Monthly Archives: May, 2013

You Really Count!

May 28th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Psst! Want to see a list of the world’s 50 most influential Jews?  How about the list of the top 10 mistakes that husbands make?  Interested in the top 10 distinctions between millionaires and the middle class?  The 100 best lawyer jokes or the 7 secrets of success?

All these lists are real and all attracted wide readership.  As you can imagine, articles titled, “Jews Wield Much Influence Internationally,” or “Many Marital Mistakes Men Make,” etc., would not have done nearly as well. People love lists, which is why books and articles that promise to list a specific number of things do far better than those that do not.  Comedians regularly acknowledge the reality that we are drawn to lists with their offerings of the 10 best, or 10 worst or even just 10 reasons why…

Here is a reliable technique for enhancing the next speech you have to deliver in public. Early in your remarks include the phrase, “I would like to describe the 3 main explanations/reasons/excuses,” or so on. You will increase the chances that your audience will pay attention.

Let’s try to understand why lists intrigue us. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that there are two ways of counting.  The first ignores the value of each individual item and is only concerned with the whole.  For instance, when we count coins we don’t care about each one, we only care about the total.

King David aroused God’s anger counting the Israelites in this manner. (II Samuel 24:10)

However, there is another way of counting, perhaps the way we might count books we love.  Each one is unique and valuable.  This is the way that God instructs Moses to count the children of Israel at the beginning of the Book of…Numbers, of course!

In this kind of numbering, the importance of each individual element is strongly emphasized. When we hear of the top 10 or top 20 of anything, we assume we are hearing about the 10 most important or the 20 most important. Each item is neither trivial nor interchangeable.

The English verb to count has several synonyms.  Enumerate, tally, number, figure, and so on.  Wouldn’t you be astonished to discover that each of those synonyms had another shared meaning?  For instance, if count, enumerate, tally, number, and figure all meant some type of pasta you would rightly consider it to be an astounding coincidence.

Yet, in the Lord’s language, five synonyms for counting do just that.

פ-ק-ד (P-K-D) “don’t count the Levites”    (Numbers 1:49)
נ-ש-א (N-S-A) “…count the heads..”     (Numbers 1:2)
ס-פ-ר  (S-F-R) “…count seven weeks”  (Deuteronomy 16:9)
מ-נ-ה   (M-N-H) “He counts the numbers of the stars…” (Psalms 147:4)
ח-ש-ב  (CH-SH-V) “…seek wisdom and reckoning…” (Ecclesiastes 7:25)

Amazingly, the roots of each of these words can also mean an elevated, important or prominent person. This idea was captured by the writers of the children’s PBS television series, Sesame Street, in which the character who ‘counts’ is also the aristocrat, the Count.

We often attach a number to something as a way of ascribing importance to it. A wedding anniversary doesn’t sound as significant as a 25th wedding anniversary. A business’ centennial is more exciting than its 102nd year.

We all need to make an effort to relate to people in our lives as significant, individual and important. No matter how many students, employees or neighbors we have, both they and we benefit when we ‘number’ them in ways that matter.

Numbers also help us—particularly in a relationship we hope will turn into marriage—to tune into what is most important. Chana Levitan does just that in her book, I Only Want to Get Married Once, where she explains the 10 questions you need to ask and answer in order to, “get it right the first time.” We found Chana’s book full of wisdom and insight and her 25+ years of counseling couples provides her with great experience. We offer this book with great pride. It is sale-priced this week and we also are extending the sale on our audio CD, The Gathering Storm for 24 more hours. Whether you are dating, raising a family, or trying to live in accordance with God’s wisdom both these resources make our top 20 list!

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Hey Beautiful, You’re Fired

Life must be terribly annoying to human secularists.  They are stuck with human beings that God created who possess certain built-in tendencies, and no amount of social engineering seems to eradicate those proclivities.  No matter how many times the, “we know what’s best for you,” crowd insists that we should act according to their wisdom, we keep on being (gasp)—human.

