Monthly Archives: September, 2015

At Home Away from Home—Israel

September 24th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

Once again, we have the blessing of being in Israel for the fall holydays. While we love America and feel endless gratitude towards her, as Jews, we are a minority within her culture. (Personally, we wish we felt like more of a minority and would like to see a reawakening of America’s Christian nature.) Not so in Israel, where a holiday atmosphere reigns in September, not December, and where the secular looking taxi driver regales us with stories of his Yom Kipur/Day of Atonement fast.  

One of our favorite activities in Israel is taking the bus. Sometimes, we take a roundabout route so that we can see different neighborhoods. Israeli bus drivers are fearless cowboys. They drive aggressively and quickly through narrow streets and around sharp curves. We refrain from bursting into applause, though their performance frequently deserves it. 

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Israeli buses host a cacophony of different languages, and people from almost every country on earth.  Their external dress reveals a gamut of geographical origins and religious affiliation. Nonetheless, the resonant feeling is of being on a road trip with extended family. This can be sometimes annoying but is also comforting. An elderly Yemenite grandmother with her grandchild in a stroller will tell (not ask) a Russian teenager to hold onto the stroller while she goes to check with the driver about where to disembark. A mother boarding with an infant will plop the infant onto an Israeli-Ethiopian soldier’s lap while she rummages for her bus card in her purse. 

Once off the bus, the inter-relationships among people persists. To the sometimes discomfort of many American immigrants, children are seen as a national treasure and responsibility. Mothers are assaulted by strangers telling them that their babies are dressed too warmly or not warmly enough.  It is not unusual to stand at a corner, getting ready to cross a major intersection, and find a young five or six-year-old tuck her hand into yours, confident that you will help her cross safely. No words are exchanged as she lets go of your hand at the other side, continuing on her way to her destination. Helicopter parenting is not an Israeli affliction. 

While America is moving in the direction of being a country based on fear in general and fear of lawsuits in particular, Israel, for both good and bad, is a country of adventure and bravado. Consequently, it suffers from a high rate of car accidents, causing great sorrow, but it also assumes the people should bear responsibility for themselves. While Americans can’t market a balloon without warning that it can cause harm if swallowed (and if swallowed, there still will be a lawsuit) Jerusalem runs its light rail down a busy pedestrian street, with no guardrails, warning signs, or irritating announcement that a train is coming so you should move to the side. Instead the driver beeps a slightly louder horn than the one you had on your childhood bicycle as he doesn’t slow down a whit, expecting people to move out of his way in time not to get hit. They do.

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When we are in Israel, Yom Kipur, the Day of Atonement, is one of my favorite holy days. While I have only prayed in a few synagogues in America on that fast day, I always found the day draining, if meaningful. I certainly cast more than one look at my watch through the day counting down the hours until I could eat and drink (25 hours fast in total). My Israel experiences have been entirely different. It starts, as in America, with the solemn Kol Nidrei prayer at night. Yet, the next day, as the day moves along from morning to afternoon to sunset, a joyous festive mood captures the congregation. One senses a feeling that having undergone the process of atonement for the past forty days, as the day moves along people are confident in God’s mercy and forgiveness. The closing prayers are joyous as hands clap and feet dance. If someone ran in and said that the clocks were all wrong and there was another hour to go, I might be thirsty and hungry, but I would be grateful for the extra time. 

We are now moving into the next set of holy days, known as Sukot or Tabernacles, but also as ‘The Time of Our Rejoicing’. Sukot (booths used for the holydays) are popping up on every porch and corner. I pray that this coming year brings rejoicing to all of us and also brings God’s rejoicing in His children as everyone alive today has the opportunity to reject the false gods so prevalent among us and embrace Him.


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What do the words abomination and unclean mean?

September 24th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments


In Scripture some things are called an abomination while others are unclean. What is the difference?

∼ Regina


Dear Regina,

What a difference a word can make! If you’ve been reading Thought Tools for a while or have listened to any of our audio CDs, you are aware of the snare of translations. We cannot guarantee that the English Bible you are reading is consistently using the words ‘unclean’ or ‘abomination’ for the corresponding Hebrew words, but we can comment on the two words we think the translation is most likely referring to.


Is Netanyahu Responsible for the Iran Deal?

September 17th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 12 comments

One of the delights of sitting in a cafe or riding a bus in Israel is listening to the conversations around you. A less polite but more honest name for it is eavesdropping, but, as anyone forced to listen to details of Aunt Muriel’s colonoscopy knows, it is hard not to hear what people around you are saying. In Israel, philosophy and politics are the topics you are most likely to overhear.  

The conversations I’ve been hearing since we arrived in Israel a few days ago mostly revolve around whether Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress was a necessary gambit or whether Obama’s personal dislike for and resentment of Netanyahu helped lead to the president’s insistence on his disastrous Iran deal. 


