Monthly Archives: May, 2015

Take It or Leave It

May 28th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

When you’ve applied for a job and receive an offer for the position you want, do you say, “Thank you so much. I look forward to working with you,” or do you start negotiating for better terms? Your answer might depend on whether you are male or female. Men tend to bargain and usually end up with a better deal than first offered, while women rarely do. Furthermore, women who do make a counter-offer tend to be perceived negatively. 

For this reason, a number of cutting edge companies such as Reddit and Magoosh are instituting a ‘what you are offered is what you get’ policy.  The only choice prospective employees have is to accept or reject the job offer; there is no opportunity for negotiation. In this way, they are hoping to make their companies more inviting to women. 

I read about this policy change almost immediately after finishing Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. While I disagree completely with her thesis that a better world,  “…would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.” she does provide some fascinating observations, research and data. She makes a compelling case that it is harder for women to reach leadership positions in the corporate world and provides guidance for changes that would help achieve that goal.   

Like all of us, Ms. Sandberg, who is Facebook’s chief operating officer, is shaped by her own personality and life experiences.  She writes of her partnership with her husband, Dave Goldberg, (sadly, since writing the book she has been widowed) and wishes a similar relationship for other women. While a committed marriage between two high-powered and well-paid corporate executives with healthy and happy children might sound ideal to many impressionable young women, I think this is about as achievable on a mass level as the dreams of young boys who watch Michael Jordan play basketball and fantasize about an NBA career. Most women might like the results in the abstract, but they aren’t as naturally gifted or as keen on the hard work and trade-offs that achieving those results demand.  Meanwhile, even fewer men than women fit into that picture. 

As for women running half the world’s countries, I would gladly exchange Nancy Pelosi for a male who shared my vision of America. Voting for Hillary because she is a woman sounds bigoted and backwards, let alone foolish, to my ear. Too many liberals look only at color and body parts. Any conservative pundit who promotes Carly Fiorina  because of her gender loses my respect as much as would anyone who opposes her for the same reason. 

I think Sheryl Sandberg’s attempt at social engineering is quixotic. That in itself is fine, but the minute the government (including the United Nations) gets in the picture to help achieve her goal, it turns into something dangerous. When the government institutes tax incentives, or mandates quotas, day care and maternity/paternity policies, an idea becomes a fearsome cudgel. I’m intrigued by Reddit and Magoosh’s new hiring policy and curious to see how it plays out. I love the idea of individual companies innovating and experimenting. If a policy works, it helps the company thrive; if a policy doesn’t work, the results are evident and something different is tried. Unfortunately, with government, failed policies get expanded, entrenched and enhanced, piling one bad idea upon another. I personally don’t like to bargain, but I like even less being forced into someone else’s picture for an ideal world. 

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Would understanding the Hebrew words for family and work
help guide your life?
 

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Did you say what I think you said?

May 28th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I was somewhat taken back by your answer to Diane – the woman in her 60’s who was being disturbed by the neighborhood children. I basically agree with your response to the noise level issue but thought your advice that she form friendships first before expecting the children to respect and not damage her property just encourages the idea that one only has to be respectful of property to those she knows and/or likes.

Is this right?

∼ Leslie

Answer:

Dear Leslie,

Thanks for giving us a chance to elaborate on our answer. We are all obligated to respect other people’s property whether or not we know or like the person. That is a basic timeless truth of Scripture. In fact, ancient Jewish wisdom says that those who treat other people’s belongings casually will end up treating other people’s lives casually as well. Shall we say that we aren’t surprised that after the mayor of Baltimore adopted a, ‘we’ll let them destroy property’ attitude, the violence did not end with vandalism; it continued on to bloodshed.

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Incompatible?

May 27th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

You could say that landlubbers and boaters don’t talk the same language.  One says ‘rope’ while the other says ‘line’.  One says ‘bow’ and ‘stern’ while the other says ‘front’ and ‘rear’.  But both surely agree on basics; boats float and planes fly, water is wet and the wind can move things.  You could say that physicists and philosophers don’t talk the same language.  One speaks in terms of tangible and measurable realities while the other thinks of more abstract ideas.  But both agree on basics; falling water generates power and ideas are powerful.

However, there are two groups of people between whom we see a rapidly growing chasm.  These two kinds of people have not only stopped talking but they also lack a common mode of communication.  No matter what the topic, representatives of these two groups seldom reach consensus.  The first of these two categories is people who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and in His message to mankind, the Bible.  The second comprises people who advocate secularism, vigorously reject God, and regard His Book as primitive, superstitious, and possessing little contemporary relevance.

There are three reasons that explain why communication between religious and secular usually breaks down.  First, they lack a common language; second, they share no common logic; and finally, they do not agree on values.

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, we find this line,

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

This was funny because Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, was a religious Christian for whom words had specific and generally accepted meanings.  However, like Humpty Dumpty, secularists tend to assign new meanings to words like choice, fair, family, greed, and others.  This results in fewer and fewer words being available for common discourse and robs the debate of a common language.

Shared logic also collapses at the edge of this cultural chasm.  Biblically-committed folks tend to thank God for the good they experience and tend to see themselves as largely complicit in their own misfortunes.  Thus, they know that making foolish decisions in the areas of male/female relationships and money usually produces unhappiness.  Secular-leaning individuals tend to seek reasons for their unhappiness outside of themselves.  With no common logic, these two groups are incapable of even discussing, let alone agreeing on, prescriptions for the many ills plaguing society.

Bible-believers, drawing their ideas from the “Good Book,” tend to think that God and family are the first resources to turn to in times of trouble.  Meanwhile, secularists unhesitatingly turn to government to right everything they perceive as wrong.

Finally, and most seriously, there is no agreement on values.  With no common view of values, there is pressure to view our opponent as not merely wrong, but evil.  Obviously this obliterates all chance of discussion.  Bible-believers naturally regard as wrong those actions described in the Bible as sin or otherwise discouraged.  This includes excessive government taxation (I Samuel 8:17), sexual immorality, and failing to earn one’s own living.  On the other hand, secularists, who like most humans, wish to live within a framework of morality, are forced to seek things not mentioned in the Bible to define as wrong, and equally certainly they must redefine sins as virtues.  Thus, many in this group view smoking a cigarette as a more grievous moral failing than cheating in an exam.  To many on this side of the cultural divide, climate change is a terrible evil, while homosexual behavior is condoned.  These represent two different and utterly incompatible viewpoints.  No wonder real communication is difficult.

What is the solution?  Take a look at this verse and its context:

And Israel (Jacob) said to Joseph (his son), ‘At this time I can die after I have seen your face and you are still alive.’

(Genesis 46:30)

 The implication is that until Jacob saw Joseph’s face, he did not know that Joseph was alive.  But the final three verses of the preceding chapter (Genesis 45:26-28) reveal that Jacob already knew that Joseph survived.

What could seeing Joseph’s face possibly add to Jacob’s knowledge about his son’s fate?  Ancient Jewish wisdom reminds us of two facts:

(i)   The face is a window into the soul.  This is why the Hebrew word PaNiM (face) is the same word as the Hebrew word for innermost deep, PeNiM.

(ii)   Our souls are impacted by the company we keep and the things we do.

This helps to make sense of Jacob’s statement.   Of course Jacob already knew that his son Joseph was physically alive.  His other sons told him and they showed the wagons that Joseph sent for him.  However, what Jacob did not know was whether after twenty-two years away from his family, Joseph was still a God-fearing descendant of Abraham or whether he had become an Egyptian secularist.  Once Jacob gazed upon his beloved son’s face, he knew the answer.

Living a secular life filled with hostility towards God and his Book leaves a mark upon a person just as living a life in passionate embrace with God leaves a mark. It certainly should transform a believer’s face into a serene and compassionate reflection of God’s love. (Be wary of those who tell you they are religious but who look surly and grumpy.)

It is true that landlubbers and mariners don’t share a language and neither do physicists and philosophers.  However, mariners can invite landlubbers to experience ocean sailing and physicists can invite philosophers to experience the wonders of the laboratory.  Can believers and secularists similarly interact?  It’s worth a try. The initiative will have to come from believers. The indispensable ingredient they’ll need is a repertoire of Biblical insight to defeat the secular vision of the Bible.

In this challenging arena of cross-cultural communication, I have always depended upon non-threatening but mind-boggling insights from the Lord’s language.  I have successfully shared with initially hostile secularists some of the spine-tingling lightning flashes in Hebrew that anyone can enjoy.

For the good of some of the relationships in your life and in the lives of those around you, won’t you please equip yourself (and others) with a copy of Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language.  It is filled with stunning sparks of spiritual truth that I have employed for decades in helping people make the first halting steps towards God. I pray it serves the same service for you.

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 English, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, French, Chinese…Not just any language – It’s the Lord’s Language!

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To Legislate or Not?

May 21st, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

In March, the Sassoon family of Brooklyn, NY was engulfed in a nightmare when a fire at their house led to the worst death toll in seven years for a New York City fire.  Truthfully, this event was too painful for me to write about at the time. It is still painful to think about and my daily prayers include ones for physical and spiritual recovery for Gila bat Francis and Tzipporah bat Gila. (The word ‘bat’ means daughter. Prayers for people who are ill identify them by their name and the name of their mother.) 

So much sadness. Seven children dead; the mother and surviving daughter face a long recovery. It is impossible to imagine the grief and guilt of the father who was away when the deadly fire destroyed his family. 

Reports suggest that a malfunctioning hot plate, left on to warm food for Shabbat, caused the fire. As a Shabbat observing Jew, calls that have been issued to have hot plates turn off automatically as many irons and ovens do now, hit home.  

Anytime a tragedy occurs, the human soul rebels against accepting it. Sometimes, we distance ourselves by thinking, “It was those people…It was in a distant country…They didn’t follow the rules…” Sometimes, we desperately propose remedies as if by doing so we can keep tragedy from ever occurring. 

There are times when trying to make sure that a similar catastrophe never happens again leads to good legislation. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York in 1911 led to rules about keeping doors unlocked and accessible in the workplace. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 led to a revision of how lifeboats were managed.  Other times, our instinctive need to do something—anything—leads to pointless or even harmful legislation. We end up criminalizing good parents who let responsible children walk home from the park while not helping the child being tortured by his mother’s boyfriend.  We make schools gun-free zones, thereby stopping teachers from protecting their charges. 

How can this most recent fire encourage productive and life-saving change? It should, for by doing so something positive will sprout from calamity.  

Surely, on an individual level, many parents who read of the tragedy will more carefully check the batteries in their smoke detection devices or make sure there are such devices strategically placed around their homes. Hearing how the devices in the Sassoon house were inoperative certainly made me wince. At times, we’ve removed the batteries from smoke detectors. We wanted to have birthday candles lit on a cake or steaks grilling on the broiler without setting off an overly sensitive alarm. 

We already have listings to ensure that electric devices meet a safety code. Will I be less likely to use an appliance if I see a frayed cord? I certainly imagine so.  In the final analysis, personal responsibility is just that— personal. Only the most totalitarian society controlling every move of its subjects thinks it can keep everyone from doing stupid things. Even that degree of control will not be effective.

Should hot plates be outlawed or forced to turn off automatically after a certain number of hours? Here is where being Sabbath observant conflicts with what might seem a reasonable piece of legislation.  

Sabbath observant Jews, such as my husband and myself, do not activate electrical items or initiate fire on the seventh day of the week. In order to have hot food for lunch, various strategies are employed. One of the most traditional foods served on Shabbat goes by various names – cholent, chamim – but it is a heavy stew that cooks overnight. I personally leave my cholent on a heavy metal plate placed over a low flame. The pot goes up before sunset on Friday and we eat it for lunch on Saturday. Another method is to leave on a hot plate or warming drawer overnight. Literally, millions of meals have been kept warm this way in New York over the past few decades. Is it an unnecessary risk? Like anything else, including use of the most benign articles such as bicycles and scissors, we need to behave responsibly.  

