Posts tagged " moses "

Salvaging Six Minutes

January 16th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

I wasted six irrecoverable minutes last Thursday.  I was in a hotel room watching a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on television justify his failures, and those of his colleagues, by pointing a finger of disdain at a large part of the American population.  Poor results were because too many Americans were too selfish to understand his heroic sacrifices on behalf of other Americans and other not-yet-Americans.  I was as dismayed by the poor quality of some of our elected as I was about my wasted six minutes.

Later, while driving, I contemplated how I might try and benefit from those lost six minutes. Many a mile went by with no hope of rescuing that time wasted in front of the TV screen.  Then, all of a sudden, my wife, Susan, asked me, “Do you know that in only two places in the Five Books of Moses, does Moses speak ‘before the Lord’ rather than ‘to the Lord’”?  I laughed delightedly because while those six minutes were certainly irrecoverable, they were no longer wasted.  I was able to learn from them.

Let me explain.  It can be disconcerting when, during a conversation, someone utterly ignores what you just said and continues talking as if you hadn’t said a thing.  You feel as if perhaps you didn’t say it at all.  There can only be two explanations.  Either the person is incredibly rude or else you didn’t speak the words, you merely thought them; in reality they never made it to your mouth.

Consider this conversation between God and Moses:

The Lord spoke to Moses saying.  “Come, speak to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and he will let the children of Israel out of his land.”   And Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “The children of Israel did not listen to me, how then will Pharaoh listen to me, seeing that I am of uncircumcised lips?” And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and He commanded them concerning the children of Israel…
(Exodus 6:10-13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not surprisingly, only 6 verses later we read:

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

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

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

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

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


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

Banished and Vanished

January 8th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

For a while in middle school, I was friendly with a boy whose father attended school events as frequently as mine did; which is to say—never!  Ours was a natural alliance between two outsiders who turned to one another for company while other boys dallied with their dads.  His father was a doctor while mine was a rabbi.  His weary response to everyone asking about his father was, “With patients.”  Mine was, “With congregants.”

I remember wondering why lawyers, stockbrokers, and plumbers were always there at games with their sons.  How come they weren’t with clients and customers?  What was it about rabbis and doctors?  Not until later did I realize that some jobs really are more like ministries and missions.  Under normal circumstances, bookkeepers, car dealers, and social workers are home with their families for dinner.  For certain medical specialties and for clergymen, normal circumstances are helping a person in need rather than heading home because the clock says dinnertime.

Naturally, there is a price to be paid.  Nothing is for nothing, so it sometimes does happen that the children of parents who are super-dedicated to their work suffer.  It goes without saying that there are compensating benefits.  I did learn what commitment to one’s obligations means and understood the idea of having a life purpose. I respected my father immensely.

Nonetheless, the syndrome I describe is so well known that my Christian friends use the term, PK.  This stands for Preacher’s Kid and, among other things, means that you often get less of your father’s attention.  I am sure that the same is true for children of American presidents, military offspring and others in similar circumstances.

This reality is not new.  People who feel an obligation to a large number of individuals or feel themselves summoned to a higher calling have always invested less time in their families than is optimal.

Moses had two sons, Gershom (Exodus 2:22) and Eliezer (Exodus 18:4).  You might think that growing up as the sons of one of the greatest Israelite leaders ever would confer tremendous advantages in life.  Yet, this is not what happened.  In fact, we hardly hear of them again; they lapse into obscurity.  Clearly, they enjoyed less of their father’s attention than did members of the congregation of Israel.

Let’s peer into a day in the life of Moses and his family.  We join them after God has successfully persuaded Moses to leave his father in law, Yitro, priest of Midian, and return to his suffering people in Egypt.

And Moses took his wife and his sons, mounted them upon the donkey,
and he returned to the land of Egypt…
(Exodus 4:20)

So eager was Moses to undertake his mission that he neglected one of the very first obligations he had towards his second son, Eliezer.  He neglected to circumcise him.  God was about to punish him severely when his wife, Tziporah saved the day. She grabbed a sharp stone and performed the circumcision.

And he was on the way…and the Lord…sought to put him to death.  And Tziporah took a flint and removed her son’s foreskin…And He released him…
(Exodus 4:24-26)

The very next verse has Aaron, Moses’ older brother, coming to greet him as he arrives in Egypt.  Whereupon the two brothers immediately get to work holding the first meeting of the future deliverance.

The Lord said to Aaron, “Go toward Moses, to the desert.” And he went and met him on the mount of God, and he kissed him…And Moses and Aaron went, and they assembled all the elders of the children of Israel.
(Exodus 4:27-29)

But what happened to Tziporah and her two sons?  The next time we see them is 14 chapters later.

