TRENDING TODAY

Scarcity or Abundance?

This is going to be a “different” Thanksgiving where our immediate family replaces our usual extended family group. I know we can still focus on the things for which we must be grateful, but it seems to me that we are in a period of less rather than abundance. There are fewer opportunities to work on relationships as we huddle apart from each other, fewer small businesses are staying afloat, there is less freedom as the government flexes its heavy hand, and seemingly a less grand future for most people.

How do I use the principles of The Holistic You to move upward and forward?

Jerry

Dear Jerry,

Even before answering your question, we’re going to challenge some of the assumptions, if that’s okay with you, Jerry.  You fear the end of abundance.   We checked up on the bushel per acre wheat production figures for 2020 around the United States.  Absolutely nobody needs to anticipate going without their bread or even cake. Looking at dairy production, everyone can even add butter to their toast and it won’t chip into our dairy excess. The same for fish and beef this year as well as a few other vital commodities. We can assure you, abundance is still the operative word.

Fewer opportunities to develop relationships?  Yes, I suppose if you cower and huddle alone, but are you really doing that, Jerry?  Somehow I doubt it. Yes, we have to put in more effort than we used to in order to stay in contact with friends or to meet new neighbors, but if we make the effort we can do so.   What is more, I know we’re not alone in meeting new people through Zoom and other new technologies. You see,  many smaller organizations that would never have thought of bringing us in for speeches and teaching, now think nothing of setting up a Zoom or other audio-video link.  We’ve actually met and made many new friends not in spite of, but because of heavy-handed government regulation.

As you say, many businesses are finding it impossible to remain afloat. A tragedy that afflicts people every bit as seriously as does a virus; perhaps even more so.  But, there are many new businesses that have found a foothold and are growing in industry sectors that barely existed in 2019. In addition to online communication, there are many new companies competing in the food delivery sector, and so on.

We don’t dispute your point that we are living in challenging times right now, but we implore you to reconsider your overall view of unrequited pessimism.  We confess that we harbor a sneaking suspicion that you might have arrived at your gloomy feelings from overconsumption of mainstream and social media.  Please ease up on obtaining your sense of how things really are out there from those sources.  Even in bad times, some people thrive and they do so by deploying the principles of what we describe in our free ebook, The Holistic You.  Now to your question:

This is a particularly appropriate question for us to answer right now with the festival of Chanukah coming soon.

Chanukah celebrates going above the natural. While in the natural world, we live a 24/7 existence, Chanukah sends the message that we can do better than that. It is the only Jewish holiday to fall on the 25th of the (Jewish) month and to last for eight days, hence the title of our audio CD on the subject, Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life. On this holiday, a small band of scholars triumphed over the might of the Greek army and a vial with only enough oil for one day lasted for eight. In the natural order of things, neither of these events should have been possible; yet they happened.

The key thing is, as Winston Churchill once told an audience of schoolboys, “Never, never, never, never give up!”  As long as you keep the flame burning, unexpected salvation can arrive.  About 400 years after the Maccabees conquered the Greek Army in Israel the Roman army under Marcus Aurelius was being besieged by Germanic savages. After weeks of blazing heat without water, they still held out knowing that all was doomed. Unexpectedly, the heavens opened and with the welcome downpour, the Romans rallied.  There were unexpected and, same said, miraculous events experienced in many wars including by the Allied forces in World War 2 and by Israel in both 1967 and 1973.

What is more, unexpected salvation can come not just to nations and armies but also to individuals.  It does demand never ever giving up, prayer, and of course action.

That is why we want you to understand that, as with all Jewish festivals, we miss the point if we only commemorate historical occurrences. Each holiday has a current message that is helpful in improving all aspects of our lives. Chanukah reminds us not to focus on limitations and scarcity but rather that by partnering with God and taking advantage of His gifts, we can break through boundaries and exceed our wildest dreams.

You might be interested to know that Chanukah features two calls to action. One is to praise God and the other is to thank Him. To our ears, that sounds very much like the original Thanksgiving.

You are right that we are facing challenges right now, among them realistic health concerns but also an overbearing political overreaction that sows fear and failure. Fortunately, we do not have to succumb to despair. Take the opportunity provided by Thanksgiving to feel and express gratitude and then come out determined that with hard work and ingenuity, and with God’s blessing, you can thrive and triumph.

