No Results Guaranteed

March 17th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 3 comments

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

The book of Exodus ends with the completion and assembly of the Tabernacle.  The description of assembling the materials, building the vessels, and sewing the tapestries and clothing for the Priests are in the active tense, “and he made,” “and he placed,” with one exception.  Verse 40:17 says,  “And it was in the first month of the second year on the first of the month that the Tabernacle was erected.”  The actual assembly of the Tabernacle is said in a passive voice, “was erected.”

Why? Ancient Jewish wisdom describes that after the children of Israel brought all the components of the Tabernacle to Moses it was time to assemble it.  God wanted to give Moses the honor of actually assembling the Tabernacle but the planks and pieces were so huge and heavy that Moses knew it was impossible for a human being to lift them and put them in place.

As ancient Jewish wisdom beautifully states, Moses said before God, “How can it be erected by a human being?” 

God said to him, “You do your part—make an attempt so it looks as if you’re doing it, and it will rise and be assembled by itself.”

And that is why the verse says, “…the Tabernacle was erected” in a passive voice. It assembled itself.

Wow!  I’m going to share with you an idea that I would have rejected as a mother of young children, but has become very dear to me as they have grown older.  We put in our effort.  We make an enormous effort to parent well, to be good mothers.  And that is our responsibility. We have to make our attempts. To the rest of the world it may look as if we are raising our children!  But the truth is that just as it appeared as if Moses was lifting the Tabernacle and it was really happening independently of him, the development of our children is really independent of us.  The outcome of how our children turn out, what type of person they become—that is up to God. 

I have a friend who went to speak to a Torah scholar about one of her children who was born with innate behavioral challenges. Despite years of various efforts and therapies, my friend was still very concerned about what would be with this child in adulthood.  The Torah sage told her, “That’s not your concern.  You put in your effort to be a good mother.  You make an effort to research doctors, providers, and treatments within reason, and that is all!  What will be with him and who he will become is not dependent on your actions.  That is up to God.” 

Our children’s successes are not due to us, and our children’s struggles and failures are not ours either.  Our job as mothers is about effort;  the outcome is independent of us and dependent on God (and the child’s own input).

This is really a mind-blowing idea and it may not resonate with each of you, and that’s okay.  For me, it resonates.  We put in our best efforts, do our best and have faith in God who can bring about the results without our help, in the same way as the Tabernacle was assembled.

Twinkling Talent

March 14th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

Please don’t tell the budding musicians in my family but, while I go to their first concerts out of love for them, the music isn’t all that great. Hot Cross Buns and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star grow old rather quickly, especially when played by novice violinists and violists.

This past Sunday, I went to a cello concert, once again motivated by love. This time, the performers, who only a few years ago debuted with the songs mentioned above, provided the audience with a rewarding musical experience. We heard the music of JS Bach and Saint-Saens, Bruch (my grandson’s piece) and Paganini. While not yet quite concert-level performers, these young teenagers’ playing revealed the hours of disciplined practice they have invested. It was a delightful ninety minutes.

There was much to admire. The teachers and parents’ dedication and the youths’ hard work and love for music all obviously deserve praise. But something else jumped out at me as well. The five young men and two young women who performed came from different ethnic, religious, economic and racial groups. In addition to their perseverance and talent, they shared something else in common, something that used to be taken for granted but no longer is. Looking around the audience of relatives and friends (and one woman I spoke to who came because she loves music), I saw mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles. And I realized that many teenagers today don’t have that extended family network to cheer them on.

There are the teens whose mothers decided to have a child on their own, depriving their offspring not only of a father but of one set of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as well. There are the teens who had one parent walk out of their life when a marriage ended—and those whose parents never married to begin with—where one parent didn’t want the responsibility of a child. Certainly, there are fortunate teens whose extended families widen to include step-parents and additional loved ones, but they are outnumbered by those who have fewer adult figures in their lives than biology would suggest. In most cases, the missing figures are men.

There are more than a few foolish women who argue that men aren’t necessary in a child’s life. The entire (false) concept that pregnancy is an issue of “a woman’s body–a woman’s choice”  has been drilled into the culture suggesting that anything other than a man’s biological contribution is superfluous. The idea that any and every variation of family is equivalent is so widespread, that I rejoiced not only in the euphonious music but also in the web of love and support that surrounded these young musicians.

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A story from ancient Persia or one that is playing out today? 

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Can pork ever be kosher?

March 12th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Jews can’t eat pig because it’s a scavenger and eats the dead therefore unclean. If the pig is farm raised it doesn’t eat the dead so would it be clean to eat?

Miguel

Dear Miguel,

We are choosing to answer your question because you are in not alone in your misconception about kosher food. The mistake you make is quite common, but it is based on a completely incorrect basic premise.

Not eating pig has nothing to do with it being a scavenger. The prohibition is based on Leviticus 11:7 where God specifically forbids it with no reason given. That animal is singled out and mentioned by name because it has one of the two signs that mark an animal as kosher.  Pigs have split hooves but do not chew the cud.

This prohibition is, for example, different from the injunction not to harvest the produce of the land of Israel during the Shmittah cycle every seven years (Exodus 23:11). In that case, Israel has developed a healthy industry in hydroponics growing crops in glass houses and in large trays of water. Carrots, as one example, aren’t the problem; the problem is only carrots grown in the earth during that special seventh year. Not so with the pig —regardless of how it is raised, the animal is forbidden, end of discussion.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explores the difference between God’s laws that a rational society might eventually understand on its own and those laws that human beings would never intuit. Laws against stealing or murder seem to make sense to us, while committees could meet for years and not come up with not mixing wool and flax (Leviticus 19:19). The important thing to understand is that, whether or not we understand or can think of benefits of these laws, we follow them because they are God’s laws.

We find it interesting that today there is even controversy over those laws that civilized people once upon a time accepted.  As our society moves further from the Biblical vision we find much discord about abortion, euthanasia,  capital punishment and increasingly vocally about redistributing property.  We don’t all intuitively know and agree on the correct paths.

The bottom line is that we try, to the best of our abilities and to the extent that we can control our weaknesses, to follow God’s word. Part of that word tells us that no matter how healthy, clean, tasty or economical pork is, it is not going to be part of our diet.

Hoping that, like us, you get to enjoy all the wonderful and tasty food permitted,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Are there hints to current events in Scripture?

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Family and Work or Work and Family?

March 12th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 6 comments

As so often happens in life, I had two starkly different experiences within close proximity of each other. Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a wonderful woman who passed away at 93 years young. I was fortunate to sit near her in synagogue and at a weekly Torah class for the past few years and sharing a greeting and a few comments with her always gave me a lift.

As he eulogized his mother, her son provided some context for those who, like me, knew his mother as a vital, active, loving senior but who hadn’t known her in her younger years. He spoke of his mother going to work as a secretary in order for his parents to afford a private Jewish education for him. When she was directed to post an ad for a regional sales manager, she told her boss that she could do the job. Although in those years a woman sales manager was highly unusual, he gave her the chance to prove herself, which she proceeded to do. Yet, as her son pointed out, while she certainly took satisfaction in her work, the goal of working was to build her family and its future. Family and faith were always the priority. Yesterday, about sixty of her descendants paid loving tribute to that choice. 

Today, wanting to get a feel for what the general culture is offering, I tuned into a podcast aimed at young mothers. The hosts of the show were interviewing a successful writer who has two children, an infant and a toddler. The guest made the point that it is vital to get as much help as one can during the fleeting years that one has small children, so that one can retain focus on one’s career. After all, she said, (and I’m paraphrasing), your career is going to be the entire rest of your life.

Being able to choose to hire childcare so that one can focus on work is, of course, a privileged woman’s option. Mothers who are working so that there will be food on the table and a roof over their family’s head do not have that choice. But, the bottom line is, that while working for money and family may need to co-exist for many mothers, there is a subtle and not-so-subtle difference in how one lives based on which is the priority. Do we take time off from work in order to have children or do we take time away from our children in order to work?

