Posts by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Save Civilization – Find a Father

October 15th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

Deaths by drug overdose, particularly from the class of heroin-containing drugs known as opioids are generally high. But there is one demographic that constitutes only 32% of America’s population but accounts for over 70% of opioid deaths—single men.  They do stand out, but there is another group that stands out even more conspicuously for deaths by crime, overdose, suicide and disease.  Their statistics are even worse than for single men in general.  This group is  men who are not fathers.  They are the most dangerous and the most vulnerable group in the United States. 

Not only are they vulnerable but by far and away, men who are not fathers and who never had fathers themselves, perpetrate most violent crime.  Mass shooters are overwhelmingly single men but there are exceptions. For instance, Stephen Paddock, the 2017 Las Vegas shooter, had been married twice and had a girlfriend. However, he had never been a father.  If instead of identifying them as single men, we identify  men who are not fathers, that pretty much covers all the mass shooters in recent American history.

For purposes of these statistics, father doesn’t mean any man who has impregnated a woman. It refers only to men who play an active role in the lives of their children.  And men who fail to do so are harming both society and themselves.  Nothing comes even close to restraining risky and self-destructive behavior in men than feeling responsibility for a child.  Unsurprisingly, the insurance industry knows that while some men buy life insurance when they marry, most do after the birth of their first child. 

In the late 1950s Japan implemented its birth-control program called the New Life Movement. By the 1960s it was in full swing and together with their enactment of the Eugenic Protection Act (legalization of abortion) in ten short years they had halved Japan’s fertility rate.  For a number of reasons aggravating the trend men stopped marrying, a pattern that continues in Japan to the present day. One unintended consequence is Japan’s contemporary plague of “kodokushi” meaning “lonely death.”  This refers to people  dying alone and being discovered in some cases, only weeks later. According to Tokyo’s Meiji University, almost all kodokushi cases involve men who never had children.

Men who become fathers, real fathers, are doing both themselves and society a favor.  Obviously no man becomes a father without the cooperation of a woman.   Not only is her compliance required for the biological process, but usually unless she promotes the role of the man in her child’s life, he will have none. 

Sadly, however, a woman becoming a mother is not necessarily doing herself and her neighborhood a favor.  It all depends upon the presence of a father.  Without the active involvement of the father, her chances of living in poverty and becoming dependent upon her fellow citizens through the welfare system are very high. Without the child’s father being involved in the day to day nurturing of a boy, her son stands a very high chance of criminal involvement.  Without the child’s father being involved in the day to day nurturing of a girl, she too faces challenges. These are, to quote someone-or-other, very inconvenient truths.  In summary, a shortage of fathers brings tragic outcomes.

So, I am not surprised that  although there are 1,534 verses in the Book of Genesis,  it takes  only 55 verses to reach the first mention of ‘father’ and ‘mother.’

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife…
(Genesis 2:24)

In other words, only about 3%  of the way into Genesis, we encounter the concept of establishing families.  We see emphasis  on mothers and fathers again in the Fifth Commandment:

Honor your father and your mother…
(Exodus 20:12)

And in other places like this:

Every man must revere his mother and his father…
(Leviticus 19:3) 

That seems about right for something as fundamental as family is to the human experience.  Now if secularists are right and Scripture is nothing but a compendium of ancient ramblings by a bunch of bored Bedouins, there is nothing more to say.  Life is too short to waste time analyzing something so trite. However, if this is God’s message to mankind, subtle patterns are important.  Which is to say that I am curious about why Genesis contains more than 90 mentions  of the word father but only 19  mentions of the word mother. After all, surely they go together?   To have one you need the other.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that God’s message to mankind wastes no ink telling us things we already know.  A close relationship between a child and its mother is completely natural. Just visit YouTube to see baby giraffes or baby zebras being born and bonding with their mothers.  Fathers? Nowhere to be seen.  When we acquired our beautiful llama, Llucky, he was reluctant to leave his mother. He clearly knew or cared nothing about his father.  Sadly, as God’s message to mankind becomes less and less relevant in public policy and in social life, our human communities increasingly resemble nature. Children are born, bond with their mothers and know nothing of their fathers. (As society disintegrates further, we do even worse than nature, producing women who harm their own children.)

To teach us of this disastrous state of affairs, ideally before we fall off the cliff as Japan seems to have done, Genesis emphasizes the role of fathers five times more often than it speaks of mothers.  Yes, we get the role of mothers. Even nature in the wild gets the role of mothers.  But for a civilized human society you need fathers.  That needs to be emphasized. 

Far more than a father gives life to a child, a child grants life to its father.

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Find Yourself in a Fish

October 7th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

What a blessings it is to be able to bounce out of bed each morning on fire to fulfill one’s purpose for living.  One of the most potent antidotes to feeling low, miserable and even depressed is having a purpose, knowing it, and passionately propelling oneself towards it.

As an ardent boating enthusiast, I find the behavior of the Bible’s most famous mariner, Jonah, to be quite baffling.  At the very height of a furious storm that threatened the very survival of their ship, the terrified sailors cast their cargo overboard to lighten the vessel.  Obviously, during such a tempest the safest location is high up on the struggling vessel from where escape might at least be possible.  That is why lifeboats on every ship are found on the upper deck.  Nobody in his right mind would voluntarily remain far down in the belly of the boat.  Many victims of the Titanic drowned down in bottom decks of the doomed liner.

But Jonah descended down into the bilges of the ship, lay down and fell fast asleep. 
(Jonah 1:5) 

Clearly this was a man without a worry in the world.  But don’t envy him.  Only the dead have no worries.  And that’s the clue.  To Jonah, dying was not that different from his living existence.  Jonah was an avoider of challenges. 

God elevated Jonah and made him His prophet.  God dispatched him on a challenging mission to Nineveh.  Instead of confronting the challenge, Jonah elected to avoid it and attempted to escape to Tarshish.

Jonah represents you and me.  He represents leaders in politics and in business.  He represents parents and preachers.  Jonah had been given a life mission by God.  Just like each of us, he had been given the gift of a real purpose for living. 

From each of us, God expects specific performance and achievement in some specific mission.  After all, if God is to be taken seriously then He must be taken personally too.  We must each distill our own life experiences and our own spiritual adventures into the essence of what it is that we alone have been created to achieve. 

Life itself demands no less, but the search is challenging, even dangerous, and the mission, once found is always formidable.  Having problems and worries is a barometer of life. Confronting them is the elixir of immortality.  But Jonah preferred escape.

In reality, only one escape exists: view life as meaningless and seek solace in entertainment.  Distract ourselves to death.  Jews are fond of the toast, L’Chayim—to life!  What that really means is affirm life.  But the only way to affirm life is by embracing your own moral mission with all its challenges. 

Attempting escape means choosing an empty alternative.  It means abandoning your own great moral challenge. It means a life in which the dull gray monotony of existence becomes almost indistinguishable from death. 

Jonah tried to abandon his Divine destiny.  Instead of traveling to Nineveh as commanded, he attempted to evade his whole purpose for living by escaping to Tarshish.  Since evading one’s mission is an embrace of death, it is no wonder that Jonah was content to die in the sinking ship. 

When we try to avoid our mission, it is not because we consider the attempt to be futile.  It is because nothing has awoken us.  Only one thing could awake Jonah to his destiny and help him find his own redeeming mission in life:  three days in the belly of that fish. 

It was an unimaginable place of wet darkness where Jonah huddled among the giant pulsing organs of life.  Was this living cave to become a grave—the end of his life, or was it to become a womb—the real start of his life?  It could have gone either way.  The choice was Jonah’s to make. 

The one time in the Jewish calendar that the book of Jonah is read in synagogue is late in the afternoon on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  As the sun starts setting and the famous fast day is ebbing away we read:

Jonah left the city and sat at the east of the city.  He made himself a booth there…” 
(Jonah 4:5)

It is quite impossible to read that verse without thinking of the Festival of Sukot, sometimes called Tabernacles or the Festival of Booths that commences just five days later.  Yes, the book of Jonah read on Yom Kippur really does hint at the forthcoming Festival of Booths.

As if to parallel that chronology, of all the many laws governing conduct during the Day of Atonement, the final regulation, the last word as it were, is that Jews ought to commence building their booths for Sukot immediately following the conclusion of the fast.

The idea is that every day is connected to its yesterday and its tomorrow.  Rosh haShana, New Year, is linked to Yom Kippur by the Ten Days of Repentance.  In turn, Yom Kippur is linked to the next holy day, Sukot by the final reading of the day, the Book of Jonah. 

