Posts tagged " jewish "

Should I stop my child playing?

March 3rd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Dear Rabbi Daniel & Susan Lapin,

I am a Christian woman who is enjoying the journey of learning our Jewish roots. I recently ordered your library collection and I am quite enraptured in the wisdom that is shared. You are absolutely right when you say, ‘You need a rabbi!’ 

I have a question regarding children and playing pretend. Growing up I often played pretend, most often pretending to be different people in different careers. Occasionally though, I would pretend to be a cat or dog. I never thought anything of it as I have so often heard and seen children pretend to be animals at some point in time. After listening to your teachings though on how God made us in His image, I question whether pretending to be an animal in playtime would be forbidden in a Jewish home. When we pretend to be a grocer, doctor, mother or superhero, we are serving humanity and setting our mind on things that God would want us to do or character traits God wants us to have; whereas if we pretend to be an animal, we are not preparing ourselves in any way for growth. 

Am I taking this too far? I am not a wife or mother yet but should I ever become one, I hope to raise my children in a way that pleases the Lord.

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Is Judaism defined by one’s mother or father?

July 8th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

In the Bible, genealogies are stated mostly in terms of fathers and sons. Yet, in speaking to contemporary Jews, I am told that the determination of whether one is a Jew or not depends upon the mother’s lineage and faith.
 
Is that the Biblical standard or was that changed over time?

∼ Christopher J.

Answer:

Dear Christopher,

The Hebrew word for parents is ‘HoRiM.’  The ‘iM’ at the end denotes a plural word. There is no singular noun for ‘parent.’  Mother, yes. Father, yes. Parenthood, however, takes teamwork. Knowing this fact benefits everyone.

It encourages individuals to marry before having children and lets them know that they are depriving their children if they do otherwise. If a tragedy occurs and one of the parents is no longer alive or available to the child, then acknowledging that parenthood is a two person-two gender job allows the extended family and community to know that assistance is needed. Pretending that any and every family is equally desirable pretends to help children, while really it harms them.

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Field and Stream

August 6th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Are you a specialist in your field of work?  What career field should I go into?  Will history graduates find work in their field?  Why is the word field by far the most common metaphor for work, career, or profession?  Why not ask, “what river do you work in?”  Or, “what road of work do you walk?”  Or, “can you find work in your stream?”

This usage of language derives from the Bible. While working in your field can mean agriculturally since that is the means of earning a living most often referred to in Scripture, on a larger scale your field means whatever honorable way you have of earning a living.  Just as a field provides a farmer with sustenance, so does a field of work do the same for the professional in that field.

Prepare your work externally and make yourself fit for the field; then afterwards build your house.
(Proverbs 24:27)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains this verse to mean that the best way to order your life is first learn to do work that others (outside of yourself) find useful, then establish your career performing that work.  After that, you’ll be in a position to build your house, meaning, create your family.

Excelling in your field provides blessing not only for you but also for others in your society.  Noah’s name means ‘rest’ and he brought the possibility of rest to mankind by increasing the agricultural yields of the fields.  Notice how Noah is named:

And he called his name Noah, saying, this one shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.
(Genesis 5:29)

Sure enough, God had cursed the earth.

…cursed is the ground for your sake…thorns and thistles will it bring forth to you…
(Genesis 3:17-18)

How did Noah ‘comfort us concerning our work’?  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Noah invented the plow allowing mankind to draw more from the cursed earth with less effort. Similarly, by being productive we too add value to the lives of those around us.  For this reason, a Biblical worldview frowns upon earning one’s living as a professional gambler.  No matter how much money one wins by gambling, nobody else’s life is thereby improved.

Does the importance of working in your field disappear later in Scripture? From the following passages, it seems as if society’s prosperity hinges only on one’s relationship to God.

