Posts tagged " Hebrew "

Afraid? Who, Me?

January 12th, 2021 Posted by Thought Tools 36 comments

Unexpected political developments can be scary.  Over the past year, Americans have been barraged by disturbing events and images on an almost daily basis. 

It was really scary for people living comfortably and securely in England when they awoke on Wednesday morning, December 5th, 1914. A nation that hadn’t seen rationing or military conscription in living memory was at war with Germany.  Many people stayed home that day in sheer panic about what was to come.

It was soon after lunch on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, that Americans in New York and Washington discovered that their Pacific naval base in Hawaii had been bombed by Japanese aircraft.  People were rightly frightened by the unknown terrors that lay ahead.  For almost an entire day, most people just sat at their radios.

On Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001 Americans were glued to their television sets in uncomprehending numbness as they watched the Twin Towers fall.  Like most frightened people, they remained passively watching the attacks again and again as news outlets replayed the frightening footage.

Well, of course once you allow fear to grip you (which is exactly what it does – hence the figure of speech, “he was gripped by fear”) you discover that there is no short- age of things to feel frightened about. Your health, your finances, your children, earthquakes, spiders – I’d better stop right there! I certainly don’t mean to get you started now. But what is one to do when feeling utterly demoralized by fear? 

To find a clue, I high tailed it to the Bible and found this verse: 

Be not afraid of sudden fear. 
(Proverbs 3:25) 

In Hebrew, the word “fear”, PaCHaD, is made up of three letters and looks like this (remember: Hebrew reads right to left): 

פ ח ד
D CH P 

In Hebrew, many important words read forwards and backwards with opposite meanings in each direction.

Thus, looking at PaCHaD backwards is important – and we find the word DaCHaF. 

No, you haven’t caught me in a mistake. In Hebrew the letters P and F are the same and as languages evolved this left its stamp as you can see by looking at the word “fish”, which derives from the same word as the astrological sign “Pisces.” Just change the P of Pisces into an F, and you’ll see how this works. 

Back to DaCHaF – what does it mean? It means to propel or to push forward. We can see it used in the Bible here: 

And Haman was propelled into his house. 
(Esther 6:12) 

The word used for propelled is DaCHaF. Well, if DaCHaF means propelled, then not surprisingly, its reverse, PaCHaD which we know means fear, also must mean restrain, handicap, keep back.  So being paralyzed with fear is exactly what fear does and so it makes sense that the opposite of fear is advancing forward. 

Isn’t that precisely what fear does to us? Fear freezes us in place. Ever read anything like this? “He stood rooted to the spot with fear” or “paralyzed by panic.” It is therefore obvious that ancient Jewish wisdom’s advice when gripped by fear is: start moving! Overcome the tendency of fear to suppress action. Deliver yourself from the trance of passivity. 

Yes, but how? Again, a Biblical clue: In Exodus 14, the Israelites, just out of Egypt are transfixed by terror. The ocean stretches out in front of them and the mighty Egyptian army rapidly approaches from the rear. Trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, one might say: 

…they were utterly terrified and they cried out to God. 
(Exodus 14:10)

Their fear completely dominated them. 

God’s response was not to split the Red Sea as you might have thought. It was the momentous lesson you and I can learn from verse 15: 

And the Lord said to Moses, “What are calling to me for?
Direct the Israelites to march forward! 

What do you mean? Into the ocean? Yes! And it wasn’t until Israel marched forward into the water that God told Moses to initiate the miracle of splitting the Red Sea. Verse 22 soon confirms the sequence of events. The Israelites went into the midst of the sea, and only thereafter come the words: on dry land. 

They activated their own miracle and contributed to their own deliverance by conquering fear generated inertia. If you want your own Red Sea to split, you’d better “March Forward.” Do not retreat–in that direction lies your personal equivalent of the Egyptian army. But above all, don’t become paralyzed and passive. March Forward. 

Regardless of what geopolitical, epidemiological, or economic crisis is terrifying you, do not allow it to immobilize you.  March forward and take care of your essentials; your family, your finances, your faith, your fitness and your friendships. 

