Monthly Archives: August, 2014

Boating Lessons

August 28th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

Tod Inlet, British Columbia. The name alone causes me to smile; actually being there makes my heart sing. Two nights at anchorage with kayaking in the early morning and dinghy trips to Butchart Gardens and nearby Brentwood Bay later in the day, engenders more joy than a reasonable person should expect.

Along with joy, I received a life lesson. When we arrived, the inlet was unusually lightly populated. Our second morning there a sailboat arrived and proceeded to drop anchor surprisingly near us. Her proximity wasn’t dangerous—as long as the water remained calm and both our anchors held.

The problems began when we started hoisting anchor in the afternoon, ready to head to our next destination. A stiff wind kicked up and as my husband hauled in the anchor from the bow, our boat drifted perilously close to our neighbors. Handling the wheel and controls in the pilothouse, I executed some deft maneuvering and with a dose of blessing, managed to avoid a collision. However, as we swung frighteningly near, they ran to their bow and loudly exclaimed, “A bit close, captain.” On the water, that is the equivalent of road rage.

I understood their unease. Yet it did set me thinking how they most probably didn’t recognize that their choice of a bad anchoring location is what caused the problem. Perhaps they went back into their cabin after the near-miss thinking, “Some people really don’t handle their boats well.” In reality, on this occasion, our boat handling was fine. By anchoring too close to us, they initiated the sequence of events that could have become a crisis.

How easy it is to do this. We behave in certain ways, speak or act recklessly and blame others when things go wrong. Often, enough of a time gap exists between our mistake and the consequences so that we don’t connect the dots. More frequently than we like to admit, we trigger many of our own problems, but rather than learning from our mistakes, we shake defiant fists at others.


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Benefit from her American speaking tour this coming November.

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When Life Isn’t Rosy

August 21st, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 7 comments

My husband and my first date took place on a grey, windless, drizzly Sunday. We motored around Marina del Rey on his beloved 37 foot sailboat while the message sent and received was, “This is a test. My boat and I are a package deal.”

Shortly after we were engaged, my future husband started giving me gifts of books written by famous sailing couple Larry and Lin Pardey in which they recounted their extensive sailing experiences. Sailing purists, their home-built wooden boat, Seraffyn, didn’t even have an auxiliary motor. Perhaps the books were meant to show me how reasonable my spouse was. He only wanted to sail to Hawaii, not circumnavigate the globe as they did. Furthermore, he was happy to have a diesel engine though he preferred not to use it. More likely, the books were just meant to provide some needed nautical knowledge along with seductive messages about life afloat.

Though we did once meet the Pardeys at a boat race (their boat designer Lyle Hess built our dinghy) we had little else in common. Their passion for boating led them to a pact not to have children while our passion for children led us from sailing to power boating.  While they embarked on ambitious and amazing adventures, except for our Pacific crossing, we stayed close to shore.

Nevertheless, role models they were, both for their sailing expertise and for Lin’s writing style. So, despite the fact that I haven’t consulted one of my earliest gifts, Lin’s classic, The Care and Feeding of the Sailing Crew, in a few decades, I was still intrigued when I read about a biography of the iconic couple. Having written extensively about their own lives, what was left for author Herb McCormick to add?

I am looking forward to reading the biography, but so far I have only read reviews of it. Mr. McCormick, it seems, adds some of the warts that didn’t feature in the autobiographical cruising adventures. We’re not talking of anything major —certainly no hints of cannibalism or piracy. But, it seems that he does write of experienced navigators finding themselves at sea with no idea of their location; of Larry’s Captain Bligh moments (a persona that blessedly, my own husband never adopted) and even of strains on the marriage that are less shocking than completely normal.

This set me thinking. I sometimes regret the sugarcoating of my personal life that these Musings occasionally offer. Like some of our friends’ annual Christmas letters where they write of their children’s charm and cuteness, of their piano recitals and academic awards rather than of their moments of failure, my own family mentions tend to be positive ones.  Writing of the problems, you see, would betray the privacy to which marriage and children are entitled.

My husband and I are immensely proud of our children and grateful beyond belief that they follow God’s way in many Torah laws such as keeping kosher, the Shabbat and holidays and in being upright people. Yet, like parents everywhere, we have our worries and concerns and have had some desperate moments over the years. I can write of a four-year-old shoplifting gum without worries that a cloud will hang over her adult years, but is the same true for a sixteen year old who narrowly escaped a brush with the law due to a high-spirited adventure? I’m not so sure.

