Posts by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

The Sinister Lights of Perverted Science

September 22nd, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

Science doesn’t lie—some scientists do.  Up till the 1970s, California was building, cleaning, and maintaining fire breaks around residential communities in forested areas.  Fire roads were bulldozed and kept usable for large firefighting equipment.  This provided rapid access allowing fires to be fought while they were still small.  Going back to Spanish times, controlled burning, backfires and removal of dead undergrowth in the forests all kept fires controllable. Up until the 1970s, any fire that burned 10,000 acres was considered a huge conflagration because fires were fought effectively and they were quickly extinguished.

Then came the radical environmental movement declaring with a religious zeal that nature is sacred. Mother Earth must not be alienated nor angered by bulldozing access roads through forests or by clearing underbrush. Today, fires regularly consume a quarter of a million acres.

However, the New York Times has a different explanation for the increase in both the number and the size of California fires:  “…Scientists say climate change — specifically warmer temperatures that dry out vegetation — is a major factor in the region’s worsening fires…”  But no mention whatsoever of destructive public policy enacted by politicians who worship at the altar of secular fundamentalism and who serve the sacred sacrament of radical environmentalism.

You will remember that after every Soviet “Five Year Plan” inflicted devastating starvation on Russia, Stalin always explained away the catastrophes of doomed socialist policies with weather caused famine.  He killed off millions of Kulaks who transported food from farmers into the towns leaving fruit and vegetables to rot in the fields, but no, the misery was never due to his decisions, it was always the climate.

Science doesn’t lie but scientists are also human beings subject to normal human temptations like fame and favor, academic advancement, and tremendous sums of money at stake for research in areas anointed by the gods of political correctness.  Not to mention that science can only work with the tools available at the present time.

On March 21st, 2020, President Trump tweeted that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and azithromycin might be a real “game-changer” in treating COVID-19.  Immediately, the Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN, began featuring articles claiming that HCQ is not only ineffective but potentially dangerous, and ignored all evidence to the contrary, in order to suggest that the president is a dangerous maniac.

In May 2020, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific and medical journals, The Lancet, did something quite unprecedented.  It strode into the heart of the country’s political rift and demanded that President Trump be defeated in November.  A week later, The Lancet published an article explaining that HCQ is not only unhelpful but is actually dangerous.

Many scientists wrote to The Lancet demanding to see the underlying data on which that startling study totally denouncing a medicine that was not entirely without promise, was based. It turned out that there was no reliable underlying data proving HCQ as completely ineffective.  The editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, did the only thing he could. He withdrew the article denouncing it to have been a “monumental fraud.”

Yes, science doesn’t lie but scientists often do.  That is part of the important task of learning how the world really works.  There have always been scientists.  Most of the time, they have been improving our lives with technology and medicine.  The people who tamed fire and learned how to work iron were scientists as were those who gave us the telephone, the automobile, and the airplane.  We just didn’t always call them scientists. In fact, in earlier times they were often thought of as magicians.

How many times do you think magicians are mentioned in the Five Books of Moses?  If I didn’t know better, my first guess would have been none!  What business does magic have in God’s message to mankind?  Actually, they are mentioned nine times in the Torah but only in the context of one story—the redemption of Israel from Egypt via the Exodus.

Magicians make their first appearance when Pharaoh dreams his strange dreams.  (Genesis 41:8 & 24)

They appear again when Aaron turns his rod into a snake in order to persuade Pharaoh that he and Moses were God’s representatives.  However, the magicians also transformed rods into snakes.  (Exodus 7:10-12)

Then God sent the plagues of Blood and Frogs but the magicians easily emulated them thus convincing Pharaoh that the plagues were natural phenomena.  (Exodus 7:22 & 8:3)

After that, we encounter the first failure of the magicians.  They try to emulate the third plague—Lice— but fail.  Amazingly, instead of making excuses, they honestly inform their boss, Pharaoh, that this must be the finger of God.  (Exodus 8:14-15)

The magicians play no role in the next two plagues and they appear for the final time during the sixth plague.  They no longer stand before Pharaoh. They have now switched their allegiance to Moses. They are human and want to be on the winning side.

And the magicians could not stand before Moshe because of the pox,
for the pox was on the magicians, and on all Mitzrayim (Egypt).
Exodus 9:11

And right there, as the eventual outcome of God’s triumph over Egypt is becoming evident, is the last we ever hear of magicians.

So who were these magicians and what are we supposed to learn from their inclusion in the account of Israel’s redemption from Egypt?

Ancient Jewish wisdom recorded by Rabbi Nissim, the great Torah transmitter who lived in 14th century Barcelona, explains that the magicians were the cutting-edge scientists of Pharaoh’s day.

The Hebrew word for magicians has the root CH-R-T.* 


ח  ר  ט

Revealing meaning by reading both forward and backward as the Lord’s language does, we can read ‘magicians’ backward and we have T-R-CH, the Hebrew word for trouble or burden.

He burdens the thick cloud with an overflow…
(Job 37:11)

This verse uses the word T-R-CH**.


ט ר ח

Thus, scientists are those who reverse or do away with the troubles and burdens of living.  They find ways to help us more easily feed ourselves; they discover medical treatments, and they make machines to help us accomplish our work.

These magicians/scientists only appear in the context of helping Pharaoh retain Egypt’s Hebrew slaves.  This comes to teach us that scientists will and do serve many masters.

On the eve of the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940 when a few young Royal Airforce pilots held off the might of the Nazi Luftwaffe and on which the future of civilization depended; prime minister Winston Churchill addressed parliament.

