Posts tagged " jewish wisdom "

Giving God a Hand

October 30th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

After speaking for Hillsong at the Dominion Theater in London on Sunday, I was honored to speak on Monday night for a large audience including several hundred associates of the Genistar Corporation, UK, at the London Chamber of Commerce.  Walking to this event, I passed the imposing St. Paul’s Cathedral, which amazingly survived the bombing blitz the Nazis unleashed on the city of London at the end of 1940.

During those dark days, Winston Churchill issued a directive that St Paul’s Cathedral must be saved.  The prime minister knew that St Paul’s survival was vital for civilian morale.  During the third-last night of 1940 that entire part of London was set ablaze by Nazi incendiary bombs.

Virtually every building was destroyed and hundreds of civilians, soldiers, and firemen were killed.  Londoners endured one of their worst nights of World War II, but when morning came, they gazed upon St Paul’s Cathedral—largely undamaged; and were filled with resolve that England would prevail.

I don’t know if Churchill prayed for a miracle that night but he did assign to St Paul’s the very last few firemen he had available.  He also prepared for how he would use the building’s survival to help boost morale.

A poor, impoverished widow approached the prophet Elisha for help. (II Kings 4:1) He asked her what she had in her house.  Ancient Jewish wisdom indicates that he sent her to search her house several times until she finally discovered a previously overlooked tiny bottle of oil.

The next requirement necessary for a miracle to occur, said Elisha, was that she should borrow many containers, which she did.  He directed her to pour oil from her small bottle into the large drums.  Miraculously, the oil continued to pour from the miniature bottle until all the borrowed containers were filled with oil.

We know that Elisha wanted to help the widow and that he could summon Divine aid–a miracle.  So why did he force her to search her home repeatedly until she found the tiny bottle of oil?  Once he was going to use a miracle, why didn’t he just make oil flow from a tree or other source?  Furthermore, why make her borrow containers?  Couldn’t the same God who supplied plenty oil also have supplied many containers?

We study Scripture to extract specific life-lessons we must learn from each story.  These seven verses teach us two things about miracles.  First, in order to trigger a miracle that can transform your life you have to find within your ‘house’ which is to say, within yourself, some small reserve of resources.  Maybe it is one last bit of energy and optimism.  Perhaps it is the last bit of capital you still possess.  You have to search until you find your tiny bottle of oil.

Second, you must have ‘containers’ into which the blessings brought by the miracle can flow.

Imagine a man praying to meet a woman with whom to share his life.  But other than prayer, he takes no steps to trigger an encounter.  Furthermore, he has no job and no home and is nowhere near ready to get married.  He has violated the rules of Elisha.  He has failed to find within himself even a small catalyst for transformation.  Even if God brings him the woman of his dreams, he isn’t ready to do anything about it.  He has failed to have ready ‘containers’ for the blessing.

We want so many things: love, financial security, health, abundance, fulfillment and more. Yet, too often, we fail to reach deep enough inside ourselves and offer even more than we think we possibly can. Sometimes, we forget to ready enough containers so that our blessings don’t go to waste.

Every part of Scripture contains practical application for our lives. My wife and I love sharing these messages in depth on our TV show Ancient Jewish Wisdom. We have gathered four of our favorite shows on DVD so that you, family, and friends can watch, absorb and discuss them. Please invest in this valuable resource, on sale right now, and put God’s word to work in your life.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: When Society Doesn’t Fit?

Sometimes, approaching a familiar topic from an unexpected angle provides perspective. When a writer presents a peek into an unfamiliar culture and he is motivated by interest rather than by an agenda, he offers that opportunity. A book I recently read…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Do Jewish people believe in life after death? Since I was a little girl I have been terrified of death. As I have gotten older, the hope of heaven seems more and more like a scam. Did God really create us to share eternity with Him, or our own egos and pride unable to accept oblivion?

My faith in any God seems tied up in this paradox. So many religions have so many answers that make no sense to me.

Kathleen R.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Take to the Desert

October 16th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

In the 1970s, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided to open a business.  They wrote a business plan for a bagel delivery company.  Fortunately for dessert-lovers, that business didn’t do too well. They switched direction, opening an ice cream factory.  Mr. Toyoda spent the 1920s trying to build a fabric weaving loom.  After ten years of struggle, he switched direction—starting the Toyota car company in 1937.

William Wrigley founded his company in 1891 selling baking soda and soap, but not terribly successfully.  Discovering that chewing gum sold better, he switched direction.  Many modern companies like Google and Apple have similarly made major changes.

Families also switch directions.  Parents unhappy with their children’s friends move to another neighborhood.  Sometimes a husband and wife switch directions to escape the unhealthy rut into which their marriage has fallen.

Switching directions can save a floundering firm or a failing family. Nevertheless, conceiving of the new corporate direction or family makeover is incredibly difficult.  We all tend to think the current way is the only way.  How to escape these shackles and open up limitless possibilities?

