Posts in Thought Tools

Two by Too(th)

August 4th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 5 comments

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

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

B:  I got 49 heads and 51 tails.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   שנים  two                  שנ tooth

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

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

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

                                  שנה  year                שנ  tooth

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

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

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

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

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Breaking Up or Breaking Through?

July 27th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

ש ב ר

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

But exactly the same word also means place of birth:

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

משבר

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

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

ש ב ר

Ancient Jewish wisdom expresses this equation:

Breakup    =    Birth     =     Sustenance

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

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

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

שברו

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

שברתי

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

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

Breakup        Birth         Sustenance

…if you react with analysis and optimism.

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Return to Normal?

July 20th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

When will things return to normal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* government indoctrination camps formerly known as public schools

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Only Six More Years?

July 14th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 67 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Character, Not Curriculum

June 30th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

מ     ל    כ
C       L      M

M – Mo-aCH – Brain

L- LeV –  Heart

C – CaVeD – Liver

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

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

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

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

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

Caved – liver – bodily appetites

Lev – heart – emotions

Mo-aCH – brain – the intellect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Cure Is Hated More Than The Disease

June 23rd, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 38 comments

How do you like this allegory?  Once upon a time, there was a wonderful country filled with happy people. It wasn’t perfect, but there was hardly a citizen who’d rather be living somewhere else.  Then a wicked and ugly old witch whispered her evil curse over the land.  Little by little some children stopped getting educated and grew up illiterate.  Some children grew up sullen, surly, and unemployable. Many little girls, even before they grew up, fell victim to overgrown boys of poor character and many little boys grew up to become vicious thugs who enjoyed inflicting violence and pain on other people.  Because of these curses, many people suffered from poverty.

One day it happened that a beautiful good witch took pity on the once happy land and gave a priceless present to the people.  They gathered around to unwrap the gift. “What could it be?” they asked. Finally, the colorful wrapping was removed and the box was opened. Inside they found a big pot of magic paint.  “What do we do with it?” they asked.

The beautiful good witch stood up to explain and everyone listened silently and respectfully. “Paint a small patch of this magic paint upon the right ear of every newborn child,” she instructed. “All children with a small daub of this paint upon their ears will study diligently until they have acquired an excellent education. Every one of these children will be quickly hired by good employers or they will start their own businesses.  They will all grow up to be peaceful and law-abiding and they will marry before having children.  What is more, they will all prosper financially,” she pronounced.  Then, in a cloud of blue smoke, she vanished.

Upon hearing these words, the leaders of this once happy land immediately made it mandatory for every newborn to receive a daub of magic blue paint upon their right ears before leaving the hospital with their mothers. Like vaccinations, the blue patch as it became known, was declared a public health matter and complying was mandatory.  Well, it didn’t take much more than about twenty years and the country was again happy.  Once again the land was peaceful and filled with productive people.  The land returned to harmony, happiness, and prosperity.  The End.

Every allegory has a germ of truth in it; that is what makes it an allegory.  This one is no exception.  There truly is one simple thing that can be done for every newborn which will reduce its chances of poverty by over 85%.  That one thing will also increase the probability of the child getting a good education by 220%.  Furthermore, that one thing will almost eliminate the likelihood of the child getting into trouble with the law and reduce teenage pregnancy to almost the vanishing point.  The good news is that all these wonderful outcomes are almost inevitable if only one thing is done. It doesn’t even involve painting a blue patch on every child’s ear.

The bad news is that the one simple thing that can be done to bring about a wonderful life for every child is to make sure that it is born to a mother who is married to its father and that it is raised in a stable two-parent home.  Almost all else follows. Are there exceptions? Yes, sure, just as in any group of 320 million souls, there will be thousands of exceptions to the rule that people have five fingers on each hand.  That doesn’t change the truths that most people have ten fingers and that most children raised in stable two-married-heterosexual-parent homes do far better in life than those who weren’t.

For this happy outcome, it is necessary for parents to fulfill their obligations to their children and for children to fulfill their obligations to their parents, chiefly by respecting them in accordance with the fifth of the Ten Commandments. 

