Posts tagged " jewish wisdom "

Holistic Healing

June 19th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Belief plays an essential role in healing.  Having confidence in my doctor when he assures me that I am doing fine encourages a more rapid recovery than if that spiritual factor is absent.

I wasn’t surprised to read an article in BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal, revealing that about half the doctors in the United States, Denmark, Israel, and the United Kingdom dispense placebos.

The great 19th century American psychologist William James wrote of the efficacy of these chemically inert prescriptions.  Placebos are particularly effective in pain management activating the same regions of the brain as opiate-drugs. Brain scan research reveals a common neurological reaction to both placebo-induced pain relief and narcotic-induced analgesia.  Indeed, the body’s health and physical well-being flows from the brain, the mind, and the soul.

Ancient Jewish wisdom assures that our physical bodies and spiritual souls are welded into one.  Bodily realities impact our souls.  More importantly for health purposes, spiritual realities impact our bodies.

This physical-spiritual parallelism is revealed in our physical bodies. God placed male genitalia externally while concealing those of the female, corresponding to spiritual differences between men and women.  Men are innately more sexually aggressive while women more naturally possess reticence.  Advertisements for menswear simply don’t mention modesty while it is quite common in female fashion.

Our eyes project an upside-down image of whatever we see onto our retinas.  The spiritual reality thus highlighted is that our eyes are untrustworthy.  What organ is chiefly responsible for stuff you’ve bought and don’t really need?  Are sales catalogs heavier on words or pictures?  Why are home shopping programs found on television, not radio?

God placed our balance mechanism in our ears.  Evolutionarily speaking, this makes little sense.  Our heads are in constant motion. The only reason you don’t lose your balance when you tilt your head is the equivalent of thousands of lines of software compensating for your head’s motion.  Evolution should have ensured that our balance mechanism would be in our shoulders or hips.

However, God’s design teaches the spiritual lesson that we can better retain our balance in life by relying more on information we gain through our ears than that which we gain through our eyes.  I am only half joking when I say that any man looking to marry should talk to a woman on the telephone before meeting her and allowing his eyes to become blinded by her beauty.

Our bodies are symmetrical externally about our vertical axis.  However, internally, there is little symmetry.  Our heart, liver, pancreas, spleen, appendix, kidneys, and even lungs are not symmetrical. This teaches us that while externally we find comfort and beauty in superficial order, in the world of the spiritual and invisible, a far more complex elegance exists.

When it comes to our health, ignoring the spiritual can literally be fatal. When Moses’ sister, Miriam, gossiped about her brother, God punished her with a skin malady (Numbers 12:1; 10). While often incorrectly translated as leprosy, Leviticus chapter 13 makes clear that Tzara’at is not a physical disease.  That chapter introduces the idea of psychosomatic disorder, when the body sickens because of a non-physical problem.  Naturally, Miriam was healed, not by medicine but by her brother’s prayers and her atonement. (Numbers 12:13) While we do not share Miriam’s closeness to God and cannot expect the direct Divine punishment or forgiveness that took place in the Exodus generation, we can add these four steps to our ordinary health maintenance procedures.

  • Meditate daily on the miraculous unity of body and soul.
  • Establish a trusting relationship with a doctor who views you as both body and soul.
  • Feel spiritually worthy of health, and consider areas of spiritual self-improvement along with physical care.
  • Enlist prayer; your own and that of loved ones.

According to ancient Jewish wisdom, the body/soul connection is magnified in the forty days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Prepare yourself for this annual opportunity, which commences mid-August, by absorbing the teaching in our Day for Atonement audio resource. May God provide a complete healing of body and soul to all who need it.

…for I am the Lord, your Healer.

(Exodus 15:25)

(Clash of Destiny sale extended for one more week.)

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Happily Neanderthal:

Have you ever done something that seems completely ordinary to you, only to find people looking at you as if you were an apparition from Neptune?

A few months ago, my husband and I were Shabbat guests of a synagogue far from our home. We were graciously befriended and hosted by a couple in the synagogue. (For info on why strangers would welcome us into their lives, see Strangers and Friends.) My husband was scheduled to speak at the buffet lunch after prayer services on Saturday. But the odd reaction was not to his words…READ MORE

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

Hello Rabbi and Susan,

If a child say 2yrs. old or younger dies and his parents are not believers, does the baby go to hell because of the parents’ lack of faith? I was asked this question.  READ MORE

It Can Happen to Anyone

June 12th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

One day you’re on top of your game and the next you’re not.  It can happen to anyone. All of a sudden the simple day to day tasks that must be done loom as gigantic obstacles.  You’re overwhelmed with self-pity and hopelessness.  You are your most important asset and you’re letting yourself down.

