Posts tagged " Deuteronomy "

Nothing Trumps Your History

November 9th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

When democracies vote, citizens hope to elect leaders whose values align with their own.  The problem is, how do you know?  One clue is to pay far more attention to what they have done over the years than to what they say.  Interestingly, in America’s recent election, the news media along with their attendant opinion-generators focused exclusively on the candidates’ words.  In one case to ignore prior misdeeds, and in the other to ignore prior accomplishments.  What is wonderful about raising children is that they pretty much ignore what parents say but derive their sense of values entirely from what parents actually do.  A man I know understands this well: here is his story.


Something for Nothing

August 31st, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

Here is one way to give your employee a raise:  “You’ve been with us for a year now, Enid; that means that you are due for your first raise. Congratulations, your pay is going up 5%.”

There’s another way to do it.  “During the year you’ve been with us, Enid, you’ve really made a difference.  I asked our accountant to calculate how much extra revenue your innovations brought to the company and the answer was very impressive. The way you came up with improvements in operations and how you then implemented those ideas has been incredibly effective.  We’re happy to raise your pay 5%, you really deserve it.”

I think we all know that the second approach is a far better way.  Though child-rearing is not the same as managing employees, some principles are similar.  Sadly, I often see parents violating these rules.  Some parents bribe their children with candy or watching videos in order to try and obtain the desired behavior.  A bribe is quite different from a reward. One precedes performance while the other follows it.


Are there Jews everywhere?

November 12th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


I understand that God warned in Deuteronomy 28 that He would disperse the Jews throughout the world “from one end of the earth to the other”. Did this happen?
Are Jews in every country; for example Chile? Iceland? Korea? South Africa? How far were they dispersed?

∼ Kate S.


Dear Kate,

Chile – yes; Iceland -yes; Korea – yes; South Africa -yes. It is quite difficult to find a populated area that does not have resident Jews or where Jews haven’t historically been a presence. There are countries where Jews lived before being expelled (returning to some later, like England and Spain) and others, such as Syria, that Jews fled relatively recently because of persecution after thousands of years of maintaining an intact religious community.


Paint by Words

May 1st, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

How easy it is to become impatient with a long story being recounted to us by a toddler, colleague, client, customer, or patient. Unfortunately, leadership, whether in business or the family, sometimes depends upon making the best decision after receiving nothing more than a written or verbal report.

When we are the ones relaying information, we can get frustrated as our listeners tune us out. Instead of our employees, spouse, children or patients paying attention, they seem uninterested or distracted.

How do we become better at both giving and receiving information?

This verse can help:

Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the words which your eyes saw,

… and you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.

(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Why does Deuteronomy 4:9 refer to words that are seen? We see things, not words. I sympathize with the plight of translators who often mistakenly write, “Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the things which your eyes saw…”

While ‘things’ is a possible alternative meaning for the Hebrew word, DeVaRiM, which is used here, it is not correct in this context. DeVaRiM, meaning words, is the Hebrew name for the fifth of the Five Books of Moses and is the second Hebrew word of the book.

These are the words (DeVaRiM) which Moses spoke to all Israel…

(Deuteronomy 1:1)

As our verse reveals, central to the entire theme of inter-generational Torah transmission is that we must transmit to our children and grandchildren specific words and not general things. But spoken words like the Torah taught by Moses are heard not seen!

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the unusual language in the verse refers to the fact that the entire Sinai revelation was an integrated, comprehensive, multi-media experience; a sort of son-et-lumiere show. There was a visual depiction of the words spoken by God.

Why was this necessary?

When we see a landscape, a statue, a battlefield or a building, we instantly grasp the entire picture. No translation is necessary.

Many of us still prefer watches with hands because by merely glancing at the position of those little hands, we instantly understand that we’re late. Seeing a colorful graph reflecting sales figures immediately lets us know how the company is doing compared to last year. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

When we look at details or hear a recitation, our brains need to convert the information into useful real world information such as “you’re late!” Listening to a lesson, a speech or a piece of music requires that we concentrate through its entirety since it imparts meaning only once our brains have assembled hundreds of words or musical notes into one integrated totality.