For that to work, there has to be both a mother and a father.  It goes against the grain for most women to insist on honor, even from their children.  If men insist on honor from their children, they look like bullying buffoons.  There is only one way children can learn to honor their mothers and their fathers: Mom teaches them to respect dad, and he, in turn, demands that they respect and obey their mother.  That is why this additional verse emphasizes not just the abstract ‘parents’ but explicitly ‘mother’ and ‘father’.

Each person should revere his mother and his father, and keep my sabbaths,
I, the Lord, am your God. 
(Leviticus 19:3)

This verse is not only about honoring our parents. It is also about the 7th day, the Sabbath.  In fact, the really interesting thing about this verse is that it actually encapsulates 3 of the Ten Commandments.

Commandment number 5, “Honor your father and your mother…” (Deuteronomy 5:16)

Commandment number 4,  “Keep the sabbath day…”   (Deuteronomy 5:12)

Commandment number 1,  “I am the Lord your God…”   (Deuteronomy 5:6)

If you’re lucky enough to receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers you anxiously search for a card that will tell you who sent it to you, its source. If we were merely materialistic beings, all that would matter are the tangible things–the flowers. But as spiritual beings, we recognize the flowers as symbolic of an abstract relationship. We want to know the source.

One of the important ways we retain our cosmic balance in a big and confusing world is by remaining linked to sources. “Who said that?” you ask the person to who spoke a beguiling quote. Does it matter? Yes, sources and origins do matter. “I got this recipe from my mother-in-law.”  “You see this hammer? I inherited it from my grandfather.”  Genealogy is a growing Internet theme.  We all want to know where we came from. One of the terrible curses of that wicked old witch is the large number of Americans who don’t know the name or the whereabouts of their fathers. 

Leviticus 19:3 says to revere your mother and your father. Apart from all the good they have done you, they are your source.  They are your connection to yesterday.  And remember the Sabbath because it too is a reminder to an origin. In six days God created heaven and earth and on the seventh day, He rested. Look around you. Everything you see had an origin and a source. The ultimate origin of all is of course God Himself hence the final phrase of Leviticus 19:3.

But it all starts with having a mother and a father to revere.  And making sure that every born child has his and her rightful legacy of a mother and a father is surely the business of anyone who claims to care about people.

It is not about protests, it is about parents. If you care about people suffering from poverty, make sure every child is born to a married mother and father. If you care about violent crime, do everything you can to ensure that every child is born to a married mom and dad. If you care about educational failure and want to stop multi-generational dysfunction, end the curse of children growing up without fathers.

It is shockingly hypocritical for elected lawmakers and officials, community leaders and activists (What are they? Who pays you to become a community activist?) to blame loudly for society’s problems everything imaginable except the one major cause; the cataclysmic failure of marriage and family.

We don’t need blue paint patches. What we need are influential people courageous enough to stigmatize publicly women, no matter how rich and famous,  who have child after child without being married. We need brave voices to condemn and marginalize men who impregnate women and then walk away.  America learned to stop smoking and it learned not to drink and drive. In a frighteningly short three months, America learned to distance and wear masks. Why can’t it learn that letting a helpless child tumble into the world without a mother and a father is terrible for the child, terrible for society, and just plain wrong? 

Promoting culture and government policies that destroy the traditional family has not led to greater happiness and prosperity. We have become afraid to proclaim that success is grounded in the Source, our Creator. Our mission is to share the Bible and ancient Jewish wisdom, the blueprint that lays out what leads a society to thrive or to shrivel. Our costs have increased, and on July 1, most of our prices will rise. This week is a great chance to stock up before that takes effect.

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All or Nothing

June 17th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Sadly, but readily, I’ll confess that I am no dancer.  It’s not that I wouldn’t like to be Fred Astaire on the dance floor.  It’s just that when I dance, more than anything else I resemble a drunk trying to trample a cockroach.  One of my many problems in this arena is that I remember only one thing at a time.  I can remember a kindly advisor (actually it was a contemptuous teenager) at a family celebration telling me to wave my arms.  This I can do, but since the rest of me stands as rigidly as the Statue of Liberty the overall effect is less Astaire and more like a seizure.  When I remember to bounce lightly on my toes while syncopating my feet, well, we’re back to stomping cockroaches.  It really is important to apply all elements of an integrated solution; to use all the recommended ingredients in a recipe.

Running a business means taking care of production, marketing, accounting, and several other key areas.  No matter how proficiently you pursue only one of those, if the others are neglected, you won’t see success.  Building a happy and tranquil family also depends on simultaneously progressing on a number of fronts.  A military campaign is another example of this principle.  If an invasion is successful but the air cover and supply lines are neglected, all is lost.  No complex task or project can be accomplished with blinders on.  One must understand all the components that taken together comprise success and then figure out how to move forward on them all at the same time.

Part of Israel’s success as a modern, democratic state is surely due to her ability to focus simultaneously on defense, tourism, industrialization, infrastructure, immigration, and many other concerns.  In all likelihood, understanding the total picture entered the DNA of Israel from the following Scriptural source:

And you shall guard them and do them [the laws and statutes] for doing so
[is evidence of] your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations who,
when they hear about ALL these statutes will say,
“Surely this is a nation of wisdom and understanding”.
Deuteronomy 4:6

Ancient Jewish wisdom describes how this verse would have read almost identically had the word ALL been omitted. 

…when they hear about these statutes (they) will say, “Surely
this is a nation of wisdom and understanding.”

See what I mean?

Nonetheless, that word ALL is vital.  If the nations see Israel observing and doing only selected laws and statutes, perhaps only those they feel emotionally drawn to, the result would be quite different.  The nations will not say, “This is a nation of wisdom and understanding.” Instead, they are more likely to say, “How weird, bizarre, and generally inexplicable is this nation!”

Revering only the parts of the Bible we like the sound of does not make us effective children of God; it subjects us to ridicule.  Seeing the Bible as the comprehensive life plan that it is, not only makes us effective but it also makes us admired.

There are those who take the Bible seriously on family matters but who ignore it at work.  There are those who meticulously study the Bible and obey its edicts on charity and justice but who regard its rulings on other social issues to be anachronistic.  All the folks in these examples are getting as much benefit from the Bible as they would from eating a culinary delight prepared by a careless chef who omitted a few key ingredients.

When you respect the Biblical statutes, that important word ALL is the key.  If you try to make a bed so perfectly that a sergeant’s coin bounces off the blanket, you need to pay equal attention and apply equal tension to ALL four corners. God’s word is no different. Perhaps certain concepts resonate with us while others baffle us. That is irrelevant.  We do well to recognize that they are all intertwined.

We met some of you because you were drawn to our business teachings; others of you first found guidance in our family resources. Our goal is to keep the various parts of your lives and ours in balance, casting an ancient Jewish wisdom lens on these four essential areas: Family, Finances, Faith, and Friendship.

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Peace or Pandemonium

June 9th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 13 comments

Boating without a chart and a compass is quite unthinkable.  Even on land, maps help me make sense of otherwise confusing environments that can feel almost unknowable.  Before the advent of the Global Positioning System, otherwise known as GPS, roadmaps were ubiquitous.  I have heard that (before my time), gas stations used to hand them out for free.  To this day, when I arrive in a new city for the first time I feel uneasy until I have acquired a large-scale street map on which I can locate my surroundings. 

A young relative on a road trip recently phoned me from his car.  He was trying to get from one side of a busy city to the other and wanted to know if there was a beltway that encircled the city or whether he had no choice but to drive through the city center as his GPS instructed.  This is a question that could be instantly answered by consulting a map but, not having one, he called me.  He knew that I had a big box of road maps for almost every North American location and that I’d be happy to help him.  I was still astounded that he embarked on a 700-mile journey without a paper map in the car.

Those who are elected, anointed or appointed to run the day-to-day operations of a society are often subjected to extreme pressures.  Those pressures are particularly powerful if that society is closer to a democracy than to a tyranny. In the latter, those applying pressure can ‘be dealt with.’  In a democracy, however, if enough people demand something, even something that will eventually imperil that society, it is very hard for representatives to resist. And without a roadmap, people will sometimes demand things that promise pleasure, satisfaction or even revenge now but will decidedly bring destruction and doom down the road. Without a roadmap, politicians often lack a reason to resist the dangerous populist call and administer wisely rather than merely compliantly.

