Posts tagged " ancient jewish wisdom "

Never Marry That Boy

August 26th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Why do so many women make such bad mistakes about men? Some date purposelessly, often wasting far too much time on a man who will never marry them.  They devote themselves endlessly to men who as boyfriends make them miserable, and who as husbands would make them even unhappier.  Ever confident of their ability to transform commitment-phobic-rogues into devoted husbands, they lavish endless love on callous losers.

While men make more than their fair share of mistakes, this lamentable catalog lists the main mistakes women make.  Why? (more…)

Welcome to the Upper Class

July 21st, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Some Republican politicians shock me when they make statements like these.

“My tax plan will benefit the working class.”

“We must show how much we care for the poor.”

“It’s not only the rich who’ll benefit…”

“We don’t have to worry about the upper class.”

“Crime is concentrated among the lower class.”

By adopting the language of Karl Marx they surrender to socialism.  Socialism’s core belief is secularism whose paramount doctrine is that there is no God directing humanity; no God decreeing morality.  Socialism insists that all you see around you is materialism and it owes its origins to nothing but unaided, random physical and chemical processes.  It follows that every human being is little more than about $9.50 worth of common chemicals cunningly arranged. A little carbon, some oxygen and a dash of hydrogen; throw in some potassium, nitrogen, and a few other elements, and bingo! You’ve got a person.  This is the central organizing principle of secular fundamentalism.

What about hopes and dreams?  What about inspiring memories of great ancestors?  What about selfless love and devotion?  All of that is nothing but biological determinism.  Perhaps you mistakenly think you’re drawn to charity, compassion and altruism but it is nothing more than a few neurons firing in your brain creating illusions whose entire purpose is only biological survival.  You are no more than a cat, a cow, a kangaroo or a camel.  You are an animal.  You may be smarter than some animals. You may have less hair than some animals. You may run slower than some animals but you run faster than others.  They eat, defecate, mate and die.  So do you.  You are just another species of animal.  That, in a nutshell, is the sacred sacrament of socialism.

Naturally, if you are an animal, you need either a zookeeper or a farmer to whom you belong.  He will take care of you and you owe him all your productivity.  The center of your existence is not the ‘G’ of God but the ‘g’ of government.

Rich and poor have specific meaning in the Bible and do not define anyone’s essence.  Unlike animals, humans are touched by the finger of God and can grow.  Animals have only a present.  Unlike anteaters and zebras, we have a past and a future as well.  Was the pitiful tycoon, Howard Hughes, living a lonely and paranoid existence really rich? Is the young and underpaid medical resident working 12 hour shifts and sharing a tiny apartment with three other doctors-in-training, really poor?

A goldfish without enough food can be thought of as poor.  A mouse living in a grain warehouse can be considered rich.  But those terms do not apply to humans.  For humans those terms are relative.  No matter your finances, you can easily find someone with far less than you as you can find someone with far more.  Look one way and you can feel rich, while a glance in the other direction can make you feel poor.

As for the term ‘working class’ just who is that supposed to mean?  Almost everyone I know goes to work five or six days a week and that includes most of the super-successful people I know.  Most heirs to large fortunes as well as those bequeathed significant trust funds work hard in various enterprises.

As for the terms upper class and lower class, most politicians use them as synonyms for rich and poor respectively.  This sheer nonsense is predicated entirely on the underlying belief that humans are just like any other livestock.  Upper class horses race, lower class horses pull wagons and get turned into glue.  Upper class bovines breed while lower class buffalo pull ploughs.

The truth is that none of these terms apply to humans.  There is a very good reason why the Bible opens with the words:

In the beginning God created heaven and earth.
(Genesis 1:1)

rather than:

In the beginning God created everything.

or, if you prefer the poetic:

In the beginning God created the entire universe and all that is in it.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains what the words ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ teach us that would not have been conveyed by ‘everything’ or by ‘the entire universe.’

Heaven means the spiritual attributes of reality while earth refers to the physical.  God is teaching us right from the very outset that the world is both a physical and a spiritual reality.  There are things you can measure in a laboratory like food and water, and there are equally important things you cannot such as love and loyalty.

We humans, created in God’s image are chiefly distinguishable from animals by our ability to know the spiritual.  Indeed, our lives would be painfully incomplete without it.  Most of the important decisions and choices confronting us every day require us to weigh spiritual implications as much as we evaluate the physical.

I delve into this informatively and entertainingly in this special episode of my new podcast.  If you have any desire to learn how to include spiritual factors in the decisions you make you should click here and listen for free now.

Oh yes, as for upper class and lower class, what do they really mean?  Upper class people, regardless of their bank balances, are people who honor their past and plan for their future.  Lower class people, regardless of their riches, live only in and for the present.  Having abandoned every vestige of self-restraint, they succumb to every momentary urge and condemn themselves and their unfortunate offspring to utter hopelessness.

Please help a few young people that you know step onto the escalator that will lift them to the upper class.  I ask you to do so by giving them a copy of Hands Off! This May Be Love. This is one of the most important books we have published and especially in the climate surrounding young adults today it provides food for thought that is indispensable for the shaping of a successful life.

Hands Off smaller

 

How did you know the EU wouldn’t last?

July 15th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

How in the world were you able to predict the eventual fall of the European Union?  It has been more than seven years since I purchased your entire library package.  Even today, I can still recall the confidence in your voice when you predicted in the “Tower of Power” audio that the EU would break apart — and you didn’t have access to the 2015 news about Greece when you recorded it years ago.
It seems like Nigel Farage, the leader of the of the UK Independence Party, has purchased your library package as well as he was just quoted as saying, “The European Union is dying before our eyes”.  In 2008, when I listened to your prediction, one US Dollar was worth 63 cents; today one US Dollar is worth 91 cents.  What is your secret?”

∼ Bobby P.

Answer:

Dear Bobby,

If we thought we had a secret for predicting future events, we would set up a ‘psychic’ booth on the boardwalk. Here’s the drawback: we have no inside scoop;  when we do see the future and hear prophetic footsteps, it is only because of the laser beam of clarity that ancient Jewish wisdom shines onto human events.  What we teach is based on God’s word in the Bible.

(more…)

Grab That Ox

June 23rd, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Almost everyone can tell when a synagogue or a church is in the final stages of decline.  The impending extinction is usually caused by changing neighborhood demographics or sometimes by a leadership crisis but the signs are always conspicuous.  Diminished attendance; few young women, a sad-looking facility showing signs of neglect. A roof needing repair, walls needing paint, and missing light bulbs reflect deferred maintenance.

Similarly, a country that is losing its vitality and sliding down into decadence reveals certain characteristics that serve as an early warning system.  One surprisingly significant sign is hostility towards private citizens owning property.  It starts off subtly by stressing the rights of renters rather than owners and then gradually grows to criticize landlords, owners of commercial and industrial property and others who have successfully acquired property.  Eventually censure of property-owners turns into condemnation to justify government agencies raising property taxes imperiling ownership, and ultimately seizure of properties, always for the “public good” of course.

This pattern has nearly always accompanied the decline of empires, nations, and societies and can easily be observed today in Europe as well as in N. America.  The growth of an economically viable society under stable and limited government is in itself something of a miracle.  It is far from the natural order of things and to a great degree, depends upon a government not only refraining from confiscatory policies but actively protecting citizens’ ability to acquire and own property.

The Bible clearly reveals how emphatically God desires for people to own both real estate and movable property.

… nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more. But each man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree…
(Micah 4:3-4)

The prophet is not talking about people sitting under any old vine or fig tree but under their own.  Furthermore, ancient Jewish wisdom declares that the proximity of the topics of war and owning their trees in these verses suggest that violence and war are best avoided by each citizen owning property.

Not only does God want all His children to own property, but He is apparently uneasy about ownerless property.  Take a look at this:

When you encounter the ox or the donkey of your enemy wandering you shall surely return them to him.
(Exodus 23:4)

Intriguingly, the same idea is repeated with some variation later in the Torah:

You shall not see the ox or sheep of your brother wander off, and ignore them; you must certainly return them to your brother. 

(Deuteronomy 22:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches three timeless truths from these verses:

First: If you encounter obviously lost animals wandering around, you don’t have the right to ignore them.  As soon as you spot them they become your business and you are obliged to take all necessary steps to restore them to them to their owners.  God doesn’t care for ownerless property and He counts upon us to help owners retain their property.

Second: In Exodus, the second book of the Torah, we are directed to return lost property, even that belonging to our enemy.  Surely we’d have been able to figure out that if we have to treat our enemy’s property this respectfully, then we need to do so for our brother’s property.  Thus the verse mentioning brother in Deuteronomy, the fifth book, seems superfluous.  The answer is that God is teaching us that by interrupting whatever you are doing and going out of your way to return lost property to your enemy (Exodus 23:4) you can eventually transform him into your brother. (Deuteronomy 22:1)

Third: By mentioning helping one’s enemy first, God is telling us that He wants us constantly to be working on overcoming our inbuilt, unworthy natural tendencies.  A very understandable part of our beings exults at seeing our enemy’s valuable animals lost and wandering.  “That will teach him to be such a scoundrel,” we self-righteously tell ourselves.  Yet God tells us to work at overcoming our ignoble instincts.

The same applies to training ourselves never to become angry, not to be lazy, or any of the numerous other negative tendencies and instincts we possess.  They may be natural to us, but that doesn’t make them permissible.

Another area where we need to overcome a natural tendency is envy, which leads us  to equate poverty with virtue.  It is a natural instinct but a wrong one to tell ourselves that those with far more property than we have must have ‘cut corners’ and must be greedy, unworthy folks.

By remembering that part of God’s plan for human interaction demands that people own property, we can, in our own small way, help to preserve our society.  We can help curb the natural tendency of our culture, entertainment and politicians.  By remembering the Biblical approach to humans and their property, we can, in our own small way, help our synagogues and churches remain fiscally healthy and reverse the societal decline that flows from envy and hatred of those who wisely own some property.

In case you’re wondering what inspired me to write this Thought Tool, it was partially the fascinating questions that my wife and I receive from readers asking about economic, family and social issues.  We receive many puzzling and perplexing questions and we answer one a week.  So many of you have expressed interest in this aspect of our work that we have published an irresistible anthology of 101 of the most intriguing questions we have received. It is easy reading that packs a punch and you can get it today.

Dear Rabbi and Susan Book Cover2 smallerAvailable on Amazon

and Amazon Kindle too

Snow White and the Bible’s 7 Year Cycle

June 16th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Have you ever wondered why Snow White met seven dwarfs? Not six, not eight— exactly seven. Why do we speak of Seven Wonders of the World—perhaps there should be nine? Marilyn Monroe even starred in The Seven Year Itch.

Have you ever wondered why England celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne on the fiftieth anniversary? Forty and sixty are also nice round numbers. We make a huge fuss for a couple’s Golden anniversary—perhaps as lifespans increase we should change that to fifty-five years rather than fifty?

Both seven and fifty are embedded into the world’s psyche because of their importance in the Bible.

Six years you shall sow your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruit; but in the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest to the land…(Leviticus 25:3-4)

The seventh year in each cycle is called the Shemitah.  Sure enough, nothing is being planted or harvested on Jewish-owned land in Israel during the current Biblical year of 5775 ending on September 13, 2015.

This parallels the Fourth Commandment of doing no work on the seventh day, the Shabbat.

Six days you shall work and achieve all your accomplishments but the seventh day is the Shabbat of the Lord your God, on it you shall do no work, not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates.  

(Exodus 20:9-10)

Ideally, Israel’s land is so sensitive that not even it should work for us on the Sabbath!  It is plainly impracticable to uproot all crops each Friday afternoon and replant them on Saturday night. By the end of six years we’ve accumulated a total of about 312 Sabbaths upon which the earth has worked.  Leaving the land fallow for the seventh year, ‘gives back’ the six years-worth of Sabbaths. If we add to that the approximately fifty-two Sabbaths of that seventh year we get 312+52 = 364 or approximately one complete Sabbatical/Shemitah year.

After seven Shemitah cycles, equalling forty-nine years, the fiftieth year is the Jubilee year, in Hebrew YoVeL.

And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years, seven times seven years and the total of the seven Sabbaths of years will be forty-nine years…And make holy the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land for all its inhabitants…

(Leviticus 25:8-10)

God’s  fifty year cycle seems to extend beyond the borders of Israel to the economies and even wars of all the world.

