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Monthly Archives: July, 2014

The Obamacare Version of Gaza

July 31st, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

Did you receive a letter that looks like this from your health insurance provider?

Dear Susan Lapin (obviously, it would be your name here, not mine),

It has come to our attention that you did not vote for Barack Obama either in 2008 or in 2012. For this reason, you are not responsible for the Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare. Since you are an innocent victim of this law, we will be reducing your premium to its previous rate and not limiting your coverage as we are forced to do to most of our subscribers.

Sincerely,

Your health insurance

You didn’t get such a letter? Neither did I. When we are citizens of a nation and its leaders institute faulty policies, everyone suffers. I am not really an innocent victim; I am part of a group and affected by those group dynamics. If I realized the ramifications of the last vote, perhaps I would have worked harder, spent more time and money and been more vocal in the last election cycle. Even had I done more, the candidate whom (although I was deeply disappointed in him) I thought was hands-down the better choice might still have lost. That is reality.

The liberal press and government seems to understand this when it comes to Obamacare and other policies of this administration. Otherwise, letters like the one above would be standard and anyone who didn’t vote for the winner of an election would be exempt from that person’s policies. Why then, are the liberal press as well as America’s president and his officials so focused on the ‘innocent victims of Gaza’? The Palestinians elected into leadership a terrorist party openly obsessed more with the destruction of Israel than with the welfare of its citizens. Yes, it is tragic when a newborn Gazan baby is killed whether or not his father chose to store missiles in his nursery. However, his death isn’t due to the Israeli Defense Force, but a consequence of his parents’ ideology. What if his parents are among the few, extraordinarily brave ones who oppose Hamas? (Brave because such people are usually executed by Hamas.) Sadly, the baby is still part of a group that elected to go the wrong way. That is reality.

The lowest projection of how many residents of Dresden, Germany lost their lives in the Allied bombing during W.W.II.  is 25,000. Estimates range up to over 100,000. It is reasonable to assume that not every one of those killed or injured voted Hitler into power and that some citizens might have actively belonged to resistance organizations. Certainly, there were infants and babies among the dead. They were part of a group that opted for evil and so they suffered.

In World War II, American fighters had to adjust to the reality of kamikaze pilots who dive-bombed American ships, aiming to kill everyone aboard. Instead of assuming that the enemy wanted to stay alive as much as American soldiers did, the Japanese were eager to embrace death as long as they took Allied forces with then. America did its best to shoot down kamikaze pilots. Had each kamikaze pilot taken along an infant on his suicide flight, would American sailors have held their fire? Not if the country wanted to survive. It would have been tragic, but only fools, terribly naïve people, or enemies of America would have laid responsibility for the infant’s death at the feet of the U.S.A.

In a world where we are inter-related, being an innocent victim isn’t so simple. That is reality.   Or, if you prefer, innocent victim are often the victims of foolish and/or evil rulers, not of whoever pulls the trigger.

The phrase “innocent victim” implies both a degree of randomness as well as a moral high ground vs. the one causing the damage. We can be truly horrified at the death of children without making the mistake of assuming that those who control them automatically hold the moral high ground. We often prosper and suffer based on the actions of those around us. That is reality and why it is so important to vote and speak up, standing firmly and unequivocally for what is right.

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Reality through the lens of Scripture

July 29th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Confidence is to arrogance what self-respect is to self-esteem. The former is the result of achievement; the latter is hollow chest beating. The former inspires; the latter repels. Confidence breeds success while arrogance is a symptom of impending failure. Arrogant people abuse both family members and business associates, yelling at them and belittling them. Confident people treat everyone with respect. Arrogant people view all human relationships in terms of acquiring power and authority. Confident people know that moral prestige trumps power and authority.

A crucial lesson about how the world REALLY works is embedded within every Scriptural account. The Bible is not a series of stories about long-forgotten people engaged in irrelevant activities for readers with nothing better to do but a guide to reality. One consistent Biblical message is that the prophet of God overrules even the king.

Regular readers of Thought Tools know that when a (Hebrew) word appears exactly seven times within a Tanach tale, it provides a crucial clue. Only two words in Chapter 5 in the 2nd book of Kings appear seven times: LIFNEI, meaning before and implying subservience, and ADON meaning master, implying authority. This entire account revolves around power and subservience.

The opening verse sets the theme:

And Na’aman, the army general of the king of Aram was a great man, (subservient) before his master…

(II Kings 5:1)

 And the Arameans…kidnapped from the land of Israel a young girl and she was (subservient) before Na’aman’s wife

(II Kings 5:2)

 Na’aman, a leper, reports to his master, the king of Aram, that this Jewish slave recounts that the prophet in Israel can cure his leprosy. The Aramean king, assuming that all is under the power and authority of the king in Israel, just as it is in Aram, sends a request to Israel’s king that he arrange for the prophet to effect the cure. However, the king of Israel, knowing that he has no power over a prophet of God, is dismayed.

Elisha, the prophet, hears and sends a message summoning Na’aman to him. Na’aman who was willing to subordinate himself to a king is haughtily unwilling to do so for merely a prophet. When he arrives at Elisha’s house he doesn’t even dismount his chariot because entering someone’s home or office as a guest or supplicant means making yourself subservient (II Kings 5:9)

In response, Elisha sends a message directing Na’aman to immerse in the Jordan. Na’aman indignantly retorts that Elisha should have personally emerged to heal him and furthermore back in Damascus he has rivers better than the Jordan. Observe the ongoing clash between power and authority versus humility and subservience.

Na’aman’s servants persuade him to obey Elisha and after bathing in the Jordan, he is cured. Whereupon he returns to Elisha but this time the text emphasizes that Na’aman appeared before (subserviently) Elisha (II Kings 5:15). He then proclaims his newfound faith in the God of Israel and wants to bless Elisha with gifts. Elisha, again using the Hebrew word for before, LIFNEI, rejects the gifts, asserting his subservience to God.

The story ends with Elisha’s own servant, Gaychazi, being cursed with eternal leprosy when he shows arrogance instead of subservience to his master, Elisha.

In ancient Hebrew wisdom, the disease TZARA’AT, translated as leprosy, is a psychosomatic disorder in which the spiritual condition of arrogance produces physical manifestations. Confidence is earned through subservience to God, breeding humility and respect to all those who are part of one’s life.

Now that you’ve gained a glimpse into this enchanting chapter, take time to read it carefully paying special attention to the submission/authority theme throughout. Not only will it enthrall you but it will help train your soul to read Scripture in the way that allows deeper meaning to make the leap from the page to your heart.

If you enjoy digging deeper into Biblical verses that illuminate reality as it relates to your life, marriage and children as well as national and international headlines, you will want to explore our Genesis Journeys Set. Scripture comes to life as ancient Jewish wisdom and the Hebrew language reveal hidden gems. Right now, the set is temporarily available at an amazing low price making now the perfect time to benefit from it.

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Turnabout is Fair Play – But Not Allowed

July 24th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

I smiled when I read the Wall Street Journal headline, “When the Female Customer Perplexes the Techie Male CEO.” Without reading a word, I knew that the article would resonate. Invariably, my husband and I are drawn to different types of web sites, packaging and marketing. The standard disclaimer that each individual is unique doesn’t obscure the fact that our inclinations represent those of a larger proportion of our gender.

The article interviewed CEOs of burgeoning online hobby, craft and fashion businesses, some of whom were initially shocked to find that their most fervent customers were women. John Levisay, CEO of Craftsy Inc., began expanding online crafting classes when they drew more attention than the golfing ones he thought would be popular. Ben Silbermman, co-founder of Pinterest intended it as a showcase for collections such as his childhood insect one, and found that women flocked to the site eager to share decoration and recipe ideas.

Not surprisingly, these CEOs and others found that the way they naturally tended to do things didn’t necessarily match what their customers really wanted. According to the WSJ, Nicole Shariat Farb who also founded a craft e-commerce company said, “It’s not that a male founder or a male CEO automatically is precluded from doing a good job of running a company for women. But they are precluded from understanding their customer on an instinctual level.”

That sentence didn’t raise my hackles. Yet I can’t help thinking that if someone said exactly the same sentence replacing the word “male” with “female” and the word “woman” with “man” he or she would be attacked. In a hysterically politically correct climate, we aren’t even allowed to suggest that there is such a thing as men’s interests.

Once again, the marketplace reveals the realities that intellectual and political Pooh-Bahs insist on ignoring. How refreshing.

I have received a number of emails asking how to stand with and help Israel. In addition to prayer, I recommend looking at the work of www.oneisraelfund.org.  Also, find an honest and morally driven source of news. Becoming well educated is needed for politely but firmly rebutting false propaganda.