The fourth book of the Torah, opens with these words:

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai
(Numbers 1:1)

After setting the scene “in the desert of Sinai” the book continues with a detailed census of the Israelites followed by an equally detailed description of how the Israelite campsite must be laid out.

Isn’t it odd that the Children of Israel are to be counted when the Torah records God’s promises to Abraham  (Genesis 15:5 and 22:17)  and to Jacob (Genesis 32:13) that their descendants will be too numerous to count?

Second, why spend so much time arranging the camp site when, at this point in the narrative, they are heading directly for the Promised Land?  (Numbers 10:29) The decree of spending forty years in the desert hasn’t happened yet.  Why worry about a few camping occasions until they reach Israel?

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals how both the counting and the positioning are crucial preparations for the permanent settlement of the Land of Israel and the future of the Jewish people.

The Hebrew name for Numbers is Bamidbar, meaning “In the desert.”  However, ancient Jewish wisdom offers a second name for the book, “Sefer haPekudim.” This can translate as “The Book of Numbers,” but Pekudim also means appointments, positions, purposes, or assignments, or the “Book of Assignments.”

It follows that the numbering and positioning in the first two chapters of Bamidbar share a function, namely establishing everyone’s physical position in the community as well as everyone’s purpose or assignment in the community. Switching direction from their earlier lives in slavery was essential if they were to succeed as a nation.

Determining how all the elements in the organization would dovetail is best accomplished in a desert!

In ancient Jewish wisdom a desert does not suggest a physical place like the Sahara, Kalahari or Mojave Deserts. In Hebrew, “midbar” or desert means barren emptiness.  No sight of wildlife, no sounds of birds, nothing growing. Just the people and God.

This desert is a metaphor for a place of no distractions, no preformatted reality, and no life pattern into which the visitor must fit.  It is the place open to almost anything.  In other words, when having to develop a new paradigm for your family or your business, get yourself into a desert.  Strip away all structure and let your imagination soar. It is a ‘place’ increasingly difficult to find in today’s world, and increasingly necessary to access.

There are only 24 hours left in our Appreciation Day Sale. Before heading into your desert, make sure you know how the world really works. Our low-priced library packs (Complete and PLUS) are always such a great value that we don’t often put them on sale. Right now, for only 24 more hours, prices are reduced by 15%. Act quickly and get incredible savings on hours of enjoyable growth and inspiration through understanding ancient Jewish wisdom. Invest in resources that provide practical application of God’s wisdom for your finances, family and community life. Bless yourself and others and choose the best direction for your life.
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This week’s  Susan’s Musings: Protecting the Planet…or People?

I’m not sure of a delicate way to put this, but I’d like to talk about toilets. You see, we were in Israel for the Biblical holyday of Sukot (Tabernacles) and in addition to the fantastic experiences we had (along with seeing our daughter, son-in-law, incredibly cute grandson, friends and relatives) I also had an environmental epiphany…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

What response can I give my son when he states that he doesn’t believe in God?

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Royal Recommendation

October 9th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Imagine a remote island never touched by civilization.  Its primitive populace possesses limited livestock and subsists on ineffective agriculture and inept fishing.  Violence and brutality are common; tribal warfare and disease shorten life expectancy.

Now imagine being parachuted onto this island.  Let’s stipulate that the natives venerate you as a god-from-the-sky, feed you and care for you.  How do you start improving their lives?

It would be good to get them clean drinking water.  However, neither PVC piping nor filtration material is available.  If they had boats from which to fish and sharp steel hooks they’d catch more fish, but there are no tools and no steel.

You could teach them to keep disease at bay by washing with soap and reduce malaria by spraying for mosquitoes, but unfortunately, neither soap nor insecticides are available.  You could increase productivity by teaching them about specialization and barter.  You might even be able to introduce the idea of currency and capital accumulation but in order to do so you’d first have to get them on the same moral page so they would trust each other.

Imagine how frustrating it would be for you, with all your knowledge of wonderful 21st century solutions, to visit an 11th century society and be utterly incapable of implementing any improvement.  With none of the early building blocks of technological development, no tools or raw material, no cultural cohesion, no common morality, and no institutional structures, all your knowledge of the benefits of civilization is practically useless.

Now, imagine if you could paint a compelling picture of what island life could ultimately become. You could get the entire island working together towards that common vision.  You could set up many different teams, each focused on advancing one area of need. Progress would follow as expertise increases.

As an effective leader, you should not be digging wells or carving fish hooks.  Instead, you should be projecting a picture of bright possibilities onto the hearts of your people.  You should have the larger picture in mind, assemble effective teams and delegate responsibilities. Understanding the enterprise’s destiny lets you overcome challenges and setbacks.

This is exactly what King David and King Solomon did to build their empires, and because the goals differed, the type of team that each assembled was unique.

David, building a political and militarily capable commonwealth, selected his team and governing cabinet in this order: (1) Supreme commander of the army (2) Chiefs of staff (3) The taxing authority (4) Chief civil administrator (5) Scribes (6) Priests (II Samuel 20:23-26)

His son, Solomon on the other hand, inherited a stable and secure country and intended to develop it spiritually and intellectually.  Not surprisingly scribes and priests now get mentioned earlier in the process of assembling the team indicating their relative importance.