Leadership and Levitation

March 12th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

A friend once invited me to join him and several other guests on a day sail off the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.  After his rhapsodic description of the classic sailboat and his praise of the captain whom I was going to be fortunate enough to meet, I could hardly accept quickly enough.  My enthusiasm ran high as we gently glided out of Cape Town harbor and beyond the sheltering mass of famous Table Mountain.

They only renamed the Cape of Good Hope because its original name, the Cape of Storms, terrified early sailors discouraging them from signing on to crew the ships of the Dutch East Indian Company.  That afternoon it lived up to its original name.  The winds howled, the waves tossed around our seventy-foot masterpiece of teak wood and canvas and we all struggled mightily to reduce the sail and bring the powerful vessel under control.

Strangely enough, the captain who had been resplendent in his smart blazer and cap during the calm first hour while offering drinks and regaling us with his adventures, was nowhere to be seen.  We were all too busy (and frightened) to wonder where he was.  In his absence, we did our best trying to learn one another’s strengths and skills as we exerted our last ounces of energy defeating the wind and water.  Once we were finally through the storm and calmly ghosting back into the harbor our captain reappeared in full regalia and blusteringly explained to our exhausted little group everything we had done wrong.  I whispered to my friend that I had just gained an unforgettable lesson in what leadership was not.

Leadership means being there with your people during the storms and wars of life.

Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites.  Moses began his career when God appeared to him at the Burning Bush (Exodus chapter 3) and Joshua started his when Moses appointed him in accordance with God’s directive. (Numbers chapter 27) 

A notable difference between the launch of these two careers is that Moses is instructed to remove his shoes at the very start of his conversation with God.

… Remove your sandals from your feet,
for the place on which you stand is holy ground. 
(Exodus 3:5)

Joshua isn’t told to remove his shoes until five chapters into the Book named for him.

… Remove your sandals from your feet,
for the place where you stand is holy.  And Joshua did so.
(Joshua 5:15)

Shoes (like pants) haven’t changed their function for thousands of years.  Neckties come and go; hats, scarves and jackets sometimes have nothing to do with keeping warm, but regardless of their appearance or style shoes have always served to keep people’s feet off the ground.

The concept is that God created humans not as another kind of animal and not as an angel, but as something in between.  He created us as creatures exquisitely suspended between earth and heaven, which is to say, between the spiritual and the material.  We are not supposed to be so spiritual that we reject the joys of life and disdain its pleasures.  Neither are we supposed to be so material that physical pleasure is all we seek.

Walking barefoot on the ground suggests being so attached to the earthly that the heavenly and spiritual are way beyond our grasp.  On the other hand, think of levitation.  Whether in Christianity, Hinduism or some Hassidic sects of Judaism, the idea that super-spiritual and saintly personalities could spontaneously hover above the earth was quite popular.  In reality, God says, don’t walk on the ground; you’re not animals.  But don’t levitate above the ground either; you’re not angels.  Instead find your equilibrium between heaven and earth by standing on a layer of leather or rubber which keeps you just above, but not too far above, the earth

Here are two times when shoes are removed:

1.   When God speaks to someone as He did with Moses at the Burning Bush and with Joshua outside the walls of Jericho, the incandescent Divine power can be too overwhelming.  It can sweep the mortal heavenwards leaving him ill-equipped to continue normal life and fulfill his mission.  The antidote is to anchor oneself firmly to earth by removing shoes.

2.   During the first week of mourning for a close family member, the grief and the weakening, but still palpable spiritual connection with the soul of the departed, can easily dislodge the mourner from his normal position of spiritual-material balance.  Again, the antidote is to eschew shoes during that week, allowing the mourner to engage in the process of returning to the normality of life on earth as a living person.

This leaves us with the question of why Moses’ overwhelming encounter with God came right at the beginning of his life work while Joshua doesn’t encounter God’s angel until just before the attack on Jericho.

In order to make sense of this, we should examine Moses’ entreaty to God to appoint his successor.  He specifically wants Israel’s new leader to be someone…

…who shall go out before them and come in before them,
and who shall take them out and bring them back in.
(Numbers 27:17)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that this verse refers to military leadership. Moses wanted a leader capable of leading the nation through the many wars awaiting them as they conquered the Promised Land.