As he drew to the end of his speech that  stiffened the spine of a frightened land, he spoke these words:

“…But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties…”

They could hardly be more true today.  The “lights of perverted science” indeed. Yes, science doesn’t lie but some scientists do. It is also true that the Bible doesn’t lie—but some clergymen do.  We must and do rely on those who know more than we do on certain subjects. However, we each need to cultivate our own relationship with Truth through the lens of God so that we can make our own judgments as to who is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

*Find these words in the Recommended Hebrew/English Bible (read more about this Bible here)

Remember, Hebrew reads from right to left

*Genesis 41:8 – Page 124, 7 lines from the bottom, 7th word (from the right): (magicians of)  חרטמי

**Job 37:11  Page 2084, bottom line, 1st word: (He burdens) יטריח

Extra credit: Now that you know what letters to look for, find all the other references mentioned in the Thought Tool!

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Trust Folks with Jobs

September 8th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

In dozens of cities around the world, as darkness descends, barbarians emerge to enjoy their orgies of plunder and destruction. As if intoxicated by the absence of defenders, they are unable fully to comprehend that nobody is defying them.

I think of you, my readers, as noble knights defending the fortress of civilization against the hordes of scheming and surging savages trying to invade and conquer what you and your fathers have built.  The barbarians know that even after they destroy the civilization you built, as they loot its stores and wretchedly crawl through its wrecked ruins, they will still live better than in anything they could ever have built themselves.

Who are these people?  Who is the 23-year-old arrested for the second time in Green Bay, WI, on his way to a riot with guns and explosives?  Does he have parents? If so, do they know what has become of their baby? Above all, how does he eat? From where does he have money for clothing and food, not to mention weapons?

Who is the 40-year-old killer arrested at a Portland riot? We know that he has a baby daughter but no wife. We know that he seems not to have held down any kind of job, listing his occupation as a professional protester.  From where does he have money for all of life’s basic necessities?

We know two things for sure about the rioters: They do receive money and they do not have jobs.  They’re not dressed in rags and they don’t walk to riot locations; they have money. People with jobs tend to sleep at night so they are ready for work the next morning. Even when the prize is a few flat-screen TVs, people who riot all night don’t work all day.  These people have no jobs.

They are probably getting money from groups led by people like George Soros. They are also probably getting money confiscated from their fellow Americans and transferred to them in the form of welfare and COVID payments. Some of them are probably getting money from proud parents eagerly reliving the 1960s. Some of them are probably getting money from various criminal endeavors.

We can’t stop Soros from doing what he wishes with his own money and we can’t do much to stop parents from encouraging their children to commit mayhem. But we ought to be able to stop financial reward from criminal enterprise and we surely ought to be able to end rioters obtaining the money that the government transfers to them from hard-working citizens.  In other words, if we took the steps necessary to make having a job the best way of obtaining money, we’d be taking an enormous step towards tranquility.

Sadly, since the early 1960s, we began downgrading the value of work and elevating educational credentials so that many people who could have joined the real world by starting work instead extended adolescence indefinitely by spending years taking useless courses in colleges and universities.  On most campuses (on my podcast, I disparagingly refer to universities as kindergartens) a degree in gender studies or on racial bias in French movies is considered the equivalent in terms of rigor and objectivity as a degree in Russian literature or physics.

An unintended side effect of the then necessary and positive child-labor laws enacted throughout the West by the early twentieth century was to lower the social acceptability of work among young people. Though teenagers in most of the United States may legally work many hours a week in so-called safe industries, few do. This is a shame since work is uplifting and stabilizing.

Consider the first time Scripture discusses the relationship between man and work:

And no shrub of the field was yet on earth and no grasses of the field had yet sprouted, because the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth
and there was no man to work the ground.

(Genesis 2:5) [page 5*]

Not surprisingly, within no more than ten words, God was busy creating man. Clearly, in order to exist, creation needs man to work.  But does man need to work?

It would appear so because the Fourth Commandment could merely have prohibited work on the seventh day. It goes further, directing us indeed to work the other six days:

Six days you shall work and do all your work.
(Exodus 20:9) [page 225*]

The King James translation, recognizing that Hebrew has two different words for “work” translates Exodus 20:9 this way:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work…

But what actually defines those two different words for work, AVoDaH and MeLaCHaH?

See both words and compare their appearance in the Hebrew [page 224, 7 lines up, 3rd last word and 7 lines up, 1st word*]

The first one, AVoDaH, means work in a more general sense. It is used extensively in describing the Egyptian servitude in Exodus.  See the same word in Genesis 2:5 [page 4 last line, 3rd word*. You’ll easily spot the same 3 letter root even if you don’t know any Hebrew. Yet!]

The second word for work used in Exodus 20:9, meaning a more specific work designed to attain an intended goal, is MeLaCHaH. For instance, general work like moving a table from one room to another is permissible on the Sabbath. However, specific work intended to increase my revenue is explicitly prohibited.

Six days should work (MeLaCHaH) be done and on the seventh,
a sabbath, a special sabbath holy to the Lord, all who do work (MeLaCHaH)
on the sabbath day shall die.
(Exodus 31:15)  [See the Hebrew word MeLaCHaH page 264, 9 lines down, 2nd word*]

In most parts of the world, ice cream is ice cream, but in Italy, there are many different names for different types of ice cream because Italians specialize in ice cream and love it.

In English work is work. Occasionally you might say labor, but it is all pretty much indistinguishable. However, in the Lord’s language, Hebrew, there are two important and distinctive words for work.  That is because the Hebrew culture specializes in work and loves it.  Doing one’s work when it should be done is an act of serving God and is an avenue to greatness.

See a man quick & diligent in his work (MeLaCHaH) he will stand before kings…
(Proverbs 22:29) [page 2010, 9 lines up, 3rd last word*]

At speeches and appearances, when I have the privilege of greeting families who come to hear me, I nearly always smilingly ask the teenage children what work they do. I can’t stop myself from breaking into a broad grin when the youngster enthusiastically tells me about his job.

In some countries today,  we’ve made a terrible mistake by making it possible, no, we’ve made it easy, for so many to live without working. Work was needed to make the garden grow and it is still needed today.

* all page and line references are from Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s recommended Hebrew/English Bible.