(1) Priests (2) Scribes (3) Chief civil administrator (4) Supreme commander of the army (5) Additional priests (6) Provincial administrators.  (7)The taxing authority (I Kings 4:2-6)

The lesson is clear. Great things are achieved by having clear goals, inspiring others, organizing correctly and directing teams to carry out the details.  You could view your own business potential as parachuting onto that island.  Do you dissipate your energies with ineffective attempts to solve short-term problems and frantically put out fires?  Or, do you focus your efforts on knowing your unique vision, inspiring others, and empowering a team of individuals with suitable talent and experience to unleash their skills and creativity?

Believe in the infinite capacity of other human beings created in the image of an infinite God. Carefully understand your needs and then invite others into your team. Incentivize them, inspire them, guide them and supervise them, but don’t smother them.  Their capacity to create will astound you.

Immense teamwork goes into producing our resources. Our library packs (Complete and PLUS) are such a great value every day that we don’t often put them on sale. Through Sunday, however, prices are reduced by 15% to thank you for your patience during our store and office holy day closures, and KSFO radio absences, over the past few weeks . Act quickly and get incredible savings on hours of enjoyable growth and inspiration through understanding ancient Jewish wisdom.

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This week’s  Susan’s Musings: ATVs, Guns and Ballots

My husband and I always have fun and learn something new when we spend time with our friends, David and Cheryl Barton (www.wallbuilders.com ). The time we shared a few weeks ago was no exception. They graciously introduced us to their friends, Pastor Tim and Terri Brooks who had invited my husband to address the annual Biblical conference they host.  While the highlight of our trip to Arkansas for my husband was meeting hundreds of excited and exciting participants, I have to admit to being a bit more self-centered.

One afternoon, the Brooks invited us to their ranch…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

My question is about a good friend of mine, who works as a housecleaner, whom I respect and love.

When she is servicing the families that have hired her for cleaning, sometimes these families give her used things that don’t need any more. I consider this normal, but…

READ the rest of the question and Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Turn, Turn, Turn

October 2nd, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

With gratitude to God, I write these words overlooking the walls of Jerusalem just two hours before the holyday of Sukot starts and just two miles from where King David himself celebrated Tabernacles.

Yet, even while wrapped in Jerusalem’s eternal spiritual transcendence, I am typing on a first rate computer connected to high speed Internet in an air-conditioned office.

Many cities like Istanbul, Prague, and Tallinn display similar contrasts between ancient and modern.  But Israel’s ever-present ancient aura is the fuel propelling the country into modernity.

With fewer than 10% of the population of her four contiguous neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, Israel’s Gross Domestic Product is about equivalent to the aggregate of those four countries.  Imagine if tiny Rhode Island produced more wealth than Georgia.  Instead, as you’d expect, Rhode Island’s GDP is about 1/10th of Georgia, which has about ten times the population of Rhode Island.

One explanation routinely offered for the abysmal economic performance by Israel’s four neighbors is Israel’s existence.  There are problems with that excuse.  One, they weren’t doing any better before 1948 or before they launched several unsuccessful wars against Israel.  Two, being surrounded by enemies, the monumental costs of self-defense impose a disproportionate burden upon the tiny Jewish state.

The truth is that the four countries I named are not really doing much worse than many other countries in the world like Upper Volta, Nigeria, Romania, or Sri Lanka.  It is neighboring Israel’s incandescent performance that makes them look bad.  Thus, our question is not really why they are doing poorly. The mystery is why Israel is doing so well.

The world-record for the biggest-selling popular song with the oldest lyrics belongs to the The Byrds’ rendition of Turn, Turn, Turn from 1965, containing words from the third chapter of King Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes. This book, Kohelet in Hebrew, is read during this holyday of Sukot each year. It contains a credible explanation to our mystery.

A time to be born         And a time to die
A time to plant             And a time to pluck…

(Kohelet 3:2)

The seven verses of Ecclesiastes we’re examining (3:2—3:8) contain twenty eight events for which “there is a time.”  Some events are under our individual control. Other times, we can only respond to events in our world.  By scrutinizing each verse from the perspective of strong individual control, we find that verses (3:2—3:4) deal with events in our lives where we need to follow external triggers.  Verses (3:5—3:7) deal with events under our control.

In Kohelet 7:8, Solomon provided the clue to the pattern he followed:

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…

This verse tells us to look at the end of the section we are studying for a clue.

A time to love         And a time to hate
A time for war         And a time for peace

(Kohelet 3:8)

This verse contains both types of events. Loving and hating are decisions made by each of us.  Whether our nation is at war or peace lies outside our personal choice.  King Solomon teaches that our lives contain both kinds of events and we need to learn to distinguish between them.