And Moses’ father in law, Yitro, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel…And Yitro, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after she had been sent away,   and her two sons, [and they] came to Moses…
(Exodus 18:1-5)

It seems that after the circumcision incident Moses and Tziporah separated.  Ancient Jewish wisdom confirms that Moses sent her and his sons back to live with Yitro, his father in law.  This was quite possibly necessary to allow Moses to concentrate upon his mission, but it carried a price on the family front.

Former prime minster of Israel, Golda Meir ruefully reflected upon the sacrifices made by her family on account of her single-minded devotion to the welfare of the young Jewish state.  My own great-uncle, with whom I myself was privileged to study Bible, raised many hundreds of disciples. However, he sacrificed relationships with his own sons on account of his devotion to his many students who often felt closer to him than his sons did.

Sometimes, for very real economic reasons, there is no alternative but to devote excess hours to work. Other times, our families would be better off with less money and more of us. Sometimes our work is so important that normal family obligations just don’t apply.  Sometimes, we are simply nourishing our ego by feeling that way. The Bible isn’t a fairy tale. Instead it reflects reality. We might be called to sacrifice family, but we should be aware of the price. Realizing this forces us to assess our decision and proactively minimize the damage. It also obligates us to offer gratitude and aid to those who make those sacrifices on our behalf.

*   *   *   *   

This week we feature 50% off the download of
Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges
and Escape Your Own Egypt
(the physical version is on sale as well)

• What 3 Bible Secrets Can Help Everyone Escape Difficult Times
• Did Moses Really Say, “Let My People Go”?
• How to Recognize Your Angels in Disguise
• Why the Jews Needed to Leave Egypt in Broad Daylight

Rabbi Daniel Lapin Audio



Rabbi Lapin Download

Ignore that STOP Sign

September 4th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 8 comments

Don’t we all start out with optimistic plans? We are going to accomplish great things, be great spouses and parents, build our businesses and ever so much more.  Yet, somehow, we sometimes find ourselves still single, still yelling at our kids, still working at a dead-end job struggling to make ends meet. We haven’t made the impact we hoped to on our communities, family or friends. Perhaps a Hebrew word can move us back on track.

Just before Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh, God threatens Moses for neglecting to circumcise his son.  God would have terminated Moses’ career, had Moses’ wife, Tziporah, not intervened.  (Exodus 4:24-26) What is going on?

We get a clue from the language used in and around this event:


What’s wrong with self-esteem?

July 5th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

I heard you briefly refer to self esteem and the idea of promoting self-esteem versus self-respect on your weekly Podcast. 

I grew up in the era of self esteem, however, my parents always spoke of respect. Please go into detail on your thoughts as to why promoting self-esteem degrades oneself.

Thank you,

 Lane (father of five)


Dear Lane,

Quite a lot has been written about the self-esteem movement that, from its beginnings in 1969, had a huge, and mostly negative, effect on educational and cultural trends. We urge you to do some research on this topic. There are so many articles on the subject, many of which acknowledge the damage done by this movement.

No matter how flawed the movement is, it has pervaded modern culture. Unfortunately, the results can be seen all around us.


The Gorilla, the Girl and the Snake

February 1st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

Every September at the Puyallup fairgrounds about 40 miles south of Seattle, occurs one of the Lapin family’s favorite fairs. On one special day each September, we would head to the Washington State Fair. We’d arrive early morning, soon after opening and leave only when the lights started going out late that night.  We love that fair.

One attraction, popular at almost every fair in the country for the last seventy-five years, is the girl-into-gorilla illusion.  The audience is shepherded into a dark tent. When the curtain opens, a girl is seen in a cage and before everyone’s astonished eyes she begins to sprout hair. Her features go from girlish to gorilla.  Her delicate arms gradually turn into huge hairy appendages dangling from enormous shoulders. Then, just as the transformation seems complete, the “gorilla” breaks open the cage. Everyone flees in terror, their frantic screams helping to attract the audience for the next show.


Grounded with the B52 Bomber

January 24th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

In January 1991, during “Desert Storm,” a group of American B52 Stratofortress bombers flew to Iraq, bombed their targets, and returned safely home after 35 non-stop hours airborne.  In September 1996, the same type of bomber destroyed Baghdad’s power stations as part of “Desert Strike”.

The enormous eight-engine bomber was again used in Yugoslavia in 1999, and played a major bombing and support role in Afghanistan in 2001. In November 2015, to deny recognition of China’s claim to some islands, B52s were flown through the region ignoring China’s demand to vacate the airspace.  During 2016, B52s based in Qatar flew many devastating bombing missions against Isis.

