Posts tagged " moses "

Leadership and Levitation

March 12th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

A friend once invited me to join him and several other guests on a day sail off the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.  After his rhapsodic description of the classic sailboat and his praise of the captain whom I was going to be fortunate enough to meet, I could hardly accept quickly enough.  My enthusiasm ran high as we gently glided out of Cape Town harbor and beyond the sheltering mass of famous Table Mountain.

They only renamed the Cape of Good Hope because its original name, the Cape of Storms, terrified early sailors discouraging them from signing on to crew the ships of the Dutch East Indian Company.  That afternoon it lived up to its original name.  The winds howled, the waves tossed around our seventy-foot masterpiece of teak wood and canvas and we all struggled mightily to reduce the sail and bring the powerful vessel under control.

Strangely enough, the captain who had been resplendent in his smart blazer and cap during the calm first hour while offering drinks and regaling us with his adventures, was nowhere to be seen.  We were all too busy (and frightened) to wonder where he was.  In his absence, we did our best trying to learn one another’s strengths and skills as we exerted our last ounces of energy defeating the wind and water.  Once we were finally through the storm and calmly ghosting back into the harbor our captain reappeared in full regalia and blusteringly explained to our exhausted little group everything we had done wrong.  I whispered to my friend that I had just gained an unforgettable lesson in what leadership was not.

Leadership means being there with your people during the storms and wars of life.

Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites.  Moses began his career when God appeared to him at the Burning Bush (Exodus chapter 3) and Joshua started his when Moses appointed him in accordance with God’s directive. (Numbers chapter 27) 

A notable difference between the launch of these two careers is that Moses is instructed to remove his shoes at the very start of his conversation with God.

… Remove your sandals from your feet,
for the place on which you stand is holy ground. 
(Exodus 3:5)

Joshua isn’t told to remove his shoes until five chapters into the Book named for him.

… Remove your sandals from your feet,
for the place where you stand is holy.  And Joshua did so.
(Joshua 5:15)

Shoes (like pants) haven’t changed their function for thousands of years.  Neckties come and go; hats, scarves and jackets sometimes have nothing to do with keeping warm, but regardless of their appearance or style shoes have always served to keep people’s feet off the ground.

The concept is that God created humans not as another kind of animal and not as an angel, but as something in between.  He created us as creatures exquisitely suspended between earth and heaven, which is to say, between the spiritual and the material.  We are not supposed to be so spiritual that we reject the joys of life and disdain its pleasures.  Neither are we supposed to be so material that physical pleasure is all we seek.

Walking barefoot on the ground suggests being so attached to the earthly that the heavenly and spiritual are way beyond our grasp.  On the other hand, think of levitation.  Whether in Christianity, Hinduism or some Hassidic sects of Judaism, the idea that super-spiritual and saintly personalities could spontaneously hover above the earth was quite popular.  In reality, God says, don’t walk on the ground; you’re not animals.  But don’t levitate above the ground either; you’re not angels.  Instead find your equilibrium between heaven and earth by standing on a layer of leather or rubber which keeps you just above, but not too far above, the earth

Here are two times when shoes are removed:

1.   When God speaks to someone as He did with Moses at the Burning Bush and with Joshua outside the walls of Jericho, the incandescent Divine power can be too overwhelming.  It can sweep the mortal heavenwards leaving him ill-equipped to continue normal life and fulfill his mission.  The antidote is to anchor oneself firmly to earth by removing shoes.

2.   During the first week of mourning for a close family member, the grief and the weakening, but still palpable spiritual connection with the soul of the departed, can easily dislodge the mourner from his normal position of spiritual-material balance.  Again, the antidote is to eschew shoes during that week, allowing the mourner to engage in the process of returning to the normality of life on earth as a living person.

This leaves us with the question of why Moses’ overwhelming encounter with God came right at the beginning of his life work while Joshua doesn’t encounter God’s angel until just before the attack on Jericho.

In order to make sense of this, we should examine Moses’ entreaty to God to appoint his successor.  He specifically wants Israel’s new leader to be someone…

…who shall go out before them and come in before them,
and who shall take them out and bring them back in.
(Numbers 27:17)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that this verse refers to military leadership. Moses wanted a leader capable of leading the nation through the many wars awaiting them as they conquered the Promised Land.

