Posts tagged " Aaron "

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)

It’s almost as if God never heard the words Moses spoke.  God doesn’t even address the reasonable problem Moses raises: If his own people ignore him why would Pharaoh listen to him?

There is another nearby occasion when again God seems to ignore something Moses said:

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I am the Lord. Speak to Pharaoh everything that I speak to you.”  And Moses spoke before the Lord, “I am of uncircumcised lips; so how will Pharaoh listen to me?”  And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you a lord over Pharaoh, and Aaron, your brother, will be your prophet.” 
(Exodus 6:29-7:1)

Again, God fails to address Moses’ concern.  God didn’t reassure Moses by telling him that his brother Aaron will be his mouth.  It is almost as if Moses never uttered these words.

It turns out that these two instances are alone in all the Torah in telling us that Moses spoke not to God but before God.  That’s right; Moses never addressed these words to God.  He was speaking to himself, in front of God, or “before the Lord.”

Naturally, God didn’t respond to what Moses said.  In both verse 12 and verse 30, Moses was talking to himself,  preparing himself for another unpleasant round with both Pharaoh and the Israelites.  He did not expect a warm reception from either. 

In verse 12, Moses points a finger of indictment against God’s chosen people by saying, “My own people of Israel didn’t listen to me, how can I possibly expect Pharaoh to listen?”  As an afterthought, he mentions his own speaking disability, “I am of uncircumcised lips.”

In verse 30, Moses has had a chance to reconsider his wavering spirit.  This time he does not blame his people at all.  He thinks only of his own disability in doubting that Pharaoh will pay him any attention.

Not surprisingly, only 6 verses later we read:

Moses and Aaron did; as the Lord commanded them.
(Exodus 7:6)

As long as Moses was focusing his heart on Israel ignoring him, he was effectively paralyzed.  As soon as he started looking only inwards, he was able to move forwards.  What a beautiful lesson this is to us all. 

We all run scripts in our souls explaining our inability to do what we know we ought to do.  As long as these scripts focus on others who serve either as obstacles or excuses, we remain paralyzed.  When we edit the script, as Moses did in Exodus 6:30, to look only at ourselves, we gain the ability to pull ourselves out of our disheartened condition and move forwards.

That politician who saw only the faults of those he was elected to serve is going to do little more than waste the time and money of his constituency.  But his example serves as a tool for me to salvage the time I wasted. 

If you enjoy looking deeper into Scripture and you also enjoy cuddling up on a cold winter night watching quality shows, now is a great time to get our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show DVD Set at a sale price. You get 3 volumes for the price of 2! Susan and I have a wonderful time creating these shows as we teach, laugh and sometimes even quarrel. We’d love to share these audience-pleasing episodes with you.

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“Your podcasts and especially the TV show have turned this
agnostic almost atheist into a true believer in God.” Tamara

Did I Really Peek Into Your Closet?

March 28th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

I don’t mean to startle you by revealing a secret of yours, but here goes.  I know that in your closet, you have items of clothing you haven’t worn in a very long time.  There! I told you.  You have garments that have been hanging there for years that you just can’t bring yourself to discard.  Even without skulking creepily around your closet, I know this to be true.

This is not the place to provide you with guidance on how to sort your wardrobe and decide what should stay and what should go.  But this is just the place for me to offer ancient Jewish wisdom’s explanation behind your reluctance to trash the old trousers.  The good news is that your sadness at slinging out that old suit reflects really well on you.

I am sure you are one of those well-organized souls whose home and work space are clean and neat.  You are quick to purge unneeded papers, books, tools, recipes, and kitschy family heirlooms.  You even threw out last Thursday’s perfectly delicious dinner leftovers with barely a twinge.  But you just cannot throw out clothing.  You’ll be relieved to know that there is a perfectly good reason.  Clothing is different.

Our clothing imparts identity and dignity to us and those are more important to us than even food.  We all remember stories of the down and out salesman who spent his last few dollars, not on a meal but on a new suit and a shoeshine, knowing they would buck him up for his next interview even more than hot food.

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Hocus Focus – Wave Those Priests

March 8th, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

Artist Jacob Kurtzberg, later known as Jack Kirby, once told an interviewer that he was inspired to create the comic book character The Incredible Hulk after seeing a mother lift a car off her injured child.

Though I do not know that this was the event Kirby witnessed, the Associated Press reported a 1982 incident in Lawrenceville, Georgia in which Angela Cavallo freed her teenage son, Tony, who was crushed when a Chevy Impala he had been working on fell off its jacks. She lifted the vehicle enough for neighbors to pull Tony to safety.

I’ve heard so many accounts of people driven to superhuman feats of strength that I knew this must be well researched. Sure enough, in 1961 the Journal of Applied Physiology published a study entitled “Some Factors Modifying the Expression of Human Strength.” Apparently, certain drugs, hypnosis and yelling are among the stimuli that can temporarily boost human muscular strength by over 30%.

Wouldn’t it be useful to discover a way in which those of us who prefer not to indulge in psychotropic drugs or undergo hypnosis can nonetheless boost our strength?

Let’s glance at several Biblical feats of strength:

And Aaron shall wave the Levites….

The Levites purified themselves…and Aaron waved them…

(Numbers 8:11 and 21)

Ancient Jewish wisdom makes a point of noting that Aaron actually lifted and waved a large number of Levites. If Aaron only waved half the 22,000 Levites mentioned in Numbers 3:31, he would have had to lift and wave one adult male approximately every five seconds during about twelve hours of daylight. In the face of this almost unbelievable feat of strength and endurance, you would have expected the oral Torah to portray the waving as some sort of spiritual metaphor which would have made the entire account plausible. Yet it insists that Aaron, and only Aaron, was capable of this feat.

Similar discussions surround other feats of strength. Jacob singlehandedly rolled a massive stone off the mouth of a well, a stone that usually required many men to move it. (Genesis 29:8-10)

Ancient Jewish wisdom informs us that Jacob accomplished this task as easily as one removes a cork from a bottle.

Moses carried a heavy pair of stone tablets down steep Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 34:4) Samson uprooted, and then carried off the gates of Gaza upon his shoulders. (Judges 16:3)

In all these examples, the oral transmission makes no attempt to dismiss the stories as metaphors. Instead, we are instructed to read them literally in order to gain a glimpse into God’s guide to life that can help us all in our own lives right now and right here.

What is the secret? It is focus! That’s right, just focus. As a child, did you ever play with a magnifying glass? Holding it just right would focus the sun’s rays into a blazingly bright spot which could melt plastic and burn wood.

Similarly, focusing all of our mental and physical energy can allow us to achieve astonishing results. Jacob was utterly focused on supplying Rachel’s need for water. Moses was utterly focused on bringing God’s Torah to the Israelites, Samson was utterly focused on saving his people from the Philistines. And, yes, Aaron was utterly focused on worshipping God in exactly the way He instructed. Utter focus confers the gift of superhuman strength and endurance.

There are ways to train ourselves to focus. The martial arts expert’s blood-curdling yell as he strikes out is an example of one way. For most of us the goal is not smashing bricks or lifting up city gates but it is tackling the things we should do diligently and effectively. This can be done with focus.

Ancient Jewish wisdom regards the opposite of focus as laziness. The field (work) of the lazy man is covered with thorns, dilapidated and overgrown. (Proverbs 24:30-31)

Devoting a few minutes before the start of each work day to drawing on God’s limitless strength by studying His word is my secret of focus which I gladly share with you.

Reminder: There are a few more hours to get the 5 audio CD Biblical Blueprint Set before the price goes up this Thursday.

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