This past December…READ MORE

Ask the Rabbi

As I live in the bay area which is a popular tourist destination I am quite welcoming to have guest(s) stay at my home. But my wife absolutely rejects the idea. She gets all stressed about it. Isn’t it a good or Godly deed to host old friends or relatives?

What are your thoughts on this?


Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE


Hey Beautiful, You’re Fired

May 28th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

Life must be terribly annoying to human secularists.  They are stuck with human beings that God created
who possess certain built-in tendencies, and no amount of social engineering
seems to eradicate those proclivities.  No
matter how many times the, “we know what’s best for you,” crowd insists that we
should act according to their wisdom, we keep on being (gasp)—human.

This past December, an Iowa court ruled that dentist James
Knight was legally entitled to fire a member of his staff because he found her
attractive. He was worried that down the road the relationship might move in a
direction that would harm both his and her marriages. His wife encouraged the
move after discovering that the employee wore ‘distracting’ clothing and that
platonic, though personal, emails had been exchanged outside of work.

Not surprisingly, while unable to attack the legal basis for
termination, the court of public opinion erupted in outrage. Reviews on Yelp
began to slam the dentist and the general tone was that even if legal, Dr.
Knight’s actions were wrong. As one columnist
put it
, “How fundamentally unfair that, when guys prove incapable of
regulating their urges, women get fired.” This would be exactly right if we
were talking about robots instead of human beings.

Truthfully, I have no idea how people actually felt about
Dr. Knight’s case. It would be a mistake to assume that the angry and
vituperative represent a majority opinion. Nevertheless, there was a disturbing
backlash against the dentist.

In my opinion, Dr. Knight made certain mistakes, most of all
not keeping the relationship on a formal, professional level. In today’s
unceremonious office environment that is difficult, but he certainly should
have drawn greater boundary lines. However, in firing his employee,
specifically because of concern for the sanctity of marriage, the dentist was
not breaking new ground. Any number of plots of old TV shows or movies revolved
around a wife’s insistence that her husband’s secretary be an older or plain
woman. Was that an old-fashioned, ridiculous idea? Or, as the number of office
affairs taking place today would suggest, was it a valid concern? Perhaps the
only updating that needs to happen is that not only women, but also men, need
to be concerned about whom their spouses are meeting at work. Even the current
and  popular TV show, Parenthood, had a plot line a few
seasons ago, which revolved around the damage caused by the completely credible,
spontaneous interaction between a young, attractive woman and her older,
happily married boss.  This show, which
is frequently referred to as true to life and believable, unleashed a viewer
response to this episode that showed understanding and empathy for the wife’s
reaction – (paraphrased) “You fired her, of course”.

Is it possible that some of the vitriol directed at Dr.
Knight was because he consulted with his pastor on the firing decision? For
many people today, a psychiatrist, therapist or coffee barista are appropriate
to turn to for advice, while accepting religious guidance is creepy. From where
I’m sitting, he made the only possible decision. Any husband and wife who don’t
address temptation and danger in the workplace have their heads in the sand. Wise
couples set certain behavioral parameters such as not having any non-business
or out of the office communication with someone of the opposite sex unless
their spouse participates as well. They could follow the advice of ancient
Jewish wisdom and refuse any physical contact as well – even a platonic,
sympathetic hug or a hand on the shoulder. All females whether homemaker or
working outside the home, attractive or average looking, need to accept that their
choices in dress will elicit reactions from males. This isn’t a male “weakness”
any more than monthly hormonal shifts are a female “weakness.” It is reality. While
some may enjoy fantasizing about men losing all their unique masculine
tendencies (though many of us would view that with horror) it is no more
realistic than insisting that if we only try hard enough humans should be able
to tap our heels three times and be transported home.






America: The Board Game

May 21st, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

For a while, one of my daughters was an avid RISK player.
For those of you unfamiliar with that classic game, the goal is world
domination, achieved through a combination of skill and luck.