The study of physics, chemistry, biology, and other authentic sciences helps us feel less alienated from the physical world in which we live.  Things happen for a reason and we don’t need to fall back on mythical monsters and vengeful deities to explain why thunder follows lightning, how microbes help our digestion and why certain elements undergo radioactive decay.

While science is clearly a vital tool in trying to understand how the world REALLY works, it cannot provide information about those things not measurable by scientific method.  It can tell us little about the role honesty and integrity play in the life of a person and a culture.  It provides no reliable data on the sources of profound human happiness and it often provides contradictory information on how to marry successfully and how best to raise the progeny of that marriage.  For these and countless other questions vital to human survival, we have to turn to another system every bit as powerful and just as reliable as the scientific system.

I think of this system as the general theory on the totality of all existence, otherwise known as the Biblical system of knowledge. It makes our world as comprehensible as a roadmap makes a new city and allows us to anchor ourselves to a unifying integrity.

This truth is reflected by the arrangement of the Days of Creation in Genesis 1, each of which concludes with an ordinal number; third day, fourth day, fifth day, etc.  The exception is the first day of Creation. Rather than saying, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day,” the verse reads:

… there was evening and there was morning day One
Genesis 1:5

In Hebrew, the number one, ECHaD, has no ordinal form. If we need to say first, we use an entirely different word RiSHoN, which literally means, “head of” as in the head of the line.  Each of the subsequent Hebrew numbers follows the ordinal pattern such as fourth or seventh.

The reason that the Lord’s language doesn’t admit an ordinal form of one is that when we use numbers such as sixth or eighth we imply that there are more of whatever we are counting coming along.  However, ancient Jewish wisdom views one as unique by definition.  It always references the singleness of God and the unifying integrity of His creation. There is nothing like it coming down the road to make it only the first (of several).  Since one is associated with God, it is one and only one.

While there are thousands of ways to destroy a skyscraper, a bridge, or a precision watch, there really is only one way to build each of those things, and that is by meticulously following blueprints. Aesthetics and embellishments can differ, but you must adhere to the basic rules of engineering. There are also thousands of ways to destroy the civilization that enables millions to live in peace, to work productively, eat to their fill and obtain medical help when needed. However, there really is only one way to build it and maintain it. That way is detailed in the Manufacturer’s Manual for the Maintenance of Civilization, the book otherwise known as the Bible.  Details of observance can differ, but the basic rules are fixed in stone.

The number one becomes very important when there are not a lot of ways of keeping something alive.  At a time like that nobody wants experimentation, they want the one way that is guaranteed to work.

Step one of that reliable way is that we try to avoid making dramatic and permanent changes in the machinery of society in the very midst of turmoil. When turbulence is roiling what used to be a more serene surface of society, people are emotionally driven; and emotional feelings ignore facts. Just as we must wait for a tsunami to subside before building dikes, so we have to let feelings calm before we see what path we should take. That is true for marriage, child-raising, business, and society.

We present these Thought Tools with the prayer that they help us keep number One in mind. As our Creator, He alone understands us best. Access three years of Thought Tools to sculpt your soul and share with others with our Thought Tool Set. This collection of teachings is on sale now.

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Three Wise Men

June 2nd, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 18 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 on for size.  I think you’ll be surprised at how precisely it accounts for your experiences in the real world. 

We read of three Bible characters whose wisdom was admired and whose guidance and leadership was sought: Joseph, Daniel, and Mordechai.  Each withstood alluring attempts to get them 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.

And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find anyone like this man in whom the spirit of God is’?  Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In as much as God has shown you all this, there is none so smart and wise as you are you shall be over my house, and according to your word shall all my people be ruled.’
(Genesis 41:38-40)

We encounter Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.  The Babylonian King, intending to entice them into the Babylonian aristocracy, arranged for them to be fed his royal, but unkosher, food. 