A number of years back when one of our daughters caused us great anguish – and at the time, we did not know as we now do that she would safely move past that period of her life – I was literally on the floor in a torrent of tears. I went to the library seeking some source of encouragement. Wandering the shelves, I found a book written by the late Christian author and humorist, Barbara Johnson. After facing severe crises in her children’s lives, she founded Spatula Ministries, designed to “peel parents off the ceiling with a spatula of love and begin them on the road to recovery.” Although her problems had little in common with mine and her faith was a different one than mine, I appreciated and benefited from her writing.

Still, while I share my own difficult experiences with individuals when I feel I can help them, I don’t write about those (blessedly few) gray periods of my life. I can’t; it is not my life alone that is involved. Yet, reading a review of Larry and Lin Pardey’s biography reminded me that while most of us present a positive face to the world, none of us escapes challenges and low points.  While, I hope, we don’t revel in another human being’s travails, knowing that everyone has them can help us get through our own.


Places I Remember

August 20th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

It’s sometimes difficult to force yourself to do your work, isn’t it?  Perhaps you allow the plague of procrastination to infect your soul.  Maybe you find unproductive ways to persuade yourself that you’re working, even though you’re not doing what really needs to be done.  How do we know what really needs to be done? One answer is whether the activity produces revenue from someone who is free to accept or decline your goods or services.

There is another way to know if we’re doing work, perhaps cooking or taking care of our home.  We can ask ourselves, “Who am I benefiting by doing what I am doing?” If the answer is, “Nobody!” or “Myself!” or even a vague, “Humanity!” then you’re probably not doing work.

In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, one word, AVoDaH, is used for serving God and for serving His children—in other words, work.  One way of serving God is through prayer and, though, of course, we can pray anywhere, there is an advantage to praying in a fixed place.

We learn from ancient Jewish wisdom that Abraham had a regular place to speak with God. There he prayed for Sodom (Genesis 18:23). Amazingly, after God destroyed Sodom despite his prayers, Abraham returned to the same place to continue praying to God.

And Abraham went [to pray] early in the morning to the place [MaKOM]
where he stood [in prayer]  before the Lord.
(Genesis 19:27)

By contrast, less praiseworthy people than Abraham changed their places of prayer when they failed to get the results they desired.  Rather than accepting a “no” or searching within themselves, they assumed the fault must lie in the geography and jumped from place to place.

And Balak said to him [Balam]  ‘please come with me to another place [MaKOM]  from where you may see them [Israel]… and curse them for me from there.’
(Numbers 23:13)

This word, MaKOM, place, whenever used in Tanach, always refers to a space with some Godly connection.  So powerful is this relationship between a special space—MaKOM—and God, that there is a compelling numerical clue.

The holy four letter name of God in Hebrew, known as the Tetragrammaton, comprises the following four letters, Yud, Heh, Vav, and Heh.

yud,hay, vav, hay

The numeric values of those letters are 10, 5, 6, and 5 respectively.  If those four letters define God’s name linearly as it were, then it follows that squaring them brings us to an awareness of God that is more spatial.

This process is similar to how we’d discover the area of a square field if we know the length of the side to be 10 yards.  We square the line of 10 yards and obtain an area of 100 square yards.

What happens when we square these four letters?

ten,five, six, five squared

Now, add together the four letters making up the Hebrew word MaKOM (place).

So, in a sense, the “area” of God’s name gives us the Hebrew word for place, MaKOM.  Thus, when a special place is chosen, it possesses spiritual significance.  Yes, it is true that I can do my AVoDaH, meaning both my worship and my work serving others, almost anywhere.  I can pray on the bow of my small boat anchored off an island in British Columbia and thereafter, I can open my laptop and write a Thought Tool intended to bring useful data into your life.

Tod Inlet

However, both my prayer and my work get an additional boost if I do them in a fixed place.  Prayer is best when uttered in a space dedicated for that purpose and work flourishes when done in a place reserved for that purpose.

This is why one of the best ways of coping with the challenge of forcing yourself to focus on your work is to take yourself to the right MaKOM; the correct place for doing that work. Even if you must travel, it is beneficial to recreate the feel of your work or prayer place as much as possible.  Sometimes, even just the action of picking yourself up and moving to the right MaKOM brings God’s blessing to your efforts.