And it will be that if you carefully obey my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give you the rain of your land in its season…that you may gather in your grain, and your wine, and your oil and I will send grass in your fields for your cattle, that you will eat and be satisfied.
(Deuteronomy 11:13-15)

This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night that you may observe and do all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
 (Joshua 1:8)

If we are meditating on the Torah day and night, obeying God’s commands with all our heart, when do we find time to plant that grain, those vines and olive trees?  Ancient Jewish wisdom’s answer is that we “serve Him” and “do all that is written in it” largely through supplying the needs of God’s other children.

We humans are holistic. Even our bodies do best when our spiritual and physical sides are synchronized. Why does a placebo have any therapeutic impact at all in modern medicine? People’s bodies perform better when their brains and souls are on board with the program. This is why most people choose doctors in whom they have confidence. A patient’s recovery is directly linked to how much confidence that patient has in his or her medical advisers. It is almost as if your body knows what is in your mind and responds accordingly. Helping your mind to know and believe that what you do professionally is good, noble, and worthwhile helps to fuel your energies and propel your efforts.

No wonder ‘you will eat and be satisfied’.  No wonder ‘you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success’.  Working in our fields is part of our holy calling.

Many of us first met Noah when we were children. Yet his life, as the lives of others in Scripture, contains vital lessons for us as adults. We do ourselves a disservice by not approaching them with mature intellect. The 8 audio CDs in our Genesis Journeys Set will amaze you as they reveal astounding messages hidden in Genesis.

Genesis Journeys Set

Well, Meet My Father-in-Law

January 28th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Having debuted in 2006, Psych is the USA cable network’s longest running original series.  It is set in Santa Barbara but for reasons having to do with production costs and trade unions, the series is filmed in Canada.  The scenery is recognizably coastal British Columbia, which my family and I know well from our summer boating trips.

The hero, the son of a diligent police officer, solves mysteries that baffle the police (of course) using what everyone believes to be his psychic ability.  In truth his secret is the remarkable observational skill his detective dad trained him to develop from the time he was a small child.  Shawn spots what everyone else ignores; the laundry receipt on the floor or a smear of paint on someone’s shoe.

Like Shawn, we can and all should develop our ability to see – no really see – everything, especially when studying Bible.  For instance, consider this apparently unimportant verse:

And Esau was forty years old when he married Judith
the daughter of Be’eiri the Hittite…
(Genesis 26:34)

Do we really need to know the name of Esau’s wife and father-in-law?  After all, we know very few of the names of the wives of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Furthermore, who cares how old Esau was when he married?

It’s time to polish our observational skills and really see the facts that will help solve the mystery.  First, the name of Esau’s father-in-law is “Be’eiri”. It helps to know that the Hebrew word for a well is “Be’eir.” Second, the name Be’eiri appears only one more time in Scripture, in the first verse of Hosea.

well, father in law of Esau, 350 pixels

 

Furthermore, while the word Be’eir, meaning a well, a source of water, appears fewer than thirty times in all the Five Books of Moses, over twenty of these mentions are found in Genesis. What is more, they are all found within a few chapters clustered around our mysterious verse – Genesis 26:34. Both Isaac and Jacob meet their brides at a well. One of the additional mentions is the well at which Moses meets his wife (Exodus 2:15).

In Torah, water is a metaphor for true, God-centered knowledge.  Thus, a well in the context of marriage implies that the couple is bound by a common commitment to the eternal knowledge of God. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that by seeking out a woman connected to a well, even if this association is only her father’s name, Esau is saying, “Me too!  I am just as connected to God as my father.”

By marrying the daughter of a “well-guy”, Esau is attempting to depict himself to be better than he really was. Without truly clinging to Isaac’s core beliefs and principles, he wants the credit for doing so. He even chooses to marry at exactly the same age as his father did, mistaking this type of external similarity for substance. The atypical inclusion of his age when marrying tips us off that this fact reveals important insights. On the surface, Esau looks good; his inside doesn’t match his outside.  Though easy for the casual reader to miss, all these seemingly innocuous details in Genesis 26:34 combine to depict someone trying to paint himself as more worthy than he really is.