I don’t know if there were more effective ways to spur opposition to the Iran deal. However, more than anything, the people who are blaming Netanyahu remind me of a section of a book I read as a child. My recollection is fuzzy, to the point that I don’t remember if the protagonist of the following story was a Chinese immigrant, a Black child, or some other minority group, but I do remember the story.

There is an opportunity for a poor child of illiterate parents to attend a good school. First, he (could it have been a she?) must pass an examination. Scrubbed till his skin is raw and dressed in meticulously cleaned and mended clothing, the child appears before the principal. The principal takes a piece of paper and tears it in half, asking the child, “What did I do to the paper?” When the child answers, “You broke it,” the principal refuses entry. On the way home, the child’s father cries bitterly, castigating the child for using the wrong word.

What we the readers know, that the father did not, is that the principal’s aim was to deny that child entry to the school. If the child had answered that question correctly, the questions would have continued. The only way that exam was ending was in failure. 

There are ample reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s constituents to approve or disapprove of him. Failing to stop the Iran deal, in my opinion, isn’t one of them. America’s current president has an antipathy to Israel as he does for the United States of America. He despises the Prime Minister as he despises Republicans and conservatives; to the best of his ability he will make sure that they fail and he will do whatever it takes to ensure that outcome.


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How do I combine ministry and business?

September 17th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments


I am your distant student here in South Africa. I am struggling to reconcile my passion to be a committed Bible teacher and create a real estate business at the same time. The general view of most Christians is that to be successful Bible teacher zone must be divorced from running businesses.

Over the years I have been finding it hard to abandon either of these passions. If it is Biblically correct to integrate Bible teaching and creating a real estate investment business, how can I do it successfully and in a way that pleases God? I have been thinking of setting up a leadership and business training business in South Africa,that upholds and teaches Biblical principles as you have explained in your books, Thou Shalt Prosper and Business Secrets from the Bible. How can it be Biblically correct that students pay for learning about leadership and business from the Bible? 

Thank you in advance for shedding some light in this matter-May God bless you and the work you are doing, you are changing our lives for good here in South Africa.

∼ Emmanuel N.


Dear Emmanuel,

First of all, let me say how happy I was to hear from you.  As you might know, I was born in South Africa and I think that no matter what, we all retain a primeval emotional connection to our birthplace.  So if we can help you in any way, we would be helping not only you but also the other citizens of South Africa whom I remember with fondness.

Second, we are delighted that you have found our books and programs helpful. We think that you may be asking two separate questions. The first is about pursuing two passions; the second is about combining them.


Heads I Win; Tails You Lose

September 10th, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

By the time we reached third grade or so, most of us stopped falling for the, “Heads I win; tails you lose” gambit. Those that still accept this type of deal seem to be predominately Republican and conservative. 


I understand why many good people explain that even those of us who are appalled by the Supreme Court ruling on homosexual marriage should not support Kim Davis. They argue that as a government official, she should resign if in good conscience she cannot follow the law. I accept the premise that laws cannot be ignored even if we think those laws are incorrect. I get the argument that her stance will lead to other people arguing for exceptions for positions that I oppose.


Except, I’m tired of fighting battles where only one side plays by the rules. Since coming into office, the current administration has ignored the Constitution and separation of powers that underpin the United of States government. The Department of Justice has favored some citizens over others based on their race (among other factors), and the Internal Revenue Service functioned as a partisan attack dog. Cities across the United States have openly declared their contempt for law, whether on illegal immigration, homosexual marriage (prior to the Supreme Court ruling) or on other issues.  

In an editorial arguing that Republicans should not make a futile attempt to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, the paper’s editorial board opines, “If a Republican wins the Presidency but Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren run the Senate, don’t expect any movement on Planned Parenthood—or ObamaCare repeal.” Let me see if I get this straight. When Republicans control Congress and a Democrat is in the White House, Congress is impotent. The President can even make a foreign treaty that threatens the continued safe existence of this country and Congress can’t stop him. But if a Republican is in the White House and the Democrats control Congress, the President’s hands will be tied. 

When a Republican president nominates a superbly qualified man to the Supreme Court, who liberals realize will not sign on to the remaking of the country and the finding of invisible rights in the Constitution, he, literally, gets Borked. When a Democrat nominates someone to the Supreme Court, Republicans say that even though her judicial positions are worrisome, according to the Constitution the President has the right to appoint Justices.

In other words, Republicans can never win. No one can when the rules only apply to them. When, after winning the election in 2000, President Obama said that elections have consequences he only meant it for elections that Democrats win. That is clear from his ignoring the trouncing his party took in mid-term elections. Yet, Republicans act as if they agree with his biased thinking. 

There is a phrase in Hebrew that translates as “a pious fool.” The classic case given to explain this idea is a man who sees a woman drowning and doesn’t save her because Jewish law opposes physical contact between unrelated men and women. He is a man who turns God and His law into a mockery.

I’m tired of supporting a political party which acts as a “pious fool.” Yes, we should follow the law; yes, Congress, the Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch each have their own areas of responsibility; yes, the Federal government should treat all Americans as equal under the law. But when only one political party acts according to those ideas, our nation will drown and the obituaries extolling the piety of those who should have saved her, will ring hollow. 

