Posts in Thought Tools

I Won’t Stand for It

October 20th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment
  1. “The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
    Shone round him o’er the dead…”

                                                            (Casabianca, Dorothea Hemans, 1826)

2. “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing…”

                                                       (The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)

3. Stood there and watched you walk away…”

                                                     (Haunted, Taylor Swift, 2010)

4. “How to Handle Getting Stood Up on a Date”

                                                       (Glamour Magazine, 2014, 2011, 2004, 1998)

The French captain’s son stood resolutely on the burning deck until he was finally consumed in the furious flames.  Though Edgar Allan Poe claims he stood there for a long while, I suspect that in reality he soon returned to his bed.  Taylor Swift stood there as her lover walked away but one assumes that she managed to replace him quite quickly.  The readers of Glamour who keep getting stood up, well, enough said.

There really ought to be different words in English for stood.  One can scarcely compare my different examples of standing.  One shouldn’t.  I won’t stand for it.

In the Lord’s language, there are indeed words to describe two different ways of standing.  One can stand firm like the boy on the burning deck; one might say, stand like a pillar.  Or one can stand there sadly like Taylor Swift, ready to be quickly distracted by someone else.

Let’s see a Biblical example of each kind of standing.

You stand this day all of you before the Lord your God.…
that thou shouldst enter into the covenant of the Lord thy God and into His oath…
(Deuteronomy 29:9-11*)

And it came to pass at the end of two years that Par’o dreamed;
and behold, he stood on the river.
(Genesis 41:1*)

When the Israelites stood before God to establish a special covenant, it was for all time.  In fact, the Bible makes clear that this covenant is being established not only with those Israelites who were standing there but also with all the future generations not yet born. (Deuteronomy 29:13-14*).  In other words, a permanent standing.  The Hebrew root used for standing is YaTZaV.

י   צ  ב

However, when Pharaoh dreamed that he stood on the Nile, not only did he not remain there for long, but it was a dream.  The Hebrew root used for stand is the far more common OMeD.

ע  מ  ד

The root OMeD is also used here, implying a lack of firmness:

And the magicians were unable to stand before Moses…
(Exodus 11:9*)

When the standing is more that of standing like a rock until one’s task is complete, the Torah uses the word YaTZaV. The use of this word in an unexpected place can give us deeper insight into a person’s actions.

For instance, “Behold I stand by the water well…” (Genesis 24:13*) said Eliezer as he prayed for success in finding the woman who’d become the second matriarch, the wife of Isaac. This resounds to Eliezer’s credit.

Knowing that there are two different ways of standing helps us translate our spirit into our posture.  When I stand in line at the check-out, I hope it’s not for long and so I don’t root myself to the ground.  However, when I stand up for principle, I want to be utterly immovable and, just as importantly, I want to appear to others as utterly immovable.

Deciding which principles one will stand up for unyieldingly is vital for successful living.  It allows one to know in advance which battles are worth fighting and which are better averted.

We are offering a sale this week on our Genesis Journeys Set as a powerful way to learn Biblical truths that Hebrew and ancient Jewish wisdom reveal. Each of the four audio CD sets (with a study guide) guides you to understand today’s personal and universal struggles and strengthen you as you take your stand.

Are you using our recommended Hebrew/English Bible?
*Deuteronomy 29:9-11 – p. 626 –  4 lines at the bottom נצבים
*Genesis 41:1 – p. 124 – 11th line from the top (after the paragraph break) עמד
*Exodus 11:9 – p. 188 – 13th line from the top, 2nd half of the line (reading right to left) לעמד
*Genesis 24:13 – p. 62 – last line. נצב

SALE: The Genesis Journeys Set

Genesis Journeys Set Genesis Journey Set Instant Download
The Genesis Journeys Set The Genesis Journeys Set MP3 Recommended Bible

Revised and reprinted from 2015

The Harder They Fall

October 13th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

In 1956, Humphrey Bogart played sportswriter Eddie Willis in the last movie he made, The Harder They Fall.  After many ups and downs, Bogart’s character achieves greatness.  Have you ever heard anyone say, “I don’t want to try too hard because I don’t need to be wildly successful,” or, “I don’t want to rise too far because the tallest tree catches the wind”?  Many of us have impeded our own progress by warning ourselves that reaching for the sky can bring a great fall.

While there may be some good reasons not to clamber up the cliff, that old Humpty Dumpty rationale isn’t it. Impeding our progress by warning ourselves that reaching for the sky can bring a great fall leads to not reaching our potential, a crime against ourselves and our Creator. It is so easy to succumb to wrong-headed thinking and sabotage our own potential that Scripture projects a powerful message to deter us.

Whenever a specific phrase is found in more than one location in Scripture, we are intended to compare and contrast the instances in which it appears.

For instance, the phase:   הִנָּ֥ךְ הָרָ֖ה וְיֹלַ֣דְתְּ בֵּ֑ן

appears in two places in the Bible; once in connection with Abraham’s first son, Yishmael, and again in connection with Samson.

The phrase has two meanings:

Behold you have conceived and will give birth to a son
(Yishmael; Genesis 16:11)

and

Behold you shall conceive and will give birth to a son
(Samson; Judges 13:5)

Since the tense of the English translation varies, many people with no access to Hebrew (and no rabbi) remain oblivious to the fact that both verses contain the identical phrase.