In contrast, the Book of Hosea opens by identifying the prophet as a “well-guy”- a Be’eiri.  Hosea isn’t pretending to associate with true knowledge; it is actually part of him. Though he is soon to marry very unsuitable women, Scripture is disclosing that he is acting upon God’s direct instructions. On the surface, he doesn’t look good; yet he is following Divine wisdom.

It is easy to miss signs that should alert us to someone’s poor character.  We see what a date, employee or employer want us to see, missing what is beneath the surface. Training ourselves carefully to observe details is vital.  We may not be psychic, but we can notice easily overlooked clues.

Our lives today are impacted by Esau and his spiritual descendants. Perhaps we, ourselves, want to turn away from a poor family legacy and start an upstanding new one. Whether we want to understand what is happening in the explosive Middle East or in our private lives, examining Scriptural clues surrounding Esau is vital. Our 2-audio CD program, Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam does just that. It is on sale right now, by instant download or mail, full of insights that will change the way you see the world and interact with it.

CLASH OF DESTINY: DECODING THE SECRETS OF ISRAEL AND ISLAMClash of Destiny Case

 

Yes, Boss!

March 19th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Our office and store will be closed from sunset Monday night 3/25 Pacific Time through an hour after sunset Wednesday night 3/27 in obedience to God’s command to not work on the festival days of Passover.  We appreciate your patience.
Please look for your Thought Tool one day later than usual.
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Please be aware that someone is sending emails, pretending to be from me,  trying to sell disreputable products and services.  We do not allow our email list to be used for anything but the ancient Jewish wisdom and Biblical resources that we ourselves publish.  Any email offering you anything else is spam and not from us.  We are now blessed with aggressive, competent legal and technical support that is working on identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators. Meanwhile, please delete any emails claiming to be from me or Thought Tools that promote non-Biblical products or services that are not found on our web store at https://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/store.php This has been an immensely aggravating episode for us and if you have received any of these illegal emails, I am truly sorry for the inconvenience you’ve endured.

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A friend’s new assistant didn’t arrive at the office until 11am and began packing up to leave at 2pm!  “Didn’t we agree you’d work all day today?” he asked.  “Yes,” she replied,  “but I have to think of me.”  She seemed surprised to be fired.  This wasn’t the first story of its kind that I’d heard.  Why are so many people clueless about a job?

We have all become so obsessed with freedom, rights, and choice that we’ve forgotten how much of our success and happiness is owed to restraint, duties, and rules.  Learning to place ourselves under authority is one message of Passover. Today’s educational system largely fails to teach this important skill so necessary for obtaining and keeping a job.  By contrast, the military does a splendid job teaching that the only way to get to give orders is to learn first to accept them.  The road to promotion leads through obedience.

Many mistakenly believe that Passover celebrates liberation.  But Moses never told Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”  God’s message really was, “Let my people go so that they may worship me in the desert.”  God did not free the Jews from being servants; he just freed them from being servants to Egypt.  Henceforth they were to be servants to Him.

Being enslaved by a man or a government makes less of us.  However choosing to be a servant of God transforms us into free and independent champions. Passover celebrates accepting God’s rules rather than rejecting the idea of having a boss.

Passover is an annual inoculation against a false idea. We could think that people would thrive if left to their own devices, without any external system of rules. Like the small child who yells, “You’re not the boss of me,” too many adults think that freedom means indulging every personal desire.

Being enslaved by Pharaoh served a vital function.  It taught the embryonic Jewish people how to take orders.  Thus, Passover celebrates the years of Jewish slavery as much as it does the exodus from Egypt. While the Egyptians were certainly responsible for their cruel behavior, Jews from then on recognize that the experience was a valuable one. The slavery had a purpose, teaching that all people are enslaved.  One’s only choice is whether to be enslaved to God’s rules or to a variety of bizarre human ideologies.

On this Monday night, we’ll celebrate the Passover Seder.  We will pore over a lengthy and detailed account of the Exodus, taste tear inducing bitter herbs with matzoh and solemnly drink four cups of wine to commemorate both slavery and redemption.

