Monthly Archives: September, 2010

Cause AND Effect

September 28th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Earthquakes?  No, they do not occur because the gods are angry.  They are caused by stressed tectonic plates suddenly shifting.  One great gift of science is cause and effect, which means that things don’t just happen.  For every effect, there is a cause. There is no need to ascribe natural events to vengeful deities.

But science itself was one of the great gifts of Biblical faith.  It can hardly be a coincidence that over 90% of the scientific, medical, and technical discoveries uncovered in the one thousand years between 900 and 1900 came about in the Judeo-Christian cultures of Europe and North America though they contained only a small proportion of the world’s population.

In these cultures, the well-known sentence, “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth,” helped propel western scientific discovery. Firstly,  it linked God and nature, encouraging men and women to seek deeper insight into the Creator’s design by studying heaven and earth.  Secondly, it suggested that nothing is random.  God banished chaos and replaced it with fundamental cause.  Not surprisingly, advances in the natural
sciences exploded among those people possessing this enormous cultural

But Biblical culture helps us understand everyday life too.  Knowing that causes are connected to effects points us towards wise decisions and helps us respond prudently to life’s circumstances.  Reading about political and labor problems in Southern Africa tells us that the price of chromium will rise, resulting in higher prices for stainless steel and everything made of it.  Recognizing that how a child is treated will affect what type of adult he becomes, encourages us to take care of our marriages and families.  Everything we do brings consequences in its wake as does anything we neglect.

We do best by becoming adept at seeking out context and connection for almost everything. This simple but vital message emerges from ancient Jewish wisdom’s observation that more than half the verses in the Five Books of Moses begin with the Hebrew letter ‘vav’. When used as a prefix in the Lord’s language, this sixth letter of the alphabet translates as the word, ‘and’.   The vav‘s shape graphically calls to mind a hook or a nail.  What is more, with characteristic elegance reflective of timeless truth, the name of this letter, vav, means a hook or a connector, the very function of the word ‘and’. 

Through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom, the Tabernacle that Moses built and which the Israelites carried with them through the desert for forty years was not only a House of God but also a spiritual metaphor for understanding the world.  It is this aspect of the Tabernacle that imbues even its picayune details with significance.

Scripture describes how much silver was used in the Tabernacle construction:

And the silver collected via the congregational census was 100 kikars plus 1,775 shekels….
(Exodus 38:25)

 A kikar consists of 3,000 shekels. Why didn’t the Torah just list the total amount of silver as 301,775 shekels? It turns out that the 1,775 shekels of silver had a very special role. Three verses later we learn:

And from the 1,775 shekels of silver he made vavim.
(Exodus 38:28)

Vavim is the plural of vav, meaning he made hooks — fasteners or connectors.

Thus we are told that the entire physical Tabernacle is held together with vavim, connectors. Rather than being an insignificant part of the structure, they are enumerated in a way that highlights them. The spiritual metaphor tells us that the whole world is held together by vavim; ‘ands’.

If we see events and ideas in isolation, we make a great mistake. Most verses in the Torah begin with ‘and’ in order to train us to look forwards and backward—what did we do in the past that led to where we are now and how will our future be affected by what we are doing in the present.


September 28th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Like so many couples, my husband and I sometimes see the same things in completely different ways. For example, other than on Shabbat and holydays, my husband feels out of touch without his cell phone and blackberry within reach. I, on the other hand, dislike having my cell phone near. If I’m home, I prefer talking on a land line. If I’m not, my friend Jane put my feelings into words when she said about her phone, “It’s like having a demanding toddler with you all the time, insisting on an instant response.” I didn’t tolerate that behavior with my children, so why would I welcome it now?

Here’s another example: We react differently to directions. Unless I am facing the ocean, telling me to go north or south is pointless. Right and left, preferably with identifying marks such as, “Turn left at the house with the swing set in the yard. If you pass the mailbox, you’ve gone too far,” work better for me.

Instructions are another area of potential altercation. I felt completely vindicated when as pampered house guests we were given the ability to manipulate our room’s air conditioning. Rather than simply having up or down buttons on the control, there were two buttons, labeled ‘too warm?’ and ‘too cold?’. I couldn’t have designed it better myself. Up and down always leaves me wondering if I’m being asked about the air conditioning or the temperature. This control worked with me. I only had to decide how I was feeling and push the appropriate button.

I am not drawn to pink power tools, but I truly appreciate it when companies understand that my thought processes differ from my husband’s. It isn’t a question of dumbing things down or dressing them up with feminine looking covers. Our air conditioning control gave me the chance to say to my husband, “This is my world and welcome to it.”

Outdoor Luxury – first posted Oct. 7, 2009

September 26th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Around the world, Jews are in the middle of celebrating the holyday of Sukkot, known in English as Tabernacles.

For one week, we move out of the house as much as possible and into Sukkot or temporary dwellings constructed exclusively for this holyday. Various specifications, such as a roof made solely of branches, mean that we are exposed to the elements while sitting in the Sukkah (singular). While in the land of Israel Sukkot comes at a lovely time of the year, in other parts of the world people sometimes find themselves sitting in parkas with gloves and hats sharing the Sukkah with bugs and drizzle. We spend as much time as possible in our outdoor domiciles, eating, entertaining and studying.

But, paradoxically, as we spend so much time in our Sukkah, this is not a “roughing it” experience. We wear our finest clothing, bring out our best cutlery and crystal, and cook our most scrumptious recipes.  Unlike a camping trip where our expectation is to endure a certain amount of discomfort, living in a Sukkah is in no way associated with deprivation.

Of all the year’s holydays, Sukkot is given the appellation, Z’man Simchateinu or “the time of our happiness.” While there are many spiritual injections that Sukkot provides, perhaps one of them is the message that happiness comes from within us rather than externally. When struggling with poverty or battling an illness, it is tempting to think that we would be happy if only that obstacle could be overcome. Some of us think the only impediment to happiness is 25 pounds of excess weight or a different spouse. I am not trying to minimize genuine, formidable challenges. But the human condition is such that happiness doesn’t correlate with the ease of our life. We all know of lottery winners whose riches led to despair, of Hollywood stars living miserable lives, and others whose good fortune is equaled by their wretchedness. Thousands born with the blessing of good health and beauty torment their bodies in ways that those who don’t possess those particular gifts are hard put to understand.

At the same time it is easy to find people whose circumstances should seemingly engender depression, but who greet each day and all those they meet with smiling faces. No one wants to deliberately impose poverty, ill health or sorrow inducing conditions in order to see how well any individual would face an ordeal. Without assembling such an experiment, Sukkot provides a reminder of how ephemeral security really is and how the safety we feel in our homes is actually an illusion. At the same time it reminds us that God is found in all places and that as long as we have His shelter, we are never abandoned and unprotected. That reality strips away any pretense that our happiness is dependent on “if only,” making this truly the happiest time of the year.


Glad to be Sad

September 21st, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

You know those days. You feel unstoppable and on top of the world, walking on air with sheer delight. A real king of the hill. Keep your balance!

And then the days when you’re dejected and all alone and your eyes fill with the hot tears of defeat and you feel that life isn’t worth living. Keep your balance!

Things are seldom as deliriously intoxicating as they might seem and they are never as hopeless and despairing as they often appear to be. Keep your balance.

This Wednesday night is the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles; we call it Sukot, the plural of the word Sukah based on this verse:

In Sukot you shall live for seven days…so that your generations will knowthat in Sukot I sat the children of Israel when I took them out of the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God.

(Leviticus 23:42-43)

This holyday is uniquely characterized as “the time of our joy” on account of the following verses:

…and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.
 (Leviticus 23:40)

You shall make the holyday of Sukot for seven days…And you shall rejoice in your holyday…
 (Deuteronomy 16:13-14)

In another of those puzzling paradoxes we so frequently encounter in our Biblical studies and whose resolution inevitably leads to one more blinding truth about how the world REALLY works, we find death surrounding the holyday called “Time of our Joy.”  Death and joy?  Really?

Look at a few of these death allusions.  The holyday of Sukot occurs in the fall when the post-harvest fields are empty and the trees lose their leaves.  The days are getting shorter and cooler.  (Not coincidentally, this is when Halloween with its foolish emphasis on death and ghosts also occurs.)

The main rule about the Sukah is that its roof must comprise vegetation that once was alive but is now disconnected from the earth and dying.  The four tree species which we hold in our hands and bless each day of Sukot are green and beautiful but we watch them fade and wither.

During the Passover Seder we invite real living people who might be hungry to come and join our meal.  However, during Sukot, we invite dead people to join us.  On each night of the holyday we formally invite to our tables, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David.

The decidedly gloomy book of Ecclesiastes is read during the holyday of Sukot, with verses such as these:

Better is a name than good oil and the day of death is better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of festivity…

 (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2)

You get the idea.  The seven day festival of Sukot is highlighted as the time of joy.  Indeed, in Israel today, a happy atmosphere pervades the air on Sukot, felt by religious and non-religious alike. Yet it unquestionably contains more than its fair share of deathly hints.

I suspect that you have already grasped what God is hinting at.  You see, if we all lived forever, we would never know the real happiness of living.  Without sorrow there can be no joy and without darkness, there can be no light.  Paradoxically, the holyday of happiness must refer to death.

The reverse is also true.  Every pain ultimately carries the promise of pleasure; poverty promises prosperity and sadness contains the seed of happiness. The distress of death presumes the joy of eternal life.

I truly know of no better way of gaining the perspective so necessary for coping with life’s ups and downs than the the Bible with all its nuances.  Delve into a new secret or another insight. Replace the perplexing predicaments of life with its permanent principles. 

Good without God?

September 21st, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

Can you be a good person without being God-fearing?

The immediate and obvious answer seems to be yes. There are self-described irreligious individuals, agnostics and atheists who live upstanding lives filled with hard work, strong marriages, volunteer activities and other honorable undertakings. But recently, I began to wonder about the validity of my question.

What do I mean? Well, a short while ago my husband had an experience which all of us have had at one time or another.  He said something and immediately realized that it came out differently than intended. Unfortunately, he was on a TV show with a massive audience and in the fast-pace of the show, there was no opportunity to elucidate his comments. Add an explosive blogosphere to the mixture and his comments about atheists, which were unintentionally inflammatory, got repeated, magnified and distorted. Our office email filled up with letters from atheists.

The emails fell into two categories. Some people who were hurt or confused by his words wrote to express their feelings or to urge him to rethink. Their messages were thoughtfully written and made some good points. My husband answered each of these and sent each writer a copy of the article he had immediately written explaining both the meaning behind his comments and his disappointment in himself for expressing himself poorly.

The much larger group of emails was angry and written in attack mode. The overwhelming majority of these were disgusting, filled with profanity and threats. And that is what started me thinking. Like many Jews and Christians I have frequently been embarrassed when people who publicly proclaim their religiosity, verbally or through their professions, dress and actions, behave in shameful ways. It is irrelevant whether it is a case of hypocrisy or human failing; the action leads to dismay at the violation of standards. That dismay, however, necessitates a general agreement as to there being standards to violate. It is fair to say that a synagogue-attending or church going individual who commits adultery, embezzles, spews profanity or acts in any reprehensible way, is behaving wrongly. There is a stated correct code of conduct that has been breached.  In contrast, a religious person who considers himself a “good person,” would also judge his goodness through the prism of his religion. Giving charity is good, because God said that one should. That same reasoning holds true for being faithful in marriage and dealing honestly with others. For a religious person, God defines what is good. There is a framework in which to judge the religion and its adherents.

What then of the “good atheist”? Would one of the individuals who sent a polite email feel ashamed by the writers of the vulgar ones? Would they feel that the writer reflects badly on them? Does a hard-working, honest atheist feel betrayed by one who is a con man? If the answer is yes, I’m not sure why. Atheism is defined by what one doesn’t believe, not by what one does. In that case, each individual may decide for himself what being good means. One person can decide that graffiti is wrong while another sees it as an artistic expression. One person might be meticulous in financial dealings while another decides that stealing is honorable as long as it is from a wealthy victim. Who laid down the law that having an affair is wrong? Maybe it is simply a fact of human nature.  If there is no agreed upon external system of values, how can there be right or wrong? But, this does seem to be a problem for society. Stipulating that each and every person decides what’s good or not seems to be a prescription for anarchy.

Perhaps being good means being a law-abiding citizen? By those standards SS, KGB and Stasi officials were all good people. In fact, most of those who broke the law to hide Jews in Nazi Germany did so because they were responding to the demands of a higher Authority than their country’s legal system. Americans who helped slaves escape through the underground railway were similarly acting illegally. History shows that what we commonly label as being good isn’t necessarily synonymous with acting within a legal framework.

I don’t have an answer to my question. The thoughtful email writers offered proof of atheists being good people. I agree that the examples they cited ranging from serving in the military to exemplary business practices to charity work overlap with some of my own definitions of good behavior. I agree that atheists can be good people by terms that are meaningful according to the guidelines I follow.  But I still find myself wondering how they can define behavior using a term which their atheism seems to make either a meaningless one or else one that only exists by the benchmarks of a religiously influenced society. 

In the final analysis, that is what my husband was trying to say in the first place. Cultures where atheism was a defining feature, like Stalinist Russia or Mao’s China, weren’t free, pleasant or successful places. Atheists thrive today when they live in societies with patterns of behavior that were established under a Judeo-Christian culture.  Yet, the system only works as long as the majority of citizens adhere to that moral framework. If too many people take God out of good, the entire structure crumbles.







A Week of Bliss – originally posted Nov. 27, 2008

September 19th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

Since we finally got the CD mentioned in this post finished, I’ve linked to it so you can read more about it.

I gather from news reports that a pastor in California has called on his married congregants to commit to seven straight days of sex.

As an attention getting device, both for his members and for the national media, it certainly is effective. It will without a doubt spark conversation when people hear or read the story. I am sure that this will also be a needed battery charge for some of his congregants’ relationships. But as a general marriage enhancement device – I have my doubts.

For two years now my husband and I have been working on the script for our forthcoming audio CD, Madam I’m Adam: Decoding the Secrets of Marriage. It’s taking so long because we are constantly being forced to pick and choose among the valuable lessons revealed in Genesis. Two hours just cannot cover all the messages about marriage that emerge from the lives of Adam and Eve.

But there is one unavoidable conclusion no matter where in those verses we look. God created men and women to be very different and success in marriage is largely a function of embracing those differences.

It seems to me that issuing a general call for married sex ignores each gender’s uniqueness. Without a doubt, many wives under take too lightly their husband’s powerful need for a physical relationship. They underestimate how necessary a vibrant sexual relationship is to a successful marriage.

But too many husbands are blind to their wives compelling need for emotional intimacy. Somehow the idea of posting a virtual score card and forcing a personal act between husband and wife into the public arena seems to respond to one need at the expense of the other.

I wish the pastor and his flock a successful week. But the couples for whom this challenge opens a dialogue about valuing both their natures even as they recoil at the idea of turning the most private marriage act into somewhat of a group activity, may end up being the biggest winners of all.

A Balancing Act

September 14th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I once had someone working for me in sales.  He was the hardest worker I knew.  He produced the nicest sales graphs—by the dozen.  He drew colored charts of projections—by the dozen.  But he never managed to make any sales.  He was always busy; he just wasn’t doing what he had to do when he had to do it.

Ancient Jewish wisdom offers an annual antidote to this common human failing. 

Many Jews will crowd into synagogues this Friday night and Saturday for Yom Kippur.  The Day of Atonement brings more Jews to worship services than any other occasion.  Even Jews who reveal themselves in public opinion surveys to be among the least religious of all Americans show up at synagogue on Yom Kippur.

There are some Jews for whom this day has become a ceremony marking the passage of time; a sort of Jewish Labor Day announcing the end of summer.

For others, Yom Kippur is the social event of the year at which they get to see old acquaintances.

Other Jews attend high holyday services propelled by guilt and as a last lingering contact with a Judaism that sentimentally links them to their parents and grandparents.

However, there is greater significance to Yom Kippur than these secular, social and sentimental motivations.

This special day celebrates one of God’s greatest gifts without which no society could long survive.  This is the schematic of order and structure. Without it our love of personal liberty would tip us toward civil chaos.

Our society flourishes in its diversity. Some of us specialize in providing food; others offer medical care.  Someone drives the bus or plane you ride, while other individuals build companies.  We can vote, dress and live in totally different ways than our peers. Within the magical environment we call a society each of us can flourish in whatever areas we choose. 

But with all this personal liberty some basic common framework must exist.  Without a shared vision for how society ought to look, one person’s liberty to do that which he chooses soon begins to impinge on another’s ability to live his chosen life.

Perhaps someone’s choice is not to work at all or to turn to drugs or alcohol.  Well that choice impacts everyone else as they are forced to hand over money they would rather spend on their own family or step over an intoxicated form on the sidewalk.  It is almost impossible to make choices that do not impact other people. We are all interconnected.

This produces a tension between personal liberty which we embrace and the need for us all to choose to curtail some of our liberties.

A great secret for both family and business success is learning to balance what we want to do with what we should do.  The Jewish High Holydays, comprising Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, impart the theme of that great balancing act and link it to the astrological sign of this period; Libra, the balancing scales.  The challenge not only for individuals but for society as a whole is to master this balancing act. When better to attempt it than during the Month of the Scales?

Perhaps one spiritual reason that Jews flock to services during these days of awe is to acknowledge that living successfully means accepting restraints.  For a society to survive every right has a matching responsibility; every freedom entails an obligation.  We all need to do what we have to do, when we have to do it.

We need help in setting the right balance in our lives because if enough people make bad choices, it ruins society for everyone.  A connection with God helps us balance our desire to do that which we please with our ability to resist that desire in favor of what is right.  And that can be a powerful magnet for gathering people together once a year.

Kennedy Center Speech for Glenn Beck’s Divine Destiny Event, 8/27/10

September 12th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Speech by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Friday night, August 27th, 2010

Glenn Beck’s Divine Destiny Event, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Washington DC


Thank you David Barton and thank you Glenn Beck….yes, thank you so very much for making it possible for me to be here with you all tonight while still observing my Sabbath. [APPLAUSE] God does not permit me to employ electronic amplification of my voice between sunset on Friday and Saturday night so I thank you all for letting me speak to you this evening without using a microphone and I’ll do my best now to make sure that you all can hear me clearly.

Glenn, I have often heard you speak of the great 18th century preacher, George Whitefield, who helped bring about that first great reawakening which gave birth to our war of independence. Benjamin Franklin wrote of seeing George Whitefield delivering a speech to 20,000 people. Now this was at a time when Philadelphia was America’s largest city with a total population of about 50,000. So George Whitfield spoke to nearly half the population of Philadelphia all at once out of doors—without a microphone.

In 1858 Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln held a debate out of doors in Freeport Illinois. Over 15,000 people listened to that debate. Ladies and Gentleman, I am no George Whitefield and I am neither Stephen Douglas nor Abraham Lincoln. In fact I don’t reach up to the ankles of those men. However you are exactly the same patriotic God-fearing Americans that Whitefield addressed back in the 18th century and you are the same people that listened to Lincoln and Douglas in the 19th century. As you heard those great speakers with no amplification out of doors back then, so will you hear this lesser speaker tonight without amplification indoors. [APPLAUSE]

So let me start by extending my blessings to you all for a Sabbath of joy, peace, and fulfillment, and I shall use the ancient formulation of the Lord’s language, of Hebrew….I wish you all a Shabat Shalom. [APPLAUSE] Now, I hope you’ll excuse me for making this request of you. I cannot stop myself from telling you how much I one day would like to tell my grandchildren of the Friday night when thousands of Christians simultaneously wished me a Shabbat Shalom. [SHABAT SHALOM RABBI—APPLAUSE]

One of the timeless truths and permanent principles of ancient Jewish wisdom is what I call the Severed Flower. This means that when I cut a beautiful fragrant flower off its plant in my garden and bring it indoors, I seem to have done a clever and good thing. No longer do I have to step outside and brave the weather in order to be able to enjoy the bright colors and intoxicating fragrance of my flower—it is right there in a vase on my desk.

However, as the next day dawns, I notice that the flower is not quite as colorful as it was yesterday and its perfume is harder to detect. After a few more hours, I am disappointed to discover that the flower is now faded and shriveled. Its sisters out there on the plant are still as magnificent as ever. I have discovered the sad secret of the severed flower.

My friends, the fragrant flower of American culture is frighteningly fragile. As long as it remained connected to its roots of Judeo-Christian values and Biblical tradition, all was well. About fifty years ago there began a frenzied and feverish process of severing America from its roots. That process of secularization of our culture continues in our day with undiminished fervor. At first it appeared to be very clever. No longer were we confined by the rules and restraints of religion. No longer did we have to think of cosmic right and wrong. We were the severed flower and we thought we were so colorful and so fragrant.

But, little by little we began to shrivel and gradually we began to fade. Yes, there is sadly no question that during the past 50 years, since say 1960, life in America has become indescribably more expensive, more squalid and more dangerous. Yet one great distinction stands between a flower and our American culture….we can be reattached to our religious roots [APPLAUSE] We can return, restore, and redeem. [APPLAUSE]

There are three main areas in which those religious roots nurtured and sustained us.

The first is marriage. Could anyone really suppose that marriage evolved naturally? And who would have thought of it first, anyway? A man or a woman? Just think of what happens today. Men are happy to date for eleven years. It is never the man who says, “Darling, don’t you think we ought to be thinking about our future” This is nearly always the woman. So what might have happened? Since it wouldn’t have been a man, perhaps it was an early stone age woman who came up to a man and said, “I have this great idea—why don’t we create a thing I’ve thought up called a marriage?” He says, “What’s marriage” She says, “it’s like this…you stop looking at any other women and when I have a baby, you take care of us…hey, c’mon back…I’m not finished talking” and the guy takes off over the horizon in a cloud of dust. [LAUGHTER]

Clearly marriage has its roots in God’s Biblical blueprint. Without the first few chapters of Genesis, few would be getting married or staying married. Surely, we can all see that as faith has diminished in America, so has the strength and stability of marriage and family. But we can restore it and we can reattach the flower to the root. [APPLAUSE]

The second area in which our religious roots sustained and nurtured us was money. Without the spiritual lens of faith, we inevitably tend to view money as something quite physical. Now one rule about all physical objects whether they be books, bugles, or our bodies—they can only be at one place at a time. If they are here, they are not there. Unlike spiritual things like, say, a tune which can be on a thousand lips at the same time. What is more, if I hear you whistling a song and I start whistling it too, I am taking nothing from you. But if I take your book, I have it and you don’t. Well, if money is physical, then the only way I can get it is by taking it. And for every dollar that I have, someone somewhere has one less. But if money is spiritual, like a tune, it is created and brought into existence afresh without taking anything from anyone else. In this spiritual model, we don’t take money, we make money.