America is not a board game. I am getting quite tired of
hearing the IRS or Benghazi scandals discussed in terms of being good or bad
for the administration. It was just as offensive to hear the Newtown shootings
or the Boston Marathon attack described as a boon or drag on various political
parties’ legislative agendas.  Intimidation
of groups by the government is an abuse of power that transcends polling. So
are the deaths of innocent Americans at home or abroad.  There is something extremely distasteful in
viewing misuse of authority, failure of command or heartbreaking incidents primarily
through the prism of the President’s poll numbers or upcoming elections.

When a powerful government agency becomes a weapon of
intimidation, all Americans lose. When America behaves weakly and ineffectually
abroad, all Americans lose. When schoolchildren aren’t safe in their
classrooms, all Americans lose. I have no patience for those Republicans who
crow that the IRS and Benghazi scandals will help Republicans in the 2013
congressional elections. These episodes may indeed do so, but I would rather win
an election on principle rather than achieve victory because the current
administration behaved in a way that damaged this country. If it then used
evasion and dishonesty in an attempt to avoid blame, once again, Americans of
all political persuasions lost.  

Some supporters of this president and his policies are downplaying
these scandals because discovering the truth may embarrass and discredit a
person they admire and a group with whose principles they identify. This
reveals great lack of character and destroys their credibility.  In fact, these distressing and disappointing
moments provide opportunities for greatness.

John Adams faced such a moment in 1770 when the slanted
propaganda surrounding what we think of as the ‘Boston Massacre’ unjustly
threatened to condemn British soldiers to death. Despite being associated with
the Patriot cause and possibly risking his hopes for leadership in that cause,
he defended the soldiers. By placing principled truth ahead of personal
ambition, he chose greatness.

In this case, the opportunity for greatness lies with
liberal Democratic reporters, politicians and pundits. When those with access
to power and influence stop thinking of themselves as Americans and instead identify
primarily as political animals, all Americans lose. Love of country should
transcend partisanship and decent men and women should be willing to put
America’s winning above that of their own ‘team’.

When a game of RISK finishes,
the board is cleaned up and the former opponents move on to other pursuits. The
real-life cleanup will be messier and longer, maybe impossible, if the American
government ceases to be ‘of the people, for the people and by the people.’



Shocking Secret of Life

May 21st, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

One of the great delights of sharing life with my wife is her voracious reading appetite.  She tells me about some books, she summarizes others and occasionally recommends one for me to read.  This she did recently with Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley in the early 19th century.

In her introduction, Shelley contemplates the ‘nature of the principle of life’ and suggests that ‘galvanism’ might reanimate a corpse.  About 30 years before Frankenstein was published, Luigi Galvani had discovered that electricity stimulated a muscle to contract.  In chapter five, Frankenstein “…collected the instruments of life…” so that he might infuse “…a spark of being into the lifeless thing…”  In Boris Karloff’s 1931 movie classic, a bolt of lightning animated the creature.

While the Torah conceals the nature of the ‘breath of life’ that God breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7), today we understand that our bodies function by means of electrical currents traveling through cellular protein ion channels.  The beating of our hearts; the warm sunlight we feel upon our arms; our ability to see; all this and everything else functions because of tiny electrical currents coursing through our bodies.

Walk across a carpet then touch a metal doorknob.  The resulting crackle and spark prove our body’s ability to convey electricity.

The Hebrew word used today to mean electricity is CHaSH-MaL found in Ezekiel 1:4, and 1:27 which ancient Jewish wisdom explains as a powerful force that God put into the world that can be activated or switched off.  Electricity’s power began to be understood in the mid-18th century with the invention of the Leyden Jar, a glass jar lined inside and out with tin foil. An electrical charge can be built up on the inside foil which eventually jumps to the outer foil with a crackle and a spark.

If you know that both gold and tin foil are excellent conductors of energy and that wood and glass are not, the Leyden jar sounds very much like this:

They shall make an ark of acacia wood…coat it with pure gold, inside and outside…
(Exodus 25:10-11)

In this Thought Tool I am not going to discuss why God wanted the Ark of the Covenant to possess these electrical properties. I do want to explain that electricity was not invented while God’s attention was distracted.  Electricity is part of God’s blueprint of creation and His plan for life.