Knowing the difference between the two is one big secret of Israel’s success.  Fatalistic people deem everything in life to ‘just happen’ so they attempt little and achieve less. Foolish people imagine they can control every aspect of their lives and fritter away their time and energy fighting reality.

King Solomon’s wisdom is a great part of Israel’s stupendous success.  It can do the same for you.

As I share some of the deeper mysteries of Hebrew with fluent Israelis, I have been struck by how even they are not always aware of the secrets God placed in His language. Our book, Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language explores 29 Hebrew words and the life-enhancing messages embedded in the very structure of those words. To our dismay, a fraction of the printed books did not physically meet our quality expectations. We have decided to make these available at a steep discount, but special terms apply. Please read about these books and decide if you are interested.

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This week’s  Susan’s Musings: Laundry Curmudgeon

I realize that there are urgent and important stories making the news or being under-reported. Nevertheless, I ask your indulgence while I vent about a seemingly minor topic.

Over the past year, our laundry has frequently piled up. We’ve often been on the road…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

I run my delivery business for 10 years. My drivers and I are always sharp and effective in doing deliveries. I put all my time and efforts into this business. I have tried different marketing tools, joined different networking groups. Unfortunately, I am stuck at the same level I was at 3 years ago. Even my best clients give me less and less business.

What am I doing wrong?

Alex S.

READ Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

Physical = Spiritual

September 26th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Kids, don’t try this at home, but an experienced adult with nerves of steel can quickly whip out a tablecloth from beneath expensive china place settings without doing any damage.  He would be relying on Newton’s first law of motion which says that objects tend to keep doing whatever they were doing.  If they are at rest, they stay at rest unless some force makes them move.  If they are moving, they tend to keep moving unless some force makes them stop.  Being at rest, the plates initially resist the tablecloth’s impetus to move.

Isaac Newton broke this important news to the world in 1687.  Since then we’ve understood why plates remain on the table even while the tablecloth is rapidly pulled away.  We’ve understood why a fast-moving truck will keep on rolling for a while, even after it has run out of gas.

What Newton, as a deeply fervent Bible-believer would not have been baffled to hear, is that physical laws have spiritual equivalents. Just as objects like plates and motor vehicles tend to keep doing exactly what they are doing, so do human beings.  Whatever life habits we’ve fallen into, either good or bad; we tend to just keep on doing.

Admittedly, it is possible to obey Newton’s first law of spiritual motion and continue doing the right thing by walking with God.  However, that is not all that God expects from us.

Noah, for instance, righteously walked with God.  (Genesis 6:9)  However, Scripture qualifies his praise by indicating that he was perfect, but only in the context of his evil generation. (Genesis 6:9) When Abraham came along, he walked not with God, but before God.

…God in front of whom I have walked…
(Genesis 24:40)

What is the difference? If I am traveling together with another rider on a tandem bicycle, I have very little power to change direction, especially if he is in front.  The destination might be perfectly satisfactory, but it does not necessarily express my own conscious and deliberate choice.  We are connected, not independent.

By contrast, if I am riding my own bicycle ahead of my companion, my destination is entirely in my own hands.  I can blame nobody else and nobody else deserves the credit for where I go.

Abraham was willing to walk ahead of God and take responsibility for changing the direction of his life.  Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that at age three, Abraham began searching for the Source of all. He resisted the prevalent thinking of his time and set out to search for the truth. Even those of us who already recognize the Source would do well to emulate Abraham.

Leave those things that are most familiar and which anchor you to behavior patterns that inhibit your potential for growth.  Carefully examine your life for instances where you might be missing out on exciting possibilities by walking only with God instead of, like Abraham, before God.

This brings us to Newton’s second law of motion, which says that any object that has a force applied to it not only moves but also picks up speed. This law, too, has a spiritual equivalent.  When we take the initiative by walking ahead of God, His force will not only move us to marvelous new opportunities but it will accelerate us towards them at ever-increasing speed.  We only have to start the process by identifying those dragging anchors in our lives that prevent us from exploring desirable change.

We appreciate your patience as we close for so many days this month for the holidays. In recognition, we are slashing by 50% the download price on all our Genesis Journey audio CDs this week. (If you prefer to order them by mail, you can save an additional $10 off the always-reduced Set price.) Focusing on four sections of Genesis, each of these programs consists of two CDs and a full-color 16 page study guide, and explains how the world really works through the lens of the Hebrew language and 3,000 years of oral transmission. The wisdom therein will improve your life and provide impetus for growth propelling you to walk before God with all the possibility for exciting change that involves.

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This week’s  Susan’s Musings: The ‘Personal-is-Political’ Musing

A reader chided me the other week for writing too often about politics. He prefers to read about family events, holidays and the like. His perspective is shared by others, and I know that I have lost readers who are either bored with hearing about the coming election or whose political views differ from mine.
I appreciate the point. Last week, while celebrating Rosh HaShanah…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Is it okay to pray for a specific person to be your husband if that person is not already married?

READ Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

I made huge sacrifices to return to school to complete my MFA last year.
I need to contribute to my 3 children’s college educations as they are good students and people. I have applied for teaching jobs and every job I have an interest and a good knowledge base for.
I have barely gotten any thank you follow up letters and only 1 interview but still no employment. I am attractive, well spoken, intelligent…. I want to work and use my talents; Why has God overlooked me?

Janice

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer

READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

In studying the book of Exodus I’m perplexed at what the Bible means when it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It seems like God set him up to fail which doesn’t make sense. Is there something in the interpretation I’m missing?

Lynn Q.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer

Thought Tools – My Mistake, Honey

August 28th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

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Each week I write ThoughtTools® very carefully and review them diligently.  This is why I was shocked to discover what a bad mistake I made last week.  I am grateful to those alert readers who wrote in to correct me and I feel undeserving of the kind tone they employed.

I am blushing at recalling it, but yes, I wrote that bees make honey out of pollen.  No, they don’t.  They make it by regurgitating and processing the nectar they gather from flowers.  While collecting the nectar, bees perform a useful function having to do with pollen, but that is unrelated to the honey.

The word honey has even been used as a term of endearment in English for many hundreds of years, including the romantic sounding honeymoon.

On the first night of Rosh haShanah, the Jewish New Year, this year Sunday night September 16, Jews eat apple dipped into honey.  Even more than chocolate, a notoriously effective mood-raiser, eating honey makes us feel good.  Small jars of honey are popular gifts during the weeks leading up to Rosh HaShanah, expressing the wish that the recipient should enjoy a sweet year.

One general rule from ancient Jewish wisdom is that we can glean valuable information about a word by examining its first usage in Scripture.  Honey appears for the first time when Jacob reluctantly allows his son, Benjamin, to accompany the brothers to Egypt.  In order to placate Egypt’s ruler, Jacob sends a gift containing honey.

Israel their father said to them, “If it must be so, then do this:

Take of the land’s glory in your luggage and bring it down to the man

as a gift (MiNCHaH), some balsam, some honey…”

(Genesis 43:11)

The first Biblical appearance of honey thus links it to the idea of a gift because both words appear in the same verse.  Evidently, it is well to wish people sweetness by means of a gift (MiNCHaH) containing honey.

The two words together occur in only one other verse, Leviticus 2:11. This verse discusses a specific type of sacrifice known as a MiNChaH. While it is well to give honey as a gift to another person, in offering a gift (MiNCHaH) to God, honey is expressly forbidden.

What can we learn?

When we give a gift to a human, we derive palpable gratification.  We see the person’s joy upon opening our gift, we savor the recipient’s gratitude, and we know that in all likelihood, we’ll receive a gift in return.

When we give a gift to God, the palpable manifestations are not there. We may believe that God appreciates our gift and we may be confident that He will more than reciprocate, but we see no visible reaction. Nevertheless, we must train ourselves to experience similar gratification when offering a gift to God.

How do we give gifts to God today? One way is by giving a piece of ourselves, perhaps controlling our temper more or putting a smile on our face despite our stress. Nobody but God need know of our inner struggle, and He smiles.

Another way, however, is to give charity, particularly anonymously. While a person may be the beneficiary, we are actually giving a gift to God as much as to a person – especially if we do not know whom our gift is aiding and the recipient does not know that we are the donor.

One of the ‘commandments’ I address in my best-selling book Thou Shall Prosper: the Ten Commandments for Making Money, (available by itself or as part of the Income Abundance Set at a deeply reduced price this week) is to become a charitable person. I offer several reasons why this is effective, aside from it being something God instructs us. One of the most important benefits is that giving enlarges us. We become bigger people after giving of our time, money or resources than we were. Scientists note that our hormones react to our own generosity, but this is simply another way of saying that a gracious God rewards us when we do the right thing. We don’t need to give honey to God, because the act of giving in itself is as sweet as can be.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: A Theft is a Theft is a Theft?

Is it worse to steal money from a child than from a local business? This isn’t a random, ‘it’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep’ type of question. Instead, my thinking was precipitated by a video that just came to my attention, though it first circulated four years ago. At that time, two teenagers in an upscale Florida neighborhood snatched an envelope with $164 in it from a nine-year-old cookie-selling Girl Scout and jumped into their car. As shocking as the crime was…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

Is there a reason males were required to be circumcised and women had no such requirement?

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer

If Only I Had…

August 14th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

If only I had ______  (insert any resource you lack)  I would ______________(insert any accomplishment you desire).  Making excuses for ourselves, we loop variations of this audio clip in our minds.  If only I had more patience I’d be a better parent.  If only I had a car I would find a job.  If only I had an assistant I’d finish that project.

Countries could make the same claim.  Israel—If only we had oil under our sand like our neighbors we’d be successful.  Switzerland—If only we had gold like Uzbekistan we’d have prosperity.  North Dakota—If only we had sunshine and beaches like California, we’d be growing.  Hong Kong—If only we had minerals like Nigeria we’d be rich.  Luxembourg—If only we had uranium like Zimbabwe we’d be able to lift our Gross Domestic Product.

