Posts in Thought Tools

Frankly Electrifying

August 8th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

One of the great delights of sharing life with my wife is her voracious reading appetite.  She tells me about some books, she summarizes others and occasionally recommends one for me to read.  This she did recently with Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley in the early 19th century.

In her introduction, Shelley contemplates the ‘nature of the principle of life’ and suggests that ‘galvanism’ might reanimate a corpse.  About 30 years before Frankenstein was published, Luigi Galvani had discovered that electricity stimulated a muscle to contract.  In chapter five, Frankenstein, “…collected the instruments of life…” so that he might infuse “…a spark of being into the lifeless thing…”  In Boris Karloff’s 1931 movie classic, a bolt of lightning animated the creature.

While the Torah conceals the nature of the ‘breath of life’ that God breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7), today we understand that our bodies function by means of electrical currents traveling through cellular protein ion channels.  The beating of our hearts; the warm sunlight we feel upon our arms; our ability to see; all this and everything else functions because of tiny electrical currents coursing through our bodies.

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The Night Is Dark

July 31st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 62 comments

It is helpful to discover that the child who seems irrationally scared of dogs was once bitten by a snarling mongrel. Knowing that Moslem forces were defeated when their siege of Vienna was repulsed on September 11th, 1683, helps make sense of their September 11, 2001 attack on the United States.  The past should not provide an excuse but it does provide insight.

After inconceivably vast numbers of casualties, Europe’s first Thirty Years War (1618—1648) ended with the Peace of Westphalia, the foundation of a fierce and formidable nation, Germany.  After even more unimaginable horror, Europe’s second Thirty Years War (1914—1945) ended with a remarkable and enduring peace.

Along with many knowledgeable professional historians, I view World War Two (1939-1945) not as a stand-alone event, but as the continuation of World War One.  Presciently, the great French military leader Marshal Ferdinand Foch who was present at the signing of the peace Treaty of Versailles, called it not a peace but a temporary twenty year cease-fire.  World War Two broke out twenty years and two months later.

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How Much Is Too Much?

July 25th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

Policies that contradict timeless truths expressed in the Bible simply don’t work.  Confiscatory rates of taxation and punitive inheritance taxes fly in the face of wisdom contained in ancient texts revered by tens of millions of Jews and Christians.

These texts are relevant today because ideologies which the Bible frowns upon inevitably turn out to be poor public policy.  For example, when the Good Book labels promiscuity as a sin, believers understand that God is not only indicating His displeasure at this behavior, He is assuring us that no societal good will come of it.  The Bible offers insights into destructive taxation policies that prove equally true.

The first Biblical mention of taxation comes in Genesis 41.  Bewildered by disturbing dreams, Pharaoh unsuccessfully seeks explanations from his courtiers.  Finally his butler, newly released from jail, remembers his cell-mate, the Hebrew  lad, Joseph.  Joseph interprets the king’s dreams to be God’s forewarning of seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine.  In verse 34, Joseph recommends applying a tax upon the Egyptian economy.

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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.

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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.

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Ladies, Don’t Reach for Your Wallet

July 3rd, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 17 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.

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Seeing Eye-to-Eye

June 20th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 19 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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