I’d like to introduce you to Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff.  He recognized a fifty year cycle in economics and explained to Soviet society that God’s cycle was more accurate than the Kremlin’s latest, “Five year plan.” Not surprisingly,  Stalin executed him in 1938. Yet, what he observed stands the test of time.

In economic affairs, wealth creation seems to peak approximately every 50 years.  The year 1800 gave us steam power, industrialization and mass produced cotton fabric.  1850 was the start of railroads being built in N. America, Europe, Africa and Asia and the manufacture of steel in industrial quantities.  1900 introduced high voltage AC distribution making home and street lighting affordable and the start of the chemical industry.  1950 brought plastics and the mass produced modern automobile. 2000 ushered in the computer and digital revolution.

Likewise, at the bottom of the economic graph we have a trough every fifty years.  The first modern economic crisis was the Panic of 1825.  The Long Depression was a world-wide price recession that reached its depths in 1875.  Again, just over fifty years later we saw the Great Depression with the market crashing in October 1929.  The high oil prices, unemployment and inflation of 1975 was another recession that adhered to the Kondratieff Biblical model of economic cycles.

In warfare, God’s fifty year pattern for human affairs is equally evident. In the period 1885-1890, Britain, France, Germany, and North America were all involved in armed conflicts that established or defended borders.  Twenty-five years later, World War One broke out in 1914.  Another twenty-five years elapsed until 1939 and the outbreak of World War Two.  Another twenty-five years went by bringing us to 1964 and the sad Vietnam War.  Another twenty-five years saw the first Gulf War in summer 1990.

God’s Biblical cycles of the seven year Shemitah and the fifty year Jubilee are not arbitrary numbers. Rather, they are descriptive of how God created the world.  It is as good for us to know and understand these cycles in human affairs as it is for us to know and understand the realities that God built into the world’s psyche relating to male/female relationships, communities and personal finance.  My life’s mission has been to share this ancient Jewish wisdom in a way that makes it accessible to people of every background and in a way that helps people use it to improve their families and friendships, their finances, and their faith.

Adam, Moses and Air-Conditioning

June 9th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

More than a quarter million Bangladeshis were killed by a typhoon in November 1970.  Horrifying!  But wait, twice that number of Americans were killed by an influenza virus in 1918.  In the summer of 1995 excessive heat killed over 700 Americans while in the same year severe cold or hypothermia killed more than 2,000.  I am not trying to list a catalog of calamities; I want to explain how the world really works by posing an important question.

Why would God create a world filled with frequently fatal meteorological events, disease and intolerable heat and cold?  Why couldn’t God have just made the entire world with the mild weather of coastal British Columbia and with no germs or viruses?

Ancient Jewish wisdom answers this question.

In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the words for not good are Lo Tov.

Tov  Lo

                                                                        לא טוב

good   not

 This phrase occurs only twice in the Torah.  It appears first in Genesis 2:18 when God declares,

It is not good for man to be alone.

The phrase appears again in Exodus 18:17, when Moses’ father in law criticizes Moses for not delegating and trying to do all the teaching by himself.

And Moses’ father in law said to him, “What you are doing is not good.

In Genesis, God is not speaking only in the context of Adam’s future matrimonial prospects. Moses’ father-in-law is repeating the same message, even for his son-in-law who has the closest relationship with God. It is never good for people to be isolated from other people. The message in both places is: Find ways to collaborate and you will thrive, but alone you will perish.

Like any parent, our Father in Heaven wants His children to relate to one another with love and concern rather than indifference.  Imagine a father wanting his three children to remain connected to one another always.  He might bequeath to each just a part of the combination to activate a safe into which he had placed their inheritance.  This way they would need to cooperate in order to acquire their legacy.  Similarly, our Father in Heaven has incentivized us to cooperate and collaborate.

Think of being parachuted down onto a remote uninhabited desert island.  It is a fine tropical island with the drawback of very high temperatures.  It is almost unbearably hot on that sun seared beach.  However, you are not dismayed because back home you were a successful heating/air conditioning technician so you determine to build yourself a little air conditioned beach shack.  How long will it take you to build a working air conditioner?

The answer, of course, is that you never will.  On this island there is nobody making and selling sheet metal. The same goes for rubber tubing, compressors and condensers.  Not to mention that there is nobody generating electricity.  All the wonderful appliances and devices that make life comfortable and even possible only come about through human cooperation.   In other words, God incentivized us to connect, communicate, cooperate, and collaborate.  It is as if He is saying to us, “My children, I have created a world with tough challenges.  Here’s your choice:  Learn to get on together or you will live short and painfully unpleasant lives.”

In 1953, a flood drowned nearly 2,000 Dutchmen in the Netherlands.  Why has no subsequent North Sea flood done anything similar?  Because immediately following that disaster, the Dutch got together and pooled capital and engineering know-how to build the world’s largest land reclamation project ever.

One family alone can never protect itself from an epidemic.  However, when millions of families pool their capital and expertise, over time they come up with a vaccine against the rampaging disease.  Far more successful small businesses are launched by partnerships and teams than by one entrepreneur laboring alone.

By highlighting that the phrase Lo Tov — it is not good — appears only twice in the Torah and that both occurrences involve someone disconnected from others, we learn a vital life lesson.  The good things in life come when we are not alone.  Connecting, communicating, cooperating and collaborating with others allows us to achieve far more goodness than we possibly can alone.

There is considerably more ancient Jewish wisdom highlighting not only the infinite range of potential that more and better connections can unleash in your life but also practical strategies to make that happen.  I have collected the best of these and made them available for you to employ in your social and business life in a 2 CD audio package entitled  Prosperity Power—Connect For Succe$$.  (Check out the instant download option which is on sale.) Listen while you commute or exercise or even as you doze off in bed.  It is material you need to hear more than once.

Whether as a gift for someone who’ll realize how important they are to you or for yourself, this program will not only teach you things you didn’t know about the Bible and about human connection, but it will also help you transform yourself  into a vastly improved connector.  That is good for your finances, it is good for your health, and it makes our Father in Heaven smile. And that is really good.

PP package front

 

 

I Won’t Stand for It

April 29th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

 

“The boy stood on the burning deck

Whence all but he had fled;

The flame that lit the battle’s wreck

Shone round him o’er the dead…”

(Casablanca, Dorothea Hemans, 1826)

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing…”

(The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)

“Stood there and watched you walk away…”

(Haunted, Taylor Swife, 2010)

“How to Handle Getting Stood Up on a Date”

(Glamour Magazine, 2014, 2011, 2004, 1998)

The French captain’s son stood resolutely on the burning deck until he was finally consumed in the furious flames.  Though Edgar Allan Poe claims he stood there for a long while, I suspect that in reality he soon returned to his bed.  Taylor Swift stood there as her lover walked away but one assumes that she managed to replace him quite quickly.  The readers of Glamour who keep getting stood up, well, enough said.

There really ought to be different words in English for stood.  One can scarcely compare my different examples of standing.  One shouldn’t.  I won’t stand for it.

In the Lord’s language there are indeed words to describe two different ways of standing.  One can stand firm like the boy on the burning deck; one might say, stand like a pillar.  Or one can stand there sadly like Taylor Swift, ready to be quickly distracted by someone else.

Let’s see a Biblical example of each kind of standing.

You stand this day all of you before the Lord your God that you should enter into a covenant…that He may establish you today for a people to himself…

(Deuteronomy 29:9-11)

 

And it came to pass at the end of two years that Pharaoh dreamed; and, behold, he stood on the river. 

(Genesis 49:1)

 When the Israelites stood before God to establish a special covenant, it was for all time.  In fact, the Bible makes clear that this covenant is being established not only with those Israelites who were standing there, but also with all the future generations not yet born. (Deuteronomy 29:13-14).  In other words, a permanent standing.  The Hebrew word used for standing is YaTZaV.

However, when Pharaoh dreamed that he stood on the Nile, not only did he not remain there for long, but it was a dream.  The Hebrew word used for stand is the far more common OMeD.

The word OMeD is also used here, implying a lack of firmness:

 

And the magicians were unable to stand before Moses…

(Exodus 11:9) 

However, when the standing is more that of standing like a rock until one’s task is complete, the Torah uses the word YaTZaV.

For instance, “Behold I stand by the water well…” (Genesis 24:13) said Eliezer as he prayed for success in finding the woman who’d become the second matriarch, the wife of Isaac.

