Posts tagged " chanuka "

Fire Up the Blender

December 14th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

Successful living often involves blending two incompatibles.  For instance, raising great children means parenting with the perfect mix of tough, firm discipline and gentle, yielding compassion.  In running a business, entrepreneurs must exquisitely blend ‘the customer is always right’ with ‘some customers are not worth having.’  In courting, smart men and women combine ‘you’re the only one for me’ with recognizing that until the wedding, other options do exist.

Living without this ability to combine opposites is seldom successful.  Such parents run the risk of creating either brats or brutes. Such a suitor can endlessly submit to an excessively demanding and unsuitable marriage partner.  Such a storekeeper ends up with a collection of customers who spend very little and complain a great deal or with no customers at all.

Chanukah, whose fifth day starts tonight, emphasizes one of the most crucial of these blends—that between body and soul, between living in the physical world and also in the spiritual one.

In ancient Jewish wisdom, Greek culture represents a materialistic view of reality and is viewed as the source for a physical world view in which only those things that can be seen and touched have value.

One might suppose that the opposing view is that only spirituality matters.  However, that is not correct.  God gave Israel one of the great secrets of life—the importance of striking a balance between physical and spiritual and between body and soul.  The tension between the world views of Israel and Greece is the central theme of Chanukah.

How one feels about whether we live only in a materialistic world or whether we live in a world of both physical and spiritual will greatly influence the decisions we make in running our lives. For that reason, understanding the Greece/Israel tension is vital for successful living.

The Torah term for Greece is Yavan.  It appears many times throughout Scripture and always hints at a mistaken materialistic view of reality. It is first found early in the tenth chapter of Genesis*.  The word looks like this:

יון

The word’s graphical appearance, three vertical columns of different lengths, suggests the famous columns that are the most enduring relic of ancient Greece.  What is more, if one slightly varies the pronunciation of the three letters that comprise the Hebrew word YaVaN, what emerges is ION, the origin of Ionia, the ancient name for Greece.

The word Zion captures the idealistic vision of God’s plan and purpose for us.

…for from Zion** shall go forth the Torah and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
(Isaiah 2:3)

The word Zion looks like this:

ציון

It is created by placing the letter Tsadi in front of the Hebrew word for Greece, YaVaN.

All Hebrew letters have meanings and that of Tsadi is a saintly human being.  Putting all this together reveals that the idealistic vision of Zion depends upon blending the spiritual saintliness of the Tsadi with the worldliness of Yavan.

While it is true that in the afterlife we shall be involved only in the spiritual, in this world, God intends us to successfully blend the physical and the spiritual.  We reflect this ideal on Chanukah by kindling our menorahs, creating a special light whose purpose is to shine as a beacon, blending physical and spiritual.  That is what scientists mean by the duality of light.  Light can best be understood as a mind-boggling blend of physical particles and spiritual information in waves.

In our exciting new teaching, Scrolling through Scripture (Unit 1), I explain the unique qualities of light, and how understanding it provides a path for thriving.   We start by noting that the word for light appears five times in the first day of Creation.  And how modern science seems to take its lead from the first 4 verses in Genesis as it recognizes that the origin of the universe has so much to do with light.  Our verse by verse exploration of the Six Days of Creation allows me to take you into so much greater depth than these Thought Tools can possibly provide and I invite you to join me on this powerful Bible study.

In our recommended Bible:
* p. 26, top line, 7th word (with the letter ‘ו’ meaning ‘and’ before it).
** p.  1222, line 18, 3rd word from the right (with the letter ‘מ’ meaning ‘from’ before it).

NEW!

SCROLLING THROUGH SCRIPTURE
a verse by verse look through the eyes of ancient Jewish wisdom

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Gifts Galore

December 9th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

A lot of presents will be given over the next month, many of them to children. While some of the presents will come from aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends, parents will also spend a great deal of time and money choosing just the right items for their children. After all that work, they might expect to sit back and relax.

Not so quickly. Shopping for and distributing presents and watching your children receive gifts from others brings with it a number of parenting opportunities. Preparing in advance will make the entire episode not only more positive but also more pleasant. Let’s divide them into before, during and after.