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The Snake that Roared

December 28th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

We knew a frustrated father whose 20-year-old son was enrolled for the fourth year in some go-nowhere-course at a local college while emerging from his room only for the occasional meal. The manner he displayed towards his parents was typical of that displayed by those living on charity towards their benefactors, which is to say generally sullen and resentful.  The many long and loud conversations during which dad tried to motivate his son were about as productive as that college course, “Women, Culture, and Society” in which Sonny Boy was enrolled. 

After some family coaching sessions with us, during which we not only advised dad what to do but helped him find the strength and determination to do the necessary,  Sonny Boy returned home one night to find that his key did not work on the front door.  He circled to the rear of the house in order to find an open door or window, but to no avail.   Regardless of the late hour, he tried to phone his parents. There was no response but he did find a text on his phone from his father. 

It detailed the monthly rent that would henceforth be charged, a separate fee for meals, and at what times of the day the father would be available to the son for a phone conversation.  The next three months went by painfully for both parents and son, but thereafter an almost magical transformation occurred.  The son found a job in which he excelled, the silly college course long forgotten. He discovered a new respect for his parents and their relationship became loving.   

Sometimes, talk eventually becomes counterproductive. Only action helps. Have you ever  found yourself frustrated by endless conversation while you knew that the time for critical action was passing?  Here is your roadmap to transformation.

Genesis chapter 46 enumerates Jacob’s children and grandchildren by name, arriving at a total of seventy souls who came to Egypt.  All is as expected until we arrive at Jacob’s fifth son, Dan.

Dan’s sons: Chushim.
(Genesis 46:23)

That’s right, Dan’s “sons” suggests a plural, yet there is only one—Chushim*.  Strangely, his name ends in the manner that masculine plural nouns end in Hebrew—IM.  So yeladIM means boys; sefarIM means books, and susIM* means horses.  Though Dan only has one son, ChushIM, there is an important hint in the ending of his name that he is actually plural—two people.

We see another unmistakable sign of  a duality in the tribe of Dan:

When blessing his sons, Jacob compares Dan to a snake:

Dan will be a serpent on the highway, a viper by the path…
(Genesis 49:17)

By the end of Deuteronomy, Moses compares Dan to a lion:

…Dan is a lion cub…
(Deuteronomy 33:22)

From snake to lion is quite a leap.  It certainly seems that Dan has undergone major transformation in the few centuries separating the two verses.  In fact he is assigned a prestigious and protective post north of the Tabernacle during the desert journey. (Numbers 2:25)

What started this transformation? Ancient Jewish wisdom describes a rather strange story. When Jacob’s sons arrived at the Cave of Machpelah to bury their father (Genesis 50:13), their Uncle Esau confronted them saying, “That burial plot belongs to me.”  The stunned sons reminded Esau that he sold his inheritance to Jacob, but he refused to give ground. The brothers then dispatched Naftali, the swiftest runner,  back to Egypt to fetch the contract to prove that the plot indeed belonged to Jacob. Meanwhile they waited.

Chushim, the son of Dan, was deaf and did not hear the entire discussion.  When he asked, “What’s the delay?” his uncles explained how Esau was holding up the burial. This outraged Chushim. “Must my grandfather lie in disgrace until Naftali returns?” he yelled.  He immediately jumped up to strike Esau, killing him.  Jacob was then buried.  

What caused Chushim to have such an instantaneous and strong reaction?

Lengthy, protracted  conversation and negotiation can eventually start having  a numbing effect.  It can gradually erode the certainty of one’s position.  One begins to “understand” the other side.  Think of how many today have begun to “understand” those who claim that being born white is proof of being privileged.

By contrast, the deaf Chushim who heard none of the interaction with Esau knew only what he saw, namely that, “Grandpa lies in disgrace.”  He recognized Esau’s intent for what it truly was—a desire to remove Jacob and his descendants from continuing the heritage of Abraham and Isaac.  The delay was for the sole purpose of demeaning Grandfather Jacob rather than a valid confusion over a contract.

We are certainly not meant to model our behavior exactly on that of Chushim. However, those of us with ambition to improve our lives can learn from him. Sometimes we need to transform ourselves radically from snakes to lions as it were.  Such transformation is best brought about through action rather than talking, arguing, organizing or coordinating.  Often we can get ourselves out of the rut by a convulsive leap rather than by endlessly discussing detailed drawings and descriptions of the obstacles in our path.  Chushim really was two people—Chushim the First before transformation and Chushim the Second thereafter.