When different names for God are used throughout Tanach, it reveals more than literary variation. Like MaKOM, each name has unique implications. If you enjoyed this Thought Tool you will love the deeper meanings of God’s names that I reveal in our 2 audio CD set, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah. Suddenly, the dimensions given for the ark make sense in an astounding way. This resource will help you protect your family from troublesome times just as Noah was able to provide safety for his wife and children. Take advantage of special pricing right now.



Young Man, Choose Wisely

August 15th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Any German living under the Nazi regime, who announced that he had Jewish friends, was being politically incorrect.  He was also being shockingly imprudent and probably reckless. Any Russian living under Stalin, who proclaimed his admiration for the American ideal of freedom, was being politically incorrect.  He was also being imprudent and reckless.  Any Moslem living in Pakistan, Qatar, Brunei or any of the many other countries in which Sharia is the law of the land, who expresses enthusiasm for Christianity is politically incorrect, imprudent and dangerously reckless.

Any American today, living under the oppression of the country’s dominant faith, secular fundamentalism, who professes belief in the God of Abraham and in the Bible is being politically incorrect. If he works in entertainment, government, or education he is also being imprudent and reckless. He won’t imperil his life as in my earlier examples but he will certainly jeopardize his job.  Just ask Professors Mark Armitage, Richard Sternberg, and Guillermo Gonzalez.

Like any bully resorting to force after failing to persuade by fact and reason, secularism silences dissent with suppression, ridicule, and threat.  The underlying belief of secularism is that we humans are nothing more than super-evolved primates.  You think you’re touched by the finger of God?  Don’t be ridiculous! You’re just an animal with all the healthy appetites of an animal.  If it feels good, do it.

This is one reason you hear so little in America popular culture about the benefits that virginity brings to marriage.  As the sexual revolution runs its course and nears the end of its natural lifespan of about fifty years several serious publications and institutions are rediscovering the advantages of being married to your only lover.  However, since this runs counter to the secular urge to indoctrinate young people into premature sexuality, such information is deemed politically incorrect and it is either entirely suppressed or if it does sneak into view, it is instantly ridiculed. This is truly the behavior of the bully who no longer even believes his own propaganda.

For a timeless perspective consider these verses:

…the young man and the virgin…
(Deuteronomy 32:25)

…the old, the young man, and the virgin…
(Ezekiel 9:6)

The Hebrew word for young man is BaCHuR.  Its feminine equivalent, young woman would be BaCHuRAh. (According to the standard rules of Hebrew, adding Ah to a masculine noun makes it the feminine equivalent.)

Yet nowhere in Tanach do we encounter the word BaCHuRAh. Every instance of young man and young woman uses BaCHuR for the young man, and BeTuLAh, virgin, for the young woman.

Now let’s explore the meaning behind the word BaCHuR that explains why its feminine equivalent is not used in the Hebrew Scripture.

BaCHuR is simply the noun form of the verb B-CH-R, to choose or select.

And Moses said to Joshua choose [B-CH-R] for us men…
(Exodus 17:9)

Why this connection? Ancient Jewish wisdom explains by asking a question: What is the essence of being a young man?  The answer is being on the cusp of vital choices. He must choose a wife.  He also must choose his career, a way of serving his fellow humans. Hence, the word for young man is BaCHuR, a chooser.

By contrast, there are fewer choices available to a young woman.  (Warning:  this is going to be politically incorrect.) She can certainly choose a career today, but she is not able proactively to choose a husband.  She has to wait to be asked, at which point her choice is to accept or reject.

Please understand that this is not me decreeing that a young woman can’t ask a man to marry her any more than it is me decreeing that apples fall off the tree downwards not upwards.  If you’re uneasy with this inconvenient truth, just think of how many marriages you know of in which the wife proposed marriage to her husband. It happens only rarely. The way that God built men is that most of us flee a pursuing woman.

The very opposite of a pursuing woman is a young woman of modesty, a virgin.  Thus Scripture defines reality by referring to a young man and young woman as BaCHuR and BeTuLAh. A young man on the cusp of choosing a wife and a young woman making decisions that value herself and encourage him to choose wisely.

There! I’ve said it. I’ve told the truth even though it is politically incorrect.  And telling the truth can be dangerous under any tyrannical regime.

