Monthly Archives: February, 2015

Creepy or Cool?

February 26th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

There I was, in the American Airlines club, awaiting a flight taking us from one event of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians to another, hurrying to complete one of these Musings. As I opened my computer, up popped a window telling me where I was and asking if I wanted to sign in. Is it creepy or cool that they knew where I was?

My life is enriched by technology. Super communication has tremendous benefits. I love ordering something online and it showing up two days later at my door. I appreciate getting back to work quickly when a computer technician shares my screen online, instantaneously pinpointing and solving a problem I’m having. I love staying in touch with overseas friends in real time. 

At the same time, these benefits come with side effects. Search online for a rug and for the next few days every time you visit a website a rug ad greets you. Go to a store’s website and get special offers from them over the next few days. You’ve surely had similar experiences. Our privacy is certainly being eroded We take it for granted that government agencies can spy on us anytime they wish and suspect that the law allows them to do so more easily than we would like.

Walt Disney most likely had no idea how much of a, “small, small world,’ we would occupy within decades of his theme park opening. Not only can we instantly be in touch around the globe but future generations will be able to access our lives in unprecedented ways

When we read correspondence between John and Abigail Adams or diary entries by those who lived through the Civil War, we gain not only historical information but human insights. Yet, these individuals or their children had the option of burning any documents that they did not want eyes other than their own to see. 

Have you ever thrown away unflattering or embarrassing photos? I have. Digital photos don’t disappear as easily and certainly items posted impulsively or immaturely on social media cannot be eliminated when wiser sentiments prevail. Being able to get a fresh start in life is increasingly becoming harder. Atonement, meaning being able to wipe away a past we consider reprehensible and start again is a vital part of a Bible-based world view.  It has saved many a life. Today’s techno-secular atmosphere makes this harder.  We walk around like Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons, the aura of dirt hanging over his head replaced by the detritus of our pasts hanging over ours.

There’s a bit of both creepy and cool, a Pandora’s box and a treasure chest in what man has created. Can we be trusted to use it wisely? 

  ATR cover 1896x 2625

Love Your Neighbor – Really?

February 24th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

One of the most frequently recurring questions that I am asked is this:  “Rabbi Lapin, I try to live my life as an upright and decent person and I try to make my decisions according to the Biblical code of good and evil but I often feel exploited.  Sometimes relatives count on my good nature as they ask to stay at my home for lengthy visits while they tour nearby vacation areas.   Other times co-workers ask for favors that go way beyond normal collegial cooperation.  I am at my wit’s end because I know they view me as a God-fearing, kind and compassionate Christian.  They assume that since I love them, I must agree to their requests. Sometimes, though, I find these requests excessive and I feel resentful.  I don’t see how I can refuse without appearing unchristian but I don’t like feeling resentment. How can I reconcile my self-expectations of love with those of other people in my life?”

Let’s face it. Loving others isn’t always easy.  Even loving one’s friends and relatives can sometimes be a bit demanding.  This is especially true when things begin to resemble a bottomless pit.  Imagine your neighbor borrowing your lawnmower in the name of your love for him, then demanding your hedge trimmer before he hosts a late night noisy party, always confident of your obligation to give him endless love.  When is enough, enough?

I sympathize.  The Bible does demand much from us.  What are we to do when others latch onto our moral commitment to behave agreeably and exploit it?  Well, today I want to do more than sympathize.  I want to provide you with a solution to the dilemma created by your faith and dedication to God’s word.

Clearly the one specific Bible verse causing this consternation is:

…and you shall love your friend as yourself, I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:18)

This verse appears problematic because a casual reading of it could imply that whenever I love myself enough to get me an ice-cream, I need to get you one too.  And you, and yes, you too!   Does it mean that when you purchase a lovely new outfit, you should buy one for each of your friends and neighbors as well?   Upon reflection, that does seem ridiculous, but if it is what the Scripture says, well…

Happily ancient Jewish wisdom comes to the rescue pointing out that the Hebrew text actually reflects that you must love your friend just as you would expect him to love you.  No more and no less.

In other words, would I expect my friend or neighbor to buy me an ice-cream whenever he gets one for himself?  No, of course not.  Would you expect your friend to get you a pretty new dress whenever she got one for herself?  No, of course you wouldn’t.  The message is clear; do not expect more love than you would deliver in the same circumstances.

