Monthly Archives: October, 2010

Please Read My Book, You Evil, Hate-Filled NRA Member – originally published 1/1/2009

October 31st, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

My reading list tilts heavily to the past. I recently finished The Minister’s Wooing, a pre-Civil War Harriet Beecher Stowe novel. Leaping over decades, I then moved onto A White Bird Flying by Bess Streeter Aldrich, written in 1931.

But as I listen to the radio and read current newspapers and magazines, I often jot down contemporary titles that sound intriguing. Every once in a while I log on to the library’s computer system and go down the list, placing holds on those titles. Over the next few days (or weeks, depending on how popular or obscure the book is) a computer generated voice on the phone lets me know that I have books waiting at my local branch.
Occasionally, I find a gem, as I did this past week-end when I had an extremely enjoyable time reading Ruth Reichl’s depiction of her life as the restaurant critic for the New York Times.

But way too often I don’t get past the first few pages of books that were praised as intriguing, humorous, thought provoking, etc. It seems that the reviewer neglected to mention that the book was also downright vulgar. Am I the only reader left in America who finds profanity on every page a surefire reason to stop reading? Somehow, I don’t think so; but clearly enough readers consider four letter words to be necessary for meaningful and/or witty repartee so that their inclusion is distressingly frequent.

There’s another common denominator to a great deal of modern writing that I’ve discovered. It is the inclusion, often in otherwise good books, of throwaway lines that are totally irrelevant to the plot. These lines attack conservatives, Republicans and the great big evil, the NRA. It seems as if the author, in the middle of doing what he or she is supposed to be doing, namely writing a book, was seized by a paroxysm of hatred that necessitated a venting of feelings before getting back to the topic at hand.



Stairway to Heaven

October 30th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

I recently eavesdropped on a conversation taking place at a table adjacent to mine.  A customer in the Dallas kosher restaurant in which I was having dinner was talking to the waitress.  After thanking the waitress for excellent service, he asked what she did when she wasn’t waiting tables.  When she responded that she was a recent immigrant and didn’t yet have other work, he said, “How would you like to earn a good living by helping women enjoy healthier skin and better looks?” 

To my amazement, there and then he hired the waitress to staff a cosmetic sales kiosk in one of the larger malls in Texas.  Never mind hiring the waitress—I would have liked to hire him.  He knew not to ask his prospect, “How would you like to make a lot of money persuading passersby to try a hand cream?”  Instead, he motivated by painting a picture of a higher purpose. 

I remember how easy it was to ignite a contagious enthusiasm for chores among my young children provided I first spoke about how much we all owed my wife, their mother, before assigning tasks.  I appealed to a higher purpose.

Most of the brave men and women who enlist in the military do so to defend freedom and protect their loved ones.  Army recruiters rightly emphasize these attributes rather than the pay or the working conditions.

Needless to say, just as fire can cook delicious food, heat our homes and provide mechanized transport, it can also burn and destroy.  The more powerful a tool, the more powerfully it can be used for both good and evil.

Similarly, tapping into the worthy human desire to strive for a greater purpose than merely our physical existence can also be used for both good and evil.  Politicians win support for unpopular policies by explaining, for instance, that confiscatory rates of taxation are necessary to “give every citizen free medicine,” to “help the children” or to “end poverty.”  They know better than to justify higher taxes by explaining that they wish to hire more of their friends and provide them with lavish retirement benefits.

Nimrod, who enslaved the populace to build the Tower of Babel, knew as all tyrants know, that you cannot subdue people by telling them, “I want to enslave you.  I want you to work for my aggrandizement.”  You have to find a way to appeal to their desire for a higher purpose.

…Come; let us build a city and a tower whose top will reach heaven…
(Genesis 11:4)

Nimrod was speaking to a spiritual need.  The tower was a metaphor for appealing to a higher purpose.  In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for tower-MiGDaL is closely related to the word for great-GaDoL.  Not only is a tower a great building, but it is the physical depiction of our own human yearning to find transcendent purpose in our lives.  Often companies build enormous headquarters, not because they need the space but because they want a symbol of their vision. Every one of us yearns to reach for the sky.  Similarly, by orating about his stairway to Heaven, Nimrod is saying, “Come with me, I will help you reach for your highest aspirations.”

