Posts in Thought Tools

Going for the Jugular

July 2nd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

Have you ever seen a five-year-old stamp her foot and declare, “No! I will not”?

Whether it is parents in a family, political heads of a country, executive officers in a business enterprise or captains of ships like the Bounty, challenges to leadership come with the territory.  Part of effective parenting is to help your children understand that you hear their challenges and may even sympathize with aspects of their mini-rebellions and then to restore calmness and order.  Similarly, even statesmen like Winston Churchill engaged in saving their countries have to divert energy to deflect political assaults meant to unseat them.  Likewise, business professionals who have risen to success are accustomed to boardroom battles during which they are baselessly charged with every imaginable offense.  As Captain Bligh discovered, sometimes one has no alternative but to split the enterprise and lead the loyalists to survival.  Experienced leaders expect these kinds of challenges and respond to them calmly and decisively.

It is thus no surprise at all that the Israelites rebelled against Moses.  They did so frequently.  Consider this particular occasion:

And Korach…took upon himself to rise up against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites…They ganged up against Moses and Aaron
and said to them, “You have gone too far…” 
(Numbers 16:1-3)

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Love Her, Hate Her

June 24th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

During a few appearances in California recently, I found myself counseling three sincere and newly married young rabbis.  They had all enjoyed the good fortune of marrying lovely young women deeply devoted to religious ideals along with an eager willingness to adopt the mission of being rabbis’ wives.

It turned out that all three were experiencing the same mild marital problem and it was resolved for all of them with exactly the same directive.  It’s one my wife and I dubbed “The 3-A challenge for men”.  I directed these three well-meaning newlyweds to create regular opportunities to make themselves authentically feel and then tell their wives how much they Appreciate them, Adore them, and Admire them. 

Please don’t for a moment think that my three young men meekly acquiesced to my instruction.  They didn’t.  They insisted that their wives knew how they felt. They insisted that such spiritual wives as they were blessed to have would see such compliments as mere flattery. Again, I patiently explained that unless they took the time and effort to really feel deep appreciation, adoration, and admiration for their wives, saying it would be nothing but flattery.  Furthermore, I insisted, their wives were entitled to husbands who really felt that way about them.  Furthermore, a great many wives, unless told, tend to doubt the esteem in which their husbands hold them.

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Watch Out for Angels!

June 17th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

Have you ever noticed how sometimes one carries out one’s work effectively but without joy?  There are other times when every task is exhilarating and uplifting.  In both situations, the work gets done and your business progresses, but in the latter case, there’s an additional bounce in one’s step.

Building a marriage and building a business share many similarities.  There are times in every marriage when the marriage functions, but it operates mechanically.  Husband and wife carry out their duties and obligations but without passion.  At other times, every moment of life is enhanced by the magic of the marriage.

A peculiar few verses that help us understand this dynamic appear in Exodus soon after the Ten Commandments are given at Mount Sinai.

Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way, and to bring you to the place…Take heed of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him…if you obey his voice and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy to your enemies…For my angel shall go before you, and bring you to the Amorites…and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.
(Exodus 23:20-23)

Israel has never before been told to follow an angel.  We’ve been told to obey God; we’ve been told to obey the Torah and its commandments, but an angel?  Never!

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Don’t Go Bananas

June 7th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

Our bodies need potassium to help maintain normal blood pressure and heart function.  The good news is that a banana supplies about 10% of the potassium we need each day.  The bad news: potassium is toxic.  Potassium poisoning is called hyperkalemia, not a pleasant condition.  Before throwing out all your bananas, read on.

Tenure made it possible for university professors to teach without fear of being fired regardless of prevailing politics.  Making it impossible to terminate a teacher seemed a good idea.  Yet, tenure has allowed professors to indoctrinate students with their own prejudices and beliefs rather than teach them.  Some tenured professors also get sloppy about teaching, seeing no need to engage with their material or students.

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Ace the Interview

June 3rd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

Finding a terrific job is not easy.  One way to ruin your chances is by projecting over-confidence. While employers certainly want to know what you can do for them, being too full of yourself will turn off most interviewers. Strangely enough, in one of the few job interviews in Scripture, the prospective employee seems to display exactly this wrong attitude—yet he gets the job! I am talking, of course, about Joseph. Understanding his behavior will provide us with some specific strategies for interviews and meetings.

After failing to find satisfying interpretations to his two disturbing dreams, Pharaoh recounted them to Joseph. (Genesis 41:8 & 15) Joseph then explained how the dreams foretold seven years of economic abundance followed by seven years of famine.  Astonishingly, he then offers unsolicited advice.  Joseph suggests that Pharaoh hire a wise administrator (implying that he himself is the ideal candidate) to supervise the economy.

