Comparison Shopping

August 16th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

This week was very unusual for me. While plenty was happening around the world and across our land, within our family, nothing out of the ordinary happened. No holidays, celebrations or guests; no illness or crises. While time often seemed to drag when I was a child, as an adult the weeks usually speed by as if on a dizzying roller coaster. Next week, a crowded calendar beckons once more, but this week was blissfully clear.

I actually managed to look at my non-urgent-to-do list and methodically worked my way through parts of it. I trashed a pair of hole-ridden slippers and a three-decade-old pot that desperately needed to retire and replaced them. I added cuffs to a dress and replaced the battery in my phone. I organized photos for a Grandma Camp project, exercised, and, to my husband’s delight, made supper every night.

This unusual spurt of activity led me to drop in at stores I don’t often frequent and also to spend time browsing online. I found myself caught in a shopping conundrum that is new for our time. I went to a craft store hoping that browsing the aisles might stoke my creative juices as well as to get advice on the best adhesive to use for a particular undertaking.  I was confronted by a befuddling array of glues. Asking the young salesgirl to explain the difference between two products resulted in her shrugging her shoulders and telling me that she had no idea. She was probably a summer hire and could just as easily have been selling hammers or ice cream. I went home, did some online research reading buyers’ reviews of the various products and ordered.

With very different results, I visited a small, locally owned sewing store seeking a backing fabric for some embroidery. The saleslady there directed me to choices and joined in the hunt, getting excited with me when we found something that made the design pop. Being out and around provided a stimulation of its own and while I wouldn’t want to be at the mall regularly, physically walking into stores reminded me of the diverse population that lives around me.

College professors decry the tendency of students to watch class lectures online while mental health professionals on campus warn of depression accentuated by spending little time with fellow students. Brick and mortar businesses are closing, unable to compete with their own on-line platforms as well as those of competitors. Online options are often cheaper, more numerous and don’t need you to find a parking place. You can order at any time you have available even if briefly sandwiched between other obligations.

Yet, we lose something when our lives revolve around a computer rather than around each other. French schools are outlawing phones in elementary schools, deciding that playing at recess should involve something other than each student staring at his or her individual screen. I don’t think we can regulate adults in the same way, but I, for one, would be sorry to see commerce move entirely online. This relaxed and laid back week reminded me of the balancing act we tread as technology affords us unprecedented options that easily fool us into thinking that we are surrounded by people, even as we, alone, sink more deeply into our couches. 

I am looking forward to next week with its frenetic schedule and a full house.  As exhausting as it all can sometimes be, God created us for interpersonal connection and I well know that a quiet week is only enjoyable because it is unusual.

P.S. If you are interested in children, education or homeschooling, I hope you’ll check out my new Practical Parenting section. This week’s latest posts are: Why Did You Pick Sonlight?, What Are You Really Teaching?, and Should I or Shouldn’t I?

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What does the Bible say about moms working outside the home?

August 14th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 29 comments

What does Ancient Jewish wisdom aka the Bible say about moms? I am naturally a hard working professional however I am also a relatively new mom.

My husband provides, I stay home with my 1 and 3 year olds. If I did work we could make some upgrades.

This topic wasn’t mentioned in Business Secrets from the Bible. What do you say about it?

Amber T.

Dear Amber,

What does the Bible say? The assumption underlying the Bible’s prescription for life is that if each person fulfills his or her obligations, the society will prosper. The basic component of the society is the family, not the individual (though of course there are provisions for those who are alone). Together, a man and a woman make a unit where each of them and any associated children can physically, emotionally and economically thrive. The unit suffers if both husband and wife do exactly the same things, just as a business partnership where each partner does exactly the same as the other would make no sense.

To this end, in the Torah, women are not obligated with most of the positive, time-bound commandments. What does this mean? Women, like men, may not murder, steal or gossip. These are negative commandments. The Torah  obligates women to observe the Sabbath and eat kosher. But commandments that require one to be somewhere or do things in a time-limited manner, such as appearing at the Temple in Jerusalem (or today in synagogue) or even being forced to testify in a court case, are not incumbent upon women. The idea is that a woman is not asked to do anything that would conflict with her ability to care for her household and children. That is her primary responsibility.

Our culture’s message is quite different. Somehow we have turned work into a woman’s prime responsibility as well as painting it in a rosy glow of self-fulfillment as if we are all highly paid and stimulated CEOs of multi-national corporations. To this end, it is most important that our relationship with our children not be allowed to interfere with our training or career advancement. Our children are secondary to our professional aspirations. Hence the demands that government and business change until that is so. That’s certainly not how we see the world.

Here are some of the questions that we would ask you and your husband to consider. And we reject the idea that a husband should say, “It’s her decision,” about matters that impact the big picture of the family any more than a wife can say, “It’s his decision,” about those same matters.

  • Is this entirely a financial matter?
  • Are you being swayed by social pressure that tells you that being with your children is betraying your level of intelligence and training?
  • Are you feeling unfulfilled at home and if so, why? Do you know other young mothers or do you find yourself sitting in the park with nannies and babysitters?
  • How many hours would you need to work to manage those “upgrades” taking into account paying a baby-sitter as well as associated costs like wardrobe upgrade, more prepared food, travel expenses etc.?
  • How do the “upgrades” compare with being the prime influence in your children’s lives and being able to focus on your marriage?
  • Is there something that you can do that will either bring in some income without upending your home situation or that will provide you with credentials or education for the future?
  • Do you crave being a hard working professional or would you prefer to see yourself as a hard working professional wife and mother who does something else on the side?
  • What provides you with soul-satisfaction? What can you do to get more of that from an avenue other than career?
  • Do both you and your husband value what you are doing as a mother or do either of you take it for granted or disparage it?

The most important thing we think you and your husband should do is to picture your goals and dreams for the future, both for you as a couple and you and your children as a family. What is important to you in terms of who your children become? Whatever you do in the short-term should build towards that long-term vision. In that way, you will remain true to your responsibility where family is your primary concern.

Enjoy all the different stages of your life,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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What Are You Really Teaching?

August 14th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 2 comments

Each parent cares more about some areas of learning than others. If I want my child to be at home in many places, I may emphasize languages. Maybe I care more about English skills than science fluency or the other way around. Sports, dance, music and art are examples of other sectors that some of us care about more and others care about less.

For those of us who are religious, teaching Bible, Torah and religious texts is important. Herein lies a dilemma. We can sometimes forget what our goal is.

For Jews who are faithful to God, Sabbath observance is a core of our lives. Yet, my husband tells of men he observed when he was a young boy, who would smoke (a Sabbath violation) as they studied traditional Jewish texts with great erudition on the Sabbath. Their knowledge was intellectual but skipped their Jewish souls.

What I really care about when it comes to teaching Torah to my children is that they have a close relationship with God and His Word. I am not interested in their getting a PhD in religious studies; I want this relationship to be at the core of everything they do.

However, knowledge does matter. Their relationship is likely to be stronger if they are comfortable with Hebrew. Knowing verses by heart means that they can call on them as needed. Being familiar with texts lets them have a more mature relationship with the Torah as they grow rather than being stuck with juvenile Bible stories. The only way to achieve this proficiency is through often laborious study that will sometimes have them complaining and frowning.

I reposted a Susan’s Musing, Should I or Shouldn’t I, that is somewhat on this topic. The fact is that any worthwhile endeavor takes a lot of work. Yet, people who laze through their lives aren’t generally as happy or successful as those who learn to work towards a goal with diligence and rigor. “No pain, no gain,” applies to learning as well as to exercise.

At a young age, before they have the thrill of mastery, children’s feelings towards God and religion will be formed largely by the atmosphere in their homes. If Bible, synagogue or church, holidays and prayer are greeted with warmth and excitement, that is how they will feel. If they associate their parents with coldness and stress, that is the lens through which they will see God.