In fact, these are the only two instances in the Tanach of an angel directly informing a woman that she will soon give birth.  But that is where the similarities end. Among many other differences, the two sons marry differently.

Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, finds her son a wife:

…and his mother took him a wife from Egypt
(Genesis 21:21)

Samson finds his own wife, despite his parents’ disapproval of her (but in concert with God’s plan):

…get her for me as a wife
(Judges 14:2)

Yishmael’s life follows a steady trajectory from his birth in Genesis 16 until his death in Genesis 25.

Samson’s life is clearly divided into two sections.

From his birth in Judges 13 until the end of Judges 15, we see the Lord is with him constantly.

The second part of Samson’s life begins with him consorting with a harlot (Judges 16:1) and concludes with his death (Judges 16:30). During this time the Lord appears to have abandoned him.

Contrast the two phrases which conclude the two parts of Samson’s life:

And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
  (Judges 15:20)

…and he judged Israel twenty years. 
(Judges 16:31)

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that during the first half of his life his purpose and mission was defeating the Philistines and protecting Israel from them.  During the second part of his life, he largely forgot his mission.

Yishmael, even though he and his progeny were promised blessing by God, lived a largely uneventful life.

Samson, the heroic Hebrew Judge, lived a turbulent life the beginning of which he lived in accordance with God’s wishes and enjoying His blessings.  Tragically the latter part of his life was lived without his mission, without God, and without His blessings.

The contrast is between two men both of whose births were heralded by an angel and both of whom were blessed.  One became an ordinary man who never achieved any great good and never did any great wrong. The other became a larger-than-life figure, a giant man with giant abilities and giant appetites.  He played a vital role in Israel’s history, achieving enormous triumphs but also sinking to tragic depths.

Samson remains a Hebrew hero; flawed but heroic.  His passion for life led him to heights and his weaknesses led to his downfall.  But it wasn’t inevitable and he serves as a far better model than Yishmael.

God created us with the potential for greatness.  We all possess the potential for doing great good, but also for failing disastrously.  Being great doesn’t mean never desiring to do wrong or never doing wrong.  It means developing our resistance to wrongdoing.  With the lesson of Samson fresh in our minds, we can throw ourselves into the struggle for greatness confident that we will reap its blessings and fight its dangers.

Do you enjoy going deeper into the Bible? 
ON SALE THIS WEEK

The Genesis Journey Set

See the Hebrew for yourself in our recommended Hebrew/English Bible

Genesis Journey Set Instant Download Genesis Journeys Set

 

A Time for Everything

October 5th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

Whether because of COVID-19 or due to governmental reaction to the virus, these past months have provided a stark message to the world that many things are outside our control. Businesses have failed no matter how hard their owners labored; people have fallen ill no matter how many health foods they consumed, and political currents have destroyed cities no matter how decent the people who live there.

Imagine a baby newly aware of his ability to deliberately move his arms, hands and feet. Lying on a blanket near a window, he sees that each time he waves his arms, the leaves outside the window dance. Delighted with this power, he repeats his gestures. Suddenly, the leaves stay rigidly still and our baby bursts into tears. Unbeknownst to him, the leaves were responding to an autumn wind, not to his machinations.

There are things in this world that we can influence and other things that we cannot. One of the secrets to sanity and happiness is recognizing the difference.

The world-record for the biggest-selling popular song with the oldest lyrics belongs to The Byrds’ rendition of Turn, Turn, Turn from 1965, containing words from the third chapter of King Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes. This book, Kohelet in Hebrew, is read during the holyday of Sukot each year, a joyous week that we are currently celebrating. It contains a credible explanation for our mystery.

A time to be born         And a time to die

      A time to plant             And a time to pluck…

(Kohelet 3:2)

The seven verses of Ecclesiastes we are examining (3:2—3:8) contain twenty-eight events for which “there is a time.”  Some events are under our individual control. Other times, we can only respond to events in our world.  By scrutinizing each verse from the perspective of strong individual control, we find that verses (3:2—3:4) deal with events in our lives where we need to follow external triggers.  Verses (3:5—3:7) deal with events under our control.

In Kohelet 7:8, Solomon provided the clue to the pattern he followed:

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…

This verse tells us to look at the end of the section we are studying for a clue.

A time to love         And a time to hate

A time for war       And a time for peace

(Kohelet 3:8)

This verse contains both types of events. Loving and hating are decisions made by each of us.  Whether our nation is at war or peace lies outside our personal choice.  King Solomon teaches that our lives contain both kinds of events and we need to learn to distinguish between them.

Fatalistic people deem everything in life to ‘just happen’ so they attempt little and achieve less. Foolish people imagine they can control every aspect of their lives and fritter away their time and energy fighting reality. Those of us who follow King Solomon’s guidance recognize that while everything is ultimately in God’s control, we must spend our time and efforts on those things our endeavors are likely to impact while adapting to and accepting those things the wind blows our way.

It is always the right time for Biblical wisdom
SALE: Thought Tools Set
Have 3 years of Thought Tools at your fingertips.