Our verse teaches the correct technique for coping with the challenge of conveying and receiving information. As listeners, we need to exercise our memory muscles in order to concentrate on converting a long flow of words into one complete picture that we can almost see in our mind’s eye. Only then can we exercise judgment and leadership in arriving at the right conclusion and taking the best actions.

When relaying important information, try to make it come alive, using words and imagery which captivate your listener and help him visualize what you are saying. Try making your listener see a picture rather than just hear words.

In directing the children of Israel to convey words to children and grandchildren, God taught us how to effectively do so. The words must be so alive that they can actually be seen just as they originally were when God presented them.

Increasing your comprehension, vocabulary and fluency is one of the most important steps you can take to improve effective communication in your business and family lives. Whether or not you use it, the foul language which abounds in our culture impedes success. Every word you speak and hear affects your income, your family and your soul. Our best-selling (and on sale) audio CD, Perils of Profanity will help you become aware of the poisonous effect of profanity and provide guidance for combating it.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Profiling, Racism and Reality

I am humbled by the responses to last week’s Musing. I asked for readers to participate in a conversation and you did. I truly appreciate the kind words from many of you and I am grateful for those who affirmed, gently chided, and wrote so passionately and eloquently. Race is an emotional topic and as a country (and a world) we need to feel comfortable speaking openly. I encourage you all to read the comments; it will be a good use of your time. (I have a culture gap admission to make here: the first comment which used the letters AA had me scratching my head trying to figure out what Alcoholics Anonymous had to do with the topic. It took a bit of pondering to realize that it stood for African American.)

Rather than quoting from and responding directly to your comments, I’d like to continue the dialogue…READ MORE

Prime Choice

March 2nd, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Why do some people succeed in life while others fail? You know the answer. For the most part, folks fail because they did not do what they should have done back when they needed to do it. They may also not be doing what they should be doing right now.

See, we all know the road to success. Do what you must do when you must do it. Not what you want to do. Not when you get around to it. Do what you must do when you must do it and the world is yours.

For some people it may mean adopting then keeping to a healthy diet from this moment. For others it could mean doing whatever it takes right now to protect and nurture a marriage. It could mean taking immediate and necessary steps to rid oneself of an addiction. For many it means finding a job, finding a second job or starting a business—today!

This is all really very simple. Do what you need to do when you need to do it. Unfortunately, however, this simple but true formula leaves us utterly baffled by a perplexing puzzle. If the road to success is so well marked, why do so many of us fail at so many of the things we consider truly important?

It takes another question to best illustrate ancient Jewish wisdom’s explanation for why so many of us fail at doing precisely what we know so well we ought to do.

Read this verse:

I call heaven and earth today to bear witness for you that I have placed before you
life and death, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life…
(Deuteronomy 30:19)

Here’s the question: If life and death are the choices before us, who in his right mind would choose death? What sane individual would choose curse over blessing? Why should God need to sagely recommend that we choose life and blessing? Who would do otherwise?

In reality, we face these choices many times each day. Frequently the wrong path is the more appealing one.

God has put us in a world with not only physical gravity but also spiritual gravity. Yes, it takes far more effort to climb up the stairs than down. It takes far more effort to lift a weight than it takes to drop it. It takes far more fuel for an airplane to attain cruising altitude after takeoff than it takes for the same aircraft to descend back to earth prior to landing.

Similarly, it is far harder to keep to a diet than it is to let oneself go. It is far harder to stick to a project that needs doing than to abandon it for an evening’s entertainment. It is harder to keep a marriage going than to walk away and it is harder to do one’s work when it needs to be done than it is to make excuses.