Watch how one of history’s greatest men, Moses, overcame this challenge.

Only three months after God miraculously took the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses discovered them worshipping a golden calf.  He punished the people, then begged God for forgiveness on their behalf. (Exodus 32)

As a real leader, Moses cared deeply about the children of Israel.  Though the Israelites grumbled about him, he continually advocated on their behalf.  They complained about water and Moses prayed to God. (Exodus 15:24-25)

Later, when they complained of hunger, Moses again interceded on their behalf.  Even his expressions of anger were in order to educate them and improve their behavior. (Exodus 16:20)

Moses fully engaged with his people.  He constantly sought to provide whatever they needed while caring for them, teaching them and guiding them.

About a year after these events, a year during which God sustained the Israelites with the daily ration of miraculous manna, the people again complained.  (Numbers 11:4-6)

This time, instead of engaging with Israel, correcting their behavior and asking God to solve their problem, Moses seems overwhelmed by the challenge.

Moses said to God, ‘Why have you afflicted your servant? Why have I not found favor in your eyes, that you place the burden of this entire people upon me?’ ‘…From where should I get meat to give to this entire people…’ ‘I am not able to carry this entire people alone, because it is too heavy for me.  If this is how you deal with me, then kill me now…let me not see my failure.’

(Numbers 11:11-15)

God assures Moses that the next day He would supply more meat than the people could eat.  Instead of joyously conveying this to his people, Moses doubtfully asks how God could supply enough meat for so many. (Numbers 11:21-22)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Moses suffered a temporary crisis of confidence.  In a lapse from his customary assertive leadership, he felt weak and hopeless.  Unsure of himself, he even momentarily doubted God’s power to help him! Yet we know that he recovered because he successfully led Israel for another 38 years.

How did Moses rise above his negative mood?  By acting in exactly the opposite way to how he felt. The main characteristic of pessimism is feeling small and inadequate to the challenges facing us. When we are insecure, we tend towards pettiness. Yet, only a few verses further in Numbers 26-29, we meet two interlopers named Eldad and Medad who threaten Moses’ position. Even Joshua pleaded with Moses to destroy them. Yet Moses rose above the annoyance of these two men and reacted with bigness.  Rather than resenting them, he judged them favorably. His magnanimity banished the depressed feeling and he returned to his usual strength.

In the same way, each of us can help ourselves when what Winston Churchill called his “Black Dog” strikes us.  The remedy is to act in a way that enlarges us. Rather than acting small because we feel small, we can behave in a way that indicates greatness. Our feelings will rise to match our actions.

While everyone has emotional setbacks, the severity is lessened when we are confident in who we are. If we aren’t true to ourselves, we cannot lead others or ourselves with conviction. We are at a disadvantage among those who see Jews and Christians as ‘the enemy’, if we don’t fundamentally claim our heritage. The timeless truths I disclose in my 2 audio CD set, Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam are both chilling and a source for optimism. They are spiritual weapons you need if you wish to feel optimism and confidence rather than depression and hopelessness when faced with implacable foes. Available at a reduced price this week, listen to this resource and join in leading our society towards a peaceful and productive future.

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

I am a single woman of 41, never had any serious relationship but always dreamed of love and never found it. I came to a new congregation and I fell deeply in admiration with my rabbi’s wisdom. We had some very insightful debates on Jewish issues, and he expressed that he considers me a very special and beautiful soul and mind.

Nonetheless, I feel he might also feel a deeper attraction for me, and I am very much afraid that my deep admiration for him might turn into something else. But he is married, of course. I know I should avoid any contact and flee from the possibility of sin, but at the same time, it is really hard for me to finally find such a light and have to withdraw from him because the want of each other’s light could go out of control (but also could not).

What should I do? READ MORE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Wisconsin’s Window of Opportunity:

Last week’s exit polls were off by so much that throwing a dart while blindfolded might have more accurately predicted the results of Gov. Walker’s Wisconsin race.  However, now that it is over, along with similar votes in San Jose and San Diego, CA that introduced balance into public sector union strong-arming, I would like to step back and take a broader perspective…READ MORE

Brain Flame

June 5th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Imagine a room full of shouting people; walls plastered with large sheets of paper covered with scrawls. What is it?  A kindergarten for children with poor social skills?  No, it is a typical brainstorming session.

Originated in the 1940s by advertising man Alex Osborn, brainstorming with its freewheeling tossing out of ideas and absence of criticism, is controversial. Some swear by its effectiveness while others dismiss it as nothing more than entertainment for executives.

