Posts tagged " |Exodus| "

Inherit the Land

April 13th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Thought Tools are meant as practical, real-world application of specific principles in Ancient Jewish wisdom.  Before submitting them for publication we ask ourselves whether they would have made sense to our grandparents and if they will make sense to our grandchildren. In other words, are they ‘evergreen’?  Little gets stale more quickly than political columns, while God’s Biblical blueprint is always current.

Occasionally we make an exception and when we do, it’s because politics is nothing more than the practical application of someone’s deeply held moral beliefs.  The World Health Organization (WHO) began in 1948 because of some people’s belief that it would be good for this United Nations agency to exist.  Advocating for universal health care as one of its mandates was someone’s idea of morality. It isn’t mine, but it was someone’s. 

WHO issues a list of the countries with the best healthcare systems. The United States ranks at number 37.  France and Italy occupy positions 1 and 2 respectively. The list of 36 countries with supposedly superior health care than the United States includes Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Cypress, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Dominica. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that it would be better to need urgent medical care in Columbia or Cypress or even France than in Wichita, KS.  WHO’s chief criterion for ‘best’ healthcare is actually ‘most equal’ healthcare. Poor or even appalling healthcare delivered equally to all puts you up high on the WHO list.

Early in 2020, even before investigating, WHO echoed China’s lie that there was no evidence for human transmission of coronavirus.  Although, as is now widely known,  China concealed life-saving information from the world for over a month, WHO loudly praises China for its helpful medical transparency.  WHO also prevents Taiwan’s participation although the small independent nation handled its virus outbreak far more competently than its giant neighbor over the straits.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches how the world REALLY works and part of that is knowing that large organizations tend to take on a life of their own. Instead of focusing on the cause they were formed to serve, they  devote themselves far more to these three ends:

1.  Ensuring their own immortality by expanding their power and influence.

2.  Serving the financial and social interests of their managers, operators, directors, and members. 

3.  Promoting a social and political climate in which the interests of large organizations fare better than those of small organizations and individuals.

This political principle is true for most large groups of people gathered beneath a banner or attracted by a crusader.  We can watch it in action with most bureaucracies, trade unions, and advocacy groups.  Witnessing it play out in the World Health Organization as well as in Pharaoh’s government in Egypt helps us shed new light on these two passages in Genesis.

And He [God] said to him [Abraham] I am the Lord who took you out from Ur Kasdim
to give you this land as an inheritance. And he [Abraham] said,
“Oh Lord God, with what shall I know that I shall inherit it?” 
(Genesis 15:7-8)

Many readers mistakenly believe that Abraham was asking for proof to help him believe God’s promise about the land of Canaan coming to him as an inheritance.

However, if Abraham was skeptical about God’s promise, the time to have expressed his concern was 3 chapters earlier:

And the Lord appeared to Abraham and He said, “To your seed, I will give this land.”
(Genesis 12:7)

In any event, if Abraham was really asking “How can I trust you to keep Your promise?” God’s answer (Genesis 15:13-16) that the Hebrews would be slaves for 400 years makes no sense.

Not for a minute did Abraham doubt God’s intention to give the land to Abraham’s seed.  However, it was quite possible that after some period of occupancy, those descendants would be permanently evicted.  After all, the current occupiers were on notice for eviction! 

The second time God promised Abraham the land (Genesis 15:7)  God used the word inheritance. Inheritance means forever and Abraham asked explicitly about the inheritance aspect when he said: 

Oh Lord God, with what shall I know that I shall inherit it?
(Genesis 15:8)

Inheritance of the land puts it outside the normal patterns of human habitation; it is permanent. Normally, nations acquire land and eventually lose it in one of two ways— through war or national dissolution. When God gave the land to Abraham as an inheritance, Abraham knew that his descendants could never permanently lose the land through external enemies.  But what about dissolution? Descendants faithful to walking God’s path as Abraham did would deserve to keep the land, but what if after the passage of time his descendants lost all spiritual affiliation to his values? Such people would no longer be a party to the inheritance covenant.

This was Abraham’s question in verse 8. “…with what shall I know that I shall inherit it?”  In other words, how could Abraham know that his descendants will always be his spiritual children and thus worthy of the land? 

To this question, God’s answer makes perfect sense. I am going to subject your descendants to a traumatic experience from which they’ll eventually emerge together.  Typically, soldiers who come through combat together tend to form strong bonds towards one another and the nation they protected. God’s answer is that the Egypt enslavement will bond Abraham’s children to one another while the Exodus and the subsequent Mount Sinai experience will forever bond (at least some of them) to Abraham’s values forever.

