Monthly Archives: August, 2012

A Theft is a Theft is a Theft?

August 28th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

Is it worse to steal money from a child than from a local
business? This isn’t a random, ‘it’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep’ type of question.
Instead, my thinking was precipitated by a video that just came to my
attention, though it first circulated four years ago. At that time, two
teenagers in an upscale Florida neighborhood snatched an envelope with $164 in
it from a nine-year-old cookie-selling Girl Scout and jumped into their car. As
shocking as the crime was, it paled in comparison to the ideas expressed by the
two thieves when they talked to news reporters. (Warning: some of the
language is not refined.)
It is hard to believe you are not listening to a
badly written script. Both girls seem truly confused as to why people are upset
that they took the money, since they really wanted it. 

When the interviewer presses one of the girls as to whether
she feels bad because of the age of her victim, she responds, “Well, money’s
money.” A short while later the two young ‘ladies’, who clearly were not sentenced
to Alcatraz for their crime, ate breakfast at a local Denny’s and left without
paying their bill. While in the normal course of events, this probably would
not have made the news, because of their past notoriety, it did. The Denny
manager says, “The fact that they ripped off the Girl Scouts is far worse than
ripping us off.” I have to say that in this case I agree more with the
miscreant’s statement than the manager’s. There can be truth even in the words
of an amoral girl who (I’m going to take a wild guess here) was not brought up
with reverence for certain “Thou Shalt Not” verses. Not only is money, money,
but theft is theft.

There is a reason that Lady Justice is often depicted as
blindfolded. A society cannot survive when it is all right to steal from some
people but not from others. When the attitude becomes, “Stealing from a
business isn’t like stealing from a person,” we can expect more theft from both
businesses and people. A friend of mine works at the mall as a saleswoman. In
the few years that she has been in this position, she has noticed a change in
the attitude of shoplifters. When she started, she saw furtive behavior.
Perhaps one person demanded her attention when his or her peer slipped an item
or two into a pocket. Lately, she says that shoplifters simply walk in, openly
take the goods and walk out. They, and she, have learned that despite being
videotaped and knowing that mall security will be called, no one is going to
follow through.

Clearly, most people’s heartstrings are tugged at more by
the sight of a stunned and unhappy child than by a line in a corporation’s
report revealing money lost due to shoplifting or unpaid bills. It is likely
that hundreds of citizens who heard about the stolen cookie money made a point
of buying Girl Scout cookies from that specific little girl; I doubt that
Denny’s had many people mailing checks in to their location. However, a
government and justice system that treats one crime as worse than the other is
broken.  In an election year where one
party’s appeal is largely based on entitlement and envy, it is imperative for
those of us who disagree to respond rationally and morally rather than
emotionally to suggestions that ‘theft by any other name is not as bad theft.’



Thought Tools – My Mistake, Honey

August 28th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet


Each week I write ThoughtTools® very carefully and review them diligently.  This is why I was shocked to discover what a bad mistake I made last week.  I am grateful to those alert readers who wrote in to correct me and I feel undeserving of the kind tone they employed.

I am blushing at recalling it, but yes, I wrote that bees make honey out of pollen.  No, they don’t.  They make it by regurgitating and processing the nectar they gather from flowers.  While collecting the nectar, bees perform a useful function having to do with pollen, but that is unrelated to the honey.

The word honey has even been used as a term of endearment in English for many hundreds of years, including the romantic sounding honeymoon.

On the first night of Rosh haShanah, the Jewish New Year, this year Sunday night September 16, Jews eat apple dipped into honey.  Even more than chocolate, a notoriously effective mood-raiser, eating honey makes us feel good.  Small jars of honey are popular gifts during the weeks leading up to Rosh HaShanah, expressing the wish that the recipient should enjoy a sweet year.

One general rule from ancient Jewish wisdom is that we can glean valuable information about a word by examining its first usage in Scripture.  Honey appears for the first time when Jacob reluctantly allows his son, Benjamin, to accompany the brothers to Egypt.  In order to placate Egypt’s ruler, Jacob sends a gift containing honey.

Israel their father said to them, “If it must be so, then do this:

Take of the land’s glory in your luggage and bring it down to the man

as a gift (MiNCHaH), some balsam, some honey…”

(Genesis 43:11)

The first Biblical appearance of honey thus links it to the idea of a gift because both words appear in the same verse.  Evidently, it is well to wish people sweetness by means of a gift (MiNCHaH) containing honey.

The two words together occur in only one other verse, Leviticus 2:11. This verse discusses a specific type of sacrifice known as a MiNChaH. While it is well to give honey as a gift to another person, in offering a gift (MiNCHaH) to God, honey is expressly forbidden.

What can we learn?

When we give a gift to a human, we derive palpable gratification.  We see the person’s joy upon opening our gift, we savor the recipient’s gratitude, and we know that in all likelihood, we’ll receive a gift in return.

When we give a gift to God, the palpable manifestations are not there. We may believe that God appreciates our gift and we may be confident that He will more than reciprocate, but we see no visible reaction. Nevertheless, we must train ourselves to experience similar gratification when offering a gift to God.

How do we give gifts to God today? One way is by giving a piece of ourselves, perhaps controlling our temper more or putting a smile on our face despite our stress. Nobody but God need know of our inner struggle, and He smiles.

Another way, however, is to give charity, particularly anonymously. While a person may be the beneficiary, we are actually giving a gift to God as much as to a person – especially if we do not know whom our gift is aiding and the recipient does not know that we are the donor.

One of the ‘commandments’ I address in my best-selling book Thou Shall Prosper: the Ten Commandments for Making Money, (available by itself or as part of the Income Abundance Set at a deeply reduced price this week) is to become a charitable person. I offer several reasons why this is effective, aside from it being something God instructs us. One of the most important benefits is that giving enlarges us. We become bigger people after giving of our time, money or resources than we were. Scientists note that our hormones react to our own generosity, but this is simply another way of saying that a gracious God rewards us when we do the right thing. We don’t need to give honey to God, because the act of giving in itself is as sweet as can be.


This week’s Susan’s Musings: A Theft is a Theft is a Theft?

Is it worse to steal money from a child than from a local business? This isn’t a random, ‘it’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep’ type of question. Instead, my thinking was precipitated by a video that just came to my attention, though it first circulated four years ago. At that time, two teenagers in an upscale Florida neighborhood snatched an envelope with $164 in it from a nine-year-old cookie-selling Girl Scout and jumped into their car. As shocking as the crime was…READ MORE

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

Is there a reason males were required to be circumcised and women had no such requirement?

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer

How’s that Campaign Slogan Working for You?

August 21st, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 1 comment

In company with past presidents, President Obama has discovered that one can get elected by making glorious promises. Fulfilling them is quite another story.

Whether it is classified security concerns that one only finds out about once in office or the reality that (despite over-reaching attempts) a president does not have absolute dictatorial powers, campaigning and governing are completely different activities. Even star power has its limitations. To the disappointment of President Obama’s supporters, expectations that America’s enemies would be as enraptured with him (and hence America) as teenage girls were with the Beatles, were decidedly overblown.

Unfortunately, most of us fall prey to catchy slogans and starry-eyed promises. That is why you never saw the following policy and campaign slogans: “A chicken in most pots; a car in more garages,” “Fewer children left behind,” “Hope and change which you might like or might hate.”


Hurray for a Woman’s Sting

August 21st, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

There are many secrets to success in life, but here’s a good one:  Empower your wife and any other women in your life to bring out the best in you.

This lesson emerges from a mystery posed by three verses, Genesis 24:58-60.

Verse A:

They called Rebecca and said to her,

“Will you go with this man?”  And she said, “I will go.”

Verse B:

They blessed Rebecca and they said to her, “Our sister, may you become…

Verse C:

And they sent away their sister, Rebecca, and her nurse…

There’s nothing particularly odd about these three verses, is there?

There is, if you know that I’ve switched them around.

In reality, A is followed by C, and finally B.  How strange!  How could they send Rebecca away and only thereafter speak to her and bless her?

The answer hinges on Rebecca’s nurse.

