Posts tagged " wisdom "

Character, Not Curriculum

June 30th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

Sometimes, the passage of time makes things crystal clear. It is obvious today that there is no link between education and wisdom and, furthermore, no link between hours spent in school and education. Scores of college students and graduates constantly reveal their ignorance about basic concepts of American history, democracy and the Constitution on a daily basis.

During the 19th century, when England was largely populated by Bible-believing Christians, Thomas Henry Huxley was an outlier.  He invented the word ‘agnostic’ to explain himself and later devoted his life to promoting what he thought of as “scientific rationalism” rather than religion. Among his writings is this paragraph:

“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not. It is the first lesson that ought to be learned and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.”

It serves to show how even smart people can say foolish things.  Huxley is suggesting that education can give us the ability to do what we should do when we ought to do it, whether we feel like it or not.  In other words, he believes that will power and self-discipline can be academically taught.  If this were true, there would be some correlation between education and successful living. However, many people with advanced academic degrees exercise no willpower and demonstrate no self-discipline whereas many people who failed to graduate high school possess those indispensable characteristics.

He is certainly correct that it would be most valuable to acquire early in life the ability to make yourself do the things you have to do when you ought to do them.  Conversely, it follows that acquiring the ability to refrain from doing those things that you ought not to do would be equally valuable. 

But it just isn’t that simple.  There is no course you can take in high school or college that will equip you with these vital life skills.  If there were, there would be no such thing as a procrastinating professor. Doing what you should do and doing it in a timely manner is not a matter of fact. Refraining from things you ought not to do is not a matter of curriculum.  They are a matter of character.

Here is a little of ancient Jewish wisdom’s teachings on the topic.

Each of the three letters making up the Hebrew word for ‘king’ (MeLeCh) stands for a part of the human body. However, ancient Jewish wisdom is not a textbook on anatomy so what is being highlighted are internal characteristics. 

מ     ל    כ
C       L      M

M – Mo-aCH – Brain

L- LeV –  Heart

C – CaVeD – Liver

Those three parts of the human body each carry special spiritual allusions.  The brain alludes to our analytical and thoughtful abilities. Whenever the word heart is used in Scripture, it means our emotional beings.  Finally, the word CaVeD, liver, means base bodily appetites.

Furthermore, the word MeLeCh, ‘king,’ occurs many times in Scripture. Biblically, when discussing people, a king can refer to anybody rising to leadership over his fellow humans.

Thus, aspiring to leadership means running your life and making your decisions based primarily on intellectual and thoughtful analysis.  Secondly, consider your emotions.  Finally, only once all else is in place, indulge the bodily appetites.  A successful life is lived firstly on doing what one’s head directs and only subsequently on what one’s heart wants.  Seldom, if ever, are important decisions made based on the calls of the body.

Conversely, let’s see what Hebrew word emerges by reversing the three letters.  What if one runs one’s life with a paramount emphasis on food, sex, and fun?  Then if time and energy still allow, one does what one’s heart directs, and finally, if ever, one listens to the call of one’s head. What would that life look like?

Reversing the order of the letters making up the Hebrew for king, we now have:

Caved – liver – bodily appetites

Lev – heart – emotions

Mo-aCH – brain – the intellect.

What does the Hebrew word CaLeM, (the opposite of MeLeCh) mean?  Answer:  Embarrassment, shame, calumny.  Notice that words like calumny and calamity possess the root letters of CLM. 

The lesson is clear.  To reach the heights of leadership and success, do first what your head tells you. Only then consult your heart, and finally, very finally, think of what your body craves. Failing to heed this guidance leads to calumny, embarrassment and shame. 

The problem is that knowing this does not ensure that we will follow it.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the basic requirement for a king of Israel was an active and healthy relationship with God.  The Israelite king had to write his own copy of the Torah and he had to follow it.  A connection with God is one of the strongest tools for building character.  Possessing deep conviction that regardless of where one finds oneself, the King of Kings is watching with the highest expectations is a guard rail of moral safety. 

There are naturally agnostics and atheists with high character, just as there are, sadly, religious people without.  However, what I say to an atheist who asks me if I think being religious makes me better than him, is this:  I don’t think my faith in God makes me better than you. I don’t know what is in your heart. How could I?  But I do know that my religion makes me far better than I would be without it. And me, I do know.

Huxley was an intelligent man.  Of this, there is no doubt.  However, he lacked wisdom, believing that character could be taught as if it were a page of historic facts.

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How could Jethro be so honored?

April 13th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 8 comments

Hello, as always I would like to start by saying thank you for sharing your knowledge. And thank you for the time you give in answering our questions.

 I have so many questions when reading the Bible and there are so many of them that I have often said to myself or anyone around me, “I will ask the Rabbi “. But here is just one:

In Exodus 18 we read that Moses’s father in law Jethro came and gave Moses a good advice and Moses followed it. My question is, since Jethro was not an Israelite, was this advice part of God’s will/plan? Having the 70 rulers helping Moses, was it God’s plan?

Halle

Answer: 

Dear Halle,

Not only was Jethro’s advice accepted, but the entire section of the Torah that includes the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai is known by his name (Exodus 18:1–20:23). He is honored and respected in Jewish tradition.

Moslem countries and secular-left activists constantly call for a boycott of Israeli products (such as the BDS movement) or disparage Jews worldwide. It is worth noting that while they virulently insult Jews and Israel,  they do not follow through by actually purging their countries and lives of medical, technological and other inventions that were created by Jews or developed in Israel. Somehow, they still use the polio vaccine, drip irrigation, Estee Lauder cosmetics and  Waze. They even play Rummikub and Mastermind. Speaking and advocating hatred is easier than living by their principles which reject Jews and Christians as unworthy of respect.

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Why are Jews so liberal?

January 14th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Rabbi, my wife and I have been enjoying your Blaze podcasts, and have bought some of your products. Thank you and Susan both for the high quality of the content.
My question is about Jews and liberalism. You are obviously an independent thinker, and appear to hold conservative values. How is it that most Jews seem to be staunch liberals? How can they support liberal agendas if they have been exposed to Ancient Jewish Wisdom?

∼ Robert P.

Answer:

Dear Robert,

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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

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