Recommended Hebrew/English Bible On Sale: The Thought Tool Set

Updated and reprinted from 2012

Reaching Joy

September 30th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

These past six months, since COVID-19 has dominated the headlines (with no end in sight), we have been called on to adjust, revise and improvise in both our personal and professional lives.  Thinking outside the box, hatching new ideas and implementing them has become a necessary tool for survival.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of books and blogs detailing tips and tools for generating ideas: Calendar a specific time and set an alarm to terminate the session.  Make it quiet time with no electronic distractions.  Pencil and paper will do more for you than tablet or smartphone.  Discipline your mind not to wander or daydream but to focus only on possible solutions to the problem.  Calendar a second creative thinking session the following day allowing ideas to percolate in your subconscious overnight.  You probably already know most of these ideas.

However, one indispensable element of truly creative thinking is largely unknown. Its absence is usually most responsible for failure.  It makes all the difference between a productive creative session and wasted time.

The one absolutely necessary ingredient for successful creativity is having a heart filled with happiness.  When joyfulness overwhelms your soul, the gates of limitless mental creativity swing wide open.

In order to understand how this works, read these three verses that seem to repeat the same idea.

Three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord God.
(Exodus 23:17)

Three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.
(Exodus 34:23)

…thou shall rejoice in your feast…and in all the work of your hands…three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord your God in the place which He shall choose; in the festival of unleavened bread (Passover), in the festival of weeks (Shavuot/Pentecost), and in the festival of booths (Sukkot)…
(Deuteronomy 16:14-16)

Readers who think the Bible is the work of assorted human authors must ask themselves why some early editor didn’t remove two redundant verses.  After all, how many times does anyone need to be told something?

Those of us comfortable knowing that God authored His book, ask what message is encoded into the triplicated message. We got it the first time—males must pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year.

Three times a year?  A message repeated three times?  Hmmm…ancient Jewish wisdom to the rescue.

A general rule in understanding the Torah is that repeating messages ascend in importance.  The first verse matches Passover. God took us out of Egypt; He’s the Boss. If He says to go up to Jerusalem, we go.

The second verse relates to Shavuot (Pentecost), the time of the giving of the Torah. God is our God – there is a close relationship.

Mention of rejoicing and productivity precedes the third verse. We go up not only to follow orders, not only because we crave a close relationship with God, but also as an expression of joy and fulfillment.

That’s it!  If you are happy, you will be productive enough to appear before the Lord bearing gifts.  The three festivals all emphasize gratitude to God, and few things contribute more to a feeling of happy optimism than expressing gratitude.  But that’s not all; each festival also highlights its own mechanism for inculcating a happy feeling in our hearts.  Passover is all about visualizing a spirit of redemption.

The Passover Seder teaches that we must each see ourselves as emerging from Egypt (rule of man) to freedom (rule of God).  Therefore, seeing success in our mind’s eye is the first step in bringing about a happy heart.

Shavuot is about seven weeks of progress, journeying from the depths of Egypt to the sublime heights of Sinai. Hence, the second step trains us to plan detailed steps that can take us from where we are to where we want to be.

Finally, Sukkot is all about happiness and water.  One of the Torah messages of water is that it flows to the lowest point; a metaphor of humility.  When we lower ourselves from an elevated posture of arrogance, water, which in Torah nomenclature evokes both wisdom and happiness, flows in our direction.

Those are the four steps to a ‘soul set’ conducive to creativity.  Once you are all set up for a session of creative thinking:

1) Evoke gratitude

2) Imagine how you’ll feel when you have come up with a successful solution

3) Visualize the stepping stones to get to the solution you need.

4) Arouse your humble persona.

These four steps will fill your heart with indescribable joy and thereby equip you for the most successful creative thinking session of your life.

(Our offices and store will close this coming Friday night – Sunday night in observance of the first days of Sukkot)

Eager for more life-tips from Scripture? 

On sale this week: The Thought Tools Set 
Partner that with
Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s recommended Hebrew/English Bible

On Sale: Over 150 teachings that reprogram the software of your soul Recommended Hebrew/English Bible

 

The Sinister Lights of Perverted Science

September 22nd, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

Science doesn’t lie—some scientists do.  Up till the 1970s, California was building, cleaning, and maintaining fire breaks around residential communities in forested areas.  Fire roads were bulldozed and kept usable for large firefighting equipment.  This provided rapid access allowing fires to be fought while they were still small.  Going back to Spanish times, controlled burning, backfires and removal of dead undergrowth in the forests all kept fires controllable. Up until the 1970s, any fire that burned 10,000 acres was considered a huge conflagration because fires were fought effectively and they were quickly extinguished.

Then came the radical environmental movement declaring with a religious zeal that nature is sacred. Mother Earth must not be alienated nor angered by bulldozing access roads through forests or by clearing underbrush. Today, fires regularly consume a quarter of a million acres.

However, the New York Times has a different explanation for the increase in both the number and the size of California fires:  “…Scientists say climate change — specifically warmer temperatures that dry out vegetation — is a major factor in the region’s worsening fires…”  But no mention whatsoever of destructive public policy enacted by politicians who worship at the altar of secular fundamentalism and who serve the sacred sacrament of radical environmentalism.

You will remember that after every Soviet “Five Year Plan” inflicted devastating starvation on Russia, Stalin always explained away the catastrophes of doomed socialist policies with weather caused famine.  He killed off millions of Kulaks who transported food from farmers into the towns leaving fruit and vegetables to rot in the fields, but no, the misery was never due to his decisions, it was always the climate.

Science doesn’t lie but scientists are also human beings subject to normal human temptations like fame and favor, academic advancement, and tremendous sums of money at stake for research in areas anointed by the gods of political correctness.  Not to mention that science can only work with the tools available at the present time.

On March 21st, 2020, President Trump tweeted that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and azithromycin might be a real “game-changer” in treating COVID-19.  Immediately, the Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN, began featuring articles claiming that HCQ is not only ineffective but potentially dangerous, and ignored all evidence to the contrary, in order to suggest that the president is a dangerous maniac.

In May 2020, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific and medical journals, The Lancet, did something quite unprecedented.  It strode into the heart of the country’s political rift and demanded that President Trump be defeated in November.  A week later, The Lancet published an article explaining that HCQ is not only unhelpful but is actually dangerous.

Many scientists wrote to The Lancet demanding to see the underlying data on which that startling study totally denouncing a medicine that was not entirely without promise, was based. It turned out that there was no reliable underlying data proving HCQ as completely ineffective.  The editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, did the only thing he could. He withdrew the article denouncing it to have been a “monumental fraud.”

Yes, science doesn’t lie but scientists often do.  That is part of the important task of learning how the world really works.  There have always been scientists.  Most of the time, they have been improving our lives with technology and medicine.  The people who tamed fire and learned how to work iron were scientists as were those who gave us the telephone, the automobile, and the airplane.  We just didn’t always call them scientists. In fact, in earlier times they were often thought of as magicians.

How many times do you think magicians are mentioned in the Five Books of Moses?  If I didn’t know better, my first guess would have been none!  What business does magic have in God’s message to mankind?  Actually, they are mentioned nine times in the Torah but only in the context of one story—the redemption of Israel from Egypt via the Exodus.

Magicians make their first appearance when Pharaoh dreams his strange dreams.  (Genesis 41:8 & 24)

They appear again when Aaron turns his rod into a snake in order to persuade Pharaoh that he and Moses were God’s representatives.  However, the magicians also transformed rods into snakes.  (Exodus 7:10-12)

Then God sent the plagues of Blood and Frogs but the magicians easily emulated them thus convincing Pharaoh that the plagues were natural phenomena.  (Exodus 7:22 & 8:3)

After that, we encounter the first failure of the magicians.  They try to emulate the third plague—Lice— but fail.  Amazingly, instead of making excuses, they honestly inform their boss, Pharaoh, that this must be the finger of God.  (Exodus 8:14-15)

The magicians play no role in the next two plagues and they appear for the final time during the sixth plague.  They no longer stand before Pharaoh. They have now switched their allegiance to Moses. They are human and want to be on the winning side.

And the magicians could not stand before Moshe because of the pox,
for the pox was on the magicians, and on all Mitzrayim (Egypt).
Exodus 9:11

And right there, as the eventual outcome of God’s triumph over Egypt is becoming evident, is the last we ever hear of magicians.

So who were these magicians and what are we supposed to learn from their inclusion in the account of Israel’s redemption from Egypt?

Ancient Jewish wisdom recorded by Rabbi Nissim, the great Torah transmitter who lived in 14th century Barcelona, explains that the magicians were the cutting-edge scientists of Pharaoh’s day.

The Hebrew word for magicians has the root CH-R-T.* 


ח  ר  ט

Revealing meaning by reading both forward and backward as the Lord’s language does, we can read ‘magicians’ backward and we have T-R-CH, the Hebrew word for trouble or burden.

He burdens the thick cloud with an overflow…
(Job 37:11)

This verse uses the word T-R-CH**.


ט ר ח

Thus, scientists are those who reverse or do away with the troubles and burdens of living.  They find ways to help us more easily feed ourselves; they discover medical treatments, and they make machines to help us accomplish our work.

These magicians/scientists only appear in the context of helping Pharaoh retain Egypt’s Hebrew slaves.  This comes to teach us that scientists will and do serve many masters.

On the eve of the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940 when a few young Royal Airforce pilots held off the might of the Nazi Luftwaffe and on which the future of civilization depended; prime minister Winston Churchill addressed parliament.

As he drew to the end of his speech that  stiffened the spine of a frightened land, he spoke these words:

“…But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties…”

They could hardly be more true today.  The “lights of perverted science” indeed. Yes, science doesn’t lie but some scientists do. It is also true that the Bible doesn’t lie—but some clergymen do.  We must and do rely on those who know more than we do on certain subjects. However, we each need to cultivate our own relationship with Truth through the lens of God so that we can make our own judgments as to who is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

*Find these words in the Recommended Hebrew/English Bible (read more about this Bible here)

Remember, Hebrew reads from right to left

*Genesis 41:8 – Page 124, 7 lines from the bottom, 7th word (from the right): (magicians of)  חרטמי

**Job 37:11  Page 2084, bottom line, 1st word: (He burdens) יטריח

Extra credit: Now that you know what letters to look for, find all the other references mentioned in the Thought Tool!

DFA
ON SALE: Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity (by mail or download)

Not FaKING

September 15th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

Have you noticed how politicians in every country, even those only slightly influenced by the teachings of Karl Marx, tend to drive wedges between segments of the electorate?  They specialize in fanning the flames of resentment of the poor against the rich.  They encourage women to see men as their enemies.  And of course they increase hostility between people on the basis of the color of their skin.

Marx encouraged communist leaders to divide the population by class, race, and gender and to exacerbate grudges between them.  Secular fundamentalist seekers of political prestige do this almost instinctively.  They do it because it consolidates their power.  When your constituents are busy fighting each other, they have little time and less energy to oppose you. What is more, they all turn to you as referee, peacemaker, and allocator of rewards.