Yes, most of us know what we ought to do. The problem is that God built a system of spiritual gravity that resists our every attempt to improve ourselves and our lives. We should be happy about this for the same reason that weightlifters and athletes are happy that gravity exists. Without it, everyone would be able to bench-press four hundred pounds and run a four minute mile, but these bogus accomplishments would achieve nothing. In His kindness, God gives us opportunities to confront spiritual and moral challenges allowing us to grow and thrive.

Knowing the secret to success is far different from traveling that path. Rarely do the divergent paths of life or death confront us head on. Instead, we make choices during countless, seemingly unimportant, daily moments. Being aware that small actions lead to a critical finish line makes it easier to steadily move in the right direction. Choose life!

Financial realities dictate that we raise the price of the 5 audio CD Biblical Blueprint Set. We will do so next week, in order to give you a last chance to purchase them at the present low price. Take some time to look around the treasure trove of wisdom found in these CDs and discover the fuel they provide for making wise choices.

Time for Your Second Act

April 29th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Though neither of us could afford the time off work, my wife and I took a long walk through the forest last week.  It was so utterly rejuvenating that when we returned to our office I decided that we couldn’t have afforded not to have gone.

Experiencing a kaleidoscope of new blossoms, birds breaking into rapturous song, lush green ferns unfolding themselves from a long winter’s sleep, and a parade of colorful caterpillars, all in the company of my soul-mate, filled my heart with joy.

Spring, sweeping away the vestiges of winter, brings the message of renewal, hope, and second chances.  It may seem dark and cold but it is never all over.  For those who faithfully love God there is always tomorrow.  As the lowly caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, there is a second act for everyone.

I shouldn’t really have needed a walk in the forest to remind me of this heartwarming truth.  After all, Scripture offers so many affirmations of rebirth.  One is evident from the arrangement of the Torah into the so-called Five Books of Moses. 

People who pore lovingly over its pages are encouraged to explore the themes of each book of the Torah.  The careful reader will quickly discern that the book of Deuteronomy, in Hebrew Devarim, recaps much of the previous four books repeating many of the laws and events found earlier.  For instance, we find:

The Ten Commandments  (Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20)

The story of the spies  (Deuteronomy 1 and Numbers 13)

Moses delegating authority (Deuteronomy 1 and Exodus 18)

However, some concepts we encounter in Deuteronomy for the first time.  Obviously in a short Thought Tool I am able only to provide a brief glimpse into the vast wonders of this discussion so here are just a few.

Divorce  (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)

Levirate marriage whereby the brother of a man who died childless

marries the widow  (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)


God reciprocating and returning to us

when we return to Him  (Deuteronomy 30:8-10)

A common feature in these examples is that there is a second act.  Sometimes things may go badly but it is not all over.  Sometimes we abandon God and feel utterly alienated from Him.  Callers to my radio show in San Francisco often tell me about having been away from faith for decades.  Still, a return is always possible and we are always welcomed back in loving embrace by our Father in Heaven who takes a step towards us too.

Sometimes a marriage has deteriorated so badly that it can never be restored.  While this doesn’t happen as often as many couples think, it does happen.  Well, a second act is possible.  One has to endure the pain of a divorce but then rebuilding is possible.

The book of Deuteronomy even presents the example of a life which might be seen as leaving no impact – dying childless.  Even in that situation, a means to perpetuate the person’s life exists.  Today, while levirate marriage is not allowed, the point remains. Whatever our first act, we all have the ability, profoundly and spiritually, to impact the world in our second act.


To raise the curtain on your second act, you must first lower it on your first.  Doing so can take courage because sometimes it is just plain easier to resign yourself to pain than to abandon your caterpillar skin and soar like a butterfly.

The 3 keys are courage, inspiration, and motivation. Courage can be found by reading Joshua, Judges, and Psalms. Inspiration is acquired by returning to God and remembering that this “…is not hidden from you and is not far away..” (Deuteronomy 30:11)