Posts tagged " marriage "

Boats Float; Planes Fly; Couples & Businesses Crash

February 20th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

One of the most sensually satisfying things I’ve ever done was building a seventeen-foot sailing boat out of oak and spruce, plywood and glue, bronze screws and canvas.  If I close my eyes, I can still smell the aromatic sawdust.  After eight months of part-time, loving labor, launch day was almost an anticlimax.  It floated, I climbed aboard, hoisted sail, and glided off across the lake. 

No surprise there; I had purchased plans from an accomplished New Zealand naval architect, Richard Hartley, and followed them diligently.  What is more surprising is that I later built another boat which also floated.  This one was nearly forty feet long and was constructed from steel and cement.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Its hull was a one-inch thick sandwich of steel and cement.  I was not at all surprised when, on launch day, it not only floated but floated exactly to its waterline which I had already painted in bright red on the hull. 

Why wasn’t I surprised?  Because I had purchased plans from a designer in Vancouver who was a recognized expert in ferro-cement boats and I had followed all details diligently.  What percentage of the boats and ships that are built by large shipyards or by serious amateurs float? Actually, about one hundred percent.

We have friends in Nevada who are constructing a small airplane in their garage.  They are among the thousands of ultra-light aircraft enthusiasts around America who have built their own small airplanes.  What percentage of these airplanes fly?  Actually, about the same as the percentage of airplanes built by Boeing that fly—one hundred percent. 

The same goes for houses and skyscrapers.  Just like boats and planes, one can construct a house or a skyscraper knowing that if directions are followed, the building will stand.  One hundred percent of buildings constructed according to currently understood engineering principles stand.  We’ve been constructing boats and buildings for a long time.  We know what works and why. 

However, although we have been getting married and building businesses for thousands of years, neither of these two enterprises offer anything near the same likelihood of success.  This is puzzling.  After all, there are countless books on starting a business and getting married just as there are entire libraries providing guidance on building boats, planes, and houses.  We ought to be able to absorb the necessary data and embark on life as an entrepreneur or as a spouse with as much chance of success as ship builders, airplane builders, and home builders.  Yet we all know that the percentage of new businesses and new marriages that succeed long term is well below the figure for ships, planes, and skyscrapers.  Why would that be?

As usual, ancient Jewish wisdom leads us to the Scriptural solution.  God directed Moses how to build the Ark of the Covenant and then told him to place inside it “…the testimony which I shall give you.” (Exodus 25:16)

God directed Moses to build the Table and then told him, “And you shall set the bread of display upon the table…(Exodus 25:30)

God directed Moses to build the Menorah and then told him, “…and they shall light its lamps…(Exodus 25:37)

However, when God directed Moses to build the altar (Exodus 27:1-8) the construction details were not followed by what to do with the altar as was the case with the Ark, the Table and the Menorah.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the entire purpose of building the Ark was to place inside it the Tablets; the Table, to place upon it the bread; and the Menorah to light it.  But building the altar had purpose and meaning in itself.

In our attempts to replicate the Tabernacle in our own homes by making them suitable dwelling places for God, the altar symbolizes the marital bedroom and also the source of sustenance.  In other words, the altar is linked to both marriage and our means of earning a living—our businesses. 

The Ark, the Table and the Menorah were physical objects and building them resembled building boats, planes, and homes.  However, the altar was a spiritual entity and building it was meaningful in itself.

A ship is built for the purpose of launching it; an airplane is built for the purpose of flying it; a building is constructed for the purpose of occupying it.


However, a marriage needs no other purpose to exist.  Its very existence provides meaning.  Certainly, it is the best place to raise children and adds to the health and income of the spouses, but even without those things it has meaning.  And a business, though obviously needing to provide goods and services and make a profit, often gives its owners and operators significant meaning and purpose in life even during the start-up years when it may well not yet be profitable.

If I spot someone erecting a building, I might well ask, “What’s it for?”  But if someone tells me they’re getting married, I wouldn’t ask, “What for?” 

Yes, there are libraries of information on how to build physical objects like boats, planes, and houses. And you will only fail by ignoring those physical directions.  Happily for successfully building spiritual entities like marriages and businesses, there is also information available but it is naturally spiritual information.  It is as reckless to start a marriage or launch a new money-making enterprise without consulting and following the spiritual blueprints.

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Grab the Gold

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the questions we must ask:

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

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

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

Ancient Jewish wisdom provides the answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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Never Marry Your Grandmother

February 5th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

“My boyfriend is driving me crazy! Does he want to get married or not?”

“My husband and I were both thrilled when I became pregnant. But when I mention the baby, he sometimes gets this terrified look on his face. Is he happy about our baby nor not?”