To this day, the one religious observance most retained even by alienated and secularized American Jews is the Passover Seder reliving the traumatic Egypt experience and the dramatic Exodus. The impact still resonates.

We have prepared an instantly downloadable program that lets you “sit”  at our Passover Seder. See how Pharaoh served his own narrow interests even at the great cost of his entire nation (and ponder how that pathology relates to our lives today). Explore how the  Hebrew nation was forged in the furnace of Egypt and discover how challenge produces strength. The audio walks you through the entire Seder experience and gives a deeper understanding of how Passover serves as an annual injection that lays the ground for intergenerational continuity, just as God promised Abraham.

2 NEW RESOURCES

How to Lead Your Own Passover Seder download
3 volumes available individually or as a set
Chart Your Course: 52 Weekly Jounaling Challenges with Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Please note that our office and store will be closed from Tuesday evening through Thursday night in honor and observance of the closing days of Passover.

They’re Keeping You Down

May 6th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Recently, I enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of leading a Passover Seder.  Around the room sat a most stimulating group of enthusiastic participants.  I began by explaining that rule number one at the Seder is that everything we do has contemporary significance.  For example, when a therapist talks a client back through her childhood, it is not to wallow in nostalgia.  No, it is for the purpose of revisiting the past to better understand the present in order to improve tomorrow.   In the same way, we are not commemorating the Exodus and deliverance from Egyptian slavery.  No, we are reliving that 3,330 year-old torment for the purpose of making changes in our lives today and thereby improving tomorrow.

This sounds obvious and easy however in real life it is anything but that.  Especially since the culture surrounding most of us emphasizes blaming others for anything we dislike about our own lives.  The most obvious ways in which Marxism has influenced secular liberalism, the semi-official state religion of America and most of Europe, is that we have been indoctrinated to assume that problems in our lives are entirely due to race, gender or class.  We suffer harassment, injustice, or outright oppression because of the color of our skin, our gender, or the fact that we see ourselves as a ‘disadvantaged class’. 

(more…)

Harvey and Montgomery

October 29th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 17 comments

If you’ve never seen the delightful 1950 movie in which Jimmy Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd whose friend is a six-foot invisible rabbit eponymously named Harvey, you might enjoy it.  I too have an invisible friend, though I don’t know how tall he is because he is, well, invisible!  He happens to be a highly intelligent Martian named Montgomery, who is entirely and utterly unfamiliar with everything on earth.  I find it ever so useful to be able to solicit his opinion about, or his reaction to, various earthly events.  Some people dismiss my friend, and insist that all I am really doing is conducting thought experiments but to each his own.

Let me give you an example.  I introduced Montgomery the Martian to two very different families.  The first, residing in Beverly Hills, California, presents their children with the keys to a new BMW car on their sixteenth birthdays and engages a small army of housekeepers and gardeners to free each child from any onerous household chores.  The children address their parents by their first names and receive lavish allowances with very little supervision and few rules.

The second family lives in a small town near Nashville, Tennessee.  Each child carries the responsibility for some aspect of the family’s smooth running.  Each child also has a job outside of school and is expected to say, “Yes, Sir” or “No, Ma’am” to his parents.  The family attends church each Sunday together and dinner times are also family occasions.  The children take turns mowing the lawn and tending to the flower garden.

My questions to Montgomery were this: Which set of parents is more likely to raise children with an enduring respect for parents and siblings? Which set of children are more likely to grow up into young adults who will endlessly complain to expensive therapists about how their parents ruined their lives?

Montgomery weighed it up and concluded that the parents who gave so much to their children, asking nothing in return, were surely the parents who would enjoy enduring gratitude and honor from their children.  As his earthly friend, it was my duty to inform the Martian that he was wrong.  In families where frugality is a fact of life and children are expected to behave like responsible family members and to carry their weight, family relationships are far stronger.

(more…)

Ditch the Doldrums

May 23rd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

There are many life-metaphors to be found in the wonderful world of boats. Boats and people both embark on journeys and both can reach their destinations or sink.

When a boat is in the doldrums it is in that notorious windless zone near the equator. Old-time sailing vessels were often stuck there for weeks.  When a person is listless and despondent, he is also said to be in the doldrums.  But there is one major difference. While sailboats must await changing weather, humans have the miraculous capacity to bring about change in their lives themselves. 

Being marooned in stagnant circumstances is enough to make anyone miserable.  Change, growth, and progress are amazingly effective antidotes to depression. Most of us feel energized and optimistic when taking actions to improve our lives. Often, the changing calendar serves as a useful catalyst. But wait!  What’s the point?  We all know that most New Year resolutions fade away by spring.