Once we learn how to overcome the problem of limitless expectations on the part of those we love, learning how to love those among whom we live is very worthwhile.  It can help us love others once we realize that loving someone else “as yourself” does not mean you ought to love him as much as you love yourself, but as much as you’d expect him to love you.  Do things for other people in the name of your love for them, to the extent that you would expect them to do the same for you.

As soon as we apply these reasonable limitation on expectations, we can love fearlessly.  However we must remember why we should indeed love our friends at all.  The concluding phrase of Leviticus 19:18,  “I am the Lord,” reminds us that we are all God’s children and as such, we are all brothers and sisters and by that relationship, worthy of one another’s love.

One way to show love for each other, as well as to celebrate our being created by God, is to properly use the gift He uniquely gave to human beings – speech. When we speak rudely or use foul language in a public area, we are stating a lack of care for others.  When we use profanity among our friends and family, we degrade ourselves and them. In the process, as we show in our audio CD, Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak, we damage our economic chances as well as our opportunities for lasting love. An hour listening to this CD can change your future.

Peril cover 143

Uber Ethics

February 18th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

Miami Beach, particularly in a week when cities like Boston and New York are facing bitter winter weather, boasts a welcoming, palm-tree filled sight. The Atlantic Ocean bedecks itself in varying shades of blue, a deceptively benign looking body of water  which sporadically hosts Cuban refugees attempting perilous voyages in unseaworthy vessels. Over Presidents’ Day weekend a few hundred yards east from where these aspiring immigrants hope to land, the Miami Beach International Boat Show hosts some of the world’s most expensive and elegant yachts. 

FullSizeRender_3

That contrast between penniless, homeless people seeking sanctuary and prospective yacht owners examining multi-million dollar boats, is seen by many as proof of injustice and the need for income redistribution. Perhaps, it is proof of exactly the opposite.

My husband loves the Miami Boat Show. It is the equivalent, for him, of a fashionista attending New York’s fashion week or a geek attending Comdex. This year, some business meetings in Florida and fortuitously timed speeches in North Carolina (o.k., some gentle nudging helped these events fall out exactly at the right time) allowed us to route ourselves via Miami and wander the docks. As Miami is also home to many of N. America’s best kosher restaurants, we occasionally left the waterfront to eat. 

Thursday night, on a tight schedule to be on time for radio broadcasting, we hailed a cab back to our hotel after supper. A few nights later, we took the same route but this time used Uber. In between those two rides I read an article in the Miami Herald entitled, Uber debate takes on ethnic undertone. The first sentence reads as follows: 

“As debate rages in Broward County between traditional taxi companies
 and the new game in town, Uber, a disturbing undercurrent has emerged.” 

That undercurrent, the article implies, is racism and xenophobia. Uber’s drivers in Miami are more likely to be white and college educated than are taxi drivers. The implication is that Uber and its riders are prejudiced bigots.  Are they really? 

The bigot accusations stemmed from comments customers made complaining about taxi service. What terrible things were said? Passengers resented having drivers whose cars were dirty, whose English was inadequate and whose rides, they felt, were longer than necessary. All three of these criterion are subjective. Could the complaints stem from bigotry? Maybe. They could also stem from people who expect a certain level of cleanliness, who wish to communicate with their driver and who suspect that their fare was higher than necessary. 

The taxi ride we took on Thursday night cost us about $8. The taxi was clean, but we had trouble understanding what our driver said. He, whether maliciously or from ignorance, stayed in a lane where cars in front of him were stopping to make turns. The same ride with our Uber driver cost under $5, was quicker and included a pleasant conversation.

  FullSizeRender

Are we bigots? It is true that our taxi driver was a dark colored immigrant. But so was our Uber driver. In the short time we had together, he told us how, at age sixteen, he pleaded with his father in Haiti to let him leave for America. His father’s acquiescence  led to two years of labor in the Bahamas, followed by immigration to the United States. Our Uber driver, Frederick, waxed eloquently about the blessings of this country and the opportunities afforded to him. As we drove by the row of mega-yachts, he looked at them with pride, a symbol of what his children might be able to afford thanks to the free market in this country. Frederick also spoke resentfully of fellow immigrants who, he said, didn’t want to work hard as he had done.  

