Posts in Thought Tools

Never Marry Your Grandmother

February 5th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

“My boyfriend is driving me crazy! Does he want to get married or not?”

“My husband and I were both thrilled when I became pregnant. But when I mention the baby, he sometimes gets this terrified look on his face. Is he happy about our baby nor not?”

The answer is…drum roll please…Both! The author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote,

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold

two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,

and still retain the ability to function.”

People are complicated and since most of the joy in life as well as most of the problems come from dealing with others, it is helpful to gain greater understanding into human relationships, particularly between men and women.

Take a look at Scripture’s list of prohibited sexual relationships. It starts with close relatives and ends with bestiality. (Leviticus 18:6-23)

Pretty straightforward. Except, we are perplexed to discover that one and a half chapters later the entire list is repeated. This time, however, it starts with adultery and ends with close relatives. (Leviticus 20:10-21) Is it repeated to help folks with short memories?

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See My Words

January 29th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

It is so easy to become impatient when a toddler, colleague, client, customer, or patient go on and on when telling us a story. In turn, when we are the ones relaying information, we get frustrated when our listeners tune us out. Too often, instead of our employees, boss, spouse, children or students paying attention, they seem uninterested or distracted.

How do we become better at both giving and receiving information?

This verse can help:

Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the words which your eyes saw,
… and you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.
(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Why does Deuteronomy 4:9 refer to words that are seen? We see things, not words. I sympathize with the plight of translators who often mistakenly write, “Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the things which your eyes saw…”

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Banish Stinking Thinking

January 22nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 33 comments

Nobody I know ever warned more effectively against “Stinking Thinking” than my unforgettable friend, the late Zig Ziglar.  His son, Tom, carries his father’s legacy forward, doing his bit to help banish the scourge of Stinking Thinking.

What is Stinking Thinking? It’s the business professional saying to him or herself, “I’ve called enough customers for one day; it’s time for a break.” It’s the harried homemaker thinking, “I can’t carry on; nobody appreciates me.” It’s the employee avoiding making the case for requesting a raise by saying, “I’m probably not worth any more than I’m being paid.” It’s the overwhelmed mom doubting her ability to cope with one more toddler temper tantrum or the dad coming home and sitting down in front of the TV instead of spending time with his children and wife as deep down he knows he ought. It’s the writer thinking that he or she can’t sit in front of the keyboard for another minute and it’s you and me explaining to ourselves why we shouldn’t exercise more than we do.

Stinking Thinking can’t be overcome by arguing with ourselves; our lower self has far better debating talents than our higher selves. Stinking Thinking can best be defeated by utterly obliterating the idea that is discouraging our progress upwards.

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Salvaging Six Minutes

January 16th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

I wasted six irrecoverable minutes last Thursday.  I was in a hotel room watching a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on television justify his failures, and those of his colleagues, by pointing a finger of disdain at a large part of the American population.  Poor results were because too many Americans were too selfish to understand his heroic sacrifices on behalf of other Americans and other not-yet-Americans.  I was as dismayed by the poor quality of some of our elected as I was about my wasted six minutes.

Later, while driving, I contemplated how I might try and benefit from those lost six minutes. Many a mile went by with no hope of rescuing that time wasted in front of the TV screen.  Then, all of a sudden, my wife, Susan, asked me, “Do you know that in only two places in the Five Books of Moses, does Moses speak ‘before the Lord’ rather than ‘to the Lord’”?  I laughed delightedly because while those six minutes were certainly irrecoverable, they were no longer wasted.  I was able to learn from them.

Let me explain.  It can be disconcerting when, during a conversation, someone utterly ignores what you just said and continues talking as if you hadn’t said a thing.  You feel as if perhaps you didn’t say it at all.  There can only be two explanations.  Either the person is incredibly rude or else you didn’t speak the words, you merely thought them; in reality they never made it to your mouth.

Consider this conversation between God and Moses:

The Lord spoke to Moses saying.  “Come, speak to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and he will let the children of Israel out of his land.”   And Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “The children of Israel did not listen to me, how then will Pharaoh listen to me, seeing that I am of uncircumcised lips?” And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and He commanded them concerning the children of Israel…
(Exodus 6:10-13)

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Banished and Vanished

January 8th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

For a while in middle school, I was friendly with a boy whose father attended school events as frequently as mine did; which is to say—never!  Ours was a natural alliance between two outsiders who turned to one another for company while other boys dallied with their dads.  His father was a doctor while mine was a rabbi.  His weary response to everyone asking about his father was, “With patients.”  Mine was, “With congregants.”

I remember wondering why lawyers, stockbrokers, and plumbers were always there at games with their sons.  How come they weren’t with clients and customers?  What was it about rabbis and doctors?  Not until later did I realize that some jobs really are more like ministries and missions.  Under normal circumstances, bookkeepers, car dealers, and social workers are home with their families for dinner.  For certain medical specialties and for clergymen, normal circumstances are helping a person in need rather than heading home because the clock says dinnertime.

