual and ‘earth’ alludes to everything physical.  The idea is that to understand how the world really works, we must know that God created all things physical and all things spiritual and we need to appreciate both.

One way of identifying a spiritual act is by determining whether a chimpanzee would understand it.  When I return home and slump into an armchair, my pet primate undoubtedly sympathizes.   When I eat he certainly gets it.  However, when I hold a newspaper motionless before my face for twenty minutes he becomes quite confused. Reading tends spiritual.

We’re always slightly uneasy about pursuits with no spiritual overtones at all.  We subconsciously superimpose spirituality to avoid being exclusively physical and thus animal-like.  For instance, we apply ceremony to virtually all activities performed by both people and animals.

Only people read a book or listen to music, hence these activities require no associated ritual.  On the other hand, most animals eat, engage in sexual activity, give birth and die.  If we do not confer a uniquely human ritual upon these functions, we reduce the distinction between ourselves and the animal kingdom.

Therefore, we celebrate the birth of a child often by a naming ceremony; no animal does that.  Even if our hands are clean, we wash them before eating. We serve food in dishes on a tablecloth rather than straight out of the can, although the physical, nutritional qualities have not been enhanced.  We even say a blessing.  This is a human, spiritual way to eat; dogs are quite content to gobble food off the floor.

After encountering an attractive potential partner, wise people do not proceed directly to physical intimacy.  An engagement announcement followed by a marriage ceremony serves to accentuate that all-important distinction; no animal announces its intention to mate and then defers gratification for three months.

The more physical the activity, the more awkwardness and subconscious embarrassment surround it.  Nudism is practiced with a certain bravado in order to conceal the underlying tension.  Famous photographer Richard Avedon shattered a barrier by capturing images of people as they ate.  Frozen in the act of chewing, humans resemble apes rather than angels. Similarly, we express a normal and healthy reticence about bathroom activities.   On the other hand, as purely spiritual occupations, reading and art evoke no discomfort.

Where on the spectrum do business transactions fall?  A chimpanzee would not have the slightest idea of what is transpiring between proprietor and customer in a store.  Economic exchange takes place only after two thinking human beings will it.  The process must be spiritual. If we truly believe that, we should have no discomfort with buying and selling, whether our skills, services or products.  Economic activity is another way in which we satisfyingly distance ourselves from the animal kingdom and draw closer to God.

To help you deepen your business comfort zone, we are keeping the audio CD Boost Your Income: Three Spiritual Steps to Success discounted for 48 hours more. To broaden your understanding of how the world really works by relating to both the physical and spiritual aspects of speech, time, tough situations and more, we are also offering our 5-piece Biblical Blueprint Set at 25% off this week. Face life with clearer eyes—and confront it with confidence!

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Forty Fractured Years…and Counting

Do you remember the days when you weren’t supposed to bring up religion or politics in polite company? They are long gone, perhaps because there is almost nothing that affects our lives these days (including the weather) that doesn’t fall into one of those categories. Most meaningful matters seem to fall into both.

As we near the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I was a Christian. I’ve gone to several churches, of various denominations. In each one, I found that people in positions of trust were nothing more than lying, power-hungry people. They used religion and their positions as a way to control people.

Many of the people I know who profess to be Christians are exactly the same; they live their lives to judge, control and proclaim they are “better” than others. They use the Bible as a weapon.
As a result, I find myself actually feeling anger whenever I hear someone proclaim they are Christian. The thought of Church angers me. I immediately feel animosity towards any religious people. Yet for all that, I know something is missing in my life. I still believe in God. I know I don’t live my life the way God wants, yet am so turned off against Church, Christians and religion that I feel I have abandoned it.

Am I destined to live a life without God, running from his teachings because of my feelings about his followers?

Leigh

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

The Grandeur of the Grind

January 8th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

You do it.  I do it.  We all do it. We find ways to avoid doing those tasks in our lives that will really make a difference.  They might be unpleasant, hard, boring, perhaps even frightening.  Often, they are the very ones we have to identify and tackle.

There are the parents whose toddler is getting out of control.  The time is overdue to introduce him to the wonderful world of discipline.  They’ve let things go for a bit too long and now every attempt to introduce boundaries and insist on appropriate behavior is met with tantrums.  The parents focus on good nutrition and creative play times—anything in fact, in order to avoid doing the one great task that will make the most difference in their lives and that of their child.

There’s the aspiring sales professional who does almost everything except the one task that will make most difference in his life—completing his quota of calls every single day.

There’s the student who dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall. She needs to sit down, play the same piece repeatedly, and start the cycle again with a more difficult piece.

The Lord’s language has a word for an activity which might be staggeringly difficult to confront but which also might be the single most important assignment for any given moment of our lives.

That word is AVoDaH and one revealing example of its usage is this:

And they (the Egyptians) embittered their (the Israelites) lives with hard work, with mortar and bricks, and with all work in the field; all their work at which they worked them was with harshness.
(Exodus 1:14)

Every instance of the word ‘work’ in that verse, employs the Hebrew word Avodah. It suggests subjugation and servitude and certainly doesn’t sound like a positive word. It actually sounds like something you desperately want to avoid.

Don’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion. Let’s learn another Hebrew word for work – MeLaCHaH. Understanding it will make all the difference.

We find both words for work combined in the Fourth Commandment, instructing us to remember the Sabbath day.

Six days shall you work(AVoDaH) and do all your work (MeLaCHaH)…
Exodus 20:9

Why do we need both words? God is giving us a tremendously significant message. MeLaCHaH is the creative work that transforms our world and uplifts our lives, while Avodah is work that lacks that exciting element. Yet we do not get to do MeLaCHaH if we don’t first do our Avodah.

Life in Egypt was tough precisely because slaves have only Avodah with no possibility of MeLaCHaH. But don’t dream that you can enjoy MeLaCHaH without Avodah. Integrating the two types of work makes everything possible.

There is little as exciting as seeing one’s toddler blossom into a responsible youth and thriving adult with whom you share a close relationship. Achieving that requires many hours of consistent and sometimes unpleasant parenting (along with much prayer and blessing).

Making the big sale is thrilling. Hours of application, hard work, disappointment and dedication precede the excitement. Playing to a full house is thrilling, but years of perseverance lead to that moment.

Fortunately, we don’t need to wait years for the fulfillment of MeLaCHaH. Each of our days—and as the Fourth Commandment reveals, our weeks—holds both types of work. However, we do best knowing that the way the world really works, we should tackle the mundane and difficult with zest, for without it we will never achieve MeLaCHaH. We should rejoice in Avodah rather than resenting it.

One way to turn the ‘daily grind’ into the ‘daily greatness’ is to get a true appreciation of the nobility, dignity and opportunity of work, along with tips for achievement. One of the very best roadmaps for this purpose is our audio CD Boost Your Income: The Three Spiritual Steps to Success. (Check out this week’s special sale price.) As my friend, the late Zig Ziglar explained, you need to hear wisdom repeatedly just as you need to bathe repeatedly.  Listen to this life-changing program again and again and share it with someone you wish to bless. Turn the struggle to make a living into a thrilling, satisfying and successful quest.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Suds and Citizenship

This may not be culture threatening, but I couldn’t find my notebook this morning. Despite increasing reliance on my computer, I am still partial to the college-ruled notebooks that are available for about ten cents apiece during August back-to-school sales. Having started a new one yesterday it was particularly irksome that it wasn’t in its appropriate place.

After running through possible scenarios…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Is there a difference between mercy killing and suicide? Will God forgive that person?

Jerry T.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Of Suds and Citizenship

January 8th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

This may not be culture threatening, but I couldn’t find my
notebook this morning. Despite increasing reliance on my computer, I am still
partial to the college-ruled notebooks that are available for about ten cents
apiece during August back-to-school sales. Having started a new one yesterday
it was particularly irksome that it wasn’t in its appropriate place.

After running through possible scenarios and settling on the
idea of an intruder breaking in during the night and spiriting away my
notebook, I retraced my steps and there it was, exactly where I had looked ten
minutes earlier. Obviously, a repentant thief was making amends.

