Posts in Thought Tools

A Tale of Two Bees

July 18th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

There are many secrets to success in life, but here’s a good one:  Empower your wife and other vital women in your life to bring out the best in you.

This lesson emerges from a mystery posed by three verses, Genesis 24:58-60.

Verse A:

They called Rebecca and said to her, 

“Will you go with this man?”  And she said, “I will go.”

Verse B:

They blessed Rebecca and they said to her, “Our sister, may you become…

Verse C:

And they sent away their sister, Rebecca, and her nurse…

There’s nothing particularly odd about these three verses, is there?

There is, if you realize that I’ve switched their order around.

In reality, A is followed by C, and finally B.  How strange!  How could they send Rebecca away and only thereafter speak to her and bless her?

The answer hinges on Rebecca’s nurse.

We meet her again when she dies many years later while accompanying Rebecca’s son, Jacob, and his family back to his birthplace:

And Devorah, Rebecca’s nurse, died and she was buried below Bethel,
beneath the tree and he named it Alon Bachut.
(Genesis 35:8)

What is Devorah (in English, Deborah) doing with Jacob and his family on their way returning to the home from which Jacob fled so many years earlier?  Why isn’t she with her beloved Rebecca?

The answer is clear.  As she had promised thirty-five years earlier, Rebecca sent her to inform Jacob that it was now safe for him to return to the home he had fled due to his brother Esau’s wrath.

Until your brother’s anger turns away from you…
and I will send [someone] and bring you back from there…
(Genesis 27:45)

Having discharged her final duty, the faithful retainer, Devorah, died.

Who is this woman, that her name and actions merit so much mention in Scripture?

Ancient Jewish wisdom directs our attention to another Devorah.

And Devorah the wife of Lapidot was a prophetess who judged Israel at that time. And she sat under the palm tree of Devorah between Ramah and Bethel…
 (Judges 4:4-5)

Judge Devorah held court, under Nurse Devorah’s tree. We are meant to link the two!

In Hebrew, Devorah means a bee.  What is a bee’s uniqueness? Bees convert unfulfilled potential (nectar) into its ultimate destiny—honey, sweet tasting and energy providing.

Sure enough, Prophetess Devorah converts Barak from a timid man into a brave leader capable of defeating the evil Sisera, Israel’s oppressor of twenty years. (Judges 4:6-9)

Nurse Devorah is instrumental in transforming the wicked family of Rebecca into people capable of seeing the future and blessing a young woman destined to become a mother of the Jewish people. (Genesis 24:60) This is the message of her awkward appearance in the narrative (Genesis 24:59) before the blessing is uttered.

Similarly, on her mission from Rebecca to Jacob, her death is mentioned as Jacob abandons the alien influences his household had accumulated from their interactions with Shechem (Genesis 35:2-5).  Devorah’s presence strengthens Jacob, reinforcing his upbringing and preparing him to receive God’s blessing. (Genesis 35:9-12).

Devorah represents those women in our lives who bring out the best in us. A good mother or wife has the ability to transform a man’s potential into reality. Of course, a misguided woman can act as a destroyer.  While we men have no ability to choose our mothers (though we can adopt mentors to fill that role), the choice of wife and the conduct of our marriage is in our hands.

The Bible names many fewer women than men. The two Devorah’s send us two messages. The first serves to remind us that, unlike our present day infatuation with publicity, what happens behind the scenes is critical to and equally responsible for success. The second reminds us that when men fail in acting courageously and wisely, women will act in their stead. Why we should lament rather than celebrate when that circumstance arises, needs  a much longer discussion.

The first three chapters of Genesis are vital for obtaining basic insight into the differences between and the potential greatness of men and women.  Much is revealed  through the original Hebrew text and ancient Jewish wisdom. We explore these in our audio CD, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden, available for a few more days at a special discounted price.

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The Silent Sneer

July 11th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

Have you ever been put down by a silent sneer? Have you ever sensed harsh criticism in nothing more than a raised eyebrow? Have you ever felt your value as a person, as a friend, or as a relative minimized by someone finding fault in you or dismissing an achievement of yours as insignificant?