If you’ve noticed this in politics, you may also have encountered it in business.  Many so-called business leaders foment savage battles among those they lead.  Doing so makes them more difficult to topple in any boardroom battle.  They believe that making team members see one another as competitors is more effective than defeating real marketplace competitors.  It is not only for-profit businesses; some churches and synagogues are plagued with this kind of leadership. I have even seen parents who deliberately fuel ferocious fights among their children.  It makes them feel more loved by the children who, deprived of sibling support, vie for parental affection.  Increasingly we see, masquerading as leaders, men and women who specialize in splitting their followers into warring factions.  People are now accustomed to leaders who foster dissent, dispute and division.

A leader does not need to be maliciously intent on this mischief I have been describing.  Because squabbling is the default condition of humanity, a “Do-Nothing” leader will have exactly the same effect.  In his desperate desire to avoid conflict and escape decision making that will inevitably disappoint somebody, this kind of leader produces the same state of simmering tension in his organization.

Only the rare leader, possessing both a sense of security and a strong character builds unity in his organization as part of his mission.  Yet this is precisely what ancient Jewish wisdom expects from leadership.

Though Hebrew words such as ‘manhig’ meaning ‘leader’ have found modern usage in Israel, they don’t exist in Scripture.  This is because Scripture is more specific, preferring words for military leaders, religious leaders and so on, rather than a generic leader. The point is that just as a driver of a car is not necessarily able to drive a motorcycle, a jet plane, or a railway locomotive, a leader of one type of organization is not necessarily adept at leading other kinds of groups.

Nonetheless, the Scriptural word most relevant to our exploration of leadership is MeLeCH, translated as king.

As usual, when trying to probe the inner meaning of a word, we locate its first usage in the Torah.

And it came to pass in the days of Amrafel, king [MeLeCH] of Shinar,…
(Genesis 14:1)

That chapter continues to contain more than 25 usages of MeLeCH, king, which is fully one-third of all the usages of ‘king’ in the Torah.  No other Torah chapter contains more than five uses of ‘king’.

This non-uniform distribution of a word like king, tells us that Genesis 14 discloses important insights into king and leader.  Clearly, we are intended to study the contrast between the 9 kings engaged in the first world war of history, and the ultimate victor of the entire conflict, Abraham.

In reading Genesis 14 we learn that much of humanity then was locked into rebellion, subjugation and warfare.  Not only was each king incapable of maintaining unity among his own people, but he wasn’t even able to keep the peace with his fellow-kings.

By contrast, Abraham led only 318 men.  The Hebrew text alludes to them as those Abraham raised and educated.  (Genesis 14:14)  Isn’t that a wonderful way of viewing those you are responsible for leading?

The unity that Abraham engendered among his small band of followers was a main factor in the defeat he administered to the large military forces of the kings.

Not only does the Torah’s first usage of a word disclose secrets but also the last.  The final use of the word ‘king’ in the Torah is this:

And it was that when there was a king [MeLeCH]  in Yeshurun [Israel] the heads of the people were gathered together, the tribes of Israel were unified.
(Deuteronomy 33:5)

Which is to say that only when Israel had a real leader, a king worthy of being called a king, did unity reign among the people.  As a leader, it is very tempting to allow disagreement to fester among your people as it appears to make you indispensable.  However, this is a very short term strategy.  If your field of vision extends beyond the next election or the next annual report, you will want to lead Biblically and train others in your group to lead in the same way.

This coming Friday night begins the festival of Rosh HaShana, the head of the Jewish year and the time particularly suited for reemphasizing God’s kingship over us and our world. On these two holy days, through Sunday night, our store will be closed. Ten days later, we celebrate  Yom Kippur (this year falling on September 28th). Our audio CD exploring the benefits everyone can get from that Day of Atonement is on sale at this time.

Day For Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity
ON SALE NOW

Trust Folks with Jobs

September 8th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

In dozens of cities around the world, as darkness descends, barbarians emerge to enjoy their orgies of plunder and destruction. As if intoxicated by the absence of defenders, they are unable fully to comprehend that nobody is defying them.

I think of you, my readers, as noble knights defending the fortress of civilization against the hordes of scheming and surging savages trying to invade and conquer what you and your fathers have built.  The barbarians know that even after they destroy the civilization you built, as they loot its stores and wretchedly crawl through its wrecked ruins, they will still live better than in anything they could ever have built themselves.

Who are these people?  Who is the 23-year-old arrested for the second time in Green Bay, WI, on his way to a riot with guns and explosives?  Does he have parents? If so, do they know what has become of their baby? Above all, how does he eat? From where does he have money for clothing and food, not to mention weapons?

Who is the 40-year-old killer arrested at a Portland riot? We know that he has a baby daughter but no wife. We know that he seems not to have held down any kind of job, listing his occupation as a professional protester.  From where does he have money for all of life’s basic necessities?

We know two things for sure about the rioters: They do receive money and they do not have jobs.  They’re not dressed in rags and they don’t walk to riot locations; they have money. People with jobs tend to sleep at night so they are ready for work the next morning. Even when the prize is a few flat-screen TVs, people who riot all night don’t work all day.  These people have no jobs.