Gain deeper insight into the conflict by listening to Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam. It remains on sale for only a few more hours.

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ICU Seeking Creativity

July 22nd, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I see you.  I see you seeking creativity.  I see you sitting glumly with your elbow on the table and your chin resting in the palm of your hand.  I see you staring wildly around the room hoping to spot an idea in the corner crevice.  Are you trying to come up with a unique theme for a birthday party you’re throwing?  Are you struggling to conceive a business start-up idea?  I don’t know.  That much I can’t see.  After all, I’m not a seer, just a rabbi.

However, even as a rabbi, I know that several times each week you seek a great idea because great ideas greatly improve our lives.  This means that you need every possible strategy and technique for attracting powerful ideas into your mind.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of books and blogs detailing tips and tools for generating ideas: Calendar a specific time and set an alarm to terminate the session.  Make it quiet time with no electronic distractions.  Pencil and paper will do more for you than tablet or smartphone.  Discipline your mind not to wander or daydream but to focus only on possible solutions to the problem.  Calendar a second creative thinking session the following day allowing ideas to percolate in your subconscious overnight.  You probably already know most of these ideas.

However, one indispensable element of truly creative thinking is largely unknown. Its absence is usually most responsible for failure.  It makes all the difference between a productive creative session and wasted time.

The one absolutely necessary ingredient for successful creativity is having a heart filled with happiness.  When joyfulness overwhelms your soul, the gates of limitless mental creativity swing wide open.

In order to understand how this works, read these three verses that seem to repeat the same idea.

Three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord God.
 (Exodus 23:17)

Three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.
 (Exodus 34:23)

…thou shall rejoice in your feast…and in all the work of your hands…three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord your God in the place which He shall choose; in the festival of unleavened bread (Passover), in the festival of weeks (Shavuot/Pentecost), and in the festival of booths (Sukot)…
(Deuteronomy 16:14-16)

Readers who think the Bible is the work of assorted human authors must ask themselves why some early editor didn’t remove two redundant verses.  After all, how many times does anyone need to be told something?

Those of us comfortable knowing that God authored His book, ask what secret message is encoded into the triplicated message. We got it the first time—males must pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year.

Three times a year?  Message repeated three times?  Hmmm…ancient Jewish wisdom to the rescue.

A general rule in understanding the Torah is that repeating messages ascend in importance.  The first verse matches Passover. God took us out of Egypt; He’s the Boss. If He says to go up to Jerusalem, we go.

The second verse relates to Shavuot (Pentecost), the time of the giving of the Torah. God is our God – there is a close relationship.

Mention of rejoicing and productivity precede the third verse. We go up not only to follow orders, not only because we crave a close relationship with God, but also as an expression of joy and fulfillment.

That’s it!  If you are happy, you will be productive enough to appear before the Lord bearing gifts.  The three festivals all emphasize gratitude to God, and few things contribute more to a feeling of happy optimism than expressing gratitude.  But that’s not all; each festival also highlights its own mechanism for inculcating a happy feeling in our hearts.  Passover is all about visualizing a spirit of redemption.

The Passover Seder teaches that we must each see ourselves as emerging from Egypt to freedom.  Therefore, seeing success in our mind’s eye is the first step in bringing about a happy heart.

Shavuot is about seven weeks of progress, journeying from the depths of Egypt to the sublime heights of Sinai. Hence, the second step trains us to plan detailed steps that can take us from where we are to where we want to be.

Finally, Sukot is all about happiness and water.  One of the Torah messages of water is that it flows to the lowest point; a metaphor of humility.  When we lower ourselves from an elevated posture of arrogance, water, which in Torah nomenclature evokes both wisdom and happiness, flows in our direction.

Those are the four steps to a soulset conducive to creativity.  Once you are all set up for a session of creative thinking:

1)    Evoke gratitude
2)    Imagine how you’ll feel when you have come up with a successful solution
3)    Visualize the stepping stones to get to the solution you need.
4)    Arouse your humble persona.

These four steps will fill your heart with an indescribable joy and thereby equip you for the most successful creative thinking session of your life.

In my mind, I am confident that I do us both a favor by identifying for you the ancient Jewish wisdom resources that will benefit your life.  For more on happiness and productivity see my book, Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language. Delve into the Hebrew words and capture the added wisdom embedded in God’s language. Read more about it here.