I don’t know anyone who is opposed to immigration. I know many people who are opposed to recruiting the resentful and the jealous, the violent and the American haters. How potential immigrants view this country’s wealthy citizens and events like the Miami International Boat Show- as enemies to be overcome or as wonders to be appreciated – speaks strongly as to whether they should be welcomed or not.  

What are the best boat tales in the Bible? Noah’s Ark and Jonah’s escape to Tarshish are two good contenders. Study them with adult intellect and find the hidden messages for your life. 

                                      OR
Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity (with lessons from Jonah)

 

 

 

 

Find Yourself in a Fish

February 18th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

What a blessing it is to bounce out of bed each morning on fire to fulfill one’s purpose for living.  One of the most potent antidotes to feeling low, miserable and even depressed is having a purpose, knowing it, and passionately propelling oneself towards it.

As an ardent boating enthusiast, I find the behavior of the Bible’s most famous mariner, Jonah, to be quite baffling.  At the height of a furious storm that threatened the very survival of their ship, the terrified sailors cast their cargo overboard to lighten the vessel.  Obviously, during such a tempest the safest location is high up on the struggling vessel from where escape might at least be possible.  That is why lifeboats are found on the upper deck.  Nobody in his right mind would voluntarily remain far down in the belly of the boat.

But Jonah descended down into the bilges of the ship, lay down and fell fast asleep.

(Jonah 1:5)

 Clearly this was a man without a worry in the world.  But don’t envy him.  Only the dead have no worries.  And that’s the clue.  To Jonah, dying was not that different from his living existence.  Jonah was an avoider of challenges.

God elevated Jonah and made him His prophet.  God dispatched him on a challenging mission to Nineveh.  Instead of confronting the challenge, Jonah elected to avoid it attempting to escape to Tarshish.

Jonah represents you and me.  He represents leaders in politics and in business.  He represents parents and preachers.  Jonah had been given a life mission by God.  Just like each of us, he had been given the gift of a real purpose for living.

From each of us, God expects specific performance and achievement in some specific mission.  After all, if God is to be taken seriously then He must be taken personally too.  We must each distill our own life experiences and our own spiritual adventures into the essence of what it is that we alone have been created to achieve.

Life itself demands no less, but the search is challenging, even dangerous, and the mission once found is always formidable.  Having problems and worries is a barometer of life. Confronting them is the elixir of immortality.  But Jonah preferred escape.

In reality, only one escape exists: view life as meaningless and seek solace in entertainment.  Distract ourselves to death.  Jews are fond of the toast, L’Chayim—to life!  What that really means is ‘affirm life’.  But the only way to affirm life is by embracing your moral mission with all its challenges.

Attempting escape means choosing an empty alternative and abandoning your own great moral challenge. It means a life in which the dull gray monotony of existence becomes almost indistinguishable from death.

Jonah tried to abandon his Divine destiny.  Instead of traveling to Nineveh as commanded, he attempted to evade his whole purpose for living by escaping to Tarshish.  Since evading one’s mission is an embrace of death, it is no wonder that Jonah was content to die in the sinking ship.

When we try to avoid our mission, it is not because we consider the attempt to be futile.  It is because nothing has awoken us.  Only one thing could awake Jonah to his destiny and help him find his redeeming mission in life:  three days in the belly of that fish.

It was an unimaginable place of wet darkness where Jonah huddled among the giant pulsing organs of life.  Was this living cave to become a grave—the end of his life, or was it to become a womb—the start of his real life?  It could have gone either way.  The choice was Jonah’s to make.

The one time in the Jewish calendar that the book of Jonah is read in synagogue is late in the afternoon on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  As the sun starts setting and the day of fasting is ebbing away, we read:

 Jonah left the city and sat at the east of the city.  He made himself a booth there…

(Jonah 4:5)

 It is quite impossible to read that verse without thinking of the Festival of Sukot, (sometimes called Tabernacles or the Festival of Booths) that commences just five days later.  The book of Jonah read on Yom Kippur actually hints at the forthcoming Sukot.

As if to parallel that chronology, of all the many laws governing conduct during the Day of Atonement, the final regulation, the last word as it were, is that Jews should commence building their booths for Sukot immediately following the conclusion of the fast.