The same root word as that for standing firmly, YaTZaV, is used for a pillar that stands immovably forever, such as the pillar that Lot’s wife turned into.

 But his wife looked back from behind him,
and she became a pillar (NeTZiV) of salt.

(Genesis 19:26)

Knowing that there are two different ways of standing helps us translate our spirit into our posture.  When I stand in line at the check-out, I hope it’s not for long and so I don’t root myself to the ground.  However, when I stand up for principle, I want to be utterly immovable and just as importantly, I want to appear to others as utterly immovable.

Deciding which principles one will stand up for unyieldingly is vital for successful living.  It allows one to know in advance which battles are worth fighting and which are better averted.

Some of those battles arise from the political and cultural maelstroms that swirl around the foundations of your family and livelihood.  The best way to acquire a Biblical perspective on these is through my audio CD program Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of BabelThe two CDs and study guide explore nine verses in Genesis that lay out struggles that repeat continually through history and which roil the times in which we live. Understanding that struggle allows you and yours to take your stand.

Change Jobs – Become a Futurist

March 17th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In case you are contemplating a career change, I want to suggest becoming a ‘futurist’ (i.e. a secular prophet).  It is not as hard as it may seem.  You boldly announce provocative predictions.  If they subsequently come to pass, you triumphantly proclaim your prescience.  If they don’t, you make new predictions.

Consider one of the country’s most respected ‘futurists’, Professor Paul Ehrlich who teaches in the Biological Sciences department at one of America’s most illustrious universities, Stanford.  In 1968 he wrote The Population Bomb which opened with this sentence-

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. 

In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death…”

 Note that he didn’t say that overpopulation could become a problem one day.  He didn’t say that feeding the world’s growing population could become a challenge.  He said explicitly that during the 1970s hundreds of millions of people would starve to death.  As we all know, that didn’t happen.  He wasn’t even close.  He also predicted that by 1980 all animal life in the planet’s oceans would be extinct and that by the year 2000, England will have ceased to exist.  He is still a highly paid and respected professor at Stanford.  Would you want this man teaching biological science to your child in exchange for your tuition payment of $60,000?

Writing Future Shock in 1970, Alvin Toffler predicted underwater cities, the doubling of the planet’s population in ten years, and the proliferation of wear-once-and-throw-away clothing made of paper.  However, he also predicted the growing popularity of home-schooling and the decline in manufacturing jobs so his score is much better than that of Ehrlich.  Nonetheless, the score is irrelevant, go ahead and become a ‘futurist’.  You have nothing to lose.  In fact, with the helpful tip I am going to provide you, your score will easily exceed that of the two ‘futurists’ I have written about above.

That said, it is important to distinguish between ‘futurists’ and professionals who know their own fields so well that they can spot the gentle ripples that herald approaching events.

Fifty years ago, in April 1965, Gordon Moore predicted home computers, electronic wrist watches, and portable telephones.  All these and more would become possible, he argued, because the number of components that were being crammed onto integrated circuits or ‘chips’ was going to double every couple of years.  Now, Gordon Moore was not a professional prognosticator.  No, he was not a ‘futurist’ he was an entrepreneur.  He was the co-founder of Intel, perhaps the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer.  And all his predictions have indeed come true because he didn’t try and predict the weather or social demographics.  He confined his vision to the process and consequence of raising the value of sand (silicon dioxide) by melting it and blending it with other elements.  In other words, manufacturing semiconductors.

In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for sand is CHoL.  Exactly the same word also means non-holy, or without God.

חל           חל

CHoL          CHoL

sand         secular

If you’re a regular Thought Tool reader, you know by now that uniquely in Hebrew, if one word has two meanings, the deep reality of that word can only be fully comprehended by somehow blending the two meanings.

So, we should explore why CHoL means both secular and sand.  Fortunately we possess a clue in that the Hebrew word for rock, TZUR usually means God. Here follows one of the more than twenty-five examples of this just in the Book of Psalms.

The Lord is my rock….