Paradoxically, true independence comes not through the abolition of all rules but through the acceptance of Divine rules.  Moses did urge Pharaoh to let the people go.  Not to free them from all authority, but to allow them to serve the One Authentic Authority.  This way, by bringing rules and structure into their lives they would gain real freedoms and choices.  What marvelous training for a job as well as for all of life itself.

This idea, like so many other valuable ones, flows directly from Hebrew. Our book, Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language, explores more than twenty-five words that hold wisdom for your life, even if you can’t read one letter of Hebrew. Get it on sale right now. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a word can make.

Also available on Kindle and Nook!

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Dear Rabbi,

Why is Wisdom referred to as female in gender in the book of Proverbs?

Yolanda

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Cleaning and Loving It

I have a friend who gets little pleasure from cooking. It is a reality of life for her rather than a tactile, sensual experience. That is, unless she is cooking for the Sabbath. When she does that, the activity is infused with meaning and importance and changes from an annoying necessity into a higher calling.

I feel somewhat the same about cleaning…READ MORE

Yo Ho Ho Ho!

November 20th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In the early 1600s, Rabbi Samuel Palache, president of Neveh Shalom Synagogue in Amsterdam, was also a pirate.  With authorization from Dutch and British authorities, he preyed on Spanish ships. A hundred years earlier Spain had cruelly expelled his family, along with all other Spanish Jews.

I relate to the roving rabbi. For half the year, he lived aboard his boat, equipped with a kosher chef, in the balmy waters of the Caribbean.  Some of our most memorable family times have been aboard a boat, admittedly not in the Caribbean but off the coast of British Columbia. We don’t engage in piracy and our kosher chef is my wife. Still, my feelings about boat and ocean seem to confirm our family tradition that we descend from the tribe of Zevulun.

Zevulun will live on the seashore and boats will be his haven…
(Genesis 49:13)

Yet, I am known as a Jew rather than as a Zevulunite.  Jacob had twelve sons but the people of Israel are not called Reuveinim—Reubenites or Shimonim—Simonites. We are named only as descendants of Yehuda—Judah, Yehudim.  In Germany we were called Juden, descendants of Jude. In English that became shortened to Jew.

Why did Judah become the namesake of all the Children of Israel?  Like everyone in Tanach, and like all of us, he was not perfect.  He made mistakes.  However, Yehuda learned from his mistakes.

He shirked responsibility towards his brother, Joseph.  When the brothers wanted to kill Joseph, he did not use his persuasive powers to advocate complete mercy.  Instead of rescuing Joseph, he said to the brothers:

‘What profit is there in killing our brother…come let’s sell him…’
(Genesis 37:26)

He was also insensitive to his father.  Ancient Jewish wisdom informs us that Judah showed Joseph’s bloody coat to Jacob and said:

‘Please recognize this, is it your son’s coat or not?’
(Genesis 37:32)

Then the tables were turned.  After an amorous encounter with a woman he didn’t know was his daughter-in-law, Judah is incensed to discover that Tamar is pregnant.  She is about to be punished when she proclaims:

‘…please recognize this signet ring, jewelry, and stick…I am pregnant by their owner.’
(Genesis 38:26)

That phrase ‘please recognize’ in Hebrew is “Haker Na” and it appears only twice in all of Scripture.  These two unique instances appear here, within 30 verses of one another.

Judah acknowledged that he is the father of Tamar’s offspring, one of whom later becomes an ancestor of King David.  Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that Judah understood that because he caused his father pain with those words “please recognize—haker na,” that identical rare phrase was soon thereafter used to cause him the pain of public embarrassment.

We see that Judah learned his lesson when Joseph, as viceroy of Egypt, threatened to imprison Benjamin and Judah stepped forward and courageously insisted that he must return his brother home to his father. (Genesis 44:18)

Frequently, God kindly sends us unmistakable signs that the ordeal we are undergoing is the result of some earlier mistake we made.  Only by being open to that quiet heavenly message can we grow and learn from our mistakes.  Linking current tribulations to our own past mistakes is good not only for individuals but also for nations.