Look, ladies and gentlemen, let me put it this way, if you didn’t mug a little old lady and steal her pocket book, if you didn’t hold up a convenience store, and if you didn’t persuade the government to take money from someone else and give it to you, then the only way you got that dollar in your pocket is that you pleased another human being. I don’t know if it was a customer, your boss, a client, or whoever but you must have pleased someone who gave you that dollar willingly because they valued whatever you gave them or did for them as more than a dollar. In other words, your dollars are symbols of the acts of kindness you did for other people. Without this spiritual vision, we’d never realize the importance of private ownership of property. Without the Bible to teach us the idea of charity and how there is little virtue required to give away other people’s money, we would never have learned that wealth is only created by means of a system that allows people to own that which is theirs. Without the Bible, we would all be living in equalit
y—equal poverty that is. [APPLAUSE]

After Marriage and Money, Manners is the third “M” area in which the Bible anchors us to our roots. You see, everything that we consider to be good manners comes from the first chapter of Genesis. Let us check up to see if your mothers went to the same mothering school that mine did. What did your mothers say when you noisily slurped your soup? That’s right, don’t eat like an………….[ANIMAL!!!] Perfect—just as I supposed. Our mothers all went to the same Judeo Christian mothering school which taught that good manners is not behaving like an animal because the good Lord created us as a unique and distinct species unlike every other animal—we are touched by the finger of God. Behaving like an animal is to violate that gift and erode the separateness that God gave us from the animal kingdom. For this reason we don’t make noises like animals, we don’t scratch ourselves in public like baboons, and yes, we don’t eat like animals.

Our lives are immeasurably improved by living in a society where marriage is the crucible of the next generation, where money is created and wealth possible, and where human interaction is lubricated by manners and civility. Severed from our Judeo-Christian roots we risk losing all that and everything which flows from it. Now more than ever, we must reconnect the severed flower so our civilization can be saved.

Let me leave you with three requests. Number one, I ask you to devote a little more time than you are now giving, to reading and studying the Bible. For us Jews, Talmud Torah, the study of the Torah is paramount. Doing so is uplifting and inspirational, and it fuels your personal transformation in ways we cannot perfectly understand. Few of us fully understand how jet fuel gets transformed into thrust and how thrust gets transformed into what aeronautical engineers call lift so an airplane stays aloft while rapidly flying through the air, but this does all occur because of jet fuel. Well, a little time each day devoted to the fuel of the Good Book can keep you airborne and fast moving too.

Number two, I ask you to try and make a little more money this year than you did last year. Remember that it is not possible to make money without giving other people the goods and service they need and want. The more money you make, the better life is going to be for me and for all our fellow citizens anywhere near your orbit. There is another reason too….In our culture as it is at present, people listen more to those who have a few dollars than to those who don’t. As King Solomon said in Proverbs 14:24, the crown of the wise is their wealth. I would like to see God’s people with the crowns of wealth necessary for them to become citizens of great influence.

Finally, I ask us all to include in our prayers, a little extra prayer for the United States of America. So much depends upon us restoring her honor, and so much depends upon us reconnecting the severed flower to its roots. Thank you all Ladies and Gentlemen for your kind attention and thank you David Barton and thank you Glenn Beck for helping us all see our Divine Destiny. [APPLAUSE]

Bookstore Battlefields – originally posted Dec. 11, 2008

September 12th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

What do you think of when you remember Charlotte’s Web?

Perhaps images of pigs and spiders come to mind, or maybe you picture yourself huddled under a blanket reading on the couch. That book might have been the first time you recognized a relationship between the food on your plate and the animal world. (As a Jew who kept kosher, the book might have been an easier read for me) Whatever your memories are, they probably didn’t include high school students having affairs with their teachers or participating in a host of other immoral and un-childlike behaviors.

Which is why it was incredibly disturbing to me when I approached a copy of Charlotte’s Web prominently displayed in a bookstore on a shelf advertising “Recommended Reading for Children”, and found that the book featured next to it included the above depravities.

What is the manager of that bookstore thinking? And how sad is it that parents can’t allow their children the liberating pleasure of freely browsing through the children’s section of a bookstore or the library without having to worry about what they will find. With all the (necessary) warnings about children being accidentally exposed to pornography and other evils on the web, how about a little concern for what they will find in what should be seen as safe locations?

Using judgment and taking the responsibility for what children see should be an obligation every bookstore owner accepts. The fact that the government shouldn’t censor reading material is unrelated to what adults in positions of trust should do. In the years that passed between when my eldest and youngest daughters each became voracious readers and devoted bookshelf browsers I saw a scary change in the offerings on those shelves. I’m not talking age appropriate realism – I’m talking age inappropriate depictions and the presentation of deviation as the norm. What a sad reality it is when any caring parent today has to know that the sheltered harbors of their childhood, libraries and bookstores, are no longer protected environments.



To Bee or Not to Bee

September 7th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

Have you ever had the experience of blithely saying something and then, as the words left your lips, instantly regretting them and wishing you could take them back?  Unless you’ve been obeying a vow of silence for years, I know the answer.  We’ve all had intense remorse over something that would have been better unsaid.  It just happened again to me.

I appeared on the Glenn Beck television show this past Friday.  Among many other questions, he asked how I relate to atheists.  On the spot, I referred to atheists as parasites.  Needless to say, I instantly knew that what I meant wasn’t going to be what people heard.  But with the rapid tempo of television, we were already on the next topic with no opportunity to elaborate or retract. 

With one word, I casually insulted who knows how many potential friends who were now gone forever.  Men and women who pay their taxes, serve in the military, and support their communities were instantly dismissed as parasites.  In retrospect, there are so many true, good and kind words I could have said. Instead, I stung.

In almost every interaction, we each have the opportunity to use words that soothe and sweeten.  We can say things that build connections and nurture relationships.  By being careless, literally by not caring enough, we can so easily use words that stab and sting.

Hebrew emphasizes this dual nature of words, their ability to sweeten or sting by using one word for both ‘bees’ and ‘word’:  DeVaRiM – words and DeVoRiM – bees.  In Hebrew Scripture vowels do not appear, so though the words are pronounced slightly differently, they are exactly the same.

In fact, the Hebrew name for the fifth of the Five Books of Moses, Deuteronomy, is actually Words, from its opening verse –“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel…..”

At the end of Deuternonomy’s first chapter, we find the word DeVaRiM or bees used:

And the Emorites who live in the mountains came out 

to confront you and they chased you as bees do…

(Deuteronomy 1:44)

By employing exactly the same word for bees and words, the Lord’s language teaches us that just as bees can both sweeten with their honey and sting with their barbs, so words can do exactly the same thing. 

Though I am not excusing my mistake, what was I thinking?  I was remembering the following words from the sermon given by Reverend George Docherty in February, 1954. 

"This age has thrown up a new kind of man-we call him a ‘secular’. He does not believe in God, not because he is a wicked man but because he is dialectically honest… These men, and many I have known, are fine in character and in their obligations as citizens and good neighbors, quite excellent.  But they really are ‘spiritual parasites’ and I mean no term of abuse in this.  I’m simply classifying them…These excellent ethical seculars are living upon the accumulated spiritual capital of Judeo-Christian civilization and at the same time, deny the God who revealed the divine principles upon which the ethics of this country grow…"

These words, which persuaded President Eisenhower to add the words “Under God” to America’s Pledge of Allegiance, echoed in my mind, but trying to convey them in a 10 second television sound bite was not a good idea.  All I did was hurt people and jeopardize relationships.

Success in both life and business comes from relationships and being careful about words is a vital part of nurturing relationships. It takes deliberate and purposeful practice to monitor the words we use; in this case I failed. 

Sign up to receive our AAJC newsletter and our free weekly teachings!

Sign Up Now!

Follow AAJC on its new Facebook Page!