It is interesting that much of the information surrounding Jonah is disclosed in the tractate entitled Booths.  (Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkah Chapter V)  It is there that we discover Jonah’s identity and origins.  Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that he was the son of the widow who was Elijah the prophet’s landlady in the first book of Kings, chapter 17.   The lad had died and, in response to the entreaties of his bereaved mother, Elijah brought him back to life. Later in his life we encounter him as the prophet Jonah.  This helps explain why he seemed so fearless of dying during the storm.  After all, he had died once before and had been resuscitated once before—by Elijah the prophet. 

The lesson to be learned is that there are three avenues to finding our mission and thrilling to our purpose.  First, it can be dark and frightening days in the belly of the fish.  This is to say, some experience that has the potential either to bury us or birth us anew. Second, we should relate deeply to the interconnectedness of days.  If today lacks clarity, know that tomorrow will soon arrive. Finally, rebirth is possible.  The old Jonah died in that fish, just as he did as a lad.  In both cases, he was restored.  Finding our purpose is the same as being restored to life.  And bounding out of bed each morning is a joyful reaffirmation of the life you live.

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Yours, Mine and Our Sins

October 1st, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

But everybody’s doing it.” Is there any parent who has not heard that cry? Perhaps your child wants to go to an inadequately chaperoned party. Maybe a teenager wants to read the latest best-selling book that his or her parents see as morally suspect. No matter the issue, children want to be part of a group.

We adults are susceptible to this desire as well. We buy new clothing and cars so that we ‘fit in’ with a certain crowd; we watch popular movies because ‘everyone’ is talking about them. Sometimes we even vote with our social group rather than researching and making an informed decision.

We are not only influenced by others, but we are also the influencers. When I succumb to complaining, cowardice or anger, I affect my spouse, children, neighbors and co-workers. Contaminated by my attitude, they will be more likely to behave the same way. If I lower my standards and speak rudely or profanely, others will more easily do so as well.

We are in the Jewish High Holy Day period that began with Rosh HaShana and reaches its climax next Wednesday on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is a time for intense introspection on one’s life, achievements, failures and goals. Simultaneously, it is a time for communal reflection and involvement. When we enumerate our sins on Yom Kippur, each individual has his or her own list, yet the format we recite is in plural language. Sentence after sentence begins with the words “We have sinned…” rather than, “I have sinned.”

Isn’t this strange? Even orphans say, “We are guilty of not appreciating parents.” Even the most upright among us say, “We have stolen.”

This interaction between our unique lives and the larger community is one of the universal messages of Yom Kippur. It is a time to strip away the illusion that we are independent and self-directed and to recognize how much of the wrong way that we think and act is a function of following the crowd. It is a time to recognize our own responsibility not only for ourselves but also for others.  As we take an annual moral inventory, we need to assess with clarity the inescapable intertwining of our lives with the lives of the many different groups of people with whom we share life on earth.

After starkly facing our failings during this period, we emerge from the holy days with optimism and conviction. It is wrong to think of peer pressure only as negative. When we smile despite our pain, we also influence others. When we express gratitude and are gracious to others, the effects of that ripple outward as well. If we are courageous and cling to standards, immune to what ‘everyone else’ is doing, we make it easier for others to do so as well.

This is a good time of year to set the odometer back to zero and reject becoming ensnared in the failings of society, no matter how widespread they are. It is a particularly conducive time to commit to being leaders in exemplifying moral greatness.

Yom Kippur teaches us to work from the inside out, in contrast to tyrants who impose their will on others while indulging themselves. When we change ourselves, we change our families. When we change our families, we change our communities. When we change our communities, we change our country. When we change our country, we change the world.

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Rosh HaShana Means War

September 24th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

Some of my friends find challenge in running marathons while others play competitive tennis. I’ve also got friends who struggle to achieve and maintain musical proficiency. Others work on their digital dexterity for sleight of hand magical illusions. Yes, I am blessed with very interesting friends and I haven’t even come close to exhausting the list.  My point is that unlike animals, God created human beings with a desire to prove themselves and improve themselves. Animals seem to need nothing more than survival, whereas some successful people, who seem to have it all, risk their lives scaling perilous mountain peaks. 

Unlike animals, we humans revel in the struggle itself; and perhaps no challenge is ultimately as satisfying as that of trying to make oneself a better person. Perhaps this is why in those quaint old stores that used to sell books more shelf space was devoted to what was called the ‘self-help’ category than to any other.  Becoming more self-disciplined; losing weight; being a more loving and considerate spouse; becoming more honest; becoming a more consistent parent; spending less of one’s life staring at a screen; these challenges are all as difficult as climbing Everest or learning to play the violin. Each demands fighting a furious war with one’s own resistance.

Rosh HaShana is the time of year assigned by the Hebrew calendar for rigorous self-judgement and for deliberate decisions to improve.  One of its names is even  the Day of Judgement.   It is the Biblical festival during which we challenge ourselves more than at any other time. It is when we remind ourselves that God created us with two competing components. One part of us knows what we ought to do while the other attempts to seduce us into self-indulgence, otherwise known as sin. Rosh haShana is when we commit ourselves to the triumph of the better side of our natures. And it is a war.

Let’s look at the only two places in the Torah that Israel is instructed to observe Rosh HaShana.

Speak to the Children of Israel saying:  In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion blowing blasts [TeRuAH] on the shofar in commemoration.
(Leviticus 23:24)

In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations. You shall observe it as a day when blasts are blown [TeRuAH]  on the shofar. 
(Numbers 29:1)

Other than the date, the common feature is the word TeRuAH describing an attention-getting blast on the shofar, the ram’s horn.  The shofar was an early warning alarm system and a call to confront an emergency.  In much the same way that the sound of a siren warns of the possibility of a tsunami in Indonesia or Thailand, causing terrified tourists immediately to flee coastal areas, the sound of the shofar, the TeRuAH has always galvanized Israel. 

Whether it was for the assault on Jericho (Joshua 6:20)  or Gideon’s army preparing an attack (Judges 7:16) the TeRuAH of a shofar always signaled a military assault or a response to one. Even today, that sound possesses the same sense of urgency heard in a siren. The same sound, the TeRuAH calls us to both spiritual and physical war. This drives home the message that our lives are as much at stake when we face an opposing external army as when we face an internal army composed of our own weaknesses.

The Torah’s emphasis on the TeRuAH blast on Rosh HaShana reminds us that this festival is all about the internal war we wage with our lower selves.  It is thrilling for anyone to complete a year knowing that last Rosh HaShana fired one up to become more in tune with God’s expectations for us;  more generous, more trustworthy, more loyal, and more diligent; in other words, a better human being.

Rosh HaShana begins a ten day period that ends with Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. While this is a uniquely Jewish day, there are themes that can help people of all religions. We isolate three of those ideas and explore them in our audio CD, Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity. You can get it on sale as we head into this momentous period.

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Nobody is Wrong All the Time

September 17th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

In 1849, the American Bible Society included in its annual report a section that read, “Voltaire predicted that in the 19th century the Bible would be known only as a relic of antiquity.”  Voltaire was a witty 18th century French intellectual who harbored deep hatred for Judeo-Christian Biblical civilization. 

On page 94 of his Philosophical Dictionary he writes about Jews, “…an ignorant and barbarous people, who have long united the most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition and the most invincible hatred for every people by whom they are tolerated and enriched.” 

In a letter to King Frederick of Prussia he described Christianity as “…assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world.”  Needless to say, in common with most secular fundamentalists today, he is much more tolerant and openminded about Islam.

Because nobody is wrong all the time, he made some good observations about business.  In his Letters Concerning the English Nation, he contrasts England, where he lived for three years,  with his native France.  He describes how ordinary Frenchmen try to pass themselves off as aristocrats using phrases like “a man of my quality and rank” while they “hold merchants in the most sovereign contempt.”  Voltaire then goes on to say, “The merchant, again, by dint of hearing his profession despised on all occasions, at last is fool enough to blush at his condition.  I will not however take upon me to say which is the most useful to his country.”