But wait!  Israel is successful.  Switzerland does have prosperity. North Dakota is growing.  Hong Kong, an overcrowded spit of land with no natural resources is rich. Luxembourg has the second highest GDP in the world.

Meanwhile, not counting oil sales, the countries surrounding Israel manage lower total productivity than tiny Finland. Uzbekistan is crime-ridden and poor. California is a bankrupt basket case.  Much of Nigeria is in economic shambles, characterized chiefly by riots, murders, and airplane disasters.  Zimbabwe is a poverty-stricken and corrupt dictatorship boasting an inflation rate of 400%.  I intend no insult to these places but let’s be honest.  Let’s help these countries, or at least their unfortunate citizens, by seeking the origins of success and prosperity.

Would you be surprised to learn that God promises an obedient Israel, “A land where you’ll eat bread without poverty…a land whose stones yield gold and from whose mountains you will mine silver?”

I wouldn’t be surprised at all.  The only problem is that Scripture doesn’t say that.  It does say:

…a land whose stones yield iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper (Deuteronomy 8:9)

Wouldn’t gold and silver have been better for Israel?  Iron is the second most abundant metal on earth and copper is one of the least valuable, used for pennies sometimes called coppers.

Why would God reward His people with iron and copper, possessing very little intrinsic material value instead of with gold and silver?

In Thought Tools 2008, I taught how in Scripture, iron and copper hint at something deeper than mere metals.

Copper and iron in Biblical juxtaposition always hint at limitless energy.  That word energy has many meanings.  After a hectic day, I might say, ‘I have no energy left.’  Out on my boat I might say, ‘This fills me with energy.’  We use phrases like ‘solar energy’ or ‘that new CEO energized the entire company.’

In the presence of electrolytes like salt water, lemon-juice or sulphuric acid; copper and iron form an electrochemical couple which yields electrical energy. This is what we call a battery.  In 2011, Stanford University invented the ultimate battery based on copper and iron nano-engineered materials.  In Scripture, copper and iron refer to pure, limitless spiritual energy—the core of all creativity.

God gives us all the secret for success and prosperity.  We can access limitless spiritual energy giving us the ability to obtain all else.  Using this energy, Zurich does have gold beneath its streets in the form of bullion.  More of Israel’s citizens drive oil burning cars than its neighbors. Hong Kong and Luxembourg do very well with creative energy rather than natural resources.

Similarly, we need nothing but our God-given creative cores in order to succeed and prosper.  The excuse of “If only I had ___,” is just that—an excuse.  Helping you find that creativity in your soul and learning how to apply it in your life is part of the value in studying ancient Jewish wisdom.

Increasing our connections with other people is one of the surest ways to mushroom our creativity. Resolve to do so now! My 2 audio CD set, Prosperity Power: Connect for Success provides practical tips for even the less sociable among us while showing the spiritual links between your rolodex and your revenue. This week, save $3 off the CDs or get the instant download for under $10!

Then the Bear Said…

August 7th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Usain Bolt set a new Olympic record in London for the hundred-meter race. Though true, it wouldn’t be particularly helpful if he advised aspiring athletes, “It’s easy; just move your legs faster.”

Similarly, while true, it isn’t helpful to remind ourselves that success comes to those who do what they must rather than what they feel like. We know that. We need to know how to overcome our feelings.

Fortunately God provides us with regular reminders from those sentient creatures with whom we share the planet—animals.

We encounter two talking animals in the Torah.  The common English translations evoke Mother Goose rather than God’s intentions, so I am going to stick with the Hebrew. The nachash spoke to Eve:

…Did God really say that you should not eat from any of the trees in the garden? (Genesis 3:1)

The aton spoke to Bilaam:

…What have I done to you that you struck me these three times?

(Numbers 22:28)

My family was boating off an island in British Columbia when we sighted a black bear scavenging for shellfish.

Hardly daring to breathe, we coasted closer and cut the engine.  Drifting silently, we gazed in wonderment at this grand creature.

Imagine if the bear, just then, had raised his enormous head, opened his mouth, and clearly spoken, “Move along, please. Let a bear enjoy his breakfast in peace.”

Would we have said, “Oh sorry, we’ll leave now”?  Of course not.  I might have called out, “Who was that?”  My son might have responded, “We must be on Candid Camera.”  One thing is certain; none of us would have calmly engaged the bear in banter.

Yet Eve responded to the nachash by explaining that he was wrong. Bilaam also responded to the aton’s plaintive question. Neither of them expressed the slightest surprise at being addressed by an animal.

We ordinary humans do not possess the spiritual sensitivity of Eve or Bilaam.  Yet on some level, animals still do communicate with us.

I’m not referring to the more obvious examples of the cat owner recognizing her pet’s dinner demand or the dog summonsing his owner for a walk.  No, ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that each animal highlights one central lesson for our benefit.

The undemanding loyalty of dogs calls us to be better friends.

