Posts tagged " family "

Grab the Gold

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 26 comments

Here’s a question for politicians:  Do you really want to fight poverty?  I mean do you really, really want to end poverty, or do you just want to get re-elected?

If you really mean it, I have some good news for you along with some bad news.

The good news is that you no longer need to impose confiscatory rates of taxation upon hard-working families in order to give some people the money that other people have earned. 

The bad news is that many of your constituents would rather deal with the disease than confront the cure.  The reason I say this is because the one sure way to defeat poverty in one generation is to enact policies that would ensure that most children will be raised by married parents in wholesome and intact marriages.  The problem is that many of your constituents are more committed to liberal social policies that undermine marriage than they are to ending poverty.

The Brookings Institution, which is certainly no friend of traditional morality, through its Center on Children and Families is only one of many reputable organizations whose research has left little doubt that children do far better when they grow up in a traditionally strong family.  Many on the left ask, “But why should growing up with a married mother and father have anything to do with how well children do in their careers when they grow up?”

One answer is leadership.  For a family to thrive, effective parental leadership is vital.  For a business enterprise to thrive, effective leadership is just as essential.  Not surprisingly, a child growing up in a strong family absorbs the lessons of leadership from his parents and is thus equipped to deploy that leadership later on.

Here are three lessons of leadership crucially necessary for successfully managing a family as well as for running a business organization.

(i)  When leaders make mistakes or commit moral lapses, the entire enterprise, family or business, is imperiled.  Just think of Hollywood’s once prominent and prospering Weinstein entertainment colossus.  Or, just think of any of the families you know torn asunder by infidelity. Leadership means responsibility rather than privilege or license.

(ii)  Leaders know that when they do make mistakes, they, and only they carry the burden of repairing the consequences of those mistakes. 

(iii)  Leaders know that part of their job is ensuring that children, employees and associates retain strong moral anchors in accordance with the value system of the family or organization.  They must exercise constant vigilance because if subordinates lose their links to the central moral core, lapses in conduct are sure to follow.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us these three practical lessons in leadership from a fascinating sequence of events related in chapters 6-8 in Joshua. 

Here is a brief summary of the story.  Following God’s instructions to Joshua, Israel conquered the city of Jericho.   Though Joshua directed that all its treasures should be consecrated to God, one fellow named Achan helped himself to some choice items of plunder. 

Joshua’s military advisors indicated that Israel’s next target, the city of Ai, would require no more than a small force to gain a quick victory.  That small army was ignominiously defeated by the men of Ai, and Israel was thrown into doubt and fear.  God explained to Joshua that the calamity was caused by transgression; someone had stolen items from Jericho.  He assured Joshua that all would be well if the culprit was punished, and He instructed Joshua how to identify the perpetrator. 

The next morning Joshua paraded the people through a selection process, finally identifying Achan.

Achan confessed to having taken a garment from Shinar (many translations mistakenly say, ‘Babylonian garment’) along with a quantity of silver and gold.  After Achan was executed, Israel again attacked the city of Ai and this time they triumphed decisively.   

Among the questions we must ask:

(i) Why was all Israel punished with such a shocking defeat when only one man, Achan, committed the wrong?

(ii) Why did God not simply identify the miscreant Himself, rather than having Joshua conduct a mysterious identification process? 

(iii) We can understand why Achan took silver and gold but why a cloak from Shinar?

Ancient Jewish wisdom provides the answers:

(i)  The leader of Israel, Joshua, was just as culpable as Achan.  God never declared that Israel should not plunder Jericho. Joshua came up with this unnecessary prohibition on his own. (Joshua 6:18).  If only Joshua had not added his own restrictions to God’s direction, what Achan did would have been permitted.  Israel could have legitimately plundered Jericho just as God explicitly told them to do at Ai. (Joshua 8:2)  All of Israel was punished by a terribly defeat because the leader had erred.  He had promulgated a law that God had not directed.

(ii)  God didn’t identify Achan as the criminal because Achan didn’t violate God’s law; he violated Joshua’s law.  Thus the onus was upon Joshua to solve the crime.  God sometimes leaves us to climb out of holes that we ourselves dig.