England, he explains, is unique in having started off as a warlike and conquering nation that then transformed itself into a commercial nation. Writing about when Edward III conquered half of France in the 14th century, Votaire writes, “London was a poor country town.” He then explains that, eventually, owing to the English having become traders, businessmen and merchants, London outgrew Paris in power and prestige.  Voltaire marvels at how only in England, the younger son of a “peer of the realm” can achieve prominence and success as a merchant.  In most European countries, he says, men are obsessed with inherited title and finding connection to kings however in England, regardless of birth, a man could raise himself through trading in coal, wool, and corn.  Voltaire mocks the would-be French and German aristocrats, “whose whole fortunes and estate put together, amounted to a few coats of arms and the starving pride they inherited from their ancestors.”

Voltaire would have been shocked to know that the Bible emphasizes the very approach he saw in England and praised.  Instead of highlighting the political or ecclesiastical aristocrat, the ordinary citizen-farmer is the hero.

We’re told that when Israel enters its land all farmers should bring their annual first fruits to Jerusalem where they should place the baskets before the priest in the Temple. They were then to recite a proclamation.

Wouldn’t you suppose that in appreciation of nature’s bounty the grateful farmer might recite verses praising God’s creation of nature and its miraculous processes that make possible human sustenance?  For instance, you might have expected those who brought their first fruits to articulate verses like these from Psalms.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving sing praise upon the harp to our God who covers the heaven with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass grow on the mountains.
(Psalms 147:7-8)

In response to which, the priest might emphasize his own unique position in God’s hierarchy. . 

However, in fact, the Jewish farmer’s annual first fruits proclamation is quite different and quite unexpected:

An Aramean tried to destroy my father, who then went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous; But the Egyptians dealt harshly with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us terrible slavery.  And when we cried to the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression and brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesomeness, and with signs, and with wonders.  And he has brought us to this place, and has given us this land, a land that flows with milk and honey.  And now, I have brought the first fruits of the land.
(Deuteronomy 26:5-9)

Why a condensed history lesson rather than praise for nature’s bounty?  Precisely because history bonds us to those who came before us and those who will follow us.  Moreover, history bonds us to our nearest and dearest as we gather to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and memorial observances.  Amazingly, when we are celebrating the sustenance we enjoy, it is far more appropriate to celebrate our connection to our people than it is to sing of nature.

Our hero is the ordinary man who produces food and abundance from the earth.  Only his proclamation matters and that proclamation personally links him not to his government and its bureaucrats, and not to his house of worship and its priests, but to his God, to his community and to his people. 

Voltaire fails to note that Britain’s move towards the prosperity that eventually laid the foundations of the British Empire was occasioned by Oliver Cromwell’s readmission of Jews into England in 1656 from where they had been  evicted in 1290.  Bringing with them Scripture’s approval of the independent farmer and merchant who spread prosperity to individuals as well as to the nation, Jews helped transform London into the trading capital of the world. 

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any verification that Voltaire either said or wrote the often-quoted prediction about the Bible becoming extinct.  But, in a way that Voltaire might not appreciate that old secular cynic’s praise for the English merchant does correspond to Scripture’s recommendation for the economic life of a nation.

What do the Hebrew words for ‘work’ and ‘wealth’ teach us? 
What does the word ‘amen’ have to do with business professionals? 
Find out in
BURIED TREASURE: SECRETS FOR LIVING FROM THE LORD’S LANGUAGE
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They Give Me the Creeps

September 9th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 29 comments

Prawns, shrimp, lobster and crab; as a long-time underwater diving enthusiast, I’ve seen them all in their natural habitat and they give me the shudders.  Even while wearing rubber gloves I’ve never liked handling them.  From once living in Africa, I remember the huge Goliath beetle—not at all fondly.  I know children who keep large hairy tarantula spiders as pets and enjoy grossing out their parents’ guests.  Count me in that latter group.  If cicadas ever invade my neighborhood, I’d probably emigrate.  I don’t care for bugs.

Psychiatrists claim to be able to treat something they call entomophobia, the fear of bugs, but none actually understand it.  There are numerous theories; I know most of them.  Some of these attempted explanations are insightful while others are fanciful.  But whatever explains it, I am not the only person disturbed by creepy-crawlies. It’s actually most of us.

Perhaps some of the near universal revulsion of creepy-crawlies might stem from the Bible’s explicit denunciation of bugs as food.  Bear with me as I walk you through more verses on this topic than you might have expected.  And they are all from the same single chapter in Leviticus.