One way to retain resolutions is to feel authentic, durable excitement in our souls about the spiritual magic of change.

Isn’t it rather strange how God introduced Himself to humanity on Sinai 3,330 years ago? 

I am the Lord your God who…
(Exodus 20:2)

Who did what?

(more…)

How did Moses know he was an Israelite?

April 3rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

Hello,

First I would like to say that I watch your show every morning and I absolutely love it. Thank you so much for what you are doing. I have learned so much!

Now for my question, how did Moses know he wasn’t Egyptian and that he was an Israelite? It’s driving me crazy. Am I missing it in scripture or is the answer found in ancient Jewish wisdom?  Thanks for reading.

Respectfully,

Cynthia A.
Boston, Virginia

Dear Cynthia,

We are delighted that you watch our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show on TCT. We are also delighted with your question! It is a wonderful question that shows a willingness to seek beyond the surface of Scripture and explore it with mature eyes.

We suggest you can find the beginning of an answer in Scripture, by looking in Exodus and in Chronicles, with ancient Jewish wisdom filling in the blanks. In Exodus 2:6 we see that Pharaoh’s daughter knew that the baby she drew from the water was a Hebrew. She even looked for a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby! In 1 Chronicles 4:18,  we find a woman named Bit-Ya, daughter of Pharaoh. The name Bit-Ya translates as “daughter of God,” and ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that God called her by that name saying, “You called Moses your son though he was not; I will call you my daughter though you are not.”

(more…)

Pressing Restart

January 1st, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

I have been known to say that Judaism is my way of life while boating is my religion. After all, some religious observances require a special litugical language, unique clothing and are practiced on certain days.  Check, check and check for boating. But even for those of you with other religions, there are many life-metaphors to be found in the wonderful world of boats. Boats and people both embark on journeys and both can reach their destinations or sink.

When a boat is in the doldrums it is in that notorious windless zone near the equator. Old-time sailing vessels were often stuck there for weeks.  When a person is listless and despondent, he is also said to be in the doldrums.  But there is one major difference. While sailboats must await changing weather, humans have the miraculous capacity to bring about change in their lives themselves. 

(more…)

Is There Food in Your Purse?

April 4th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

As the rabbi of a large congregation, my father attended many weddings and bar-mitzvahs.  My mother usually accompanied him and on rare occasions I got to go as well.  I always assumed that when this happened, I was being rewarded for good behavior.  It wasn’t until years later that my mother confided that the times when I was taken along were when the babysitter positively refused to have me at home.

While attending one particular bar-mitzvah with my parents when I was about ten years-old, I clearly remember spotting a woman surreptitiously sweeping some cookies off the table and into her rather capacious purse.  I instantly realized that she was harboring a fugitive to whom she needed to get food.  My fevered mind needed to know whether her fugitive was a criminal or a hero.  Clearly the only way to find out more was to place her under my diligent surveillance for the rest of the afternoon.  I observed her sneaking some fish and fruit into her bag.  Sooner or later, I would surely catch her leaving  the hall and by following her I would determine the identity of the person she was hiding.

(more…)

The Gorilla, the Girl and the Snake

February 1st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

Every September at the Puyallup fairgrounds about 40 miles south of Seattle, occurs one of the Lapin family’s favorite fairs. On one special day each September, we would head to the Washington State Fair. We’d arrive early morning, soon after opening and leave only when the lights started going out late that night.  We love that fair.

One attraction, popular at almost every fair in the country for the last seventy-five years, is the girl-into-gorilla illusion.  The audience is shepherded into a dark tent. When the curtain opens, a girl is seen in a cage and before everyone’s astonished eyes she begins to sprout hair. Her features go from girlish to gorilla.  Her delicate arms gradually turn into huge hairy appendages dangling from enormous shoulders. Then, just as the transformation seems complete, the “gorilla” breaks open the cage. Everyone flees in terror, their frantic screams helping to attract the audience for the next show.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Steps to Success or Ramps to Riches

May 18th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

This past week I’ve enjoyed speaking for three financial conferences, in Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas. (You can always see if I’m scheduled to speak in your neighborhood by looking here: SPEAKING PAGE

Funnily enough, there were two questions I was asked twice by two separate people at two separate conferences. They were both good questions; the first I declined to answer while the second I enjoyed answering. The first was “What is the secret of making a successful marriage?” I demurred to both individuals, explaining that there is not any one secret; though I was tempted to respond, “Simple. Marry Susan!” (more…)

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

Sign Up Now!

Follow AAJC on its new Facebook Page!
X