Before: Discussing in advance how to react to a disappointing or duplicate gift, practicing saying thank you out loud and with a smile (and maybe a hug), and making clear house rules such as, “No using a present until the thank-you card is written” is so much better than waiting until those discussions are needed.  Here’s where role-playing really shines. Have fun with little ones (and not so little ones) by pretending to give gifts that are not on the “most desired” list. You play Aunt Matilda giving Ashley math flash cards and when Ashley actually gets a box of handkerchiefs (do they still make handkerchiefs?), hopefully she will muster a big smile.

During: One of the frustrating things about holidays is that the reality often doesn’t match the anticipation. Some kids (and adults) have a really hard time when schedules, menus and sleep are off kilter, as they often are during special occasions. Preparing easy-to-access healthy snacks, monitoring sugar consumption, and scheduling in quiet time can make all the difference.

After: Even in our virtual world, physical thank-you notes matter. Learning to express  detailed gratitude in writing is one of those old-fashioned lessons that will yield unexpected benefits down the road. Of course, role modeling this idea is more valuable than lecturing about it.   

I’m sure you have many more practical life lessons for this time of year. I’d love to hear them.

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No Margaritas for Me

November 19th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

As the U.S. population ages, many members of the baby boomer group are rejecting the elderly housing paradigm of their parents and grandparents.   An article in  The New York Times describes innovative senior housing in Florida whose name, Latitude Margaritaville, is based on a popular Jimmy Buffett song.  In describing this over 55 housing development designed to resemble a non-stop beach party, the article quotes a University of Iowa anthropologist who says, “We have no shared collective articulation for what later life is for, what the value of living longer is, except not dying…”

I guess that depends on what your definition of “collective” is. The Judeo-Christian tradition has a very clear understanding. While Latitude Margaritaville sounds like a fun place, ancient Jewish wisdom isn’t keen on separating the generations. Listen to this exchange between Moses and Pharaoh.

(Moses relating God’s message) …thus said the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
(Exodus 9:1)

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Comfort Reading

December 14th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 54 comments

I went to the library yesterday to get some comfort reading. You probably know about comfort food. After 9/11, even fancy restaurants began serving  mashed potatoes, chocolate pudding and other common staples of childhood. As people were reeling from the ominous events that shook the world, eating simple old-fashioned favorites emotionally connected them with a safer time and place. Don’t most of us have a food or drink that we associate with feelings of security and protection?

Comfort reading is similar to comfort eating though it has the advantage of being calorie-free. I went searching for, and found, books that I had previously read, ensuring that there would be no unpleasant surprises. They weren’t necessarily my favorite books, simply decently written and rather undramatic ones; books with only happy events. Or at least the problems that do occur are minor, reparable and not stress-inducing to me as a reader. Books like Mrs. Mike or Little Women, as wonderful as they are, don’t fall into this category. Quite frankly, (spoiler alert) one or more beloved character dies in each one. Since getting older seems to correspond with my becoming more of a blubbery mess as I read those scenes, those books clearly won’t serve my purpose.

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Festive Weekend

December 22nd, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

We wish you a joyous Chanuka or Christmas with family, friends and community.

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In Front of the Eight Ball

November 29th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

“Rabbi Lapin, please stop talking and writing about money; all you’re doing is perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes!”  This was the phone call I received a while ago from the head of one of the Jewish organizations concerned with anti-Semitism.  Knowing it was futile, I still recommended that he worry more about Moslems than about me.

“Rabbi Lapin, I love your weekly email messages but I get really turned off by the commercial message. I know you have to advertise, but it detracts from the spiritual high you give me.”  This was an email I received from a long-time reader of our work.  I responded by explaining how making money can be as much a way of serving God as worship is. I suggested that her attitude really placed her ‘behind the eight ball’ financially.  Hoping she wouldn’t be too put-off by another advertisement, I recommended she read Thou Shall Prosper for the full explanation

Then I assured her that I would write more on the topic. Here it is.

