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A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table

Samsa was a travelling salesman.

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It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur

boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff.

Work So You Can Work

You do it.  I do it.  We all do it. We find ways to avoid doing those tasks in our lives that will really make a difference.  They might be unpleasant, hard, boring, perhaps even frightening.  Often, they are the very ones we have to identify and tackle.

There’s the aspiring sales professional who does almost everything except the one task that will make most difference in his life—completing his quota of calls every single day.

There are the parents whose toddler is getting out of control.  The time is overdue to introduce him to the wonderful world of discipline.  They’ve let things go for a bit too long and now every attempt to introduce boundaries and insist on appropriate behavior is met with tantrums.  The parents focus on good nutrition and creative play times—anything in fact, in order to avoid doing the one great task that will make the most difference in their lives and that of their child.

There’s the student who dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall. She needs to sit down, play the same piece repeatedly, and start the cycle again with a more difficult piece.

The Lord’s language has a word for an activity which might be staggeringly difficult to confront but which also might be the single most important assignment for any given moment of our lives.

That word is AVoDaH and one revealing example of its usage is this:

And they (the Egyptians) embittered their (the Israelites) lives with hard work,
with mortar and bricks, and with all
work in the field;
all their
work at which they worked them was with harshness.
(Exodus 1:14)

Every instance of the word ‘work’ in that verse, employs the Hebrew word AVoDaH. It suggests subjugation and servitude and certainly doesn’t sound like a positive word. It actually sounds like something you desperately want to avoid.

Don’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion. Let’s learn another Hebrew word for work – MeLaCHaH. Understanding it will make all the difference.

We find both words for work combined in the Fourth Commandment, instructing us to remember the Sabbath day.

Six days shall you work(AVoDaH) and do all your work (MeLaCHaH)…
Exodus 20:9

Why do we need both words? God is giving us a tremendously significant message. MeLaCHaH is the creative work that transforms our world and uplifts our lives, while AVoDaH is work that lacks that exciting element. Yet we do not get to do MeLaCHaH if we don’t first do our AVoDaH.

Life in Egypt was tough precisely because slaves have only AVoDaH with no possibility of MeLaCHaHIf you have AVoDaH without hope of it leading to anything greater, any form of MeLaCHaH,  it can indeed be an arduous ordeal. But don’t dream that you can enjoy MeLaCHaH without Avodah. Integrating the two types of work makes everything possible.

There is little as exciting as seeing one’s toddler blossom into a responsible youth and thriving adult with whom you share a close relationship. Achieving that requires many hours of consistent and sometimes unpleasant parenting (along with much prayer and blessing).

Making the big sale is thrilling. Hours of application, hard work, disappointment and dedication precede the excitement. Playing to a full house is thrilling, but years of perseverance lead to that moment.

Fortunately, we don’t need to wait years for the fulfillment of MeLaCHaH. Each of our days—and as the Fourth Commandment reveals, our weeks—holds both types of work. However, we do best knowing that the way the world really works, we should tackle the mundane and difficult with zest, for without it we will never achieve MeLaCHaH. We should rejoice in AVoDaH rather than resenting it.

One way to turn the ‘daily grind’ into the ‘daily greatness’ is to get a true appreciation of the nobility, dignity and opportunity of work. Our Income Abundance Set, which includes two best-selling hardcover books and two CD programs, will encourage you to do just that while providing practical direction for increasing your income. (Check out this week’s special sale price.) Turn the struggle to make a living into a thrilling, satisfying and successful quest.

reprinted from January 2013

Murder in Tennessee

I was heartbroken, as indeed every decent person should be, at the murder of six Tennessee schoolchildren last week. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of heartbreaking news and this quickly disappeared off the national news headlines. This specific incident, though, haunted me. I was also angered at how little attention it received.

Here are the basics. A speeding Chattanooga school bus was driven off its designated route; it overturned and slammed into a tree. So far six children have died with many others injured. Going back months, there are numerous records of parents and students lodging complaints against the driver, Johnthony Walker, for reckless driving as well as for cursing and threatening the students on his bus. The school’s principal also brought her concerns to the attention of school officials. Walker, too, made numerous complaints, clearly showing himself to be unhappy with his work.