On the positive side, knowing that on the deepest level most people are motivated best by a call to higher purpose is a practical and indispensable tool for managing a military, a business, or a family. A good leader takes the time to share his or her vision and the idea and passion behind it rather than simply relaying the task that needs to be accomplished. Mundane and often boring jobs lay the groundwork for majestic missions. Being able to envision the goal in grand terms makes even difficult tasks achievable.

 As for the waitress, I hope she will be one more among the many who have achieved success in sales under the guidance of a wise mentor.



Lindsay Lohan for Senate!

October 26th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

Have you seen those puzzles which show you two seemingly identical pictures but ask you to spot a dozen subtle differences between them? Well, no one would mistake Dallas for my Pacific Northwest hometown, but in this period of national branding they each have their Starbucks and Half-Price Books, their Nordstroms and Macy’s. And in these weeks leading up to Election Day both their airwaves are inundated with ads for and against candidates while signs promoting individuals running for office proliferate.

Yet there is a major difference. In the northwest, as you drive off the freeway exit and towards my house, the median strips and city-owned sidewalks are cluttered with campaign signs. In Dallas, at least in the neighborhood in which I am visiting, the only election signs I am seeing are on private property. The signs are sometimes huge – after all this is Texas – but they are on lawns and storefronts, not on community property.

What a great idea! If my neighbor or I want to show support for a candidate, we can make a statement by putting up a sign. There is both courage and meaning to this choice as we publicly proclaim our views. But signs strewn on public property carry no such significance. They are props to promote name recognition, not endorsement.

What a terrible way to encourage voters to choose a candidate. While Lindsay Lohan probably has greater name recognition than either Carly Fiorina or Barbara Boxer, I have no doubt she would make a terrible senator. Despite my opinion that she might be a better choice than the latter of those aspirants :), it is ridiculous to vote for anyone because his or her name is well-known. We should rather support a candidate because of a thorough analysis of his or her principles and track record.

In an ideal world, every candidate should eschew commercials in favor of debate and policy papers. An electorate deserving of statesmen rather than politicians would not respond to a 30 second ad that plays on emotions and may or may not be filled with falsehood. But as a first step, I think it would be praiseworthy for localities to assert that campaign signs are laudable only when they are sponsored by an individual who is willing to stand behind them.



Super Action Hero – Abraham!

October 19th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Four years ago, Business Week magazine ran a story about how Hindu thinking was influencing business in the United States. It stated, “Academics and consultants such as C. K. Prahalad, Ram Charan, and Vijay Govindrajan are among the world's hottest business gurus.”  It turned out that over 10% of the professors at the best business schools were of Indian descent.

“When senior executives come to Kellogg, Wharton, or Harvard, they are exposed to Indian values" says Dipak C. Jain, dean of the Kellogg School.” 

Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth's School of Business, linked his theories directly to Hindu philosophy.  He helps companies stop reacting to the past and start creating their futures.  Govindarajan says his work is inspired by the Hindu concept that future lives are partly determined by current actions, "Innovation is about creating change, not reacting to change."

You will probably not be surprised to learn the idea of creating change rather than reacting to it originated in Genesis.

Before God told Noah of His unhappiness with human behavior and instructed him to build the ark, we’d already received clues that Noah was a pretty special guy.

And he (Noah’s father) called his name Noah saying,
 ‘He shall redirect us from our actions and from the sadness…’
(Genesis 5:29)

And Noah found grace in God’s eyes. Noah was a righteous man,
perfect in his generation; Noah walked with God.
(Genesis 6:8-9)

Thus it comes as no surprise when we read that of all other humans, God spoke to Noah.

Ten generations later we read that of all other humans, God spoke to Abraham.

And God said to Abram, ‘Go for yourself from your land,from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land which I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you…’
(Genesis 12:1-2)

Yet, when we attempt to discover similar clues as to why God selected Abraham, the text is conspicuously silent.  All we know from the closing verses of Genesis chapter eleven are his relatives’ names and that his wife had difficulty conceiving.  This is hardly comparable to the wonderful things we heard about Noah and which explained why God selected him.

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals many hidden details of Abram’s early life, but the basic question remains: Why did the Torah explain why God selected Noah but remain silent on why God selected Abraham?

The answer possesses the power to transform us from tennis balls floating down the gutter of life into sculptors of our destiny:

God didn’t select Abraham.  Abraham selected God. 

God’s directive found at the beginning of Genesis chapter twelve was not only for Abraham.  It is beamed out loud and clear in every generation to every single human being.   It summons each of us, for our own good, to step out of our familiar comfort zone and loosen the shackles which can bind us to the unproductive past.  Once we start the journey, God shows the way and He will bless us.  God calls us all to escape our confining cocoons and discover our destiny.  Most do not heed the call.  Abraham did and so can we.

And how did Hinduism discover the importance of creating change?  From Abraham’s sons of course.

And to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts and … he sent them … eastwards to the land of the east.
 (Genesis 25:6)

Ancient Jewish wisdom informs us they went to India and with all Abraham had taught them, established Hinduism., To this very day their descendants, the priestly caste in Hinduism, are still called Brahmins, or descendants of “Abraham.”



Eat, Pray, Eat, Love, Eat

October 19th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

That may not be the most original title, but it pretty much sums up my recent trip to Jerusalem. Arriving just a few days before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, meant starting off with an intense prayer experience. Yom Kippur is an annual occurrence, and unfortunately, it is often wrongly perceived by many Jews and presented in many synagogues as an ordeal – 25 hours to endure, spending most of those hours in synagogue as prayers drone on, with no food or drink for either sustenance or distraction. That is a perversion of the holyday, keeping the externals while missing the soul.  In Jerusalem, at our children’s synagogue, the day was meaningful and exhilarating. Rather than feeling drained as nighttime ended the observances, the atmosphere around us was uplifting and invigorating. It was precisely what a day which allows us to start our relationship with God anew, clear of the past year’s sins, should be.

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, followed with its own special prayers and activities. This is a holyday ideally meant to be observed in Israel, especially in Jerusalem, and each day was precious. The entire country was bathed in a festive mood and as we reconnected with long-time friends and family whom we rarely get to see, the week of celebration unfolded joyously. We had the privilege of joining my aunt and uncle for his eightieth birthday celebration, re-connecting with cousins and meeting their children and grandchildren. An added bonus during our visit was the opportunity to attend thought-provoking and inspiring. shiurim – Torah classes.

As for love, it permeated the entire trip. For starters, I was sharing stimulating days and evenings with my husband, surrounded by family and friends. Even more, there was the opportunity to step into our daughter and son-in-law’s lives, seeing how their relationship has grown. The piece-de-resistance, of course, was the arrival of their first child, our new grandson. I had reluctantly missed the early days of our most recent two granddaughters’ lives. Waiting for their appearances I helped with older children, allowing my daughters to head into labor rested. But the babies each delayed coming until I was no longer able to stay. My help was appreciated, but I was absent for the miracle of birth and those first irreplaceable days.

This time I shared in a long, arduous labor, marveling how my daughter stayed focused and calm throughout and at my son-in-law’s unwavering support. I heard the first breaths of a new life and participated over the next ten days as mother, father and son eased into being a family. I was re-introduced to the feel, smell and blessing of newborn being. I had the added gift of watching my own child emerge as a loving, competent and entranced mother.

Throughout it all, as the title suggests, food was an overwhelming presence. We enjoyed numerous top-rate meals in private homes. But, in addition to that, there were dozens of kosher cafes and restaurants within walking distance of us. So many, that despite prodigious effort, we were not able to try them all. Since we do not live in an area which provides much opportunity for kosher eating out, dining in Jerusalem was an incredibly fun activity. It wove its way around each of the other more important happenings, accompanying us back to the States in the form of an extra pound or two as a physical reminder of a trip which overflowed with spiritual and emotional bounty. 




Unscientific Science – originally posted March 19, 2009

October 17th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

A few weeks ago, sitting in the waiting room while a relative had shoulder surgery, I read a Wall Street Journal piece about unnecessary infection rates after surgical procedures. It seems that lack of hygiene relating to surgical scrubs is relatively common. My stomach was already in knots anticipating the coming surgery, and reading the article was less than comforting. A minute’s reflection highlighted the Journal’s point. Does anyone really want doctors, nurses and orderlies to travel around town wearing the same clothing they had on in the examination or operating rooms, and then heading back to deal with another patient without changing? What use are sterile instruments if bacteria are carried around on the medical uniform? I realized that I have indeed seen medical personnel at Starbucks or other food establishments grabbing something to eat or drink while dressed in their scrubs. Haven’t you?

Previous pieces detailing the abysmal rate of hand washing in hospitals and doctors’ offices came to mind as well. Washing hands between patients should be a no brainer, shouldn’t it? The fact that the medical profession only clued in to the value of hand washing in 1847 is shocking enough. The fact that any medical professional ignores that information today is beyond comprehension and criminal.

I admit that this lack of hygiene totally befuddles me. How can people who choose a career ostensibly to serve others through healing, negate their purpose in such a primitive manner? But it is also a useful reminder that members of scientific professions can be as stupid, careless, evil and unscientific as anyone else. And if that’s the case when things are as clear and lucid as they can be, such as with hand washing or changing scrubs between activities, how much more careful do we have to be when presented with the latest social science study, perhaps on sexuality, guns, or child raising?

Like so much else in our lives, science can be a powerful force for good and a powerful weapon for evil. The aura of science is frequently employed to stifle questions or dissent, the field is incredibly politicized and often the truth is only revealed decades down the road.

Most of the time, we don’t have the luxury of waiting to see how things play out. We need to decide to buy organic or regular fruit, to have our children vaccinated or not, to expect faithfulness from a spouse or cite hormonal reasons why that is unrealistic, while the debate on these subjects in the scientific community is still raging.

How reassuring that in a faith centered life, some of these questions become irrelevant. God trumps pseudo-science and is the Creator of authentic science. I may very well need to assess health and nutritional claims about food, but at least I can choose to ignore many of the issues that grab the headlines, secure in the knowledge that eventually God’s word will emerge as the truth. 




1 + 1 = You!

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

This year’s James Cameron movie, Avatar, introduced many to the wonders of 3-D, a technology providing the illusion of depth in an image.  I don’t know if the current excitement about 3-D is a passing fad or whether all movies will soon be in 3-D and all computer screens will soon show 3-D images.

 What I do know, however, is that three dimensional technology depends upon a remarkable neuro-optical feature God built into us.  Our eyes see two different images, and yet our brains convert these two separate pictures into one.  A new, more accurate and exciting picture that more closely resembles reality.

 In the same way, we can merge the two separate parts of our beings, our souls and our bodies into one unified, more accurate understanding of who we really are.   But many of us fail to do so.  We mistakenly keep our spiritual lives and our physical lives separate.  We fall into the trap of seeing heaven and earth as isolated entities.

 This has consequences. Many couples assume that God is everywhere except in their bedrooms. This leads to a less than satisfying marriage.  Failing to integrate spiritual and physical into a unified reality often leads to not reaching our full financial potential.  We nurture a deep suspicion that time spent earning money diminishes our relationship with God.  Similarly, some believe that time spent keeping their bodies healthy has nothing to do with time they spend in worship.

 Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that every aspect of marriage that brings joy to man and wife makes God smile.  God also smiles when we serve our fellow humans in ways that bring us wealth, just as He does when we take good care of the bodies that He lends us to house our souls during our earthly journey.

 Scripture’s first verse tells us that in the beginning God created heaven and earth.  Both heaven and earth are unified in that single first verse because that is how the world really works. 

 A picture often found in illustrated Passover books and elsewhere, shows the Jewish Torah scholar as an emaciated, hollow-chested, stooped and short-sighted fellow.  This is a tragic distortion.  It certainly bears no resemblance to the examples set by our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and especially Jacob who were powerful, wealthy, passionate, and prayerful.

 One of Jacob’s sons, Issachar, is designated as the wise Torah scholar for all time.


And of the sons of Issachar, knowers of wisdom for all time,

who would know what Israel should do…

(1 Chronicles 12:32)


Yet when Jacob blesses his twelve sons, he describes Issachar as a donkey:


Issachar is a powerful donkey

(Genesis 49:14)


What possible connection can there be between possessing deep Torah wisdom and being a donkey?


The Hebrew word for donkey, CHaMoR, looks the same as the word, CHoMeR.  CHoMeR usually refers to raw physical material for construction purposes, often translated as mortar.

When discussing the building projects of the Israelite slaves in Egypt the verse tells us:

 And they embittered their lives with hard work,

with CHoMeR and with bricks

(Exodus 1:14)


By using the same root for both words, Torah nomenclature tells us that when we see the word donkey, we are always being told of materialistic physicality.

 Through Issachar we are being taught a vital lesson. He was able to achieve greater heavenly heights and earthly powers by integrating the material and physical strength of CHaMoR with spiritual insight and power– “knowing wisdom for all time.” One enhanced rather than diminished the other.

 By tying every aspect of our lives simultaneously both to God and to the physical reality into which He placed us, we too can achieve the exuberance and success of a full three dimensional life.  In many ways this sums up my life mission—helping people live more prosperous and fulfilling lives by applying Divine spiritual wisdom to everyday activities.



Graternity Leave

October 12th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments


Here is an entitlement program I can support: graternity leave (maternity = mother; paternity = father; graternity = grandparent). I’m not thinking of initiating a lawsuit or picketing corporate America, however I would like to raise social awareness of this option.

After a month of Jewish holydays which substantially cut down on available work days, I should be aggressively returning to business. The backlog of unanswered emails and the work needed to get our newest audio CD available for sale are overwhelming. Customer interaction, Musings writing and regular administrative details are all areas which have been sorely neglected.

I’m afraid they will continue to be disregarded, or at the very least they won’t get my undivided attention. Our daughter and son-in-law presented us with an enchanting baby boy early Sunday morning a week ago. I am in Jerusalem filling my daughter’s freezer and helping her adjust to her new reality. In theory, I could find time to do some work as well, but I’d rather spend my time staring at the baby as he yawns, squishes his face and gazes around.  I am hereby invoking graternity leave.

Word crafting runs in our family. My son has pointed out that there is an inclusive word for sisters and brothers – siblings. However, no equivalent exists for nieces and nephews of which, thank God, he has a growing numbers. Hence, his new word – niblings.

Longer musings from me will resume shortly.


Easy Living – First posted 4/2/09

October 10th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

I was in the supermarket this morning when I heard hysterical laughter, of the kind that I associate with teen-age girls, coming from the next aisle. My guess was confirmed when I heard a young voice say, presumably to a store employee, “Sorry. It slipped out of my hands.” I couldn’t hear his reply but a few seconds later the store’s loudspeaker system boomed with a request for a clean-up on aisle 4.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a checkout line behind two high school or college age looking girls. As they came to the checker, one of the girls said, “We’re the ones that caused the mess. You can charge us for two sugars instead of one.” The checker replied that there was no need for that and the transaction concluded.

A few years ago, Readers’ Digest ran an (admittedly unscientific) experiment where they dropped wallets with owner I.D. in shopping centers around the world and then recorded in which cities the wallets were most likely to be returned. There was quite a discrepancy, more than could be accounted for by chance. 

While I am far from a global, or even American, trotter, I have lived in and visited a number of places. To me, more important than the number of museums, the public transportation system or even the number of kosher restaurants is the stress level of daily living. I don’t quite know how to index that, but I do know that when I lived in Los Angeles, going to the supermarket was an arduous chore that I did as rarely as possible. Entering the library meant stepping over vagrants in alcohol or drugged induced stupors lying on the library steps. Driving meant being constantly vigilant against people trying to gain three seconds by not letting you change lanes or by cutting sharply in front of you.