The cat’s obsession with cleanliness speaks to us of the importance of sanitation and hygiene.

The ant and the beaver present an argument against procrastination. These animals silently urge us to improve.

But there is also negative communication from the animal kingdom.  At one time or another most of us have heard the seductive enticement, “C’mon, you’re really one of us.  There’s no reason not to do what you feel like doing.”

The voice of the nachash tempts us with the idea that infidelity is genetic as surely as it tempted Eve to disobey God.  It is that same voice echoing out of the pages of Genesis that assures us that we have no moral choice; everything is predetermined by our biological origins and urges.

Ultimately, animals remind us every day that we are different and special.  We’re touched by the finger of God.  We’re holy and thus capable of controlling our behavior, rather than merely following our instincts.

The space constraints of these weekly Thought Tools don’t allow me to delve into the meaning of the Hebrew animal names above, though the analysis would be worthwhile. I am thrilled, though, to present Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language with its detailed and entertaining examination of 29 Hebrew words. Through the medium of Hebrew God reveals practical guidelines to enhance our family and community lives, our faith and fortunes. This 2nd edition of one of our most popular resources has an entirely new chapter and other extra features. It is written for those with no Hebrew knowledge and for those who are fluent. As an added bonus, you can acquire one of our Library Packs (including Buried Treasure) at the current price. Those prices will go up slightly in 48 hours reflecting the cost of the new book. Alone or as part of a larger pack, this is one book you really want to own.

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

I have been reading your book “Buried Treasure” and was sharing portions of the chapter on laughter with a son-in-law who studied Hebrew in seminary. He said one of his professors suggested that Isaac was a Downs Syndrome child. That made no sense to me that the child of promise would not be “perfect”. Do you have an answer for this?

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Sitting Shiva:

Barely a week goes by without my being consciously grateful for the preciousness of the Almighty’s gift of a weekly oasis, Shabbat. Last week I had the opportunity to be thankful for another of His gifts, one that is also related to seven days.

My sister, Ellen, passed away on Sunday morning a week ago. From the moment…READ MORE

Future is Spelled P-A-S-T

July 24th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

He struck success when his children were aged 10, 7, and 5.  He and his wife moved out of their dilapidated house near downtown Dallas and into a mansion in Preston Hollow.  They worried about their children becoming spoiled and never growing the will to struggle and succeed.  They dreaded their kids developing the decadent diseases of the pampered.

They wanted their children to know that the family could survive happily without the trappings of wealth. They wanted them to learn that financial success is connected to spiritual success.  They kept their run-down old residence and moved the family back into it for one week every year.  The rest of the year, a local church used it for youth programs.  But for one special week each year, the family strengthened its spirit by keeping alive the memory of where they came from.  By remembering their history they protected their values.

As part of their training, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces participate in a sunrise ceremony atop the heights of Masada where two thousand years ago Jewish soldiers died during a Roman siege.  They are taken to Jerusalem’s Western Wall where Solomon’s Temple stood and to the Valley of Elah where David defeated Goliath.  The Israelis know that to protect, defend, and guard something effectively, you must first remember why it is valuable.

Remember the Sabbath Day to sanctify it.

(Exodus 20:8)

Guard the Sabbath Day to sanctify it…

(Deuteronomy 5:12)

In both verses Scripture is recording the fourth of the Ten Commandments.  So which was it?  Back on Mt. Sinai, did God say “Remember” or “Guard”?  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that with His unique power, God said both words simultaneously because they are inseparable.  We must learn that before we can effectively guard, protect, or defend anything, we first need to remember why we are doing so.  It is impossible to effectively defend a country, a culture, a family’s values, a business, or indeed the Sabbath, without remembering the history that makes such defense worthwhile.

We find two other important distinctions between the Exodus account of the Fourth Commandment and its Deuteronomy counterpart.

Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.

(Exodus 20:8)

Guard the Sabbath day to sanctify it

as the Lord your God has commanded you.

(Deuteronomy 5:12)

People who have just experienced a tumultuous event find it easy to obey the instruction, “Remember it.”  Like those who lived through 9-11, the Israelites standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai found it easy to remember.

However, Deuteronomy describes a new generation of Israelites forty years after Sinai.  These people need to be told to relate in a special way to the Sabbath not just because some powerful memory moves them but because God commanded it for all time.

Similarly, associates who worked with you to establish a business will always remember the values and vision that drove you.  But you must help later employees also to remember the beginnings that they did not actually experience.  Likewise, younger children need extra help remembering early family history.

Finally, one linkage to remembering the Sabbath is that God created heaven and earth in six days (Exodus 20:11) while another is that God took us out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).

This teaches us that when inculcating children or associates with the vision and values that drive our family or organization, we should start with general ideas that apply to everyone.  Thus, Exodus speaks of the creation of the world to which everyone can relate.  Later, Deuteronomy speaks of the unique Egypt saga experienced exclusively by Israel, teaching us that only subsequently should we talk to children or partners about the specifics that apply distinctively to our family, our business or club.

