Posts by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Rain, Rain Don’t Go Away

January 6th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

I just received a wonderfully welcome gift—a warm and wooly winter coat. With winter wheezing its cold breath over most  of the northern hemisphere it couldn’t be more timely.  In my neighborhood it’s time to think of snow.  Put snow tires on the cars; get ready to shovel snow from the sidewalk, and make sure we have boots high enough to keep snow out of our socks.  For the benefit of all you happy warriors and favored friends reading this Thought Tool in Ghana, Australia, and Florida, snow is a cold white substance somewhere between rain and hail that makes life a little difficult in urban environments subject to its presence. (Yes, I know that you smug Vermonters think it’s beautiful.  If my office window looked out over white fields, I’d agree.)

Though it is apparently a controversial assertion, I do believe that in languages like Inuit, Yupik, Swedish and Icelandic more words exist to describe subtle nuances in snow than are found in English.  There is no reason to find this surprising.  People in those far northern latitudes see so much more of the white stuff than we do.  What is more, many details of their day-to-day existence revolve  around being able to tell the difference between snow suitable for sledding and snow suitable for building igloos.

From the Hebrew Scriptures, the Tanach, it is easy to see that many more words exist in the Lord’s language, Hebrew, for love than are found in English.  There are so many Biblical mentions of love; between people and God, God towards people,  between friends, between lovers, and many others.  It is not surprising that in a Biblical culture built around love, there should be many nuances of love each requiring its own Hebrew word.

But why do we find four different words for rain in Scripture?  The English language  distinguishes between drizzle, downpour, and drencher, which to me makes sense.  It always seems to be raining in the homeland of the English language.  But why would the language of Scripture have more than one word for rain?

The best-known word for rain is GeSHeM: ג  ש  ם

And the rain [GeSheM] was on the land for forty days and forty nights.
(Genesis 7:12)

 

Then we have the word MaTaR: מ ט ר

…because the Lord God had not sent rain [MaTaR] upon the earth
and there was no man to till the soil…
(Genesis 2:5)

Here are two more words for rain, YoReH and MaLKoSH: י ו ר ה  + מ ל  ק ו ש  

I will grant the rain [MaTaR] for your land in season,
the early rain [YoReH]  and the late rain [MaLKoSH]…
(Deuteronomy 11:14)

King Solomon alluded to the water cycle, describing how rivers  flow into the sea, which never fills. The wonders of evaporation, clouds and rain keep the rivers full and make human life possible.

All streams flow into the sea, Yet the sea is never full;
To the place [from] which they flow The streams flow back again.
(Ecclesiastes 1:7)

My mother used to try fill me with a sense of wonder about rain.  We would take a walk outside as soon as the rain let up, finding excitement in newly arrived mushrooms, fresh shoots on trees and new grass sprouting out of the rich soil.

However, it is possible to view rain as a prosaic meteorological phenomenon.  Water evaporates and  forms clouds.  Then, wind and temperature changes cause the clouds to move inland and discharge their precious load.  That’s all there is to it says King Solmon in the gloomy opening verses of Ecclesiastes.

Then all of a sudden we realize that in the Lord’s language there are four words for rain.  GeSHeM means the plain materialistic phenomenon. MaTaR means rain in the context of God’s love for His world and its inhabitants.  YoReH and MaLKoSH mean rain precisely timed in order to yield maximum growth and benefit along with  minimum harm to humans.

Similarly, when imparting gifts to others, it is important that we pay attention to timing.  Whether our gift is a tangible expression of our warm feelings or whether it is the gift of a friendly and empathetic word, timing matters.  Had my coat arrived in spring, I might have considered the possibility that my benefactor was cleaning up accumulated clutter and came across an unused coat.  But arriving last week, it made me feel cherished.

If you’d like to access some of the timeless truths that the  Bible in Hebrew reveals, in a way that the Bible in translation does not, be sure to acquire the Genesis Journeys Set while it is on sale for a few more days. This is an eye-opening set that will also guide you in interpreting today’s hot-button issues through a Biblical lens.

Susan and I would love to have you join us tomorrow night for a Facebook Live event. (Tuesday, January 6, 8 P.M. ET) We will be discussing the update of our book America’s Real War in light of last week’s Susan’s Musing and the uptick in the United States of violent acts against Jews.