We meet her again about a hundred years later when she dies while accompanying Jacob’s family:

And Devorah, Rebecca’s nurse, died and she was buried below Bethel, beneath the tree and he named it Alon Bachut.

(Genesis 35:8)

What is Devorah (in English, Deborah) doing with Jacob and his family on their way returning to the home from which Jacob fled so many years earlier?  Why isn’t she with her beloved Rebecca?

The answer is clear.  As she had promised thirty-five years earlier, Rebecca sent her to inform Jacob that his brother Esau had calmed down and that it was now safe for him to return home.

Until your brother’s anger turns away from you…and I will send [someone] and bring you back from there…

(Genesis 27:45)

Having discharged this final duty, the faithful retainer died.

Who is this woman, that her name and action merit so much mention in Scripture?

Ancient Jewish wisdom directs our attention to another Devorah.

And Devorah the wife of Lapidot was a prophetess who judged Israel at that time. And she sat under the palm tree of Devorah between Ramah and Bethel…

(Judges 4:4-5)

Judge Devorah held court, under Nurse Devorah’s tree. We are meant to link the two!

Regular Thought Tool readers might know that in Hebrew, Devorah means a bee.  What is a bee’s uniqueness?  It converts inedible pollen into sweet honey.  Bees convert unfulfilled potential (pollen) into its ultimate destiny—honey, sweet tasting and energy providing.

Sure enough, Prophetess Devorah converts Barak from a frightened individual into a brave leader who defeats the evil Sisera, Israel’s oppressor of twenty years. (Judges 4:6-9)

Nurse Devorah is instrumental in transforming the wicked family of Rebecca into people capable of seeing the future and blessing a young woman destined to become a mother of the Jewish people. (Genesis 24:60) This is the message of her awkward introduction into the narrative (Genesis 24:59) before the blessing is uttered.

Similarly, her death is mentioned right in the middle of Jacob abandoning the alien influences his household had accumulated from their interactions with Shechem (Genesis 35:2-5) and God’s blessing him.  (Genesis 35:9-12). On her mission from Rebecca to Jacob, her presence strengthens him.

Devorah represents those women in our lives who bring out the best in us. Can men in our lives also inspire us to improve? Of course. However, we lose out if we insist that men and women are interchangeable. Whatever their title or role, women have powers unique to them that we mustn’t casually dismiss.

I hope you will have a chance to watch my TV encounter with Glenn Beck and Pastor John Hagee this coming Friday. Just as Devorah’s name and presence teach permanent and practical principles of life, so do all details of Scripture. On the show, we discussed the Middle East; what lies behind Iran’s belligerence; and how it must eventually play out according to timeless Torah truths. For more amazing insights and a laser-sharp view and in-depth discussion, I teach relevant verses from Genesis to Judges to the Book of Esther in my audio CD set Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam. As each day brings more troubling news, this explosive program reveals the reality behind tomorrow’s news headlines. The price is reduced this week, making it a timely purchase for you and those whose lives you positively impact.


This week’s Susan’s Musings: How’s That Campaign Slogan Working for You?:

In company with past presidents, President Obama has discovered that one can get elected by making glorious promises. Fulfilling them is quite another story.

Whether it is classified security concerns that one only finds out about once in office or the reality that…READ MORE

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

What is the procedure for becoming a Rabbi? Can a non-Jewish person become a Rabbi? I am concerned because one of my friends is going to a Messianic church and the person in charge is wearing the full garment of a Rabbi even though they are not Jewish. Thanks for your help in this matter.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer

If Only I Had…

August 14th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

If only I had ______  (insert any resource you lack)  I would ______________(insert any accomplishment you desire).  Making excuses for ourselves, we loop variations of this audio clip in our minds.  If only I had more patience I’d be a better parent.  If only I had a car I would find a job.  If only I had an assistant I’d finish that project.

Countries could make the same claim.  Israel—If only we had oil under our sand like our neighbors we’d be successful.  Switzerland—If only we had gold like Uzbekistan we’d have prosperity.  North Dakota—If only we had sunshine and beaches like California, we’d be growing.  Hong Kong—If only we had minerals like Nigeria we’d be rich.  Luxembourg—If only we had uranium like Zimbabwe we’d be able to lift our Gross Domestic Product.