I understand that in legal terms the driver is being charged with vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving, rather than murder. That doesn’t cut it for me in human terms. We have an extremely unsatisfactory situation that was kicked down the road until it exploded in tragedy. Now, after deaths and injuries, it received its ten minutes of media attention, producing no outcries from President Obama and evading the interest of the chattering media class. The parents, the teachers and the principal who saw how unfit the driver was are surely guilt and grief-stricken. This will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

What about the rest of us? Why did this move off the front page so quickly? Does anyone doubt that had the driver been white, the president and press would be shouting from the rooftops about how racism (and Donald Trump and the Republican Party) were guilty of these deaths? If the driver shot the children instead of causing the bus to crash, the president and press would relentlessly focus on this incident.

Yet, because the liberal hobgoblins aren’t found in this case, this isn’t worthy of attention. Shouldn’t we be asking how it is that someone who should have been immediately fired when the complaints against him were verified was still entrusted with children’s lives? Shouldn’t we be asking if he was still driving because of union rules, fears of lawsuits or any other legal handcuffs placed on the wrists of the school district? Shouldn’t we be telling parents that in the final analysis they should not place their trust in teachers, principals and schools but need to protect their children themselves? Shouldn’t we be demanding to know what requirements exist for anyone working in the public school system whether as a bus driver, janitor or teacher? Shouldn’t the Black Lives Matter protesters who have all the time in the world to object to November’s election results, claim that the six lives of these Black children matter too? Shouldn’t we ask whether there are tools that parents in a wealthy district would have had at their disposal had a  similarly unfit driver been uncovered?

Millions of parents around this country entrust their children to the government educational system. All too often they get little education. Is it too much to ask that at the very least their physical lives should be protected?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Little Book of Definitions (I’m sure you have more!)

FAIR —   Allowing a significant proportion of the population to live off money earned by other people

GREED—Wanting to keep my own money that I earned and use it as I choose

COMPASSION—Politicians confiscating my money and giving it to chosen recipients in exchange for votes

CHARITY—Me giving as much of my money as I choose to recipients I choose to consider worthy without government as a middleman

Is My Gut Instinct Right or Wrong?

Question:

I have a question about dating.  I am a old fashioned kind of guy in a modern world.  I am a millennial, but I like the old fashioned way of doing things.  I am at conflict a lot in relationships because of this.  

One of the more recent conflicts involves whether or not me and my girlfriend should be at each others places, alone.  We each live alone, and could visit each other whenever, but I wonder if that is a good idea, or if we should keep the dating in the public space, as that might be more appropriate for Christian dating.  I need to know what is proper, and what might be overdoing it on my part and being too restrictive.  I appreciate your help.  

Justin

Answer: 

Dear Justin,

Thank you for being an old-fashioned guy; we don’t see ‘old-fashioned’ as pejorative. Au contraire it is a tribute and our daughters along with countless Godly young women also see it this way.  This country needs more old fashioned gentlemen. 

By proactively thinking about how you and your girlfriend should behave now, you are setting the foundation for a successful relationship in the future, or alternatively for ending a relationship without unnecessary hardship and regrets. Either of these are satisfactory outcomes.

Ancient Jewish wisdom includes a timeless truth known as yichud. That Hebrew word derives from the root of togetherness. Yichud stipulates that men and women who aren’t immediate family members should not be secluded together. 

Because our society is so clueless when it comes to male/female relationships, we published Gila Manolson’s book on the topic. She makes the point in Hands Off: This May Be Love! that there are many psychological and physiological benefits to understanding the power of touch and confining touch to marriage.  One point she makes, convincingly in our  opinion, is that training oneself to desexualize attraction has its own dangers. Yet, what else can a couple do if they commit to not sleeping together but put themselves in isolated circumstances where that would be a natural urge?  You are training your beings not to react to one another—hardly a good idea. That is exactly what you and your girlfriend would be doing by visiting each other’s apartments. You would lose if you betray your standards, but you also lose by living up to them. In other words, we think that your concern is extremely valid and believe that you are showing intuitive wisdom.

On behalf of all old-fashioned gentleman,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin