Posts tagged " Genesis "

In Front of the Eight Ball

November 29th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

“Rabbi Lapin, please stop talking and writing about money; all you’re doing is perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes!”  This was the phone call I received a while ago from the head of one of the Jewish organizations concerned with anti-Semitism.  Knowing it was futile, I still recommended that he worry more about Moslems than about me.

“Rabbi Lapin, I love your weekly email messages but I get really turned off by the commercial message. I know you have to advertise, but it detracts from the spiritual high you give me.”  This was an email I received from a long-time reader of our work.  I responded by explaining how making money can be as much a way of serving God as worship is. I suggested that her attitude really placed her ‘behind the eight ball’ financially.  Hoping she wouldn’t be too put-off by another advertisement, I recommended she read Thou Shall Prosper for the full explanation

Then I assured her that I would write more on the topic. Here it is.

Compare these two verses and see if you can spot the subtle but significant distinction.

Abram took his wife, Sarai, and Lot, his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired…
(Genesis 12:5)

Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he possessed—and Lot was with him…
(Genesis 13:1)

Both journeys involved three people: Abraham; his wife Sarah; and his nephew Lot.  Both trips also involve Abraham’s wealth.  The main difference is that on the first journey Lot was wholeheartedly with his relatives, Abraham and Sarah.  By the second journey, the text indicates that Lot was more attracted to the wealth than to his uncle and aunt.  Looking at the arrangements of words in that verse, one could say that the possessions came between Abraham and Lot.

We are not shocked when five verses later we read of growing disagreement between the establishments of Abraham and Lot.

And the land did not bear them to dwell together, for their possessions were many, and they could not dwell together.
(Genesis 13:6)

The Hebrew root word for substantial possessions, ReCHuSH, appears exactly eight times throughout the Abraham story.

ר  כ  ש
SH   CH  R

Before we examine the meaning of the number eight, let’s identify one other phrase that appears eight times in the Abraham account.

And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba…And Abraham arose from before his dead, 
and he spoke to the sons of Het
(Genesis 23:2-3)

And the sons of Het answered Abraham…
(Genesis 23:5)

And Abraham arose and prostrated himself…to the sons of Het
(Genesis 23:7)

During the account of Abraham’s negotiation with the sons of Het for a burial plot, they are referenced eight times.  It is clearly deliberate since some of the mentions could have been replaced with a pronoun or omitted.

Mentioning sons of Het eight times is interesting because the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the letter named Het, whose assigned numerical value is, yes, eight.

ח

So, Abraham’s wealth and his largest expenditure are both referenced eight times. Furthermore, he hands over a substantial slice of his assets to people named, “Sons of Eight.”

We need to know what the number eight signifies in Biblical thought.  An important Biblical tool is knowing that the first mention of something in Scripture is a good place to search for that thing’s essential meaning.

And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
(Genesis 21:4)

In ancient Jewish wisdom, circumcision represents humans partnering with God to build His world. God created man, but we humans improve man by removing his foreskin.You won’t be surprised that the Hebrew word for oil, SHeMeN, spells out the number eight.  God creates oil, but it is valueless until man extracts its energy by burning it.

Abraham was the first human to accumulate wealth and the first person to invest some of that wealth in real estate.  By being mentioned exactly eight times, both activities hint at a partnership with God. Like so many other important Biblical insights, this is counterintuitive.  Left to our own, we tend to think of making and investing money as somehow unGodly, unBiblical, or at the very least, decidedly unspiritual. In reality, money is one avenue in which we partner with God to improve His world.

This is an appropriate time to discuss the number eight as we approach the holiday of Chanuka – the only festival designated for eight days. The implications of this holiday for our modern lives are mind-boggling and largely revolve around the numbers eight and twenty-five. If you’d like to hear more, listen to our audio CD Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence Into a 25/8 Life. This isn’t ancient history; it is living revelation and the CD is available now at a holiday sale price.

Festival of Lights_white bg

What’s in a Name?

October 19th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

In an act of unprecedented ostentatiousness, Gerald Guterman chartered the famous ocean liner, the QE2, along with its one thousand crew members to celebrate his son’s bar-mitzvah in 1986.

Our son’s bar-mitzvah was solemnized in a small synagogue built on the Los Angeles ocean front in the 1940s.  Guterman was trying to add meaning to his family celebration by means of an extraordinary location.  We were blessed to add meaning to a picturesque old house of worship by having it house our act of religious significance.

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Who’s the “us” in “Let us make man”?

July 14th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment

Question:

In Genesis God declares, “Let Us make man in Our Own Image.” Who is the Us?

∼ Ted M., MD

Answer:

Dear Ted,

The phrase, “Let us make man…” is the subject of volumes of ancient Jewish wisdom. So troubling is it on the surface, that when Jewish sages were forced to translate the Bible into Greek (an event whose ramifications are felt so deeply that until today that date is observed annually by fasting) seventy sages purposely mistranslated the verse, despite being in different rooms. Miraculously every one of them translated it as, “let me make man”.
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No Work This Monday

July 7th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Got a project that you’re proud of at work? Better hurry up and get it done because all work is soon coming to an end. Machines are taking over; it’s the end of work. Some greet the news with dismay, What will people do with all that leisure? Others eagerly anticipate a world of all play and no work. Some say humans will no longer have to work. Others say humans will no longer get to work. But all agree this major change is on the horizon.

For those of you eager to hear that you can sleep late this Monday morning, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that work is not coming to an end. The good news is the same. This provocative and puerile prediction has been a staple of everyone from foolish social scientists to bogus futurists for a long time. (more…)

Do orthodox Jews interpret the Bible literally?

June 17th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment

Question:

My pastor tells me that, “The most orthodox view historically seems to be not a literal interpretation,” with the creation story in Genesis 1-3.

Would you agree with this? Are there other passages in the Torah like this? Are their hints in the Hebrew that suggest something to be non-literal?  ∼ Jarred

Answer:

Dear Jarred,

A few days ago, Jews celebrated the festival of Shavuot, known in English as Pentecost. Shavuot falls during the Hebrew month of Sivan, whose sign is twins. (General culture adapted this idea turning it into the zodiac sign of Gemini.)

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Rowdy Red or Benign Blue

May 31st, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

It was on election night November 2nd, 1976, when President Ford was being challenged by Jimmy Carter that NBC television showed us our first blue/red electoral map. The blue was Republican and showed the 27 states won by Ford, while red was Democrat. It was only in the 2000 Bush-Gore election that the colors were switched. Since then red shows states and counties voting Republican while blue stands for Democrats.

This was a cunning reversal of the usual convention of red symbols standing for left-leaning revolutionary movements while conservative parties in almost every country used blue. After all, the color red was emblematic of communism and still reminds us of the Soviets. You might remember the Cold War cry of the American left, “Better red than dead!” (more…)

What exactly are we supposed to subdue?

May 25th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

“The first mission or command given to mankind is be fruitful, multiply, subdue and have dominion. Can you explain this in detail? I’ve heard that the word “subdue” specifically means to take rulership over something or someone hostile. 

Who or what is the word hostile referring to?  

∼ Scott C.

Answer:

Dear Scott,

Because of the difficulty in translating accurately from the Hebrew we think that your English translation is actually combining the final two verbs to imply both subduing and having dominion. (more…)

Truth and Lies

May 10th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

What parent, at one time or another, hasn’t wished for an absolutely reliable, invisible lie-detector? What business professional interviewing a potential hire hasn’t wished for exactly the same thing? Now I know what you’re thinking. ‘Invisible’ is impossible. True, but so is ‘absolutely reliable lie-detector,’ so I saw no harm in adding ‘invisible’ to the wish list.

It is true that stress can cause various physiological responses like elevated blood pressure and sweating. It is also true that these can be measured by a polygraph but for good reason, most legal jurisdictions allow polygraph results only for investigatory purposes, not for gaining a conviction. Factors other than lying can cause the same physiological responses and too many people can lie without presenting these physical reactions. (more…)

Sneering At Virtue

May 3rd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Here is one of the most important lessons to teach your children: Wrongdoers detest those who don’t join in. It’s also not a bad lesson for you to understand and absorb if you want a clear picture of the behind-the-scenes politics in your place of business. It is just as necessary in order to understand how power and money have corrupted much of our political process.

More than one dedicated and idealistic candidate has won election promising to become a representative of the people. Finding his place in the corridors of power, he discovers to his dismay that many of his colleagues are there to feather their nests. What is more, he is quickly made to understand that if he holds himself aloof and refrains from participation in the plunder he will never receive invitations to the best parties. More seriously, he will be overlooked for committee appointments. There are no easy ways to deal with this reality, leading many earnest and well-intentioned people to succumb to the enticements of power. It is very difficult to live with one’s virtue being mocked. (more…)

This Way or That

April 5th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Want to lose weight? It’s always hard, but why make it harder than necessary by using the wrong strategies? Everyone knows that there are two prongs to this challenging goal: eating fewer calories and increasing exercise. Where to start? Is it more effective to sign up at a gym and use the exhilaration of mastering the Elliptical to help overcome the urge for chocolate cream eclairs or better first to lay off the calories and once that urge has been defeated, get going on the treadmill?

Intoxicated by a regular paycheck in your first job after college you’ve gone on a spending spree. The credit card bills make you hyperventilate each month. Got to get the finances into shape. Got to stop spending and start saving. But which one first? Take a scissors to the credit cards and then go and open a savings account or the other way around. Do we humans respond best to ending destructive behavior and only then starting the restorative conduct or the other way around? (more…)