ICU Seeking Creativity

I see you.  I see you seeking creativity.  I see you sitting glumly with your elbow on the table and your chin resting in the palm of your hand.  I see you staring wildly around the room hoping to spot an idea in the corner crevice.  Are you trying to come up with a unique theme for a birthday party you’re throwing?  Are you struggling to conceive a business start-up idea?  I don’t know.  That much I can’t see.  After all, I’m not a seer, just a rabbi.

However, even as a rabbi, I know that several times each week you seek a great idea because great ideas greatly improve our lives.  This means that you need every possible strategy and technique for attracting powerful ideas into your mind.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of books and blogs detailing tips and tools for generating ideas: Calendar a specific time and set an alarm to terminate the session.  Make it quiet time with no electronic distractions.  Pencil and paper will do more for you than tablet or smartphone.  Discipline your mind not to wander or daydream but to focus only on possible solutions to the problem.  Calendar a second creative thinking session the following day allowing ideas to percolate in your subconscious overnight.  You probably already know most of these ideas.

However, one indispensable element of truly creative thinking is largely unknown. Its absence is usually most responsible for failure.  It makes all the difference between a productive creative session and wasted time.

The one absolutely necessary ingredient for successful creativity is having a heart filled with happiness.  When joyfulness overwhelms your soul, the gates of limitless mental creativity swing wide open.

In order to understand how this works, read these three verses that seem to repeat the same idea.

Three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord God.
 (Exodus 23:17)

Three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.
 (Exodus 34:23)

…thou shall rejoice in your feast…and in all the work of your hands…three times in the year all your males must appear before the Lord your God in the place which He shall choose; in the festival of unleavened bread (Passover), in the festival of weeks (Shavuot/Pentecost), and in the festival of booths (Sukot)…
(Deuteronomy 16:14-16)

Readers who think the Bible is the work of assorted human authors must ask themselves why some early editor didn’t remove two redundant verses.  After all, how many times does anyone need to be told something?

Those of us comfortable knowing that God authored His book, ask what secret message is encoded into the triplicated message. We got it the first time—males must pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year.

Three times a year?  Message repeated three times?  Hmmm…ancient Jewish wisdom to the rescue.

A general rule in understanding the Torah is that repeating messages ascend in importance.  The first verse matches Passover. God took us out of Egypt; He’s the Boss. If He says to go up to Jerusalem, we go.

The second verse relates to Shavuot (Pentecost), the time of the giving of the Torah. God is our God – there is a close relationship.

Mention of rejoicing and productivity precede the third verse. We go up not only to follow orders, not only because we crave a close relationship with God, but also as an expression of joy and fulfillment.

That’s it!  If you are happy, you will be productive enough to appear before the Lord bearing gifts.  The three festivals all emphasize gratitude to God, and few things contribute more to a feeling of happy optimism than expressing gratitude.  But that’s not all; each festival also highlights its own mechanism for inculcating a happy feeling in our hearts.  Passover is all about visualizing a spirit of redemption.

The Passover Seder teaches that we must each see ourselves as emerging from Egypt to freedom.  Therefore, seeing success in our mind’s eye is the first step in bringing about a happy heart.

Shavuot is about seven weeks of progress, journeying from the depths of Egypt to the sublime heights of Sinai. Hence, the second step trains us to plan detailed steps that can take us from where we are to where we want to be.

Finally, Sukot is all about happiness and water.  One of the Torah messages of water is that it flows to the lowest point; a metaphor of humility.  When we lower ourselves from an elevated posture of arrogance, water, which in Torah nomenclature evokes both wisdom and happiness, flows in our direction.

Those are the four steps to a soulset conducive to creativity.  Once you are all set up for a session of creative thinking:

1)    Evoke gratitude
2)    Imagine how you’ll feel when you have come up with a successful solution
3)    Visualize the stepping stones to get to the solution you need.
4)    Arouse your humble persona.

These four steps will fill your heart with an indescribable joy and thereby equip you for the most successful creative thinking session of your life.