(Psalms 18:3) 

Just like God, an unshakable, immovable, reliable mass upon which you can even build a skyscraper is a rock.  The quality of sand is the opposite.  Sand is always blowing around in the wind.  It is without solid substance and cannot be built upon or relied upon, exactly the qualities of secularism.  Secular fads blow in the wind; it would be sheer folly to build anything upon any secular fad.

This makes it far easier to understand the verse:

The start of all wisdom is fear of the Lord….

(Psalms 111:10)

Trying to understand how the world really works while remaining sublimely oblivious to something as central and as important as God is impossible.  For a ‘futurist’ to try predictions without any awareness of God and the spiritual dimension is as far-fetched as for a baker to try making a cake without any awareness of ovens and how they work.

So if you want to become a futurist, albeit one with a slightly better track record than Ehrlich and Toffler, keep God and spirituality in mind.  I’m sure you’ve read about how the so-called Millennials, people in their thirties who came of age at the turn of the century, have unusual employment expectations.  Unlike their parents’ generation, they are driven less by money and more by other more spiritual considerations such as meaning and purpose in the world.  Neither we nor the world in which we live and function are entirely material and physical.  The spiritual dimension is real.  You need to understand it even if for no other reason than the majority of the people with whom you interact, try to live in harmony with God and His spiritual realities.

Second and more importantly, try and practice your futurism in an area you know well.  When my expert German mechanic tell me that my car’s water pump is going to die within the next few hundred miles, he is invariably correct.  Occasionally he tells me who will win the next election.  In this he invariably turns out to be wrong.

Perhaps my most effective resource for absorbing the relevance and impact of the spiritual side of life is my book Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language.  I would enjoy knowing that you have this in your library and are able to apply its lessons to the many family and business circumstances in which you need to peer into the future a bit.

Amazon, Apple, and DNA

March 12th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Internet giant, Amazon, is famous for its frugality. This means cheap desks cobbled together from wooden doors and scraps of lumber. It also means main cabin air travel, even for senior executives, on long flights.  This corporate parsimony didn’t suddenly appear from nowhere.  Although he was already a senior vice president at a successful hedge fund, Jeff Bezos and his wife borrowed a car and drove themselves to Seattle to start Amazon in a garage.

Apple products are cool.  Even people who don’t know the term ‘cool’ can best grasp its meaning by strolling through an Apple store.  Even the Apple store is cool.  Mall operators vie with one another to win an Apple store because it generates so much foot traffic.  Though he was a far more talented electronic designer, Steve Wozniak left Apple after losing out to the ever-cool Steve Jobs, despite owning most of Apple’s early patents.  The corporate cool of Apple didn’t suddenly appear from nowhere.  Jobs beamed out cool from the earliest days in Cupertino.

Did Bezos driving an old car cross-country in 1994 or Steve Jobs wearing his black turtleneck sweater in 1976 set the pattern for the future?  It is hard to be sure but it certainly seems probable. Whether you are starting a family or a factory it is worthwhile sparing some thought to what ideas will be implanted in the cultural DNA of your venture.  Whether you are acquiring a business or a mate, probe early history for hints of the cultural DNA that might have been implanted that will show up years later.   

We see this in Scripture.  It is all but impossible to grasp fully the purpose, impact, and destiny of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem without knowing anything of its early-stage cultural DNA.  When its construction is detailed in the First Book of Kings, we see an incongruous reference. Instead of dating commencement of building to the king’s reign, as would be expected, the first reference is to an apparently unlinked event nearly 500 years earlier:

And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomons reignhe began to build the house of the Lord.
(I Kings 6:1)

Then we find an iconic phrase, Machon LeShivtecha—a place of your dwelling—appearing four times, almost like a recurring motif. (I Kings 8:13, 39, 43, 49)  It is impossible to read this special phrase in Kings without being transported back to Exodus when the phrase first makes its appearance in the song that the Children of Israel sing after their triumphant crossing of the Red Sea.

A place of your dwelling
(Exodus 15:17)

This wording suggests that the Exodus that occurred a week earlier will only find its ultimate fulfillment in the erection of a place for God to dwell in half a millennium later.  This comes as no surprise to us because Moses repeatedly assured Pharaoh that the purpose of Israel’s leaving Egypt was to worship God. 

Lest we be left in any doubt that the cultural DNA of Solomon’s Temple is rooted in the Exodus from Egypt 500 years earlier, we find explicit reference to the Exodus no fewer than six times during the detailing of the Temple in the eighth chapter of the Book of Kings.

