Posts tagged " jewish "

Should I stop my child playing?

March 3rd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Dear Rabbi Daniel & Susan Lapin,

I am a Christian woman who is enjoying the journey of learning our Jewish roots. I recently ordered your library collection and I am quite enraptured in the wisdom that is shared. You are absolutely right when you say, ‘You need a rabbi!’ 

I have a question regarding children and playing pretend. Growing up I often played pretend, most often pretending to be different people in different careers. Occasionally though, I would pretend to be a cat or dog. I never thought anything of it as I have so often heard and seen children pretend to be animals at some point in time. After listening to your teachings though on how God made us in His image, I question whether pretending to be an animal in playtime would be forbidden in a Jewish home. When we pretend to be a grocer, doctor, mother or superhero, we are serving humanity and setting our mind on things that God would want us to do or character traits God wants us to have; whereas if we pretend to be an animal, we are not preparing ourselves in any way for growth. 

Am I taking this too far? I am not a wife or mother yet but should I ever become one, I hope to raise my children in a way that pleases the Lord.

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Is Judaism defined by one’s mother or father?

July 8th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

In the Bible, genealogies are stated mostly in terms of fathers and sons. Yet, in speaking to contemporary Jews, I am told that the determination of whether one is a Jew or not depends upon the mother’s lineage and faith.
 
Is that the Biblical standard or was that changed over time?

∼ Christopher J.

Answer:

Dear Christopher,

The Hebrew word for parents is ‘HoRiM.’  The ‘iM’ at the end denotes a plural word. There is no singular noun for ‘parent.’  Mother, yes. Father, yes. Parenthood, however, takes teamwork. Knowing this fact benefits everyone.

It encourages individuals to marry before having children and lets them know that they are depriving their children if they do otherwise. If a tragedy occurs and one of the parents is no longer alive or available to the child, then acknowledging that parenthood is a two person-two gender job allows the extended family and community to know that assistance is needed. Pretending that any and every family is equally desirable pretends to help children, while really it harms them.

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Field and Stream

August 6th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Are you a specialist in your field of work?  What career field should I go into?  Will history graduates find work in their field?  Why is the word field by far the most common metaphor for work, career, or profession?  Why not ask, “what river do you work in?”  Or, “what road of work do you walk?”  Or, “can you find work in your stream?”

This usage of language derives from the Bible. While working in your field can mean agriculturally since that is the means of earning a living most often referred to in Scripture, on a larger scale your field means whatever honorable way you have of earning a living.  Just as a field provides a farmer with sustenance, so does a field of work do the same for the professional in that field.

Prepare your work externally and make yourself fit for the field; then afterwards build your house.
(Proverbs 24:27)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains this verse to mean that the best way to order your life is first learn to do work that others (outside of yourself) find useful, then establish your career performing that work.  After that, you’ll be in a position to build your house, meaning, create your family.

Excelling in your field provides blessing not only for you but also for others in your society.  Noah’s name means ‘rest’ and he brought the possibility of rest to mankind by increasing the agricultural yields of the fields.  Notice how Noah is named:

And he called his name Noah, saying, this one shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.
(Genesis 5:29)

Sure enough, God had cursed the earth.

…cursed is the ground for your sake…thorns and thistles will it bring forth to you…
(Genesis 3:17-18)

How did Noah ‘comfort us concerning our work’?  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Noah invented the plow allowing mankind to draw more from the cursed earth with less effort. Similarly, by being productive we too add value to the lives of those around us.  For this reason, a Biblical worldview frowns upon earning one’s living as a professional gambler.  No matter how much money one wins by gambling, nobody else’s life is thereby improved.

Does the importance of working in your field disappear later in Scripture? From the following passages, it seems as if society’s prosperity hinges only on one’s relationship to God.

And it will be that if you carefully obey my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give you the rain of your land in its season…that you may gather in your grain, and your wine, and your oil and I will send grass in your fields for your cattle, that you will eat and be satisfied.
(Deuteronomy 11:13-15)

This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; but you shall meditate on it day and night that you may observe and do all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
 (Joshua 1:8)

If we are meditating on the Torah day and night, obeying God’s commands with all our heart, when do we find time to plant that grain, those vines and olive trees?  Ancient Jewish wisdom’s answer is that we “serve Him” and “do all that is written in it” largely through supplying the needs of God’s other children.

We humans are holistic. Even our bodies do best when our spiritual and physical sides are synchronized. Why does a placebo have any therapeutic impact at all in modern medicine? People’s bodies perform better when their brains and souls are on board with the program. This is why most people choose doctors in whom they have confidence. A patient’s recovery is directly linked to how much confidence that patient has in his or her medical advisers. It is almost as if your body knows what is in your mind and responds accordingly. Helping your mind to know and believe that what you do professionally is good, noble, and worthwhile helps to fuel your energies and propel your efforts.

No wonder ‘you will eat and be satisfied’.  No wonder ‘you will make your way prosperous and you will have good success’.  Working in our fields is part of our holy calling.