The idea is that every day is connected to its yesterday and its tomorrow.  Rosh HaShana, New Year, is linked to Yom Kippur by the Ten Days of Repentance.  In turn, Yom Kippur is linked to the next holy day, Sukot by the final reading of the day, the Book of Jonah.

It is interesting that much of the ancient Jewish wisdom surrounding Jonah is disclosed in the tractate entitled Booths.  (Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkah Chapter V)  It is there that we discover Jonah’s identity and origins.  It turns out that he was the son of the widow who was Elijah the prophet’s landlady in the first book of Kings, chapter 17.   The lad had died and, in response to the entreaties of his bereaved mother, Elijah brought him back to life. Later in his life we encounter him as the prophet Jonah.  This helps explain why he seemed so fearless of dying during the storm.  After all, he had died once before and had been resuscitated once before—by Elijah the prophet.

The lesson to be learned is that there are three avenues to finding our mission and thrilling to our purpose.  First, dark and frightening days in the belly of the fish – tough experiences – have the potential either to bury us or birth us anew. Second, relating deeply to the interconnectedness of days.  If today lacks clarity, know that tomorrow will soon arrive. Finally, rebirth is possible.  The old Jonah died in that fish, just as he did as a lad.  In both cases, he was restored.  Finding our purpose is the same as being restored to life.  And bounding out of bed each morning is a joyful reaffirmation of the life you live.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, contains more life affirming messages to help us maximize our time on earth. Discover them in our audio CD Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity.

Day for Atonement front cover

Guest Musing: What Price Snowmageddon?

February 12th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 11 comments

A decades old stereotype exists of Jewish mothers wanting their sons to be doctors. That was never my dream. I wanted my son to stay true to his faith, finding fulfilling work with which he would contribute to the world. Ari majored in physics in college intending to enter the business world. After a few years of working in business as he was about to start an MBA he called us to ask what we thought of his going to medical school. He realized that he was most fulfilled in his volunteer activities, all of which centered around medicine.

After a grueling two year program that caught him up on all the pre-med science courses he hadn’t taken, he entered medical school, graduating last May. He is now an emergency room resident in NYC, where he sees first-hand both the successes and failures of our medical system. He is fulfilling my dream and, incidentally, I do get to say, “My son, the doctor.” 

 This winter he and many of his fellow doctors, along with nurses and other staff, slept overnight at the hospital in anticipation of the blizzard that wasn’t. Here are some of his thoughts.   

 

New York’s recent non-blizzard and the pre-emptive safety measures taken by Mayor de Blasio have been subjects of much conversation lately. Even before we were aware of just how lackluster a blizzard it would prove to be, his panicky press conferences and predictions of doom and gloom suggested that perhaps the mayor would do well to listen to “Let It Go,” from Disney’s “Frozen,” a time or two and adopt a small part of the fortitude demonstrated by teenage Elsa’s attitude toward snow and storms. 

There is no doubt de Blasio’s precautions took government nannying to unprecedented levels. Streets were closed to non-emergency vehicles, pedestrians were discouraged from walking outside, and for the first time in the 110 years of its existence, the NYC subway system was shut down for a snowstorm. Following the anti-climactic snowfall, I noticed a widespread and disturbing viewpoint that needs addressing. In conversations among friends, interviews in the media and no small number of social media postings, I have seen and heard comments such as these:

Better safe than sorry!

Would you have rather seen people dying if the blizzard had been as devastating as predicted?

Or in the words of Mayor de Blasio himself, “Would you rather be safe or unsafe?”

I have no doubt that the motivations of these speakers were entirely pure, but statements such as these reveal a fundamental problem that lies at the root of many of the poor policies consistently implemented by legislators at both the local and federal level. You may have heard a similar idea expressed with regard to other policies. For example, “Even if the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers decreases to one person per year, that would still be one person too many.” Or, “Of course we should install nets on the sides of the Golden Gate Bridge! If they stop just one person from committing suicide, then they will have been worth it.”

Of course, the flaw in these arguments is that they take into account only the benefits of these actions and disregard, or worse, don’t even consider, the costs. If one death from drunk driving were really one too many, there exists a very simple plan to guarantee an end to all motor vehicle related collisions: Ban motor vehicles. Or, if you’d prefer, install speed governors on all motor vehicles in the United States limiting their speeds to 5 mph. Contemplate the benefits! No deaths from motor vehicle collisions (the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people 5-34)! Reduced carbon dioxide production! Restored polar ice caps and a burgeoning polar bear population! However, no one in their right mind would implement this, because … wait for it … the cost is too high.