And the king appointed them a daily portion of the king’s food, and of the wine which he drank; and to bring them up during three years, that at its end they might stand before the king.  Among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
(Daniel 1:5-6)

Refusing to surrender their Hebrew identity, the four heroes requested a purely vegetarian diet (which is by definition kosher).  The king’s steward, nervous about disobeying the king and being held responsible for the four Jews’ not looking well-fed, hesitated.  Daniel made this suggestion:

‘…test your servants, I beg you, ten days; and let them give us only vegetables to eat, and water to drink then let our faces be looked upon before you, against the faces of the other young people that eat of the portion of the king’s food; and according to what you see, deal with your servants’.  So he consented to them in this matter, and tested them ten days and at the end of ten days their faces appeared better in appearance…
(Daniel 1:11-15)

After resisting the appeal of the king’s food, Daniel and his colleagues became recognized for wisdom:

And the king talked with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah…in all matters of wisdom and understanding that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
(Daniel 1:19-20)

Finally, we meet Mordechai who refused to bow to the wicked Haman. Each day, courtiers tried to persuade Mordechai to submit.

It came to pass as they spoke daily to him and he did not listen to them, that they told Haman…And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow, nor did him obeisance, then was Haman full of wrath.
(Esther 3:4-5)

Though it would have been so much easier to submit to Haman, Mordechai stood firm, loyal to his spiritual identity.  Not surprisingly, as the book ends, we read:

And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordechai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?..Mordechai the Jew was next to King Ahasuerus…
(Esther 10:1-2)

What phenomenon is playing out in all these cases? Leviticus 11:43 sheds light.

וְלֹא תִטַּמְּאוּ בָּהֶם וְנִטְמֵתֶם בָּם

…nor shall you make yourselves impure with them [forbidden non-kosher foods] that you should become impure by them.

The underlined Hebrew root (in blue) for impure is  טמ, pronounced TaM

Ancient Jewish wisdom asks what the repetition of the root word TaM adds to the verse. The word has a second meaning—foolish. The response explains a cause and an effect.  If you take the action that makes you impure, then you will inevitably become a lessened person.  The effect is not temporary. 

The message is that yielding to bodily appetites reduces the chances of a happy and fulfilled life.  Submitting to our hedonistic urges gradually reduces our life effectiveness.  If practiced multi-generationally, it eventually produces less self-disciplined and less wise people.  The process of exercising self-restraint and saying ‘no’ to ourselves makes us more suited to leadership.

In other words, adhering to Biblical faith, its rituals of restraint and its principles is a key to wisdom, leadership and success. Tragically, we see examples of too many people in the streets today who have been raised without God and utterly devoid of Biblical principles. They are destroying civilization as they reject any idea of “Thou Shall Not” let alone loving one’s neighbor.

Listening to God’s word not only makes you a better person, but also a wiser one. It forces us to confront ultimate issues and to face ideas that really matter.  To make the exercise as easy and enjoyable as possible we have produced a set of over 150 Thought Tools collected into three volumes and they are now on sale. This is literally a marathon run for your mind and a super stretch session for your soul.

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The First Time You…

May 26th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

In the charming 1980 South African movie masterpiece, The Gods Must Be Crazy, the Kalahari bushman hero found an empty Coca Cola bottle dropped from his plane by a careless pilot.  No life experience or knowledge gained till now prepared Xi to understand the bottle’s purpose.  He couldn’t imagine its value other than as a magic talisman. 

In a similar way, no education or experience in the lives of many young men today prepares them to view a wife as anything other than an economic asset in an attractive package. They marry with a picture dancing in their minds of the larger house for whose mortgage they will now jointly qualify.  Understandably, they can’t imagine the magic of a marriage partnership in which each partner carries responsibility for a separate specialty just as in a successful business partnership.

Social media and occasional news articles reveal the existence of an informal association of women devoted to the homes and families of the husbands who happily support them.  These women, in the U.K., Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States gather beneath the banner of traditional wives and have assumed the hashtag #Tradwives.

Angry voices in mainstream media malign these women in terms so vituperative that you’d think traditional wives drank the blood of journalists.  You might have thought that feminism’s commitment to “choice” would praise these wives for making their own unconventional choice. Yet, they disparage these wives in the vilest ways going so far as to drum up today’s ultimate charge—racism.  Yes, these primitive and bigoted women are not only setting back women’s “progress” by decades, but they are obviously trying to have and raise more—that’s right—white children.

(more…)

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