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Three Wise Men

September 2nd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

What if I told you that you could change how intelligent you are–or your children will be? Perhaps you’re saying, “That’s ridiculous. IQ is immutable and unlikely to be altered by one’s behavior. Or maybe you’re saying, “I don’t know, but if it’s true sign me up!”

However you may have reacted, I hope you’re intrigued enough by this proposition of ancient Jewish wisdom to try it out for size.  I think you’ll be surprised at how precisely it accounts for your experiences in the real world. 

We read of three men whose wisdom was admired and whose guidance and leadership was sought: Joseph, Daniel, and Mordechai.  Each withstood alluring attempts to get him to abandon restraint.

Watch Joseph as his employer’s wife, by all accounts a most attractive woman, tries to seduce him.

…after these things, his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, lie with me.  But he refused… ‘[saying] because you are his wife, how can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’  And she spoke to Joseph day by day but he did not listen to her to lie with her or be with her. 
(Genesis 39:7-10
)

Soon after, we find that Joseph’s wisdom and leadership qualities become evident to all.

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Holy Money

August 27th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 31 comments

Dan Ariely is an Israeli-American teacher at Duke University in North Carolina.  I think he’s smart and very well educated.  Based on his weekly column in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal he is often insightful and entertaining.  However, his recent answer to the question of whether people’s salaries accurately reflect the value they provide to society, lacked wisdom. 

He lamented the fact that many people create a lot of value and don’t get paid much, citing teachers as the best example.  I am going to leave aside the obvious fact that most rabbis probably feel that rabbis are underpaid and a liberal arts graduate with a bad choice of majors probably feels intuitively that specialists in Byzantine frescoes are underpaid.  I am leaving those aside as I leave aside the fact that Dan is a teacher because I am not that interested in the feelings of rabbis, liberal arts graduates or teachers.  I am much more interested in their thoughts than I am in their feelings.

It was Dan’s closing sentence that revealed a lack of wisdom.  Here it is:

“Maybe one day we will evolve as a society and base people’s salaries on their actual contribution to the common good.”

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Bye, Bye Baby

August 20th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Just over a week ago, Susan and I were blessed by the arrival of a new granddaughter. Along with her parents, we, her siblings and cousins are excited to welcome her. At the same time, we know many couples of ‘grandparent-age’  who have no grandchildren and, at the moment, see none on the horizon. 

Many of these folks chose to delay marriage and limit the size of their own families wanting to be able to nurture their careers, provide their children with “extras” and save for future college expenses. They encouraged their own children, both sons and daughters, to establish their careers, sample a variety of romantic relationships and enjoy the early years of adulthood before getting married and starting a family. Quite a few of them are still waiting for their now thirties-something children to begin thinking of marriage and children. Some of them have been informed that building a family   isn’t part of their children’s vision and even marriage may or may not happen.  

What seemed like a prudent and good idea for how to organize a family is now causing disappointment and pain. They are facing a yearning for grandchildren, or in some cases great-grandchildren, whom they assumed would naturally come along. They failed to recognize that building a legacy of generations is not an automatic  default condition. 

In the Book of Ruth, Naomi advises her widowed daughter-in-law to get to know a local nobleman by the name of Boaz with an eye to marriage. 

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I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – Not!

August 12th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

The Second Continental Congress, acting as the national government of what was soon to become these United States, met in Baltimore from December 1776 until February 1777.  During this time, Baltimore was the largest seaport through which most of the young country’s imports and exports moved.  It wasn’t until the 1830s that New York supplanted Baltimore. 

What was responsible for New York replacing Baltimore as the largest trading city in the country?  In my view it was nothing but a great big ditch about forty feet wide and four feet deep that stretched 363 miles from Albany on the Hudson River to Buffalo on Lake Erie.

It was the largest, most daunting and most expensive engineering project imaginable. Tens of thousands of men dug it with their picks and shovels.  The earth was moved by horses pulling primitive equipment.  The Erie Canal took eight grueling years of men relentlessly driving through limestone mountains and cutting through dense forest.  Rocks and tree stumps were blown up with black powder since dynamite would not be invented for another forty years.  It rose 600 feet from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes necessitating the construction of 48 magnificent stone locks to raise and lower boats.

The canal was completed in 1825 and began carrying passengers and cargo across New York State at a fraction of the cost of wagons.  The economy of New York grew meteorically as it rapidly became the busiest seaport in the country.

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