Where I live now, in the Pacific Northwest, supermarket shopping is more of an excursion, an energizing activity that breaks up a work day. Whether I am errand hopping to the post office or bank, or dropping in at the library, driving around, parking and running in and out of buildings is enjoyable.

When I was a little girl, my parents instructed me, among other things, to stand to the side while waiting to get into an elevator so that people getting off would have a clear path; to give my seat on the bus to an elderly person, and to speak softly in public so as not to intrude on other people’s lives. I have a feeling that not pocketing the money from someone’s lost wallet never even had to be articulated; it was just understood.

My thanks go to the parents of the young women ahead of me in the check-out line who taught their daughters to accept responsibility. As far as I’m concerned, if every citizen learned that lesson, we could improve everyone’s standard of living without adding a single cent to the deficit.



Double-Edged Passion

October 6th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

I love conducting sales
training events for companies with large teams of sales professionals.  Needless to say, I don’t reach the ankles of
some of the legendary sales and motivational giants such as my friend Zig Ziglar.
Nonetheless, Zig pronounces the unique sales strategies from ancient Jewish
wisdom that I teach to be vital.


In Secrets of Closing the
, Zig describes how when he was the #1 cookware salesman in his company,
another salesman was struggling.  After
asking Bill a series of questions, Zig told him why he was failing. Bill
claimed to love the product, but for a variety of reasons, he didn’t yet own it
himself.  Zig basically told him, “So,
when customers tell you that they just can’t afford such an expensive set of
cookware, in your head you reply, ‘Yep, me neither.’”  Bill knew the product was good and would
benefit the customer, but he wasn’t exuding the passion that comes from using
something you love.


You don’t need to become
passionate about pots but you do need to find, feel, and above all, radiate
passion for all the important parts of your life. It electrifies the people
around you and changes everything! 


Of course, passion for the
wrong things is destructive rather than constructive.


Seven weeks after leaving
Egypt, Israel camped at the foot of Mount Sinai while Moses ascended to receive
the Two Tablets.


And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go
on down, because your people

whom you brought up
out of the land of Egypt has become corrupt.’



God says He wishes to wipe
Israel out and start all over again with Moses. 
Ancient Jewish wisdom describes how Moses asked God to forgive Israel. 


“First of all,” says Moses,
“they are not my people, they’re yours.  Second, it wasn’t me who took them out
of Egypt, it was you.  Third, less
than two months ago they were slaves. What do you expect of them?  Forgive them on account of their righteous
ancestors. In any event, do you want the Egyptians to see the people whom you
championed, destroyed?”  God accepts this


Moses then descends with the
Tablets, sees the golden calf and totally loses it. He smashes the twin tablets
and furiously sets about executing three thousand ringleaders.


We must ask ourselves why on
earth did all those fine arguments which Moses used to mollify God, fail to
work with Moses himself?


Ancient Jewish wisdom finds
the answer in one word—dancing!


And when he came close to the camp

and saw the golden calf and the dancing,
Moses’ anger burned…

(Exodus 32:19)


God told Moses the people had
made a golden calf, but not that they were dancing around it.  Their dancing revealed an emotional
investment that Moses never suspected. He knew the facts but not the
fervor.  Dancing is an expression of
passion, and that changed everything.


Why do TV shows like Dancing
with the Stars
attract such large audiences? Why do students flock to some
teachers and not others?  We are all
drawn almost magnetically to people of passion, whether they are sales
professionals, dancers, teachers, spouses, parents or friends.


You can employ this magnetic
force field for good in your family, social and business life.  First make yourself feel that passion; then
project it.  Try this for a week.  You’ll be amazed at how differently people
respond to you. But as much as we all need to cultivate passion we also need to
be wary of it.  Passion for the wrong idea or
person can bring disaster.  




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