When I was a teenager, my parents’ friends lost their daughter and two grandsons in a grisly house fire. An electric fire started in their TV set (which was off) during the night. It was a traumatic tragedy and since that date, when we go away for a few days, I unplug unnecessary appliances around the house. Had there been seven children instead of two in that house, should there have been a call to better regulate or outlaw televisions? Of course not.  

Keeping food warm overnight is less common than television viewing, but any attempt to make it impossible to do so is ill advised. Firstly, people will circumvent the restriction, possibly leading to more dangerous methods of warming food. Or else, hot plates will be manufactured with controls that override the automatic turn-off, just as a number of ovens already have. Secondly, we already have too much of a nanny state. Sabbath observant Jews and, indeed, all parents, will be more pre-emptive and responsible as a result of the recent horrific tragedy. As we cry for the dead and injured, the fire serves as a reminder that every time an appliance or fire is used we need to be vigilant. Smoke detectors need to be maintained.  Already, the Sassoon fire has let to numerous programs for teaching fire prevention in schools and community centers. The father and the mother, (may she and her daughter be blessed with a complete recovery) will live with grief the rest of their lives. Hindsight dictates that installing working smoke detectors and being more vigilant about only using electronic items in good condition should have been a priority. However, no legislation will ever provide the wisdom that hindsight does or cause individuals to always make the right choices.

Do I suffer in silence or speak up?

May 21st, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I am in my 60’s. I live in a cul-de-sac. There are families with children. The children yell and scream, run through other people’s yards and ride bikes through other people’ s yards and grass. This really upsets me and disturbs my peace. 

I feel like the only way to get peace is to move. I would love to have a peaceful dwelling place, an undisturbed place of rest. Should I make plans to move, or should I try to accept the situation and put up with it?

∼ Diane

Answer:

Dear Diane,

In our opinion, you should neither make plans to move nor should you put up with the status quo. We hope an ‘undisturbed place of rest’  (only available in a cemetery) is far off into your future.

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Timeless Truth or Sexist Slur

May 19th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Blank, the world would be a better place.  Insert your own phrase for ‘blank’.  For instance, if everyone minded their own business, the world would be a better place.  If everyone walked around smiling, TWWBABP.  If animal activists would just let us eat our hamburgers in peace, TWWBABP.  Or how about this one from a recent book by the chief operating officer of a large Internet company: “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world.”

Have you noticed that many cars driving on our roads are occupied by a man and a woman sitting in the front seats?  Of course you have.  Have you noticed what percentage of these cars are being driven by the man?  It’s nowhere near 50%.  Surely half the time, as a couple heads to their car, the woman should say, “Honey, throw me the keys, I’ll drive.”  Yet whether in Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston, or Baltimore, the reality is that the man is driving about 90% of those cars.

Here’s another social studies question: Have you noticed that in the overwhelming percentage of couples, the man is taller than the woman?  The actual figure is that in 93% of couples, the man is taller than the woman.  Now I know just what you’re thinking, ”…well, on average men are taller than women.”  But in the United States the average height difference between men and women is 6 inches.  However, at more than six feet, female tennis star Venus Williams is taller than half of American men. Meanwhile at 5 feet 4 inches, actor Michael J, Fox is shorter than about half of American women.  So if we mixed and matched all marriageable men and women at random, a statistical analysis quickly shows that we’d find that men are taller than women in only about 75% of couples.  This proves that in the real world, couples prefer the man to be taller. Either the man seeks out shorter women or the woman seeks out taller men. Or perhaps both.

Don’t you think that in these egalitarian times about half of the marriages solemnized this year should be occurring because the man proposed to the woman and half because the woman proposed to the man?  Yet, you know the truth.  Over 98% of couples marry after the man proposes marriage.  What has happened to strong and equal women?  Are they anxiously waiting for the men they’ve been dating to propose?  Apparently, yes.

You know those paperback romance novels taking up yards of bookshelf at your local bookstore and selling by the millions?  Well, here’s an idea: Why don’t you start writing them?  I am not saying it is easy to write books; it isn’t.  But these books are fairly formulaic.  By the end of every single example I’ve examined, the girl who has been romantically foundering for 200 pages finally falls for the guy.  And best of all, he falls for her too.  No, I err.  Actually the best part is that he is always rich.  Yes, always very rich.  Why not once, just once, can’t I see a romance novel ending with the heroine putting her hand to her heaving bosom and declaring her love for the penniless slacker with a heart of gold?  Women buy these books by the million.