Indeed, electricity can restore life.  In the medical emergency of a person’s heart ceasing to function effectively, a small electrical shock is administered by a defibrillator to stimulate the heart back to regular rhythm.

Scripture records two parallel events of a prophet restoring the dead son of his landlady back to life. In I Kings 17:21, Elijah prayed then stretched himself out over the boy three times, and Elisha prayed then lay upon the boy in II Kings 4:34.

The Bible conceals the miracles’ details and I am not claiming that the prophets’ bodies emulated the paddles of a portable defibrillator but I am emphasizing that the enormous wonders of human life depend upon a tiny invisible force called electricity that God put into His creation.

Similarly, the amazing structures of our families and of systems that allow us to earn a living all depend on many tiny and invisible spiritual forces.  Just like electricity, these small spiritual forces need to be generated appropriately, conducted down correct channels and insulated from others.  They include forces like gratitude, faith, discipline, vision and communication.  Just like electricity they have disproportionate consequence.

God counted upon us to create textbooks and manuals teaching safe operation of electricity.  He gave us blueprints and directives for the safe operation of spiritual forces.  Our mission is to make them available to you as part of ancient Jewish wisdom. Abuse of power and contempt for in-utero life are found in Genesis along with guidance for dealing with those issues and transmitting correct values to children. We’d be honored and happy if you decided to listen to our 2 audio CD program, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah. Both download and mail formats of this mind-blowing and amazingly up-to-date resource!

This week’s Susan’s Musings: America: The Board Game


For a while, one of my daughters was an avid RISK player. For those of you unfamiliar with that classic game, the goal is world domination, achieved through a combination of skill and luck.

America is not a board game. I am getting quite tired of hearing the IRS or Benghazi scandals…READ MORE

Ask the Rabbi

Hope you are doing well. I am so in awe of you and your ministry and am so grateful that I came to hear about you. Your resources are truly amazing and I have acquired quite a lot over the past months. Thank you so very much for the impact you have on so many lives.

I wonder if you can help, please.  Our Church is in desperate need of growth. The Pastor expects skilled people to come, assist, and bring the church vision to fruition. This includes major projects like implementing media ministry, outreaches… The expectation is that people give up substantial amounts of hours/days to implement this in the church…all for free. He is adamant that volunteers should build the ministry and that churches do not need to have core permanent staff to accomplish their vision.

Would you be able to comment please?

Many thanks,


Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE


May 16th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Fair is one of those words that in reality means very little.  When a child protests a punishment saying, “That’s not fair,” most of us try to explain why it really is fair.  A better response would be, “Hippopotami mostly eat grass.”  “What’s that got to do with anything?” the baffled offspring might ask. “Precisely!” you’d triumphantly exclaim.

Another word with little meaning is manipulative. When I once recommended an obvious course of action to a henpecked husband, he reared up to his full height and self-righteously announced, “Oh, I would never do that, it would be manipulative.”  Note: He’s still henpecked but not as bothered because he’s become used to it.

My point is that opening a faucet is being manipulative.  Asking for a raise in the most effective manner is as manipulative as dissipating your toddler’s temper tantrum by distracting him.  So what?  Fair doesn’t automatically mean good and manipulative doesn’t always mean bad.

I tell you all that in order to tell you this:  In every interchange between two parties, at any given moment, one is more powerful than the other.  For instance, when a customer walks into a shoe store, she is more powerful than the eager proprietor.  When it turns out that she absolutely must have that pair of shoes, the balance begins to switch.

When a man attempts to get a date with the object of his desire, she holds the power.  Once she’s foolishly allowed the dating to continue for three years in the hope of marriage, the power has clearly switched to him. Successful negotiation at both work and home demands a crystal clear awareness at all times of what the power dynamic looks like.

The Israelites beseech their new king to lower taxes.  He responds by instructing them to depart for three days and then return.