I frequently facilitate corporate brainstorming sessions and I’ve also done some rewarding ones with my family. They can work well. However, a certain Torah principle must be followed.  Once ideas and solutions have emerged during the fun period, you’re only halfway through.  The tough process of analyzing, critiquing, and reconciling conflicting ideas must be tackled or the first part was a waste of time.  Expecting to achieve insight without hard work ignores reality.

The Torah is divided into 54 Sedras each with its unique name. A Sedra encompasses a number of Biblical chapters. The chapters as we know them are not part of ancient Jewish wisdom. They were put in place by Archbishop Langton during the 13th century. While they are useful for locating verses in Scripture, they occasionally distort God’s intended divisions. Sometimes, Stephen Langton even presented one chapter as bridging two different Sedras. Analyzing the original Sedra divisions and their names is a worthwhile endeavor. For instance, only six Sedras have names of people in their titles; 3 who were not Jewish and 3 who were.  In each group, two are righteous and 1 is wicked.  Noah, Yitro, and Balak comprise the first group while Sarah, Pinchas, and Korach make up the second.

Two other Sedras have very similar names.  Tetzaveh, the eighth Sedra of the Book of Exodus, means “You shall command.”  Tzav, the second Sedra of the Book of Leviticus, is the instruction “Command!”

The similarity in name leads us to compare the two. We see that both mention a continuously burning flame (Exodus 27:20 & Leviticus 6:5). Exodus speaks of a continuous flame in the candelabrum, the menorah, while its Leviticus counterpart refers to perpetual flame upon the altar.

Well, which is it, menorah or altar?  Actually, both, but their appearance in similar sounding Sedras directs us to examine them together, revealing useful information. In Jewish thought, the menorah and its light always represent education and wisdom.  Even in English we use the word “enlightened” to mean educated.  When we say, “She’s a bright girl,” we mean that she is smart not that she glows in the dark.

The altar, on the other hand, represents sacrifice. The word has an undeservedly bad reputation. Instead of equating it with martyrdom and suffering, think of it as an offering one is fortunate to make.  Nothing of value can ever be achieved if nothing of value is invested.

The light of the menorah isn’t about I.Q. The world is full of high I.Q. but incredibly foolish people. It instead reflects a deep comprehension of how the world really works. Gaining that wisdom, whether it is in relation to one’s marriage, children, society or business demands willingness to work hard, passing up ephemeral ‘quick fixes’ and sacrificing present relaxation and fun for future gain.

The connection between the two eternal flames reveals that becoming wise always involves sacrifice.  Studying Mathematics, History, Accounting or Physics is much harder than studying Social Studies, Gender Studies, or Middle-Period Etruscan Pottery. As too many recent graduates are discovering, it is also much more valuable.  Serious students of truly enlightening courses will have far less time for partying than fellow students coasting through fluffy, insubstantive programs.  If you’re not willing to sacrifice, you won’t gain a real education. The flames of both the menorah and the altar are inseparable.

Celebrate your graduate’s achievements, a young couple’s marriage or Father’s Day with a truly useful gift. My book, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money, is not a ‘fun’ read, but it provides a practical program of specific strategies for transforming your financial life. We are extending the online sale for another week with the prayer that it will bless you or someone you love.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Soda, Shanghai and Slippery Slopes:

At first, I thought the appropriate reaction to Mayor Bloomberg’s suggested ban on mega-ounce drinks was to roll one’s eyes and be grateful for not living in NY.  After all, “I may not drink super-sized carbonated beverages but I will defend until death your right to do so,” just doesn’t have the same force as the original slogan. However, my attention ratcheted up when…READ MORE

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

In the book of Genesis, when the three visitors visit Abraham, it seems to me he really goes out of his way to welcome them and make a meal for them. Was that customary back then or did he know that those three men were someone special?  READ MORE

Spirituality of Science

May 29th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Does anyone wear a pacemaker produced in Pakistan?  Have you noticed any breakthroughs in electrical super conductivity emanating from Saudi Arabia?  Would you buy a sedan designed and assembled in Sudan?  Did the dental anesthetic, Novocain, get invented in Nigeria or Botox in Biafra?

I think that open inquiry is more important than avoiding multi-cultural insensitivity, so let’s ask why virtually all scientific and medical advances of the past thousand years occurred within western civilization.

There is no defect in the people of the countries I have mentioned.  Western civilization’s remarkable monopoly of progress is due to the qualities that Judaism and Christianity imbued in the cultures, societies, and nations they spawned. Widely held beliefs truly do have consequences.

It isn’t that hard to see how a Bible-based view of reality shapes a culture and fuels scientific discovery.  The opening words of God’s directive to humanity “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” strips away the illusion of a random world and sets men on the road to scientific discovery.

Science is mainly about seeking meaningful patterns.  Knowing that patterns in the natural world exist, no matter how elusive they may be, reinforces the persistence of the investigator.

People acculturated by Judaism and Christianity discovered calculus, the periodic table, penicillin, relativity, and planetary motion.  Those Bible-believers invented electricity, and most everything else that makes life today so much better than it was a millennium ago.  What drove their quest was the knowledge that the universe was not random along with the desire to understand God’s universe as a way to understanding Him.

The opening sentence of the Bible told them it had been created by a benevolent Deity to fulfill His grand plans and as such, it was knowable.

That first sentence, in its original Hebrew possesses a striking distinction.  Six of its seven words contain an aleph.  The aleph is not only the first letter of the alphabet, it also means one thousand.

Ancient Jewish wisdom links that first verse’s six alephs or thousands, to the six thousand years of human history starting from when Adam first spoke.  Furthermore, it links each of the six days of creation to its parallel millennium.  So, the sixth millennium, corresponding to the Bible’s account of the sixth day of creation, ran from the Jewish year 5001 to 6000.  The civil year 2012 corresponds to the Hebrew year 5772 which means that the sixth millennium began 772 years ago:

2012 – 772 = 1240

That sixth day of creation contains one instruction vital for scientific discovery.  God directs man to conquer the earth. (Genesis 1:28)  God urges us to discover ways of making the world safer, a place in which humans can live longer and better with less back-breaking, manual labor.   No wonder Isaac Newton’s discoveries resulted from him being a Bible-believing Christian.

The Hebrew word telling us to conquer, kovesh, happens to be the 76th word out of a total of 149 words in that sixth day account.

76 / 149 = 0.51.

In other words, there is a prophecy that exactly 51% of the way through the sixth millennium there will be a breakthrough which will dramatically increase the way that humans conquer the world.  Well, 510 years into this millennium brings us to 1240 + 510 = 1750.  The year that dates the beginning of the Industrial Revolution!

Just as the Bible impacts the scientific development of people, so it also shapes their economic development. Though there is an optimistically named Nobel Prize in “Economic Sciences” most question whether economics is really a science.  For instance, if electricity behaved one way this year, quite differently from how it behaved last year, we’d question whether the study of electricity belonged in the sciences.  Yet that is precisely what economics does.

This is because unlike electricity, economics is impacted by the spiritual condition of people.  The spiritual make-up of a culture shapes its economic fortunes.

Become a beneficiary of this compelling connection by making our best-selling book Thou Shall Prosper part of your financial plan for prosperity and abundance.  Save $8 off the regular price by ordering online this week and get better acquainted with God, economics and success.

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

On a very recent television programming on yes, TCT, you stated that Jacob had “bad/weak/tender” eyes. It was, in fact, LEAH that is described with such. Unknown to most, but to this Doctor of Optometry/Optometrist, a much remembered aside. LOVE your show, am one of the thirty-odd thousand subscribers and devour ALL of your television programming. G-d bless you in your endeavors.  READ MORE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Mind-Numbing Birds:

My daughter is laughing at me. Having received an iPhone as a present, I went to the library to get books on how to use it. “It’s all instinctive,” she says. “After I do something over and over, then it will be instinctive,” I reply.

I certainly wouldn’t have bought an iPhone for myself, particularly after last Thanksgiving. At a lovely table, surrounded by close friendsREAD MORE

Dots, Dashes and Dialogue

May 22nd, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

During July, 2061 Halley’s Comet will return as it does approximately every seventy-five years. During its November, 1835 appearance the great American writer, Mark Twain, was born. Years later, Twain told friends that since he was born during Halley’s visit, it would be “the greatest disappointment in my life” if he didn’t die during its next appearance. It is no surprise that he died in April, 1910. One could say he willed his own demise.

On July 4th 1826, exactly fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, two of the men most instrumental in its drafting died. Former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within a few hours of each other.

To me, it was God linking these two statesmen for all time. I can just see them approaching the Throne of Glory arms around one another’s shoulders in eternal bonds of brotherhood.

On May 24th, 1844 Samuel Morse transmitted the words “What hath God wrought” (Numbers 23:23) from Washington to Baltimore using electrical pulses and his Morse Code. That was the Bible holyday of Shavuot/Pentecost, which this year begins on Saturday night.

Shavuot, the anniversary of the day upon which God gave His message to mankind through Moses on Mt Sinai, was the first time in the history of humanity that people thousands of miles apart could communicate almost instantaneously.

What lesson did the Lord intend when He guided Morse to give the world electronic communication precisely on the festival commemorating His bestowing upon us the Ten Commandments?

In true rabbinical fashion, I will answer the question by asking three others.

What words can the pacifist professor of philosophy utter to engage the vicious predator with cold eyes and no conscience who has just put a gun to the professor’s head?

What meaningful dialogue can possibly flow from a meeting between the president of Planned Parenthood and the Pope?

Wouldn’t it waste your time eavesdropping as a Bible believer debates a militant atheist? All these encounters I’ve described are between people who don’t speak the same language. Because they share no matrix of meaning there is little basis for communication. While the feathers may fly and the fireworks might be sensational, nothing of true consequence is likely to emerge.

It’s no coincidence that Samuel Morse’s breakthrough communication technology debuted on the very day upon which God presented His ultimate system of values to the world. The message is clear. To put it starkly there can be no lasting creative communication and collaboration between people who share no values.

Marriage with a very attractive individual, but one with whom no ultimate values are shared, enjoys very little probability of long term success.

Diversity of values is no asset in a business, particularly in a smaller entrepreneurial endeavor. The effective business professional will hire associates who possess the necessary skills and drive. However, just as importantly, they must also share the company’s value system, set by the founder.

Families should not expect their children to receive the education they anticipate at schools and colleges that do not share the family’s value system.

Values must precede all else. For this reason, Israel’s journey from slavery in Egypt to its own geographic and spiritual destiny in Jerusalem has a date at Sinai as its pivotal point. The quest for independence and development can only succeed when the people are fortified and fashioned by their common value system, the Torah.

The upcoming shared anniversary of both the telegraph and the Torah reminds us to communicate our value system effectively to our families and our social and business organizations. It is far more productive and far less stressful to live with and direct a group of people who share common values and vision.

We specialize in creating resources to help mold value systems for families and organizations from Sinai’s eternal message. By absorbing these entertaining, yet compelling books, audio CDs, and videos, you can enhance your intuitive sense of the system and by gifting them to those you live and work with you can lubricate lives. For the next few days, use promo code SHIP at checkout and receive free shipping on online orders over $49 within the continental United States.

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

The Bible asks us not to serve two masters: God and Mammon but I was startled about you adding a spiritual dimension to money.While most religions view money devoid of spirituality,what is your justification?. Please throw some light..READ MORE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: The Politically Correct Cad?:

What’s a man to do? Last week my husband was put in an uncomfortable position. He had to choose between either betraying his standards for acting as a gentleman or else potentially harming a long time business relationship.

What happened? A lot of our work…READ MORE

Parchment of Protection

May 8th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

During April, I had the pleasure of speaking for three different companies. Each company successfully established its unique identity and its own culture that informs customers and associates and helps them make productive decisions. We should all do the same in our own financial enterprises.

Rather than allowing neighborhoods, social trends, advertising or schools to form your family’s culture, sculpt one that reflects your deepest values and make sure your family gets it. Ancient Jewish wisdom’s advice on how to create a culture for your business and family makes both more effective.

The mezuzah found on the doorposts of Jewish homes is the expression of just this advice.

The Torah clearly instructs us to ‘write these words’ upon our doorposts (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 & 11:13-21), yet neither archeological nor other evidence exists that Jews ever inscribed words upon their doorposts. Instead, we have always carefully written the specified words upon a parchment and affixed that to our doorposts. This is one of many instances where a universal and timeless Jewish practice cannot possibly be understood just from the text. It validates for me the great Transmitters who faithfully conveyed God’s details and whose work is so lovingly enshrined in ancient Jewish wisdom.

Interestingly, from the first time mezuzah is used in Scripture, we can see that the word means doorpost:

They shall take some of its blood and place it upon the two

mezuzoth (plural of mezuzah) and on the lintel…

(Exodus 12:7)

Yet, the piece of parchment itself along with its housing has forever been known as a mezuzah. Hebrew is rich enough for it to have had its own name, but no such name exists. It is called a mezuzah – a doorpost. How strange; the parchment is the doorpost?

In reality, yes it is; the mezuzah itself is the spiritual equivalent of the physical doorpost. Just as a doorpost allows passage between public space and the private home so the mezuzah does the same.

After all, neither a business nor a home would be much good if there was no communication between it and the outside world. The effectiveness of a home depends upon family members going out to work and becoming involved in the world, then returning for restoration and warmth. The effectiveness of a business depends upon information, raw material and cash moving in while goods and services move out. For this reason, the word mezuzah is derived directly from the Hebrew word zuz meaning move.

There are homes which have a weak or non-existent internal culture and members of those families unthinkingly import destructive values from outside. Other families attempt to defend themselves by blocking off all contact with the outside. Neither of these extremes works well. Happy homes have mastered the secret of the mezuzah as have flourishing businesses.

The mezuzah teaches us how to move safely, easily, and effectively between inside and outside. The fifteen verses handwritten onto the mezuzah parchment direct us to inculcate a strong and unique culture with clear expectations of conduct both inside and outside. (Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God…you shall speak of these words when you sit in your home and when you walk upon the road…)

They promise protection, support and backup. (I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you shall eat and be satisfied.)

They provide a core of strength to those leaving and a filtering detoxification system for those returning. (Beware…lest your heart be seduced and you turn away…)

The custom of a groom carrying his bride through the door probably originated with the spiritual importance of that portal. As my bride and I celebrate our wedding anniversary this week, we want to impart the specific spiritual strategies that strengthen our marriage. Naturally, we got them from our Biblical Blueprint and now, so can you. We treasure the practical wisdom in our 2 audio CD set, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden and we ask you to buy some for yourself and for others while it is on sale this week.

King David refers to the mezuzah with these words:

The Lord will protect your departure

and your arrival from now until forever.

(Psalms 121:8)

Amen.

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

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Happy (Homeschooling) Mother’s Day

If you want to be enthusiastic, hang around enthusiastic, people. And there is scarcely a more enthusiastic group than homeschooling parents. I had a wonderful time this week as a keynote speaker for the 4th annual Torah home education conference.

Homeschooling has grown rapidly in the United States, and there are churches I know where a majority of parents educate their children at home. However, it is only in recent years that the number of Jewish homeschooling families has grown significantly. There are reasons why Jews lagged behind in this American trend…

Caribbean Connections

April 17th, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

The beautiful Bahamas. Stunningly clear turquoise waters; white sandy beaches; sunny days with warm winds blowing gently and balmy evenings beneath the stars. You might think I am being hired to write tourist brochures for the fabled islands of New Providence, Bimini, and Eleuthera.

But no; I just returned from teaching “Contemporary Lessons from the Exodus” at a weeklong Passover Conference in Nassau. What I remember is not so much the natural beauty, though that was certainly striking. Not even the glowing descriptions from my friend, the distinguished Bahamas-based pastor Myles Munroe, prepared me for what I found.

It was the people. Eight days which included traveling and lecturing, being interviewed on Bahamian television, and meeting hundreds of locals. Yet I did not encounter even one surly, sullen, or unfriendly person. Not one!

For an explanation I turn, as always, to ancient Jewish wisdom. The Hebrew word for nature HaTevah has the identical numerical configuration (86) as the ineffable name of God, the Creator, appearing in Genesis 1:1 Elokim. The lesson is that to understand God, we must try to understand His creation.

In the beginning, God created 92 basic elements including the well-known hydrogen, oxygen, gold, silver, copper, platinum, uranium, calcium and lead. The remaining 83 include lesser known elements such as titanium, tellurium, caesium and cadmium.

While it is true that the periodic table today contains over 100 elements, only the first 92 occur naturally. The others must be artificially made and are generally unstable. They undergo nuclear rearrangement and radioactive decay shortly after being synthesized.

God created the entire universe with only 92 basic building blocks we call atoms. Everything that we use and which makes life possible and wonderful comes about through combining the atomic building blocks into compound molecules.

Thus, water, air, steel, wood, plastic, wool, silk, potatoes and marshmallows are all mixtures of those 92 building blocks. Even the table salt that our bodies need and which adds flavor to French-fries is a mixture of sodium and chlorine.

Obviously, true science never conflicts with the Torah and many of the secrets that God embedded in His book reveal this. Here is just one example.

The account of Creation runs from Genesis 1:1 all the way to Genesis 2:3. Those 34 verses contain exactly 92 separate discrete Hebrew words. That’s right! The building blocks of Creation number exactly the same as the building blocks used to describe it. 92 words to describe 92 elements. Please tell me that you’re utterly astounded by God and His Book. I know that I am.

The lesson is clear. God created a world for connection. He created words to connect into verses, musical notes to connect into songs, and people to connect with one another for fulfillment and happiness. Every socio-medical study arrives at the same conclusion. People with strong connections to other people – friends, family, worship community and business associates – live healthier and happier lives.

Yes, happier. Now back to the Bahamas. During many taxi and jitney rides, it was impossible to ignore how everyone greeted and spoke to everyone else. Even the driver’s efforts were punctuated by frequent horn honking as he waved and yelled greetings at acquaintances on the sidewalk or in passing vehicles.

I don’t know why this is. Perhaps it’s the result of a small population on a small island. But one thing is clear. Connected people are happier. Now go out and make at least one new friend every day!

How do you transform the idea of continually making new friends from a sweet sentiment into an action? Many of us have difficulty reaching out, especially when it is so easy to be in touch with thousands electronically without making any deep connections. I created my 2 audio CD set, Prosperity Power: Connect for Success precisely to offer realistic, concrete guidance for this task, along with additional ancient Jewish wisdom. Get it by mail or download, on sale online today.

I like to think that my little granddaughter, Aliza, with whom I shared Passover, is still happily singing the lyrics from the Beachboys hit “Sloop John B”:

We came on the sloop John B
My grandfather and me
Around Nassau town we did roam…


This week’s Susan’s Musings: Time Out

When your life revolves around the Jewish calendar, certain periods in the year overwhelm time. Passover is one of those occasions which take up so much mental and physical space that there is no attention left for most other things. Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman; Obama and Romney; even Iran and nuclear armament recede into the background…

Graceful Endings

April 3rd, 2012 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Have you ever been in an audience listening to a speech that never ends? It is an even more ghastly experience for the speaker who plainly wants to finish but just doesn’t seem to be able to wrap it up. The sweat beads on his brow, his eyes dart around frantically seeking a savior, his hand clench and unclench and words continue pouring from his moving mouth. And the audience prays for it all to end.

I’ve been at synagogue services and also at business meetings that suffer from the same syndrome. Just like the speaker who can’t stop, the longer it goes on, the less likely it is that anything valuable is occurring. There is another event that suffers from having no ending.

I particularly enjoy being a dinner guest when a family’s children are also at the table. If they are deliberately included in the conversation, their views can be delightfully off-beat and refreshing. The problem arises when they leave the table mid-meal. Whether they excuse themselves politely or simply vanish, they leave unoccupied chairs and an off-balance feel to the gathering.

But since they have no idea of when it will end, what are they to do? They become restless because the meal stretches off endlessly into the future. Happily, ancient Jewish wisdom offers a solution. Establish a formal end to every meal and signal that everyone is expected to remain till the end by labeling it “Grace after meals.”

The Torah directs us to thank God for the food we have just eaten with a blessing;

…you shall eat and be satisfied; then you shall bless the Lord…

(Deuteronomy 8:10)

We are also taught to thank God for giving us His book, by saying a blessing before we study the Torah. Ancient Jewish wisdom discusses these blessings over food and the Torah in the same section to make the connection that food nourishes our bodies while God’s word sustains our souls. One who cares only for his body is but half a human as is one who cares only about his soul.

Why is one blessing said before and the other after? We say the Torah blessing before our souls are born aloft by hearing God talking to us from the pages of Scipture. However, we say the major food blessing after our stomachs are sated. The reason is because we always try to progress upwards towards the climax. Allowing God to talk to us from the pages of His Book is the whole point of reading His word. The blessing precedes that pinnacle. However, the highlight of the meal is when we talk to God.

In this fashion, a Biblical meal never just fades away. It builds to a peak and goes out with a bang. The solemnity of the Grace after Meals, along with its joyful melodies wraps the meal in the fabric of an unforgettable experience.

Children can easily be taught to remain at the table because the meal has a finite conclusion in the form of Grace after Meals. They readily understand that leaving the table before thanking God is even worse behavior than leaving a meal without thanking their parents.

Good advice for those in charge of worship services is to emulate the principle of the Grace after Meals. Instead of allowing the power and the passion of prayer to simply fade away as people inconspicuously creep to the exits in order to escape an interminable service, finish with a bang. Program the most important, and perhaps the most moving part of the service for the very end. Thus will people leave invigorated rather than fatigued.

Similarly, arrange business meetings with not only a start time but an equally definite ending time. Start the meeting with the less important items on the agenda. Finish it with the most important topics and perhaps with an uplifting announcement. People will leave energized rather than wearied.

We hope our Thought Tool books help you to study God’s wisdom and to enjoy uplifting conversation at mealtimes. Our two volumes are on a “get two for the price of one” sale right now. They make a delightful gift for yourself or for someone you want to bless.

Trial by Mouth – originally published Jan. 28, 2009

February 13th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

   
Celebrity endorsements can mean a great deal to a company. So we thought it a tremendous coup when Illinois Governor (though probably not for long) Blagojevich give an unsolicited plug for our audio CD, Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak.

After all, while the governor is not being impeached for his vulgar language, I have to think that it impedes his attempt to portray himself as an innocent, wronged victim when the tapes that (allegedly) implicate him in criminal activity have every second word bleeped out. Fair or not, I know that I am less likely to give the benefit of the doubt to someone whose mouth needs a good scrubbing.