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* Recommended Bible references:
Horses: SusIM – סוסים. p. 1826 – 6th line from the bottom – 2nd to the last word. The ב at the beginning of the word means ‘with.’
Dan’s son, ChushIM: חשים – p. 146, 15th line, last word

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Taste the Difference?

November 30th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

One of the signs of a COVID infection is a loss of smell and taste. Compared to other complications of disease this may be minor, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the impact. Possibly, only once we function without smell and taste, do we fully appreciate God’s blessing to us in providing us with food for our nutrition rather than a daily vitamin tablet. The variety, distinctions and diversity of our food add immeasurably to our pleasure in life.   

Being unable to see distinctions in more important areas than smell and taste makes unhealthy moral decisions more likely.

Jacob’s father-in-law, Lavan, initially seems to be an innocuous Biblical character, yet, during the annual Passover Seder, Jews label him as more wicked than Pharaoh.

What is Lavan’s background?  Abraham had two brothers, Nachor and Haran (Genesis 11:26).

Nachor had a son, Betuel (Genesis 22:22),  who had two children, Rebecca and Lavan (Genesis 28:5).

As we first meet Lavan, he is usurping his father’s role. When Abraham’s servant, Eliezer arrives at Betuel’s house after meeting Rebecca at the well, it is Lavan who takes charge. He steps forward rather than allowing his father the prerogative of welcoming a guest into his home (Genesis 24:29-33).

Once again blurring his relationship with his father, Lavan takes the lead in authorizing his sister’s marriage.

And Lavan and Betuel answered and they he said, “This matter is from God.”
(Genesis 24:50)

Ancient Jewish wisdom stresses that Lavan is mentioned before his father indicating that he obnoxiously preceded him.  Furthermore, the Hebrew word for “answered” is in the singular; VaYa’AN.  We would have expected the plural, VaYa’ANU, since both son and father responded*.  This grammatical hint informs us that Lavan rudely pushed his father aside and assumed full authority.

ויען    ויענו
and he answered  and they answered

            In a later verse, even Jacob identifies Lavan as the son of Nachor, his grandfather rather than his father Betuel.

“Do you know Lavan the son of Nachor?” They replied, “We know him.”
(Genesis 29:5)

It seems that it was universally known that Lavan identified himself as interchangeable with his father.

Lavan also treats his children as interchangeable.

After agreeing to allow his daughter Rachel to marry her cousin Jacob, Lavan ruthlessly replaced her with her sister, Leah (Genesis 29:23).

Lavan also regards the property of others as interchangeable with his own, keeping the entire flock under his control, though Jacob unquestionably deserved compensation. Later, he reluctantly agrees to the separation as an alternative to losing Jacob’s outstanding services.

Finally, so committed is Lavan to the utter blurring of everything that he even considers God to be interchangeable with false deities.

Let the God of Abraham and the gods of Nachor judge between us…
(Genesis 31:53)

With the stunning consistency that is the hallmark of God’s message to mankind, Lavan’s name perfectly captures his essential flaw.  The Hebrew word lavan means white whose essence is made up of a mixture of all colors. Just as raindrops split ordinary white sunlight into its constituent rainbow colors, the reverse is also true; all colors combine to form white.  Lavan suffers from moral color blindness.

Erasing the countless nuances of life can lead to great social peril and it is the foundation of Lavan’s wickedness.  When your God isn’t special, when family roles aren’t special, and when other people’s property is indistinguishable from yours, life goes wrong. On a large scale, this type of thinking leads to socialism with all its destructive pathologies and the dull, drab, grayness which socialism always produces.

Studying the Torah through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom trains us to notice the nuances, spot the subtleties and dig beneath the surface. Our library packs provide hours of stimulating study via books, audio CDs and DVDs. As a holiday bonus, get a copy of America’s Real War for free along with your library pack before we increase the price to reflect the addition. These packs make wonderful gifts at this time of year and also provide a stepping stone to making next year one of growth in all areas of your life.