Many of us first met Noah when we were children. Yet his life, as the lives of others in Scripture, contains vital lessons for us as adults. We do ourselves a disservice by not approaching them with mature intellect. The 8 audio CDs in our Genesis Journeys Set will amaze you as they reveal astounding messages hidden in Genesis.

Genesis Journeys Set

Well, Meet My Father-in-Law

January 28th, 2014 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Having debuted in 2006, Psych is the USA cable network’s longest running original series.  It is set in Santa Barbara but for reasons having to do with production costs and trade unions, the series is filmed in Canada.  The scenery is recognizably coastal British Columbia, which my family and I know well from our summer boating trips.

The hero, the son of a diligent police officer, solves mysteries that baffle the police (of course) using what everyone believes to be his psychic ability.  In truth his secret is the remarkable observational skill his detective dad trained him to develop from the time he was a small child.  Shawn spots what everyone else ignores; the laundry receipt on the floor or a smear of paint on someone’s shoe.

Like Shawn, we can and all should develop our ability to see – no really see – everything, especially when studying Bible.  For instance, consider this apparently unimportant verse:

And Esau was forty years old when he married Judith
the daughter of Be’eiri the Hittite…
(Genesis 26:34)

Do we really need to know the name of Esau’s wife and father-in-law?  After all, we know very few of the names of the wives of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Furthermore, who cares how old Esau was when he married?

It’s time to polish our observational skills and really see the facts that will help solve the mystery.  First, the name of Esau’s father-in-law is “Be’eiri”. It helps to know that the Hebrew word for a well is “Be’eir.” Second, the name Be’eiri appears only one more time in Scripture, in the first verse of Hosea.

well, father in law of Esau, 350 pixels

 

Furthermore, while the word Be’eir, meaning a well, a source of water, appears fewer than thirty times in all the Five Books of Moses, over twenty of these mentions are found in Genesis. What is more, they are all found within a few chapters clustered around our mysterious verse – Genesis 26:34. Both Isaac and Jacob meet their brides at a well. One of the additional mentions is the well at which Moses meets his wife (Exodus 2:15).

In Torah, water is a metaphor for true, God-centered knowledge.  Thus, a well in the context of marriage implies that the couple is bound by a common commitment to the eternal knowledge of God. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that by seeking out a woman connected to a well, even if this association is only her father’s name, Esau is saying, “Me too!  I am just as connected to God as my father.”

By marrying the daughter of a “well-guy”, Esau is attempting to depict himself to be better than he really was. Without truly clinging to Isaac’s core beliefs and principles, he wants the credit for doing so. He even chooses to marry at exactly the same age as his father did, mistaking this type of external similarity for substance. The atypical inclusion of his age when marrying tips us off that this fact reveals important insights. On the surface, Esau looks good; his inside doesn’t match his outside.  Though easy for the casual reader to miss, all these seemingly innocuous details in Genesis 26:34 combine to depict someone trying to paint himself as more worthy than he really is.

In contrast, the Book of Hosea opens by identifying the prophet as a “well-guy”- a Be’eiri.  Hosea isn’t pretending to associate with true knowledge; it is actually part of him. Though he is soon to marry very unsuitable women, Scripture is disclosing that he is acting upon God’s direct instructions. On the surface, he doesn’t look good; yet he is following Divine wisdom.

It is easy to miss signs that should alert us to someone’s poor character.  We see what a date, employee or employer want us to see, missing what is beneath the surface. Training ourselves carefully to observe details is vital.  We may not be psychic, but we can notice easily overlooked clues.

Our lives today are impacted by Esau and his spiritual descendants. Perhaps we, ourselves, want to turn away from a poor family legacy and start an upstanding new one. Whether we want to understand what is happening in the explosive Middle East or in our private lives, examining Scriptural clues surrounding Esau is vital. Our 2-audio CD program, Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam does just that. It is on sale right now, by instant download or mail, full of insights that will change the way you see the world and interact with it.

CLASH OF DESTINY: DECODING THE SECRETS OF ISRAEL AND ISLAMClash of Destiny Case

 

Yes, Boss!

March 19th, 2013 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Our office and store will be closed from sunset Monday night 3/25 Pacific Time through an hour after sunset Wednesday night 3/27 in obedience to God’s command to not work on the festival days of Passover.  We appreciate your patience.
Please look for your Thought Tool one day later than usual.
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Please be aware that someone is sending emails, pretending to be from me,  trying to sell disreputable products and services.  We do not allow our email list to be used for anything but the ancient Jewish wisdom and Biblical resources that we ourselves publish.  Any email offering you anything else is spam and not from us.  We are now blessed with aggressive, competent legal and technical support that is working on identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators. Meanwhile, please delete any emails claiming to be from me or Thought Tools that promote non-Biblical products or services that are not found on our web store at https://www.rabbidaniellapin.com/store.php This has been an immensely aggravating episode for us and if you have received any of these illegal emails, I am truly sorry for the inconvenience you’ve endured.