I was not successful in always making Bible and religious studies fun and exciting. Sometimes it was just hard work. I’m sure I could have done better. I probably sometimes wrongly held back in my demands out of fear of negative associations as often as I missed opportunities to bring lessons alive. The delicate balance between challenging the intellect, maintaining standards and nurturing the soul, all of which are necessary, is a tightrope that every parent, homeschooling or not, walks.

Don’t Tell the Boss

August 14th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

A common dilemma in business is when your immediate boss responds to growth by appointing a supervisor above you.  In addition to a layer of management now insulating you from your boss, it becomes especially unpleasant if the new manager is an outsider.  Whatever the difficulties, one thing any experienced business professional knows is that going over your new supervisor’s head directly to your old boss can be a career-killer.

This makes a sequence of events late in Genesis especially surprising.  Like many of our Thought Tools, this one will definitely repay you if you read it with an open Bible .  Pharaoh appoints Joseph viceroy over Egypt saying, “Only the throne shall be higher than you.”  He repeatedly admonishes Egypt that Joseph’s word will rule in all matters.  (Genesis 41:40-45) 

It must have been a tad awkward for those senior administrators who formerly enjoyed direct access to Pharaoh himself.  Nonetheless, Joseph gets to work diligently making the most of the seven years of agricultural and economic abundance.  (Genesis 41:48-49)

So it is astonishing when the Egyptians approach Pharaoh directly.

The entire land of Egypt was starving and the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread.
(Genesis 41:55)

Not surprisingly, Pharaoh does what most competent bosses would do—he reminds them of Joseph’s authority and sends them right back to Joseph.

What could possibly account for the Egyptians acting in a manner that seems so irrational?  Pharaoh had emphasized Joseph’s absolute power so clearly that it is unthinkable that they simply forgot.  What made them go over Joseph’s head and submit their appeal directly to Boss Pharaoh?

Ancient Jewish wisdom comes to our rescue.  The clue is the precise wording in Pharaoh’s response to them.  Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians,

…Go to Joseph, that which he says to you, you must do.
(Genesis 41:55)

Ordinarily, in conventional Biblical style, we’d have expected Pharaoh to have said, “That which he commands you, you must do.”  The word ‘says’ ( Hebrew root AMaR) is especially incongruous here since it usually means casual conversation.

Happily, another usage of that word helps us decode its secondary meaning.  In Psalms 119:162 King David says, “I rejoice at Your saying…”  using that same word. This use of AMaR alerts us to hidden meaning. 

The full story is that David uttered these words while in the shower!  That’s right, standing nude with water sluicing over him, David was suddenly overwhelmed by a depressing thought:  Stripped of clothing, I resemble just another animal.  Is that really all I am; just an animal trying to look better than other creatures by donning fancy clothing? 

Glancing down in the midst of these dispiriting musings, he realized that his male member was circumcised.  He was instantly filled with exultation realizing that no animal deliberately marked its body in accordance with God’s directives.  “I rejoice at your instruction to circumcise” said David.  He was after all, not an animal but a human touched by God. 

It is from this account that we understand that the Hebrew root AMaR has a secondary association.  Not only does it mean oral communication but it also means circumcision.  Returning to Joseph in Egypt, we now understand that what Pharaoh really said to his people was, “Go to Joseph, he told you to circumcise, go and do it.”  (Genesis 41:55) No wonder the Egyptians weren’t quick to listen.

It turns out that when the seven years of famine began people began starving immediately.  (Genesis 41:54-55)  I have noticed that many English translations wrongly insert the word “When” at the beginning of verse 55 which mistakenly conceals the suddenness of the transition from having bread to starving.

Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that the Egyptians did first go to Joseph.  He asked them why they were not eating from food that they surely stockpiled. They responded that their stored food went rotten overnight. “Oh well, in that case,” said Joseph, “you must circumcise.” 

The Egyptians were so outraged at this insane-sounding instruction that they went over Joseph’s head to Pharaoh.  Predictably he told them to obey Joseph.  But why would Joseph tell the Egyptians to circumcise themselves? 