We’ve all been hurt by insults and criticism. Now, how about the other way around? Do you find too much fault with others? Do your children fear telling you of their activities and their thoughts? Are you far more lavish with criticism than praise?

If so, though you may be unaware, your friends, family, and co-workers may subconsciously avoid spending more time with you than they absolutely must.

If so, you are dogged by invisible forces that impede your progress. These forces place barriers in your way and suck the joy out of your existence. When life is good, it is often because we are surrounded by individuals who like us and want things to go well for us. They place opportunities in our way, they introduce us to people, and they correct false impressions about us. All of this takes place outside our awareness.

However when the individuals who populate the broader reaches of our life view us as constantly critical, they may respect us, they may love us, but they feel less comfortable with us. Naturally, they do not go out of their way to help us.

Though they may not do anything actually to hurt us, merely the absence of their active support translates into hidden specters that obstruct much of what we seek in life. The good news is that we can change this.

Ancient Jewish wisdom offers this helpful gem. In every interaction, give the other person the benefit of the doubt, the support and the praise that we would want him to give us if the situation was reversed. Be as generous in judging the actions of others as we tend to be when judging our own actions.

Let me explain with the help of Scripture:

You shall do no evil in judgment in matters of length, weight, or volume.
You shall have just scales, just weights, a just measure for dry goods,
and a just measure for liquids…….
(Leviticus 19:35-36)

In other words, we may not use a fraudulently light weight when we sell and a heavier one when we buy. God wants us to do business with scrupulous honesty. That seems perfectly clear, doesn’t it? This seems to make the following verses redundant:

You may not have in your pocket two weights,
a larger one and a smaller one. You may not have in your house
two measures, 
a larger one and a smaller one.
Only one full and just weight shall you have and
only 
one full and just measure…..
(Deuteronomy 25:13-15)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the Deuteronomy verses go beyond commerce. These verses are talking of false weights, not in the market place, but in our pockets and homes. These verses teach us not to use one weight or measure by judging ourselves leniently and a different harsher weight or measure when judging someone else.

Of course, some of us have exactly the opposite problem. We judge others graciously and are brutal when looking at ourselves. We constantly beat ourselves up for human failings rather than granting ourselves forgiveness. Paradoxically, this makes it harder for us to correct our failings and improve our behavior.

When you find yourself about to put someone down with a silent sneer or a raised eyebrow, or whenever you are about to find fault with someone, remember to use only one set of weights and measures. You will astound your friends, please your family and delight those who share your workplace, including yourself.

Most of us sometimes forget to extend the same loving kindness to our spouses as we want them to extend to us. Every marriage, no matter how new or established needs constant fuel injections to keep things running smoothly. I encourage you to listen to our audio CD, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden to gain further insights from ancient Jewish wisdom’s teachings on Genesis that will help you understand and cherish your spouse. (On sale this week)

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Ladies, Don’t Reach for Your Wallet

July 3rd, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

When the waiter brings the bill, carefully placing it these days in the middle of the table, many women start slowly opening their purses, waiting for the man to insist on paying.  So common is this female feint for the wallet, that it even has a name.  It is called “The Reach.”  But it is just a gesture.  Even in these egalitarian days, by far most women expect the man to pay for the date.

According to several women’s magazines that I have perused, 77% of young women prefer the man to pay. Let me clarify that I do not for a moment believe that this is because these women are short of money or are trying to behave frugally at the expense of their dates.  I think they have a far better reason for preferring to be with men who graciously pay for the date.  Yet, if this is the case, why do so many women observe this ritual of “The Reach”?

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Did You Respond ‘Yes’?