*In Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s recommended Bible: p. 66, 2nd line from the bottom, 3rd word from the left.

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I Won’t Stand for It

October 20th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment
  1. “The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
    Shone round him o’er the dead…”

                                                            (Casabianca, Dorothea Hemans, 1826)

2. “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing…”

                                                       (The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe, 1845)

3. Stood there and watched you walk away…”

                                                     (Haunted, Taylor Swift, 2010)

4. “How to Handle Getting Stood Up on a Date”

                                                       (Glamour Magazine, 2014, 2011, 2004, 1998)

The French captain’s son stood resolutely on the burning deck until he was finally consumed in the furious flames.  Though Edgar Allan Poe claims he stood there for a long while, I suspect that in reality he soon returned to his bed.  Taylor Swift stood there as her lover walked away but one assumes that she managed to replace him quite quickly.  The readers of Glamour who keep getting stood up, well, enough said.

There really ought to be different words in English for stood.  One can scarcely compare my different examples of standing.  One shouldn’t.  I won’t stand for it.

In the Lord’s language, there are indeed words to describe two different ways of standing.  One can stand firm like the boy on the burning deck; one might say, stand like a pillar.  Or one can stand there sadly like Taylor Swift, ready to be quickly distracted by someone else.

Let’s see a Biblical example of each kind of standing.

You stand this day all of you before the Lord your God.…
that thou shouldst enter into the covenant of the Lord thy God and into His oath…
(Deuteronomy 29:9-11*)

And it came to pass at the end of two years that Par’o dreamed;
and behold, he stood on the river.
(Genesis 41:1*)

When the Israelites stood before God to establish a special covenant, it was for all time.  In fact, the Bible makes clear that this covenant is being established not only with those Israelites who were standing there but also with all the future generations not yet born. (Deuteronomy 29:13-14*).  In other words, a permanent standing.  The Hebrew root used for standing is YaTZaV.

י   צ  ב

However, when Pharaoh dreamed that he stood on the Nile, not only did he not remain there for long, but it was a dream.  The Hebrew root used for stand is the far more common OMeD.

ע  מ  ד

The root OMeD is also used here, implying a lack of firmness:

And the magicians were unable to stand before Moses…
(Exodus 11:9*)

When the standing is more that of standing like a rock until one’s task is complete, the Torah uses the word YaTZaV. The use of this word in an unexpected place can give us deeper insight into a person’s actions.

For instance, “Behold I stand by the water well…” (Genesis 24:13*) said Eliezer as he prayed for success in finding the woman who’d become the second matriarch, the wife of Isaac. This resounds to Eliezer’s credit.

Knowing that there are two different ways of standing helps us translate our spirit into our posture.  When I stand in line at the check-out, I hope it’s not for long and so I don’t root myself to the ground.  However, when I stand up for principle, I want to be utterly immovable and, just as importantly, I want to appear to others as utterly immovable.

Deciding which principles one will stand up for unyieldingly is vital for successful living.  It allows one to know in advance which battles are worth fighting and which are better averted.

We are offering a sale this week on our Genesis Journeys Set as a powerful way to learn Biblical truths that Hebrew and ancient Jewish wisdom reveal. Each of the four audio CD sets (with a study guide) guides you to understand today’s personal and universal struggles and strengthen you as you take your stand.

Are you using our recommended Hebrew/English Bible?
*Deuteronomy 29:9-11 – p. 626 –  4 lines at the bottom נצבים
*Genesis 41:1 – p. 124 – 11th line from the top (after the paragraph break) עמד
*Exodus 11:9 – p. 188 – 13th line from the top, 2nd half of the line (reading right to left) לעמד
*Genesis 24:13 – p. 62 – last line. נצב

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I Need Some Chutzpah!

August 11th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

Hello, I’m one of your grateful students. My name is Roman, want to say thank u for all your work and wisdom.

Can u explain notion of Chutzpah and some tips how to develop and improve it. Probably u know some books that have deep explanation of the notion.

Thank u a lot.

Roman

Dear Roman,

We must ask you to have a little patience as we begin our answer with words that seem to have little to do with your question.