(iii)  The Shinar garment is Scripture’s way of making us refer back to the Bible’s first mention of Shinar in Genesis 10:10. Along with three other references close-by, these allude to Nimrod’s war against God.  Achan did want the gold and silver.  However, because he mistakenly believed that God had prohibited that treasure, to get them he first had to break his relationship with God just as Nimrod had done.  After that he felt free to seize the gold and silver.

Whenever parents understand and absorb these three lessons they are better able to build a strong and effective family.  These three lessons also help business leaders build strong and effective organizations.  Yes, successful marriages and happy families not only give their children a ladder from poverty to prosperity but they also give their children a head start in becoming excellent organizational leaders themselves.  That would be good for them and for their society.  But are politicians willing to declare what almost everyone knows? Namely, that stable marriages are the finest environment for children and society.  I don’t know.

Nimrod’s rejection of God serves as a prototype for rejecting God to our very day. If this intrigues you, delve deeper into the verses describing Nimrod’s building project, the tower of Babel. Learn not only what his name means in Hebrew but also the tactics he used that are effectively still being used to sever people from a relationship with God and His teachings. Our audio CD set, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel is currently on sale.

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Alive Wrong

August 24th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 20 comments

Back in high school when I took Driver’s Education, we sat through many boring hours of classroom instruction before being allowed to do what we really wanted to do, which was get behind the wheel. One snippet of advice stuck. Our instructor told us that you can be ‘dead right’ but it is better to be ‘alive wrong.’ His point was that we needed to be alert and defensive drivers. Yes, a green light meant that we could legally go, but if someone at the intersection looked like they might run the red light, we would be wise to waive our rights.

Well, you can be ‘politically correct dead right’ and automatic lock-step with the latest trend or you can be ‘alive wrong.’ Quite frankly, trends are evolving so quickly that it is a full-time job to differentiate between satire and reality.

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How do I raise my son in the ways of the Bible?

August 1st, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment

I am a Christian who lives in Indonesia. I am a frequent listener of your podcast and blessed to find tremendous wisdom in your teaching. I am keen to learn about the root of my faith from Hebrew Bible, at which I believe, as you believe, as a God-given blueprint for our life.

As a recent father, it is my desire to show my child the way of the Lord. Thus, I have a question; what is the best way to teach Torah to our children (especially toddler to under 12 years of age). What is the best method/technique to convey the narrative to them while at the same time conveying the wisdom/substance (which some stories I find them may not be suitable for children. I want to learn from your perspective as rabbi and Jewish parents on how to impart your wisdom to your children.

Thank you and God bless,

∼ Nugroho H.

Dear Nugroho,

Congratulations on the new blessing and challenge in your life. You are asking a wonderful question. Wouldn’t it be nice if for $99 you could purchase a curriculum that would guarantee that your children will view the Bible the way you do? Of course, no such program exists.  (more…)

Should our son be in the family business?

January 27th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

As the mother of a son and daughter, I greatly enjoyed your podcast of 8/22/15, in which you discussed father-son businesses. My son is currently employed in my husband’s law firm. My son’s background has not been stellar. He flunked out of the first year of a 3rd tier law school and had to take the bar exam 4 times to pass both sections. Consequently, he has been working at the family law firm for 2 years and only able to do anything court related since September 2015. Needless to say he spent much of his time surfing the internet because there wasn’t any work my husband could give him to do besides administrative work which my son felt beneath him to do. 

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Should we speak out?

August 13th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

A friend and her unmarried daughter just named the new born baby ‘Delilah’. We believe that names are important and this namesake is a strange pick. My wife asked me whether she should say anything to this Bible-believing Grandma. Do you have an opinion about this?

∼ Mark

Answer:

Dear Mark,

We certainly do have an opinion and it is one that we often voice to ourselves: When someone does not ask your opinion, you should not give it. While, obviously, there are exceptions to this rule they are fewer and farther between than most of us imagine.

This Bible-believing Grandma must be having a difficult time dealing with her daughter’s out-of-wedlock birth. It sounds from your letter that she will be a full time support network for this new, little one. Her hands will be full and she will need her friends’ embrace over the years to come.

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How can I be respectful to my unbelieving family members?

June 24th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I have two sisters who are causing big dilemmas in raising our 2-1/2 year old daughter. One sister is living with her boyfriend and their new baby and doesn’t attend church. She consistently dresses very provocatively, when she comes to our house.

The other sister is an angry atheist who swears and takes God’s name in vain constantly. She talks freely of getting drunk, premarital sex and other inappropriate topics in front of our daughter and my eight-year-old niece. My practice so far has been to ignore the immodest dress from the one sister, and to say in a hushed tone to the other sister, “Oh, we probably shouldn’t talk about that stuff in front of [the niece]” 

My husband and I are committed Christians and both volunteer in our church regularly. When I was a kid and a high schooler, I erred on the side of being ungracious and judgmental, and in college I tried very hard to change that. Now I fear I’ve swung too far the other way and important boundaries are being crossed. I feel like I’m making huge efforts to be respectful and loving of my sisters while they are disrespectful of me and my family. What would you advise?

Thank you so much for your wisdom!

∼ Emily

Answer:

Dear Emily,

The question you ask hits close to home for so many people. We think you are being astute in recognizing that you leaned too far in one direction when you were younger and that this might have encouraged you to lean too far in the other direction now.

Family relationships are important and we don’t think people should be quick to terminate or minimize them. At the same time, your primary responsibility is to be your daughter’s protector and to maintain the spiritual integrity of your family.

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Do I build my business or live near my grown children?

May 7th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

When my parents were at my current age I look back and see that they stopped life. The pain was too great for them and they retreated. My wife’s parents became so involved in the grandkids that they also eventually became lost and alone as the grandkids moved away.
I want to show my kids something different and here is my dilemma. I can expand my business to other areas and states to increase our finance or I can go to where my kids and granddaughter will be and do business but not expand the business.
 
Thanks for your insight.

∼ Robert F.

Answer:

Dear Robert,
One of the most musical sounds in our memory repertoire is, “Daddy/Mommy, come here. I need you.” We are very blessed; our grown children are kind enough to promote an effective illusion that our involvement in their lives is important to them. We choose to believe them.

Wicked Fun

November 16th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

 

By nature, I am not impulsive, but when my youngest daughter’s college lecture was cancelled last Wednesday and I had no urgent deadlines to meet, we hit the half-price ticket booth in Times Square. A few hours later, we were ensconced in fantastic seats watching the Broadway show, Wicked.

The last Broadway show I can remember seeing was right after my wedding when my husband and I saw Angela Lansbury perform in Sweeney Todd. Though we come to New York relatively frequently, we are usually busy with work and family. Despite the activity’s benign nature, last Wednesday has an aura of illicit, stolen pleasure.

There was a special fillip of fun in enjoying Tamara’s exclusive company. After the show, when we grabbed a bite to eat, Tamara and I had similar reactions. The show was amazing with talented actors and a clever plot. However, most of all, we were both struck by the energy level. Wicked is in its eighth year and many of the actors have repeated this performance thousands of times. Yet, it all seemed fresh and exciting.

That, of course, is one of the things which separates a professional cast from an amateur one. An actor who can’t continually play a role as if it was the first time won’t make it to Broadway. Neither will one who can’t leave personal difficulties, minor illnesses or tiredness at the stage door.

Ideally, isn’t that true for all of us? Whether we are surgeons or secretaries, parents or postal workers, we should demand a level of professionalism for ourselves. I was once at the playground with my children where I noticed the extreme patience and level of fun a young woman was exhibiting with two young children. She pushed them on the swings and wiped noses with such good nature, that it made me feel ashamed of my own, less enthusiastic, playground demeanor.

We struck up a conversation where I commented on her behavior. To this day, I remind myself of her answer. “I am their nanny,” she said. “I am getting paid to be cheerful and involved.” My children weren’t with a nanny, but with me. Surely, my responsibility as their mother and my payment in the form of the relationships I was building were greater than hers. Yet, not reporting to my Boss on a face to face basis made it easier for me to forget that I too needed to take my job seriously.