However, he did not want the future leader to be someone who sent Israel off to war from the comfort of his palace.  He insisted on a leader who would go with his people onto the battlefield and bring them safely home again. 

After being appointed in Numbers 27, Joshua’s first battle is the imminent attack on Jericho.  God now appears to assure him that if he follows instructions, the war will be won.  This precisely parallels God appearing to Moses at the Burning Bush and assuring him that he will successfully lead Israel out of Egypt. 

A real leader’s role is neither ceremonial nor symbolic; it is to be together with his people, helping them overcome and survive the frightening challenges that accompany all levels of achievement.  Each day, among our families and friends and in our business or professional lives, there are wars to be fought and won.  Every meaningful goal to which we aspire requires a hard fight.  It’s almost as if we can actually feel the universe resisting our efforts.  Being right there with those we lead is the task. Helping them vanquish the enemy and bringing them home safely again is what leadership means. 

I later discovered that our captain was far better known for telling tall tales around yacht club bars than for any real sailing prowess.  For really helpful leadership lessons, ignore the showy people in flashy clothing and study Biblical figures like Joshua.

The Scroll of Esther, read by Jews on next week’s holiday of Purim, is full of leadership lessons that are particularly appropriate as showy people spew hatred of Jews (and Christians) in Congress. Now is a great time to follow the fascinating trail linking Persia, Islam and Nazism that started in Genesis and continues through today. Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam, on sale right now, will astound you with its timeless truths.

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On California’s Radical Policies

March 7th, 2019 Posted by AAJC Happenings, On Our Mind 1 comment

We loved this line from Professor Charles R. Kesler in the Wall Street Journal and thought you would enjoy it too:

“Karl Marx called his kind of socialism “scientific,” as opposed to his predecessors’ “utopian” fantasies. California appears to be pioneering a third kind, which might be called “infantile.”  Our Democrats strongly suspect their programs won’t work and know they can’t be paid for—but want them anyway.”

Speak Up Before You’re Shut Up

March 7th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

At a certain point in United States history, western expansion hit the Pacific Ocean.  Having built a country whose legends included families crossing the Atlantic in search of religious and economic freedom and sagas of thousands of ‘Pa Ingalls’ who kept moving west as previously sparsely settled areas were populated, this vast body of water presented a problem. Where could the rugged individualist now go?

I’ve got good news for those who dream of living back in the days when a man could grasp the reins of his life and determine his own destiny. Today, you don’t even need to leave your own home to do so.

Whether you went west on the Oregon Trail or followed the Gold Rush frenzy, one thing was always true. Even when embarking on the journey with a group, major decisions and responsibilities lay with the individual. Blind faith in an expedition’s leader was rare. Failure and success usually depended upon one’s own instincts, skills, hard work and family.

As America got older, that changed. Public schooling meant that parents didn’t have to teach their own, supermarkets negated the necessity for growing one’s own food and the wild success of the industrial revolution meant that most items could be bought rather than homemade. Political decisions too, migrated from community, to state, to Federal control.

All those developments, however, relied on a general trust in the infrastructure. While there were always shady characters in and out of government, in general, there was a feeling that the number of good people heavily outweighed the bad ones. That feeling is rapidly eroding.

It is becoming increasingly clear that many important elements of our livesamong them parts of government, the public educational system and large portions of the media—are no longer trustworthy. That is the bad news. The fact that the lies and betrayal are now blatant is the good news. It tells us that if we are being fooled, it is not the cleverness of the liars but our own decision to ignore reality slapping us in the face.

This past Shabbat, my husband was again the rabbi in residence for the Young Jewish Conservatives group at the huge CPAC conference in Washington DC. By arranging for kosher food, prayer services and other essentials, this group makes it possible for Sabbath-observing Jews to still attend CPAC.  It also attracts many who, although not necessarily Torah-observant in every aspect of their lives, are nonetheless eager to connect with other politically conservative Jews.

Each year we come away uplifted from these Shabbats. This year, however, more than usual, I sensed a palpable, vibrant activism bubbling to the surface. There seemed to be a recognition that, despite anti-conservative bigotry and hatred from professors, employers, family and friends, keeping one’s views to oneself was no longer a viable option. 