Telling the truth is just another way of describing the calling of teaching Scripture.  There are more politically incorrect, inconvenient truths on the topic of men and women in Gila Manolson’s book, Hands Off: This May Be Love (God’s Gift for Establishing Enduring Relationships). I think that both men and women should read it. Young people may not like the conclusions they draw from this book (though it is entertaining to read) but life is easier and more rewarding when you live in reality.

Hands Off smaller


This Time, A False Alarm

August 13th, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

I was sitting in the sanctuary of a local synagogue, surrounded by upwards of 500 women.  It was late afternoon on the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, the day on which Jews mourn the long line of tragedies that have befallen our people, generation after generation. Most of us had not eaten or drunk since nightfall the previous evening; we would be fasting for another six hours.

In the morning, we had recited tear-inducing laments written throughout Jewish history, sitting on the floor or low chairs, as one sits for the week following the death of a parent. We recounted the tragic accounts of many massacres, among them those in York, England in 1190, the Spanish Inquisition that began in the late 15th century, persecution in both Tsarist and Communist Russia, and Nazi Germany. All these led back to the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem that took place on this date millennia ago.

Foremost in our minds was the new wave of anti-Semitism sweeping the globe. Our cousins in France were fleeing that country as the police stood by while raging Moslem mobs destroyed Jewish stores and attacked lone Jews. The U.N. “peacekeeping” forces turned a blind eye as Hamas stockpiled rockets to be aimed at Israel’s civilian centers. The international press and even America’s Secretary of State and president trotted out the traditional double standard that (intentionally or not) erased the line between criticism of Israel and hatred of Jews. Despite gratitude to a few staunch friends, among them Canada’s premier, Stephen Harper, we women were on edge as fighting continued in Israel and hatred of us was being spewed out in pro-Gazan rallies throughout America and the world.

We were sitting silently in the sanctuary, riveted by the eloquent words of a local rabbi as he discussed one aspect of the day. This still atmosphere was shattered by a menacing voice bellowing something about “Israel” and “Holocaust” and “get out Jews” from behind us. I was sitting towards the front of the room. Along with those around me, I hit the floor in an instinctive reaction. We heard sharp bangs and screams. Later, we found out that what sounded like shots was actually the sound of folding chairs crashing to the ground as the young women who had added extra rows in the back of the room fearfully raced away from the door.

In what, in actuality, was only a few moments, a lot can race through your mind. Was there an alternate exit from the room? Were there any elderly or pregnant women near me that needed help? And yes – bitter thoughts towards my state’s governor and legislators and all others who left us defenseless by their obsession with taking guns out of the hands of good, trained and responsible people. 

As things calmed down, it turned out that the disturbance was caused by a single, mentally disturbed, Jewish man. That was hardly reassuring. While we were relieved that this disruption wasn’t what we had most feared, mental illness is frequently a factor in tragedies.

All in all, it was nothing more than a scary experience. Yet, it reinforced how vulnerable we are, and how much safer I would feel if our culture legally enabled us to protect ourselves.


A Burger, Fries and a Side of Bullets, Please

August 7th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

A few weeks ago, my husband and I spent two days in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spoke for a financial conference. It was my first time there and I saw little other than the airport, conference center and the road between the two. Nonetheless, what I did see what had character. I didn’t have to guess whether I was in Boston or Dallas; the landscape, architecture and décor were unique.

Keeping kosher, the cities in which we can sample local cuisine are few.  In this case, we brought our food with us and ate in our room. It boggles our mind to think of arriving somewhere and being able to choose from thousands of different restaurants. However, if we were able to eat in many locations, there is something new being offered in some eateries that I would seek out.

It seems that as companies like Starbucks and Chipotle are asking patrons not to bring their guns inside, other places are putting out big “welcome” signs. Not surprisingly, many of these are small, local places.

The advent of the super highway system brought many wonderful things in its wake. One outcome with both benefits and liabilities was the expansion of chain stores throughout the land. While it’s great to be able to get a Venti Caramel Macchiato wherever one finds oneself, for a store to have a national policy on homosexual marriage, guns or minimum wage is less appealing – especially as liberal thinking tends to dominate.

Shannon Watts, who founded Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, states, “Restaurants routinely protect their patrons form second-hand smoke, so it makes sense they would go out of their way to protect them from bullets as well.” I completely agree with her words and I am also a mom who would like gun sense in America, but she and I are 180 degrees apart. I think having large numbers of mentally healthy, trained, responsible gun owners carrying their weapons with them is the best way to protect patrons from (criminally used) bullets. I don’t think that is exactly the action Shannon wants.  