But wait!  Israel is successful.  Switzerland does have prosperity. North Dakota is growing.  Hong Kong, an overcrowded spit of land with no natural resources is rich. Luxembourg has the second highest GDP in the world.

Meanwhile, not counting oil sales, the countries surrounding Israel manage lower total productivity than tiny Finland. Uzbekistan is crime-ridden and poor. California is a bankrupt basket case.  Much of Nigeria is in economic shambles, characterized chiefly by riots, murders, and airplane disasters.  Zimbabwe is a poverty-stricken and corrupt dictatorship boasting an inflation rate of 400%.  I intend no insult to these places but let’s be honest.  Let’s help these countries, or at least their unfortunate citizens, by seeking the origins of success and prosperity.

Would you be surprised to learn that God promises an obedient Israel, “A land where you’ll eat bread without poverty…a land whose stones yield gold and from whose mountains you will mine silver?”

I wouldn’t be surprised at all.  The only problem is that Scripture doesn’t say that.  It does say:

…a land whose stones yield iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper (Deuteronomy 8:9)

Wouldn’t gold and silver have been better for Israel?  Iron is the second most abundant metal on earth and copper is one of the least valuable, used for pennies sometimes called coppers.

Why would God reward His people with iron and copper, possessing very little intrinsic material value instead of with gold and silver?

In Thought Tools 2008, I taught how in Scripture, iron and copper hint at something deeper than mere metals.

Copper and iron in Biblical juxtaposition always hint at limitless energy.  That word energy has many meanings.  After a hectic day, I might say, ‘I have no energy left.’  Out on my boat I might say, ‘This fills me with energy.’  We use phrases like ‘solar energy’ or ‘that new CEO energized the entire company.’

In the presence of electrolytes like salt water, lemon-juice or sulphuric acid; copper and iron form an electrochemical couple which yields electrical energy. This is what we call a battery.  In 2011, Stanford University invented the ultimate battery based on copper and iron nano-engineered materials.  In Scripture, copper and iron refer to pure, limitless spiritual energy—the core of all creativity.

God gives us all the secret for success and prosperity.  We can access limitless spiritual energy giving us the ability to obtain all else.  Using this energy, Zurich does have gold beneath its streets in the form of bullion.  More of Israel’s citizens drive oil burning cars than its neighbors. Hong Kong and Luxembourg do very well with creative energy rather than natural resources.

Similarly, we need nothing but our God-given creative cores in order to succeed and prosper.  The excuse of “If only I had ___,” is just that—an excuse.  Helping you find that creativity in your soul and learning how to apply it in your life is part of the value in studying ancient Jewish wisdom.

Increasing our connections with other people is one of the surest ways to mushroom our creativity. Resolve to do so now! My 2 audio CD set, Prosperity Power: Connect for Success provides practical tips for even the less sociable among us while showing the spiritual links between your rolodex and your revenue. This week, save $3 off the CDs or get the instant download for under $10!

Message to Me

August 14th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 5 comments

In the grand scheme of things, Ben & Jerry most likely didn’t notice when I stopped eating their ice cream. I didn’t walk outside their stores carrying a protest sign; I didn’t write a letter to the newspaper announcing my decision and I certainly didn’t suggest to elected officials that their stores should be made unwelcome.

However, my ears perked up when Dennis Prager, whose columns and radio show I admire, suggested that Mitt Romney should have made a public show of eating a Chick-fil-A hamburger along with a Ben & Jerry ice cream. His reasoning included the idea that, “Romney’s message would be that in America, with rare exceptions (such as, for example, a Nazi- or KKK-owned company), we buy products based on their excellence, not the views of their makers.”

On political issues, my thinking almost always aligns with Dennis’ and I appreciate his logical articulation of ideas. In this case, while I think his point is generally true, I disagree with his suggestion. I am typing this Musing using Microsoft Word and living in the Northwest I have downed more than my share of Starbucks coffee. This is despite that fact that I disagree with some of the causes that Bill and Melinda Gates or Howard Schulz support. I respect the generosity, particularly of the Gates, and recognize their backing of many in need. I don’t expect their views to be carbon copies of mine. Nevertheless, as an individual, I drew a line at being a consumer of Ben & Jerry’s company, even after they were no longer involved in its management. I did this when my children heard Ben and Jerry speak at a conference in a way that showed disrespect for and ill will toward the American military at a time when our troops were in combat. As Dennis noted, other of their positions verge more to an extreme that is beyond simply articulating another respectable point of view.