One of the speakers, who addressed the crowd at CPAC shortly before President Trump, was Brandon Straka. During the past few months, anytime I felt pessimistic about this country’s future, I would check out the #walkaway stories on Brandon’s Facebook page. In a movement he started less than a year ago, thousands of Americans have posted a video or written their story telling why they are walking away from the Democrat Party. Most of them voted for Barack Obama, a majority voted for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Yet, since President Trump’s election these citizens have become aware of how the Democrat Party is choosing to foment hatred, violence and divisiveness. They have found the media lies, hypocrisy and prejudice impossible to ignore. And these individuals are choosing to walk away.

If you aren’t familiar with this movement, take a moment to look it up. Watch Brandon’s interview with Mark Levin (who spoke powerfully for us at the Shabbat gathering and whose wife, Julie, and her mother, Sylvia, have for many years been among the guiding forces and inspirational energy behind the Shabbat event). Forward one or both links to a good person in your life who needs some shaking up. Those leaving testimonials aren’t venturing into unknown physical territory like the early pioneers, but they are bravely asserting their individuality in a way that the pioneers of this country would recognize and applaud.

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How can I best ace a job interview?

March 5th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Hi Rabbi Lapin and Susan Lapin,

I am a great follower of TCT ancient Jewish wisdom. It is a great show and most importantly inspiring for life. I have a quick question.

I have graduated with my MS in mechanical engineering, but still I am facing difficulties in  finding a job. Could you please give some useful tips on how to sell.

All the best for your works. God bless your family,

A. J.

Dear A. J.,

Congratulations on earning your MS in engineering.  Unlike a degree in gender discrimination in Russian literature, your degree is a real accomplishment. But, and it’s a big but, a company is not hiring your degree, it is hiring a complete person who possesses a degree.

Potential employers want to know much more than merely that you can solve differential equations.  They want to know about your integrity, your intelligence, your persistence and grit, your resilience and optimism, and they want to know your loyalty.  A piece of paper proves your degree but these other equally important characteristics can only be sensed by an interview.  Therein lies the importance of the interview and in being really thoroughly prepared for that interview.  It is in the hope of discovering these qualities that your interviewer will ask you many questions that seem to be quite disconnected from engineering.  It is your total demeanor that will offer the interviewer clues to your entire personality.

So we agree, indeed you do have a quick question; unfortunately, we don’t have a quick answer. But we will try to guide you towards a path to the answer.

We aren’t clear whether you are talking of learning how to sell yourself in job interviews or whether you are thinking of entering the profession of sales. Many of the same tips apply to both areas.

Whether you are selling yourself and your skills or a service or product there is one important concept that you need to keep in mind. While obviously, you need and expect the salary, fee or commission to be paid to you, your focus during the interaction needs to be on how you are benefiting the other person. How will this company be better off if they hire you? In what way will your customer’s life improve if they purchase this item from you? Why is it in the person’s best interests to form a relationship with you?

Once you believe in what you are selling you want to set yourself up for success. A vital feature of sales (and job-seeking is a sales job as well) is resilience. You have to be able to bounce back from rejection. After every job you don’t get or sale you don’t make, you should analyze what you could have done better, but then you pick yourself up and make another effort. It is worth doing mock interviews/exchanges with a trusted mentor who will give you feedback on ways you can improve.

Whether you are interviewing for a job or whether you are in a sales meeting with a potential customer, your most important tool is your mouth.  Are you projecting your voice confidently?  Are you articulating your words clearly?  Are you using the best vocabulary?  Do a mock interview with a good friend and video tape your performance. Carefully study it and identify areas needing work.  Our book Thou Shall Prosper addresses the details of how to increase the effectiveness of your communication. 

We urge you to invest sufficient time and energy in research.  So many applicants squander job interviews by failing to know enough about the company with which they are interviewing. Similarly, knowing as much as possible about the sales prospect with whom you’re meeting can spell the difference between success and failure. 

No matter if it is your engineering skills or a kitchen appliance, people are more likely to do business with you if they know you, like you and trust you—or know someone else who does. When we moved to a new city, we didn’t open the yellow pages to look for a doctor —we asked our friends. We do the same thing when we’re in the market for a new refrigerator and, yes, for a new employee.