In my mind, I am confident that I do us both a favor by identifying for you the ancient Jewish wisdom resources that will benefit your life.  For more on happiness and productivity see my book, Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language. Delve into the Hebrew words and capture the added wisdom embedded in God’s language. Read more about it here.

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Bones in Israel

The 100 million Moslems surrounding Israel often escalate their oft-stated desire to destroy six million Jews into action.  They dispatch murderers into Jewish neighborhoods, they launch sudden street attacks, and they shoot thousands of missiles into Israel’s population centers.  However, life in Israel continues.  Behold the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. (Psalms 121:4)

Whenever one of these periodic crises escalates, some Thought Tool readers ask me why I don’t devote a Thought Tool issue to the Israel situation.  The reason is because though it would be cathartic for me, it would do nothing for you, my loyal readers.  Yes, I have children living in Jerusalem, and yes, I would like to express my feelings about primitive barbarians imperiling their lives.  But that is not my mission.

There are many excellent writers who regularly illuminate Israel’s existential struggle.  My purpose each week is to provide you with a Bible-based nugget of ancient Jewish wisdom that you can deploy to enhance your quality of life.  I want it to be as relevant and as helpful to you today as it will be when you return to reread it ten or twenty years hence.  In other words, I don’t tie Thought Tools to current events.

Nonetheless, it is clear that spiritual strengths rather than physical forces shape Israel’s struggle to survive.  Her enemies could overnight transform their physical existence by laying down arms.  Many nations of the world would happily hand over billions of dollars and limitless economic, technical and medical aid to help build a new United Middle East.  With a real peace, average per capita income would skyrocket for the inhabitants of Egypt, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.  Their average life expectancy would climb meteorically.  Yet none of this matters.  Obliterating Jewish lives is more important than improving Moslem lives.

Why do Jews stay in Israel despite being surrounded by enemies?  Their material circumstances would dramatically improve if they emigrated to America, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, or Sweden that would reluctantly admit them as the price for an end to Middle East turbulence. Yet, to them, the spiritual significance of living on the land that God gave to Abraham as an eternal inheritance means far more than the physical goody-bags of a diaspora.  Both sides are driven, not by physical and material considerations but by spiritual imperatives.

Secular fundamentalists like to think of themselves as supremely rational. They argue that only the physically and scientifically quantifiable is important—only materialism matters.  Yet, two Yale psychologists, Drs. George Newman and Paul Bloom, proved that people do believe in the spiritual by analyzing estate auctions of the rich and famous. They realized that otherwise rational people willingly paid large sums of money for possessions previously owned by a celebrity.

The only way to explain this is that the buyers believe that some non-material quality of the former owner has been transferred to the item making it far more valuable than the identical item purchased new from a store.
Explaining the spiritual urge to murder Jews is outside the scope of this Thought Tool (though I do explain it in our audio CD program, Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam).

However, I do want to explore the unbreakable spiritual connection between Jews and the Land that God gave them.  It is also far more powerful than the connection between Marilyn Monroe and the purchaser of an ashtray she once owned.

And Moses took Joseph’s bones with him because he’d made the Israelites swear saying, ‘God will remember you and you must bring up my bones from here with you.’
(Exodus 13:19)

Wait!  Did Joseph really use the words that Moses reported?  Let’s see…

And Joseph made the Israelites swear saying, ‘God will remember you and you must bring up my bones from here.’
(Genesis 50:25)

Joseph didn’t actually say those last words, “…with you.” Why did Moses insert them?

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that Joseph’s love for the Land of Israel was such that, no matter how long it took, he deeply desired ultimately to be buried there.  However, Moses understood that Joseph’s bones carried spiritual qualities.  Rather than doing Joseph a kindness by taking his bones to Israel, the bones would impart spiritual strength to the Israelites as they entered the land. Those bones were not going to leave Moses’ possession until, forbidden from entering the land, he passed on to Joshua the sacred mission of burying them in Israel.  Thus Moses remembered the instruction as including the words, ‘with you.’