The United States simply does not possess a more capable long-range strategic bomber than the amazing 160 foot-long, 4 story high, Boeing-built Stratofortress.  Yet the truly amazing part of the B52 story is that the airplane first saw service in the United States Airforce in 1955.  For over sixty years, this airplane has been the backbone of America’s airborne power.

It is hard to imagine that the three Boeing engineers chiefly responsible for designing the B52 could have dreamed that their creation would play so important a role in American history for so long.  Without the B52 in their arsenal, several famous American leaders might well have failed to achieve their military and political objectives.  Though not nameless, those Boeing engineers are not nearly as well known as the political and military leaders who deployed the lethal airplane.

Most of us perform our daily work in relative obscurity.  We tackle our tasks, confront challenges, strive for success and face failures without ever knowing what vital long term consequences might result from what we did last month.  It’s a lot like raising children.  It doesn’t bring the fame that might come to the women heading General Motors or Yahoo but without the children being raised as productive and law-abiding citizens today, there wouldn’t be large corporations tomorrow.


Fat of the Land

November 2nd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 5 comments

During the past year or so, despite difficult economic conditions, some companies have reported excellent earnings.  Upon reading their reports it becomes clear that many of them achieved this without increasing sales revenues.  Instead, rigid cost discipline allowed these firms to post profits.  Many families have followed a similar culture of frugality.  They are enduring a depressed economy by ruthlessly cutting their expenses.

We hope that things will improve and tough times will eventually fade away, though for many of us painful memories will linger.  But maybe that is not all that will linger.  While reaching for the stars, an awareness of restraint is healthy.  It is good to balance the belief that we can do anything and have everything with an appreciation of limitations.


You’ll Pardon Me, I Hope

September 22nd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 3 comments

You’ll pardon me, but in just the last few days, I have heard the word ‘crap’ used in public as a synonym for feces by the host of a popular television show, by an official of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and by a CNN news anchor, to name just three.  I am not going to squander your time bemoaning the coarsening of the culture; we all know it is happening.  Many of us understand why.

And it is not only the word ‘crap’.  There is another four letter synonym for excrement which is just as popular though the self-anointed cultural elites have ridiculously decreed that ‘crap’ can be used on America’s airwaves but not the alternative word for the same human byproduct.  Expect that to change soon.

Why this particular form of human waste?  Why don’t people say, “He needs the ear-wax beaten out of him”? Or, how about, “The breaching whale scared the saliva out of the kayaker”?  Or why not, “I’ve never heard anyone speaking such nasal mucus”?  I have never heard any driver say, “Oh urine! I took a wrong turn!”  Of all human body waste, why does only excrement enjoy such common usage in ordinary conversation today?


City Lights – Enlightening Cities

August 11th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment
It was on a clear but cold winter afternoon that I landed at JFK Airport on my first visit to the United States.  After clearing customs and immigration and being granted a three week tourist visa, I climbed into a taxi on my way to my Manhattan hotel.  Half an hour later, as the sun was starting to set, the cab swept around a curve in the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and for the first time in my life my eyes fell upon a sight of which I have never tired.  The towering skyscrapers of lower Manhattan silhouetted against the still blue sky took my breath away.  I found myself silently mouthing these words, “How great are your works, Oh Lord!” (Psalms 92:5) as tears started up in my eyes.  It was then, only a couple of hours after first setting foot upon the continent of North America while driving up the East River towards the Brooklyn Bridge that I resolved to stay.  And, though no longer on a tourist visa, I’m still here.


How do I raise my son in the ways of the Bible?

August 1st, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment

I am a Christian who lives in Indonesia. I am a frequent listener of your podcast and blessed to find tremendous wisdom in your teaching. I am keen to learn about the root of my faith from Hebrew Bible, at which I believe, as you believe, as a God-given blueprint for our life.

As a recent father, it is my desire to show my child the way of the Lord. Thus, I have a question; what is the best way to teach Torah to our children (especially toddler to under 12 years of age). What is the best method/technique to convey the narrative to them while at the same time conveying the wisdom/substance (which some stories I find them may not be suitable for children. I want to learn from your perspective as rabbi and Jewish parents on how to impart your wisdom to your children.

Thank you and God bless,

∼ Nugroho H.

Dear Nugroho,

Congratulations on the new blessing and challenge in your life. You are asking a wonderful question. Wouldn’t it be nice if for $99 you could purchase a curriculum that would guarantee that your children will view the Bible the way you do? Of course, no such program exists.  (more…)