Once you know and believe that can be done, you are on the road to achieving it.

Keep the flame burning,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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A COVID Plus for Thanksgiving

The COVID virus and the response to the COVID virus have both resulted in much sorrow and difficulty. But, they have also led to some positive responses. For years, we have been dismayed as more and more stores open on Thanksgiving, switching the focus of the day to shopping.  While people will still be shopping online (we assume) a return to seeing Thanksgiving as a day for family, prayer, and gratitude is something for which we can be grateful. Perhaps over-reaching governors insisting that we may not see family and friends will be the impetus to our valuing those relationships more.

A Holiday for Optimists

In pre-COVID days when I spoke to large audiences, I enjoyed asking groups to raise their hands if they were sales professionals.  Usually, only a few hands went up.  I then asked, “How many of you are justices of the United States Supreme Court?”  After the chuckles subsided, I asked, “How many of you are tenured university professors?”  Finally, I would say, “Look, if you’re not a judge appointed for life, and you’re not a professor hired for life, you are probably in sales.

At the very least, you must constantly sell your employer on the idea that you are worth keeping on the payroll.

Selling means helping others see things from a new perspective. Whether you are a dentist or a lawyer, whether you are a bookkeeper, a bartender, or a ballerina, you are in sales.  To a large extent, your success is as dependent upon your selling ability as it is upon your basic skill.  If you have a job or are looking for a job, you are in sales.  If you are a teacher, a pastor or a preacher, you are in sales.  And if you are seeking a spouse you are in sales. In other words, in any number of areas of our lives we are all in sales—perhaps even that Supreme Court Justice is.

Fortunately, ancient Jewish wisdom can help hone your selling ability. Not only can it help, but the prescription doesn’t include spending tens of thousands of dollars on tuition or demand that you have relatives or friends to pave your way. As the famous MetLife study brilliantly conducted by Martin Seligman and many other subsequent studies strongly suggest,  optimism is a prerequisite to being successful in sales.  But how do you become a more optimistic person?

To answer that question, let’s look at a perplexing piece of Scripture. We first meet Moses as a baby, then we follow him as he matures and seeks out his suffering brethren. We track his escape to the land of Midian where he rescues Jethro’s daughters and becomes a shepherd. We delight as God appears to him and sets him on his life-mission.

Surely Moses must have been confused when, at the very beginning of the plagues that will culminate in the Israelites leaving Egypt,  God instructs him to take a back seat and instruct Aaron to turn the Nile River into blood.  (Exodus 7:19)

Isn’t Moses to be God’s messenger to Pharaoh? Why does God assign Aaron to bring the plague of blood?

“Gratitude,” answers  ancient Jewish wisdom.  The Nile carried Moses to safety as an infant.  It would show ingratitude to turn that life-saving  water into a lifeless stream of blood.

Excuse me? This is a river we’re talking about. Can a river feel shunned? No. That is the entire point!  Expressing gratitude does allow those who helped us to feel our appreciation. But it benefits the speaker as much—or more— than the recipient.  Among other things, expressing gratitude dramatically increases one’s optimism level.

An article published this year in a National Institute of Health journal noting the correlation between optimism and gratitude stated, “Thus, optimistic people experience more gratitude, which could give more sense to their lives and, in turn, enhance life satisfaction.”

The researchers have the equation back to front. It is not that optimistic people experience more gratitude, it is that grateful people experience more optimism. Working on “being optimistic” is difficult to pin down. But it is simple and clear-cut to work on “being grateful.” Whether you start a gratitude journal or challenge yourself to express gratitude aloud, to God, to each person with whom you interact, or to your nation on a daily basis, there is no more effective way to induce the happy sensation of optimism and hope in our souls than finding opportunities to say, “Thank you!”

Rather than focusing on the deprivation and great losses of the preceding year, the early Pilgrims counted their blessings and gave thanks. Not surprisingly, they embedded in America a sense of boundless optimism. It is no surprise that as their descendants become ungrateful “it’s owed to me” citizens, they are increasingly pessimistic and unhappy.

Wishing all of us a Thanksgiving of first principles, where we remind ourselves multiple times a day of the many things in our lives for which we are grateful.

Did you know that Chanuka is a holiday for “praise and gratitude”?
Its timeless messages are for all humanity.
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What’s the Question?

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

There are two fascinating parallel stories about Abraham, one in Genesis 12 and one in Genesis 20.  In each of them, Abraham travels to a foreign land for a temporary stay, once in Egypt and once in Grar.  In each of them, Abraham says that Sarah is his sister instead of his wife. In both stories the king takes Sarah and God intervenes to let both Pharaoh of Egypt and Avimelech of Grar know that Sarah is really Abraham’s wife.  However, there is an interesting difference.

In Chapter 12, Pharaoh calls Abraham and he says:

“What have you done to me?  Why did you not tell me that she is your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ even when I took her as my wife?  Well, here is your wife. Take her and go.”

Abraham says nothing in response—he doesn’t answer Pharaoh’s question; he just gets up and leaves the country.

In Genesis 20 Avimelech asks Abraham, “What did you see that you did this thing?”

This time, Abraham responds with a full, complete answer—it actually is 3 verses long.

Why the difference?  Both kings ask him for an explanation of his behavior, but Abraham ignores Pharaoh’s question and answers Avimelech.  Why?

Rabbeinu Bachye, a transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, notes that Pharaoh’s question wasn’t a real question.  It was a rant. The proof is that his final line is “take her and go.” Pharaoh was letting off steam with all his questioning but he wasn’t truly interested in a dialogue.  He just wanted the situation over.  And so, the polite, respectful thing for Abraham to do was to get up and leave quickly and quietly.

Avimelech on the other hand asked a meaningful question and waited for an answer, which Abraham respectfully gave him.  Isn’t that a beautiful distinction?

This balance of knowing when a question should be answered and when the situation should just be remedied without discussion is one that all mothers work on. There are many times that our children ask us something and they truly want to hear our perspective. There are other times when they ask us something but they are only letting off steam.  They don’t want our explanations; what they really want is the situation to change.  We have to work at knowing the difference, knowing when to answer a question right away, when to defer an answer until a later time when the child will be more receptive, and knowing when to not answer at all.

It also goes the other way when we question our children.  There are times we ask questions just to let off steam, “Who left the door wide open?”  or, “Why did you do that?”  Most of the time when those words come to my mouth, it isn’t because it really matters to me who or why, I’m just expressing that I’m upset.  And I work on trying to bite my tongue because I don’t want to ask my children questions that aren’t really questions.  I also don’t want to ask my children questions that they are incapable of answering such as,  “Why did you do that?”  Most kids and adults aren’t self-aware enough to answer that one without a lot of reflection.  Why ask something that they can’t answer?  We want to show our kids that when we ask them something, we are honestly engaging in dialogue. We want to hear from them, like Avimelech and unlike Pharaoh.

May God bless us with the wisdom and self-control to know when to answer our kids and when to be quiet, when and how to ask our children true questions and when to refrain.

THOUGHT TOOLS

  • A Holiday for Optimists November 23, 2020 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - In pre-COVID days when I spoke to large audiences, I enjoyed asking groups to raise their hands if they were sales professionals.  Usually, only a few hands went up.  I then asked, “How many of you are justices of the United States Supreme Court?”  After the chuckles subsided, I asked, “How many of you are… Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Scarcity or Abundance? November 24, 2020 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - This is going to be a “different” Thanksgiving where our immediate family replaces our usual extended family group. I know we can still focus on the things for which we must be grateful, but it seems to me that we are in a period of less rather than abundance. There are fewer opportunities to work… Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • The Traditional Biden Voter November 19, 2020 by Susan Lapin - I expend an outsized amount of mental effort trying to understand the half of America that voted for the Biden/Harris team. I realize that those people don’t all fit into any one category, just as all the people who voted for Trump/Pence, can’t be described as having one monolithic mindset.  I understand the young who… Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • A COVID Plus for Thanksgiving November 24, 2020 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - The COVID virus and the response to the COVID virus have both resulted in much sorrow and difficulty. But, they have also led to some positive responses. For years, we have been dismayed as more and more stores open on Thanksgiving, switching the focus of the day to shopping.  While people will still be shopping… Read More
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