My loss of appetite for Coffee Heath Bar Crunch wasn’t intended as a boycott, expecting my actions to hurt the company’s bottom line. It was a message to me. Every time I walk past the ice cream section of my supermarket, ignoring the siren call even of the sale-priced cartons, I am reminded to say a prayer for our soldiers and to think with gratitude of them and their families. Calling it a sacrifice would be grossly self-aggrandizing. It is a quiet, simple way for me to concentrate my appreciation and patriotism.

I strongly agree with Dennis that the Romney campaign blew a huge opportunity to take a principled stand regarding the liberal hate-filled desire to punish Chick-fil-A for its owner’s views.  While I will vote for Mr. Romney, the manner in which he has been running his campaign, as exemplified by his silence on this issue, has eroded the respect and confidence I would like to grant him. (I do hope that the Ryan pick signals a course correction.) However, in my opinion, the candidate’s eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream would have been a further step in the wrong direction.

Sitting Shiva

August 7th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

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

My sister, Ellen, passed away on Sunday morning a week ago. From the moment Jews hear news of the death of one of our closest relatives (mother, father, husband, wife, brother, sister and child), there is a path to follow. Starting Sunday and continuing through the burial and for the next seven days, my father and I were guided by our tradition. Sunday’s focus was relegated to organizing details and my husband and I taking a ‘red-eye’ to the east coast. The burial was on Monday, and my father and I returned from the cemetery to start a process known as “sitting shiva.” For seven days – shiva means ‘seven’ in Hebrew- the mourners withdraw from the world, cocooned in the smaller world of family, friends and community.

At a time when one feels unmoored by coming face to face with death, there is tremendous comfort in following a proscribed process. Since Jewish burials take place as quickly as possible after a death, the bereaved family usually starts sitting shiva within a day or two of the death. For the entire week, the outside world disappears. I was completely ignorant about and disinterested in what was happening on the national or global front. On a personal level, I was utterly removed from those tasks that usually consume my day. Having worked on our new book, Buried Treasure, for over a year, it rolled out without my input. I had no idea what, if anything, replaced my weekly Musing. I awoke at 2 a.m. one morning to the sight of my husband crouched over his computer trying to handle my responsibilities as well as his own. I knew that my amazing assistant, Crystol, was similarly acting in my stead. Although a five-minute consultation might have saved them hours of work, my ‘shiva space’ was never violated.

The shiva home is a busy place as the mourners are surrounded by others. Compassionate friends and relatives provide meals, listening ears and affection. My children, whose lives are always hectic and full, took responsibility for dozens of small and large matters. The three women who lovingly tendered round-the-clock care for my sister over the past few years came to share our loss. Among other visitors were a cousin I had not seen in decades, my eighth grade history teacher, my late mother’s closest friends and the boy who was my assigned partner for walking down the hallway in first grade.

The shiva week provides many benefits. It is a way of showing respect for the dead, and as such, its observances are unrelated to whether the death was sudden or long expected, whether the deceased is young or old, cherished by or alienated from his or her immediate family. Shiva is also a process for the living: it comfortingly protects one from the jarring juxtaposition of life and death. Certain mourning processes such as not wearing new clothing or attending public celebrations will continue for an additional three weeks (when mourning a parent’s death, that period extends for a year) but as shiva ends one is firmly prodded back to a productive and involved life.

Ellen faced physical and emotional challenges from the time of her birth. As an adult, she accepted responsibility for her own happiness. She rejected viewing herself as a victim of manifold problems and exhibited great courage as she strove to be an exemplary employee, a loving friend and an affectionate daughter. Her last years were a testimony to the strength of her personality as she chose humor over bitterness when faced with a body that continually failed her. Bed-ridden she maintained relationships via email; when she could no longer type she preserved connections over the phone; when she could not even do that she exuded gratitude for each visitor. My prayer is that she finds a peace and joy that eluded her in this world as she enters another, more permanent, existence.

