Out with the Old?

It is quite exciting to tell ourselves, “This year is a new chance.”

“This year will reveal an improved version of ourselves. Just wait and see how our marriages, families, and businesses thrive. It’s an opportunity for a new beginning.”

I’m all for looking ahead and upgrading our game. But let’s not be too quick to bury the past.

Imagine telling our kids, “Guess what! We’re going to Disneyland in three years’ time!” Or, “Guess what, Honey! We’re being transferred to Paris for two years; our flight’s this afternoon.” Both scenarios are equally ludicrous. It is also as absurd to fire an underperforming employee and give him twenty-four months’ notice as it is to tell him that he must be out and off the premises within an hour. What time is right?

How long should you spend psyching yourself up to propose marriage to your girlfriend? A week? A month? An hour?

Which is right? “We’re offering you the job and would like to hear back from you with your decision in _.” Well, how long? We’d like to hear back from you in twenty minutes? Silly! We’d like to hear back from you before the end of next year? Ridiculous! What time is right?

As usual, ancient Jewish wisdom points us in the right direction. See these verses:

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place…
(Genesis 22:4)

And on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast…
(Genesis 40:20)

…let us go…three days’ journey into the wilderness, so we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.
(Exodus 3:18)

And be ready by the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down…
(Exodus 19:11)

And it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal dress…
(Esther 5:1)

Joshua commanded the officers…saying, prepare provisions for within three days
you shall cross over this Jordan…

(Joshua 1:10)

I have confined myself to only a few of the many Scriptural references to three days. Is it not peculiar that all these events and many others in the Bible involved a time span of three days? Why not five days? Why not four days? Coincidence? Of course not. It’s a lesson.

Let’s not tumble into the trap of simplistic thinking. Of course, Scripture is not suggesting that three days is the right time frame for all the scenarios I described. Instead, it is teaching the lesson of the number 3 – past, present, and future.

Like all numbers, the number three in Torah nomenclature possesses its own special significance. It alludes to how humans experience time. We are aware of the past, we understand something called the future, and we live the present. It is always in the context of these three parts of time that we should evaluate our lives and our experiences.

When we wonder whether something will be fun, we are really asking whether it will make the present pleasurable. One of the reasons a car accident can be so horrifying is the realization of how its consequences might affect the future. I recently saw an interview with a man sentenced to one hundred and fifty years behind bars. He said that what made life intolerable was not the thought of dying in prison, but that of losing connection with his children and grandchildren. In his case, having a past with deep and rich relationships made the present more unendurable.

Through the preponderance of three-day time spans, Scripture is telling us that we always need to take into account our past, our present, and our future. Whether it is Abraham confronting the reality of sacrificing his son or the Israelites preparing to meet God at Mt Sinai, people need to give themselves enough time to integrate the experiences of the past with the approaching future into something they can absorb in the present.

In our own lives, when large decisions or changes loom, the three-day metaphor tells us that the right amount of time needs to be enough time to acknowledge where we are coming from and assimilate that with where we are while moving decisively into the future. Taking too little time leaves us reeling while taking too much time dulls us. Ignoring any of the three points of past, present, and future leads us down faulty paths. By all means, ring in the new. But don’t make the mistake of ignoring the old.

This Thought Tool is dedicated in memory of Adir and Shiraz Tamam, ages 40 and 38, who were murdered while on their way to the music festival on October 7, 2023. They leave behind two daughters, ages 8 and 10. They were both therapeutic swimming instructors among their other pursuits.

And with prayers for the safe return of all the hostages and among them Arbel and Dolev Yehud, brother and sister ages 25 and 38. Dolev’s wife gave birth to their fourth child while he is in captivity and the siblings are the third generation to live on Kibbutz Nir Oz that was overrun by Hamas barbarians.

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19 thoughts on “Out with the Old?”

  1. I still can’t figure out how I stumbled upon your Youtube Channel, It is just amazing. I’m not an avid Bible reader because I find it a puzzle to understand its teachings. In this few weeks, I have watched your vids and read your posts my eyes are now seeing clearly.

    Your insights and explanations are really Godly inspired. May the Almighty God richly bless you.

  2. Thanks for this wonderful insight about the number 3. This is the first time I’m reading any of your publication and I’m truly blessed. God increase your wisdom. Igwe Ogechi

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      So happy to have you as a regular reader now, Igwe,
      Looking forward to hearing more from you in 2019.

  3. Rabbi Lapin,

    Thank you for your help! I have read through two of your books! I am a Christian Missionary turned Businessman and your understanding of God’s word has transformed my business mind.

    Quick question, I know you support connecting with people and after reading your book I reconnected with an old Business partner. We had a chance to get a half million dollar contract (Construction) again, but he was dishonest only when his lips were moving. He has 3 recent feloines, that I know of (there may be more). I was tired of his lies so I told the client I would only take the job without him. I lost that client and I wanted to know if you think I did the wise thing in this instance. What do you think?

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Brother Wesley–
      Thank you for writing. I look forward to hearing how my work has transformed your bank account as well as your business mind!
      Regarding your question, when you reconnected with an old business partner, you must have already known of his dishonesty. It’s unlikely that he just went bad in between the time you last were partners and when you now reconnected. So the first of my questions is, why did you reconnect with him?
      You write “We had a chance to get $0.5M contract…” You wrote “We”. This suggests that together, you and your partner shaped or proposed this deal with a 3rd party. Then, it would appear, if I understand correctly, you alone went to the 3rd party, behind your partner’s back and suggested cutting him out of the deal. If this is the case, then you’re lucky that losing the client is the only bad consequence.
      Based on my understanding of what I read in your letter, I think you did several very unwise things. Getting together again with someone you already knew to be shifty was very unwise. Second, going behind the back of a partner to the 3rd party ranks right up there with extremely unwise, not to mention wrong, things.
      I am uneasy at the disturbing thought that after reading of my books you still made these huge mistakes.
      Perhaps my understanding of the entire sorry story is completely wrong. I hope so.

  4. You are such a awesome gift sir.on 1St this month i was on YouTube searching for wisdom teachings to help mould a better me in 2019 and then I found myself in ur post and that’s how you rejuvenate my mind and thinking capacity I am happy I found I can’t wait to receive more of ur teachings because I have had it wrong too many times tanks Rabbi

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Onwards and upwards, Kenneth,
      Let us know how things go for you in 2019

  5. I heard about you from Dave Ramsey and I love all your insights and explanations. I feel like it is alot for me to understand. Is there a good place to start learning all you have to offer. Thanks so much for all you do

    1. Hi Jesse. We’re glad you found us. I hope I can help you choose a good starting place to begin exploring our teachings. There isn’t a formal “starting place.” It looks like you have signed up for Thought Tools and we hope you take a glance at Ask the Rabbi and the podcast as well as the other weekly writings.

      Aside from that, the first decision is whether you prefer reading or listening to audio. If you browse our web store you will see books, audio CDs, and DVDs.

      The next question is your area of interest. If you are looking for an in-depth Bible study with real-life applications, I would suggest starting with one of the Genesis Journeys sets. (https://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/the-genesis-journeys-set-audio-cds/) Each of these has two hours of audio and a study guide and will give you a glimpse into Genesis through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom which is quite amazing.

      The five Biblical Blueprint CDs are more theme-based. (https://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/the-biblical-blueprint/) Then there are the economic teachings (https://rabbidaniellapin.com/product/income-abundance-set/) which include the books, Thou Shall Prosper and Business Secrets from the Bible, the audio CD, Boost Your Income, and the two audio CD set, Prosperity Power. Without knowing you, it would be impossible to know which teaching you will enjoy most. Each teaching stands on its own as well as interweaving with the others.

  6. Happy (Gregorian) New Year, Rabbi & Mrs. Lapin,

    Love the illustration that you gave and also the one that James provided, also noticed how you grouped together solid and liquid and set them apart from gas, as you did past and present and set them apart from future, by the usage of your commas in your parentheticals in your response to James. (Assuming it was intentional) That is a tremendous analogy, and makes me think of the book of Revelation where God is particularly lauded again and again in a 3-fold set of 3’s, as “Holy, Holy, Holy (3), Lord God Almighty (3), Who Was, and Is, and Is To Come (3)”.

    May all of His “IS TO COME” come to pass in each of our lives, in 2019 and beyond!

  7. It’s unfortunate that many employers use the ridiculous “You’re fired, get out now.” method. I’ve been fired three times (I’m 60), and in each one, they knew well in advance and had me continue to work, essentially training my replacement. Even my co-workers knew, sworn to silence. This included the Navy, where they gave me three days to move my family out of base housing, making us homeless (and penniless).

    The real kicker is that in each case, I was right, but they didn’t believe me. Kharma let them know after I was gone. The instigators found themselves jobless soon after me, and the employers had a mess to clean.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Knowing that you are taking the reading of my words as seriously as I took their writing, really encourages me Lisa,
      Thanks so much,

  8. I love this Thought Tool. The magical number of three pops up with especial significance in the mythology of every culture I can think of. In particular, I recall the portentous number three as you teach us regarding the three states of water (H2O) as solid, liquid and gas: a powerful metaphor evoking frozen past, liquid present and nebulous future, respectively. No idea whether AJW makes allowances for numerology, but 2019 is also a 3-year, by the way.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear James,
      You’re just the kind of reader I have in mind while working on Thought Tools. You’re exactly correct about your insightful correlation between the 3 states of matter (SL,G) and the three tenses of time PP,F. AJW is replete with numerology such as the lesson of 3s we are discussing, but in ancient Jewish wisdom, there is no reason to regard 2019 as particularly significant since the AD system of counting years wasn’t institutionalized until about the year 500 and the setting of year zero was just a best-guess estimate.

      1. Well, I thank God and your far-sighted rabbinical ancestors for keeping this tradition alive, and especially your father and you for regarding Christians as co-inheritors of the legacy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) to share in the revelations. Hey, I have not been following your (pl.) teachings for 8-9 years for no good reason.

  9. Glad to have discovered your channel on YOU TUBE.Am gleaning alot of wisdom from your teaching.

    Wishing you a prosperous 2019!

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