God imbued people with appetites for both sex and food.  Harm inevitably follows immoderate self-indulgence in both.  Furthermore, loss of all constraint in sex usually impacts the food area too.  Which is to say that people who live out their sexual obsessions may lack “enough to eat” meaning that their lack of self-discipline can diminish their ability to accumulate wealth.  Food is of course the most basic use for money. 

Circumcision is a symbol of God’s rules over even the urgency of sex.  We mark that most demanding of organs with a symbol of restraint and self-discipline.  Not surprisingly, those with restraint in the sexual area generally possess it in the financial area too.

The intricate details of these fifteen verses in Genesis 41 help us understand a very subtle but very real relationship that God built into the world.  In Biblical nomenclature, Egypt is associated with licentiousness. 

Our drive for food (money) is inextricably linked to our drive for sex.  If we yield entirely to our lower selves in the sexual arena, we’re liable to suffer in the money area.  It’s interesting to note that America’s economy seemed like an unstoppable juggernaut until the aftermath of the so-called sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s.

The deterioration in America’s economic power in the world that began in about 1979 was at least partially due to increasing numbers of people wanting more and more in exchange for less and less.  This is exactly the economic consequences one might expect to see coming to a population ever more of which desires more sex and less commitment. 

Commitment means marriage and nobody is surprised by government statistics showing that among families headed by two married parents just 7.5% live in poverty while in families headed by a single parent the poverty level jumps to 33.9%.

Thus, we discover two mistakes that can hurt the ability to earn money.  One is that there is no good way to go over your boss’s head to his boss. The second is that life’s different areas are sometimes unexpectedly linked.

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Why did you pick Sonlight?

August 10th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

Dear Susan,

I really appreciate you breaking out the parenting musings from the past into a separate webpage. Every time you mention homeschooling on AJW  (the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show), I’m all ears.

I know you said you’d discuss curriculum later, but I’m curious as to what part of Sonlight you used. It’s hard for me to justify paying so much for the history packages which seem to be full of trinity theology, but my husband prefers that I find a curriculum package this year. Any thoughts on curricula that come close to being Torah centered would really help. I tried Homeschooling Torah for a while, but found myself having to constantly correct and alter the material. I spent more time prepping than teaching. I only have seven or eight years left with my daughter as a homeschooler. I want it to be a more gratifying experience for both of us!


Hi Suzanne,

One of my dream jobs would be as a curriculum and resource evaluator of educational material. However, that in no way fits into my life right now. I can’t speak in an intelligent fashion about what is currently on the market  because my youngest homeschooler graduated over a decade ago. I sometimes hear about resources from my daughters who are teaching their own children or from friends, but I am pretty much out of the loop.

Having said that, I can tell you why I loved some of the things I used. It could be that they still have the features I enjoyed, there could be others doing the same thing much better and/or they can have changed tremendously since I knew them. For example, one of my friends has used Calvert very successfully for seventeen years but found them changing in the recent past and is trying something new this fall. One of the thrills of homeschooling versus, say being a classroom teacher, is that you don’t have to use things that don’t thrill you or don’t match you or your child’s learning styles. The flip side of that is that you need to do your footwork though it is easy to connect with like-minded people today and compare notes. Do you have people with whom you can share the journey? 

I used Sonlight for two years. I only found them late in my homeschooling career. Their philosophy included a skepticism about workbooks, a love of literature, natural learning, a love of literature, an emphasis on teaching thinking, a love of literature, etc. You get the picture. I loved their catalogue just for the reading lists it included.

I believe that both years we used Sonlight we did American history and I can’t say that I ran into any theology issues. I chose not to do some of the years where the focus might have been more on Christianity, like in European history. Sonlight does come from a Christian perspective – just look at their name, but other than replacing one or two books, I don’t remember it being a concern. There was a support chat group known as “Secular Sonlight,” but I didn’t find it very helpful because I was coming from a religious perspective, even if it was a different one than the program had.

However, it seems that enough people loved Sonlight but wanted less focus on missionaries and Protestant religious figures, especially in world history, that they have made a spin-off called BookShark. I haven’t seen it, but it definitely might be worth a look for you.