 While neglecting to mention the name of the product – you get what you pay for, as Governor Blagojevich well knows- he made a very strong case for our teaching. In interviews this week, he acknowledged that his foul language harmed his wife as well as noting how difficult it is to control such a loathsome habit.

So, some companies employ athletes like Michael Phelps to represent them while others prefer Hollywood stars like Jennifer Anniston. As for Rabbi Daniel Lapin productions, we think that Governor Blagojevich is an outstanding case study of why everyone needs to hear Perils of Profanity, and proof of the good you can do by giving it to any young adult you care about.
Rather than paying a celebrity endorsement fee, we’d like to offer the governor some advice. In one interview he said:

“Had I known somebody was listening, I wouldn’t have used language like that.”

Well governor, in the future you would do well knowing that somebody is hearing each word you utter, for He is always listening.

 

It’s the Genes, Stupid – originally posted Feb. 2007

February 8th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

    
February. An often bleak, cold and dark month. This may be the reason why, aside from the obvious commercial implications, cheerful, bright, pink and red valentines endlessly bombard us as soon as February approaches. For women’s magazines the theme of the month’s issue is pre-ordained – romance. Generally this means that even more clap trap than usual will be disseminated. Hollywood couples who have made it past the five week mark will be lauded as proof that enduring love still exists and “experts” will step forward to explain the new, advanced methods for attracting and holding on to a mate.

Right on track, in a statement so absurd that one knows without checking that the author is an academician, comes a quote from Melvin Konner, MD, professor of anthropology and behavioral biology at Emory University. Commenting on a study of rodents which suggested that injecting male meadow voles with the chemical vasopressin increased their likelihood of linking up with female meadow voles, the doctor states,

“There’s something at work with a couple that stays together for 50 years, bad years included. It’s hard to imagine that it’s just a question of compatible personalities or strict beliefs.”

Imagine. If we only had universal health insurance we could have a nation of young couples streaming to the nearest chapel and we could assure them that divorce is no longer a threat. A regimen of injections would turn us into a nation of long term, happily married couples.

I don’t mean to pick on Dr. Konner, who after all sounds like he was simply wondering out loud rather than recommending a policy. Later on, in the same magazine that featured his quote, is an article highlighting committed couples, including one who has passed the fifty year mark. It is clear that indeed they were initially attracted by compatibility but weathered and continue to weather difficult times through shared beliefs and views.

But in today’s cynical and bruising world thousands of young people are reaching marriageable age as products of broken homes; probably just as many as products of unfulfilled ones. It is easy for them to believe various academics who proclaim that marriages were never meant to last for fifty years. It seems sensible to them that as the expected life span increases it is only normal for couples to divorce and pair up with new spouses, or that marriage itself is obsolete and meaningless.

Studies such as the one that made the cover of news weeklies a number of years ago suggesting that there is an “adultery gene” or ones that suggest that commitment is biologically driven advance the argument that people are helpless beings who can only act as we are programmed. As such we are not responsible for or capable of controlling our behavior.

What a dismal message to send. And how different it is from the message that God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden (when life spans were even longer than they are today). As my husband and I have been preparing the newest volume in our Genesis Journeys  series, focusing precisely on what that message is, I can’t help recalling a February event that I was privileged to attend two years ago. Hosted by then Governor and Mrs. Huckabee of Arkansas, the focus was on promoting commitment in marriage and it had nothing to do with a magic pill or monthly injection.

The highlight of the evening (aside from my husband’s speech) was a moving video of the president of a respected Bible college announcing his resignation in order to stay at his wife’s side while she dealt with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Like the thousands of other women in the room, my eyes were overflowing as he explained how his wife had supported him in all his endeavors and now she was in need of his company. Although she didn’t seem to recognize him, his presence calmed her down and gave her peace, and so he was choosing to free himself of other obligations to be with her. Not because he thought it was “only fair” or as a “payback” but because it filled him with joy to ease her distress.

I imagine that this man and his wife probably felt they were compatible when they embarked on their marriage many years earlier. But I doubt if it was hormones that led them to stay together. My guess is that there was a constant recognition that communication, hard work and common goals were needed to keep them compatible and, indeed, that strict beliefs laid the foundation for and built the protective fence around their relationship.

I don’t think there was anyone in the Altel Arena in Arkansas, male or female, who didn’t say a silent prayer asking for a marriage as blessed as that one. And I also don’t think there was anyone there who thought that achieving that kind of marriage was a function of winning a genetic lottery or having access to new drugs rather than of making a constant and sustained effort, through good times and bad, to attain it.

 

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