Posts tagged " chanuka "

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)

And Pharaoh’s servants said to him…Let the men go,
so they may serve the Lord their God…
(Exodus 10:7)

…Pharaoh…said to them, Go, serve the Lord your God, but who exactly is going?
(Exodus 10:8)

And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds
(Exodus 10:9)

[Pharaoh said]…go now only you who are men and serve the Lord…
(Exodus 10:11)

And Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, Go, serve the Lord;
only let your flocks and your herds stay…
 (Exodus 10:24)

God planned to take the entire people of Israel out of Egypt—the young, the old and the middle-aged along with their material wealth as represented by their livestock.  Pharaoh’s courtiers advised him to placate the God of the Hebrews by temporarily allowing the males between twenty and sixty to go worship in the desert.

Considering that advice, Pharaoh asked Moses to clarify exactly who would go.  Moses answered unequivocally that it would be everyone as well as their possessions.  When Pharaoh tried to limit the group by arguing that only the men are needed to worship God,  Moses rejected that offer. God inflicted more torment upon Egypt.  Pharaoh made one last attempt to prevent an intact people launching their destiny by restricting their economic freedom through retaining their livestock.  This offer was also rejected. After the final plague, Israel left Egypt with all its population and all its possessions.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Pharaoh knew that Egypt was finished. His goal was to prevent Israel from becoming a powerful nation whose success would dim the luster of his legacy.  The best way to do that would be by depriving this incipient nation of its past (the elderly), of its future (the young), and by restricting its working-age individuals’ economic vitality.  Pharaoh correctly knew that a bunch of people whose focus was only on surviving today would soon be gone and forgotten.

Centuries later, at the time of the Chanuka story, the Greek-Syrians similarly attacked the past, present and future of the Jewish people. They banned circumcision, an act that seals Jewish baby boys into the community (the future); the Sabbath, which draws our attention to God’s dominion over us as our Creator (the past); and the holidays, those days around which we our current year circulates (the present).

Families, communities, businesses and nations gain their vitality and sense of purpose from the past and future.  A home filled with the rambunctious noise of little children while also possessing the seasoned presence of wise grandparents possesses strength. Likewise, a business is propelled forward by a sense of purpose gained by making its past and its future just as important as  its present. Expanding its employees’ vision to encompass everything from its founding to its tomorrow makes their work today more satisfying and successful.  A nation without a shared collective understanding that its older members must pass down values to younger generations is standing on fragile ground.

Similarly, living only among people of your own age group is intrinsically unhealthy.

Moses and the Israelites understood this lesson as did the Maccabees who waged a civil war against those Hellenized Jews who absorbed the Greek, rather than the Jewish message, about time. It is a lesson that is still vitally important today.

Despite its popular, secularized image, Chanukah deserves its place as one the holidays whose message can provide spiritual sustenance to listeners of every background, throughout the entire year. Harness the power of Chanuka in your life when you listen to our audio CD, Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into an 25/8 Life. We’re putting it on sale now so that you can prepare to soar when those special eight days arrive. 

What Do You Need to Know about Chanuka?
SALE
Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life

Rabbi Lapin Download

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.

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…)

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.)
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