Finding the book allowed me to continue my quest for a new
dishwasher. After years of dependable hard labor while our house was full of
growing children, the machine gave up under the gentle regime of empty nesters.
While I don’t mind doing dishes by hand, something is awry with the water
connection so that I need to bail out the useless dishwasher twice a day to
avoid kitchen flooding. Finding a replacement seems to be the simplest
solution.

I have read of immigrants from the old Soviet Union being
overwhelmed when facing American supermarket shelves. They are almost paralyzed
by the multiple choices and varieties of each type of item. That’s about where
I am in looking for a dishwasher. Not only are there numerous brands, each with
dozens of model numbers, but, unless you are talking way above my price range,
most reviews are negative. That isn’t surprising. If you are happy with your
dishwasher, you spend your time washing dishes. If you are unhappy, you seek
revenge, posting scathing reviews while on hold with appliance repair.

Hence, my need for the notebook, which already had a page
filled with model numbers crossed out. I certainly didn’t want to start from scratch
today. What I most likely will end up doing will be to chuck all the research,
go to a local appliance store and rely on the advice of a salesman (and yes, I
know that the salesman might be female and trust your intelligence to read the
“man” part in the broadest sense of the word).

However, all of this leaves little time for ruminating on
the state of the world or even for being appalled at the day’s headlines. It precludes
attending my local city council hearing or writing letters to my senators and
representatives. Having no dictatorial powers, I don’t think that I am
imitating Nero’s (mythical?) fiddling while Rome burned. Nevertheless, it
certainly is true that cherishing a marriage, nurturing a family, running a
business and taking care of the daily ins and outs of life, make finding a
missing notebook easier than putting in the effort required to be an informed
and  involved citizen activist. One of
the threats facing our culture is that those citizens who are not doing much of
the above have more time at their disposal than those who do.  

 

 

 

The Severed Flower

January 1st, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

If I cut a beautiful flower off its plant and bring it indoors, I seem to have done a clever thing. No longer need I step outside to enjoy the bright colors and intoxicating fragrance  – it’s right there on my desk.

However, the next day I notice the flower is less colorful and its perfume a little fainter. Later the flower fades and shrivels. Its sisters out in the garden are still magnificent.  This is the sad secret of the severed flower.

The fragrant flower of civilization is frighteningly fragile. While connected to its Judeo-Christian roots, all is well.  About fifty years ago there began a process of severing America from its roots. The process of secularizing our culture continues today.

At first it seemed clever. No longer were we confined by the rules and restraints of religion. No longer did we have to think of cosmic right and wrong.

But gradually we began to shrivel and gradually we began to fade.  Sadly, life in America has become more expensive, vulgar and alienated. Yet one great distinction stands between a flower and our culture: we can be reattached to our religious roots.

Those religious roots nurture three areas:

First, marriage.  Would marriage have evolved naturally?  Would a man or a woman have thought of it first?  Men are happy to date for years.  Seldom does the man say, “Darling, we ought to be thinking about our future?”

Maybe a woman first said to a man, “I have this great idea – why don’t we create something called marriage?” He replied, “What’s marriage?” She said, “It’s easy. You stop looking at other women and when I have a baby, you take care of us – hey, come back I’m not finished talking.”

Clearly marriage has its roots in God’s Biblical blueprint. Without the first chapters of Genesis, few would be getting or staying married. As faith has diminished in America, so has the strength and stability of marriage.

Money is the second area in which our religious roots sustain us.  Without the lens of faith, we would view money as only physical.  A physical object, say a book, can only be in one place at a time. But spiritual things like, say, a tune can be on a thousand lips at once.

If I hear you whistling a song and I start whistling it too, I am taking nothing from you. But if I take your book you no longer have it.  Well, if money is physical, then the only way to get it is by taking it. For every dollar that I have, someone somewhere has one less. But if money is spiritual, like a tune, it is brought into existence afresh without taking anything from anyone else. Truly, we don’t take money, we make money. Your dollars symbolize how you serve other people.

Manners is the third area in which the Bible anchors us to our roots. The basics of what we consider good manners spring from the first chapter of Genesis.   Behaving like an animal erodes the separateness that God gave us from the animal kingdom. We refrain from making noises, scratching ourselves in public or eating like animals to emphasize our humanness.