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Gatherings are Great – or Not

August 31st, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Why is it that people who excessively indulge their physical appetites for food, sex, or material goods, to the point we could call it an addiction, often yield to many other temptations as well?

Shakespeare’s character Sir John Falstaff highlights this very truth.  Not only is Falstaff a glutton and a drunkard but he is also a liar and a coward.  In yielding to physical appetite he also yields to decay of character.

Before I was ever taught Shakespeare’s depiction of this principle, I had already been taught it from the Book of Numbers.

The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving
and the Children of Israel wept, crying, ‘Who will feed us meat?’
(Numbers 11:4)

Though they had God’s miracle food, Manna, they still lusted for meat.  Their desire for variety in food was quickly followed by the desire for variety in another area.

Moses heard the nation crying about their families
(Numbers 11:10)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that they were angry about the limitations on sexual relationships and the rules for moral family life which they had received in the Torah a year earlier on Mt. Sinai.

What can we learn from the juxtaposition of problems with these two appetites? Can this section help us deal more effectively with situations in which we or people with whom we have to interact are controlled by physical desires rather than in control of them?

Before we answer that question, we have to understand how to isolate a section of the Bible. Numbers 11 extends from verses 1 – 35. However, as incredibly useful the chapter divisions are, they were developed in the 13th century by Steven Langton, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, England. His divisions became accepted and were used in the Wycliffe Bible of 1382 and, after the invention of printing, in the King James translation of 1611. While they are universally accepted, they do not always share the divisions that exist in ancient Jewish wisdom.

Every hand-written “official” Torah scroll, whether large or small, is written following precise instructions. For example, each page must start and end with exact words. Among these directives, the scribe must accurately leave some lines only partially filled and other times he must put a break between two sentences even though they are written on the same line. These show two types of God’s paragraphs – ways of connecting or disconnecting topics that we might have thought (and Archbishop Langton did think) did not or did belong together.

We frequently find the most important clue to a perplexing Torah passage by looking to see what Hebrew root word appears seven times. Looking at our section, we see a word that appears exactly seven times over the span of three successive paragraphs of chapter eleven. We have identified our motif!

It turns out that variations of the Hebrew root ASF, which means gathering, appear seven times in noun or verb format.

One:  The rabble (ASaFsuf) that was among them…
(Numbers 11:4)

Two:  God said to Moses, ‘Gather (ASFah) me seventy men from the elders…’
(Numbers 11:16)

Three: …If all the fish of the sea were gathered (y’ASaF) for them would it suffice for them
(Numbers 11:22)

Four: …and he gathered (vay’ASaF) seventy men from among the elders…
(Numbers 11:24)

Five:  And Moses was gathered (vay’ASaF) into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
(Numbers 11:30)

Six: …and they gathered (vayASaFu) up the quails…
(Numbers 11:32)

Seven: …the one with the least still gathered (ASaF) ten measures…
(Numbers 11:32)

The motif word ‘gathering’ implies gathering for a specific purpose rather than a bunch of people or things in the same place and time by happenstance.  While gathering the manna was good, gathering the quail was bad, having little to do with hunger and everything to do with lust. Moses gathered himself and the seventy elders into the camp, where, injected with God’s spirit, they successfully countered the gathering of the fleshy rabble.

In other words, the solution to excesses of the flesh is an injection of the spirit.  Over-indulgence of a physical substance often reflects a lack of spiritual completion. There is a reason that Alcoholics Anonymous and other successful rehab groups focus on building the person and connecting him with a higher power rather than just treating the physical addiction. There is a reason that people who exert tremendous effort to wean themselves from one physical addiction frequently succumb to another. People who mistreat their bodies reveal pain-filled souls.

As King David notes in Psalm 1, people may gather together to behave foolishly and wickedly. The rabble in Numbers 11 did exactly that. God’s response was to gather a group for purposes of wisdom and good. We, indeed, are very affected by those with whom we associate. But we mustn’t look at people’s physical make-up to choose our peers; rather, it is the spiritual make-up that matters.

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We Interrupt This Ceremony

August 17th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

Have you ever attended a company’s annual shareholder meeting?  A couple’s fortieth wedding anniversary?  A school graduation?  A president’s inauguration?  These occasions share pomp, ceremony, and ceremonial structure that go way beyond their utilitarian function.  The music, the way people are dressed and the formal proceedings all help to conjure an atmosphere of unforgettable significance.  We can use this principle to add meaning to our lives.

Deuteronomy 31 opens with Moses telling Israel that he’s 120 years-old and Joshua will soon take over.  “Be strong and of good courage,” he says, and assures the nation that God will never forsake them.  (Deuteronomy 31:1-6)

The next two verses describe Moses charging Joshua with the task of leadership. (Deuteronomy 31:7-8)

Here’s what should come next:

And God said to Moses, now your days approach death, call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Meeting that I may command him…

(Deuteronomy 31:14)

But this verse follows only after five intervening verses interrupt the flow. These verses explain that Moses wrote down the Torah, entrusted it to the priests and instituted a massive convention every seven years at which the Torah would be read before the entire nation — men, women, and children. (Deuteronomy 31:9-13)

Why does this instruction for a once-every-seven-years-Torah-reading-convention interrupt the story of the succession of leadership?

The clue lies in Moses’ use of the first word in verse 12, the verb “gather” or in Hebrew, HaKHeL.

This word is spelled exactly the same way as one of the Hebrew words for, “the congregation,” HaKaHaL. Hebrew in the Torah is written without vowels, so two words that have different pronunciations and meanings are sometimes spelled identically. In a way that is unique to God’s language, this similarity between words tells us to look at those words together.  When we encounter the word made up of the consonants HKHL we are reminded that we saw it used twice earlier in Deuteronomy describing the revelatory encounter at Sinai.

The day when you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb (Sinai), when the Lord said to me, gather (HKHL) the people…

(Deuteronomy 4:10)

and

And the Lord gave me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God;

and on them were written all the words which the Lord spoke with you…

on the day of the gathering (HKHL)

(Deuteronomy 9:10)

Interrupting the story of Joshua’s succession with news of a once in seven years special national Torah shareholders meeting tells us the most important thing about any future leader of Israel. Leadership must always be subservient to the nation’s constitution—the Torah.

At this dramatic reminder of the Sinai experience, shofars (ram horns) will be blown and the king of Israel will sit on a large platform reading the whole Torah aloud to the nation.  Being told about this powerful ceremony at this crucial point near Moses’ death, places the transfer of power to Joshua in context.  Leaders can change as long as allegiance to the Torah doesn’t.

Like the ceremonies that surround this gathering, like the pomp of a graduation, the way we dress for work or family functions is an important tool for establishing the importance of those events.  Sitting at a table and eating off attractive plates, rather than grabbing food on the fly, transforms eating from an animal-like to an exclusively human activity. Writing your daily journal with a fountain pen filled with green ink in a finely bound notebook rather than scrawling it with a free give-away promotional ballpoint pen on a scrap of old dog-eared paper, reflects the weight you put on your writing.

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When Noah Met Abraham

August 10th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 32 comments

I know a lawyer who really wishes that he was a rabbi.  I also know a rabbi who really wishes he was a doctor.  Have you met the plumber who really wishes he was a poet or the bookkeeper who really wishes she was a ballerina?  The lawyer is doing nothing to change his profession and neither is the rabbi. The plumber only dreams of writing and the bookkeeper only dreams of dancing.

Do I hear you say, “No harm in fantasy”?  Wrong! Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that fantasizing makes us less happy with our reality.  Remember that lawyer harboring secret rabbinic dreams? Well, he’s less effective at his work.  That rabbi daydreaming of replacing his dark suit with green scrubs has no passion for his profession.  Deep down that plumber is dissatisfied with fixing faucets and as for that want-to-be ballerina, her clients get less of her enthusiasm than that faded old tutu in her closet.

Lingering thoughts of roads not traveled infiltrate all our minds, so how do we generate focused passion for what we actually are doing?

Let’s become flies on the wall for what must have been one of history’s most extraordinary meetings.  But first, a little Genesis arithmetic. Let’s say Adam was created at the beginning of year 1 and died in the year 930.  (Genesis 5:5)

It is easy to calculate that ten generations later, Noah was born in the year 1056 and died in the year 2006 at the age of 950 years-old.  (Genesis 9:29)  Meanwhile, in the year 1948, Abraham was born, which means that at the time of Noah’s death, Abraham was 58 years old.

Do you think it feasible that Abraham, a spiritual seeker, would not have sought out the elderly Noah?  It is impossible to fathom Abraham not seeking a meeting with the man whom God had directly instructed to build the ark and who was the living ancestor of everyone on earth.

What did they discuss?  They might have discussed their families.  Or perhaps they discussed the pain and peril of adult genitourinary operations.

That is merely conjecture but what they certainly did discuss was the value of trying to save others by bringing them God’s word by outreach and evangelism.  Noah would have argued against it because we know he never engaged in evangelism.  When God warned of the impending destruction of humanity, Noah neglected the opportunity of trying to persuade the population away from their wicked ways.  He merely built an ark and saved himself and his family.

Abraham, by contrast, never missed an opportunity to talk to people about God.  He regularly invited strangers into his tent to share a meal during which he shared his faith.  Noah silently accepted God’s decree on humanity whereas Abraham argued with God in a vain attempt to save the inhabitants of the doomed city of Sodom.  Noah kept his relationship with God to himself.  Abraham couldn’t stop talking about it.

Which man was more successful?  To be sure, Noah did save his family but Abraham launched a movement of God-fearing and Bible-believing people numbering in the millions and which endures to this day even after the passage of thousands of years.

Talking enthusiastically about your work not only signals your passion but it also serves to augment that passion.  Another way to increase the passion you have for the things you must do is to increase your professionalism.  The pride felt by a professional is almost palpable and nurtures itself.

Increasing one’s professionalism is the surest way to increase how enthusiastically one tackles one’s work.  These are ten actions that build one’s professionalism:

  • seize responsibility and accept accountability for your work
  • be punctual in all your work commitments
  • be consistently pleasant and polite in all work encounters regardless of your mood
  • speak and write like an educated adult
  • be sufficiently serious as frivolity is not professional unless you’re a paid comedian
  • dress with dignity
  • expand your skills and improve them constantly
  • never yield to your anger
  • be reliable
  • deliver more than expected

So banish those daydreams and enjoy whatever it is you do by becoming ever more professional about it.  Of course, if you really mean to make a major life change, then don’t just dream of doing it; do it.  But if you are retaining your current occupation, you’ll discover unsuspected delights by embracing professionalism.  These delights will far exceed anything available through fantasies and daydreams.

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Two by Too(th)

August 4th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

I tossed a coin a hundred times. One of these results is real and one I just made up.  Which is which?

A:  I got 48 heads, 49 tails, and 3 landed on their edge and remaining balanced upright.

B:  I got 49 heads and 51 tails.

If you chose ‘A’ you probably have a PhD in philosophy and you are wrong.

If you chose ‘B’ you have the beginnings of an understanding of how the world REALLY works.

‘A’ could happen in theory, but it doesn’t in the real world.  In the abstract world of philosophical theory, there are often many alternatives and variations but this is less true in the real world of practical living where the choice is frequently between ‘heads’ and ‘tails.’

In the political science department of the local community college, rioting is endlessly discussed as falling somewhere on the spectrum between docile and protest. However, to the real-world business owner trying to pay his employees and take home a profit, barbarians who torch his store are just plain wrong.

Real-world duality is nowhere better seen than in the male-female dichotomy.  The cutting edge of abstract theory, mostly academics and intellectuals, insists that humans can be many things or anything on the male-female spectrum. The real world, inhabited by real people know that we are each either male or female; two choices.