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The Real Iron Dome

July 17th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 11 comments

I was going to explain why I didn’t post a Musing last week, but instead feel the need to spill out some of what is in my heart on a completely different topic. Like many others, I love this drawing.

Israel's Iron Dome cropped (Medium)
If you haven’t heard of the Iron Dome, it, along with the broad availability of bomb shelters, is the physical explanation for why there have been more Gazan casualties than Israeli ones in the past few weeks. For years, Israel allocated human and financial resources to protecting its civilians and cities from rocket attack. In contrast, the rulers in Gaza deliberately place their civilians in dangerous situations, especially women and children. Then they aggressively target Israel’s women and children, provoking an Israeli response.  They then relish the photo ops that allow them to manipulate public opinion. The publicity is worth more to them than their people’s lives. (As Dennis Prager says, “Imagine that during World War II, the Western press had converged on German hospitals and apartment buildings and repeatedly announced the huge disparity between German civilian deaths and British civilian deaths. More than 10 times the number of German civilians were killed as were British — but did that have anything at all to do with the morality of the British war against Germany?”)

With family members and my people under fire, I am immensely grateful for the Iron Dome and for God who gave wisdom to its builders. Yet, as the above drawing indicates, I know that the Iron Dome is worthless without God’s Hand.

At the same time, the wording under the drawing troubles me. You see, when the Jewish people are vulnerable, it is because we have violated our contract with God. We say in our prayers, “Because of our sins we have been exiled from our land…,” not, “Because of the Babylonians and the Greeks and the Romans we have been exiled from our land…”   This doesn’t absolve the enemies of the Jewish people from responsibility for their actions. Each nation and individual makes their own choices and must face the consequences. However, we cannot take God’s protection for granted – it is dependent on His people’s actions.  If He is sheltering us, no one can harm us; if He removes His shield, nothing can save us.

In this sense, God’s protection works on a national level. Righteous people and sinners are both caught up in unfolding events. The difficulty lies in pinpointing what causes God to judge us so harshly.

It is easy for me to be certain that God does not smile on a Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv. Surely, He cries as abortions take place in His land. It is easy for me to know that He is appalled at those individuals who profess to be ultra-religious, yet suffer child molestation or financial chicanery in their midst. Surely, He is revolted by dissension and fighting among those who meticulously observe his Shabbat and kosher dietary laws. What I do not know is if one of these things brings down more judgment more than any other does.

 It is even harder for me to accept my own responsibility for misbehavior. How disturbed is God at my breezing through prayer without paying attention to what I am saying and to Whom I am speaking? Maybe He is more bothered by my rushing through the supermarket and forgetting to say a kind word to the cashier or by my not greeting my husband with enough affection.  Perhaps something altogether different is what I personally need to correct, let alone what we as a nation must change. We have no Moses today to articulate God’s Word to us. There is no one holy or wise enough to say, “God will remove His protection if…”

 We are left with each one of us needing to try harder on as many fronts as we can while simultaneously pleading with God to have mercy on His (often clueless) children. We can and must be grateful to the Almighty for the incredible low number of casualties in Israel so far (and Moslems and Christians in Israel share in that miracle) while recognizing that no technology can work unless God’s guiding Hand is behind it.
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                           Want to understand more of what’s going on?

Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam

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Bones in Israel

July 15th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

The 100 million Moslems surrounding Israel often escalate their oft-stated desire to destroy six million Jews into action.  They dispatch murderers into Jewish neighborhoods, they launch sudden street attacks, and they shoot thousands of missiles into Israel’s population centers.  However, life in Israel continues.  Behold the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. (Psalms 121:4)

Whenever one of these periodic crises escalates, some Thought Tool readers ask me why I don’t devote a Thought Tool issue to the Israel situation.  The reason is because though it would be cathartic for me, it would do nothing for you, my loyal readers.  Yes, I have children living in Jerusalem, and yes, I would like to express my feelings about primitive barbarians imperiling their lives.  But that is not my mission.

There are many excellent writers who regularly illuminate Israel’s existential struggle.  My purpose each week is to provide you with a Bible-based nugget of ancient Jewish wisdom that you can deploy to enhance your quality of life.  I want it to be as relevant and as helpful to you today as it will be when you return to reread it ten or twenty years hence.  In other words, I don’t tie Thought Tools to current events.

