Monthly Archives: November, 2012

Not My Fault!

November 27th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

On June 4, 1944, recognizing how easily D-Day could fail, Gen. Eisenhower prepared the following:

“Our landings…have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold… The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

As a family member or business professional, learning to accept responsibility is profoundly valuable.  Learn to say, “I messed up and I accept all consequences.” The character strength needed for this is increasingly rare and we need to acquire it ourselves before we can hope to influence others.

Hebrew reveals one aspect of owning one’s actions. Referring to Leah and Rachel’s sibling relationship in Genesis 29, two words are used, GDoLah and K’TaNah, older and younger. Earlier, when Lot and his daughters flee the destruction of Sodom, we encountered two other words BeCHiRah – firstborn, and TZeiRah – younger (19:31).

In chapter 19 we find a clustering of the root letters T-Z-R.  Lot escapes to the city of TZoaR whose name occurs six times in this chapter. The associated word TZeiRah — younger— appears four times.  In just these few verses, the T-Z-R root is used ten times; more than in the rest of Genesis all together.  Word clustering is one of the ways that ancient Jewish wisdom unpacks Scripture’s deeper meaning.

The word root T-Z-R means narrow and confined.  These letters, for example, form the basis of the name miTZRayim—Egypt, Biblical nomenclature for a place that confines and restricts one.  What was restricting about Lot’s city of refuge, TZoaR? A refuge from any kind of stress is by its nature somewhat confining.  Anyone made homeless by financial mishap or family misfortune and who becomes dependent on others recognizes the limitations of refuge.

What is the connection with a younger child? Inevitably, being the younger is a somewhat restricting role.  Younger children by definition come into a family that has been shaped by the presence of the older child. They feel their older sibling’s power advantage.  Similarly, the younger or junior partner is usually at a slight disadvantage in any negotiation.

None of this implies that younger siblings or partners can’t rise above their circumstances and of course, those seeking refuge can and often do exceed those who initially have a home advantage. Many ambitious immigrants eventually outperform long-established citizens.

Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that Rachel took an active role by stage-managing Leah’s marriage to Jacob. Knowing his future father-in-law to be a rogue, Jacob had pre-arranged signs by which Rachel would assure him that she, and not a substitute, was under the wedding canopy. Rather than allow her sister to be embarrassed as the subterfuge was uncovered, Rachel passed these signs on to Leah.  Rachel’s compassion for her sister as well as her transcendent understanding that Leah was destined to be a matriarch in Israel, overrode her personal desire to marry the man she loved. Possessing such noble leadership qualities made it inappropriate to call her a TZeiRah.

By contrast, Lot’s younger daughter instantly agrees to her older sister’s questionable suggestion. She unhesitatingly submits to her sister rather than taking charge of her own actions.  She acts as one who is limited and confined, a follower rather than an independent spirit.

We all start life as a T-Z-R. We are restricted by finding ourselves born into a specific body, family, place and time.  Yet, our souls can always soar. Each of us has the choice to be like Lot’s younger daughter or like Rachel. We can point to our circumstances and say, “There’s nothing I can do to improve my situation,” or we can turn our liabilities into assets and focus on strengths, not weaknesses. Accepting responsibility puts us on the path to greatness.

As this example shows, each Hebrew word reveals practical life lessons. We are thrilled to offer a special holiday sale on our book, Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language. Available in hardcover or as an eBook, the updated second edition includes one completely new chapter. Explore powerful Divine truths that empower you and those you love to live a more fulfilling and prosperous life.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Stitch by Stitch

Quilting is not in my blood. I possess no antique quilts handed down through the generations nor do I have fond memories of my mother and aunts socializing as they pieced together a quilt top. Nonetheless, I have been hanging out in the fabric store, reading quilting magazines and dreaming about quilt patterns.

My interest was piqued…

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Genesis 6:1-5 is such a controversial passage at our house that pacifists have learned not to bring that subject up. 🙂 Can you shed any light on what this passage means? Thank you!

Hannah H.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s  ANSWER HERE

Choose Life

November 20th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 8 comments

I am driving my husband crazy. This is not, as
you might think
, because he returned home to an organized study. He is
gracious enough to concede that he loves the way his study looks and will be
able to work more efficiently than before. No, it is because I am not keeping
quiet while he listens to the radio.