What is the connection between the Jerusalem Temple and the Egyptian experience? Before you can commit to serving God, you have to viscerally understand that only such service can liberate one from the tyranny of having to serve man.  After years of  Egyptian slavery, the Israelites comprehended how preferable it is to serve a loving  God rather than a human tyrant.  Thus, it in order to understand completely the Temple that Solomon built, we need to study the lines linking it to the Egypt experience which was part of its cultural DNA.  These lines serve as an excellent reminder of how important it is to explore the cultural DNA of a person or organization’s past in order to understand its present and future.

I am quite certain that this kind of Biblically-based insight can strengthen each of us and make all our undertakings far more effective.  For more practical insights from the Exodus,  I ask you to go ahead, right now while the thought is still fresh, and order our audio CD, Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt.

Love Your Neighbor – Really?

February 24th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

One of the most frequently recurring questions that I am asked is this:  “Rabbi Lapin, I try to live my life as an upright and decent person and I try to make my decisions according to the Biblical code of good and evil but I often feel exploited.  Sometimes relatives count on my good nature as they ask to stay at my home for lengthy visits while they tour nearby vacation areas.   Other times co-workers ask for favors that go way beyond normal collegial cooperation.  I am at my wit’s end because I know they view me as a God-fearing, kind and compassionate Christian.  They assume that since I love them, I must agree to their requests. Sometimes, though, I find these requests excessive and I feel resentful.  I don’t see how I can refuse without appearing unchristian but I don’t like feeling resentment. How can I reconcile my self-expectations of love with those of other people in my life?”

Let’s face it. Loving others isn’t always easy.  Even loving one’s friends and relatives can sometimes be a bit demanding.  This is especially true when things begin to resemble a bottomless pit.  Imagine your neighbor borrowing your lawnmower in the name of your love for him, then demanding your hedge trimmer before he hosts a late night noisy party, always confident of your obligation to give him endless love.  When is enough, enough?

I sympathize.  The Bible does demand much from us.  What are we to do when others latch onto our moral commitment to behave agreeably and exploit it?  Well, today I want to do more than sympathize.  I want to provide you with a solution to the dilemma created by your faith and dedication to God’s word.

Clearly the one specific Bible verse causing this consternation is:

…and you shall love your friend as yourself, I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:18)

This verse appears problematic because a casual reading of it could imply that whenever I love myself enough to get me an ice-cream, I need to get you one too.  And you, and yes, you too!   Does it mean that when you purchase a lovely new outfit, you should buy one for each of your friends and neighbors as well?   Upon reflection, that does seem ridiculous, but if it is what the Scripture says, well…

Happily ancient Jewish wisdom comes to the rescue pointing out that the Hebrew text actually reflects that you must love your friend just as you would expect him to love you.  No more and no less.

In other words, would I expect my friend or neighbor to buy me an ice-cream whenever he gets one for himself?  No, of course not.  Would you expect your friend to get you a pretty new dress whenever she got one for herself?  No, of course you wouldn’t.  The message is clear; do not expect more love than you would deliver in the same circumstances.

Once we learn how to overcome the problem of limitless expectations on the part of those we love, learning how to love those among whom we live is very worthwhile.  It can help us love others once we realize that loving someone else “as yourself” does not mean you ought to love him as much as you love yourself, but as much as you’d expect him to love you.  Do things for other people in the name of your love for them, to the extent that you would expect them to do the same for you.

As soon as we apply these reasonable limitation on expectations, we can love fearlessly.  However we must remember why we should indeed love our friends at all.  The concluding phrase of Leviticus 19:18,  “I am the Lord,” reminds us that we are all God’s children and as such, we are all brothers and sisters and by that relationship, worthy of one another’s love.

One way to show love for each other, as well as to celebrate our being created by God, is to properly use the gift He uniquely gave to human beings – speech. When we speak rudely or use foul language in a public area, we are stating a lack of care for others.  When we use profanity among our friends and family, we degrade ourselves and them. In the process, as we show in our audio CD, Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak, we damage our economic chances as well as our opportunities for lasting love. An hour listening to this CD can change your future.

Peril cover 143