And he (Rehoboam) said to them: “Go away for three, days then return to me…”
(I Kings 12:5)

Clearly, he had no intention of lightening the yoke.  When they return three days later, he tells them that he is going to increase their burden significantly.

Since he already knew what he would say, why did he send them away for three days, rather than immediately giving them the bad news?

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that King Rehoboam recognized that the Israelite delegation was presenting an ultimatum.  They approached him as potential rebels.  The recipient of an ultimatum is automatically at a disadvantage.  Instinctively desiring to regain the power initiative, he commanded them to leave and return.

This was for only one reason: When they returned three days later, they came as supplicants obeying his command.  The king was now in charge.  The balance had shifted, conferring an advantage upon him.

Try to make yourself conscious of what the power balance looks like in each moment of every interaction. Your goal should always be for both parties to thrive, but don’t think “fair.”  That only confuses. When your toddler doesn’t have a meltdown or your boss retains a valuable, motivated employee, everyone is better off.

Know how to arm and prepare yourself for encounters whenever possible.  If you’re out of ammunition, don’t point your gun.  Conversely, if you do hold the cards, be aware of it.  That’s not evilly manipulative.  It is making sure that you’re not merely a tennis ball floating down the gutter of life.  Sometimes, like the shoe shopper earlier, not disclosing your urgent need for something lets you bargain more successfully. Other times, if you are the one with more power, you can exhibit graciousness allowing the relationship to continue smoothly.

Susan and I love discussing ideas like this one on our daily TV show on TCT. We are able to go deeper into the topic than a short Thought Tool allows as well as to expand on how it relates to your finances, friendships, family and faith. We are delighted that Volume 2 of the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show is now available on DVD with four more of your favorite episodes (save money by getting volume 1 at the same time). These shows are great for launching valuable conversations with your spouse, children and friends – even with yourself.

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Of Parents and Predators

When I heard that, after being taken into custody for kidnapping and raping three girls in Ohio, Ariel Castro was not able to raise $8 million dollars in bail, my first reaction was, “He should be facing a lynch mob, not a bail possibility.” Admittedly, lynch mobs have their problems…READ MORE

Ask the Rabbi

Is there any significance to the order in the creation account of the ‘evening and the morning’ were the first day, etc? Does the evening begin a new day rather than our view of morning being the start of a new day?

Charles J.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE


Parents and Predators

May 16th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

When I heard that, after being taken into custody for
kidnapping and raping three girls in Ohio, Ariel Castro was not able to raise
$8 million dollars in bail, my first reaction was, “He should be facing a lynch
mob, not a bail possibility.” Admittedly, lynch mobs have their problems and my
reaction isn’t reasoned and weighty, but the thought of the destruction he
sowed in the lives of these girls and their families and friends is sickening.

My visceral reaction is highly human. The horror of this
story and the stomach-churning terror it breeds in parents who, in response,
want to clutch their children tightly and never let them out of sight, is one
of the reasons that Lenore Skenazy is one of my heroes. Lenore is the author of
Free Range Kids and blogs on a
website of the same name. She encourages parents to, “raise safe, self-reliant
children (without going nuts with worry).” If memory serves me right, “monster”
and “crazy” were some of the kinder words directed her way when she wrote an
article describing how she let her nine-year-old son ride the subway alone in
NYC. Her blog highlights examples of helicopter parenting, over-zealous
neighbors and police, and examples of over-the-top policies intended to, “keep
children safe.” As she constantly points out, the level of vigilance and
involvement that is common in children’s lives today comes with a high price
tag, often producing incompetent, insecure and unhappy children (and adults).

The Ohio revelations, like the horrific murder of Leiby
Kletzky in Brooklyn in July 2011 or the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart in 2002,
could make Lenore disable her website and cringe. Instead, she reacts
with the same horror as any other mother, but without letting volatile feelings
overrule logic and poison her perspective.
That mixture of emotion and insight is sorely lacking today. We are
urged to run our lives by our heartstrings, leaving us easily manipulated and incapable
of wisdom.