Nonetheless, it is clear that spiritual strengths rather than physical forces shape Israel’s struggle to survive.  Her enemies could overnight transform their physical existence by laying down arms.  Many nations of the world would happily hand over billions of dollars and limitless economic, technical and medical aid to help build a new United Middle East.  With a real peace, average per capita income would skyrocket for the inhabitants of Egypt, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.  Their average life expectancy would climb meteorically.  Yet none of this matters.  Obliterating Jewish lives is more important than improving Moslem lives.

Why do Jews stay in Israel despite being surrounded by enemies?  Their material circumstances would dramatically improve if they emigrated to America, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, or Sweden that would reluctantly admit them as the price for an end to Middle East turbulence. Yet, to them, the spiritual significance of living on the land that God gave to Abraham as an eternal inheritance means far more than the physical goody-bags of a diaspora.  Both sides are driven, not by physical and material considerations but by spiritual imperatives.

Secular fundamentalists like to think of themselves as supremely rational. They argue that only the physically and scientifically quantifiable is important—only materialism matters.  Yet, two Yale psychologists, Drs. George Newman and Paul Bloom, proved that people do believe in the spiritual by analyzing estate auctions of the rich and famous. They realized that otherwise rational people willingly paid large sums of money for possessions previously owned by a celebrity.

The only way to explain this is that the buyers believe that some non-material quality of the former owner has been transferred to the item making it far more valuable than the identical item purchased new from a store.
Explaining the spiritual urge to murder Jews is outside the scope of this Thought Tool (though I do explain it in our audio CD program, Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam).

However, I do want to explore the unbreakable spiritual connection between Jews and the Land that God gave them.  It is also far more powerful than the connection between Marilyn Monroe and the purchaser of an ashtray she once owned.

And Moses took Joseph’s bones with him because he’d made the Israelites swear saying, ‘God will remember you and you must bring up my bones from here with you.’
(Exodus 13:19)

Wait!  Did Joseph really use the words that Moses reported?  Let’s see…

And Joseph made the Israelites swear saying, ‘God will remember you and you must bring up my bones from here.’
(Genesis 50:25)

Joseph didn’t actually say those last words, “…with you.” Why did Moses insert them?

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Joseph’s love for the Land of Israel was such that, no matter how long it took, he deeply desired ultimately to be buried there.  However, Moses understood that Joseph’s bones carried spiritual qualities.  Rather than doing Joseph a kindness by taking his bones to Israel, the bones would impart spiritual strength to the Israelites as they entered the land. Those bones were not going to leave Moses’ possession until, forbidden from entering the land, he passed on to Joshua the sacred mission of burying them in Israel.  Thus Moses remembered the instruction as including the words, ‘with you.’

And the Israelites buried the bones of Joseph which they had brought
up out of Egypt, in Shechem.
(Joshua 24:32)

In the year 2000, Moslem mobs razed and burnt Joseph’s tomb in the city of Shechem, known in Arabic as Nablus.

Did this inflict military damage? Of course not. This was not about material damage.  The destruction of Joseph’s tomb was meant to attack Israel’s soul, not her body.

Bones are not just dried calcium, they are spiritually linked to the person they once carried.  Yes, it is true—and not only bones.  We impart something of our spiritual reality to all the objects we own. We even spiritually mark items we touch.  That is why we feel violated when we discover that some stranger has been rifling through our belongings.  Though the hooligan may have inflicted no physical damage upon our keepsakes, his handling of them spiritually tarnished them.

The forces shaping the Middle East are spiritual, not physical, a fact not understood by the State Department or the U.N. The battle affects not only the Middle East but the rest of the world as well.  Why do they fight?  Will it ignite broader conflagration?  How will this all play out?  The more we understand God’s plan the more we can prepare ourselves for the end game. We hope that our audio CD program and study guide Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam will illuminate this mystical conflict for you.

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Let’s Get Together

July 9th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In the 1961 movie The Parent Trap as well as in its 1998 remake, two young girls at a summer camp loathe one another until they discover that they are really twins.  They then collaborate in a plot to bring their divorced parents back together again.

The movie worked well partially because of the genuine love that grows between the two girls even before they hit on the idea of restoring their broken family.  Authentic unity based on real connection can greatly further shared interests.

By way of contrast, when George and Sandra started dating they saw shared preferences, such as choosing the same dish at a restaurant, as a thrilling indication that they were meant to be together.  But in spite of liking the same food and having similar tastes in music and entertainment, their romance didn’t last long.