Most Spaniards of the 17th century didn’t realize that their ordeal of a collapsing culture and economy was caused by the cruelty their country had inflicted on its Jewish population.  Some nations get it while others don’t.

One of today’s moral barometers is how the nations of the world react to Moslem attempts to annihilate Israel.  It is impossible to understand today’s headlines and predict tomorrow’s, without grasping the spiritual realities of the Middle East.  Discover the roots of Islamic terrorism, and envision the only hope for the future, with our indispensable audio CD program Clash of Destiny—Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam.  At this critical time, we are dramatically reducing the price, making it an ideal family and study group resource. Listen to this program more than once and review its study guide to perceive astonishing prophetic insights that impact Israel, America and indeed all the world.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Choose Life

I am driving my husband crazy. This is not, as you might think, because he returned home to an organized study. He is gracious enough to concede that he loves the way his study looks and will be able to work more efficiently than before. No, it is because I am not keeping quiet while he listens to the radio.

Yesterday, we heard a respected news commentator announce that both Israel and Hamas were being intransigent

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Dear Rabbi,

Many people make the claim that the laws regarding homosexuality in the book of Leviticus can be ignored because Leviticus has other laws that do not make sense, like a prohibition on wearing clothes woven of two kinds of material or planting a field with two kinds of seed. (Lev. 19: 19) I can see that all of the other laws make good sense, but why these particular laws on clothing and planting ?

David J.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s  ANSWER HERE

No Guarantees

November 6th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In between delivering speeches in Belfast, Northern Island last week, my hosts took me to the Titanic exhibit marking the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the ill-fated ship.

That great ships seldom sink is part of the poignancy surrounding the Titanic’s saga.  Most boats float provided the designer’s specifications are observed.  The same is true for aircraft.  A four-seat Cessna plane flies almost as reliably as a Boeing jetliner.  Just like boats and planes, a house will stand durably if architect’s plans are followed.

Yet, building a business or a marriage offers no such assurances.  Although countless books exist about starting a business and getting married, following those advisors brings no guarantee of success.  Surely directions for marriage and entrepreneurship ought to ensure success just as do directions for ship builders, airplane builders, and home builders.  Why would the success rate for new businesses and marriages be well below the figure for ships, planes, and buildings? Maybe Exodus can guide us.

God directed Moses how to build the Ark of the Covenant and then told him to place inside it, “…the testimony which I shall give you.” (Exodus 25:16)

God directed Moses to build the Table and then told him, “And you shall set the bread of display upon the table… (Exodus 25:30)

God directed Moses to build the Menorah and then told him, “…and he (the priest) shall light its lamps… (Exodus 25:37)

However, when God directed Moses to build the altar (Exodus 27:1-8) no subsequent instructions followed.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the purpose of building the Ark, the Table, and the Menorah was to allow actions like sheltering the testimony, setting the bread, and lighting the lamps to happen.  Building the altar had purpose and meaning in and of itself.

Building the Ark, the Table and the Menorah more closely resembled building boats, planes, and homes.  However, the altar was more of a spiritual entity and building it was meaningful in itself.

A ship is built for the purpose of launching it; an airplane is built for the purpose of flying it; a building is constructed for the purpose of occupying it.

However, a marriage needs no other purpose to exist.  Its very existence provides meaning.  While it is true that a business will fail if it does not make a profit, it gives its owners significant meaning and purpose in life entirely separate from that goal.  If you enter into either a marriage or a business with the proper attitude, they are both vehicles for giving to others. Thus they resemble the altar whose purpose was also giving—to God. Building a successful marriage means becoming a giver and building a successful business means focusing on giving real value to other human beings.

There are libraries of information on how to build physical objects like boats, planes, and houses. And you will only fail by ignoring those physical directions.  Happily, for successfully building entities like marriages and businesses, there is information available too, but you need to expand your horizons to include spiritual information.