Yesterday, we heard a respected news commentator announce
that both Israel and Hamas were being intransigent in their demands. At that
point, I began a tirade that went something like this: “I can’t believe he said
that. Israel is intransigent that Hamas stop firing thousands of rockets aimed
at kindergartens and hospitals and Hamas is intransigent that it be allowed to
massacre all Jews. And he says it as if the two sides are equivalent.” It is
possible that I carried on a wee bit longer, repeating the concept in a variety
of ways. Meanwhile, my poor husband was not able to hear any more of the radio
conversation.

Israel is not perfect. Her government sometimes behaves
wrongly. Her citizens, like the citizens of America and other countries, run
the gamut from holy to reprehensible. That data is irrelevant. I did not
originate the following idea, but it is true. If Hamas, Hezbollah, and other militant
Islamists put down their weapons there would be peace in the Middle East. If
Israel puts down its weapons there will be a massacre. That is the only reality
that counts. Israeli schools do not inculcate hatred of Moslems, while
Palestinian schools teach math through problems such as, “If there are seven
Jews and I kill four, how many are left?” Unlike TV in Egypt and other Moslem
countries, Israeli children’s TV does not advocate murder of those who follow a
different religion.  Unless a cease-fire
changes core teachings such as these, the idea of peace is a hopeless chimera.

God holds Israel and the Jewish people to a higher standard
than He holds any other lands or people. That is both a privilege and a
terrifying truth. I believe that the blessings and curses that He pledges in Deuteronomy
for following or abandoning His ways, explain Jewish history to the present day.
The children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob need to combine prayer and repentance with
pragmatic and practical strategies.  

Yet, even when Israel deserves chastisement, each nation and
person (Jew and non-Jew) has the free choice whether to join those who protect
or those who attempt to destroy the Jewish people. Each nation and person will be
held accountable for the choices made, as nations and people have for thousands
of years.

I am not really driving my husband crazy. We are both
desolate at seeing so much of humanity, in the Middle East and around the world,
choose evil over good and death over life. We are despondent at the moral
equivalence that is prevalent in the world today that equates murder with
self-defense or destruction with productivity. Yet we are also hopeful, knowing
that millions in Israel, America and around the world are committed to fighting
darkness and praying to merit light.

The American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC) wants to
support Israel’s soldiers, many of whom are reservists called away from home
and business. If you would like to participate, all donations made to AAJC through
Saturday night will be sent to provide much appreciated packages and supplies
for these men and women. (After that time, enter the word “Israeli soldiers” on
the ‘organization’ line to have funds targeted for this campaign).

 

Pray for the
peace of Jerusalem, those who love you shall prosper.

May there be
peace within your walls
and serenity within your citadels.
Psalms 122

 

 

Writing, Not Fighting

November 13th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

My just concluded United Kingdom speaking tour began with an address to Citygate Church in London the night I arrived.  Dispelling jetlag with adrenaline, I taught about how much of the Torah emphasizes God’s desire for His children to nurture strong and emotionally authentic relationships with one another. I showed how God wants families and communities to not merely to live together but to be utterly bound up with one another.  I condemned the style of social organization that turns humans into socio-economic cogs incapable of genuine connection and warmth.

The next morning I made a pilgrimage to Chartwell, the beloved home of Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine.  There, among the many moving artifacts of two remarkable lives, was much correspondence between husband and wife.  Written with ink on paper, the letters reveal warmth of feeling and closeness that Churchill’s political nemeses probably never suspected he possessed.

In our email age in which electronic communication has all but supplanted ink on paper, it is easy to overlook the great value in a handwritten letter.  Precisely because it is so effortless and inexpensive to dispatch an email, by comparison the value of an ink on paper letter has risen even higher. In an age when we communicate online with all our friends at once, a handwritten letter emphasizes, “I really care about you.”

To many of us, life as we’ve blessedly known it seems precarious right now. Let’s take a lesson from the years preceding the Flood.

And it was, when man began to increase…
(Genesis 6:1)

In Hebrew, the word for “increase” is ‘laRoV’. The word is similar to the word for quarrel, ‘RiV’. In Hebrew, words that share core letters beg to be examined together. Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that this phrase doesn’t refer to population size. It is describing men who have lost a shared moral framework and see each other as rivals rather than partners. Ten friends is a stimulating group; ten enemies is a mob. The next verse goes on to say how women became the victims of this lack of fraternal feeling. Economically, sexually and socially, things rapidly went downhill from there.

Now is an appropriate time to make sure that you are building real relationships. Writing handwritten letters is one helpful tool. Here are five tips:

1.   Obtain a nice fountain pen rather than using the promotional ballpoint pen from your last hotel room.

2.   Acquire some good quality notepaper rather than using an 8 ½ X 11 piece of white paper you removed from the copier machine.  Get matching envelopes.