And the Israelites buried the bones of Joseph which they had brought
up out of Egypt, in Shechem.
(Joshua 24:32)

In the year 2000, Moslem mobs razed and burnt Joseph’s tomb in the city of Shechem, known in Arabic as Nablus.

Did this inflict military damage? Of course not. This was not about material damage.  The destruction of Joseph’s tomb was meant to attack Israel’s soul, not her body.

Bones are not just dried calcium, they are spiritually linked to the person they once carried.  Yes, it is true—and not only bones.  We impart something of our spiritual reality to all the objects we own. We even spiritually mark items we touch.  That is why we feel violated when we discover that some stranger has been rifling through our belongings.  Though the hooligan may have inflicted no physical damage upon our keepsakes, his handling of them spiritually tarnished them.

The forces shaping the Middle East are spiritual, not physical, a fact not understood by the State Department or the U.N. The battle affects not only the Middle East but the rest of the world as well.  Why do they fight?  Will it ignite broader conflagration?  How will this all play out?  The more we understand God’s plan the more we can prepare ourselves for the end game. We hope that our audio CD program and study guide Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam will illuminate this mystical conflict for you.

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Let’s Get Together

In the 1961 movie The Parent Trap as well as in its 1998 remake, two young girls at a summer camp loathe one another until they discover that they are really twins.  They then collaborate in a plot to bring their divorced parents back together again.

The movie worked well partially because of the genuine love that grows between the two girls even before they hit on the idea of restoring their broken family.  Authentic unity based on real connection can greatly further shared interests.

By way of contrast, when George and Sandra started dating they saw shared preferences, such as choosing the same dish at a restaurant, as a thrilling indication that they were meant to be together.  But in spite of liking the same food and having similar tastes in music and entertainment, their romance didn’t last long.

In the Middle East, two notorious groups, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, often act in concert and with all appearances of unity based on their shared hatred of Israel.  However they have fought one another before and will fight again.  An illusion of unity based only on shared interests can mislead both individuals and groups.

Seven weeks after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai in order to receive the Ten Commandments.

In their long journey through the desert, the Israelites camped many times.  With one exception, the Hebrew verb used for this camping is in the plural.  They, meaning many people, camped.  There is only one exception in which the singular verb is used:

…then Israel camped (singular) there by the mountain.
(Exodus 19:2)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that their submission to God and their eagerness to accept His Law unified them in a unique fashion. Hence the verb camped appears in the singular.  They camped as if they were one person, an utterly united people.

However, there is another interesting example of unity.  Perplexingly, their Egyptian pursuers were also unified:

…and the Children of Israel lifted up their eyes and behold Egypt is traveling after them…
(Exodus 14:10)

The verb traveling appears in its singular form. Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the Egyptians were also unified by their shared mission to capture the Israelites.

Israel’s unity leads to their becoming God’s people, winning their land and lasting destiny.  Egypt’s unity leads to drowning in the Red Sea, death and oblivion.  What is the difference between the two unities?

In the case of Israel, (Exodus 19:2) the Hebrew verb “and he camped” VaYiCHaN implying unity, appears before the word Israel.

However, in the case of Egypt, (Exodus 14:10) the Hebrew verb ‘is traveling’ NoSeA implying unity, appears after the word Egypt.

In other words, just before receiving the Ten Commandments, Israel was unified in preparation for their mission of receiving the Torah. The unification preceded their national identity and its mission.  Egypt’s national identity and its mission of hauling Israel back into slavery was the cause of its unity.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that love that is dependent upon some outside factor is temporary.  Once the outside factor no longer exerts its influence, the love vanishes.  However, love that is genuine lasts and imparts durability.

For this reason, Biblical marriage is based on commitment producing love rather than hoping that love will bring commitment.  Love based on attraction may or may not bring constant commitment but commitment will almost always bring lasting love.

Similarly, business partnerships between parties that feel real respect and affection for one another do better than those that are based only on shared interests.  Families whose members are bound by nothing but socio-economic commonalities are not the same as those bound by ties of deep love and filial obligation.