In 1909, the first kibbutz was established in what is now the modern State of Israel. A kibbutz is a collective where all property is shared and the group takes precedence over individuals and individual families. In those days, many of those who immigrated to the land of Israel were Socialists from Russia and the kibbutz is a Socialist utopian dream. Today, few kibbutzim exist anymore and those that do are based much more on a capitalist and sometimes even a religious foundation.

Why do we tell you this? Because many people associate a kibbutz with Judaism because of the misguided, and often religiously alienated, founders of the modern State of Israel. Yet, were you to ask us to tell you tips about kibbutzim, the first thing we would have to say is that they are, at their basic level, in opposition to how God wishes us to live our lives. The Torah lauds both family integrity and private property.

What does this have to do with chutzpah, a word that has entered the English language with synonyms such as gall, audacity, effrontery and boldness? Well, rather than telling you how to develop and improve chutzpah, we have to tell you to run away from it! The word (and its root) does not appear in Scripture other than two references in the book of Daniel where it is based in Aramaic rather than Hebrew.

The classic illustration of chutzpah is a man who murders his mother and father and then pleads for mercy from the judge on the basis of his being an orphan. That is not something that makes God smile. We are not meant to be brazen and cheeky but rather humble and modest.

However, we assume that you meant chutzpah mistakenly thinking of it as acting with confidence and conviction. You are looking for the quality that allowed Moses to confront Pharaoh, which enabled Joseph to assume control of the Egyptian economy and that gave a spine of steel to the numerous Jews over centuries who accepted death rather than betray their God.

That quality is not chutzpah, but rather strength and integrity. When you know what is right and are able to distinguish meaningless stubbornness from principled stance, you do not allow yourself to be moved by anyone or anything. How best to develop those traits? That is an ongoing process that goes hand in hand with Bible study. Seeking and committing to a wise mentor and counselor is invaluable as well since we all can be blind to our own biases. Surrounding yourself with those who act the way you wish to act is also essential; just as cowardice is contagious, so is courage.

By asking the question, Roman, you are showing a desire to be a greater person. There are wonderful biographies of people that you can read which will inspire you, but in the final analysis, working on yourself each and every day is the only way forward.

Be strong and of good courage,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Two by Too(th)

August 4th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

I tossed a coin a hundred times. One of these results is real and one I just made up.  Which is which?

A:  I got 48 heads, 49 tails, and 3 landed on their edge and remaining balanced upright.

B:  I got 49 heads and 51 tails.

If you chose ‘A’ you probably have a PhD in philosophy and you are wrong.

If you chose ‘B’ you have the beginnings of an understanding of how the world REALLY works.

‘A’ could happen in theory, but it doesn’t in the real world.  In the abstract world of philosophical theory, there are often many alternatives and variations but this is less true in the real world of practical living where the choice is frequently between ‘heads’ and ‘tails.’

In the political science department of the local community college, rioting is endlessly discussed as falling somewhere on the spectrum between docile and protest. However, to the real-world business owner trying to pay his employees and take home a profit, barbarians who torch his store are just plain wrong.

Real-world duality is nowhere better seen than in the male-female dichotomy.  The cutting edge of abstract theory, mostly academics and intellectuals, insists that humans can be many things or anything on the male-female spectrum. The real world, inhabited by real people know that we are each either male or female; two choices.

Successful living means that when we are confronted by the need for a decision, we can and should explore a wide range of possibilities while we are in the early abstract stage of analysis. Once we must move from theory to action, it helps to know that many decisions boil down to A/B, a choice between two alternatives.

Early on, Scripture provides us with an introduction to areas where we must clearly recognize two categories and where fuzzy thinking will lead us astray. Not surprisingly, the portal to this discussion emerges from the number two. The first time a word occurs in Scripture provides deep insight, so let’s find the first time the number two appears in its common ordinal form, ‘two’ (not ‘second’).

And of all that lives, of all flesh, two of each you shall bring into the ark to keep alive with you, male and female they should be.
(Genesis 6:19)

This reveals that the fundamental “two-ness” in the universe is male and female.  Since the ultimate act of human creativity is creating a baby, we understand that two people can be far more creative than merely one, particularly if there is a male/female dynamic.  However, two men or two women can have a male/female dynamic as well, for example in brainstorming a business idea.  At any given moment one of the participants, whether male or female biologically speaking, is implanting the seed of an idea while the other is absorbing it.  A moment later they exchange roles as the conversation continues.