Successful living means that when we are confronted by the need for a decision, we can and should explore a wide range of possibilities while we are in the early abstract stage of analysis. Once we must move from theory to action, it helps to know that many decisions boil down to A/B, a choice between two alternatives.

Early on, Scripture provides us with an introduction to areas where we must clearly recognize two categories and where fuzzy thinking will lead us astray. Not surprisingly, the portal to this discussion emerges from the number two. The first time a word occurs in Scripture provides deep insight, so let’s find the first time the number two appears in its common ordinal form, ‘two’ (not ‘second’).

And of all that lives, of all flesh, two of each you shall bring into the ark to keep alive with you, male and female they should be.
(Genesis 6:19)

This reveals that the fundamental “two-ness” in the universe is male and female.  Since the ultimate act of human creativity is creating a baby, we understand that two people can be far more creative than merely one, particularly if there is a male/female dynamic.  However, two men or two women can have a male/female dynamic as well, for example in brainstorming a business idea.  At any given moment one of the participants, whether male or female biologically speaking, is implanting the seed of an idea while the other is absorbing it.  A moment later they exchange roles as the conversation continues.

Another aspect of the number two is that the Hebrew root of two is the same root as for the Hebrew word for tooth.

   שנים  two                  שנ tooth

Even the very sound of the English word “tooth” carries within itself the sound of the number two (2-th). This highlights the point that two things complement one another.  We have both upper and lower teeth and we need them both.  Having only upper teeth or only lower teeth is worse than having no teeth at all.

One of the best Biblical examples of two is the Two Tablets that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.  The Bible rarely refers to the Ten Commandments but calls them the Two Tablets about thirty times.  This is because the quality of two they possess is so important.  The two tablets complement one another and make it possible for us to create our moral matrix by consulting them both.

Lastly, the Hebrew word for two shares a common root with the Hebrew word for years. This informs us that there is a theme linking the concept of two to the idea of years.

                                  שנה  year                שנ  two

Each passing year naturally possesses similarities to its predecessor on both a global and a personal level.  Nonetheless, nobody experiences two successive years as being identical.

Similarly, when we think of the power of two we think of two things close enough to be counted together, but not so identical as to be duplicates.  Our spouses are incredibly close to us, we can often complete their sentences.  But they are also sufficiently different to make the connection meaningful.  I may consult two books for guidance in repairing my plumbing.  They will both be about the problem I am experiencing but, to be helpful, each should tackle the project in a different way.

We understand that if we wish to change our oneness into a two, whether in seeking a spouse or a business partner, we need to find someone close and similar but not identical.

Essentially, the number two speaks to the fundamental duality which is so much a part of life.  Day/Night.  Good/Evil. Man/Woman.  Light/Darkness. Plus/Minus.  Hot/Cold.  Yes, many ideas do exist on a spectrum, but they are easier to analyze and understand when we know the two dualities that anchor the ends of the real-world spectrum.

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 Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language Aleph-Bet: A Fun, Rhyming, Bible-based Introduction to the Hebrew Alphabet

Breaking Up or Breaking Through?

July 27th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

Neil Sedaka’s song “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” hit number one on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 in the summer of 1962.  And as all who’ve loved and lost know, it is hard to do.  But if you are in the wrong relationship, you must do it if you are ever to move on and unite with the right person.

My wife and I nursed many a young congregant through the heartbreak of a relationship ending.  Indeed, we often encouraged and hastened the goodbye, assuring our tormented friend that only by enduring the tears of break up now, could joy arrive tomorrow.

Ford’s Model T debuted in 1908.  By 1914, a quarter-million were being built each year.  This was terrible for people who had spent years in the horse wagon business.  In fact, in the year 1900, about 110,000 people were employed building or repairing carriages and harnesses.  Nearly 250,000 blacksmiths lived and worked in America that year fitting shoes on countless horses.  And thousands more kept busy sweeping tons of horse manure off city streets.

Jobs for horse-driven transport workers quickly vanished.  However, there were soon far more automobiles than there had ever been horses and carriages and along with the cascade of cars came not thousands, but millions, of new jobs.  The end of the horse-drawn era was tough on many and those who clung to the past deprived themselves of the blessings that were marching down the new highways.

Sometimes a divorce allows two people in a doomed marriage to rebuild new lives; the breakup of an empire allows many newly independent nations to thrive; the breaking up of an old building allows a new one to rise in its place or the breaking apart of an atom releases unimaginable amounts of energy and frees humans from drudgery.  Every act of breaking, as painful as it always is, can launch something new that carries us further down the path of our own development as individuals, as a nation, and as the human family of God’s children.

I’d like to show you what the Hebrew verb for breaking looks like.

ש ב ר

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars…
(Psalms 29:5)

But exactly the same word also means place of birth:

…for the children have arrived at the birthstool
(Isaiah 37:3)

משבר

,And what is more, exactly the same word .also means food

And Jacob saw that there was food in Egypt…
(Genesis 42:1)

ש ב ר

Ancient Jewish wisdom expresses this equation:

Breakup    =    Birth     =     Sustenance

The Lord’s language is teaching us that when something breaks and is destroyed, it also can give birth to something entirely new which can provide ongoing sustenance. It’s interesting that this idea has carried over into English where we have similar positive connotations for, “giving someone a break,” “breaking into a new business,” the phrase, “break of day” and of course, having a “breakthrough.”

One problem is that often we allow a breaking of something in our lives to break our spirits.  Instead, we must ensure that it becomes the birth of something new and positive.  To learn how to transform breakage into birth we need to see two more uses of the same Hebrew word which help to make everything clear.

And when Gideon heard the recounting of the dream and its interpretation
(Judges 7:15)

שברו

I hoped for your salvation, Oh Lord…
(Psalms 119:166)

שברתי

That’s right, when confronting the breakup of something we regarded as valuable we must analyze and interpret the past but then we must face only forward and anticipate salvation with confidence.

End that bad relationship; analyze what went wrong and why you stuck with it; walk away and don’t look back; face the future with optimism.  Convert your stock of buggy whips into fan belts and join the car revolution.

Breakup        Birth         Sustenance

…if you react with analysis and optimism.

___________________________________________

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Return to Normal?

July 20th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

When will things return to normal?

That question got your attention, didn’t it?  Internet search engines report that this may be the most asked question during the first half of 2020.  This popular question was also asked (although not on the Internet)  after President Lincoln signed into law the first income tax in 1862. It was passed as an emergency temporary measure, but you know how that worked out.

During the first few years after the terrorist attacks of 9-11, harassed airline passengers used to ask, “When will things return to normal?”  No travelers ask that question anymore. You might think that the brief answer to the question is…never!  But it is not so simple. The problem is that the question employs a word with no definition—normal.

What you really mean is, when will things return to the way I remember them back in…er, when? Immediately prior to covid19?  One year before anyone heard of corona? Before mobs of Americans defaced and destroyed historical statues? There is no such thing as normal.  That is why the Lord’s language, Hebrew, possesses no word for normal.

But Hebrew does have a word for change and it shares a root source with the Hebrew word for year. This is to teach us that just as one year leads to the next, always forward never backward, so change leads to change, sometimes positive and other times negative and never returning to what we remember as normal.

ש – נ – ה            ש – נ – ה
year                  change

The trouble is that change produces anxiety in us. We worry whether we’ll be able to function under the new circumstances brought about by change.

If there is worry in a man’s mind, he should _________ 
(Proverbs 12:25)

That blank replaces a complex and untranslatable Hebrew verb “yaschenah”  which is used throughout Tanach in three different ways each of which sheds another ray of light onto dealing with worry and anxiety.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains the three-component meanings of “yaschenah”:

1. Quash.
2. Banish.
3. Discuss.

In other words, when overwhelmed by anxiety, there are three strategies we can employ. Different ones work best at different times, based both on what is causing the anxiety and on our own personalities and circumstances.

1. We should attempt to quash the worry by burying it beneath an avalanche of other more positive thoughts. At this point, it is still in our minds but overwhelmed by competing upbeat messages.

2. Alternatively, we might try to banish the worrying thoughts from our minds. The Tenth Commandment reveals that God expects us to control not only what we do, but also what we think. Commandment number eight already told us ‘Don’t steal’. Yet, number ten asks us not to desire the possessions of others. Simply saying, “I can’t help what I think and feel, the heart wants what the heart wants,” in the words of the illustrious sage, Woody Allen, doesn’t cut it. We can and must control our thoughts and feelings. Therefore one way of dealing with anxiety brought on by change is to banish the thoughts entirely from our minds.  Exercising discipline and willpower, we don’t allow the worry-provoking thoughts to linger in our minds, but we instantly suppress them by replacing them with alternate scenarios.

3. If we find that we can’t tackle the anxiety on our own, we can adopt the strategy derived from the third meaning of “yaschenah” by discussing the worry with the right friend. If we choose wisely, doing so should remove the worry and reintroduce joy just as the conclusion of that verse indicates.

…and a good word transforms it into joy.
(Proverbs 12:25)

When will things return to normal, exactly as they were in summer 2019?  The answer is — never.  But eventually, schools and businesses will reopen.  Eventually, the pandemic will subside and the panic will fade. The brazen wearing of masks even on outdoor hiking trails will ease up. Some will wear them and others won’t.  Eventually, the economy will bounce back with a roar, and decimated portfolios and savings accounts will get replenished. Eventually roaming mobs of barbarians will fade away; some statues will be replaced and others will be lost forever.  Homeschooled children will learn their nation’s history while those children attending *GIC’s won’t.  Eventually, universities will reopen while many former students will rethink the value proposition of their expensive ‘educations’. Yes, change. Plenty change.   

Much change may be regrettable and we’ll think back nostalgically.  However, through it all, wise and happy warriors will focus on their five Fs. They will build and protect their Families, they will maintain Friendships, they will nurture Faith, they will adjust their activities to the times in order to boost their Finances, and they will manage their Fitness.

When all those five Fs of your life are in good shape, oppressive travel regulations,  quarantine restrictions, political cupidity, civic cowardice, and a growing canyon cutting through the culture cannot shake up the core of your life.  Despite the turbulence swirling around the pilings of our peoplehood,  we can still function and be very happy indeed.

When will things return to normal? Wrong question.  When shall we live our lives to the fullest? Now.

* government indoctrination camps formerly known as public schools

___________________________________________
Things were VERY abnormal before the Flood
What did Noah do that was so special? 
What did the rest of the people do that was so awful?

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Only Six More Years?

July 14th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 68 comments

The inflamed mob filled the area surrounding the despised statue. After flinging dozens of ropes over it, the crowd heaved and down came that hated symbol of repression.  The happy horde celebrated.  I was unable to be there to witness this historic first toppling of an American statue because it happened on July 9th, 1776.  The leaden statue was of King George III and it was melted down to make cannonballs and bullets.  That was 244 years ago. An important number? I think so.

My problem is that I don’t believe in coincidences. Since there is no Hebrew word for it, I consider the concept to be false.  Therefore a coincidence can be nothing but God’s way of camouflaging His design.  Thus, to me, it is significant that so many of history’s empires and epochs of national dominance lasted about 250 years.

Long ago, the ancient empire of Babylon was formed under Hammurabi (of the famous ‘Code’) around 1780 BC and it was finally sacked by the Hittites in about 1530 BC.  The exact dates are of course hard to pin down but what is clear is that it lasted about 250 years. Again, it is hard to pin the start of an epoch to a single year but there are good reasons to regard 1492 when Spain evicted the last Moslem from the Iberian peninsula as the start of the Spanish empire. Its natural ending can easily be seen to be about 1742 after the War of Spanish Succession which followed the death of Charles II.  Thus for the Spanish Empire also, 250 years is a reasonable estimate for its duration.