Thinking that there is a deep bond of affection, only to find that there isn’t one causes much heartbreak and disillusionment. Summer and the fall season frequently herald new living circumstances and making new acquaintances. Our store carries two books, Hands Off: This May be Love and I Only Want to Get Married Once, by acclaimed authors because we think that the easily accessible, often humorous wisdom in these books is so valuable. We urge you to read them and share them with others, especially young people who have the opportunity, with your help, of choosing smart, successful relationships.

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I’ve Been Working on the Railroad-Not

The Second Continental Congress, acting as the national government of what was soon to become these United States, met in Baltimore from December 1776 until February 1777.  During this time, Baltimore was the largest seaport through which most of the young country’s imports and exports moved.  It wasn’t until the 1830s that New York supplanted Baltimore.

What was responsible for New York replacing Baltimore as the largest trading city in the country?  In my view it was nothing but a great big ditch about forty feet wide and four feet deep that stretched 363 miles from Albany on the Hudson River to Buffalo on Lake Erie.

It was the largest, most daunting and most expensive engineering project imaginable. Tens of thousands of men dug it with their picks and shovels.  The earth was moved by horses pulling primitive equipment.  The Erie Canal took eight grueling years of men relentlessly driving through limestone mountains and cutting through dense forest.  Rocks and tree stumps were blown up with black powder since dynamite would not be invented for another forty years.  It rose 600 feet from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes necessitating the construction of 48 magnificent stone locks to raise and lower boats.

The canal was completed in 1825 and began carrying passengers and cargo across New York State at a fraction of the cost of wagons.  The economy of New York grew meteorically as it rapidly became the busiest seaport in the country.

Though the Erie Canal was the defining engineering project of the 19th century, it was not the end but the beginning of grand projects in America.  Railroads quickly followed. The 20th century saw great bridges like the Golden Gate, the George Washington, and the Verrazano.  That century saw Americans building the world’s tallest buildings, the biggest dams, and the finest Interstate Highway system in the world.

Then America started sliding down the sordid slope of secularism. Grand construction ceased.  Is this a coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Consider these two conflicting verses written by King David:

…the earth and all that fills it is the Lord’s…
(Psalms 24:1)

The heavens are the heavens of the Lord; but He has given the earth to humans.  
(Psalms 115:16)

Well, which is it?  The earth and all in it belong to God or else He gave the earth to humans.  Either the earth is His or it is ours.  It can’t be both.

Or can it?  Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that King David was not inconsistent nor did he write Psalm 115 after forgetting what he wrote in Psalm 24.  He was illuminating a timeless truth vitally necessary for understanding how the world REALLY works.

King David was explaining that to begin with, the entire earth and all it contains belongs to God.  However, if we, His children, trust Him, bless and thank Him, then he gives the earth to us.  Deep down, within the hidden recesses of our collective cultural souls, we recognize that if our relationship with God is strong and loving, we have a right to the earth.  We have a right to carve canals through its forests and mountains; we have a right to throw bridges across its gorges, gullies, and waterways.  We have a right to dam up the mighty rivers to provide food and power to great cities.  We have a right to sculpt highways across its landscapes.

However, should we reject Him and embrace a grotesque worldview that attempts to make us masters of the universe, paradoxically, masters is exactly what we don’t become.  Instead, we rightfully recognize that the earth and all that fills it has not been given to us.  Consequently, we cease all creative activities that improve a property. After all, these are typically performed only by owners, not the tenants or squatters that we have made ourselves.

Taking our place are countries in Asia and Africa, building the grand projects that improve the lives of millions.  Those bridges, buildings, dams and roads are for the most part, being built in countries whose populations are becoming more and more Bible-centric.  A coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Your life, like mine, is punctuated by grand projects.  Some of these concern your home, family, marriage or child-raising.  Other grand projects you’re working on involve making money and developing a business or career.  Just like the grand projects of nations, yours are also fueled by faith and carried on conviction.  The forces that sap the will of nations and individuals are not new. They first appear early in Genesis. Going beneath the surface of those verses can increase your determination and drive your results. Tower of Power-Decoding the Secrets of Babel does exactly that.  My experience and that of many friends is that studying this audio CD program and integrating its core, either alone or with family or team members will help you feel deserving of God’s blessing of productivity.  In order to make sure that as many of you as possible experience this amazing teaching, its price has been reduced for readers of this Thought Tool.  Enjoy and get airborne!