In the Middle East, two notorious groups, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, often act in concert and with all appearances of unity based on their shared hatred of Israel.  However they have fought one another before and will fight again.  An illusion of unity based only on shared interests can mislead both individuals and groups.

Seven weeks after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai in order to receive the Ten Commandments.

In their long journey through the desert, the Israelites camped many times.  With one exception, the Hebrew verb used for this camping is in the plural.  They, meaning many people, camped.  There is only one exception in which the singular verb is used:

…then Israel camped (singular) there by the mountain.
(Exodus 19:2)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that their submission to God and their eagerness to accept His Law unified them in a unique fashion. Hence the verb camped appears in the singular.  They camped as if they were one person, an utterly united people.

However, there is another interesting example of unity.  Perplexingly, their Egyptian pursuers were also unified:

…and the Children of Israel lifted up their eyes and behold Egypt is traveling after them…
(Exodus 14:10)

The verb traveling appears in its singular form. Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the Egyptians were also unified by their shared mission to capture the Israelites.

Israel’s unity leads to their becoming God’s people, winning their land and lasting destiny.  Egypt’s unity leads to drowning in the Red Sea, death and oblivion.  What is the difference between the two unities?

In the case of Israel, (Exodus 19:2) the Hebrew verb “and he camped” VaYiCHaN implying unity, appears before the word Israel.

However, in the case of Egypt, (Exodus 14:10) the Hebrew verb ‘is traveling’ NoSeA implying unity, appears after the word Egypt.

In other words, just before receiving the Ten Commandments, Israel was unified in preparation for their mission of receiving the Torah. The unification preceded their national identity and its mission.  Egypt’s national identity and its mission of hauling Israel back into slavery was the cause of its unity.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that love that is dependent upon some outside factor is temporary.  Once the outside factor no longer exerts its influence, the love vanishes.  However, love that is genuine lasts and imparts durability.

For this reason, Biblical marriage is based on commitment producing love rather than hoping that love will bring commitment.  Love based on attraction may or may not bring constant commitment but commitment will almost always bring lasting love.

Similarly, business partnerships between parties that feel real respect and affection for one another do better than those that are based only on shared interests.  Families whose members are bound by nothing but socio-economic commonalities are not the same as those bound by ties of deep love and filial obligation.

Thinking that there is a deep bond of affection, only to find that there isn’t one causes much heartbreak and disillusionment. Summer and the fall season frequently herald new living circumstances and making new acquaintances. Our store carries two books, Hands Off: This May be Love and I Only Want to Get Married Once, by acclaimed authors because we think that the easily accessible, often humorous wisdom in these books is so valuable. We urge you to read them and share them with others, especially young people who have the opportunity, with your help, of choosing smart, successful relationships.

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Choose Life

July 3rd, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

When a Jewish baby boy is brought into the covenant of Abraham on the eighth day of his life, parents are blessed by those present, “May you merit to bring him to Torah, to the wedding canopy and to good deeds.”

On Tuesday, three sets of Israeli parents brought their teenage sons to the cemetery. Kidnapped on their way home from school, these boys were murdered by those who raise their children with different expectations.

For centuries, the Middle East has threatened the civilized world and confounded successive American administrations. The crux of the difficulty is this: those who revere life cannot live in harmony with those who revere death.

An oft-repeated falsehood of intellectuals who scoff at the tooth fairy but are unaware that they too believe in fantasies, is that those joined in the sisterhood of motherhood share universal values. If only this were true. The mothers of Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Sha’ar raised their sons with prayers for peace on their lips. The mothers of their murderers live in a culture where children’s television shows—the equivalent of Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer—portray Jews as vermin needing extermination. In this culture, mothers and teachers lead toddlers in death chants.

The families of the murdered boys belong to a Jewish culture whose hospitals welcome Moslem children and adults, healing them with care and attention. The families of the murderers belong to an Islamic culture that distributes candies and cakes to celebrate the murder of Jewish children.

The adulation of violence and murder doesn’t target only Jews, of course. America suffered the twisted morality on 9/11. Christians in many countries feel it daily. The inter-tribal fighting in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere claims thousands of Moslems as well. When evil is loosed, borders disappear and no one is safe.