The years I used Sonlight, I was preparing material for one child vs. other years when we were a full house. That allowed me to spend time enjoying the literature with my daughter. It gave us a base that seemed a good compromise between completely structured (like Calvert) and creating a curriculum from scratch, which I did do some years.

I have to tell you one anecdote. My husband was speaking at an economic conference when one of the participants came over to introduce himself. The name on his badge looked familiar and I soon realized why. It was John Holzmann who along with his wife, Sarita founded Sonlight. I think I acted a little star-struck and immediately called my daughter (now in her mid-twenties) whose reaction couldn’t have been more excited than if I told her I was chatting with her favorite music star. We both remember those years of learning with great joy.

If Sonlight isn’t going to do that for you, then you aren’t a match. I will follow this with a post on integrating Torah studies into whatever you are using. One of the reasons I liked having a base course of study is that I could spend more of my time focused on preparing the Torah and Hebrew studies.

Hope this was helpful,

Susan Lapin

Why Discriminate?

August 9th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 25 comments

Have you ever played the game Taboo? The goal is to get your teammate to guess a hidden word by giving them clues, but there are certain words you mustn’t use in guiding them. So, if the mystery word is “lemon,” the words “tea” and “car” might be taboo – if you say either of those your turn ends.

Our society has started resembling a game of Taboo. I thought of this when I read about the recently reported scandal at  Japan’s Tokyo Medical University. Entrance scores were rigged to penalize women so that they had to score much higher than men in order to get into the medical school. I’m not a fan of cheating, but I admit to feeling sympathy for those who are trying to run schools, businesses or organizations in the real world while hampered by high-sounding, unrealistic pronouncements unrelated to actual life and which are intended to signal virtue.

While we lived in Los Angeles, there was a period when newspapers were banned from stating that an apartment had a scenic view. The elite powers-that-be decided that this was a hidden form of discrimination against the handicapped, discouraging those who were blind from renting. Foolish as that sounds, the absurdities of anti-discrimination laws has only abounded.

The outcry at Tokyo Medical University’s manipulation of applicants’ data seems to be less at the dishonesty than at reviling the premise that led to the action. In apologizing for what the school did, managing director Tetsuo Yukioka, said,  “I suspect that there was a lack of sensitivity to the rules of modern society, in which women should not be treated differently because of their gender.”

Similarly, we are constantly being told that government-mandated parental leave and day-care is needed so that women can pursue careers without being penalized for having children. Diversity is flung about as a conversation-ender. Once that word has been uttered words such a freedom, experience, competence or profit are taboo.

Discrimination is real. It is not automatically without basis. When we were emptying out our flooded storage room last week we discriminated against one of our granddaughters who wanted to help. This was both on account of her age and gender. We favored her older brothers because we thought they could do the work better and more quickly. Fortunately, she did not complain to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

There is a very real fact that, on average, female doctors work fewer hours than male doctors. This is one of the reasons the Japanese medical school preferred the latter. Providing more maternity leave, legally mandating that jobs must be held for mothers when they want to return to work, raising taxes so that elderly parents have non-family care, instituting split shifts and other proposals aimed at making life easier for female physicians don’t change that original fact.

We accept that experience and time on the job make a difference for virtuoso violinists. If equal talent is a given, the musician who practices more is going to excel. If one violinist has a second passion for scuba diving and spends two months a year doing that, we do not insist that Carnegie Hall not be allowed to discriminate against his less developed violin skills. Why then is it wrong to ask if society is served more by a doctor who has seen 5,000 patients than 2,000?

In many fields, including medicine, more hours generally equate with greater competency and expertise. Author Malcolm Gladwell famously described how once a professional has reached 10,000 hours of experience, they become qualitatively more competent. Female doctors, as an aggregate, work fewer hours over the course of a lifetime. Changing that will mean forcing women to work even when they don’t choose to. Indeed, in some European countries with maternity policies that make American women drool, staying home with children beyond the mandated leave time is discouraged and made terribly difficult. Women are forced to go back to work against their will by the taxation that pays for these leaves and other policies.