Be a part of your community and of as many lives as you can.  Don’t forget that most jobs are filled via personal introduction not advertisements.  Most companies prefer to hire friends of existing employees and often reward those employees for suggesting candidates.  Ask trusted relatives and friends how you come across in social interactions and listen non-defensively to their responses. We do have an audio CD that we recommend to you: Prosperity Power: Connect for Success. It is on sale this week and is chock full of recommendations for ways that even introverted and shy people can expand their circle of connection.

Wishing you the best in whatever you pursue,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Olive Oil and Resilience

March 5th, 2019 Posted by Your Mother's Guidance 1 comment

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Exodus 27:20 provides the direction to crush olives to prepare clear olive oil to use in the Tabernacle.  The children of Israel are often compared to olive oil.  One of these ways is that just as olives need to be pressed and crushed before they release their oil, the Jewish nation also reveals its beauty and greatness after going through periods of pressure.  History bears this out, where times of tragedy and oppression have led directly to periods of great spiritual greatness.  After the destruction of the Second Temple came a huge period of Torah learning as happened also after the Crusades.

We know this to be true in our own lives as well.  I, and I’m sure you too, can look back on periods of great difficulty with gratitude.  We know that we have become stronger, bigger, better people by going and growing through hardships.  Rabbi Hauer in Baltimore calls this Post Traumatic Growth Syndrome. He connects it to the month in which Purim falls, Adar, versus the month of Passover, Nissan. In Nissan the Passover redemption happens miraculously and completely.  Adar is more complicated. After Haman’s plot is uncovered Esther tragically remains in the king’s palace and the Jews remain in exile.  Sometimes we have to work through difficulties to reach complete redemption.

I believe that this concept is important to remember as mothers.  Often the “mama bear” instinct is so strong in us, that we may want to shield our children from pain or stress.  Yet, our tradition, as well as current research on resilience, or grit, stress the importance of even children persevering through difficulties and bearing discomfort to come out stronger.  I recently had the opportunity to talk with school administrators who shared that due to parents complaining whenever their children feel uncomfortable because of their school workload, they respond by continually lightening the curriculum.

I know it’s painful to watch our children in pain, and I really hope you don’t misunderstand me.  I am not promoting hurting our children!  Yet, by allowing them to persevere and struggle through discomfort, we are giving them the greatest gift.  We are helping them recognize that they have tremendous strength and resources, that they have God’s help and love, as well as our own, and that we believe in their ability to rise above their circumstances.  We can build resilience in our children, but not by shielding them from discomfort.

Let’s try to share our own resilience and experience with our children.  We can share with them a challenge we faced in our day and how we were able to work through it.  We can share with them the strategies that helped us work through our challenge. We can share how we felt during that difficulty, and how we feel at the end of it.  We can model that pressure and discomfort lead to growth and greatness, just as the pressed olive, yields pure oil that can illuminate the Tabernacle’s Menorah (candelabra).

Angels, Actions and Achievements

March 4th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 22 comments

Gender is a smoking hot topic right now.  Depending on your world-view, you’ll either be offended or relieved to hear that for the purposes of this Thought Tool, there is no gender confusion.  The defining axiom is found as early as the 27th verse of the Bible—“…male and female He created them.” 

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the implications of this verse go way beyond the creation of Adam and Eve.  Not only does biological reproduction of humans, animals and vegetables depend upon the collaboration of male and female, but all creativity springs from the engagement of those two complementary opposites.  In trying to understand how the world REALLY works, this sexual insight is so foundational that God even gave every noun in His language a gender.

The chief difference between a feminine noun and a masculine one is that typically the feminine noun describes something capable of ‘giving birth’.  For instance, the word for a minor argument, RIV,  is masculine while the word for an ongoing feud in which every disagreement gives birth to yet another, MeRiVaH, is, not surprisingly, a feminine word. 

The Hebrew words for a cup, KoS, or ball, KaDuR, are both masculine because neither gives birth to anything else, however the Hebrew word for a thought, MaCHSHaVaH is feminine since every thought can give birth to another thought.  Similarly, the Hebrew word for an investment, HaSHKaaH, is feminine for the same reason.