We would also love to see those of you close to  Beltsville, MD, (in the Washington, DC area) this coming Sunday morning (January 11) when I am privileged to address the congregation at Hope Christian Church.

 

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Reach Your Promised Land

December 30th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

As the new year and a new decade dawns, it is natural to wonder what lies ahead. Whatever they are, keep your dreams alive.  Maybe you wish you were happily married, or prospering, or healthier.  Accepting your current circumstances as your normal reality is a terrible trap.

Who would have blamed the Israelites for accepting their nomadic lifestyle as normal?  After two hundred years of slavery, followed by forty years wandering around a desert, how could they ever have seen themselves becoming independent landowners?

Every Israelite should have dismissed the words of Moses as hopeless fantasy when he said to them:

And it shall be when you come into the land that the
Lord your God gives you as an inheritance…
(Deuteronomy 26:1)

What made them accept the vision of their own Promised Land without skepticism?

The secret is that Moses presented them with a vision, not a fantasy. He didn’t promise a utopian future divorced from reality; he let them know that with blessing comes responsibility. That was believable. He not only promised them their Promised Land and its abundant harvests, but he also revealed the duties and obligations that would be theirs along with the abundance. 

In the future, they will take their first fruits, put them into a basket, and take them on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In other words as recipients of God’s blessing they must acknowledge Him as the source of that blessing and welcome the obligation to follow His ways.

That first fruits ceremony is described in Deuteronomy 26:1-11.  Now, you know how I encourage everyone to learn to read Hebrew. Well, off the Hebrew page jumps a real attention-getter—a rare word for basket.  The word ‘basket’ appears about twenty times throughout Tanach (Scripture) and most times the Hebrew word used is sahl.

 


ס  ל
L – S

…and the birds were eating them from the basket…
(Genesis 40:17)

In our first fruits passage, the word basket appears twice (Deuteronomy 26: 2-4) but the word used is not sahl but the very unusual word, teneh.


ט   נ   א
EH- N -Te

If you own our Genesis Journeys series, you have the study guides that accompanies each teaching.  At the beginning of your study guide you will see our special layout chart of the Hebrew alphabet.

The 6th letter of the middle row is the letter samech pronounced ‘S’ (as in sahl-basket). You’ll notice that it is shaped like a closed circle.  Not only is the word sahl missing in the first fruits passage but amazingly, there is no appearance of the letter samech in any word in all those eleven verses.  The verse immediately preceding contains a letter samech (Deuteronomy 25:19) and a few verses later (Deuteronomy 26:18) we spot a samech.  Why is it so important that the whole first fruits passage should not contain that letter? A different and unusual Hebrew word for basket is employed (Te-NEH)in order to avoid introducing the letter samech in the more common word—sahl.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the fully enclosed circular shape of the letter samech hints of boundaries and limitations. These have no place in a passage filled with God’s promise of limitless abundance.  For this reason, teneh replaces sahl to signify a veritable cornucopia of plenty. But along with being able to envision God’s ability to deliver abundance, one has to recognize that responsibility accompanies that gift, signified by the bringing of the first fruits.

Never view your today as your inevitable tomorrow.  But merely fantasizing about a tomorrow with health, wealth, and love entraps you in an unchanging today.  It is true that your promised land comes with no limits.  But it does bring accompanying obligations.  Convert hopeless fantasies into energizing visions by eagerly anticipating the obligations that will accompany God’s bounty.

As we hibernate a bit for the winter (at least those of us in the Northern hemisphere), let’s commit to increasing our Bible study. I’d like to suggest my Genesis Journeys Set as a way to become familiar with ancient Jewish wisdom on powerful Biblical sections that relate directly to our lives today. The price on this 8 audio CD set has never been lower and will remain so for only a short while longer.

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Of Cannibals and Chanukah

December 24th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 13 comments

Let’s use our imaginations for a thought experiment. In 1946, a crew is airlifting the latest model Dodge from Detroit to a car dealership in Brisbane, Australia. On the final leg of its flight the airplane develops engine problems over Papua, New Guinea.  The crew’s only hope is to shove the shiny new sedan out of the ramp at the back of the airplane. In the hope of a possible salvage, they attach a few parachutes to the car which then floats down towards the jungle below. It finally settles right side up in a small clearing outside a Korowai village.  

 The local cannibals generally prevent themselves from becoming the dinner of neighboring villages by building their homes high up in trees. On this day, however, one Korowai chief takes refuge in the Dodge, laughing delightedly as his enemies’ arrows bounce harmlessly off the car.  

I presented you with this little thought experiment only to ask you this question:  Language difficulties aside, is there any way you’d be able to explain to that cannibal chief that in using the motorcar as a fort, he is not making the best use of the Dodge sedan?  

He has never seen a car before and he has no idea of what gasoline might be. After all, the Korowai people never even encountered a westerner or a wheeled wagon until about 1970. No, there is nothing you could say that would convince  our mid-20th century cannibal chief that he is wasting a huge asset.

Anyone assuming that the Bible is no more than a simple story about long ago people and their anachronistic beliefs is making a similar  mistake to that of the Korowai chief living in his Dodge. If we were to inform the Papuan primitive that by using his new fortress properly he could effortlessly transport himself and a handful of his warriors to Port Moresby, he’d blink at us in clueless incomprehension.  If we were to inform our Bible illiterate that the volume he disparages not only relates information from the past, but it also reveals data on events that have not yet happened, he’d look like the twin brother of our New Guinea native. 

The festival now being celebrated, Chanukah, provides an excellent example of this Biblical phenomenon. In his sublime ignorance, our scriptural skeptic is quite certain that Chanukah is a “post-Biblical minor celebration.” While it is true that the central historical events of Chanukah occurred about 1,000 years after the death of Moses, the seeds of that historical event are planted in the Bible. 

Leviticus 23 lists all the festivals in order through the Jewish calendar year.  Each is allocated its own “paragraph” in the unique graphical layout of the Torah. The festival of Tabernacles (Sukot) which occurs in autumn is treated in  Leviticus 23:33-44. The very next paragraph is devoted to an instruction to use pure olive oil to light a menorah. It starts off describing one flame, corresponding to the first night of Chanukah, (Leviticus 24:2) and ends with, “..he shall arrange the flames (plural) upon the menorah…(Leviticus 24:4).  Those flames were activated after the historical events of Chanukah and to this day we add an additional flame on each of the eight nights.

Years before the Greek invasion of Israel,   Daniel provided King Nebuchadnezzar with a prophecy about several subsequent empires. Each was represented by a different metallic element such as iron, gold, silver and copper.  (Some translations mistakenly render NeCHoSHeT as bronze or brass.)  

But another kingdom will arise after you, inferior to yours; then yet a third kingdom, of copper,
which will rule over the whole earth.

(Daniel 2:39)

The empire referred to as copper is Greece, the antagonist of Jerusalem in the Chanukah account.  Each time copper is mentioned in Scripture, an aspect of Greek domination is being referenced. 

With this in mind, we can look at these words having to do with vessels in the Tabernacle: .  “…shall be of copper.” (Exodus 27:19) The very next verse reads: “You shall instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling the lamps regularly.”  (Exodus 27:20) Again we see lighting olive oil referring to the yet-to-be events of Chanukah, when the light will overwhelm the darkness brought on by Greece.

Here is one more Biblical reference to Chanukah. Every number possesses a specific significance in ancient Jewish wisdom. The number 25 always alludes to the Festival of Light. In fact the final syllable of the word Chanukah actually means 25.  It is no coincidence that Chanukah is the only festival in the Hebrew calendar that falls on the 25th day of the month. In that context, are you surprised to hear that the 25th word of the Bible is the word, OHR—light? 

 “God said, “Let there be light”
(Genesis 1:3)

It is through these and several other similar hints and allusions that we see that Chanukah, far from being solely a historical event, is actually part of the Bible’s depiction of how we humans are to relate to the electromagnetic phenomenon known as light. Light is always to be contrasted with darkness as metaphors for good and evil. We are always to be reminded that the stygian gloom of bad times can be dispelled by even one small ray of light. A tiny flame fed by pure olive oil has the power to push back the darkness of evil. If we celebrate Chanukah solely as a depiction of a historical conflict, or even as a remembrance of a miraculous military victory and subsequent miracle with oil, we are making the same error as our Korowai chief. The holiday will benefit us, but nowhere near to its fullest potential. 

If you wish to explore how this message can impact you, we invite you to find out more in our audio CD, Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life. It remains on sale through the holiday.

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Hey Buddy, Got a Light?