Another aspect of the number two is that the Hebrew root of two is the same root as for the Hebrew word for tooth.

   שנים  two                  שנ tooth

Even the very sound of the English word “tooth” carries within itself the sound of the number two (2-th). This highlights the point that two things complement one another.  We have both upper and lower teeth and we need them both.  Having only upper teeth or only lower teeth is worse than having no teeth at all.

One of the best Biblical examples of two is the Two Tablets that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.  The Bible rarely refers to the Ten Commandments but calls them the Two Tablets about thirty times.  This is because the quality of two they possess is so important.  The two tablets complement one another and make it possible for us to create our moral matrix by consulting them both.

Lastly, the Hebrew word for two shares a common root with the Hebrew word for years. This informs us that there is a theme linking the concept of two to the idea of years.

                                  שנה  year                שנ  two

Each passing year naturally possesses similarities to its predecessor on both a global and a personal level.  Nonetheless, nobody experiences two successive years as being identical.

Similarly, when we think of the power of two we think of two things close enough to be counted together, but not so identical as to be duplicates.  Our spouses are incredibly close to us, we can often complete their sentences.  But they are also sufficiently different to make the connection meaningful.  I may consult two books for guidance in repairing my plumbing.  They will both be about the problem I am experiencing but, to be helpful, each should tackle the project in a different way.

We understand that if we wish to change our oneness into a two, whether in seeking a spouse or a business partner, we need to find someone close and similar but not identical.

Essentially, the number two speaks to the fundamental duality which is so much a part of life.  Day/Night.  Good/Evil. Man/Woman.  Light/Darkness. Plus/Minus.  Hot/Cold.  Yes, many ideas do exist on a spectrum, but they are easier to analyze and understand when we know the two dualities that anchor the ends of the real-world spectrum.

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Breaking Up or Breaking Through?

July 27th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

Neil Sedaka’s song “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” hit number one on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 in the summer of 1962.  And as all who’ve loved and lost know, it is hard to do.  But if you are in the wrong relationship, you must do it if you are ever to move on and unite with the right person.

My wife and I nursed many a young congregant through the heartbreak of a relationship ending.  Indeed, we often encouraged and hastened the goodbye, assuring our tormented friend that only by enduring the tears of break up now, could joy arrive tomorrow.

Ford’s Model T debuted in 1908.  By 1914, a quarter-million were being built each year.  This was terrible for people who had spent years in the horse wagon business.  In fact, in the year 1900, about 110,000 people were employed building or repairing carriages and harnesses.  Nearly 250,000 blacksmiths lived and worked in America that year fitting shoes on countless horses.  And thousands more kept busy sweeping tons of horse manure off city streets.

Jobs for horse-driven transport workers quickly vanished.  However, there were soon far more automobiles than there had ever been horses and carriages and along with the cascade of cars came not thousands, but millions, of new jobs.  The end of the horse-drawn era was tough on many and those who clung to the past deprived themselves of the blessings that were marching down the new highways.

Sometimes a divorce allows two people in a doomed marriage to rebuild new lives; the breakup of an empire allows many newly independent nations to thrive; the breaking up of an old building allows a new one to rise in its place or the breaking apart of an atom releases unimaginable amounts of energy and frees humans from drudgery.  Every act of breaking, as painful as it always is, can launch something new that carries us further down the path of our own development as individuals, as a nation, and as the human family of God’s children.

I’d like to show you what the Hebrew verb for breaking looks like.

ש ב ר

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars…
(Psalms 29:5)

But exactly the same word also means place of birth:

…for the children have arrived at the birthstool
(Isaiah 37:3)

משבר

,And what is more, exactly the same word .also means food

And Jacob saw that there was food in Egypt…
(Genesis 42:1)

ש ב ר

Ancient Jewish wisdom expresses this equation:

Breakup    =    Birth     =     Sustenance

The Lord’s language is teaching us that when something breaks and is destroyed, it also can give birth to something entirely new which can provide ongoing sustenance. It’s interesting that this idea has carried over into English where we have similar positive connotations for, “giving someone a break,” “breaking into a new business,” the phrase, “break of day” and of course, having a “breakthrough.”