Is speech physical or spiritual? We use our physical bodies to talk, but if we ignore the spiritual component, we are gravely handicapping ourselves. Both marriages and finances are destroyed by underestimating the power of words. I encourage you to get my audio CD, The Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak, currently on sale and available by mail or download. Whether you have a profanity problem or not, it will open your eyes and give you tips for putting the power of speech to work in your life.

Our prayers are with those of you whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. For those of you who were inconvenienced, but are back to normal, we are extending the sale on the Ancient Jewish Wisdom DVD for another 48 hours so that you can enjoy last week’s savings.

That Titanic exhibit in Belfast? Quite the finest of its type I’ve ever seen.  In my view, worth a trip to Northern Island to see it as well as the country’s many other delights, especially the wonderful people I met there.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: No One is Reading This, Right?

Let’s be real. It is election night and most of you, at least my American readers, will be sitting at the edge of your seats or off to rejoice with or gain solace from friends. Wednesday morning, all you will want to talk about will be the election. What chance does my Musing have of being appreciated even if by some slight chance a few people read it? Not much.

Rather than send out electrons to be lost in cyberspace…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Hello, dear Rabbi Lapin,

We hear over and over that we should pray and that we ought to pray. It seems to me that no one really knows how to pray. What I hear sounds more of a request. I am not judging or making fun of anyone, but it would be great if we could get this information from Scripture as it is written in the Torah.

Carlos L.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Then the Bear Said…

August 7th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Usain Bolt set a new Olympic record in London for the hundred-meter race. Though true, it wouldn’t be particularly helpful if he advised aspiring athletes, “It’s easy; just move your legs faster.”

Similarly, while true, it isn’t helpful to remind ourselves that success comes to those who do what they must rather than what they feel like. We know that. We need to know how to overcome our feelings.

Fortunately God provides us with regular reminders from those sentient creatures with whom we share the planet—animals.

We encounter two talking animals in the Torah.  The common English translations evoke Mother Goose rather than God’s intentions, so I am going to stick with the Hebrew. The nachash spoke to Eve:

…Did God really say that you should not eat from any of the trees in the garden? (Genesis 3:1)

The aton spoke to Bilaam:

…What have I done to you that you struck me these three times?

(Numbers 22:28)

My family was boating off an island in British Columbia when we sighted a black bear scavenging for shellfish.

Hardly daring to breathe, we coasted closer and cut the engine.  Drifting silently, we gazed in wonderment at this grand creature.

Imagine if the bear, just then, had raised his enormous head, opened his mouth, and clearly spoken, “Move along, please. Let a bear enjoy his breakfast in peace.”

Would we have said, “Oh sorry, we’ll leave now”?  Of course not.  I might have called out, “Who was that?”  My son might have responded, “We must be on Candid Camera.”  One thing is certain; none of us would have calmly engaged the bear in banter.

Yet Eve responded to the nachash by explaining that he was wrong. Bilaam also responded to the aton’s plaintive question. Neither of them expressed the slightest surprise at being addressed by an animal.

We ordinary humans do not possess the spiritual sensitivity of Eve or Bilaam.  Yet on some level, animals still do communicate with us.

I’m not referring to the more obvious examples of the cat owner recognizing her pet’s dinner demand or the dog summonsing his owner for a walk.  No, ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that each animal highlights one central lesson for our benefit.

The undemanding loyalty of dogs calls us to be better friends.

The cat’s obsession with cleanliness speaks to us of the importance of sanitation and hygiene.

The ant and the beaver present an argument against procrastination. These animals silently urge us to improve.

But there is also negative communication from the animal kingdom.  At one time or another most of us have heard the seductive enticement, “C’mon, you’re really one of us.  There’s no reason not to do what you feel like doing.”

The voice of the nachash tempts us with the idea that infidelity is genetic as surely as it tempted Eve to disobey God.  It is that same voice echoing out of the pages of Genesis that assures us that we have no moral choice; everything is predetermined by our biological origins and urges.