They are probably getting money from groups led by people like George Soros. They are also probably getting money confiscated from their fellow Americans and transferred to them in the form of welfare and COVID payments. Some of them are probably getting money from proud parents eagerly reliving the 1960s. Some of them are probably getting money from various criminal endeavors.

We can’t stop Soros from doing what he wishes with his own money and we can’t do much to stop parents from encouraging their children to commit mayhem. But we ought to be able to stop financial reward from criminal enterprise and we surely ought to be able to end rioters obtaining the money that the government transfers to them from hard-working citizens.  In other words, if we took the steps necessary to make having a job the best way of obtaining money, we’d be taking an enormous step towards tranquility.

Sadly, since the early 1960s, we began downgrading the value of work and elevating educational credentials so that many people who could have joined the real world by starting work instead extended adolescence indefinitely by spending years taking useless courses in colleges and universities.  On most campuses (on my podcast, I disparagingly refer to universities as kindergartens) a degree in gender studies or on racial bias in French movies is considered the equivalent in terms of rigor and objectivity as a degree in Russian literature or physics.

An unintended side effect of the then necessary and positive child-labor laws enacted throughout the West by the early twentieth century was to lower the social acceptability of work among young people. Though teenagers in most of the United States may legally work many hours a week in so-called safe industries, few do. This is a shame since work is uplifting and stabilizing.

Consider the first time Scripture discusses the relationship between man and work:

And no shrub of the field was yet on earth and no grasses of the field had yet sprouted, because the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth
and there was no man to work the ground.

(Genesis 2:5) [page 5*]

Not surprisingly, within no more than ten words, God was busy creating man. Clearly, in order to exist, creation needs man to work.  But does man need to work?

It would appear so because the Fourth Commandment could merely have prohibited work on the seventh day. It goes further, directing us indeed to work the other six days:

Six days you shall work and do all your work.
(Exodus 20:9) [page 225*]

The King James translation, recognizing that Hebrew has two different words for “work” translates Exodus 20:9 this way:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work…

But what actually defines those two different words for work, AVoDaH and MeLaCHaH?

See both words and compare their appearance in the Hebrew [page 224, 7 lines up, 3rd last word and 7 lines up, 1st word*]

The first one, AVoDaH, means work in a more general sense. It is used extensively in describing the Egyptian servitude in Exodus.  See the same word in Genesis 2:5 [page 4 last line, 3rd word*. You’ll easily spot the same 3 letter root even if you don’t know any Hebrew. Yet!]

The second word for work used in Exodus 20:9, meaning a more specific work designed to attain an intended goal, is MeLaCHaH. For instance, general work like moving a table from one room to another is permissible on the Sabbath. However, specific work intended to increase my revenue is explicitly prohibited.

Six days should work (MeLaCHaH) be done and on the seventh,
a sabbath, a special sabbath holy to the Lord, all who do work (MeLaCHaH)
on the sabbath day shall die.
(Exodus 31:15)  [See the Hebrew word MeLaCHaH page 264, 9 lines down, 2nd word*]

In most parts of the world, ice cream is ice cream, but in Italy, there are many different names for different types of ice cream because Italians specialize in ice cream and love it.

In English work is work. Occasionally you might say labor, but it is all pretty much indistinguishable. However, in the Lord’s language, Hebrew, there are two important and distinctive words for work.  That is because the Hebrew culture specializes in work and loves it.  Doing one’s work when it should be done is an act of serving God and is an avenue to greatness.

See a man quick & diligent in his work (MeLaCHaH) he will stand before kings…
(Proverbs 22:29) [page 2010, 9 lines up, 3rd last word*]

At speeches and appearances, when I have the privilege of greeting families who come to hear me, I nearly always smilingly ask the teenage children what work they do. I can’t stop myself from breaking into a broad grin when the youngster enthusiastically tells me about his job.

In some countries today,  we’ve made a terrible mistake by making it possible, no, we’ve made it easy, for so many to live without working. Work was needed to make the garden grow and it is still needed today.

* all page and line references are from Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s recommended Hebrew/English Bible.

Recommended Hebrew/English Bible ON SALE: Dear Rabbi and Susan: 101 Ask the Rabbi Questions and Answers.

Gatherings are Great – or Not

August 31st, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Why is it that people who excessively indulge their physical appetites for food, sex, or material goods, to the point we could call it an addiction, often yield to many other temptations as well?

Shakespeare’s character Sir John Falstaff highlights this very truth.  Not only is Falstaff a glutton and a drunkard but he is also a liar and a coward.  In yielding to physical appetite he also yields to decay of character.

Before I was ever taught Shakespeare’s depiction of this principle, I had already been taught it from the Book of Numbers.

The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving
and the Children of Israel wept, crying, ‘Who will feed us meat?’
(Numbers 11:4)

Though they had God’s miracle food, Manna, they still lusted for meat.  Their desire for variety in food was quickly followed by the desire for variety in another area.

Moses heard the nation crying about their families
(Numbers 11:10)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that they were angry about the limitations on sexual relationships and the rules for moral family life which they had received in the Torah a year earlier on Mt. Sinai.

What can we learn from the juxtaposition of problems with these two appetites? Can this section help us deal more effectively with situations in which we or people with whom we have to interact are controlled by physical desires rather than in control of them?

Before we answer that question, we have to understand how to isolate a section of the Bible. Numbers 11 extends from verses 1 – 35. However, as incredibly useful the chapter divisions are, they were developed in the 13th century by Steven Langton, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, England. His divisions became accepted and were used in the Wycliffe Bible of 1382 and, after the invention of printing, in the King James translation of 1611. While they are universally accepted, they do not always share the divisions that exist in ancient Jewish wisdom.