However, he did not want the future leader to be someone who sent Israel off to war from the comfort of his palace.  He insisted on a leader who would go with his people onto the battlefield and bring them safely home again. 

After being appointed in Numbers 27, Joshua’s first battle is the imminent attack on Jericho.  God now appears to assure him that if he follows instructions, the war will be won.  This precisely parallels God appearing to Moses at the Burning Bush and assuring him that he will successfully lead Israel out of Egypt. 

A real leader’s role is neither ceremonial nor symbolic; it is to be together with his people, helping them overcome and survive the frightening challenges that accompany all levels of achievement.  Each day, among our families and friends and in our business or professional lives, there are wars to be fought and won.  Every meaningful goal to which we aspire requires a hard fight.  It’s almost as if we can actually feel the universe resisting our efforts.  Being right there with those we lead is the task. Helping them vanquish the enemy and bringing them home safely again is what leadership means. 

I later discovered that our captain was far better known for telling tall tales around yacht club bars than for any real sailing prowess.  For really helpful leadership lessons, ignore the showy people in flashy clothing and study Biblical figures like Joshua.

The Scroll of Esther, read by Jews on next week’s holiday of Purim, is full of leadership lessons that are particularly appropriate as showy people spew hatred of Jews (and Christians) in Congress. Now is a great time to follow the fascinating trail linking Persia, Islam and Nazism that started in Genesis and continues through today. Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam, on sale right now, will astound you with its timeless truths.

Purim Sale
Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam

Go behind the scenes of Esther and see how the story continues today 

Rabbi Lapin Download

 

More? Sure! Everything? Never!

February 12th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 26 comments

A business professional in Michigan named Ken Lingenfelter owns about 230 cars.  Entertainer Jay Leno has about 170 and Jerry Seinfeld owns about 150.  Each of those avid car collectors has a list of a few more cars that he’d really love to acquire but knows he probably won’t.  Healthy people eventually recognize that nobody gets everything they want. 

Even when we acquire what we want, we usually find ourselves wanting more, putting us back to square one.  God created us with infinite desires. Happiness depends upon knowing that not all ambitions and longings can or should be realized.

This message is so important for humans to absorb that it is presented as a set of bookends to the Torah, appearing both at the beginning and at the end.  It is as if the good Lord is saying, “Look, life has a huge paradox.  I have created you with limitless ambition, countless hopes, and inexhaustible dreams.  I want you to pursue those boundless visions but I don’t want your happiness to depend upon attaining them.” 

The first person mentioned in the Five Books of Moses is Adam and the last  is Moses.  Both men experienced three steps; (1) Presentation of abundance; (2) Limitation; (3) Death notice.   

First, the presentation of abundance:

Adam:

From all the trees in the Garden you are free to eat and you should eat. (Genesis 2:16)

Moses:

Moses climbed up from the plains of Moab up onto Mount Nebo… and the Lord showed him the whole land…(Deuteronomy 34:1)

Second, the limitation:

Adam:

And from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you may not eat of it…(Genesis 2:17)

Moses:

This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over into it.  (Deuteronomy 34:4)

Third, the death notice:

Adam:

…On the day that you eat of it, you will die. (Genesis 2:17)

Moses:

And Moses the servant of God died there…  (Deuteronomy 34:5)

Adam saw a garden with more delectable resources than any person could imagine.  God immediately informs him that he doesn’t get everything.  Nonetheless,  Adam and Eve try for everything and are reminded for all time that life has its limit.  The secret is enjoying what one does have.

Born in the exile of the Egyptian diaspora, Moses dreamed of the land of Israel which he knew had been promised to his seven-time-great-grandfather, Abraham.  God selected him to bring to fruition the Hebrews’ return to Israel.  For forty interminable, trying years in the desert, Moses longed for Israel. He is then shown the land.  Scripture uses as many as thirty-three words to describe the full expanse of Israel that he saw.  However, his vision was limited to seeing it from the top of a mountain outside the land. Shortly after, he transited to the spiritual world in which there are no limitations. 

Whether we are driven to acquire automobiles or anything else, we must remember that the urge for limitlessness is a Godly impulse ingrained in us.  It is from our limitless Creator that we inherit our desires for the infinite.  As humans, we should enjoy the process and find happiness in the quest without mortgaging our fulfillment to attaining everything—an impossible task.