Naturally, there is a price to be paid.  Nothing is for nothing, so it sometimes does happen that the children of parents who are super-dedicated to their work suffer.  It goes without saying that there are compensating benefits.  I did learn what commitment to one’s obligations means and understood the idea of having a life purpose. I respected my father immensely.

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Pressing Restart

January 1st, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

I have been known to say that Judaism is my way of life while boating is my religion. After all, some religious observances require a special litugical language, unique clothing and are practiced on certain days.  Check, check and check for boating. But even for those of you with other religions, there are many life-metaphors to be found in the wonderful world of boats. Boats and people both embark on journeys and both can reach their destinations or sink.

When a boat is in the doldrums it is in that notorious windless zone near the equator. Old-time sailing vessels were often stuck there for weeks.  When a person is listless and despondent, he is also said to be in the doldrums.  But there is one major difference. While sailboats must await changing weather, humans have the miraculous capacity to bring about change in their lives themselves. 

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Not Your Average English Country Garden

December 26th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Born to a confused sixteen-year-old girl impregnated by a man she met at an English pub, virtuoso guitarist Eric Clapton didn’t have much of a wholesome family childhood.  His father vanished before he was born and he was raised by his grandmother, led to believe that his mother was his sister.  Young Eric was soon playing guitar on the streets of London while passers-by dropped coins in his hat.

Years later, in rehab for alcohol addiction after having become an international music star, Eric writes in his autobiography:

“…I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair.  At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way, and I fell to my knees.  In the privacy of my room I begged for help.  I had no notion of who I thought I was talking to, I just knew I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with.  Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help and getting down on my knees, I surrendered.  Within a few days I realized that something had happened for me.  An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there was much more to it than that.  I’d found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted or needed to believe in.  (emphasis added) From that day until this I have never failed to pray in the morning on my knees asking for help, and at night to express gratitude for my life and most of all for my sobriety. ”

Eric survived and went on to thrive because he took his soul seriously.  Treating his addiction as if it only afflicted his body wasn’t working.  Like the famed twentieth century Swiss psychiatrist who played a role in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous by recognizing that alcoholism has a spiritual dimension, Clapton involved his soul by using prayer.

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Sagittarius Surprises

December 19th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

Before dawn, Jerry Westfield and his two excited boys boarded their runabout at Ala Wai Harbor.  Stowing the fishing gear along with their lunch, Jerry yanked the cord and started the Evinrude outboard while his sons tossed the mooring lines onto the dock.

The black sky turned to cloudless cobalt as they slipped out to sea, past the enormous gray hulls of the battleships lying quietly at anchor. It was going to be a glorious day of fishing and their spirits rose along with the sun. The fish were already biting, and the glinting windows of distant Waikiki Beach hotels seemed to be applauding their prowess.  All was well until eight o’clock that morning, December 7, 1941.

To remind oneself of how quickly circumstances can deteriorate, one doesn’t need to reflect back seventy years.  A little over sixteen years ago, on a sunny Tuesday morning in September, the lives of every American changed for the worse.  Most of us can easily identify a moment in our own lives that dashed our dreams.

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Faith, Fertility and Fear

December 12th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

Almost everyone notices that religious couples tend to have more children then secular couples.  Among American Jews the trend is pronounced.  American Jews fall into two categories, religious and secular.  I define religious as those who believe that God gave His message to mankind through Moses on Mount Sinai about 3,300 years ago and who regard that message, the Torah, as the constitution of Judaism.  Only about 20% of Jewish Americans are religious.  In the United States, where the national average is 1.8 births per woman, secular Jewish women average about 1.6 births per woman. The figure for religious Jewish women is just over 4.8.  During our family excursions, Susan and I were always amused when strangers, noting our seven children, would nod knowingly and, leaning in conspiratorially, whisper to us, “Catholic, right?” 

It was not hard to discover that many doctoral dissertations in many universities have been written attempting to explain the correlation between religiosity and large families.  They range from fatuous to foolish and from pedantic to perplexing.   They assume religious couples know no better or are backwards and unable to accept modern science.  Almost without exception, they ignore the positive effects of religion on family formation. I would like to suggest three benefits.

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Character, Not Chromosomes, Is the Culprit

December 6th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

Like English cuisine, French fortitude, and Italian military, the term toxic masculinity is an oxymoron.  If it is toxic, it’s not masculine and if it’s masculine it isn’t toxic.  Okay, I was joking about those old national slurs (I apologize, you social Stalinists, yes, I know it wasn’t funny!) But think of the phrase ‘cowering courage’.  Again, if you cower you’re not courageous, and if you’re courageous you don’t cower.  If you’re masculine, you’re not toxic; no, you’re a colossal asset to your family, your community, and your country.

As the brave feminist professor, Camille Paglia, put it in her 1990 book, Sexual Personae, “If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.”  Her point: most of the dangerous and grueling jobs that make our comfortable lives possible are done by men.  Yet we’ve heard this mendacious phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ repeatedly uttered by hysterical pundits of both genders in the context of horribly behaved men in entertainment, politics and news media.  They usually intend more than a wisp of a suggestion that all men manifest ‘toxic masculinity’. 

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