Many countries face crucial decisions over the next weeks and months. Too many who vote don’t know how to remember or what to guard. Our audio CD set, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel lays out timeless truths that define which systems of social organization work and which are calamitous. This resource can thrillingly transform hearts and minds, making a real difference to our future. Please enjoy this powerful tool and share it with your children and friends.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Did Someone Say Values?:

Did you happen to catch the following news items? I am sure that I am not the only person to think that they just possibly might be connected.

Three headlines popped up my computer screen the other day. The first read, “California Bill Would OK families…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

In hoping to attract more customers, how far can you go with friends? Mentioning what you are doing? Asking how you can help them? Asking for referrals? Offering them a deal? Other things? Or, nothing?

In “Thou Shall Prosper” you talk about expanding business by making more friends. You say that, almost mysteriously, more friends will cause one to have more business. And, if you try to get these friends to do business, it will backfire since they will sense you are desperate.

Donald

READ the ANSWER

Wonder Bread

July 4th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

A friend sadly described his mid-twenties son to me.  “He’s taken one college course after another and now he’s dropped out of school.”  “What’s he doing this summer?” I inquired.  The answer amazed me.  My friend was paying for his son to spend the summer counting birds on a Costa Rican nature preserve!  “What can I do to help my son get on track for life?” he asked.

I’m sure you know the answer.  Maybe my friend also knew it, but it is hard when it is your own family.  I taught him how to gently but firmly withdraw almost all financial support.  This would help his son acquire self-respect through financial achievement and independence.

As regular Thought Tool readers have learned, the Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions or sedras, each with its own name and theme.  Which one would you guess contains the most frequent usage of the word ‘bread’?

Would it perhaps be Bo, the third sedra in the Book of Exodus, containing extensive instructions about eating unleavened ‘bread’ or matzoh on Passover?  Wrong!

How about Beshalach? The fourth sedra in Exodus describing ‘bread from heaven’ or Manna contains many references to bread. Wrong again.

Terumah, the seventh sedra of Exodus, mentions bread several times in the context of the Tabernacle table upon which the bread was displayed.  It too is not the correct guess.

It turns out that Emor, the eighth sedra in the Book of Leviticus contains no fewer than fourteen mentions of bread, making it an easy winner.  Yet the theme of this sedra seems to have little to do with bread.  It is chiefly about developing and maintaining closeness to God; first by means of purity (Leviticus 21 & 22), then festivals (Leviticus 23), and finally by rule of law (Leviticus 24).

To understand why bread is so central to maintaining closeness to God, we need to remember what bread means in Scripture.

He who works his land will have enough bread…

(Proverbs 12:11)

In Scripture “bread” means money just as it does in colloquial slang: “Got any bread?” “Can you lend me some dough?”

Similarly, ‘field’ means the work you do to obtain your bread.  To this day, when inquiring about professional activity, people ask one another, “What field are you in?”

Prepare externally your work, and make it fit for yourself in the field;

afterwards build your house.

(Proverbs 24:27)

Acquire from outside yourself a means to earn a living.  In other words, find out what people around you need that you can supply. Once your field is producing, get married (build your house).

A lightweight who can afford servants is better

than one who honors himself but lacks bread

(Proverbs 12:9)

This is amazing! It’s better to have enough bread to pay for the services you need in life and be considered a lightweight by some, rather than thinking a great deal of yourself but being poor.  My friend’s son fancies himself, but what he really needs is a dose of reality. Making your own bread can really help.

Again and again in the Bible, the word bread plugs us into reality.  Bread/money reminds us to keep our feet on the ground.  Unless you are in the fraud and robbery business, making money means you are serving other people as well as helping yourself.

Regardless of what drives you, forgetting finances is sheer folly.  My friend enabled his son to bounce from one interest to another while ignoring the role of money.  By repeatedly mentioning bread, Emor teaches that even if you are deeply dedicated to getting close to God, you still have to remain rooted in reality.

So often, in their passion for God and His Word, rabbis and pastors overlook financial realities.  Even Faith is not a justification for stressful poverty. God does not want His children to make their love for Him a refuge from reality.

Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes how studying Scripture connects us to timeless truths such as money’s role.  For a repeatable super dose of how the world REALLY works, make our powerful resource Genesis Journeys, now on sale, a regular part of your life and that of your friends.

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.

Hello Rabbi and Susan,

I am aware that there have been various questions already been asked regarding observing the Sabbath and keeping it Holy, but my problem is the company I work for has offered me a promotion but it entails me studying on a Saturday morning. What is your stance on studying secular studies on the Sabbath? READ MORE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Having it All by Not Expecting it All:

For a number of reasons Thought Tools and Susan’s Musing posted 24 hours behind schedule this week. Why am I mentioning this? In addition to apologizing for being late, I thought that what occurred provided an apt introduction for what I had planned to write concerning Anne-Marie Slaughter’s lament, Why Women Still Can’t Have it AllREAD MORE

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