December 16th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

What three changes could you institute that would improve your life? Most people know exactly what they ought to do and what they ought to stop doing that would make their lives better. Which begs the question—why don’t we just go ahead and do these things?

The answer is what I call “The Force of Darkness.” Understanding and learning to conquer this sinister force is so important that God introduces us to this primeval darkness and general chaos no later than the second verse of Genesis.

According to ancient Jewish wisdom this verse reveals a dark force built into the universe that attempts to combat progress towards improving our lives. This is why it is harder to diet, exercise, and grow thin than it is to sit around, eat, and grow fat. This is why it is harder to save and invest than it is to spend and consume or to educate one’s self and improve one’s career rather than to seek entertainment. This is why self-discipline is harder than indulgence or why it is harder to build a marriage than it is to destroy one. In other words, keeping the flame burning is just plain hard. It is far easier to sit back and allow darkness to win.

If the problem is darkness, surely the antidote is light—which brings us to Chanukah, the festival of light.

Many mistakenly think that Chanukah is a post-Biblical rabbinical holiday. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, its roots lie in the Torah and within the prophecies of Hagai and Zecharia centuries before the historic events.

Many mistakenly think that Chanukah exists because about 2,160 years ago the Hasmonean Maccabees won an extraordinary military victory over the Greeks and Jewish Hellenists. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, one of the reasons the loyal and faithful Jews were able to win the war was because it was fought on the days already prophetically preordained for light to defeat darkness.

Many mistakenly think that Chanukah is an annual holiday celebrated by playing silly games while eating oily potato latkes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, just as ranchers must vaccinate their livestock each year to keep them healthy, Chanukah is an annual vaccination of light to keep ourselves healthy enough to dispel darkness.

On the first night of Chanukah we light one flame. We add a flame each successive night until we have a glorious extravaganza of light emanating from our menorah on the eighth night. Why don’t we increase the total light on this holiday by kindling eight flames every night?

Simple arithmetic reveals that lighting correctly requires a total of 36 flames. It is no coincidence that the word light appears 36 times in the Torah. It is also no coincidence that the first word in the Bible possessing the numerical value of 36 is the Hebrew word meaning “Where are you?” which God asks Adam after his sin. You see, in Hebrew, each letter has a numerical value and the four letters of that word have the values of 1; 10; 20; and 5 for a total of 36.

א    י    כ    ה

5 + 20 + 10 + 1

Needless to say, God knows where Adam is hiding. The question was not an attempt to discover Adam’s physical whereabouts but instead it was God admonishing Adam to reflect on his spiritual condition.

That word echoes down the ages as God asks each one of us every day, “Where are you?” The message of the 36 bright flames, increasing by one each night, is that you dispel darkness by achieving just a bit more today than you did yesterday. Remaining in one place is just a slower way of moving in the wrong direction. Staying the same is an illusion, not reality. That is simply the way God created the world.

For more messages from Chanukah that will light up your life, listen to our audio CD, Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life. Reduced for a Chanukah special, it may be the best $5 investment you can make this week!

An earlier version of this teaching appeared inThought Tools Volume 2.

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Why Do I Write Thought Tools?

December 12th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

No country has been more hospitable to its Jewish population than the United States of America.  It is hard to think of another nation in which a Jewish community has enjoyed a longer period of tranquillity and affluence. 

For two thousand years, in different countries, at different times, the wandering Jew found a resting place for his weary feet.  Some of these resting places were more hospitable than others, many were downright painful, but they were the temporary abode that God had arranged for His people.  However, after two world wars finally left America as the mightiest economic and military power in the world, her Jewish community achieved maturity and emerged as the healthiest and wealthiest of all Jewish communities.  The hospitality that Jews have enjoyed in America is unparalleled in recent times and perhaps even in all time.

One explanation often advanced to account for the hospitality enjoyed by America’s Jews has been the size of the American Jewish community along with its economic and political influence.  In other words, America has been good to her Jews because Jewish power has allowed her little alternative.  In addition to demonstrating breathtaking ingratitude, this argument is as wrong headed as claiming that turning on street lights causes the sun to set.  Even a moment’s humble reflection reveals that American Jews have achieved affluence and political prominence precisely because of the security and tranquillity they have enjoyed here for so many years.