Every hand-written “official” Torah scroll, whether large or small, is written following precise instructions. For example, each page must start and end with exact words. Among these directives, the scribe must accurately leave some lines only partially filled and other times he must put a break between two sentences even though they are written on the same line. These show two types of God’s paragraphs – ways of connecting or disconnecting topics that we might have thought (and Archbishop Langton did think) did not or did belong together.

We frequently find the most important clue to a perplexing Torah passage by looking to see what Hebrew root word appears seven times. Looking at our section, we see a word that appears exactly seven times over the span of three successive paragraphs of chapter eleven. We have identified our motif!

It turns out that variations of the Hebrew root ASF, which means gathering, appear seven times in noun or verb format.

One:  The rabble (ASaFsuf) that was among them…
(Numbers 11:4)

Two:  God said to Moses, ‘Gather (ASFah) me seventy men from the elders…’
(Numbers 11:16)

Three: …If all the fish of the sea were gathered (y’ASaF) for them would it suffice for them
(Numbers 11:22)

Four: …and he gathered (vay’ASaF) seventy men from among the elders…
(Numbers 11:24)

Five:  And Moses was gathered (vay’ASaF) into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
(Numbers 11:30)

Six: …and they gathered (vayASaFu) up the quails…
(Numbers 11:32)

Seven: …the one with the least still gathered (ASaF) ten measures…
(Numbers 11:32)

The motif word ‘gathering’ implies gathering for a specific purpose rather than a bunch of people or things in the same place and time by happenstance.  While gathering the manna was good, gathering the quail was bad, having little to do with hunger and everything to do with lust. Moses gathered himself and the seventy elders into the camp, where, injected with God’s spirit, they successfully countered the gathering of the fleshy rabble.

In other words, the solution to excesses of the flesh is an injection of the spirit.  Over-indulgence of a physical substance often reflects a lack of spiritual completion. There is a reason that Alcoholics Anonymous and other successful rehab groups focus on building the person and connecting him with a higher power rather than just treating the physical addiction. There is a reason that people who exert tremendous effort to wean themselves from one physical addiction frequently succumb to another. People who mistreat their bodies reveal pain-filled souls.

As King David notes in Psalm 1, people may gather together to behave foolishly and wickedly. The rabble in Numbers 11 did exactly that. God’s response was to gather a group for purposes of wisdom and good. We, indeed, are very affected by those with whom we associate. But we mustn’t look at people’s physical make-up to choose our peers; rather, it is the spiritual make-up that matters.

For years, many of you have asked me to recommend an English translation of the Bible. I have demurred because no translation can adequately convey the deep meaning and ancient Jewish wisdom of the original Hebrew. However, I recently discovered a Hebrew/English Bible that does capture certain aspects including visually showing the paragraph breaks. It also retains the Hebrew names of people and places so that you can more easily understand the meaning of those names. If you’d like to see more advantages of this Bible and see if you would like to acquire one, we are delighted to tell you that it is available in our store.

NEW!
our long-awaited recommended Bible

We Interrupt This Ceremony

August 17th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

Have you ever attended a company’s annual shareholder meeting?  A couple’s fortieth wedding anniversary?  A school graduation?  A president’s inauguration?  These occasions share pomp, ceremony, and ceremonial structure that go way beyond their utilitarian function.  The music, the way people are dressed and the formal proceedings all help to conjure an atmosphere of unforgettable significance.  We can use this principle to add meaning to our lives.

Deuteronomy 31 opens with Moses telling Israel that he’s 120 years-old and Joshua will soon take over.  “Be strong and of good courage,” he says, and assures the nation that God will never forsake them.  (Deuteronomy 31:1-6)

The next two verses describe Moses charging Joshua with the task of leadership. (Deuteronomy 31:7-8)

Here’s what should come next:

And God said to Moses, now your days approach death, call Joshua and present yourselves in the Tent of Meeting that I may command him…

(Deuteronomy 31:14)

But this verse follows only after five intervening verses interrupt the flow. These verses explain that Moses wrote down the Torah, entrusted it to the priests and instituted a massive convention every seven years at which the Torah would be read before the entire nation — men, women, and children. (Deuteronomy 31:9-13)

Why does this instruction for a once-every-seven-years-Torah-reading-convention interrupt the story of the succession of leadership?

The clue lies in Moses’ use of the first word in verse 12, the verb “gather” or in Hebrew, HaKHeL.

This word is spelled exactly the same way as one of the Hebrew words for, “the congregation,” HaKaHaL. Hebrew in the Torah is written without vowels, so two words that have different pronunciations and meanings are sometimes spelled identically. In a way that is unique to God’s language, this similarity between words tells us to look at those words together.  When we encounter the word made up of the consonants HKHL we are reminded that we saw it used twice earlier in Deuteronomy describing the revelatory encounter at Sinai.

The day when you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb (Sinai), when the Lord said to me, gather (HKHL) the people…

(Deuteronomy 4:10)

and

And the Lord gave me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God;

and on them were written all the words which the Lord spoke with you…

on the day of the gathering (HKHL)

(Deuteronomy 9:10)

Interrupting the story of Joshua’s succession with news of a once in seven years special national Torah shareholders meeting tells us the most important thing about any future leader of Israel. Leadership must always be subservient to the nation’s constitution—the Torah.