Albuquerque gave the impression of being an individualistic, western frontier. We did not have time to explore its streets. Had we the time and had keeping kosher not been an issue, would I have been able to mingle with some gun-toting moms?  It would have been fun to try.

P.S. I was just present at a scary incident and while I don’t have time to write it up in time to add to this Musing, I hope to write it for a future one. As it was taking place, I was thinking how relieved I would have been had I thought that a number of the women with me were armed.

I have received a number of emails asking how to stand with and help Israel. In addition to prayer, I recommend looking at the work of  Also, find an honest and morally driven source of news. Becoming well educated is needed for politely but firmly rebutting false propaganda.


Have you seen me on TV? Take a Musing but remove the time to re-write and edit – and you get a TV show. (Sometimes, that is very worrying.) I love getting your feedback on both the Musings and on the show.

The Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Combo AJW 1 and 2
available as a set or individually


Field and Stream

August 6th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Are you a specialist in your field of work?  What career field should I go into?  Will history graduates find work in their field?  Why is the word field by far the most common metaphor for work, career, or profession?  Why not ask, “what river do you work in?”  Or, “what road of work do you walk?”  Or, “can you find work in your stream?”

This usage of language derives from the Bible. While working in your field can mean agriculturally since that is the means of earning a living most often referred to in Scripture, on a larger scale your field means whatever honorable way you have of earning a living.  Just as a field provides a farmer with sustenance, so does a field of work do the same for the professional in that field.

Prepare your work externally and make yourself fit for the field; then afterwards build your house.
(Proverbs 24:27)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains this verse to mean that the best way to order your life is first learn to do work that others (outside of yourself) find useful, then establish your career performing that work.  After that, you’ll be in a position to build your house, meaning, create your family.

Excelling in your field provides blessing not only for you but also for others in your society.  Noah’s name means ‘rest’ and he brought the possibility of rest to mankind by increasing the agricultural yields of the fields.  Notice how Noah is named:

And he called his name Noah, saying, this one shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.
(Genesis 5:29)

Sure enough, God had cursed the earth.

…cursed is the ground for your sake…thorns and thistles will it bring forth to you…
(Genesis 3:17-18)

How did Noah ‘comfort us concerning our work’?  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Noah invented the plow allowing mankind to draw more from the cursed earth with less effort. Similarly, by being productive we too add value to the lives of those around us.  For this reason, a Biblical worldview frowns upon earning one’s living as a professional gambler.  No matter how much money one wins by gambling, nobody else’s life is thereby improved.

Does the importance of working in your field disappear later in Scripture? From the following passages, it seems as if society’s prosperity hinges only on one’s relationship to God.

And it will be that if you carefully obey my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give you the rain of your land in its season…that you may gather in your grain, and your wine, and your oil and I will send grass in your fields for your cattle, that you will eat and be satisfied.
(Deuteronomy 11:13-15)

This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night that you may observe and do all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
 (Joshua 1:8)

If we are meditating on the Torah day and night, obeying God’s commands with all our heart, when do we find time to plant that grain, those vines and olive trees?  Ancient Jewish wisdom’s answer is that we “serve Him” and “do all that is written in it” largely through supplying the needs of God’s other children.

We humans are holistic. Even our bodies do best when our spiritual and physical sides are synchronized. Why does a placebo have any therapeutic impact at all in modern medicine? People’s bodies perform better when their brains and souls are on board with the program. This is why most people choose doctors in whom they have confidence. A patient’s recovery is directly linked to how much confidence that patient has in his or her medical advisers. It is almost as if your body knows what is in your mind and responds accordingly. Helping your mind to know and believe that what you do professionally is good, noble, and worthwhile helps to fuel your energies and propel your efforts.

No wonder ‘you will eat and be satisfied’.  No wonder ‘you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success’.  Working in our fields is part of our holy calling.

Many of us first met Noah when we were children. Yet his life, as the lives of others in Scripture, contains vital lessons for us as adults. We do ourselves a disservice by not approaching them with mature intellect. The 8 audio CDs in our Genesis Journeys Set will amaze you as they reveal astounding messages hidden in Genesis.

Genesis Journeys Set

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