All suicides must be prevented? How much are you willing to contribute from your paycheck to erect nets at all sites frequented by suicidal jumpers? Ten dollars? One hundred dollars? One thousand dollars? The figure may be different for each of us, but there is no question that at a certain amount it is no longer worth the cost to you. To view this as a choice between saving lives or saving dollars is a fatal mistake. In the real world, money translates into lives. The money used to install nets might have been spent on other, more effective suicide prevention programs. Or it might have been earmarked for medical research, foreign aid, disaster relief programs, donations to charity, or any other number of life-saving possibilities.

When seat belts and airbags were made standard equipment, required by federal law, in all cars in the United States, the legislators had the best of intentions. After all, could anyone possibly be against saving lives? But did anyone consider the resulting price increase of those cars? Did anyone consider the newly arrived, poor immigrant or the young single mother who would be more than happy to drive a car without airbags that he or she could afford? What about the tax increase necessary to pay for the bureaucracy to enforce the new policy, which subsequently left less money in citizens’ pockets with which to hire employees? Nothing comes free; there is always a cost.

In the early 1990s, the New York State Department of Health instituted a cardiac surgery reporting system that identifies surgeons who have had poor surgical outcomes (e.g. patient deaths). Once again, in theory a terrific way to hold practitioners accountable and enable patients to make educated decisions about where to seek treatment. However, as an emergency room physician, I see the cost of this exacted on the very patients it was intended to help. Interventional cardiologists frequently refuse to operate on those patients who are the sickest and most in need of intervention because the likelihood is that the patient won’t survive and that death will then go on their record. Studies have demonstrated that 83 percent of interventional cardiologists in New York agree that the publishing of these statistics has led to patients in need of these procedures being less likely to receive them.

Time magazine estimated the cost of Mr. de Blasio’s recent blizzard shut-down to be $500 million to $1 billion, while a Moody’s Analytics preliminary report came in at a conservative $200 million. These financial costs do not even begin to encompass the myriad other losses caused by the travel bans. Struggling business owners, hourly employees working to make ends meet, tourists who had saved and scrimped to afford a New York City vacation, brides and grooms whose weddings had to be canceled last minute – all suffered real losses as a result of this policy.

At the Manhattan hospital where I work, ambulances, instead of standing ready to respond to civilian emergency calls, were diverted to transport me and my colleagues to work. To my knowledge this change did not result in any direct loss of life, but did it result in longer wait times for ambulances? Could it conceivably have resulted in loss of life or in a decline in the quality of medical care? Add to this the number of medical staff who were stuck attempting sleep on cots in the hospital hallways to ensure that they’d make their morning shifts, whose competence and proficiency inevitably suffered.

These accountings need to be factored against the possible lives saved before one can argue that the pre-emptive shut-down was warranted. And let’s not forget that we’re talking about New Yorkers, some of the toughest and most self-reliant citizens in this great country. A city that has braved and survived terrorism, hurricanes and Big Gulp sodas. As Elsa would say, “Let us go, Mayor. The cold never bothered us anyway.”

When all the factors are taken into account (financial costs, quality of life costs, health and well-being costs), I do not know whether the travel bans were justified by their potential benefits. For the purposes of this argument, the answer is largely irrelevant. What is important is that we understand that every decision has a cost, and that unless that cost is weighed against potential benefits, it is impossible to arrive at a wise decision. To think otherwise is foolhardy, disastrous and short-sighted. None of this should come as a surprise. These are calculations that all of us make all of the time in our professional and personal lives, weighing risk and reward, cost and benefit. It is only in government, where Mayor de Blasio and politicians of his ilk are playing with our pocketbooks, that they are able to proudly proclaim policies without regard to costs. The rest of us, the ones who actually pay for their misguided policies, can’t afford that luxury.

Ari Lapin is an emergency medicine physician and entrepreneur living in Manhattan who writes on politics and culture. This piece appeared on World Net Daily.