Focusing on how Israeli or western societies can improve is a worthy endeavor, but it is also a red herring. The worship of brutality, elevating hatred to a virtue, is independent of anything that good people do.

May the Almighty avenge the blood of Yigal, Gilad and Naftali. May the All-Present comfort the families among the mourners of Zion and Israel.

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For help understanding how good people start down a slippery slope that ends up with them supporting cruel and dangerous cultures you might want to go back to the origins of socialism – The Tower of Babel. 

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I’ve Been Working on the Railroad-Not

July 1st, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

The Second Continental Congress, acting as the national government of what was soon to become these United States, met in Baltimore from December 1776 until February 1777.  During this time, Baltimore was the largest seaport through which most of the young country’s imports and exports moved.  It wasn’t until the 1830s that New York supplanted Baltimore.

What was responsible for New York replacing Baltimore as the largest trading city in the country?  In my view it was nothing but a great big ditch about forty feet wide and four feet deep that stretched 363 miles from Albany on the Hudson River to Buffalo on Lake Erie.

It was the largest, most daunting and most expensive engineering project imaginable. Tens of thousands of men dug it with their picks and shovels.  The earth was moved by horses pulling primitive equipment.  The Erie Canal took eight grueling years of men relentlessly driving through limestone mountains and cutting through dense forest.  Rocks and tree stumps were blown up with black powder since dynamite would not be invented for another forty years.  It rose 600 feet from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes necessitating the construction of 48 magnificent stone locks to raise and lower boats.

The canal was completed in 1825 and began carrying passengers and cargo across New York State at a fraction of the cost of wagons.  The economy of New York grew meteorically as it rapidly became the busiest seaport in the country.

Though the Erie Canal was the defining engineering project of the 19th century, it was not the end but the beginning of grand projects in America.  Railroads quickly followed. The 20th century saw great bridges like the Golden Gate, the George Washington, and the Verrazano.  That century saw Americans building the world’s tallest buildings, the biggest dams, and the finest Interstate Highway system in the world.

Then America started sliding down the sordid slope of secularism. Grand construction ceased.  Is this a coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Consider these two conflicting verses written by King David:

…the earth and all that fills it is the Lord’s…
(Psalms 24:1)

The heavens are the heavens of the Lord; but He has given the earth to humans.  
(Psalms 115:16)

Well, which is it?  The earth and all in it belong to God or else He gave the earth to humans.  Either the earth is His or it is ours.  It can’t be both.

Or can it?  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that King David was not inconsistent nor did he write Psalm 115 after forgetting what he wrote in Psalm 24.  He was illuminating a timeless truth vitally necessary for understanding how the world REALLY works.

King David was explaining that to begin with, the entire earth and all it contains belongs to God.  However, if we, His children, trust Him, bless and thank Him, then he gives the earth to us.  Deep down, within the hidden recesses of our collective cultural souls, we recognize that if our relationship with God is strong and loving, we have a right to the earth.  We have a right to carve canals through its forests and mountains; we have a right to throw bridges across its gorges, gullies, and waterways.  We have a right to dam up the mighty rivers to provide food and power to great cities.  We have a right to sculpt highways across its landscapes.

However, should we reject Him and embrace a grotesque worldview that attempts to make us masters of the universe, paradoxically, masters is exactly what we don’t become.  Instead, we rightfully recognize that the earth and all that fills it has not been given to us.  Consequently, we cease all creative activities that improve a property. After all, these are typically performed only by owners, not the tenants or squatters that we have made ourselves.

Taking our place are countries in Asia and Africa, building the grand projects that improve the lives of millions.  Those bridges, buildings, dams and roads are for the most part, being built in countries whose populations are becoming more and more Bible-centric.  A coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Your life, like mine, is punctuated by grand projects.  Some of these concern your home, family, marriage or child-raising.  Other grand projects you’re working on involve making money and developing a business or career.  Just like the grand projects of nations, yours are also fueled by faith and carried on conviction.  The forces that sap the will of nations and individuals are not new. They first appear early in Genesis. Going beneath the surface of those verses can increase your determination and drive your results. Tower of Power-Decoding the Secrets of Babel does exactly that.  My experience and that of many friends is that studying this audio CD program and integrating its core, either alone or with family or team members will help you feel deserving of God’s blessing of productivity.  In order to make sure that as many of you as possible experience this amazing teaching, its price has been reduced for readers of this Thought Tool.  Enjoy and get airborne!

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