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Perhaps Love

If you know what your car engine sounds like when running normally, you will instantly pick up early signs of mechanical problems. If you know the sound your baby makes when he’s hungry, you will immediately recognize a cry of pain. Departure from pattern is a warning sign.

In forensic accounting, false expense submissions are often picked out because the culprit tends to make up numbers randomly. However, in the real world there are predictable patterns regarding the occurrences of various digits (The interested can pursue this phenomenon by exploring Benford’s Law). Departure from predictable patterns alerts us to something possibly significant.

The Lord’s language, Hebrew is a beautifully precise language, often conveying not only the meaning of the word but also the emotion behind the meaning.

Consider, for instance, the word “perhaps”; on the surface, a simple word. It indicates that something may or may not happen.

Now consider these two sentences:

Looking at the man she loved, Jane wondered to herself, “Perhaps he will propose to me this evening.”

Tom ruefully contemplated his dismal sales reports and realized that perhaps he faced termination.

From the point of view of Tom and Jane’s emotions, those two underlined words mean two very different things. Jane hopes that something wonderful will happen while Tom dreads the possibility of something awful happening.

However, in Hebrew, there are two different words for perhaps. The word ULai is used in circumstances when the speaker devoutly wishes for the event to occur, while the word PeN is used when he hopes it won’t.

Perhaps (ULai) there are fifty
righteous people in the city [of Sedom]…

(Genesis 18:24)

…now let us go there, perhaps (ULai)
he’ll tell us the road…

(I Samuel 9:6)

And from the tree in the middle of the garden, God said you shall not eat of it or touch it, [or else] perhaps (PeN) you’ll die.  
(Genesis 3:3)

Come let us deal wisely with him
[or else] perhaps (PeN) he’ll multiply and
when war comes he will join our enemies…

(Exodus 1:10)

Once we understand this difference, we can be alert for any examples in Scripture when it appears that the wrong word is being used.

When Abraham dispatches his Chief of Staff, Eliezer, to find a bride for his son, Isaac, we spot such an unexpected usage.

Abraham directs Eliezer to travel to his birthplace and bring back a bride. Eliezer reasonably inquires what is to be done in the event of a problem.

…perhaps the woman will not be willing
to follow me to this land…

(Genesis 24:5)

Since this would be a most undesirable outcome, we’d expect Eliezer to have used the word PeN. Yet, inexplicably he says ULai.

This informs us that deep down, Eliezer desired his mission to fail. He subconsciously hoped that no girl would come back with him to marry Isaac.

Why? Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that Eliezer had a daughter of marriageable age. He was harboring the hope that his master, Abraham, would say, “Eliezer, you have a lovely daughter, I have a wonderful son…”

When Abraham didn’t suggest this, Eliezer forlornly held one remaining hope. Perhaps no woman would be willing to accompany him to Canaan. Perhaps then Isaac would marry his daughter.

Abraham’s next words dashed his hopes by making clear that Eliezer’s daughter was not an option for Isaac.   It is to the credit of Eliezer that after this big disappointment, he nonetheless carried out his mission faithfully and successfully.

Once we know the general rules, any departure from those rules attracts our attention like a flaring Fourth of July firework rocket arcing through a dark night sky.

For this reason it pays to know the rules; knowing how the world REALLY works makes it easy to spot exceptions. Spotting exceptions helps provide early warning of forthcoming problems whether in business or in social interactions. Forty rules of how the world REALLY works form the basis of my new book Business Secrets from the Bible-Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance. Join my many friends who have already elevated the trajectory of their earnings. Loving money is a bad idea but making money is wonderful. I’d like to see you (or someone you care for) make more money. Can I send you your own copy of Business Secrets from the Bible?

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