If you are snowed in, use your reading time wisely.
Two great books at one low price 

Business book set

 

You’re a One Hit Wonder, Jezebel

February 10th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Have you ever found yourself entranced by the video game, Angry Birds?  You might have thought that the stock of the company, Rovio, that started with the launch of that strangely addictive activity would be soaring as high as its colorful avian projectiles.  Not so; in fact it never came up with any subsequent games even remotely as popular.

That Thing You Do” was a moderately successful 1996 movie about a teen-age band in a small Pennsylvania town that achieves stardom with their eponymous hit song.  It was their first and last hit.  It was pretty much also the first and last directorial of well-liked actor, Tom Hanks.

You know those hideous rubber shoes that come in fluorescent colors? Well, the company that innovated that particular fashion accessory once enjoyed a stock price of about $70 but for years it has hovered around $10.  Those shoes apparently were the company’s only achievement. Since then profits have plummeted.

There was a time when over 4 million people had a television watching device called a Tivo, made by a company of the same name.  At its peak the company stock sold for about $60, but for quite a while it’s been down around $10.  The brains who came up with that innovative TV accessory have not come up with anything else and meanwhile viewers have fled Tivo for newer alternatives.

Let’s not even look at Cabbage Patch Kids, Rubik’s Cubes or Pet Rocks. We’ve seen any number of one hit wonders that come out of nowhere, capture everyone’s attention, then just as quickly turn into attic clutter.  It even happens to people.

Meg Whitman took the reins at eBay in 1998, where she soon took it public and made it one of the most valuable companies on the Internet.  After ten great years at eBay she ran for governor of California, losing to career politician, Jerry Brown, in November 2010.  Hewlett Packard then picked her to head the giant computer company.  Things haven’t gone well.  HP stock is way down.  Bloomberg LP dubbed Meg Whitman the most underachieving CEO.  Another one hit wonder?

Ron Johnson was hired by Steve Jobs to create those sleek gadget-filled Apple stores.   Opening 300 stores with incredibly high average sales per square foot, Ron made Apple Stores the top American retailer.  Johnson seemed a miracle merchandiser but he was really a one hit wonder.  He next signed up as CEO of J.C.Penney. Seventeen months later, the giant retailer was in ruins and Ron Johnson was fired.

In general, it seems a far better plan to build a company on an ethos of constant improvement and innovation than basing strategy upon one individual or product with early stupendous success. It is certainly better to consistently provide attention and create good memories with children rather than providing one spectacular vacation week a year.

Where in ancient Jewish wisdom is this principle taught?  It’s time to revisit I Kings 18 & 19.

The wicked king and queen, Ahab and Jezebel led Israel into idolatry, worshipping the Baal.  God’s prophet, Elijah, challenged four hundred and fifty false prophets to have their god bring fire down to their sacrifice. They failed while God brought fire which consumed Elijah’s sacrifice.  This signaled a colossal defeat for Ahab and Jezebel which was compounded when Elijah brought a rainfall, ending a devastating drought.  This was the end of the false prophets and Israel returned to the Lord.  This has to have been the triumphant high point of Elijah’s life.

Then two astonishing things happen.  First, Jezebel sends a message to Elijah promising to kill him on the next day.  Second, Elijah falls into utter dejection.  He flees into the desert and prays for God to take his soul.

If Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah why didn’t she just do it today? Why telegraph her intentions of killing him tomorrow?  Furthermore, with his stunning success over the Baal and bringing Israel back to God, why was Elijah so depressed?

The clue is the verse that directly follows the queen’s threat.

And he [Elijah] saw and he arose and went towards his soul…
(I Kings 19:3)

 

The words are not, “and he heard,” the threats of the queen and he fled “for” his life.  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Elijah “saw” as we today say, “Oh, I see…,” meaning I understand.  Elijah understood what the queen was saying.

He correctly understood her message to mean, “Elijah, I can’t kill you today because today you won. You produced an incomparable miracle.  You’re a big hero. Today.  However, if you think the effect will last, you’re terribly mistaken.  Tomorrow the people will forget what you did.  They will return to idolatry and then I will kill you.”

After a lifetime dedicated to keeping Israel attached to God, Elijah felt defeated.  He feared that Jezebel was correct and that the effects of his work would be short-lived.  He didn’t flee for his life; she wasn’t about to kill him.  He went towards his soul, convinced that his work in this world was done and ready to die.