We don’t want to move to a dystopian society that makes childbirth a restricted occupation. Nor do we want to prohibit people from choosing to spend time with family. Only draconian laws will force men and women to choose to allot equal time to those endeavors. Not allowing this to be discussed doesn’t change the facts.

Experience is not the only factor in choosing doctors, of course. Many patients, especially women, choose female doctors (discriminating against male doctors in the process) because they are more comfortable with a female or they equate women with more compassion. Individual doctors develop reputations which make patients want to see them. There are women doctors who excel at what they do and on a level playing field shine far above almost all their male counterparts.

However, it valid to ask what the goal of a medical school is. Is it to make money by providing a service for which tuition is paid? Is it to equip people to provide a service to their community and country? Is it to allow intelligent people with an interest in medicine to pursue that interest regardless of whether they will then use those skills? Is it to enable diversity even if the end result is less qualified or fewer available doctors? All I know is that those questions are taboo.

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Is it time to demand a raise?

August 7th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I am trying to decide if I am wrestling with a sense of entitlement, or have I truly experienced an injustice in my workplace.  My situation is this:  I have been given many additional responsibilities at my work due to an acquisition of my company.

My workload has increased greatly, but I have not received a meaningful raise to reflect this. The painful part is that other employees who used to do these tasks are still making the same salary.  In other words, they are paid the same to do less work and I am paid the same to perform  much more work.  Another by product of this arrangement is that my opportunities for advancement have been diminished. 

Should I complain, or demand a raise?  Or, should I just be grateful to have a job?

Chris T.

Dear Chris,

We appreciate that you are trying to look at your work situation from a number of different perspectives.  However, our answer to both the choice you present in your first sentence and your question to us in your last paragraph is: none of the above.

You don’t say how long ago your company’s acquisition took place, but there is an adjustment period when any big changes take place in a work environment. An injustice, albeit one about which you can do very little, is when the boss’ nephew gets double the salary for half the work. A sense of entitlement is when the boss’ nephew expects to get double the salary for half the work. During an adjustment period, it may take time for new management to get the whole picture, but they aren’t being unjust. Neither are you showing a sense of entitlement for wanting to be compensated properly.

Thinking in either of those terms, “injustice” or “entitlement” suggests an emotional analysis rather than a businesslike approach. We heartily recommend that you remove emotion from the equation.

Similarly, complaining is a bad idea in general because that is a release of emotion rather than a productive step. Demanding a raise is also an emotional phrase. Instead, you should build the case for explaining to management what you are doing currently and what you can and hope to do for the company. If you don’t have a work review scheduled, you should try to schedule one.

Practice presenting your facts in an unemotional way. You can certainly say that you would like to advance in the company and would appreciate being told what skills you should work on developing to set yourself up for that.

Before you go in for a meeting, you need to decide if you are willing to look elsewhere for a more suitable job or if you hope to stay where you are. How strongly you speak will be a function of that. No one should “demand” a raise, unless he or she is willing to leave if the answer is no. We would recommend not pulling that trigger unless you are sure the gun is loaded – in other words, you have other options on the table. Even if that is the case, human nature pushes back against demands, so we would encourage you to use more tactful language.

We assume that this is an ongoing situation rather than your response during the turmoil of the first few weeks under the new circumstances. It is a good opportunity to take stock and assess your abilities. You may choose to accept the situation or make plans to improve it. In general, feeling resentful is detrimental to both those choices.

Wishing you success as you sideline the emotion,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Be a Heel

August 7th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

High heeled shoes for women, and at times for men, go in and out of style. Yet, two English expressions that revolve around the heel seem to be negative. We speak of someone’s weakness as his Achilles heel and we use heel as a pejorative term as in, “He’s such a heel.” 

In the Lord’s language, the heel means something quite different.  It implies progress made possible by being properly grounded.  Just think of how we move forward by walking. The first part of our body to touch ground is our heel. We then swing forward on that perfectly shaped round heel and prepare the next step.