The general Hebrew word for woman is ISHaH, obviously a feminine noun.  Typically, a feminine noun can be converted into its masculine equivalent by lopping off the feminine suffix—aH.  Thus, our generic word for a man is ISH.

You might think that since a father is AV, a mother should be AVaH. It is actually an entirely different word, EM, because a mother is not merely a feminine version of a father,  but rather a unique creation.

Now that you have a basic working knowledge of Hebrew noun gender, you should be able to predict the gender of almost any Hebrew noun on the basis of whether it ‘gives birth’. 

Try the Hebrew word for a game.  Since we often say, ‘oh it was just a game’ we correctly signify that there are seldom any meaningful outcomes of a game.  Not surprisingly the Hebrew word for game, MiSCHaK, is masculine.  I am sure you got it right.

How about work?  Is work a male or female concept?  Since work almost always produces some outcome, we’re not surprised that both main words for work, AVoDaH and MeLACHaH are feminine nouns.

What is the difference between these two words that appear to mean the same thing?  We derive a hint from how they are used in the Bible:

And they (the Egyptians) embittered their (the Israelites) lives with hard work,
with mortar and bricks, and with all
work in the field;
all their
work at which they worked them was with harshness.
(Exodus 1:14)

All four instances of work in that verse are the Hebrew AVoDaH providing us with the sense that AVoDaH is grueling and arduous.  It is seldom rewarding at the time but of course eventually yields its benefits.

The other word for work, MeLACHaH is the more satisfying and creative component of work though it is seldom attainable without the AVoDaH also having been accomplished.

We find both words for work combined in the Fourth Commandment, instructing us to remember the Sabbath day. 

Six days shall you work(AVoDaH) and do all your work (MeLACHaH)…
Exodus 20:9

Why do we need both words? God is giving us a significant message.  MeLACHaH is the creative work that transforms our world and uplifts our lives, while AVoDaH is work that lacks that exciting element. Yet we do not usually get to enjoy our MeLACHaH if we don’t first do our AVoDaH.

Life in Egypt was tough precisely because slaves have only AVoDaH with no possibility of MeLACHaH. But don’t dream that you can enjoy MeLACHaH without AVoDaH.  Integrating the two types of work makes everything possible.

Seeing one’s toddler blossom into a responsible teenager and then a thriving adult with whom you share a close relationship is incredibly exciting.  But this requires many hours of consistent and sometimes AVoDaH-like parenting. 

Closing a big transaction is thrilling. But many hours of AVoDaH in the form of hard work, disappointment and dedication precede the excitement.  Sometimes it is years of AVoDaH-like perseverance that lead to that MeLACHaH moment. 

Understanding how the world really works means knowing that we must tackle the AVoDaH of life with zest, enthusiasm and gratitude for being alive. Only this way can we reach the sheer magic of MeLACHaH, that part of our work which is so thrilling and so energizing that it becomes almost self-sustaining.

If MeLACHaH had a masculine form, what might it look like?  You know the rule—lop of the feminine aH suffix.

        מלאכ      מלאכה

       MeLACHaH         MaLACH
work                   angel

By shining the spotlight on the masculine core of creative work, MeLACHaH,  we find ourselves with the word MaLACH—an angel.  Once we have performed the tough preparatory work of AVoDaH and then throw ourselves into the MeLACHaH moment, we often feel a surge of strength and confidence we didn’t know we possessed.  In some almost mystical way, we have conjured up an angel through our creativity. Sometimes we can feel the angel alongside of us assisting us while whispering irresistible words of encouragement.  That is why the creativity of MeLACHaH often causes amazing doors to open, partners to materialize, and unseen collaborators to push our projects forward.

Right now, our 2 audio CD resource Prosperity Power: Connect for Succe$$ is on sale. It is full of tips and techniques that will help speed you through the AVoDaH phase of a project and propel you to take full advantage of the exciting MeLACHaH phase. Thousands have already taken advantage of this resource and this is a great opportunity to join that club.

Rabbi Lapin Download
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