One massive miracle that demonstrated God’s power would have no lasting impact.  Indeed, one fantastic and flamboyant triumph seldom has lasting value.  But Elijah was nonetheless wrong. His life was not just one pyrotechnic extravaganza.  It was the accumulated collection of a long list of accomplishments growing in significance.  As a result, his effectiveness lasts forever.  He never actually died.

…and Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.
(II Kings 2:11)

When hiring an associate we can use this wisdom by seeking a candidate with a record of steadily increasing responsibilities and achievements rather than someone with an early meteoric rise.  When building a business enterprise we can plan for an airborne future rather than a flamboyant takeoff followed by a flameout.  When raising a child we must provide a consistent environment of attention rather than occasional extravagant treats amidst benign neglect. Avoid being a one hit wonder.

Many permanent principles like this one govern our relationship to money; making it, spending it, saving it and growing it. Fortunately over the past twenty years I gathered those many timeless truths from the Torah and now condensed them into two books, Thou Shall Prosper and Business Secrets from the Bible.

Make a change and enhance your 2015 finances by making this set a part of your strategies.  It could also bring about significant change in the financial fortunes of someone you love.  I am sure your gift would be well appreciated.

Financial Book Package

 

Hysteria vs. Hysteria

February 5th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 13 comments

When I wrote about vaccinations a while back, I had no idea that controversy on the topic would shortly ignite emotional paroxysm in America. I don’t care what your views are, there is something strange about a world in which ISIS torturing, brutalizing and murdering with clear intentions of spreading their violence around the globe (that means to you and me) provokes less attention and emotion than a measles outbreak in Disneyland.

 

Last week, I suggested in my Musing that if five pro-life women sat down with five pro-choice women, they might be surprised to find their counterparts to be kind, reasonable ladies who actually could agree on more than they think. Admittedly, I think the pro-choice group has more to learn than the other way around, yet my point was that our culture currently encourages us to picture those who think differently than us as crazy extremists.

 

Little did I know that vaccination was going to take center stage in the, “I can call names, spew hatred, avoid facts and attack my fellow citizen,” category. Some liberal reporters are attempting to use this issue to marginalize conservatives based on the ‘religious exemption’ clause many states have. Some conservative pundits are attempting to use this issue to marginalize liberals based on statistic that show anti-vaccine sentiment is highest in crunchy granola territory. People who objected to homosexual bathhouses being closed in the early days of the AIDS epidemic are talking of forcibly vaccinating children and people who urged the bathhouses to be closed are adamantly supporting individual parents’ rights. (I’m not equating the issues, just pointing out a paradox.) Guess what? This isn’t a conservative/liberal issue. How refreshing!  People with Obama bumper stickers are on both sides as are Tea Party followers. Highly educated and smart people divide on this issue as do traditional believers and atheists. 

 

Since my personal feelings on the issue are nuanced and conflicted, I am standing back and watching how neither side is listening to the other. I believe that vaccines have been a public health blessing and that they are more dangerous than acknowledged. I also think they are less effective and have greater potential for harm than necessary because of the politicization of medicine as well as the millions of dollars at stake. In short, I agree and disagree with both sides and if individuals could talk instead of shout, they might find areas to compromise. 

 

Obviously, this topic hits home. Mothers and fathers on both sides feel that their children’s health is being threatened. Can we possibly move this discussion away from politics, away from name-calling and use this issue to learn how to revive the old-fashioned, pre-social media, ability to have conversation and debate? Maybe, just maybe, we’d end up with better health policy for all. 

________________________________________

 It may seem like we live in crazy times – but we’ve been there before.
Use yesterday’s wisdom to get through today.
TGS_small
THE GATHERING STORM: DECODING THE SECRETS OF NOAH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Holy!

February 3rd, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

One of America’s most pressing problems is the spread of secularism.  The reason that swelling secular sentiment imperils us all is because beliefs have consequences.  The consequences occur when people act upon their beliefs.

Powerful ideas can be false and lead to great evil. When enough people believe in a powerful idea, subsequent social and political trends march in step with that idea.  It was a political genius who thought up the idea of advancing homosexuality by labeling everyone who considered it sinful, as  hateful and intolerant.  When enough people adopt that idea politicians and pundits sense the groundswell and can be counted upon to help validate same sex marriage.