One problem is that often we allow a breaking of something in our lives to break our spirits.  Instead, we must ensure that it becomes the birth of something new and positive.  To learn how to transform breakage into birth we need to see two more uses of the same Hebrew word which help to make everything clear.

And when Gideon heard the recounting of the dream and its interpretation
(Judges 7:15)

שברו

I hoped for your salvation, Oh Lord…
(Psalms 119:166)

שברתי

That’s right, when confronting the breakup of something we regarded as valuable we must analyze and interpret the past but then we must face only forward and anticipate salvation with confidence.

End that bad relationship; analyze what went wrong and why you stuck with it; walk away and don’t look back; face the future with optimism.  Convert your stock of buggy whips into fan belts and join the car revolution.

Breakup        Birth         Sustenance

…if you react with analysis and optimism.

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Return to Normal?

July 20th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

When will things return to normal?

That question got your attention, didn’t it?  Internet search engines report that this may be the most asked question during the first half of 2020.  This popular question was also asked (although not on the Internet)  after President Lincoln signed into law the first income tax in 1862. It was passed as an emergency temporary measure, but you know how that worked out.

During the first few years after the terrorist attacks of 9-11, harassed airline passengers used to ask, “When will things return to normal?”  No travelers ask that question anymore. You might think that the brief answer to the question is…never!  But it is not so simple. The problem is that the question employs a word with no definition—normal.

What you really mean is, when will things return to the way I remember them back in…er, when? Immediately prior to covid19?  One year before anyone heard of corona? Before mobs of Americans defaced and destroyed historical statues? There is no such thing as normal.  That is why the Lord’s language, Hebrew, possesses no word for normal.

But Hebrew does have a word for change and it shares a root source with the Hebrew word for year. This is to teach us that just as one year leads to the next, always forward never backward, so change leads to change, sometimes positive and other times negative and never returning to what we remember as normal.

ש – נ – ה            ש – נ – ה
year                  change

The trouble is that change produces anxiety in us. We worry whether we’ll be able to function under the new circumstances brought about by change.

If there is worry in a man’s mind, he should _________ 
(Proverbs 12:25)

That blank replaces a complex and untranslatable Hebrew verb “yaschenah”  which is used throughout Tanach in three different ways each of which sheds another ray of light onto dealing with worry and anxiety.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains the three-component meanings of “yaschenah”:

1. Quash.
2. Banish.
3. Discuss.

In other words, when overwhelmed by anxiety, there are three strategies we can employ. Different ones work best at different times, based both on what is causing the anxiety and on our own personalities and circumstances.

1. We should attempt to quash the worry by burying it beneath an avalanche of other more positive thoughts. At this point, it is still in our minds but overwhelmed by competing upbeat messages.

2. Alternatively, we might try to banish the worrying thoughts from our minds. The Tenth Commandment reveals that God expects us to control not only what we do, but also what we think. Commandment number eight already told us ‘Don’t steal’. Yet, number ten asks us not to desire the possessions of others. Simply saying, “I can’t help what I think and feel, the heart wants what the heart wants,” in the words of the illustrious sage, Woody Allen, doesn’t cut it. We can and must control our thoughts and feelings. Therefore one way of dealing with anxiety brought on by change is to banish the thoughts entirely from our minds.  Exercising discipline and willpower, we don’t allow the worry-provoking thoughts to linger in our minds, but we instantly suppress them by replacing them with alternate scenarios.

3. If we find that we can’t tackle the anxiety on our own, we can adopt the strategy derived from the third meaning of “yaschenah” by discussing the worry with the right friend. If we choose wisely, doing so should remove the worry and reintroduce joy just as the conclusion of that verse indicates.