For media personalities looking for attention, companies
looking to make money or politicians jockeying for power, parents are an easy
target. Love makes us vulnerable to false promises that if we only listen to
this expert, buy this product or vote for this person or policy, our children
will be safe. Not only are those promises faulty, but believing them sometimes leads
us to unwittingly harm and endanger our children rather than protecting them. When
evil thrusts itself into our face, being a wise parent becomes even more




What’s My Price?

May 7th, 2013 Posted by Susan's Musings 3 comments

There are parts of my job that I avoid. They are the tasks that make me feel a passionate longing to run and get the mail or find some other reason to bolt from my chair. These tasks set me squirming and gratefully answering a telemarketer’s phone call.

Every job has these elements. A friend of mine is a pilot and after every flight, even if she is yearning to get home, she needs to fill in reams of paperwork. I doubt if while learning to fly, she said to herself, “Oh, boy! I can’t wait to see the post-flight documents.” Yet, it is part of the job. These annoyances are unavoidable. The image we conjured up in grade school of doing only what we want once we were grown up is a mirage. As a mother, I loved hugs and reading stories. Cleaning up from the effects of stomach flu was something I could have easily skipped. As a partner in our publishing company, many of the things I do are exciting and invigorating. What I need to work on today – calculating how much we can afford to discount our library pack – isn’t one of those things. I tend to get different answers when I double-check my mathematical computations (even when using a calculator), which is rather frustrating.  I also agonize trying to keep the price as low as possible while at the same time recognizing that our production, overhead and other costs are constantly increasing. 

One of the issues I have heard my husband discuss when he addresses audiences is how important it is to be comfortable naming your price for a good or service. Unless you are from the government, you are giving someone an opportunity to buy what you offer, not forcing them to do so. While this seems obvious, women in particular often have difficulty with the concept. I remember a question a new storeowner posed to me at a financial event for which my husband was speaking. As a cancer survivor, she was sensitive to the needs of women wanting to buy a bathing suit and undergarments after a mastectomy. She opened a shop designed to make the shopping experience supportive and pleasant. Hours of her time went into planning little details such as having nutritious refreshments in one corner and attractive changing rooms. She invested her savings in the project as well as borrowing money from family. Like most small business owners, she worked more than an eight-hour day, and needing to pay bills and salaries before depositing her own paycheck, there were weeks and months that she took home nothing. Imagine her horror when one customer attacked her for selling her wares rather than offering them at no cost.

Instead of outwardly responding politely while internally dismissing the woman’s comments, this storeowner was troubled by them. She felt the need to explain to me that she couldn’t afford to run her shop as a charity.  She was disproportionally pleased when I validated that the business was a practical expression of her sensitive and kind nature.  While I was disturbed by her insecurity, I understood it. Like me, she for years had been an unsalaried giver as a wife, mother and homemaker. While her family and society both benefitted from her actions, (including financially), she didn’t place a dollar value on her contribution. (If you don’t understand how much money and unpleasantness she saved her family and the average taxpayer by nurturing a stable marriage and home, please explore further. And yes, I know that women who work can also have stable marriages and homes – that’s a separate topic.) Once you enter the marketplace, it can be difficult to reorient and recognize that you are still a giver, just in another form. 

I hope my acquaintance is earning substantial money while contributing to society with her unique talents and perspective. And while I need to bone up on my skills vis-à-vis calculating percentages, I believe that the resources my husband and I provide through our publishing company offer great value to those who choose to purchase them. Thinking anything else suggests that both the sentiments of those who believe in receiving money rather than earning it and the disparagement of homemaking have made inroads into my psyche.

P.S. As I was posting this the doorbell rang, heralding the arrival of our newest resource – the 2nd volume of our Ancient Jewish Wisdom DVD series – four more favorite episodes from the television show my husband and I co-host. So, it is time for me to proudly urge you to check it out and if you feel, as I do, that it is will add value to your life, purchase it. Move quickly and you can get the Library Pack or Library Pack PLUS, including the new DVD, before I figure out by how much to raise the price.

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