A valuable clue in the search for an explanation of America’s fondness for Jews and Israel is that it comes most often from precisely those politicians who do not preside over major centers of Jewish culture.  For example, it is hard to make the case that Congressman Louis Gohmert supports Israel in order to placate the large number of Jewish voters in Texas.   If America’s support for Israel were based entirely on political expediency, that support would originate from the State Department.  It does not.  Instead it springs from the heartland of America as a reflection of the deep commitment to Judeo-Christian values felt by so many Americans.   Clearly something more profound lies behind several hundred years of affinity and friendship between America and its Jews.  The question is, what?

The real answer is that in the history of the world, only two nations were founded on an idea rather than on a land. The founders of America, the Pilgrims, were called “separatists.”  Similarly the early Jews, Abraham and his family, were called “Ivrim”—Hebrews, or in English—”separatists,” those who have crossed over to a new side.

Benjamin Franklin once proposed that the Great Seal of the United States should depict the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on their way to the Promised Land.  William Bradford, the second governor of the Plymouth Colony was a fluent scholar of Hebrew and studied the Old Testament in its original.  Several founders proposed Hebrew as an official language of the United States and a commencement speech at Harvard University was commonly delivered in Hebrew well into the twentieth century.

The intrinsic similarity between these two great nations was not lost on the early Americans.  Neither is it lost on their descendants, so many of whom still share a devotion to the Judeo-Christian principles that fueled our earliest visions.

The graciousness extended by most Americans towards their Jewish friends is not the result of having been intimidated by those friends into a mood of sullen acceptance.  It is a wholehearted belief in one sentiment best expressed by the Scriptural words, “and I will bless those that bless you and those that curse you, will I curse.” (Genesis 12:3)  Many Americans still revere those words as they do God Almighty who spoke them.  American Jews have always been the beneficiaries of that sentiment.  The joyous serenity of living as an American Jew is safe only for as long as most Americans continue to subscribe to that Biblical sentiment. 

We are embarrassed and unhappy that so many of the implacable foes of the president, who have been plotting his downfall since his inauguration, are Jews. Nadler, Schiff and Schumer are only 3 of the 34 Jews in Congress all but 2 of whom oppose the most pro-Israel and possibly the most philo-Semitic president in the past 70 years.  As part of their political impeachment ploy, they recently brought four constitutional scholars to explain the legalities that they claim justify the impeachment of President Trump.  Three of these four lawyers are Jewish.  In fact, it is amazing to note that although Jews constitute less than 2% of America’s population, 6% of the United States Congress is Jewish. (Sadly, all but 2 are Democrats).  This amazing acceptance of Jews is not found in any other country than America and Israel.

We are embarrassed and unhappy that the political, economic, and social ideas of so many American Jews are shaped by the nihilistic values of secular fundamentalism and not by the Bible.  In fact, a greater proportion of all Americans, both Jewish and not, is Biblically illiterate than at any earlier time in our history.  The future for America, Israel, and all freedom loving peoples is bleak unless we succeed in replacing secularism with Judeo-Christian Bible-based values as the culture’s dominant sculptor of popular outlook. The organization that I serve, the American Alliance of Jews and Christians  strives to restore, not Biblical laws, but Biblical values to the hearts and minds of all.

Here is the paradox.  It is tragically true that many American Jews have replaced the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the gods of secular socialism.  It is also undeniable that these Americans of Jewish ancestry have exerted a baleful influence on our culture and politics.  Jewish rebellion against God is an old story—one only need read the book of Judges as an example. However, it is equally obvious that without the contributions of countless American Jews to the tapestry of American life—since its founding—we would all be the poorer and the nation would have flourished less.  The urgent task confronting us is to diminish the seduction of secular fundamentalism and turn more hearts and minds to those Biblical values that nurture civilization. Both Jews and Christians who believe in God need to step up and forcefully defend their views. 

At this time of the year, we particularly appreciate whatever support your heart calls upon you to offer.  The American Alliance of Jews and Christians works to diminish the powerful influence that secularism and its advocates exerts on civilization.  We help build counterweights in the form of educating effective people willing to speak out. 

This work and more, will continue in 2020 as we see enthusiasm for our efforts grow. With your help this can be done. The programmed activities planned for 2020  require a budget of $700,000.

I greatly appreciate the support you have offered in the past and I humbly enlist your support for what lies ahead. Any amount that your heart and prayers lead you to devote to this work will be a sacred element of our efforts and I thank you.