The answer is…drum roll please…Both! The author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote,

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold

two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,

and still retain the ability to function.”

People are complicated and since most of the joy in life as well as most of the problems come from dealing with others, it is helpful to gain greater understanding into human relationships, particularly between men and women.

Take a look at Scripture’s list of prohibited sexual relationships. It starts with close relatives and ends with bestiality. (Leviticus 18:6-23)

Pretty straightforward. Except, we are perplexed to discover that one and a half chapters later the entire list is repeated. This time, however, it starts with adultery and ends with close relatives. (Leviticus 20:10-21) Is it repeated to help folks with short memories?

No. The purpose of the Torah is to teach us how the world REALLY works and that includes understanding sexual relationships. Relationships between men and woman are complicated because they are driven by complex and often conflicting forces.

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals relationship secrets while resolving the problem of the two lists in two almost adjacent Biblical chapters. It turns out that the lists are similar but not identical. They list the prohibited sexual relationships in different sequences, thus hinting at the two chief forces driving sexual attraction.

The first list in Leviticus 18, encapsulates our innate drive for reproduction. It is not just women who experience ‘baby-hunger.’ While women tend to experience it earlier (playing with dolls offers a clue) men also eventually yearn for the immortality that a child can confer. Most men want their children to be like them. The first list starts off with the relationships that would theoretically most appeal when reproduction is at the forefront of men’s minds.

The surest way to conceive children who resemble oneself would be to reproduce with a mate from one’s own family. While this sounds strange to our ears, focus on the concept rather than picturing it. So this list mentions prohibited family members first. It concludes with alternatives less tempting to someone focused on reproduction such as another man’s wife in which case the child would belong to someone else. Finally come homosexuality and bestiality where no offspring can possibly result.

The second list expresses men’s urge for sexual pleasure. It offers its own sequence in descending order of appeal. Most attractive is another man’s wife. Many men perversely find themselves attracted to married women whom they would totally ignore if the same ladies were single.

Forbidden fruit powerfully attracts so it constitutes the first prohibition in Leviticus 20:10. Continuing to look at the world through the eyes of a man who is only interested in a sexual relationship with no other component whatsoever (like reproduction or companionship and growth) we find the powerful sexual attraction of homosexuality and even of bestiality. These prohibitions are next in the list. (Leviticus 20:13-15) Finally, given that most men are not sexually titillated by close relatives, the list ends with those.

Now the two lists no longer suggest redundancy but, taken together, they reveal an exhilarating glimpse into reality. It isn’t surprising that relationships between the sexes frequently lead to heartbreak when not only do we not instinctively “get” each other, but we often don’t even “get” ourselves.

We only need to look at current headlines to see that male-female relationships are easy to mess up. Yet we still seek that one special someone and hope to share a lifetime of commitment. We are delighted to announce that we have gathered our three most helpful resources for choosing a spouse and sustaining a marriage. Get all three together in one budget-friendly package. You will find practical advice, amazing insights and an understanding of the first two chapters of Genesis that is unlike any you’ve learned. Check out our Lasting Love Set today!

As a single mom, should I be thinking about marriage?

November 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

What’s the biblical instruction for a single mother who met the Lord during pregnancy? I feel I’m not called to be single, but have not dated for over 11 years, as I was dedicated to mothering.

From a biblical perspective, should I seek marriage or seek singleness?

Thank you!

Mka

Dear Mka,

There’s a phrase, Kol HaKavod, used in Israel when someone has done something exceptional. It literally means “all the honor [to you],” and is a way of acknowledging actions that go above and beyond the norm. We say to you: Kol HaKavod.

Firstly, you changed the path of your life, and that of your child, by findng the Lord during your pregnancy. Since then, you devoted yourself to being a mother and, we assume, making a fulfilling life for yourself. By not dating, you focused on the relationship already in your life, with your child. When a single mother dates it frequently introduces emotional, psychological and often physical, instability into a child’s life.

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Should we keep trying?

October 3rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

My wife and I have had a pretty rough few years of marriage.  Issues like conflict between her and my family, and the two of us having different personalities are the main reasons for these problems.  I feel like some of my screw ups, (weak communication, insensitive at times) are part of  being a male, and not at all an intentional disrespect to her.  She feels that having 2 opposite personalities never lets us “click,” and she is ready to move on.  We have 2 kids, 6 & 8, and have been married for 14 years. 

 I don’t feel God would have  brought us together, only to give us a yearning for a “soul mate” after we have been blessed with so much.  Is the thought that there is someone who is more compatible, a legitimate reason for divorce?  Any resources you can point me to would be greatly appreciated.  I love your podcast and books.  

Thanks for your wisdom!

Matt M. 