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Mugging or Mayberry

December 9th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

As the rabbi of a fledgling synagogue in Venice, CA, one of my first goals was to build a school. Recognizing that a stable community needs a place to celebrate and pass along its values, Susan and I spent the summer after our marriage recruiting students for an enterprise that, as of yet, had no teachers and recruiting teachers for an enterprise that, as of yet, had no students.

One father’s reaction disturbed us greatly. He conceded that the local public school his six-year-old was slated to attend wasn’t safe. Nonetheless, he told us that he was committed to sending his son there. “I know he will get mugged for his lunch money and he may get roughed up a bit but I want him to live in the real world.” (more…)

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Fossil Fuel Festivities

December 16th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Around the world, Jews greet the holiday of Chanukah by lighting one flame. On each successive night of this eight-day festival we add one additional flame, culminating on the eighth night with a fully lit eight-flame menorah.

Among the miracles commemorated by Chanukah is that God made a tiny quantity of consecrated oil last for eight days until a further supply could be secured.  Since only one flame was involved in the original miracle, we could adequately commemorate it by lighting one candle each evening of the eight days.  Or if you prefer bright lights, we could light eight candles each night of the festival.  After all, my gracious Christian neighbors don’t keep adding to or subtracting from the attractive holiday lighting on their homes as Christmas approaches.

Surely kindling the identical array of light each night would adequately capture recollection of the original miracle by replicating it.  However, if you really do want to make each evening distinctively different, it would express more environmental sensitivity were we to first light eight candles and then one fewer on each successive night.  This would demonstrate our sad but inexorable progress toward a darker world.  Each night’s declining light would publicly proclaim that we are running out of the fossil fuels from which candles are made. (You do know that this is not my real belief, don’t you?)

What ultimate meaning do we derive from ancient Jewish wisdom’s requirement that we light one flame the first night, two the second, until night eight when the menorah’s eight candles cast out an incandescent blaze of light?

Darkness is the tragic default condition for much of humanity.  Even our live lives are frighteningly fragile and can all too easily turn dark.  One need only dwell on the problems that we all face for life to become overwhelming. Family issues, health and financial crises, even matters of personal faith.  If individual challenges are not enough, consider the state of the world.  That alone could envelop you in gloom and darkness.

With all that darkness, the pathway towards brightness and happiness is hard to find. Since it’s impossible to completely rid one’s life of problems, how does one dispel darkness?

The best way is by focusing on only one problem at a time.  If we chip away at only one challenge at a time and ensure that each passing day diminishes that problem, we see hope.  As the figure of speech goes, we see ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’  The key is to make each day even just a little brighter than the day before.  Herein lies the key to the infusion of hope that the Chanukah experience offers.

As my friend Dave Ramsey (www.daveramsey.com) teaches, if one of the causes of your darkness is debt, select one credit card and chip away at its balance.  Make each passing day a bit brighter. This will help you shine light and dispel gloom on the next area you need to confront.

If your marital life, or lack thereof, is bringing darkness, pick one small area to start improving each day. If a health or financial issue looms darkly, again, start today to better one small area.

Trying to tackle everything at once – the equivalent of lighting eight flames each night – can quickly lead to chaos. Starting with a huge chunk and despondently recognizing that you have undertaken too much is demoralizing.  Even worse is lighting eight candles, then seven, then six. You’re moving depressingly toward darkness.  Instead, find one limited area to which you can consistently add a little more light. Needless to say, seeing that one dark area brighten up a little each day equips us to confront other problem areas with optimism—an expression of light.

Celebrating Chanukah in accordance with ancient Jewish wisdom provides an annual infusion of hope and promise.  Watching that menorah become brighter each night assures me that tomorrow can be lighter than today and offers a roadmap to bring that about.

Susan and I try to dispense cheer and guideposts for successful living on our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show. We love the mail we receive telling us how you enjoy and benefit from our work. We gathered eight of your favorite shows onto two DVDs. As part of our Chanukah celebration, get both discs for the price of one. They make great holiday gifts and provide uplifting “downtime” relaxation. (For more Chanuka insights check out Festival of Lights as well as the final day of our Biblical Blueprints sale.)
Ancient_Jewish_Wisdom combo 1 and 2 pic

 

BiblicalBlueprintSetFOL cover (3)

 

 

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