Whatever support you can give to our work will be very much appreciated. American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC) is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization (EIN 26-07642520). We have several different ways that you can make your tax-deductible donation:

By mail (Check or Cash) to: AAJC, PO Box 58, Mercer Island, WA 98040

Through our secure website (Credit Card or PayPal) http://bit.ly/AAJC-DonateViaWebsite

Via the AAJC Facebook page http://bit.ly/AAJC-DonateViaFacebook

Network for Good http://bit.ly/AAJC-NetworkForGood

Amazon Smile (a small portion of your Amazon shopping purchases will go to AAJC) https://smile.amazon.com/ch/26-0764252

May God bless you and protect you and may we all be privileged to do our part in protecting the legacy He entrusted to humanity on Mount Sinai over three thousand years ago.

Thank you for helping make my life work possible,

Rabbi Daniel Lapin

River Revival

December 2nd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

Hannah is a full-time mom working strenuously, with her husband’s partnership, to raise five delightful (but rambunctious) children.  Sometimes, the daily pressures threaten to overwhelm her, and she finds herself snapping shrewishly at her family.

Jake recently launched his own small business. He is hoping soon to marry his girlfriend, whose family is equally enthusiastic about the pending union.  However, Jake sabotages his success by procrastination and by allowing unimportant distractions to derail him.

Henry, a middle-aged, senior level executive suspects he is losing the respect of his professional associates, and is increasingly estranged from his wife.  He often ends his day feeling depressed and miserable.

Hannah, Jake, and Henry all suffer from exactly the same problem and Scripture provides the prescription.

A river flows out from Eden to water the Garden,
and from there it is divided and becomes four headwaters.

Genesis 2:10

Unfortunately maps prove that no such arrangement of waterways ever existed. Another problem: If the purpose of the river is to “water the Garden,” it ought to flow into Eden rather than out from Eden. 

Clearly there must be more to this story than improbable geography.  Ancient Jewish wisdom helps by showing how the main river represents the human yearning to achieve our best life.  The river flowing from Eden makes it possible for us to swim back upstream to our own personal Eden. 

This ‘waterway to wonderful results’ comprises four basic rivers representing our four basic drives.  Each needs to be developed and focused if we are to head towards Eden.

Why four basic drives?  We possess both physical and spiritual needs and the world can provide us with both physical and spiritual commodities. Combined, that makes four drives.  Here they are with examples of how each drive is fulfilled.

  • What I need physically and the world supplies physically: food, water, shelter
  • What I need physically and the world supplies spiritually: friendship, connection, love, and esteem of others
  • What I need spiritually and the world supplies physically: a sense of security, beauty and culture
  • What I need spiritually and the world supplies spiritually: a connection with God, gaining of wisdom

In other words, the four Biblical rivers that lead us to the main canal of contentment represent four categories of human need.  Our desires and motivations come from our being both physical and spiritual creatures operating in a world that supplies both physical and spiritual commodities. 

Someone who ignores category 1 leaving himself and his family hungry and cold while vigorously advancing himself in category 4 would be viewed as foolish and perhaps even evil.  Similarly,  single-mindedly increasing one’s bank account while ignoring human relationships is sheer folly. 

Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that as complex beings, people need to experience growth and progress in each of these four categories if they are to live purposeful, successful, and fulfilling lives. 

We all know that we need food, water and shelter.  However, categories 2, 3, and 4 are less blatantly obvious and more easily ignored.  In the same way that balance is important in diet, exercise and investment portfolios, balance is equally important in healthily developing our life blueprint.

This Biblical model brings into our lives the ability to balance our existence.  This balance is critical.  For instance, my very capacity to earn money or relate to my spouse and children will be diminished if I do not also work at gaining wisdom and spiritual connection at the same time.  Think of it as a balanced diet. 

Hannah, Jake, and Henry need to study the rivers of Genesis. They should work on identifying the categories they are neglecting.  Their unhappiness will start to dispel once they begin repair work. 

Looking at Scripture through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom provides practical life lessons such as this one. That is the common theme running through all our books. Despite electronic alternatives, we still love physically handling what we’re reading. Does that also describe you or those you love? How about getting 25% off all our single item books?  Enter the promo code GIFT25 at checkout and stock up on presents (for you too!) right now.

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You Want Others to Think Well of You?  Good!

November 26th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

With an increasing sense of unease, I read reports about criminal assaults of unimaginable brutality committed against innocent passers-by.  In many instances, there was no robbery involved; the motivation was clearly not gain. It turns out to be nothing but an expression of nauseatingly violent hatred against a stranger on account of his political persuasion or his religious beliefs or because of his white skin color.  Sometimes it is just for the nihilistic joy of destruction. To my knowledge, this form of anti-social behavior is occurring more frequently in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Today we rightly condemn past times when similar assaults took place, though the political persuasions, religious beliefs and skin color might have been different. Yet, today we often avert our eyes from these attacks and pretend they aren’t happening. 

I am sure that there must be one or two people in your world for whom you harbor intense dislike.  I know that is true for me. There are even a few human beings whose actions I view as so evil and destructive that I do believe the world would be better off without them.

What stops you and me from creeping up behind one of these people we dislike (okay, detest) and ferociously slamming our fists against the back of their heads so savagely that they collapse to the sidewalk?  Precisely this is now happening ever more frequently, and what is more, most of the thugs elude capture and escape justice.

So, why don’t you and I launch barbaric assaults on those most deserving of our censure?  One important answer is that we refrain from violently attacking strangers in the street for exactly the same reason that those conscienceless criminals do commit those attacks: In order to earn and maintain the approval and esteem of others.

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Land Ho!

November 18th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

Quiz time.  Can you name seven countries that grant their citizens rights to own real property and that protect those rights thus empowering their citizens to sell, mortgage or rent their property for their own benefit?

No? Let me help. Here are a few in the top twelve:  Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Holland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Here, in contrast, are seven in the bottom twelve: Yemen, Haiti, Nigeria, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan.

You might note that hungry hordes are desperately trying to leave all countries in the second list in order to immigrate, legally or not, to any country in the first list.  You might attribute that to a coincidence, but if you’re a long-time happy warrior, you will already have heard from me many times that the Lord’s language, Hebrew, lacks a word for coincidence.  Not only are people urgently fleeing countries with low regard for property rights, but all the countries to which they wish to go are societies founded with regard for a majestic book of mysterious origins that we call the Bible.  And that too is no coincidence.

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Of Boats and Businesses

November 12th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

Like many of you, I find myself turning to online videos for information. Instead of reading through a dense and confusing manual or using a process of trial and error, I simply need to type a few words into my search engine to see step-by-step instructions for changing a water filter, manipulating the settings in my car or, should I ever be so inclined, how to fold a fitted bed sheet. If I follow the steps, I will accomplish my task. On a larger scale, carefully following engineering drawings and architects’ plans allow you to successfully build a house, boat or plane.

Yet, building a business or a marriage offers no such assurances.  Although countless books exist about starting a business and getting married, following those advisors brings no guarantee of success.  Surely directions for marriage and entrepreneurship ought to ensure success just as do directions for ship builders, airplane builders, and home builders.  Why would the success rate for new businesses and marriages be well below the figure for ships, planes, and buildings? Maybe Exodus can guide us.

God directed Moses how to build the Ark of the Covenant and then told him to place inside it, “…the testimony which I shall give you.” (Exodus 25:16)

God directed Moses to build the Table and then told him, “And you shall set the bread of display upon the table… (Exodus 25:30)

God directed Moses to build the Menorah and then told him, “…and he (the priest) shall light its lamps… (Exodus 25:37)

However, when God directed Moses to build the altar (Exodus 27:1-8) no subsequent instructions followed.

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Animals Are People Too, Right?

November 5th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 34 comments

Don’t you know that homosexuality is natural?  Surely you must be aware that same-sex behavior involving courtship and pair-bonding has been observed in hundreds of species of animals?

California’s Proposition 47 ensures that a career criminal (Sorry, I forgot that San Francisco prohibits that term in favor of “justice-involved-individual”) who steals money or property suffers virtually no consequences as long as the total value of his daily theft is less than $950.  A journalist with whom I was discussing this wholesale eviction of moral principles explained, “Rabbi, you probably don’t know that hundreds of animals from whales to squirrels take things from other creatures and nobody brands them as criminals and thieves.”

Here is another one.  Marriage is unnatural.  Expecting two people to commit legally to remain together for today’s longer lifespans is crazy. Maybe it made sense during earlier agrarian days and when life was more perilous but today it’s just unnatural. Almost no animal mates for life and neither should we.  It ought to be harder to get into marriage and easier to get out.

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