These are just four examples where the real world seems to conflict with the utopian world dreamed of by very affluent and privileged women.  My own eyes tell me that most women prefer sitting ‘shotgun’ and most men prefer being behind the wheel.  Furthermore they assure me that most women prefer to be in a relationship with a man they can look up to literally and perhaps figuratively too.  I have also discovered that most women want to be proposed to and most men will not marry a woman who proposes to them. Finally, from too much time spent awaiting flights in an airport bookstore, I know that the majority of women prefer reading of romance with a man far richer than they are.

In this topic, almost any romance novel will reveal more truth than a certain best-selling book for women written by a certain chief operating officer of a certain Internet company.

Thus I answer the question with which I headed this Thought Tool, namely are these words…

…male and female He created them.

  (Genesis 1:27)

a sexist slur or a timeless truth?

Men and women are created differently from each other.  While we are each unique, in general men and women find satisfaction and fulfillment in different ways.  One can either take one’s life guidance from contemporary utopian dreams by elitist theorists or one can consult God’s instruction manual for humanity which has been proven by centuries of reliability.

I know this all flies in the face of popular culture and I ask you to see what I’ve written here merely as an introduction to the topic.  The rest of the story takes a few hours for me to explain fully which I do in our audio CD program, Madam I’m Adam; Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden.  If you or anyone you care for is working on getting married, staying married, or best of all, enhancing every aspect of their marriage, please use this guide.  It is truly a worthwhile investment promising enormous return in the form of marital happiness and fulfillment.  You see, the powerful problem is that the message we all subconsciously absorb from a relentless cultural barrage of news and entertainment is untrue. We are fed lies about human relationships.  I would love for you to be armed with deep insights and timeless truth about our most important relationship.  That is why I prepared Madam I’m Adam.

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Putting the Common in Common Core

May 14th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

By the time a child graduates high school he or she has experienced hundreds of teachers. It would be unrealistic to expect every educator to be outstanding. However, it is reasonable to expect basic competence. It is not only reasonable, but essential, to expect a teacher to desire student success. 

My aunt taught science for decades, retiring as she neared ninety only due to concerns about driving in icy road conditions. Her principal gladly smudged her birthdate on official paperwork enabling him to keep using her talents. Towards the end of her career, she was hospitalized for what turned out to be a mistaken lab result. While in the hospital, the head of cardiology entered her room, helped her into a wheel chair and escorted her to his office. Unusual behavior, indeed. Once she was there, he took down a volume from his shelf and handed it to her, saying, “That woman is the reason I am here today.” The volume was his junior high yearbook with the page open to my aunt’s picture. 

Contrast that with a Kentucky teacher commenting favorably on using Common Core standards in her eighth grade classroom. The Wall Street Journal quotes her as saying, “We focus more on primary sources, like graphics, pictures and quotes…I always tell my students that I’m horrible with memorizing dates, and I am not going to ask for them.” Leave aside whether she is confused as to what a primary source is and its usefulness, why would a teacher want to limit students by her own preferences and/or inadequacies?  

Over in Australia, admittedly not an area touched by Common Core, the same embrace of low expectations can be found. An Australian news outlet covered a report by philosophers Adam Swift and Harry Brighouse worrying that parents who read aloud to their children gift those children with an unfair advantage. 

While the pull quote questioning whether parents should feel guilty for reading their children bedtime stories received attention, this quote should be noticed as well, “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.“

While he acknowledges that most people think having all children raised by the state is a bad idea, he encourages moving towards equality by reducing  parents’ freedom to make choices for their children. For example, Swift argues against allowing parents to send their children to private schools. 

As equality becomes the mantra of society (naturally the Great Leaders, say those with the last name Clinton or Obama will never have to live by that mantra) ideas such as these can swiftly move towards mass acceptance. Those of us who watch in abhorrence feel almost ridiculous stating an opposing view. It seems rather like arguing the con side of a debate titled, “Resolved:  Children should be dropped off to play in the middle of the highway.” Is this really necessary? I’m afraid as our universities discourage reasoning, our electronic gadgets reduce our abilities to think deeply and too many politicians require electoral illiteracy in order to win, it is, amazingly, very necessary to fight this fight. At the risk of stating the obvious, here are two ideas I’d like to propose. 1) Teachers should not limit students based on their own limitations, but rather encourage students to excel. 2) We should aim for all children to achieve economic, physical, mental and spiritual success even if that means acknowledging that the ‘advanced and enlightened’ policies of the last few decades regarding families, education and economics, have moved us backwards from that goal. 

When Winston Churchill said that socialism’s “inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery,” intelligent people understood that to be a put down of socialism. Our befuddled society is moving in the direction of thinking that to be a worthwhile goal.

Can we come over for a chat?

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Available individually or as part of a money-saving set.

Who are the ‘righteous women’?

May 14th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Can you tell me more about how during the 400 year captivity the Hebrew wives didn’t let their husbands give up on God’s promises? (I’ve heard) something about the husbands wanted to stop producing children and refused to lay with their wives but the women found a way.

Thanks,

∼ Marjorie C.

Answer:

Dear Marjorie,

We believe that you are actually combining two different accounts. When Pharaoh decreed that baby boys would be thrown in the Nile, Ancient Jewish wisdom relates that Amram, Moses’ father, separated from his wife, not wishing to risk bringing a boy into the world who was condemned to death. At that time, he and his wife, Yocheved, already had two children, Aaron and Miriam. Miriam is given great praise for making the case to her father that Pharaoh decreed an end to males while, by rejecting all pregnancies, Amram was decreeing the end of females as well. Amram accepted Miriam’s words and began to again live with his wife who became pregnant with Moses.

Separately, when the yoke of Egypt became overly burdensome, the Israelite men lost their libido. (Still today, not being able to take care of your family and being crushed by burdens depresses male sexual drive.) The women are credited with beautifying themselves, despite their own suffering,  and going out to greet their husbands and seduce them. This allowed family life to continue. For this, ancient Jewish wisdom gives this generation of women the accolade of ‘righteous,” and declares that it was in the merit of righteous women that the children of Israel were taken out of Egypt.
Sincerely,

 

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Act; Don’t ReAct

May 12th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

From one of my favorite animal books, the astoundingly illustrated book, Journey to the Ants, I learned an important principle of how the world really works.  “If an animal is beautifully colored and acts with relative indifference to your presence it is probably poisonous or well armored.”

An example of this principle is the South American poison arrow frog.  Touching its dazzling colored skin can easily kill a human being.  The local natives use the toxin on their arrows.  No wonder these pretty little frogs make no attempt to hop away when approached; they just sit there.

We all know people who ooze fascination but who never take the initiative to connect; they just sit there.  Furthermore, reaching out to them often yields toxic results.  In general, people who fail to connect with others have absorbed a toxin.  They have been infected with either arrogance (I am too important to associate with you) or fear (you might spurn me).

Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes how God wants us all to initiate connection.  Be first to greet others regardless of the ever present risk of rejection.  Convert strangers into friends by introducing yourself rather than waiting for someone else to perform introductions.  In this area of life, as in all others, God wants His children to drive their lives rather than be driven.  He prefers for us to be proactive rather than reactive.  This is exactly how most parents try to teach their own children to behave.

Jacob, the third founding father of Judaism, practiced being proactive.  He was no victim of circumstance and seldom waited for a solution to materialize from somewhere else.

Notice the curious pattern occurring in these four verses:

 And Pharaoh said to Joseph…tell your brothers to return home…and take wagons from Egypt …and bring your father…

(Genesis 45:17-19)

 

…and they [Joseph’s brothers] came to Jacob their father…and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him his spirit revived…
(Genesis 45:25-27)

 

And Jacob embarked on his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba…

(Genesis 46:1)

 

And Jacob departed Beersheba and the sons of Israel transported Jacob their father…in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent…

(Genesis 46:5)

Clearly, Jacob did the first part of his journey, from Hebron where he was living south to Beersheba on foot.  From Beersheba onwards to Egypt he travelled on one of the wagons Pharaoh had sent.