Ultimately, animals remind us every day that we are different and special.  We’re touched by the finger of God.  We’re holy and thus capable of controlling our behavior, rather than merely following our instincts.

The space constraints of these weekly Thought Tools don’t allow me to delve into the meaning of the Hebrew animal names above, though the analysis would be worthwhile. I am thrilled, though, to present Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language with its detailed and entertaining examination of 29 Hebrew words. Through the medium of Hebrew God reveals practical guidelines to enhance our family and community lives, our faith and fortunes. This 2nd edition of one of our most popular resources has an entirely new chapter and other extra features. It is written for those with no Hebrew knowledge and for those who are fluent. As an added bonus, you can acquire one of our Library Packs (including Buried Treasure) at the current price. Those prices will go up slightly in 48 hours reflecting the cost of the new book. Alone or as part of a larger pack, this is one book you really want to own.

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

I have been reading your book “Buried Treasure” and was sharing portions of the chapter on laughter with a son-in-law who studied Hebrew in seminary. He said one of his professors suggested that Isaac was a Downs Syndrome child. That made no sense to me that the child of promise would not be “perfect”. Do you have an answer for this?

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Sitting Shiva:

Barely a week goes by without my being consciously grateful for the preciousness of the Almighty’s gift of a weekly oasis, Shabbat. Last week I had the opportunity to be thankful for another of His gifts, one that is also related to seven days.

My sister, Ellen, passed away on Sunday morning a week ago. From the moment…READ MORE

Future is Spelled P-A-S-T

July 24th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

He struck success when his children were aged 10, 7, and 5.  He and his wife moved out of their dilapidated house near downtown Dallas and into a mansion in Preston Hollow.  They worried about their children becoming spoiled and never growing the will to struggle and succeed.  They dreaded their kids developing the decadent diseases of the pampered.

They wanted their children to know that the family could survive happily without the trappings of wealth. They wanted them to learn that financial success is connected to spiritual success.  They kept their run-down old residence and moved the family back into it for one week every year.  The rest of the year, a local church used it for youth programs.  But for one special week each year, the family strengthened its spirit by keeping alive the memory of where they came from.  By remembering their history they protected their values.

As part of their training, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces participate in a sunrise ceremony atop the heights of Masada where two thousand years ago Jewish soldiers died during a Roman siege.  They are taken to Jerusalem’s Western Wall where Solomon’s Temple stood and to the Valley of Elah where David defeated Goliath.  The Israelis know that to protect, defend, and guard something effectively, you must first remember why it is valuable.

Remember the Sabbath Day to sanctify it.

(Exodus 20:8)

Guard the Sabbath Day to sanctify it…

(Deuteronomy 5:12)

In both verses Scripture is recording the fourth of the Ten Commandments.  So which was it?  Back on Mt. Sinai, did God say “Remember” or “Guard”?  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that with His unique power, God said both words simultaneously because they are inseparable.  We must learn that before we can effectively guard, protect, or defend anything, we first need to remember why we are doing so.  It is impossible to effectively defend a country, a culture, a family’s values, a business, or indeed the Sabbath, without remembering the history that makes such defense worthwhile.

We find two other important distinctions between the Exodus account of the Fourth Commandment and its Deuteronomy counterpart.

Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.

(Exodus 20:8)

Guard the Sabbath day to sanctify it

as the Lord your God has commanded you.

(Deuteronomy 5:12)

People who have just experienced a tumultuous event find it easy to obey the instruction, “Remember it.”  Like those who lived through 9-11, the Israelites standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai found it easy to remember.

However, Deuteronomy describes a new generation of Israelites forty years after Sinai.  These people need to be told to relate in a special way to the Sabbath not just because some powerful memory moves them but because God commanded it for all time.

Similarly, associates who worked with you to establish a business will always remember the values and vision that drove you.  But you must help later employees also to remember the beginnings that they did not actually experience.  Likewise, younger children need extra help remembering early family history.