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A friend’s new assistant didn’t arrive at the office until 11am and began packing up to leave at 2pm!  “Didn’t we agree you’d work all day today?” he asked.  “Yes,” she replied,  “but I have to think of me.”  She seemed surprised to be fired.  This wasn’t the first story of its kind that I’d heard.  Why are so many people clueless about a job?

We have all become so obsessed with freedom, rights, and choice that we’ve forgotten how much of our success and happiness is owed to restraint, duties, and rules.  Learning to place ourselves under authority is one message of Passover. Today’s educational system largely fails to teach this important skill so necessary for obtaining and keeping a job.  By contrast, the military does a splendid job teaching that the only way to get to give orders is to learn first to accept them.  The road to promotion leads through obedience.

Many mistakenly believe that Passover celebrates liberation.  But Moses never told Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”  God’s message really was, “Let my people go so that they may worship me in the desert.”  God did not free the Jews from being servants; he just freed them from being servants to Egypt.  Henceforth they were to be servants to Him.

Being enslaved by a man or a government makes less of us.  However choosing to be a servant of God transforms us into free and independent champions. Passover celebrates accepting God’s rules rather than rejecting the idea of having a boss.

Passover is an annual inoculation against a false idea. We could think that people would thrive if left to their own devices, without any external system of rules. Like the small child who yells, “You’re not the boss of me,” too many adults think that freedom means indulging every personal desire.

Being enslaved by Pharaoh served a vital function.  It taught the embryonic Jewish people how to take orders.  Thus, Passover celebrates the years of Jewish slavery as much as it does the exodus from Egypt. While the Egyptians were certainly responsible for their cruel behavior, Jews from then on recognize that the experience was a valuable one. The slavery had a purpose, teaching that all people are enslaved.  One’s only choice is whether to be enslaved to God’s rules or to a variety of bizarre human ideologies.

On this Monday night, we’ll celebrate the Passover Seder.  We will pore over a lengthy and detailed account of the Exodus, taste tear inducing bitter herbs with matzoh and solemnly drink four cups of wine to commemorate both slavery and redemption.

Paradoxically, true independence comes not through the abolition of all rules but through the acceptance of Divine rules.  Moses did urge Pharaoh to let the people go.  Not to free them from all authority, but to allow them to serve the One Authentic Authority.  This way, by bringing rules and structure into their lives they would gain real freedoms and choices.  What marvelous training for a job as well as for all of life itself.

This idea, like so many other valuable ones, flows directly from Hebrew. Our book, Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language, explores more than twenty-five words that hold wisdom for your life, even if you can’t read one letter of Hebrew. Get it on sale right now. You’ll be amazed at what a difference a word can make.

Also available on Kindle and Nook!

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Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Dear Rabbi,

Why is Wisdom referred to as female in gender in the book of Proverbs?

Yolanda

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Cleaning and Loving It

I have a friend who gets little pleasure from cooking. It is a reality of life for her rather than a tactile, sensual experience. That is, unless she is cooking for the Sabbath. When she does that, the activity is infused with meaning and importance and changes from an annoying necessity into a higher calling.

I feel somewhat the same about cleaning…READ MORE

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

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.

 

Remember the Titanic – originally posted May 28, 2009

January 16th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Have you noticed that among the obituaries that newspapers publish of famous or influential people, ordinary folk also get mentioned if they were the last of their kind? So, we were informed when the last Civil War soldier’s widow passed away a few years ago as we will hear when the last survivor of the Titanic dies. Note is taken of regular people who through a quirk of fate become our last link with an extraordinary time or event.

Now the above mentioned widow, Maudie Celia Hopkins, had no recollections of the Civil War; she was the nineteen year old bride of an eighty-six year old veteran. The sole survivor of the Titanic doesn’t have any first hand remembrances to share; she was nine weeks old when the ship went down. Yet, for some reason, their physical presence in the world matters.

I am surely not the only parent shocked when something that I have vivid recollections about, such as the Kennedy assassination, lives in my children’s mind only as history. While the day that President Reagan was shot is etched in my memory since it coincided with going into labor with my eldest child, I can’t reasonably expect her, let alone her younger siblings, to recall that day.

Our educational system has a tendency to suck the oxygen out of vibrant, multi-faceted events that impacted millions of lives, instead, presenting them in history books as dull, insipid lists of names and dates. In a relatively recent attempt to liven the subject up, textbooks sometimes highlight one individual or group, but the bottom line is that human history is so complex and intertwined that the simple fact of putting it down on a finite amount of paper automatically limits and distorts it.

Could our fascination with those who were even somewhat tied to a historical event be an acknowledgment that history is not an academic subject but the building block of our lives today? Do we clutch at those connected to the past in a vain attempt to realize that the impact of the past flows unceasingly into the future? Does knowledge of the Civil War veteran’s widow’s death make us realize that we are not as distant or as immune as we would like to believe from the type of cataclysmic upheaval that overturned the lives of Americans in the 19th century? If our absorption with otherwise obscure individuals serves these purposes, that indeed makes it worthwhile.

 

 

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