Monthly Archives: August, 2016

Something for Nothing

August 31st, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Here is one way to give your employee a raise:  “You’ve been with us for a year now, Enid; that means that you are due for your first raise. Congratulations, your pay is going up 5%.”

There’s another way to do it.  “During the year you’ve been with us, Enid, you’ve really made a difference.  I asked our accountant to calculate how much extra revenue your innovations brought to the company and the answer was very impressive. The way you came up with improvements in operations and how you then implemented those ideas has been incredibly effective.  We’re happy to raise your pay 5%, you really deserve it.”

I think we all know that the second approach is a far better way.  Though child-rearing is not the same as managing employees, some principles are similar.  Sadly, I often see parents violating these rules.  Some parents bribe their children with candy or watching videos in order to try and obtain the desired behavior.  A bribe is quite different from a reward. One precedes performance while the other follows it.

While it is certainly true that money can’t buy happiness, earning money does indeed contribute to one’s happiness.  I was amazed to discover studies proving conclusively that welfare recipients report being far less happy than equally poor people who refuse public assistance.  This data precisely correlates with studies showing that lottery winners, after brief euphoric buying sprees, experience deep unhappiness as their personal achievement loses all meaning.  Getting money doesn’t make us happy. Earning it does.

It gets even worse.  Ancient Jewish wisdom assures us that obtaining money we did nothing to earn not only makes us miserable, it also makes us resentful towards others.  If you’re interested in where Scripture compellingly makes this point, I direct your attention to the sixth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy.

Verses 10 and 11 promise that at the end of 40 years in the desert, God will bring the Jews into the Land of Israel.  There they will find ready-made cities to occupy, and houses for them to live in that they didn’t have to build.  Furthermore, the houses will be filled with good things that the Israelites will enjoy but didn’t prepare. They will find already-excavated water cisterns they didn’t have to dig, and they will enjoy vineyards and orchards they didn’t plant.  It all sounds wonderful.  It should fill the Jews with appreciation and love for their God who gave them all this (unearned) bounty.

Yet, we read on…

Beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 
(Deuteronomy 6:12)

Extraordinary!  After being brought out of slavery, after being sustained for 40 years in the desert, and after being brought into their own land filled with all kinds of benefits awaiting them, God expects them to forget Him.

What is worse, God expects them to abandon Him and rebel…

Do not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you
(Deuteronomy 6:14)

Yes, that is right.  Obtaining value (or money) not as a result of serving other human beings but just because your father left you a trust fund or the luck of the lottery favored you, corrodes the soul.  While the wise among us understand that without God’s blessings even strenuous efforts will be for naught, when God, our Father in Heaven, presents wealth or possessions on a silver platter, it likewise presents us with a severe test.

So let’s be wise employers and allow our employees the right to their happiness by letting them know how much they achieve.  Let’s be wise parents and grant our children the happiness they deserve by letting them do their part in being worthy of that which we constantly bestow upon them. Let’s stop praying to win the lottery or plotting to acquire money without giving value and instead thank God for the opportunity to earn our fortunes with honesty and integrity.

Family vs. Patriotism

August 28th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Life is a terrific balance. We need families who send their loved ones to war to defend their country, but people who don’t have families are less likely to love their country. I discuss this conundrum in my latest podcast.

Hillary Who? Donald Who?

August 25th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

I’m on a break this week, but look forward to connecting soon. Meanwhile, look around our new site and let me know what you think.

My son has autism and can’t connect with others

August 25th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments


I have been listening to your podcasts & have found them to be very informative & fascinating. I just listened to your episode of 2/20/16 about Jewish attitudes towards money, business, etc. I was saddened, though, as I heard you discuss the 10 Commandments in terms of God’s 5 Commandments about “connections”. I am the mother of a young adult autistic son who has never been (and most likely will never be) able to connect to people well enough to make a friend, hold a job, or lead what society considers a productive life.

As a Catholic Christian, I believe my son has dignity as a child created in the image of God. The inability to connect with others, though, is central to what it means to be autistic. It is a heartbreaking & serious lifelong condition that limits his ability to be a part of the world around him.

As you quoted from Genesis, God said,” It is not good for man to be alone,” but this is my son’s reality. How does Jewish wisdom respond to the unique challenges associated with autism? With autism becoming so much more prevalent, I wonder if you might address this topic for me & other families living with autistic family members.

Thank you so much & God bless you & your work!

Ann R.


Dear Ann,

Thank you for trusting us with such a sensitive question. We completely agree with you that your son’s life has intrinsic value and dignity by virtue of being created in God’s image. (more…)

Up and Running

August 24th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

This has been an exciting few days for us as we launch our new website. There is so much we look forward to sharing with you that we couldn’t do in the past. Thank you very much for the positive feedback and we appreciate the patience and generosity of those of you who have run into the inevitable adjustment glitches. We will keep on working with our fantastic web partners Colby Foster and Greg Bartos to get everything running smoothly. They’ve been a pleasure to work with translating technical know how into language even we can understand.

Can you recommend ways to deal with stress?

August 17th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment


I was wanting to know if there is any ancient Jewish wisdom regarding how to handle stress and anxiety in everyday life.

Thank you Shalom and God Bless.

– La’Shar


Dear La’Shar,

There are so many different ways we can approach your question, and it is one that touches on each of our lives. Perhaps, that is the starting place. Have you ever tried to open a door using the wrong key? No matter how much you jiggle the key or how irritated you get, the door won’t open. You need to try another key. (more…)

What If?

August 17th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 11 comments

“May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not.” While many of us may echo the sentiment expressed as we contemplate the upcoming presidential election, our 13th president, Millard Fillmore, beat us to the punch. With the huge sums allotted to my Musings research team ($0), I didn’t uncover exactly what precipitated these words. But a cursory review of Fillmore’s career did remind me that this isn’t the first time that we humans are making a mess of things. (more…)

Welcome to our new website!

August 16th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

We are so excited to welcome you to our newly updated site! We hope you enjoy our new look.

Keep your eye on this box, where we will jot down quick thoughts on what’s in the news and front and center in our thoughts.

On Our Mind

August 15th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

We are so excited to welcome you to our newly updated site! We hope you enjoy our new look. Keep your eye on this box, where we will jot down quick thoughts on what’s in the news and front and center in our thoughts.


Ice Cream Social(ism)

August 11th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

There we were in a Tom Thumb supermarket in Dallas, the city we were visiting last week. My husband was speaking at a number of venues, and we stopped at the supermarket, which has an expanded kosher section, to pick up a few things.

The weather was hot; it was over 100°. In my view, that is perfect ice cream weather. Now, my diet plan (admittedly, not a very thorough one, though it serves double duty as a budget plan) decrees that I only buy ice cream when it is on sale. Fortunately, there was an amazing sale on a kosher brand with a scrumptious sounding flavor. We (I) scooped it up and made our way to the checkout where we were informed that we needed a supermarket card to get the special sale price. (more…)