In Hebrew, Jacob’s name, Ya-AkoV, contains within it the word heel.

ע ק ב          י ע ק ב

   (Ya)A-K-V          A -K -V
Jacob                Heel

If ‘heel’ were a verb, Jacob’s name would suggest, “He will heel”.  But that would be meaningless.  What does Jacob’s name mean?

Let’s try to understand by looking more closely at the verse describing the birth of twins Esau and Jacob. 

And afterwards, his brother emerged, and his hand was grasping Esau’s heel (A-K-V), and he named him YaAKoV…
(Genesis 25:26)

But there is a problem. 

Jacob’s action was grasping.  The heel was almost incidental.  It’s not impossible that had Esau been aligned differently, Jacob might have grasped his arm.  So, the younger brother’s name could more appropriately have been Grasper because that is what he did.

In reality, however, a careful reading of Genesis 25:26 shows that there is no “because”.  Scripture does not specify ‘therefore he called him’. 

In many other instances throughout the Bible the verse is quite clear as to why someone is named.  Here are two examples:

And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has seen my affliction, for now my husband will love me.”
(Genesis 29:32)

And it came to pass, in due course, that Hanna conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, because I have asked him from the Lord.
(I Samuel 1:20)

But when Isaac named Jacob, it was not because of anything. 

Or was it?  What does this word A-K-V mean?  Is it only heel?

In order to understand the full meaning of Jacob’s name, we need to be aware of four other times the word AKeV appears.

1:  God cursing the serpent in the Garden of Eden: … He [man] will strike you [using] the head, and you will strike him [using] the A-K-V. (Genesis 3:15)

2:   An angel of the Lord promising Abraham:  And through your children shall be blessed all the nations of the world, A-K-V  you hearkened to My voice. (Genesis 22:18)

3:  God speaking to Isaac:  A-K-V Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My instructions. (Genesis 26:5)

4:  Moses speaking to Children of Israel: A-K-V  you will heed these ordinances and keep them and perform them, that the Lord, your God, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. (Deuteronomy 7:12)

Looking only  at 2,3, and 4 you might think that A-K-V means because.  But Hebrew has perfectly good and often-used words for because. There is much more to A-K-V. 

We begin to understand this word better when we note that the three-letter word A-K-V, has a numerical value of 172, This links it, In ancient Jewish wisdom, to the Ten Commandments which have a total of 172 Hebrew words. (Exodus 20:2-14)

Now we are getting somewhere.  Let’s examine these four verses above in the light of ancient Jewish wisdom’s explanation of this very special ‘code word’ A-K-V. 

Abraham will be the source of blessing on account of the depth of his commitment to authentic Biblical values: hinted at by A-K-V.

Isaac is being told that his mission comes because his father, Abraham, really listened to God’s voice and kept all His Biblical rules: hinted at by A-K-V.

Moses is teaching that if we want God to keep His covenant that He swore to our ancestors then we need to heed these authentic Biblical values: hinted at by A-K-V.

And what of the Serpent? The serpent is synonymous, according to ancient Jewish wisdom, with Satanic forces intended to distract mankind from God.  God is not saying that the Serpent will bite our heels and we will stomp on his head. Rather, the Serpent, manifested by our desire to do wrong, knows that the way he can best strike us is by attacking our Achilles heel, our urge to rebel against authentic Biblical values— hinted at by A-K-V. The only way we combat this is by using our heads to dominate our desires.

Isaac named his son, Ya-AKoV, prophetically seeing he would remain true to the values of grandfather Abraham, hinted at by A-K-V. Doing likewise keeps us well-heeled indeed.

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In Defense of Wolves

August 6th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

As part of the Practical Parenting column, I am re-running Susan’s Musings that had to do with parents and children. The “Little Yosef” of this column is now a fifteen-year-old young man who spent the last two weeks hauling water-sodden loads out of our flooded basement. 

Little Yosef, age 6, is busy writing stories about fending off wolves and building log cabins. The Little House on the Prairie series and other books depicting the same period have stimulated his imagination.