In relationships, too, we sometimes sacrifice our happiness on the altar of ‘wanting it all.’  Sometimes we concentrate on the flaws of children and friends rather than appreciating their strengths. In dating and marriage, this tendency can be even more pronounced. So many people never marry as they wait for “the perfect match.” Focusing on a spouse’s imperfections provides a quick path to frustration. For those looking to date and stay married more successfully, take a look at our Lasting Love Set. Save money by purchasing three complementary resources at one time and use them wisely as you strive to fulfill the inborn desire to share life with one unique partner within a world of limitation.

No Margaritas for Me

November 19th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

As the U.S. population ages, many members of the baby boomer group are rejecting the elderly housing paradigm of their parents and grandparents.   An article in  The New York Times describes innovative senior housing in Florida whose name, Latitude Margaritaville, is based on a popular Jimmy Buffett song.  In describing this over 55 housing development designed to resemble a non-stop beach party, the article quotes a University of Iowa anthropologist who says, “We have no shared collective articulation for what later life is for, what the value of living longer is, except not dying…”

I guess that depends on what your definition of “collective” is. The Judeo-Christian tradition has a very clear understanding. While Latitude Margaritaville sounds like a fun place, ancient Jewish wisdom isn’t keen on separating the generations. Listen to this exchange between Moses and Pharaoh.

(Moses relating God’s message) …thus said the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
(Exodus 9:1)

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You + You = YOU

July 2nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

Money, money, money…” sang Abba in 1976.  What is it?  It is funny how challenging it is to define.    Is it those metallic discs clinking in your pocket? How about those strips of colored paper in your wallet?  How about when you write a check? Is that money?  What if you write on a napkin, “I’ll give you $10 on Friday.” Is that money? How about if we shake hands and I simply say, “I’ll give you $10 on Friday.” Is that money?  Or is money the magnetic orientation of iron oxide molecules on that brown strip back of your credit card?  Is it a stream of ones and zeroes on the hard drive of your financial institution’s computer?  What is money?

Whether you consult economists or financiers, business school deans or directors of the International Monetary Fund, you’ll always get much the same answer.  It will be something like this: money is a government authorized circulating medium of exchange that allows us to count and store value. 

While that definition is basically true, it hardly tells the entire story.  For a far more useful depiction, we should turn to the 10th chapter of William James’ The Principles of Psychology published in 1890. While William James, who in my opinion had a much more correct understanding of the human soul than Sigmund Freud, is not trying to define money, he is helping us understand the breadth of its impact upon our lives.

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How did Moses know he was an Israelite?

April 3rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 20 comments

Hello,

First I would like to say that I watch your show every morning and I absolutely love it. Thank you so much for what you are doing. I have learned so much!

Now for my question, how did Moses know he wasn’t Egyptian and that he was an Israelite? It’s driving me crazy. Am I missing it in scripture or is the answer found in ancient Jewish wisdom?  Thanks for reading.

Respectfully,

Cynthia A.
Boston, Virginia

Dear Cynthia,

We are delighted that you watch our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show on TCT. We are also delighted with your question! It is a wonderful question that shows a willingness to seek beyond the surface of Scripture and explore it with mature eyes.

We suggest you can find the beginning of an answer in Scripture, by looking in Exodus and in Chronicles, with ancient Jewish wisdom filling in the blanks. In Exodus 2:6 we see that Pharaoh’s daughter knew that the baby she drew from the water was a Hebrew. She even looked for a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby! In 1 Chronicles 4:18,  we find a woman named Bit-Ya, daughter of Pharaoh. The name Bit-Ya translates as “daughter of God,” and ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that God called her by that name saying, “You called Moses your son though he was not; I will call you my daughter though you are not.”

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Salvaging Six Minutes

January 16th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

I wasted six irrecoverable minutes last Thursday.  I was in a hotel room watching a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on television justify his failures, and those of his colleagues, by pointing a finger of disdain at a large part of the American population.  Poor results were because too many Americans were too selfish to understand his heroic sacrifices on behalf of other Americans and other not-yet-Americans.  I was as dismayed by the poor quality of some of our elected as I was about my wasted six minutes.