Then the Bear Said…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The aton spoke to Bilaam:

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

(Numbers 22:28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer

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

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

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

De-Stress For Success

August 1st, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Many of us feel stressed by a visit to the doctor, even for a routine checkup. But how about the stress that doctors endure?  Recently, the Mayo Clinic studied how stressed doctors tended to make more mistakes.  The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results: stress was a primary cause of error.

With marriage and family, we know that stress can cause overreaction to the normal ups and downs of everyday life.  Often, when you behave towards someone you love in a way that leaves you feeling ashamed, you are over-stressed.

Stress increases the likelihood of making mistakes.  By relentless marketing, Pepsi eroded Coca Cola’s share of the market to 24%.  After five years of stress, Coke CEO, Robert Goizueta, launched New Coke in the spring of 1985.  By summer, New Coke was a marketing disaster and the drink was cancelled. Coke Classic returned and replaced the drink that America had shunned.

What is stress?  Psychology texts offer dozens of definitions but it’s mostly feeling that important aspects of your life are outside your control.  You lack time to do what you think must be done.  Fate is flinging circumstances at you for which you lack the resources.  Costs are climbing faster than your ability to increase revenue.  Stress overwhelms you when you feel that you’re not in control of consequential developments in your life.  Paradoxically this makes you less capable of making smart decisions and executing them.

Two psychiatrists developed the eponymous Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale which assigns stress values to various life events.  Losing a family member and getting married earned very similar scores.

But ancient Jewish wisdom has been teaching this for two thousand years.

The 14th chapter of the Book of Judges tells of Samson’s marriage.

Samson said to them I will pose for you a riddle and if you solve it

during the seven days of feasting…

(Judges 14:12)

Similarly, when Laban cheated his son-in-law Jacob out of his wife, Rachel, he insisted that Jacob complete the week-long wedding celebrations for Leah, and then he could also marry Rachel.  (Genesis 29:27)

To this day, religious Jewish weddings are celebrated for an entire week.  But weddings are not the only seven-day life cycle observance.

And he [Joseph] made seven days of mourning for his father [Jacob]…

(Genesis 50:10).

Sure enough, religious Jews mourn the death of a close relative for an intense seven days.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that both the death of a close relative and getting married involve considerable stress and that we must devote a week for a healthy return to some normality  We need to give ourselves time to adjust; in the cases of the largest changes like death and marriage seven days is the starting point.

Ancient Jewish wisdom provides us with a second critical lesson for handling stress.  It can be significantly alleviated by involving other people.  Thus a wedding feast requires the presence of a group of people at each evening’s celebration during that first week of marriage.  Similarly, during the first seven days following the death of a close relative, the mourner stays home surrounded by a constant stream of friends and well-wishers.  This first week of mourning is known as ‘shiva

These insights are useful in stressful times.  If possible, avoid decisions or actions in the immediate aftermath of overwhelming situations. Try to spread the effects out over some time. Just as importantly, involve others.  If your relationship with God is in good shape, talk to Him about needing help to regain control.  Also talk candidly to friends, relatives, colleagues, or mentors.  New avenues of deliverance will open up.

This is exactly what happened to us.  Our best-selling book, Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language had been out of print for two years.  We were stressed out by the legal and financial challenges of recovering our own copyright.  Using the techniques outlined above, we prevailed and won, and now you can do the same by buying yourself and your loved ones copies of this powerful, life-improving book.  It includes new material never published before along with a message from Pastor John Hagee and kind words from Glenn Beck.  Click here for more information.


This week’s Susan’s Musings: Susan’s Musings:

Susan’s Musings will not appear this week but will return next week.

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

My daughter, Sue, is 48, diabetic and unmarried. She gets very depressed. Financially, she works from paycheck to paycheck and prays for a financial breakthrough, to have a business of her own, to be able to meet her health issues and other pressing needs. She also takes care of her Mother, which adds to her financial pressure. Is there any suggestion you could give her at this time? Thank You.

Joyce L.


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