There were several discrete periods in what we call the Roman Empire but the most stable of these, the Pax Romana, began with the rule of Augustus in 27 BC and pretty much ended when all illegal immigrants to Rome were granted citizenship in about 213 AD, about 240 years.

The further back one goes the more the exact dates are shrouded in doubt but a good guesstimate for the Assyrian empire is 860 BC to 612 BC for a total of 246 years.

More recently, the  Mamelukes and the Ottomans enjoyed dominance for 267 and 250 years respectively.  The pre-Communist Russian empire lasted from 1682 until 1916 giving them 234 years. The British Empire?  1700 to 1950.  Two hundred and fifty years.

One can of course quibble with some of the exact dates but what is certainly unarguable is that throughout history, when large numbers of people have united to build a society, that society nearly always seems to last about an average of 250 years.

Why 250 years? Whether in the fields of social science, biology, or history, almost everyone agrees that a generation is about 25 years.  This is because of unchangeable biological realities about average lifespan and average age of reproductive maturity.  The word generation derives from the Latin generare meaning beget.  It follows that most empires last about ten generations.

Apparently, the many strong and positive human qualities including steadfastness, initiative, vision, determination, resilience and courage so necessary to pioneer a society are the very qualities eroded by the affluence they create. They are eventually extinguished by the resulting decadence that comes from the success those qualities brought in the first place.

Each generation has a little less character strength than its preceding generation.  Each generation’s parents want their children to “have it better than we did.”  Invariably they mean materially not spiritually.  Additionally, each generation views the previous generation’s luxuries as its necessities. Eventually, this seems to lead inevitably to a generation incapable of sustaining its own virility.  The sad process typically takes about ten generations.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase “ten generations” here’s what I think of:

Genesis chapter 5, verses 1-29 detailing the ten generations from Adam to Noah.  Genesis chapter 11, verses 10-26  detailing the ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

Why does Scripture take over a dozen verses just to inform us that there were ten generations in each sequence?  I could have done it in one sentence. In fact, I just did!

Why it takes so many verses is because the Torah takes the trouble to list both the birth and the death of one specific person as the representative of each successive generation. For instance, we see in chapter 5; Kenan (v.9), Mahalaleel (v.12), Jared (v.15) and in chapter 11; Ever (v.14), Peleg (v.16), Reu (v.18).

The names are provided because each Hebrew name has a meaning which identifies that generation’s characteristics in the cosmic pattern of ten-generation-decline.  For instance, someone who doesn’t know English well might read Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night  and not realize that the character, Malvolio possesses a name that sounds a bit malevolent which provides a clue to his character.

Similarly, familiarity with English helps the reader of Sheridan’s School for Scandal recognize the implications of the names of characters like Sir Benjamin Backbite or Lady Sneerwell. None of them are merely names; they are meanings and clues.

In this fashion, the Hebrew names associated with each generation of chapters 5 and 11 in Genesis hint at the fundamental characteristics of that generation in the 250-year journey up to greatness and then down to oblivion.

The ten generations might be briefly summarized as 1.  Bold breakout and conquest, 2.  Commercial expansion, 3.  Splendid buildings, 4.  Widespread affluence, 5.  Zenith and the best of days,  6.  Extending influence beyond borders with money instead of military, 7.  Rising political power of women and of the intellectual and academic elite, 8. Influx of foreigners,  9.  Eat, drink and be merry, 10.  Internal political and civic fracture.

It is not hard to see how the roughly 250-year histories of many empires correspond to that Biblical schematic.  In America, the era of bountiful foreign aid was followed by the growing influence of universities along with those they trained and then uncontrollable illegal immigration. The pattern is particularly clear in historical accounts of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire like that written by Edward Gibbon.

In America, the writing on our wall is no less clear than it was on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace (Daniel 5:5) when it signaled the end of the Babylonian Empire.  In our case,we see not only the rampaging rioters and the destruction of statues.  It is also Boeing, the troubled aircraft builder recently firing its director, Niel Golightly, a former Navy fighter pilot, only because thirty years ago he wrote these eminently true words:  “Introducing women into combat would destroy the exclusively male intangibles of war fighting and the feminine images of what men fight for — peace, home, family.”  Back then they were not controversial words. Today they are the reason to destroy his livelihood and harm the company.

More evidence of impending national extinction is the so-called environmental opposition that has just canceled the vital Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would have carried oil and gas to the fast-growing southern states. The Dakota access pipeline which was to have carried energy from northern Canada to the rest of America is also being canceled by the same extreme left lobby.

Meanwhile, with Denmark and Germany’s wholehearted cooperation, Russia is close to completing its Nord Stream 2 pipeline which will make much of Europe dependent on Russian oil and gas.  Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s response?  Destroying our energy independence and losing hundreds of thousands of blue-collar jobs is a small price to pay to stop global warming. Only six more years for America? Maybe if we’re lucky.

So, does America really have only about another six years?  That would be the natural course of history. However, America’s destiny just might be supernatural!  Though I cannot describe in detail the exact events that would mark the milestones of this nation’s restoration, I think it could happen.  No guarantees, but a distinct possibility.

My reason is that one other nation has successfully escaped the fateful pattern of 250 years —Israel.  It is the society in which Jewish children can today comfortably and fluently read and understand the words of the Torah which appeared over 3,000 years ago.  No other nation on the planet possesses a culture whose language is materially unchanged for three millennia.

Italian children cannot read the works of Cicero written in the language of Rome only two millennia ago.  Greek children cannot read the Iliad or the Odyssey written by Homer in ancient Greek. But to the consternation of secular historians like Arnold Toynbee, Hebrew culture has remained alive. Jews are not fossils of history.  The fuel that has granted the Jewish people immunity from the 250-year time limit is the system of Judeo-Christian Biblical values and its accompanying rules and restrictions that prevented their slide into decadence.