3.   Keep pen, paper, envelopes and stamps together in some handy location so that when you consider writing a letter, you can instantly follow up with the action.

4.   Write alone and in silence, far from your computer and phone.  You’ll enjoy seeing how pen and paper stimulate your brain once you’ve banished the electronics.

5.   Think about what you wish to achieve and plan an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  Write a draft; hone it and write a final copy.

You’ll get better and better at handwriting letters; your penmanship and style will both quickly improve.  Don’t allow thoughts of posterity to inhibit you; not all your letters will be worth keeping and not all will be kept.  Every now and again, you’ll write a gem that will show up years into the future and bring delight to others.

We humans keep on fruitlessly attempting to improve life by abandoning God’s basic principles for successful living. In my audio Cd, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah, I reveal how the Biblical chapters describing Noah and the events leading to the Flood emphasize the social and economic calamities that follow the erosion of authentic human relationship. Noah’s life provides hope for us and delivers advice on how to protect our children from being swept away by the wrong ideas that surround us.  His path to safety can be ours as well. I urge you to take advantage of the sale we are running right now and learn how to prepare your own life-saving ark.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Economic Conservatives. Social Conservatives. Is it Time for a Divorce?

I read your piece in the Wall Street Journal and was nodding in agreement and cheering you on. That is, until about half way through. You wrote some marvelous phrases about the GOP’s tragic inability to sell a conservative economic message to those very voters who sided with the Democratic Party despite the fact they hold, “a government shackle waiting to be slapped onto the wrists of every young voter they ensnare.” I agree wholeheartedly with the visual picture you create that, “The GOP is like a supermodel who’s has been doing photo shoots under fluorescent bulbs without any makeup.” We do have the right ideas and we have failed abysmally in marketing them.

But, then you start discussing moral issues…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Dear Rabbi Lapin,

Last year I asked you what I ought to do when I thought a certain woman in my life would make a great mate, yet I wasn’t experiencing the emotions I thought I ought to have to pursue her. Your response and the Thought Tool that encouraged me to ask the question greatly impacted me. Last month, Sommer and I got married. I couldn’t be more satisfied with her. She is a Godly, beautiful woman, everything I had ever hoped for and never thought was possible to find these days.

Thank you for the words of wisdom and encouragement.

Brian.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s original ANSWER HERE

Economic Conservatives. Social Conservatives. Is it Time for a Divorce?

November 13th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

Dear Sarah,

I read your piece
in the Wall Street Journal
and was nodding in agreement and cheering you
on. That is, until about half way through. You wrote some marvelous phrases
about the GOP’s tragic inability to sell a conservative economic message to
those very voters who sided with the Democratic Party despite the fact they
hold, “a government shackle waiting to be slapped onto the wrists of every
young voter they ensnare.” I agree wholeheartedly with the visual picture you
create that, “The GOP is like a supermodel who’s has been doing photo shoots
under fluorescent bulbs without any makeup.” We do have the right ideas and we
have failed abysmally in marketing them.

But, then you start discussing moral issues. You say that
the Left has taken the moral high ground by being pro-choice and pro-gay. You
rail bitterly as you refer to the “religious right and the gay-bashing,
Bible-thumping fringe that gives the party such a bad rap with every young
voter.” Here is where you and I need to have a dialogue if the Republican Party
has any chance of continuing.

In my mind, the GOP has the same exact problem on social
issues as it does on economic ones. It has the right ideas it articulates
atrociously and the Left controls the message being given to your age group.
Just as your peers are indoctrinated with failed ideas that redistribution of
wealth brings happiness and prosperity to all, they are also are indoctrinated
with a negative view of traditional religious values. In high schools and
colleges and on popular TV shows and movies wealthy Americans are portrayed as
greedy misers (despite the fact that conservative Americans give charity, volunteer
and even donate blood way more generously than the ‘kind, compassionate, loving
liberals’). Similarly, religious Christians are portrayed as hypocritical,
racist zealots despite that fact that the nation’s conservative churches are far
more racially integrated than most college campuses and filled with warm and
loving individuals who in no way resemble the caricature fed to the public.