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Jethro’s Connection Contribution

May 29th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

When the English novelist, Charles Dickens, visited a prison outside of Philadelphia in 1842, he witnessed prisoners being held in solitary confinement.  He wrote that most people are incapable of recognizing the full extent of the torture and agony of being incarcerated alone.  He insisted that the mental torture of solitary confinement was far worse than any torture that could be inflicted upon the body.

In this, Dickens was agreeing with the Bible’s insistence on everyone’s need for human connection.

We’re all familiar with the 187 chapters into which Archbishop Langton divided the text of the Five Books of Moses in the 13th century.  Less well known are the 54 original divisions called sidras, each containing a few chapters and each named according to a word appearing early in the sidra that conveys the main theme of the sidra.  Uncovering the connection between the sidra’s theme and its name is always interesting.

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Pebbles and Panoramas

May 20th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

My children constantly fascinate me when we hike in breathtakingly beautiful British Columbia during the summer. Some of them visibly thrill to the vast vistas and magnificent landscapes revealed as we crest a hill.  Others seem oblivious to the large scale spectacles but will stoop to pick up a pebble which can absorb their attention for twenty minutes.  Similarly, when boating, one child gazes endlessly at the wave pattern stretching to the horizon.  Meanwhile, her sister lies on her tummy on the edge of a dock peering down at a school of tiny fish darting around as if being signaled by an invisible choreographer. 

We learn much from the patterns of larger arrangements such as the earth’s upheavals that created the mountain ranges and the erosive forces that carved majestic canyons.  However it is just as important to understand the microscopic forces that help atoms to form molecules and the characteristics that shape those tiny molecules into complex substances.

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Young and Foolish, Old and Grumpy?

May 15th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

With apologies to all senior citizens, (a civilized sobriquet if there ever was one) I am going to ask you a question:

What is the one word in English literature that occurs more frequently than any other directly after the words “crotchety,” “curmudgeonly,” or “cranky”?  If you answered “old” you are quite correct.  You’ll nearly always read “the crotchety old woman” or “that curmudgeonly old man”.  I am certainly not suggesting that all senior citizens are crabby or cantankerous but apparently enough are to have earned the connection.

Apart from being a warning to us all to avoid acquiring those unpleasing characteristics as we age, it also raises a question.  What in heaven’s name was in God’s mind with this verse:

You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old;
you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:32)

Other than managing to survive for six (seven, eight, nine? Fill in the number of your choice) decades or more, what exactly has an ill-tempered old man done to deserve such respect?  Therein lies an important insight from ancient Jewish wisdom.  An old person might indeed be a bit grumpy and grouchy but he or she has seen a bit of life.  If nothing else, the elderly have experienced more of life than people in their twenties.  Why does that qualify them for such a level of respect?

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They’re Keeping You Down

May 6th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Recently, I enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of leading a Passover Seder.  Around the room sat a most stimulating group of enthusiastic participants.  I began by explaining that rule number one at the Seder is that everything we do has contemporary significance.  For example, when a therapist talks a client back through her childhood, it is not to wallow in nostalgia.  No, it is for the purpose of revisiting the past to better understand the present in order to improve tomorrow.   In the same way, we are not commemorating the Exodus and deliverance from Egyptian slavery.  No, we are reliving that 3,330 year-old torment for the purpose of making changes in our lives today and thereby improving tomorrow.

This sounds obvious and easy however in real life it is anything but that.  Especially since the culture surrounding most of us emphasizes blaming others for anything we dislike about our own lives.  The most obvious ways in which Marxism has influenced secular liberalism, the semi-official state religion of America and most of Europe, is that we have been indoctrinated to assume that problems in our lives are entirely due to race, gender or class.  We suffer harassment, injustice, or outright oppression because of the color of our skin, our gender, or the fact that we see ourselves as a ‘disadvantaged class’. 

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May I Have a Word?

April 29th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

In January 2007, in a dazzling speech at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Steve Jobs introduced his iPhone with these words, “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…” 

On June 4th, 1940, Winston Churchill gave a speech warning of a possible Nazi invasion.  This was its climax:

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Just over 3,300 years ago, Moses concluded a 36-day long speech to Israel with these words:

I’m 120 years old today and can no longer go out and come in for the Lord has said to me, ‘You will not cross this Jordan.’ The Lord your God will cross before you; he will destroy these nations from before you and you shall inherit them. Joshua, he will cross over before you as the Lord has spoken.

(Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

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