Our lives are immeasurably improved by living in a society where marriage is the crucible of the next generation, where money exists and wealth created, and where human interaction is lubricated by manners and civility. Severed from our Judeo-Christian Biblical roots we risk losing all that and everything that flows from it.

Now more than ever, we must replant the severed flower. The society in which we live affects our families, health, happiness and prosperity.  We can each participate in renewing it by learning and spreading powerful Biblical insights from ancient Jewish wisdom. As the year 2013 starts, let’s commit to increasing Bible study. I suggest our audio CD set Madam, I’m Adam as an exciting place to start.  It probes more deeply into some of the principles mentioned above and many others. To help you begin, we are offering it for only $19.95 this week.

(Hurry to take advantage of the Thought Tool Set remaining on sale for 24 hours more as well.)
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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Downsizing the Bill of Rights

Maybe I’m telling you something you already know, but I just discovered a disturbing trend. With an empty nest, my supermarket shopping tends to be light these days. As such, I treat it as a welcome break in my schedule, a chance to chat with neighbors and be away from the computer. Today, however, I paid attention while I was shopping, and I certainly didn’t like what I saw.

While I have been aware of prices going up for quite a while, today I realized…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

As one of your Christian readers, I have learned many fascinating life lessons as you explain the Old Testament scriptures. I am glad to be one of your students.

One topic I have always wanted to know more about is what makes food kosher and its importance. I see kosher foods often in my own pantry, but would appreciate your explanation.

Tom D.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Downsizing the Bill of Rights

January 1st, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

 

Maybe I’m telling you something you already know, but I just
discovered a disturbing trend. With an empty nest, my supermarket shopping
tends to be light these days. As such, I treat it as a welcome break in my schedule,
a chance to chat with neighbors and be away from the computer. Today, however,
I paid attention while I was shopping, and I certainly didn’t like what I saw.

While I have been aware of prices going up for quite a
while, today I realized that at the same time, packaging has been getting smaller.
My 64 oz. container of orange juice? It’s now 59 oz. The packages of cocoa that
I like keeping in the pantry? They are no longer ten to a box, but instead
there are only eight. Not only am I paying more, but I am also getting less.

Really, this is just a reflection of what’s going on in
general. When taxes go up, as they will be doing, I get less income for the
same amount of work. When employees need to spend time dealing with more
regulations and paperwork, as they will, businesses make less profit even if
they have same amount of sales. Even if all our 2013 calendars show a
twelve-month period, less of it will be available for productive and rewarding
work.

Constitutional principles are shrinking as well. Do you
remember learning that freedom of religion was a basic First Amendment right?
Try asking David Green, owner of the Hobby Lobby chain of stores about that
one. As Obamacare rolls in, with its contraception and morning after pill
mandates, the company is finding that it needs to choose between allegiance to the
little ‘g’ of government or to the big ‘G’ of God. While many Americans do not
believe that the morning after pill is a form of abortion, many business owners
do—and one has to think that if they had known of such a thing, most of the
original supporters of the Bill of Rights would have agreed. Either way,
freedom of belief means that each of us should be able to follow our own
consciences on that issue. Yet, the government is declaring that only religious
institutions may cite freedom of religion in in choosing not to provide those
items for their employees. Hobby Lobby’s case that a private business owner is
also entitled to freedom of religion is rolling through the courts. Meanwhile, the
company has announced that it will not comply with the new regulations and
faces gargantuan daily fines. Hundreds of other Christian and religious
business owners are similarly being forced to defy the government or betray
their own convictions.

Let me get this straight. We already know that many in
government believe that the second amendment applies only to government, rather
than to protect the individual’s right to bear arms.  Now the argument is being advanced that the
first amendment should apply only to religious organizations rather than to
individuals. Perhaps they believe that a business owner doesn’t actually own the
business but rather that he or she manages it for the government.  Why don’t they just scrap the entire Bill of
Rights?

In the grand scheme of things, a smaller orange juice
container seems like a petty annoyance. It actually isn’t. If I buy less, and
if I am representative of other consumers, an industry suffers. If I buy the
same quantity and so have less money available for other purchases, the economy
still suffers. Nevertheless, those consequences are manageable. If the Bill of
Rights shrinks, much deeper trouble than supermarket sticker shock awaits us.