Change people’s hearts and you change the way they vote. One of my regular radio mantras is, “Politics is nothing other than the practical application of people’s most deeply held beliefs.”  Secularism uses emotionally charged words and slogans to promote itself . Even if you are not religious yourself, you should be very scared of a secularized culture.

The American poet, T. S. Eliot who won the Nobel literature prize in 1948, put it this way during a speech at Oxford University in 1939.

“As political philosophy derives its sanction from ethics, and ethics from the truth of religion, it is only by returning to the eternal source of truth that we can hope for any social organization which will not, to its ultimate destruction, ignore some essential aspect of reality. “

Belief in secularism leads inevitably to results that contradict reality.  Often, good people don’t foresee the calamitous consequences of secularist policies.  One way to clarify where one best fits is to ask oneself which of the following two choices in each of the three sets comes closest to how one feels.

A)

  • Humans arrived on the planet by a process of unaided, materialistic evolution.  It follows that humans are no more than sophisticated animals.
  • God created us in His image and placed us here. Humans are unique creatures touched by the finger of God.

 

B)

  • There is no outside source of wisdom and truth. People should look into their own hearts for moral guidance. 
  • People are born knowing no more about morality than about calculus.  Most of us are born with an appetite for evil, and we find good by knowing God, loving Him and obeying His Word.

 

C)

  • The ‘g’ of government is nearly always good while business is nearly always bad.  Without government regulation, business would run amok. Driven by greed, business relentlessly exploits employees, customers, and the environment.   
  • The ‘G’ of God is always good. Business is about serving customers and customer service is related to worship service because serving His children is closely related to serving Him.  Business has less potential to tyrannize than government because you can choose not to give your money to a business.  

As these three examples of secular belief have become more and more accepted, they have significantly changed the way we lead our lives.  Yes, beliefs do have consequences and in these examples, not for the better.

Take the first belief, that humans are really nothing more than sophisticated and evolved chimpanzees.  It follows from this that like all other animals, humans are also incapable of true creativity.  If I seize a banana, there is naturally one less banana available for you.  The zookeeper must supervise distribution of bananas among all the primates.  Thus, redistribution of wealth and complete economic equality become ultimate values to be achieved by confiscatory levels of taxation aimed at those chimps with too many bananas.  Have you noticed how ‘rich’ has become a pejorative in America?

The second belief is that nobody else may tell you what is moral or immoral, good or bad.  That is for you alone to decide.  Among the consequences of this belief is that villains are seen as virtuous or at least blameless while the truly virtuous are portrayed as villains..

The third belief, that government solves problems while business creates them, encourages governments to increasingly tax business in order to fulfill its own unkept promises.  Furthermore, government schools teach your children to believe the worst about how you earn your living.  Know-nothing street rioters protest an economy they don’t even begin to understand.  All they know is that profit equals plunder and business is bad.

Yes, beliefs do have consequences and when wrong-headed ideas become popular we all suffer.  One might think of those who promote these evil ideas as fellow travelers crossing a dangerous ocean with us on a small ship.  To our dismay, we notice some of them drilling holes through the hull.  In response to our horrified protests, they insist that they are merely drilling holes under their own seats.  In other words, they wrongly claim that their beliefs are nobody else’s affair. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains this is why the entire nation of Israel was told to be holy.

Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them, Be holy…
(Leviticus 19:2)

We can certainly protest the consequences of secularism.  We can campaign against increased taxation.  We can wring our hands at soaring rates of illegitimate births even as we know that many of today’s babies without fathers are tomorrow’s children without futures.  We can object to our schools collaborating with homosexual recruitment programs and encouraging sexualized lifestyles for fifteen-year-olds.

However that is locking the barn door after the priceless racehorse has escaped.  A better target for our energies would be the bad beliefs in the first place that led to these undesirable consequences.

The best way we can all help defeat false and evil ideas is by promoting true and good ones and nowhere are they more easily found than in the Book that created civilization and must now come to its defense.  That’s right; let’s spread the Biblical blueprint to banish the sordid scourge of secularism.  Let’s combat secularism with life-affirming Bible-based Judaism and Christianity.

Current cultural trends make my two CD audio program with study guide, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah, look prescient. This is an amazing tool to help you see and combat the results of secularism. I implore you to equip yourself with this ammunition.

TGS_small