Posts tagged " Esau "

Why Did I Do That?

April 27th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

Many of us are spending more time these days not only with our spouses and children but with ourselves. Unable to run around as usual, we may find ourselves paying more attention to our own thoughts, feelings, words and actions, including how we react under stress.

Have you caught yourself thinking, speaking or acting just the way your parents did? Or maybe, your knee-jerk reaction is the exact opposite from your parents?

Have you been slightly embarrassed to catch yourself imitating an expression or gesture of a celebrity or mindlessly repeating the “wisdom” of a pundit?

Your ‘Yes!’ reminds us of the mysterious power our parents exert upon our souls and the extent to which influential people impact our inner natures.

Whether in professional, social, or family settings, our instinctive reaction to challenging circumstances is unlikely to be the most productive one. Our susceptibility to being influenced by those around us can harm our lives because few of the occasions to which we need to respond grant us the luxury of lengthy contemplation.

We regularly react to events more because of how we’ve been shaped rather than by carefully analyzing them. How do we overcome this?

As usual, I seek guidance in a verse from Scripture:

Obadiah feared God greatly.  And Ahab summoned Obadiah who was in charge of the household.

Or wait, is it this verse?

Ahab summoned Obadiah who was in charge of the household; and Obadiah feared God greatly.

Which version do you think is the real one?  Surely, the verse first introduces Obadiah as God-fearing before relating how his boss summoned him?

Yet, the second version is true. (I Kings 18:3) This leaves us wondering why we’re told Obadiah feared God only after Ahab summoned him.

Ancient Jewish wisdom fills in the missing pieces.  In response to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel’s wickedness, God inflicted famine upon their land.  Ahab called Obadiah and said to him, “Even the wicked Laban was blessed by having God-fearing Jacob in his home.” 

Laban actually announces his recognition of this reality.

…I have discovered through divination that God has blessed me because of you.
(Genesis 30:27)

King Ahab continued, “Evidently you are not righteous because God is clearly not blessing me because of you.”

Therefore, the verse concludes:

…and Obadia feared God greatly.

God withheld blessing from Ahab because of his own shortcomings, not because of Obadiah’s.

Ancient Jewish wisdom contrasts righteous Obadiah with wicked Esau.  Esau, raised by his saintly parents, Isaac and Rebecca, nonetheless became wicked. Meanwhile, Obadiah abandoned the pagan Edomites who raised him, converted to Judaism, found himself serving the loathsome Ahab and Jezebel, yet remained righteous.

Our backgrounds influence us one way or the other. We might rebel against them determined to be nothing like, say, our parents or we subconsciously emulate them.  Esau rebelled against the virtue in which he was raised.  Obadiah made himself immune to the early influences in his life.

An important difference is hinted at in their names.  Esau in Hebrew means ‘ready-made.’  His name reflects his tendency to act instinctively and do his own thing.  Acting instinctively, of course, is just another way of saying acting entirely subserviently or rebelliously to earlier influences.

Obadiah’s name in Hebrew means serving God.  This reflects his tendency to evaluate his choices according to a Divine matrix and explains his rescuing a hundred prophets from Jezebel and saving their lives. (I Kings 18:4) 

One of the blessings of children is that we (often shamefacedly) recognize our failings through them as we hear words or see actions that bother us, yet it is our own conduct our children are emulating. We can train ourselves to stand outside ourselves and evaluate our own speech and behavior as well. Each time we act according to the Divine matrix rather than responding to our instinctive feelings, we increase our future ability to respond to coming circumstances correctly.

Developing quick but accurate reactions is enormously valuable in our business lives as well as in our personal ones. It can spell the difference between financial success and stagnation.  If you are presently home more because of the pandemic, we recommend taking some time to work on both these areas of life. Our Lasting Love Set and Financial Prosperity Collection are both on sale right now to help you develop improved Biblical reactions.

Hours of Enlightenment on Sale!

Lasting Love Set

Be a Heel

August 7th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

High heeled shoes for women, and at times for men, go in and out of style. Yet, two English expressions that revolve around the heel seem to be negative. We speak of someone’s weakness as his Achilles heel and we use heel as a pejorative term as in, “He’s such a heel.” 

In the Lord’s language, the heel means something quite different.  It implies progress made possible by being properly grounded.  Just think of how we move forward by walking. The first part of our body to touch ground is our heel. We then swing forward on that perfectly shaped round heel and prepare the next step.

In Hebrew, Jacob’s name, Ya-AkoV, contains within it the word heel.

ע ק ב          י ע ק ב

   (Ya)A-K-V          A -K -V
Jacob                Heel

If ‘heel’ were a verb, Jacob’s name would suggest, “He will heel”.  But that would be meaningless.  What does Jacob’s name mean?


The When and Where Matter

April 17th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

This evening, Tuesday April 17, Susan and I are doing a live TV show in Akron, OH before a studio audience.  Among other teaching, we will accept questions from people in the audience to which we shall respond by employing principles of ancient Jewish wisdom.  This is what we do with our Ask the Rabbi feature that appears on our website each week. Except that tomorrow evening, we shall see the people asking and get to meet them after the one-hour show is done.

Imagine someone in the audience asking, “Rabbi, I want to get a divorce, but my wife who is here with me is really hurt and wants us to work on our marriage; what should we do?”  There is, of course, no way to respond helpfully to all the pain oozing out of that question in the few minutes available in the show format.  I know that both Susan and I would view it as a really inappropriate question to ask in a public forum.

A lawyer friend told me that, more times than he would have expected, he would be celebrating a family birthday at a restaurant when a client would approach him saying, “I know you’re in the middle of dinner, but…”  What would follow would be some technical issue that could have and should have been addressed in an office environment. 


Rowdy Red or Benign Blue

May 31st, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

It was on election night November 2nd, 1976, when President Ford was being challenged by Jimmy Carter that NBC television showed us our first blue/red electoral map. The blue was Republican and showed the 27 states won by Ford, while red was Democrat. It was only in the 2000 Bush-Gore election that the colors were switched. Since then red shows states and counties voting Republican while blue stands for Democrats.

This was a cunning reversal of the usual convention of red symbols standing for left-leaning revolutionary movements while conservative parties in almost every country used blue. After all, the color red was emblematic of communism and still reminds us of the Soviets. You might remember the Cold War cry of the American left, “Better red than dead!” (more…)

Sign up to receive our AAJC newsletter and our free weekly teachings!

Sign Up Now!

Follow AAJC on its new Facebook Page!