Later, while driving, I contemplated how I might try and benefit from those lost six minutes. Many a mile went by with no hope of rescuing that time wasted in front of the TV screen.  Then, all of a sudden, my wife, Susan, asked me, “Do you know that in only two places in the Five Books of Moses, does Moses speak ‘before the Lord’ rather than ‘to the Lord’”?  I laughed delightedly because while those six minutes were certainly irrecoverable, they were no longer wasted.  I was able to learn from them.

Let me explain.  It can be disconcerting when, during a conversation, someone utterly ignores what you just said and continues talking as if you hadn’t said a thing.  You feel as if perhaps you didn’t say it at all.  There can only be two explanations.  Either the person is incredibly rude or else you didn’t speak the words, you merely thought them; in reality they never made it to your mouth.

Consider this conversation between God and Moses:

The Lord spoke to Moses saying.  “Come, speak to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and he will let the children of Israel out of his land.”   And Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “The children of Israel did not listen to me, how then will Pharaoh listen to me, seeing that I am of uncircumcised lips?” And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and He commanded them concerning the children of Israel…
(Exodus 6:10-13)

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Banished and Vanished

January 8th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

For a while in middle school, I was friendly with a boy whose father attended school events as frequently as mine did; which is to say—never!  Ours was a natural alliance between two outsiders who turned to one another for company while other boys dallied with their dads.  His father was a doctor while mine was a rabbi.  His weary response to everyone asking about his father was, “With patients.”  Mine was, “With congregants.”

I remember wondering why lawyers, stockbrokers, and plumbers were always there at games with their sons.  How come they weren’t with clients and customers?  What was it about rabbis and doctors?  Not until later did I realize that some jobs really are more like ministries and missions.  Under normal circumstances, bookkeepers, car dealers, and social workers are home with their families for dinner.  For certain medical specialties and for clergymen, normal circumstances are helping a person in need rather than heading home because the clock says dinnertime.

Naturally, there is a price to be paid.  Nothing is for nothing, so it sometimes does happen that the children of parents who are super-dedicated to their work suffer.  It goes without saying that there are compensating benefits.  I did learn what commitment to one’s obligations means and understood the idea of having a life purpose. I respected my father immensely.

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Ignore that STOP Sign

September 4th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 8 comments

Don’t we all start out with optimistic plans? We are going to accomplish great things, be great spouses and parents, build our businesses and ever so much more.  Yet, somehow, we sometimes find ourselves still single, still yelling at our kids, still working at a dead-end job struggling to make ends meet. We haven’t made the impact we hoped to on our communities, family or friends. Perhaps a Hebrew word can move us back on track.

Just before Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh, God threatens Moses for neglecting to circumcise his son.  God would have terminated Moses’ career, had Moses’ wife, Tziporah, not intervened.  (Exodus 4:24-26) What is going on?

We get a clue from the language used in and around this event:

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What’s wrong with self-esteem?

July 5th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 comments

I heard you briefly refer to self esteem and the idea of promoting self-esteem versus self-respect on your weekly Podcast. 

I grew up in the era of self esteem, however, my parents always spoke of respect. Please go into detail on your thoughts as to why promoting self-esteem degrades oneself.

Thank you,

 Lane (father of five)

 

Dear Lane,

Quite a lot has been written about the self-esteem movement that, from its beginnings in 1969, had a huge, and mostly negative, effect on educational and cultural trends. We urge you to do some research on this topic. There are so many articles on the subject, many of which acknowledge the damage done by this movement.

No matter how flawed the movement is, it has pervaded modern culture. Unfortunately, the results can be seen all around us.

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The Gorilla, the Girl and the Snake

February 1st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

Every September at the Puyallup fairgrounds about 40 miles south of Seattle, occurs one of the Lapin family’s favorite fairs. On one special day each September, we would head to the Washington State Fair. We’d arrive early morning, soon after opening and leave only when the lights started going out late that night.  We love that fair.

One attraction, popular at almost every fair in the country for the last seventy-five years, is the girl-into-gorilla illusion.  The audience is shepherded into a dark tent. When the curtain opens, a girl is seen in a cage and before everyone’s astonished eyes she begins to sprout hair. Her features go from girlish to gorilla.  Her delicate arms gradually turn into huge hairy appendages dangling from enormous shoulders. Then, just as the transformation seems complete, the “gorilla” breaks open the cage. Everyone flees in terror, their frantic screams helping to attract the audience for the next show.

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