Dear Matt,

It sounds like you and your wife have been on a downward spiral for a while. We do have a book recommendation based on your question, “Is the thought that there is someone who is more compatible, a legitimate reason for divorce?” The fact is that in our culture, one doesn’t need a “legitimate reason for divorce.” However, it sounds as if your wife is hesitating to move forward with ending the marriage perhaps because, even deep down, she believes that she made a covenant for life. Diane Medved’s readable and powerful book, Don’t Divorce: Powerful Arguments for Saving and Revitalizing Your Marriage, might give her reasons to rethink her picture of divorce in addition to whatever spiritual and religious views motivate her. Especially with two children in the picture, in our view, divorce should always be seen as the very last resort and only for the most extreme reasons.

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The Men Behind Great Women

September 7th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 25 comments

Back in March, I read a fascinating book about Clementine Churchill that led me to write a Musing about the aphorism, “Behind every great man stands a great woman.”  I have just finished another completely absorbing book that leads me to ask a different question. How many women achieved public greatness because of their husbands?

The book I just finished, Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography, was written in 1977, a few years before the famous historians, philosophers and authors died within weeks of each other. Brought to the United States from Russia as a toddler, Ethel (later renamed Ariel by her husband) grew up in a Jewish immigrant family that struggled economically, socially and religiously. Left much to her own devices, as a young teen she removed herself from public school joining a radical school named for an anarchist. Meanwhile, Will Durant, born to a fervently Catholic, stable family, made his own way to the school as a teacher after abandoning religious training in seminary and embracing atheism.

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Am I too intimidating to get married?

September 5th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

I have listened to your analysis of romantic relationships and am left wondering what your best advice is to a charming, active, healthy, financially well off, single woman who is over 50 who dearly misses the intimacies of married life?

I am called intimidating and “a tough act to follow”.

Janet

Dear  Janet,

As always, we start with the disclaimer that without knowing you personally we might be way off the mark in our advice. However, we hope we can at least encourage you in the right direction.

You certainly have a lot going for you. At the risk of sounding completely politically incorrect (all right, we enjoy being politically incorrect but it still is risky in our “gotcha” society) perhaps you have too much going for you?

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Self-Made Women

July 20th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

The cover story headline on Forbes magazine, America’s Richest Self-Made Women caught my attention. Surely, the stories of the sixty women listed would shine a light on women and money. It did, though I’m not sure that what I saw will make social engineers happy.

Here are some sentences from the top four bios:

#1) Ilitch and her husband, Mike…cofounded Little Caesars pizza… (Marian Ilitch)

#2) The Wisconsin native cofounded the business with her late husband, Ken… ( Diane Hendricks)

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My Ambitious Husband

June 28th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

My husband has a great deal of ambition and works long hours. I know that he is doing this for our future but I feel like we have no life to speak of at present. How do I deal with these feelings?

Karma

Dear Karma,

Without knowing you, your husband or more details, this is one of those questions where we can do no more than raise discussion points and questions.

First, we’d like to make a few general comments. You and your husband are both fortunate. In today’s day and age, many males have been emasculated leaving them with neither ambition nor persistence. It is wonderful that you are married to a man who wants to provide well for his family.

At the same time, cultural propaganda teaches women that everything that goes wrong is the fault of men. Unlike you, those women would not ask how to deal with their own feelings but instead they would immediately castigate their husbands.

The first step is for each of you to appreciate how you are both contributing to your marriage. Your husband is taking his role seriously and you are wise enough to recognize that what you see as his relentless focus on work could crack the foundation of your relationship. Getting on the same page now can yield immense results.

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I’m trying to cut expenses, but my wife won’t get on board

May 16th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

I have been listening to your podcasts for about a year now and find them very insightful. I was raised a Baptist and am now a confirmed Roman Catholic. I find that every week your subject matter always seems to address something that is going on at that moment. 

I have had a lot of changes in my life recently, some by choice, others by necessity. At 38 I have realized that my wife and I need to start being good stewards of our money and to stop living beyond our means.

 I now have a career that requires that I have good credit but is a decent paying job. My problem is that I am having trouble getting my wife onboard with the idea. I realize that we need to tighten our belts for the time being. 

Do you have any advice on how to convince her of this?

Thank you for your time and God bless you.

Sincerely,

Frank G.

Answer: 

Dear Frank,

Congratulations on the new job as well as on entering the world of economic adulthood. Living beyond your means isn’t a good idea at any time, but recognizing that in your late thirties rather than later hopefully gives you time to turn things around.

You don’t mention how long you’ve been married, but it sounds like you are unilaterally changing the rules of the marriage. If until now, you and your wife have been spending indiscriminately and somehow making do, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you can’t just come home and announce a new way of living. You may have had an epiphany but your wife hasn’t.

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