Finally, one linkage to remembering the Sabbath is that God created heaven and earth in six days (Exodus 20:11) while another is that God took us out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).

This teaches us that when inculcating children or associates with the vision and values that drive our family or organization, we should start with general ideas that apply to everyone.  Thus, Exodus speaks of the creation of the world to which everyone can relate.  Later, Deuteronomy speaks of the unique Egypt saga experienced exclusively by Israel, teaching us that only subsequently should we talk to children or partners about the specifics that apply distinctively to our family, our business or club.

Many countries face crucial decisions over the next weeks and months. Too many who vote don’t know how to remember or what to guard. Our audio CD set, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel lays out timeless truths that define which systems of social organization work and which are calamitous. This resource can thrillingly transform hearts and minds, making a real difference to our future. Please enjoy this powerful tool and share it with your children and friends.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Did Someone Say Values?:

Did you happen to catch the following news items? I am sure that I am not the only person to think that they just possibly might be connected.

Three headlines popped up my computer screen the other day. The first read, “California Bill Would OK families…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

In hoping to attract more customers, how far can you go with friends? Mentioning what you are doing? Asking how you can help them? Asking for referrals? Offering them a deal? Other things? Or, nothing?

In “Thou Shall Prosper” you talk about expanding business by making more friends. You say that, almost mysteriously, more friends will cause one to have more business. And, if you try to get these friends to do business, it will backfire since they will sense you are desperate.

Donald

READ the ANSWER

Who’s the Puritan Now – originally posted March 5, 2009

March 13th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

   
One delight of Pacific Northwest living is the sheer pleasure that a sunny day provides. Shortly after we moved here, a guest at our Shabbat meal told of a meeting that took place around his company’s conference table, which overlooked Puget Sound. A representative of top management, flown in from the east coast for the occasion, was sitting with his back to the window informing those present that their office branch was being shut down. To his amazement, as he delivered this devastating news, those sitting opposite him broke out in huge smiles. When he expressed his bewilderment at their reaction, he found out that his news had been eclipsed by the appearance of sunshine breaking out over the Sound.

And so it was a few week’s ago, on an unseasonably warm and sunny day, that my husband and I and our daughter, Tamara, celebrated by going out for ice cream. After all, a cheery day might not appear again for months. We had not patronized this ice cream parlor since the previous summer, and so it was a bit of a shock to find that renovations had taken place. The tables and chairs were the same, but alongside the name of each ice cream flavor was a new and unwelcome addition –the calorie count,

Now I am perfectly aware that going out for ice cream is neither good for my budget nor my waistline. At the supermarket, I can get a half gallon container that will serve eight for less than it costs the three of us to get one scoop apiece at the ice cream parlor. And it comes as no revelation to me that despite the claims I made when I was pregnant that ice cream was vital for the calcium it supplies, I actually am cognizant that there are more efficient and less caloric ways to get the same amount of required minerals.

When we go out for ice cream it isn’t to assuage hunger pangs or to check off a box on the food pyramid. We do it as a treat, and just as it would detract from our pleasure if the chain trumpeted how highly priced their ice cream is, it detracted from our delight to have the calorie count thrust at us. Instead of enjoying making a choice between flavors, Tamara and I found ourselves asking if the one we really wanted was worth 40 more calories than our second choice. Instead of taking pleasure in savoring the ice cream, I found myself figuring out how many minutes of exercise would be necessary to counteract the activity. All in all, Tamara and I had less fun than we anticipated (truthfully, I don’t think my husband even noticed that the calorie counts were posted).

I frequently find that the media label as old-fashioned and reactionary those who hold views similar to mine about sexual matters, family issues, art and language. They metaphorically pat on the back those whose thoughts are opposite mine, calling them progressive and realistic. Yet, I am convinced that the Puritanical streak is universally thriving. The food police support my view. For each of us, certain things are simply beyond the pale. As for me, while I agree that good physical health is important, I can’t help thinking that most traditional sins pose an even greater threat to society than obesity.