This system lay at the root of the culture that accompanied the Pilgrims across the Atlantic and it later informed the founders as they meticulously composed the documents of American exceptionalism.  As a result, nobody was surprised that the War of American Independence was propelled from the pulpits of colonial churches.  Those momentous days are still thought of as the First Great Religious Reawakening.

Fewer than 100 years later, nobody was surprised when the force behind America’s grand abolition of slavery emanated from its fervent Christians. That period is often considered America’s Second Great Religious Reawakening.

In spite of how far down the 250-year slope America has slid, I remain hopeful because I think the country is about due for its Third Great Religious Reawakening.  If and when this happens, all bets are off.  If and when fervent Christianity enjoys a healthy revival and perhaps 100 million American Christians unify under the Biblical banner that the Pilgrims carried to Plymouth, everything comes back.

Because of America’s uniqueness and its deliberate similarities to ancient Israel, a comeback scenario is real.  Even prominent political scientist and religious agnostic,  Charles Murray, insists that the American republic can only survive with a revival of the religious values that the Founders depended on.  The indomitable Christian warrior, David Lane, through his @AmericanRenewalProject continues to enlist thousands of courageous pastors and millions of their followers in bringing Biblical wisdom into the public square. There is hope.

There were times in Hebrew history mentioned by the Prophets when Israel slid further down than America today. But the nation repented and returned.  America can do the same.  I pray that it will.

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Character, Not Curriculum

June 30th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Sometimes, the passage of time makes things crystal clear. It is obvious today that there is no link between education and wisdom and, furthermore, no link between hours spent in school and education. Scores of college students and graduates constantly reveal their ignorance about basic concepts of American history, democracy and the Constitution on a daily basis.

During the 19th century, when England was largely populated by Bible-believing Christians, Thomas Henry Huxley was an outlier.  He invented the word ‘agnostic’ to explain himself and later devoted his life to promoting what he thought of as “scientific rationalism” rather than religion. Among his writings is this paragraph:

“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.”

It serves to show how even smart people can say foolish things.  Huxley is suggesting that education can give us the ability to do what we should do when we ought to do it, whether we feel like it or not.  In other words, he believes that will power and self-discipline can be academically taught.  If this were true, there would be some correlation between education and successful living. However, many people with advanced academic degrees exercise no willpower and demonstrate no self-discipline whereas many people who failed to graduate high school possess those indispensable characteristics.

He is certainly correct that it would be most valuable to acquire early in life the ability to make yourself do the things you have to do when you ought to do them.  Conversely, it follows that acquiring the ability to refrain from doing those things that you ought not to do would be equally valuable. 

But it just isn’t that simple.  There is no course you can take in high school or college that will equip you with these vital life skills.  If there were, there would be no such thing as a procrastinating professor. Doing what you should do and doing it in a timely manner is not a matter of fact. Refraining from things you ought not to do is not a matter of curriculum.  They are a matter of character.

Here is a little of ancient Jewish wisdom’s teachings on the topic.

Each of the three letters making up the Hebrew word for ‘king’ (MeLeCh) stands for a part of the human body. However, ancient Jewish wisdom is not a textbook on anatomy so what is being highlighted are internal characteristics. 

מ     ל    כ
C       L      M

M – Mo-aCH – Brain

L- LeV –  Heart

C – CaVeD – Liver

Those three parts of the human body each carry special spiritual allusions.  The brain alludes to our analytical and thoughtful abilities. Whenever the word heart is used in Scripture, it means our emotional beings.  Finally, the word CaVeD, liver, means base bodily appetites.

Furthermore, the word MeLeCh, ‘king,’ occurs many times in Scripture. Biblically, when discussing people, a king can refer to anybody rising to leadership over his fellow humans.

Thus, aspiring to leadership means running your life and making your decisions based primarily on intellectual and thoughtful analysis.  Secondly, consider your emotions.  Finally, only once all else is in place, indulge the bodily appetites.  A successful life is lived firstly on doing what one’s head directs and only subsequently on what one’s heart wants.  Seldom, if ever, are important decisions made based on the calls of the body.

Conversely, let’s see what Hebrew word emerges by reversing the three letters.  What if one runs one’s life with a paramount emphasis on food, sex, and fun?  Then if time and energy still allow, one does what one’s heart directs, and finally, if ever, one listens to the call of one’s head. What would that life look like?

Reversing the order of the letters making up the Hebrew for king, we now have:

Caved – liver – bodily appetites

Lev – heart – emotions

Mo-aCH – brain – the intellect.

What does the Hebrew word CaLeM, (the opposite of MeLeCh) mean?  Answer:  Embarrassment, shame, calumny.  Notice that words like calumny and calamity possess the root letters of CLM. 

The lesson is clear.  To reach the heights of leadership and success, do first what your head tells you. Only then consult your heart, and finally, very finally, think of what your body craves. Failing to heed this guidance leads to calumny, embarrassment and shame. 

The problem is that knowing this does not ensure that we will follow it.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the basic requirement for a king of Israel was an active and healthy relationship with God.  The Israelite king had to write his own copy of the Torah and he had to follow it.  A connection with God is one of the strongest tools for building character.  Possessing deep conviction that regardless of where one finds oneself, the King of Kings is watching with the highest expectations is a guard rail of moral safety. 

There are naturally agnostics and atheists with high character, just as there are, sadly, religious people without.  However, what I say to an atheist who asks me if I think being religious makes me better than him, is this:  I don’t think my faith in God makes me better than you. I don’t know what is in your heart. How could I?  But I do know that my religion makes me far better than I would be without it. And me, I do know.

Huxley was an intelligent man.  Of this, there is no doubt.  However, he lacked wisdom, believing that character could be taught as if it were a page of historic facts.

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