June 27th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

Here is a quick yes/no quiz which will reveal important information about your personality:

  • Do you occasionally make thoughtless remarks which you later regret?
  • Are you usually concerned about the need to protect your health?
  • Is it normally hard for you to own up and take the blame?
  • Do you sometimes resent the efforts of others to tell you what to do?
  • Do your past failures sometimes worry you?
  • Do you have a small circle of friends rather than a large number of acquaintances?
  • Do you sometimes find it difficult to express your emotions?
  • Would the idea of making a complete new start cause you any concern?
  • Do you find it challenging to ‘start the ball rolling’ at social gatherings?
  • Do you ever find yourself wondering if anyone really cares about you?
  • Are there any things about yourself on which you are a bit touchy?
  • Do you sometimes put off doing things and then discover it is too late?
  • Do you ever feel that your age is against you (too young or too old)?

Finished?  Now, how many times did you answer ‘yes’?  More than 3? More than 8? What! You answered ‘yes’ to more than 10 of the questions? Well, then you clearly need to purchase our special program for social stragglers available at a special price of only $10,000.  (Just joking)  The above questions came from a Scientology questionnaire but they resemble the questions often crafted by hucksters of all kinds trying to prey on our all too human weaknesses.

It is of course easy to come up with questions that most people will identify with and to which they will nod their heads affirmatively.  Here is another good one:

Do you feel that many of your problems were caused by your parents?

There are armies of therapists, analysts and psychologists making enviably lavish livings doing nothing but listening to their clients complain about how their parents ruined their lives. Often, they encourage their clients in those beliefs.

Of course, our parents provided our DNA but it is equally true that they provided us with much more than our eye color and other biological realities.  They provided us with the start of our value system and certain character traits.  This is why we sometimes catch ourselves talking to our children in the same words that our parents used with us many years ago.

They almost certainly bequeathed us some negative characteristics against which we must struggle.  They also gave us much of our talent and our inbuilt aptitudes.  Are our lives impacted by our parents and how they raised us?  Of course, hugely.  Are we therefore condemned to relive our parents’ mistakes and passively endure any negative circumstances of our birth and upbringing?  Of course not.  Consider Abraham.

…originally your ancestors lived across the river;
Terach was the father of Abraham, and of Nachor;
and they served other gods…

(Joshua 24:2)

Abraham’s father was an idolater which helps us understand why God told Abraham:

Go away from your land, your relatives,
and your father’s house to a land that I’ll show you.

(Genesis 12:1)

Just as Abraham was not condemned by his parental background to follow into the worship of idols, neither are we forced to do anything because of our own parental background.

Because real life is complex and often messy, there are subtleties beneath the surface.  See these verses:

These are the chronicles of Terach; Terach gave birth to Abram, Nachor,
and Charan, and Charan gave birth to Lot. 

(Genesis 11:27)

Terach took his son Abram, and Lot, the son of Charan, his grandson,
and his daughter-in-law Sarai the wife of Abram his son,
and they departed together from Ur Kasdim to go to the land of Canaan;
and they arrived in Charan and they settled there.

 (Genesis 11:31)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that late in life Terach renounced idolatry and commenced a spiritual odyssey.  He removed his family from an area with bad influences but never made it to his intended destination of Canaan. Nonetheless, his effort bequeathed to his son, Abram, the ability to more willingly make a change in life.

Thus, when God eventually told Abraham to leave his family and start his own journey, Abraham was primed to do so, partially because he had seen his father doing the same thing. Efforts and changes we institute in our lives, even if they fail or are only incremental, can propel our descendants in the right direction.

Obviously our parents impact our lives.  If we were fortunate in the ovarian lottery then most of the impact from our parents is for good.  However, even in those cases, there are also inevitably some destructive elements in our legacies. Like Abraham, we each must grab the power to shape our own destinies.  We should vehemently reject the notion that we are helpless victims of our parents’ biology or mistakes. Most importantly, we should shoulder the responsibility of gifting our children with the strongest foundation we can give them.

