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Two Mountains; Two Choices

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

I have been spending a significant amount of time listening to and speaking with mothers who are trying to determine what is best to do for their children this school year.  It is clear to all of us is that this won’t be an easy year, not for teachers, not for parents, and not for children.  No matter what decisions the mothers I’ve been talking to end up making, they are decisions that many of them never wanted to make, never wanted to think about. They, and all of us, have been forced into a situation that wasn’t our preference.

There is an insight in Deuteronomy 11:29 that can help us all realign and greet the upcoming school year, whatever choices we make, in an optimal way.  Moshe begins the section by saying,

“See I am setting before you today blessing and curse and you have a choice, you can pursue the blessing by following Hashem or you can choose the curse by turning away from  Hashem.”  (Deut. 11:26-27)

Then Moshe gives us a tiny glimpse of what will happen later on as he continues, “and you shall deliver the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Eival.”

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) beautifully points out that Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival are the perfect mountains to illustrate the difference between a blessing and a curse.  He says:

The two mountains, located side by side, present the most striking, instructive visualization of a blessing and a curse.  Both of them rise from the same soil, both are watered by the same precipitation, rain and dew.  The same air passes over them both, the same pollen is blown over them both.  Yet Eival remains starkly barren, while Gerizim is covered with lush vegetation to its very top.  Thus we see that blessings and curses are not dependent on external circumstances – but on the manner in which we react to these circumstances.  Hence, whether we are blessed or cursed is not dependent on the superficial conditions that are imposed upon us, but on how we deal with them—on our attitude toward that which should bring us blessing.

Wow!  Blessings and curses are not dependent on external circumstances but on the manner in which we react to those circumstances!  That is exactly what I need to hear, what my children need to hear, and what each mother I’ve talked to this week needs to hear.

It is easy to fixate on the external circumstances: how can my child learn in a mask all day?  How they can handle socially distanced lunches and recesses?  How can my child cope with more Zoom classes?  Lots and lots of external circumstances which we may be tempted to think are the problem!  But no, it’s not the circumstance that are the problem;  it is our attitude to them that can be the blessing or the curse.

This is such an empowering message, for ourselves, and to give over to our children.  Yes, the circumstances are out of our control, but our attitude is within our control and at the end of the day, our attitude is all that matters.  We can fill ourselves with delight and anticipation of all the growth, all the learning, all the new opportunities that are coming our way and we can share that with our children. That is the message of Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival.  External situations just don’t matter all that much; it’s what’s inside of us that counts.

The Sinister Lights of Perverted Science

Science doesn’t lie—some scientists do.  Up till the 1970s, California was building, cleaning, and maintaining fire breaks around residential communities in forested areas.  Fire roads were bulldozed and kept usable for large firefighting equipment.  This provided rapid access allowing fires to be fought while they were still small.  Going back to Spanish times, controlled burning, backfires and removal of dead undergrowth in the forests all kept fires controllable. Up until the 1970s, any fire that burned 10,000 acres was considered a huge conflagration because fires were fought effectively and they were quickly extinguished.

Then came the radical environmental movement declaring with a religious zeal that nature is sacred. Mother Earth must not be alienated nor angered by bulldozing access roads through forests or by clearing underbrush. Today, fires regularly consume a quarter of a million acres.

However, the New York Times has a different explanation for the increase in both the number and the size of California fires:  “…Scientists say climate change — specifically warmer temperatures that dry out vegetation — is a major factor in the region’s worsening fires…”  But no mention whatsoever of destructive public policy enacted by politicians who worship at the altar of secular fundamentalism and who serve the sacred sacrament of radical environmentalism.

You will remember that after every Soviet “Five Year Plan” inflicted devastating starvation on Russia, Stalin always explained away the catastrophes of doomed socialist policies with weather caused famine.  He killed off millions of Kulaks who transported food from farmers into the towns leaving fruit and vegetables to rot in the fields, but no, the misery was never due to his decisions, it was always the climate.

Science doesn’t lie but scientists are also human beings subject to normal human temptations like fame and favor, academic advancement, and tremendous sums of money at stake for research in areas anointed by the gods of political correctness.  Not to mention that science can only work with the tools available at the present time.

On March 21st, 2020, President Trump tweeted that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and azithromycin might be a real “game-changer” in treating COVID-19.  Immediately, the Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN, began featuring articles claiming that HCQ is not only ineffective but potentially dangerous, and ignored all evidence to the contrary, in order to suggest that the president is a dangerous maniac.

In May 2020, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific and medical journals, The Lancet, did something quite unprecedented.  It strode into the heart of the country’s political rift and demanded that President Trump be defeated in November.  A week later, The Lancet published an article explaining that HCQ is not only unhelpful but is actually dangerous.

Many scientists wrote to The Lancet demanding to see the underlying data on which that startling study totally denouncing a medicine that was not entirely without promise, was based. It turned out that there was no reliable underlying data proving HCQ as completely ineffective.  The editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, did the only thing he could. He withdrew the article denouncing it to have been a “monumental fraud.”

Yes, science doesn’t lie but scientists often do.  That is part of the important task of learning how the world really works.  There have always been scientists.  Most of the time, they have been improving our lives with technology and medicine.  The people who tamed fire and learned how to work iron were scientists as were those who gave us the telephone, the automobile, and the airplane.  We just didn’t always call them scientists. In fact, in earlier times they were often thought of as magicians.

How many times do you think magicians are mentioned in the Five Books of Moses?  If I didn’t know better, my first guess would have been none!  What business does magic have in God’s message to mankind?  Actually, they are mentioned nine times in the Torah but only in the context of one story—the redemption of Israel from Egypt via the Exodus.

Magicians make their first appearance when Pharaoh dreams his strange dreams.  (Genesis 41:8 & 24)

They appear again when Aaron turns his rod into a snake in order to persuade Pharaoh that he and Moses were God’s representatives.  However, the magicians also transformed rods into snakes.  (Exodus 7:10-12)

Then God sent the plagues of Blood and Frogs but the magicians easily emulated them thus convincing Pharaoh that the plagues were natural phenomena.  (Exodus 7:22 & 8:3)

After that, we encounter the first failure of the magicians.  They try to emulate the third plague—Lice— but fail.  Amazingly, instead of making excuses, they honestly inform their boss, Pharaoh, that this must be the finger of God.  (Exodus 8:14-15)

The magicians play no role in the next two plagues and they appear for the final time during the sixth plague.  They no longer stand before Pharaoh. They have now switched their allegiance to Moses. They are human and want to be on the winning side.

And the magicians could not stand before Moshe because of the pox,
for the pox was on the magicians, and on all Mitzrayim (Egypt).
Exodus 9:11

And right there, as the eventual outcome of God’s triumph over Egypt is becoming evident, is the last we ever hear of magicians.

So who were these magicians and what are we supposed to learn from their inclusion in the account of Israel’s redemption from Egypt?

Ancient Jewish wisdom recorded by Rabbi Nissim, the great Torah transmitter who lived in 14th century Barcelona, explains that the magicians were the cutting-edge scientists of Pharaoh’s day.

The Hebrew word for magicians has the root CH-R-T.* 


ח  ר  ט

Revealing meaning by reading both forward and backward as the Lord’s language does, we can read ‘magicians’ backward and we have T-R-CH, the Hebrew word for trouble or burden.

He burdens the thick cloud with an overflow…
(Job 37:11)

This verse uses the word T-R-CH**.


ט ר ח

Thus, scientists are those who reverse or do away with the troubles and burdens of living.  They find ways to help us more easily feed ourselves; they discover medical treatments, and they make machines to help us accomplish our work.

These magicians/scientists only appear in the context of helping Pharaoh retain Egypt’s Hebrew slaves.  This comes to teach us that scientists will and do serve many masters.

On the eve of the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940 when a few young Royal Airforce pilots held off the might of the Nazi Luftwaffe and on which the future of civilization depended; prime minister Winston Churchill addressed parliament.

As he drew to the end of his speech that  stiffened the spine of a frightened land, he spoke these words:

“…But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties…”

They could hardly be more true today.  The “lights of perverted science” indeed. Yes, science doesn’t lie but some scientists do. It is also true that the Bible doesn’t lie—but some clergymen do.  We must and do rely on those who know more than we do on certain subjects. However, we each need to cultivate our own relationship with Truth through the lens of God so that we can make our own judgments as to who is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

*Find these words in the Recommended Hebrew/English Bible (read more about this Bible here)

Remember, Hebrew reads from right to left

*Genesis 41:8 – Page 124, 7 lines from the bottom, 7th word (from the right): (magicians of)  חרטמי

**Job 37:11  Page 2084, bottom line, 1st word: (He burdens) יטריח

Extra credit: Now that you know what letters to look for, find all the other references mentioned in the Thought Tool!

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Prayers for the New Year

As we get ready to welcome in the year 5781, we pray that the coming year should bring health, prosperity, joy and blessing to each of you and to the world.

Biden, Bullies and Bahrain

These days, it’s pretty difficult to tell what is satire vs. what is news. So, when I read advice in a major publication that anyone interested in law and order should vote for Joe Biden because otherwise the streets would be torn apart by riots, my first response was to chuckle. Then, when I saw the author, I realized that he was serious. In other words, “You’d better vote like I want you to or I will rampage through the streets.”

Obviously, this is the advice we give kids all the time when faced with a bully. “Give in.” Everyone in the class should hand over his allowance to the bully because, if not, he will make your life miserable. Is a co-worker sabotaging your work? Hey—just let him do better than you or he might threaten you even more. (Yes, that is my tongue bulging out my cheek.)

This is the policy that until now most American presidents took with the Palestinians as well. You raise your children to blow themselves up as long as they take others with them? We’ll grovel so that maybe you’ll blow up fewer of us. It worked exactly as it works with the schoolyard bully, leading to a stronger and more implacable enemy.

This week, President Trump’s unconventional leadership resulted in an unprecedented breakthrough with peace agreements between Israel and Bahrain and Israel and the United Arab Emirates. More treaties are expected. Had something like this happened under any other president there would be universal acclaim. Instead, petty minds carp about not enough people wearing masks during the ceremony marking the occasion.

For decades, Palestinians have been used by the countries around them. Rather than being given a helping hand by “cousins” who amassed untold wealth, they were condemned to poverty and told that they could never succeed because of Jews, Zionists, the American Satan and Israel. Complicit in their victimhood, they elected corrupt government after corrupt government, where leaders lived like kings while too many of the ruled huddled in hovels seething in hatred.

Now, some of these “cousins” are recognizing that the world has moved on and that the tactics of the past no longer work. That is a huge step forward, even if it is unfair to those in whom they bred hopelessness. However, it does finally provide an opportunity for the Palestinians to assert their own willingness to aim for a better future rather than drowning in the failed past to which their corrupt leaders condemned them.

Perhaps most incredible, as the Arab world takes steps forward, rising leaders in the Democrat Party right here in the United States are supporting similar policies to those that have subjugated the Palestinians. These policies breed resentment, jealousy and violence.  Like a spiritual dark cloud, the worst of human nature moves from one area of the world to another. Vote for Biden or I’ll tear your neighborhood apart? One can only pray and work hard to ensure that there are enough Americans willing to stand up to bullies.

You may not be able to control world politics,
but you can harness your own thoughts and actions.

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THOUGHT TOOLS

  • The Sinister Lights of Perverted Science September 22, 2020 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - Science doesn’t lie—some scientists do.  Up till the 1970s, California was building, cleaning, and maintaining fire breaks around residential communities in forested areas.  Fire roads were bulldozed and kept usable for large firefighting equipment.  This provided rapid access allowing fires to be fought while they were still small.  Going back to Spanish times, controlled burning,… Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Languages of Love September 16, 2020 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - My husband and I have a very good relationship with the exception of food.  I want to make dinner for him.  He says I am a good cook and he enjoys my cooking, he just doesn't happen to be "in the mood" for whatever I happen to have prepared that day.  I have begged him… Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Biden, Bullies and Bahrain September 17, 2020 by Susan Lapin - These days, it’s pretty difficult to tell what is satire vs. what is news. So, when I read advice in a major publication that anyone interested in law and order should vote for Joe Biden because otherwise the streets would be torn apart by riots, my first response was to chuckle. Then, when I saw… Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Prayers for the New Year September 18, 2020 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - As we get ready to welcome in the year 5781, we pray that the coming year should bring health, prosperity, joy and blessing to each of you and to the world. Read More

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About Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America’s Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, popular international speaker and best-selling author. He hosts the Rabbi Daniel Lapin podcast as well as co-hosting the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show on the TCT network with his wife, Susan. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner, thus improving peoples’ finances, family and community life  has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths.

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