Jacob wanted to launch this phase of his life with a proactive and willful action of his body, namely walking, rather than as a passive passenger on a wagon.

In so doing, Jacob was acting consistently with how he lived his entire life, acting willfully and seizing the initiative rather than awaiting developments.

When it looked as if his father was going to deliver the Abrahamitic blessing to Esau, he acceded to his mother’s request, disguising himself as his older brother and commandeering the blessing. (Genesis 27)  He could have waited to see if his father would have another blessing for him, but he didn’t.

When he arrived at the well it was blocked by a stone. The gathered shepherds were awaiting developments.  Jacob simply rolled the large stone away and uncovered the well.  (Genesis 29:10)

When Jacob saw the beautiful Rachel, he didn’t covertly ogle her while awaiting developments. Neither did he surreptitiously appoint a ‘wingman’ to approach her on his behalf.  Seizing the initiative, he planted a kiss on her. (Genesis 29:11) This is admittedly surprising behavior for someone we think of as a quiet saintly sort of guy, and there is a deeper meaning to the Hebrew text, but the straightforward meaning of the text still stands.  Being saintly does not mean reacting to life.  It means seizing life with both hands and acting.

This is one of the reasons that Solomon advises all of us with slight tendencies to laziness, to learn from the ant (Proverbs 6:6).  As Bert Holldobler and Edward Wilson abundantly demonstrate in their magnificent ant book, ants never sit around waiting for developments.

And neither should you.  Whether it concerns a personal relationship that needs initiating (although I’d recommend caution with that impulsive kiss idea) or a business action that awaits, be proactive and seize the initiative.

There’s another area in which I ask you to seize the initiative rather than wait. We have just released the third in our series of video DVDs.  Like its two predecessors it contains four shows that aired on the TCT television network. The format allows us to delve more deeply and conversationally into ideas that spring from ancient Jewish wisdom. This newest volume explores the power of blessings, why the word obey doesn’t appear in the Bible, what the brothers and Joseph really said to each other and even includes a rare disagreement between Susan and me. Get volume three by itself or purchase all three volumes at a discount.

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Onward Christian Soldiers

May 7th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

Each year, churches across America send adults and teenagers on mission trips. These dedicated people head off to Africa, S. America and Asia, building and working in orphanages, providing medical and dental care and supplying huge doses of Christian love along with their services.  

My husband and I have some wonderful friends who have gone on these missions; we have supported them as they do so. The force of thousands of volunteers is powerful and life-changing for the participants and for those to whom they minister.  

Anyone with a charitable eye knows that there are endless opportunities for giving. Ancient Jewish wisdom provides advice on how to prioritize your dollars and personal investment. There is a Godly hierarchy of charitable giving. “The poor of your city take priority over the poor of another city.”  

What would happen if, this summer, churches across America dedicated their efforts to mission trips in America? Cities like Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD, desperately need Christianity – not the self-serving, hate-filled religion of men like Jeremiah Wright and Al Sharpton, but the joyful and transformational Christianity that my husband and I are privileged to see.   

This country has wasted thousands of billions of dollars in its so-called war on poverty. Money is certainly useful, but the War on Poverty marched arm in arm with the War Against Values. While the war on poverty failed, the war against values won. Remember the attacks on Dan Quayle for questioning whether promoting single motherhood was wise? The media and Democrat Party (which receives overwhelming support from residents of failing cities) threw their clout behind that offensive. Welcome to Baltimore. Sadly, our government is escalating the fight against traditional religion, finding new ways to stigmatize and brand time-proven ways. No amount of money can do good while social pressure is promoting wrong.  

After inner-city kids spend ten months in government schools that might as well declare their goals to be illiteracy, lack of moral reasoning and social engineering, a phalanx of Christian volunteers could change the world in two summer months. I urge them to try. 

Have you seen our new DVD yet? You can get the third volume of Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show DVD (4 special shows) alone or save money getting it with volumes One and Two. We have so much fun taping and we’d love to have you join in.

AJWSET