On the television show that Susan and I enjoy hosting we often let down our hair a little, as it were.  We get a bit personal, sometimes talking about our parents and extended family.  We lovingly smile at memories, even some mixed ones, and we hope that in time, our own children will do the same.  Were some things in our lives more challenging because of our parents?  Of course. Many more things were made possible by those same parents.  They did their best for us, just as we hope we shall be seen to have done for our children.

Do you ever wonder what your children really think of you?  You answered ‘Yes’?  Well then you certainly need our special 3 DVD set of Ancient Jewish Wisdom!  (Just joking—but it is really a good buy!) We hope you will enjoy twelve of our most popular shows on DVD and available, on sale, right now.

 

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Seeing Eye-to-Eye

June 20th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

Reading your rabbi’s observations about a baby’s behavior is probably going to be as incongruous as overhearing a cannibal enthusing about a veggie burger made of sweet potato, quinoa and black beans with a little creamy lime aioli drizzled on top. (Not sure what lime aioli is?  Me neither.)

Nonetheless, I must tell you of something I recently noticed in an extremely cute little one year-old.  While I was talking to him, his eyes were not on the only moving part of my face, my mouth.  Instead, he gazed into my eyes.  This made no sense to me because in general, babies’ eyes are drawn to movement.  Yet while I was talking to him, he watched my motionless eyes instead of my moving mouth.

I was so puzzled by this that I tested it on a few other pre-talking little toddlers and discovered they all had this disconcerting tendency.  I am obviously accustomed to adults looking into one another’s eyes. But babies?  It would make most sense to me if their eyes were drawn to the mouths of those talking to them. But if they are not going to be looking at the moving mouth, why are they looking at the eyes rather than the conspicuous nose or huge expanse of forehead?

Ancient Jewish wisdom might suggest an explanation.  In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for eye is AYIN while the word for mouth is PEH.  Those two words, AYIN and PEH are also the names of two consecutive letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the sixteenth and seventeenth letters, respectively.

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Bernie Sanders’ Christophobia

June 13th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 77 comments

If you have been reading Thought Tools for a while or enjoyed any of our other ancient Jewish wisdom resources, you probably suspect, correctly, that you have a better Jewish education than most secular people of Jewish descent. You might even know that the entire Jewish nation take its name from Jacob’s fourth son, Judah.   Why is this so? Because the meaning of Judah, Yehuda in Hebrew, is gratitude, and ancient Jewish wisdom identifies the trait of gratitude as one of the most important defining characteristics of Jewish identity.

Although descended from Jewish bloodlines, Bernie Sanders probably doesn’t know the above information and as a declared atheist he has chosen to reject his ancestors’ faith. Nonetheless, in the eyes of America and the world he is a Jew. For this reason, I am sharing an important column written by our friend Ben Stein, which so effectively captures the view of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians. It was just published in The Spectator (www.Spectator.org) where his work regularly appears.  I am grateful for permission to share it with our Thought Tool subscribers.

Ben Stein’s Diary

I am a Jew. All of my ancestors have been Jews since Judaism was founded almost 6,000 years ago on the belief of a monotheistic God. I pray in Hebrew every morning and every night. And I am deeply, cruelly, painfully embarrassed at my fellow Jew, Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont.

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If It’s Tuesday, I’ll Be In Texas

June 5th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 17 comments

What is interesting about these cities:  Naples, Oslo, Paris, Quebec City, Rome, Stockholm, and Tokyo?  No, it’s not the alphabetic sequence; that’s just me messing with you.  Here’s a clue:  Jerusalem is probably the only city that doesn’t fit that pattern.  What other great city older than two hundred years is not built on either a river or the coast?

That so many cities were built on water is no surprise.  To this day, the majority of the world’s goods and commodities still travel by ship.  Cities grow and thrive where trade occurs, and rivers and oceans have always been the arteries of trade.  The mystery is how Jerusalem grew and thrived.  It was never on a trading route like other inland cities such as those on the old Silk Road.  Because of its elevation, trading caravans would have taken flatter routes to the Mediterranean.  Thus it never had the large markets or “shuks” of cities like Baghdad and Beirut.