 Being at the performance of Wicked reminded me of this long-ago encounter. Sometimes time with my children is an unadulterated pleasure, as was last Wednesday. Other times when the phone rings after I want to be asleep, or when they are grouchily recuperating from having their wisdom teeth removed or when being together means hours upon hours of cooking and dishes, the time is less enjoyable. Nonetheless, they are a treasure entrusted to my care and deserve every degree of the best attention and affection possible.

 

Building a ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Home in a ‘Gossip Girl’ World

June 8th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

 

Have you ever seen the TV show, Gossip Girl? Well, I haven’t, which means that I went out on a limb a bit by mentioning it in the title of a presentation I am giving in a few weeks, “Building a Little House on the Prairie Home in a Gossip Girl World.” I thought it was a safe bet that the two shows present contrasting views of family life and fortunately my college-aged neighbor confirmed this fact.

 

I have no desire to live back in the 1800’s. Among other things, I am immeasurably fond of indoor plumbing. But I don’t accept that technological advances must go hand in hand with the loss of strong families and values. After all, the world of Ma and Pa Ingalls was technologically advanced compared to a hundred years earlier and while technology has (with a few exceptions) pretty much marched on throughout history, adherence to standards and morals seems to wax and wane.

 

Most parents in what I think of as the Gossip Girl world have little of substance to convey to their children. The idea of their passing on sage wisdom and life guidance as the Ingalls or more recently the Cleavers or even the Munsters did, is ludicrous. When you aren’t sure yourself whether being honest, self-reliant and faithful is laudable, it becomes difficult to transmit that message.

 

What if you do have strong principles and beliefs which you wish to share with your children, but the educational, entertainment, political and general society around clash with you on every point? Barring moving to the middle of the prairie with a few oxen, what can one do? That is what I hope to explore in a few weeks and I am highly interested to hear your insights and suggestions on the topic. Do use the comment box below to let me know your thoughts. Thank you.

 

 

 

Fifty Pounds of Potatoes, Fifteen Dozen Eggs…

April 13th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

 

At the end of the meal, after proclaiming in a loud voice, “Thank you HaShem (God); thank you Grandma,” three year old Eli noticed that everyone at the table was looking at him. He explained to the group, “I like to thank both those guys.”

Which pretty much sums up our Passover. With God’s blessing, we had all our children and grandchildren around the holyday table for the first time in a number of years. While I spent many hours preparing the food for the seventeen to nineteen people at each meal of the eight day celebration (including ten festive meals), it truly was a labor of love.

This is not to say that it also wasn’t a lot of work. The planning started weeks in advance with a lot of unknowns. Would we have a very pregnant daughter at the table or a post-partum one? Or maybe the eagerly awaited family member would arrive during the festivities? Would we have a sparkling new and large kitchen to work in as well as extra bedrooms available or did the east coast winter snowstorms put another daughter’s planned move into a new home behind schedule?

Well, we are still waiting for the baby and about two weeks before Passover it became clear that a tiny kitchen would have to suffice and that we would need to impose on generous neighbors for beds. We rented an extra refrigerator, bought a counter top convection oven and moved the organizing/cleaning/shopping/cooking countdown into high gear.

Is Passover an easy holyday to make? No. But it is hard to think of anything that is worthwhile which doesn’t entail great effort. While this year had its specific complicating factors, other years have featured my own newborns, ovens and refrigerators that conked out, and a variety of other family and technical hurdles to overcome.

Still, while I appreciate the times we have spent Passover at friends or relatives as well as the availability of hotel Passover programs, my favorite years are like this one, when we are blessed enough to have the strength and time to do all the preparations and gather our family around our own table. The “easy” Passovers, when others do the work, can be wonderful, but they always feel a bit “Passover style” to me rather than the real thing. Not only are the weeks of preparation an intrinsic part of the celebration, but while the food may be delicious elsewhere, it doesn’t include those items whose smell and taste trigger the explosion of Passover memory receptors.  And had anyone other than I done the cooking, I would have missed out on my grandson placing me in such illustrious company.

As my mother always said at the holyday’s end each year, “May the same hands that put the Passover dishes away this year take them out again next year.” Amen.

 

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