Our office and store will close Sunday through Tuesday night in celebration of Rosh HaShana

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Is the word ‘bricks’ a code word in the Bible?

September 10th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments


I recently replayed one of your “Ancient Jewish Wisdom” programs that I recorded about the tower of Babel and the introduction of secularism. I noticed , correct me if I am wrong, the first time the word “Brick” is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 11:3.

The question is, what is the significance of bricks concerning secularism as mentioned in Genesis Chapter 11:3? And by the way I absolutely love your program “Ancient Jewish Wisdom.” I record them and play them back to get it all, can’t get enough.

∼ Bob B.


Dear Bob,

We are delighted that you watch and enjoy our Ancient Jewish Wisdom show on TCT. We’re not sure which episode you are referencing, but your point about bricks is not only correct, but vital to understanding the allure of socialism as it recurs through the centuries.

Genesis 11:3 is one of the many verses in the Bible that loses a great deal when it is translated into another language from the original Hebrew.  We delve into this verse in great detail in our audio program, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel, including showing some of the unique Hebrew features in the study guide. But we don’t want to leave you in this answer without some tidbit of teaching.


Is John Boehner on Ted Cruz’ Payroll?

September 3rd, 2015 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

I believe in debate. Not ad hominem attacks, not outbursts of profanity, but an exchange of ideas, facts and beliefs. This column started as a form of expressing myself. Sometimes it is family oriented, often it swerves to the political. I am passionately upset at what I see happening in my country. I write about it. Many people who agree with me read my words and I’m quite sure many who don’t are among the readers as well. I encourage all of you to post comments. 

Although truth is often stranger than fiction, I’m pretty sure that Speaker Boehner is neither volunteering for nor working for Ted Cruz. He should be. Few people over the past few years have done more than the Speaker has to increase Senator Cruz’ popularity. Now, the spectacle continues. 

Speaking to a Colorado crowd and referring to Cruz, Boehner joked that a benefit of the presidential race was that it was keeping the Texas Senator away from Washington. I won’t tell you the exact words because I don’t use that type of language. In our house, should words like the Speaker used come from someone’s mouth, everyone else shouts “Eskimo” (we picked this idea up from the book Cheaper by the Dozen). If the culprit is within reach of my elbow they receive a sharp jab. If they aren’t, they get a withering look—trust me, you don’t want to get one of those. 

Mr. Boehner isn’t the first “establishment Republican” figure to revert to toddlerhood when talking about Senator Cruz. John McCain has suffered from the same malady. In each case, the senior politician became less popular while cementing conservative loyalty to Senator Cruz.  

When Barack Obama first ran for president, he was an almost unbeatable contender. In a ‘perfect storm’ of timing, little about him mattered other than that he was young, black and had a fawning press eager not to look deeply at his life or beliefs. 

I think those of us who seriously believe in conservative principles (the ones that the Republican Party used to uphold) made a mistake back then.  It would have been a perfect year for a serious third party challenge. Barack Obama still would have won, but the Republican Party would have been forced to recognize that it needed to change or die. By 2012, they would have been warned that they needed a candidate about whom the base could be enthusiastic. Had they still nominated Mitt Romney, he would have received a much smaller share of the vote against a now more experienced and organized third party. In 2016, Republicans would not once again risk running a similar type of candidate, or they would have already morphed into the third party. 

Speaker Boehner’s comment reveals that he, and probably many others in leadership positions, don’t get it. They don’t understand that they are the reason that Donald Trump is front and center in the race. They don’t understand how deep the antipathy to Jeb Bush’s candidacy runs. If they don’t actually feel disdain for millions of their voters, you wouldn’t know it from their words and actions. They don’t understand how they have destroyed the Republican Party’s chances for success barring a cataclysmic and successful grassroots upheaval. 

In the first debate, these Republican figureheads thought that Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to supporting whoever the Republican candidate would be, would turn off voters. It didn’t. His hesitancy to do so actually expressed the feelings of many of us. Some of us have skipped voting in the past, an overwhelming number of us reject the Republican Party even as we register with it. Trump, Cruz and Carson, whether or not we want them to be president, don’t disturb us a tenth as much as Boehner, McDonnell and McCain do.


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Speed limits are limiting my freedom!

September 3rd, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


OK, I admit it–I love to go fast. So when the local city council keeps lowering the speed limits, I get frustrated. The argument is always “safety,” so it’s hard to find fault, and I know I need to drive safely, yet I sense my rights are being taken away under false pretenses. What should be my Godly response?
∼ Chris


Dear Chris,

OK, we admit it. One of us does like to drive faster than the other.  Much faster.  Wild horses couldn’t force us to disclose whether it is Rabbi Daniel or Mrs. Susan.   That said, one of us can relate better to your question, and again we’re not saying which one.  Though it might seem trivial, you are actually asking quite a serious question.


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