Yet, after more than two thousand years, Jerusalem’s vitality and endurance continue undiminished.  On May 28, 1948, the Jordanian army expelled every Jew from Jerusalem’s original old city and destroyed their homes.  In order to ensure that Jews would never return to Jerusalem, the Jordanians destroyed every synagogue and violated the cemetery by building their army latrines over the ancient grave stones.  On June 7th, 1967,  the Jews recaptured Jerusalem.

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Do I Believe Or Do I Know?

May 30th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

The Beverly Hills tycoon was dismayed by his son’s decision to study in a yeshiva instead of joining the family business.  After several years the son returned home to his father’s sardonic question:  So what have you got to show for your years of study?  “I know that there is a God,” replied the young man.  Angrily the father leapt to his feet and pointed out the window at the gardener patiently mowing the vast lawns.  “He also knows there is a God,” shouted the older man.  “No father,” the boy quietly responded.  “He believes there is a God; I know.”

The challenge to the person of faith is to acquire so clear an understanding of how the world really works, that God’s role becomes obvious.  It’s not a matter of fervent proclamations of faith or moments of spiritual epiphany.  Instead, it takes disciplined devotion.  It’s not easy, but neither is body building.  In both cases, devotees consider the effort worthwhile; what is more, both provide highs along the way.

The path to knowing God, for me, is the Torah which I find to be a comprehensive blueprint of all reality.  I do not mean the book of stories that many view as nothing but mythology for children or, at best, for adults with childlike minds.  No, I mean the majestic and mysterious data stream of 304,805 Hebrew letters making up a Torah scroll and the ancient Jewish wisdom that accompanies them.

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Vital Values

May 23rd, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

On July 4, 1826, exactly fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, two of the men most instrumental in its drafting died. Former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within a few hours of each other.

To me, it was God linking these two statesmen for all time.  I can just see them approaching the Throne of Glory, arms around one another’s shoulders in eternal bonds of brotherhood.

On May 24, 1844, Samuel Morse transmitted the words, “What hath God wrought,” (Numbers 23:23) from Washington to Baltimore using electrical pulses and his Morse Code.  That year, May 24 fell on the Bible holyday of Shavuot/Pentecost, which this year begins after sunset a week from tonight, on May 30th.

Serendipitously, Shavuot, the anniversary of the day upon which God gave His message to mankind through Moses on Mt Sinai, was the first time in the history of humanity that people thousands of miles apart could communicate almost instantaneously.  Of course, for those of us who believe that serendipity or coincidence are simply words that people use to mask God’s involvement in the world, the date of the telegraph’s launch is striking.

What lesson did the Lord intend when He guided Morse to give the world electronic communication precisely on the Festival commemorating His bestowing upon us the Ten Commandments?

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In with the Old; In with the New

May 15th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 28 comments

I’ve never met my friend in San Francisco. Hanna was a regular caller to my three-hour show on the Bay Area’s KSFO.  In the radio business we discourage regular callers and most shows have a rule about how frequently they will accept calls from any one listener.  With Hanna, the rule went out the window.  She was so passionate, her voice quivered with emotion.  She always had an original take on the topic. Much of my fan mail mentioned Hanna admiringly.  One of my ongoing conceits on the show was my general assumption that every male listener to my radio show was handsome and virile and every female, young and nubile.  Nonetheless, I suspected that Hanna had seen a few years.  Her voice and accent suggested she immigrated in response to World War 2.

One day during an on-air conversation, I discovered she was without a computer and determined to humorously influence her to acquire a laptop or tablet.  She resisted with great resolve, irritating me by insisting she was too old to learn new technology.  During the ensuing few months I begged, cajoled and beseeched.  I began to feel my credibility was on the line so I threatened to start a fund among listeners to buy her one. She finally agreed to visit a store.  End of the story:  She bought a tablet.  She fell in love with it and it changed her life.  She often called the show  explicitly to thank me for encouraging her to leap forward into the email age.  I just got another welcome email from her last week.

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