His mother tells me that he is particularly taken with the idea that children not that much older than he is now might be left alone to do a daunting job and expected to cope with all contingencies that arose.

While I don’t believe his parents are even close to handing him a rifle and instructing him to protect the homestead, Yosef’s fascination with the concept of responsibility is a positive one. As the eldest of four children, he already has been initiated into the club of those who know that what they do matters to the family. If anything his mother, as an eldest sibling herself, is sensitive to not putting too great a load on his young shoulders.

Nevertheless, hearing this made me realize that it is not always easy to give boys the soul satisfaction they need for healthy growth, especially as they approach and live through their teen years. While it is not healthy for either boys or girls to feel that they are takers rather than givers, in other words, to be solely occupied with their own happiness, concerns, education, and friendships, I do think it is harder for boys to move beyond that. At the risk of provoking a firestorm, a girl who takes care of younger siblings and helps with meals and laundry while recognizing that these are not made up chores for her but actually are needed for the house to function, can feel rightly valued. A boy who takes care of the baby and chores is indeed making a needed contribution, but I don’t think it fills a psychic need. Boys need to face physical challenge and slay dragons.  Just watch them seek danger and risk.

I’m not eager to see thirteen-year-olds return to the coal mine or fifteen-year-olds hauling cement rather than going to school. But with the implementation of child labor laws and the fear of litigation hovering over employees, in addition to urbanization, we have removed from teenage boys many opportunities to test themselves and their courage, strength, tenacity and resilience. Playing football may be hard work, but it cannot compare with knowing that the family is eating because of crops you harvested or a salary you earned doing construction work. Today’s rare prodigy is making big money creating a new iPhone app, but somehow I don’t see masses of boys doing so, and I doubt if the industry is being spurred by a realization of the family’s economic need.

As our society and schools become increasingly geared towards feminine predilections, encouraging Yosef and his fellow males to grow into healthy men becomes a more difficult and less easily resolved task. How do boys discover manliness with nary a wolf in sight, and too frequently not even a father or role model, to be seen?

Since I wrote this, I think the culture has moved even more to portraying boys as either bullies or feminized. If I was raising boys today, I would actively seek out older boys’ adventure stories. In general, I’m a fan of older books (though there are some excellent new ones as well).

If you have boys, I suggest taking a look at Farmer Boy in the Little House on the Prairie series. Check out Little Britches by Ralph Moody and if it goes over well, it is the first in a series of books. Girls will enjoy these books too, but it seems to me that there are more books available where girls are the protagonists and it is worth making the effort to find books that highlight boys. The recommended reading age for these books is 7 or 8-12, but you need to know your child. Especially when you are reading aloud to a child, which I heartily recommend, most younger children will enjoy books above their independent reading level.

What Homeschooling Resources Do You Recommend?

August 3rd, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 3 comments

That is a bit like asking me for the secret of successful marriage or how to build a multi-million dollar business. In the final analysis, while there are many useful home-schooling resources and taking advantage of the hard work done by others is a no-brainer, as human beings each of us has to independently sift through available material or chart our own path.

Each parent and each child is an individual. What appeals to and is effective for one person will repel or bore another person to tears. The same material introduced at a different stage of life may well get an entirely different result. I remember when Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage was assigned as mandatory reading for one of my college courses. I found it the most boring book imaginable. Years later, the Sonlight (o.k., I guess I did mention one resource.  I will speak more about it at another time.) curriculum I was using with my twelve-year-old daughter included that very book, which elicited an unarticulated groan from me.

Little did I know that the book, which we did as a read-aloud and followed up by going to see a dramatization presented by our local youth theater, would have both my daughter and me completely enraptured. Boring? Not in the slightest. At the right time and presented in the right way for the people we each were at that stage of our lives, it was riveting.

Whether we are talking about educating ourselves or facilitating the education of our children, there is no magical path that lets us just “buy this” or “enroll in this” to guarantee success. If I had to isolate one characteristic that separates successful education from its opposite, whether is it in or out of the classroom, it would be a passion for learning. If you can stoke that passion, you are on your way to success.