At this dramatic reminder of the Sinai experience, shofars (ram horns) will be blown and the king of Israel will sit on a large platform reading the whole Torah aloud to the nation.  Being told about this powerful ceremony at this crucial point near Moses’ death, places the transfer of power to Joshua in context.  Leaders can change as long as allegiance to the Torah doesn’t.

Like the ceremonies that surround this gathering, like the pomp of a graduation, the way we dress for work or family functions is an important tool for establishing the importance of those events.  Sitting at a table and eating off attractive plates, rather than grabbing food on the fly, transforms eating from an animal-like to an exclusively human activity. Writing your daily journal with a fountain pen filled with green ink in a finely bound notebook rather than scrawling it with a free give-away promotional ballpoint pen on a scrap of old dog-eared paper, reflects the weight you put on your writing.

Want a little help getting a daily journaling habit started? Pick up our newest resource:  

Chart Your Course: 52 Weekly Journaling Challenges – ON SALE

52 weeks of journaling for a few minutes a day add up to a new you!

  • We provide a weekly challenge, Bible reference and inspiration.
  • Track your thoughts, actions and progress throughout the week.
  • Relish your personal growth as you move through the year.

Available to ship in US/Canada, and also available internationally through Amazon.

When Noah Met Abraham

August 10th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 32 comments

I know a lawyer who really wishes that he was a rabbi.  I also know a rabbi who really wishes he was a doctor.  Have you met the plumber who really wishes he was a poet or the bookkeeper who really wishes she was a ballerina?  The lawyer is doing nothing to change his profession and neither is the rabbi. The plumber only dreams of writing and the bookkeeper only dreams of dancing.

Do I hear you say, “No harm in fantasy”?  Wrong! Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that fantasizing makes us less happy with our reality.  Remember that lawyer harboring secret rabbinic dreams? Well, he’s less effective at his work.  That rabbi daydreaming of replacing his dark suit with green scrubs has no passion for his profession.  Deep down that plumber is dissatisfied with fixing faucets and as for that want-to-be ballerina, her clients get less of her enthusiasm than that faded old tutu in her closet.

Lingering thoughts of roads not traveled infiltrate all our minds, so how do we generate focused passion for what we actually are doing?

Let’s become flies on the wall for what must have been one of history’s most extraordinary meetings.  But first, a little Genesis arithmetic. Let’s say Adam was created at the beginning of year 1 and died in the year 930.  (Genesis 5:5)

It is easy to calculate that ten generations later, Noah was born in the year 1056 and died in the year 2006 at the age of 950 years-old.  (Genesis 9:29)  Meanwhile, in the year 1948, Abraham was born, which means that at the time of Noah’s death, Abraham was 58 years old.

Do you think it feasible that Abraham, a spiritual seeker, would not have sought out the elderly Noah?  It is impossible to fathom Abraham not seeking a meeting with the man whom God had directly instructed to build the ark and who was the living ancestor of everyone on earth.

What did they discuss?  They might have discussed their families.  Or perhaps they discussed the pain and peril of adult genitourinary operations.

That is merely conjecture but what they certainly did discuss was the value of trying to save others by bringing them God’s word by outreach and evangelism.  Noah would have argued against it because we know he never engaged in evangelism.  When God warned of the impending destruction of humanity, Noah neglected the opportunity of trying to persuade the population away from their wicked ways.  He merely built an ark and saved himself and his family.

Abraham, by contrast, never missed an opportunity to talk to people about God.  He regularly invited strangers into his tent to share a meal during which he shared his faith.  Noah silently accepted God’s decree on humanity whereas Abraham argued with God in a vain attempt to save the inhabitants of the doomed city of Sodom.  Noah kept his relationship with God to himself.  Abraham couldn’t stop talking about it.

Which man was more successful?  To be sure, Noah did save his family but Abraham launched a movement of God-fearing and Bible-believing people numbering in the millions and which endures to this day even after the passage of thousands of years.

Talking enthusiastically about your work not only signals your passion but it also serves to augment that passion.  Another way to increase the passion you have for the things you must do is to increase your professionalism.  The pride felt by a professional is almost palpable and nurtures itself.

Increasing one’s professionalism is the surest way to increase how enthusiastically one tackles one’s work.  These are ten actions that build one’s professionalism:

  • seize responsibility and accept accountability for your work
  • be punctual in all your work commitments
  • be consistently pleasant and polite in all work encounters regardless of your mood
  • speak and write like an educated adult
  • be sufficiently serious as frivolity is not professional unless you’re a paid comedian
  • dress with dignity
  • expand your skills and improve them constantly
  • never yield to your anger
  • be reliable
  • deliver more than expected

So banish those daydreams and enjoy whatever it is you do by becoming ever more professional about it.  Of course, if you really mean to make a major life change, then don’t just dream of doing it; do it.  But if you are retaining your current occupation, you’ll discover unsuspected delights by embracing professionalism.  These delights will far exceed anything available through fantasies and daydreams.

Fascinated by the wisdom flowing from the Hebrew language?

ON SALE

 Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language Aleph-Bet: A Fun, Rhyming, Bible-based Introduction to the Hebrew Alphabet

Search Thought Tools

Yes! I would like to receive FREE weekly teachings

Sign Up Now!

X