…and a good word transforms it into joy.
(Proverbs 12:25)

When will things return to normal, exactly as they were in summer 2019?  The answer is — never.  But eventually, schools and businesses will reopen.  Eventually, the pandemic will subside and the panic will fade. The brazen wearing of masks even on outdoor hiking trails will ease up. Some will wear them and others won’t.  Eventually, the economy will bounce back with a roar, and decimated portfolios and savings accounts will get replenished. Eventually roaming mobs of barbarians will fade away; some statues will be replaced and others will be lost forever.  Homeschooled children will learn their nation’s history while those children attending *GIC’s won’t.  Eventually, universities will reopen while many former students will rethink the value proposition of their expensive ‘educations’. Yes, change. Plenty change.   

Much change may be regrettable and we’ll think back nostalgically.  However, through it all, wise and happy warriors will focus on their five Fs. They will build and protect their Families, they will maintain Friendships, they will nurture Faith, they will adjust their activities to the times in order to boost their Finances, and they will manage their Fitness.

When all those five Fs of your life are in good shape, oppressive travel regulations,  quarantine restrictions, political cupidity, civic cowardice, and a growing canyon cutting through the culture cannot shake up the core of your life.  Despite the turbulence swirling around the pilings of our peoplehood,  we can still function and be very happy indeed.

When will things return to normal? Wrong question.  When shall we live our lives to the fullest? Now.

* government indoctrination camps formerly known as public schools

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Things were VERY abnormal before the Flood
What did Noah do that was so special? 
What did the rest of the people do that was so awful?

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The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah

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Cave Grave

May 18th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

I love boating along coastal British Columbia. Occasionally, we spot First Nation burial apparatus, a box or platform, often a canoe, into which the departed is placed and which is then perched upon high stilts or wedged into tree forks.

The Choctaws buried their dead by leaving them atop a high scaffold. Eskimos placed their departed beneath piles of rocks.  In much of Asia, corpses were burned as a final rite and the popularity of cremation spread far and wide.  Egyptians placed their departed in pyramids while others preferred vast above-ground mausoleums.   

When Sarah, the wife of Abraham died, Abraham didn’t place her body in a tree or under a heap of rocks.  He certainly didn’t burn it.  Instead, he said to the locals:

…entreat for me to Ephron the son of Tzochar…that he give me the cave of MaCHPeLah…as a burying place…
(Genesis 23:8-9)

The first Scriptural account of a burial follows:

 …Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of MaCHPeLah…
(Genesis 23:19).

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Rain, Rain Don’t Go Away

January 6th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

I just received a wonderfully welcome gift—a warm and wooly winter coat. With winter wheezing its cold breath over most of the northern hemisphere it couldn’t be more timely.  In my neighborhood, it’s time to think of snow.  Put snow tires on the cars; get ready to shovel snow from the sidewalk, and make sure we have boots high enough to keep snow out of our socks.  For the benefit of all you happy warriors and favored friends reading this Thought Tool in Ghana, Australia, and Florida, snow is a cold white substance somewhere between rain and hail that makes life a little difficult in urban environments subject to its presence. (Yes, I know that you smug Vermonters think it’s beautiful.  If my office window looked out over white fields, I’d agree.)

Though it is apparently a controversial assertion, I do believe that in languages like Inuit, Yupik, Swedish and Icelandic more words exist to describe subtle nuances in snow than are found in English.  There is no reason to find this surprising.  People in those far northern latitudes see so much more of the white stuff than we do.  What is more, many details of their day-to-day existence revolve around being able to tell the difference between snow suitable for sledding and snow suitable for building igloos.

From the Hebrew Scriptures, the Tanach, it is easy to see that many more words exist in the Lord’s language, Hebrew, for love than are found in English.  There are so many Biblical mentions of love; between people and God, God towards people,  between friends, between lovers, and many others.  It is not surprising that in a Biblical culture built around love, there should be many nuances of love each requiring its own Hebrew word.

But why do we find four different words for rain in Scripture?  The English language distinguishes between drizzle, downpour, and drencher, which to me makes sense.  It always seems to be raining in the homeland of the English language.  But why would the language of Scripture have more than one word for rain?

The best-known word for rain is GeSHeM: ג  ש  ם

And the rain [GeSheM] was on the land for forty days and forty nights.
(Genesis 7:12)

 

Then we have the word MaTaR: מ ט ר

…because the Lord God had not sent rain [MaTaR] upon the earth
and there was no man to till the soil…
(Genesis 2:5)

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