I am Jewish, and like my Christian friends, I believe in a
Creator. Like our Founders I believe that He created us with certain inalienable
rights, and I also believe that He created us with certain needs. One of those
needs is to live a productive and fulfilling life. I am an economic
conservative because even if the government could supply everyone with a
luxurious lifestyle as an outright gift (which it cannot, even if it uses the
word entitlement rather than gift), people’s souls would corrode. The human
spirit drives us to actively participate in our own success, not be the
recipient of largesse.

Similarly, the human soul craves certain things like love,
affection and security. The ‘advances’ of the Left have not delivered as
promised. Studies show that women are less happy now than they were fifty years
ago and mental health professionals meet a horrifying number of young women who
are depressed and punishing themselves through eating disorders and cutting among
other pathologies.  The depiction of
religious conservatives as misogynistic, sexual Neanderthals is no more
accurate than the claim that Republicans want to send grandma over a cliff.  My generation has failed yours in letting you
believe that you are originating the idea of a brave new world of sexuality
without knowing that it has been tried – and failed – before. We have bolstered
your self-esteem so high that you lack the humility to acknowledge the wisdom
of the past and to learn from those with more life experience than you.

If extremists in one political party (including President
Obama) believe that a full-term baby who has started exiting its mother’s body
and in no way threatens her life or health, can be “aborted,” while extremists
in the other party believe that a rape victim should carry the baby to term and
let it be adopted into a loving home, then I know with which view I need to
side. If you were given that stark choice, perhaps you would agree with me.  Nevertheless, most Americans fall into neither
extreme. The discussion that needs to take place is obstructed by the Left’s
demagoguery and the ‘Mitt Romney type’ Republican’s spinelessness on the issue.
Women your age deserve to hear truth rather than scare tactics. Abortion and homosexual
behavior are sensitive issues, but women must be encouraged to have the
maturity to listen and discuss them rather than accept the Left’s propaganda
and vilify anyone with a traditional viewpoint.

You are absolutely correct that the GOP cannot survive
without expressing their ideas better, but I believe that it cannot survive by
betraying either classical economic or traditional social principles. We hold
the moral high ground in both social and economic issues, even if we do not
know how to express our message. On a practical level, if the GOP split or even
won the youth vote, but lost social conservatives, it will still be a losing
party. Are you able to imagine that you might not be hearing the whole truth
when it comes to the ‘religious right’ or traditional values? If so, we can
have a valuable conversation, and the GOP might have a shot at survival.

 

 

No One is Reading This, Right?

November 6th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

Let’s be real. It is election night and most of you, at
least my American readers, will be sitting at the edge of your seats or off to
rejoice with or gain solace from friends. Wednesday morning, all you will want
to talk about will be the election. What chance does my Musing have of being
appreciated even if by some slight chance a few people read it? Not much.

Rather than send out electrons to be lost in cyberspace, I
thought that I would share a letter written to my children.  I’m sure they won’t mind it being shared with
those of you diehards who are actually reading this (whose loyalty I truly
appreciate).

Dear children,

As you know, Daddy has been on an exciting but extended
speaking tour of England and Ireland. For a number of reasons, it did not make
sense for me to go along. This has meant that we have been apart for longer
than at any other time since we were married. Along with missing Daddy, this
has made me appreciate our military families even more. They endure much longer
separations accompanied by ever-present worry.

Nevertheless, even with friends visiting, it has been lonely
here. At the same time, because we travel to speaking engagement so frequently,
I admit to relishing time in the house. Over the years, we have accumulated
many items. Perhaps as a homeschooling family, we even have more than average.  This seemed a perfect time to sort through
our belongings.

Judging by the lack of response to my emails in which I
stressed that there is a time limit to our storing your Beanie Baby collections,
your ‘best camper’ certificates and other vital pieces of childhood, I imagine
that all of you have been taking a cyber-break. It does my heart good to think
of you eschewing computers and interacting face-to-face with your loved ones.

Having not heard back from you, I turned my attention to
Daddy’s study. While he is here, I don’t want to disturb him by cleaning, so
this was a rare opportunity to tidy up. I know Daddy likes to kid about how
what looks like chaos is actually a finely orchestrated filing system. From the
time we got married, he has had a running joke where he asks me to not
straighten up piles of paper or throw out clearly outdated and random
clippings.

In reality, I’m sure he will be delighted with his newly
dusted, vacuumed and organized workspace. As his hectic trip winds down, I am
thinking that perhaps Daddy would enjoy some quiet time in his newly pristine surroundings.
Killing two birds with one stone, I have begun packing up your keepsakes as I head out to seek asylum with bring them to
you.

Love,

Mommy

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