In between delivering speeches in Belfast, Northern Island last week, my hosts took me to the Titanic exhibit marking the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the ill-fated ship.
That great ships seldom sink is part of the poignancy surrounding the Titanic’s saga. Most boats float provided the designer’s specifications are observed. The same is true for aircraft. A four-seat Cessna plane flies almost as reliably as a Boeing jetliner. Just like boats and planes, a house will stand durably if architect’s plans are followed.
Yet, building a business or a marriage offers no such assurances. Although countless books exist about starting a business and getting married, following those advisors brings no guarantee of success. Surely directions for marriage and entrepreneurship ought to ensure success just as do directions for ship builders, airplane builders, and home builders. Why would the success rate for new businesses and marriages be well below the figure for ships, planes, and buildings? Maybe Exodus can guide us.
God directed Moses how to build the Ark of the Covenant and then told him to place inside it, “…the testimony which I shall give you.” (Exodus 25:16)
God directed Moses to build the Table and then told him, “And you shall set the bread of display upon the table… (Exodus 25:30)
God directed Moses to build the Menorah and then told him, “…and he (the priest) shall light its lamps… (Exodus 25:37)
However, when God directed Moses to build the altar (Exodus 27:1-8) no subsequent instructions followed.
Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the purpose of building the Ark, the Table, and the Menorah was to allow actions like sheltering the testimony, setting the bread, and lighting the lamps to happen. Building the altar had purpose and meaning in and of itself.
Building the Ark, the Table and the Menorah more closely resembled building boats, planes, and homes. However, the altar was more of a spiritual entity and building it was meaningful in itself.
A ship is built for the purpose of launching it; an airplane is built for the purpose of flying it; a building is constructed for the purpose of occupying it.
However, a marriage needs no other purpose to exist. Its very existence provides meaning. While it is true that a business will fail if it does not make a profit, it gives its owners significant meaning and purpose in life entirely separate from that goal. If you enter into either a marriage or a business with the proper attitude, they are both vehicles for giving to others. Thus they resemble the altar whose purpose was also giving—to God. Building a successful marriage means becoming a giver and building a successful business means focusing on giving real value to other human beings.
There are libraries of information on how to build physical objects like boats, planes, and houses. And you will only fail by ignoring those physical directions. Happily, for successfully building entities like marriages and businesses, there is information available too, but you need to expand your horizons to include spiritual information.
Is speech physical or spiritual? We use our physical bodies to talk, but if we ignore the spiritual component, we are gravely handicapping ourselves. Both marriages and finances are destroyed by underestimating the power of words. I encourage you to get my audio CD, The Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak, currently on sale and available by mail or download. Whether you have a profanity problem or not, it will open your eyes and give you tips for putting the power of speech to work in your life.
Our prayers are with those of you whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. For those of you who were inconvenienced, but are back to normal, we are extending the sale on the Ancient Jewish Wisdom DVD for another 48 hours so that you can enjoy last week’s savings.
That Titanic exhibit in Belfast? Quite the finest of its type I’ve ever seen. In my view, worth a trip to Northern Island to see it as well as the country’s many other delights, especially the wonderful people I met there.
This week’s Susan’s Musings: No One is Reading This, Right?
Let’s be real. It is election night and most of you, at least my American readers, will be sitting at the edge of your seats or off to rejoice with or gain solace from friends. Wednesday morning, all you will want to talk about will be the election. What chance does my Musing have of being appreciated even if by some slight chance a few people read it? Not much.
Rather than send out electrons to be lost in cyberspace…READ MORE
Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here
Hello, dear Rabbi Lapin,
We hear over and over that we should pray and that we ought to pray. It seems to me that no one really knows how to pray. What I hear sounds more of a request. I am not judging or making fun of anyone, but it would be great if we could get this information from Scripture as it is written in the Torah.
Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE