Hey Good Looking

I enjoy British and European movies because they frequently feature real-looking stars.  The actors in those foreign films often resemble the sort of people you might see in an airport or bus station whereas most Hollywood entertainment seems to star only humans of indescribable beauty and rare good looks.  I enjoy looking at beautiful people of course, but I am more enchanted and more uplifted by actions than by appearances.

This is why the Bible focuses chiefly on those human traits that we can improve.  It hardly speaks of intelligence or raw brain power because there is not much any of us can do about that.  Whatever our parents bequeathed to us in the ovarian lottery is what we have.  What we do with our ability to think, however, is very important which is why the Bible does speak of gaining wisdom. (e.g. Proverbs 16:16)  Personally, I would much rather be governed by people of average IQ who possess great wisdom than by ultra-brainy bureaucrats who are utterly bereft of wisdom.

Similarly, only a few Biblical personalities are described in terms of their physical appearance because what our bodies look like is again, largely the result of the genes we inherit from our parents.  However, the good we do with our bodies, the deeds we accomplish and the people whose lives we enhance, is what really counts.  It is probably delightful to be beautiful, but the truth is that what we look like is just not that important.  For the most part our happiness is birthed not by our looks but by our actions.

Whenever Biblical characters like Sarah or Rebecca, Saul or David are described in terms of physical appearance, ancient Jewish wisdom assures us that their winsomeness always implies a moral dimension.  This connection between someone’s ‘heavenly’ or ‘divine’ appearance and their angelic qualities was even captured when Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra sang “You (She) look(s) like an angel…”

For instance, Joseph is described as very good-looking. (Genesis 39:6)   Here’s something really weird: the previous person to be described as good-looking in exactly the same Hebrew words is none other than Joseph’s mother, Rachel.  (Genesis 29:17)  You just know that this is not a coincidence, right?

To probe this puzzle we must first ask another question.  Where in the Biblical account of Joseph’s life should we be told that he was good looking?  Surely the information about his striking appearance would most logically belong when we first get to know him as a young man in the first few verses of Genesis 37.  Yet we are told nothing until the very moment, when for the first time in his life, he achieves some prominence and prestige as the chief-of-staff for his boss, Potiphar.

Though his handsome appearance does help to explain Mrs. Potiphar’s infatuation with him (Genesis 39:7) we nonetheless wonder why the information about his comeliness is withheld from us till now.  Here is another baffling enigma:  why did Joseph never bother to notify his grieving father that he was alive?  But, wait! When might he have conceivably done so?  His brothers sold him as a slave to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:28).  Slave traders would hardly have accommodated Joseph’s desire to dispatch a message to his father.  From there he passed through the hands of other slave traders until he was finally sold to Potiphar (Genesis 37:36). Eventually, with the passage of time, he won his master’s trust and was promoted. (Genesis 39:4)

This was the first moment at which Joseph had the ability to send a message back to his father, yet didn’t do so.  It is also the moment at which the Torah links Joseph to his mother by describing him in exactly the same terms as it described Rachel ten chapters earlier.

What possible connection could exist between Joseph at this moment and his mother at the moment before Jacob declares his love for her and his intention to marry her? (Genesis 29:18)

Ancient Jewish wisdom records that Rachel was under no illusions regarding her roguish father. Back at the well, she and Jacob had conversed about Laban’s tendency to deceive everyone with whom he dealt.  Certain that Laban would try something, Jacob and Rachel set a secret password between themselves.  The idea was that Jacob could confirm the identity of his veiled bride by means of a whispered password.

As the wedding got under way Rachel was forcibly detained by her father’s assistants. She saw her sister Leah being led to the marriage canopy, and to the inevitable disgrace that would follow.  It was clear to Rachel that Leah’s ignorance of the password would make Jacob disrupt the wedding.  Rachel realized that she could not allow her sister’s public humiliation. It would be immoral and wrong. Her father’s depraved ways was no reason for her sister to suffer. Rachel revealed the password to her sister.  Thus she postponed her marriage to the man she loved, putting her sibling ahead of her own desires.

The Torah is informing us that Rachel’s son Joseph is doing exactly the same thing and also deferring his own desires.  Though he felt desperate to let his father know that he was all right, Joseph realized that there was no way of doing so without disclosing his brothers’ perfidy.  Upon hearing from Joseph, Jacob would certainly confront his other sons and get at the truth. He’d discover that they were the cause of his many years of mournful agony.  In fact, there was every possibility that by contacting his father, Joseph might well restore one son, himself, back to his father at the cost of Jacob’s relationship with ten of his sons because he’d never be able to forgive them for what they did to the son he loved so well

Joseph realized that the ultimate good was family unity and that the reunification of the family would need to be carefully engineered.  He put aside his feelings of wanting to blurt out the news to his father in favor of a greater good.

Now we have a more complete picture.  Selfless behavior sculpts beauty into the human form.  Rachel was beautiful because of her selfless love for her sister.  Years later her son, Joseph, looks attractive because of his selflessness.  And his selflessness is rewarded when he finally succeeds in unifying his family in a way that prevented his father from ever discovering what ten of his sons did to Joseph.

Ordinary-looking men or women doing their duty with diligence, honor and integrity bring more good to the world than a bevy of beautiful and glamorous movie stars demonstrating depravity on a daily basis.

My wife and I host a daily television show called Ancient Jewish Wisdom on the TCT Network.  We are blessed with both a large domestic and international audience and I can assure you that it is not because of our looks!  No, it is only on account of the ancient Jewish wisdom that we are privileged to share and the Biblical secrets we are honored to uncover.

Here are two ways for you to join in.  TCT will air an Ancient Jewish Wisdom program marathon this Friday, April 24, between the hours of 5:30 p.m. ET and 9:00 p.m. ET—seven back-to-back episodes. I know you will enjoy each episode of this TCT special event.  You can also watch this online at www.tct.tv

Second, you can order eight of our favorite episodes right here. These include Psalms Opening Act, Is Money Moral? & Curse Management.  Right now, buy one four episode DVD and get the other one free! And here’s the best part; you can view them as often as you wish. You can even share them with friends and family.  I really would love for you to have these crucial messages that Susan and I bring to you and we’d be overjoyed to know that you are sharing those insights with others.

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Saving Civilization

It’s hardly surprising that increasing numbers of women loathe men and detest masculinity.  After all, most of their experiences with men have been only with cads, scoundrels, rogues and rakes.  They have been exploited by clowns, abused by creeps, corrupted by crooks and debased by cranks.  Only a diminishing minority of women have enjoyed the privilege of living with that rare, noble creature, the loyal, loving and devoted husband.

It is in the nature of the human male to seek multiple sexual partners.  But God issued us a challenge: Be like angels, rather than like apes.  Only an animal must follow its nature; man must overcome it.  Resist your nature and rise above it; that way you will reap the blessings of the Biblical blueprint.

In our audio CD program Madam, I’m Adam-Marriage Secrets from Eden I pointed out how the Hebrew text (Genesis 2:7 & 19) emphasizes the contrast between man and animal, which is not visible in the English translation.

But you already know all this.  When a man and woman make a lifetime commitment to one another they each benefit from the resulting stability, sensuality, and happiness.  When a wife revels in her femininity and her husband submits his masculinity to the silken bonds of matrimony, the couple and the children they create form a cocoon of security and joy.

What you may not already know, however, is that the couple that surrenders to God’s connubial concept benefits not only themselves and their children but all of society as well.  Only societies that have successfully sublimated rampant male sexuality into marriage have built civilization.

The world is filled with countless cultures but only one civilization.  A civilization eschews violence in favor of voting and replaces bullets with ballots.  A civilization respects and values its women, escorting them onto the lifeboats before the men.  It values life and protects it by advancing the study of science and medicine.  It lifts its citizens from drudgery by promoting a vibrant economy.  It prefers beauty to vulgarity and gentleness to brutality.  Its basic unit is the family.

Every society that has successfully achieved civilization has learned that indulging human desire in unrestrained fashion leads both to personal and societal calamity.  Everybody knows that overeating with no self-control is bad.  People all recognize that alcohol without moderation brings massive problems.  Yet, when it comes to sex, many feel that unrestrained indulgence is liberating and progressive.  The tragedy is that unbridled concupiscence does more to rot the fabric of a society and erode the spirit of its citizens than almost anything else.

Perhaps the most dramatic disclosure of the entire Torah was the structure of sexual restriction found in Leviticus 18 and 20.  One can but imagine the wonder with which it was greeted by both Hebrews and Hittites.  The difference was that Hebrews immediately accepted those rules as binding whereas the Hittites, along with everyone else, mocked and jeered what they saw as repressive and primitive sexual boundaries.  The Hebrews still survive.

Israel was warned:

Like the behavior of the land of Egypt, where you lived, shall you not do; and like the behavior of the land of Canaan, where I bring you, shall you not do…

(Leviticus 18:3) 

  Ancient Jewish wisdom clarifies how the context makes clear that God is referring to sexual promiscuity.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the additional sexual restrictions circumscribing exactly who priests may marry (Leviticus 21) are not random restrictions but rather these rules contribute to the elevated status of the priests.  In other words, marital and sexual boundaries refine and advance men toward achievement while limitless licentiousness degrades men and lowers them to lethargy and indolence.

One of the greatest anthropologists was the early 20th century, Oxford and Cambridge scholar, Joseph Daniel Unwin.  He devoted his life to studying more than eighty different cultures which existed over a 5,000 year period and discovered an inviolable rule.  The more sexual restraints a culture practices, the higher its level of cultural, scientific, and economic achievement.  His magnum opus, Sex and Culture published in 1934, reveals the results of his research, including gems such as these:

“The whole of human history does not contain a single instance of a group becoming civilized unless it has been absolutely monogamous, nor is there any example of a group retaining its culture after it has adopted less rigorous customs.”

In other words, the Judeo-Christian Biblically-based model of sex being confined to marriage is essential for the development of civilization and for its endurance.  Though Unwin captured this Biblical truth he did make one mistake.

He correctly argues that as societies become prosperous they become increasingly lax about sexual morality causing them to lose cultural cohesion and become confused about their purpose.  He died in 1936, so he never lived to see America as the latest society to prove his point.

Where Unwin errs is that he claims that the process is irreversible.  The truth is that Israel’s many failures brought it close to extinction but a religious revival always saved the day.  This can be the way back to national vitality for the US also.

You have a part to play in helping restore the culture you live in and one highly effective way to do so is by helping others access traditional, Biblical messages about relationships.  Rather than being relics of the past, these virtues are the path to the future. I encourage you to share the book Hands Off! This May Be Love with your pastors and friends. Most importantly, share it with the children you love.

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BFF: Best Friends Forever

Right now, we are in the middle of the Biblical festival of Passover. Without exception, it is the most widely observed Jewish ritual practice even among those many Jews in whose ears the eternal words of the Torah fail to resonate.  Why would this be?

In previous Thought Tools, I’ve discussed how Passover revolves around family – certainly one reason that families cling to it even when abandoning other practices. However, any explanation must also include the observation that Passover is one of the pillgrimage festivals when each citizen would make a journey to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Despite Passover’s emphasis on family, the pilgrimage meant leaving your home and sharing the experience with many non-family members.

Three times every year all men must appear before the Lord, your God… 

(Deuteronomy 16:16)

The haunting Book of Job provides a critical clue as to one benefit of this journey.  God grants Satan the power to hurt Job in any and every way other than killing him.

And the Lord said to Satan, behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life. 

(Job 2:6)

Sure enough, Satan strips Job of everything.  He loses his family, his fortune, and his health.  But wait!

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came …to mourn with him and to comfort him. 

(Job 2:11)

Why did Satan not also rob Job of his friends?  After all, he took Job’s wife and children. He took his home and his business.  If his goal was to leave Job with nothing, surely he should also have taken his friends?  This would strip Job of even the consolation of friends mourning with him.

My friend Rabbi Yakov Horowitz mentioned a profound insight from ancient Jewish wisdom to me: being deprived of friends is a sentence of death. Thus, according to God’s directions to Satan that Job’s life must be spared, Satan lacked the power to deprive Job of his friends. This would have been equivalent to killing him.

Most of us can think of times that friends bring us joy or give us ideas and support that open up vistas of possibilities. Friends lift our spirits from sad apathy and even lethargy, thereby reenergizing us, literally granting us life. Even so, as vital as friends are, surely, most of us in healthy families would choose our family over our friends were such a terrible choice forced on us?

Much of Passover does indeed focus on the importance of family. Yet, the pilgrimmage to Jerusalem adds another critical dimension. We can’t always control whether or not we have family. Parents, siblings, spouses and children can die or be far from us. Yet, unless you are in solitary confinement, you can always make friends. No matter your age or situation, no matter how difficult approaching strangers can be, making friends is within our power. Passover urges us to prioritize our family and at the same time tells us that insular, clannish clinging to only family isn’t enough. We need to reach out and surround ourselves with those we may not know yet, seeking to connect with people from different regions and backgrounds. In doing so, we and our families will be enriched.

When my book, Thou Shall Prosper, became a best-seller, I frequently received a comment about my insistence that anyone seeking greater financial success should broaden his or her circle of acquaintances.  “But I’m shy, I’m not a people person,” I was told.  In response to that, we produced a two audio CD set, Prosperity Power: Connect for Success. As Passover teaches us, not only does learning how to make friends lead to greater financial outcomes, it may hold the clue to our thriving in all aspects of our life. Acquire this CD now, alone or as part of the Income Abundance Set and let one of Passover’s blessings follow you into the rest of the year.

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Passover’s 15-Step Program

Countless people will soon be observing a Passover Seder.  There are many important aspects to running an effective Seder, but perhaps the most important and the least known is that the Seder, meaning order, is an arrangement of fifteen indispensable steps from start to finish.  In order to explain this to you, I must first explain the significance of the number fifteen.

The periodic table arranges into a grid all the chemical elements out of which the entire universe and its contents are comprised.  These elements of creation are laid out in the order of increasing number of protons in their nuclei.  Thus, for instance, the first element, hydrogen, has one proton in its atomic nucleus while the 92nd,  uranium, has 92 protons.

The fifteenth element, with yes, 15 protons, is phosphorus which has the distinction of giving off light.  It is from this element that we derive the term phosphorescence to describe anything that gives off light without being burned.  Phosphorus was used not only in the manufacture of early matches but also to make luminous watch dials in the early 20th century.

It is interesting that the fifteenth element radiates light because the fifteenth generation from Abraham was King Solomon who radiated light in the form of wisdom.  We still use the phrase ‘seeing the light’ to suggest becoming wise.  The final few verses in the Book of Ruth detail the ten generations from Peretz to David, the father of Solomon.  From Genesis we know that Abrahm, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, were the four generations leading to Peretz for a total of 15 generation from Judaism’s founder, Abraham, to Solomon’s building the Temple, the domicile of Divine light.

In Jewish numerology the number fifteen always signifies the fifteen steps necessary for the attainment of a lofty objective.  In Solomon’s Temple, there were fifteen steps leading up towards the Holy of Holies. The priests sang one psalm on each step as they ascended.  Thus we find fifteen psalms that open with the words, “Song of The Steps” (Psalms 120-134)

 

Similarly, the Passover Seder comprises fifteen separate agenda items, each of which is a necessary step from where we are now to where we hope to arrive by the Seder’s conclusion.

1.  Kadesh.  The blessing over the first cup of wine. The word means sanctification.  It also means separation which is a necessary first step in sanctification. We are separating and sanctifying the time we shall spend in the Seder from all other time.

2.  U’rechatz.  Washing the hands.  The primary organs for moving food from the world into our bodies are our hands.  By pouring water over them, we dedicate them in purity even though we utter no blessing at this point, elevating the physical act of eating to a spiritual purpose.

3.  Karpas.  Dipping a vegetable that grows underground into salt water and eating it.  We start off the evening acknowledging that we are from the earth and its oceans and to the earth we shall return.

4.  Yachatz.  Breaking the middle of the 3 special matzohs in half and putting one half aside for step number 12 later on.  The only way to grow is to recognize our flaws which is, in essence, the breaking of our egos.

5.  Magid.  Reciting the story of the Exodus from the Hagadah.  What distinguishes us from animals incapable of growth is our ability to speak.  This part of the Seder is exercising our ability to communicate by means of stories, questions and answers.

6.  Rachtzah.  Washing the hands again.  However, this time, on account of our already having ascended through the first five steps, we merit to bless God as we further sanctify our hands before the meal.

7.  Motzi.  The usual blessing over bread.  Although we use a substitute, matzoh, for Passover, we thank God for giving us the ability to eat, not just the fruit and vegetables of the earth but also the unique human food, bread.

8.  Matzoh.  The blessing over the matzoh.  This is the first taste of matzoh, the main food of the Seder and further suggests our willingness to subdue our egos by getting rid of all the ‘hot air’ that differentiates bread from matzoh.

9.  Maror.  Eating the bitter herb.  A mouthful of horseradish which leaves us gasping for breath with our eyes streaming emphasizes that unless we acknowledge that our past mistakes were indeed mistakes that have caused pain, growth is impossible.

10.  Korech.  Eating a matzoh bitter herb sandwich.  Our pure souls unencumbered by pompousness and arrogance unified with acknowledging yesterday’s painful mistakes is the perfect recipe for growth and transformation.

11.  Shulchan Oreich.  The set table at which we now eat a festive meal.  We don’t merely open a few cans of cranberry sauce or gobble up a mass produced hamburgers. A set table signifies that we do not eat merely for survival as do animals.

12.  Tzafun.  Eating the Afikomen.  That half of the middle matzoh put aside earlier in step 4 is eaten as the dessert.  The final taste in our mouths is not chocolate mousse or brandy flavored crepe suzette but the plain basic matzoh with which we began the evening’s process.  We never lose sight of what really matters.

13.  Bareich.  Grace after the meal.  At a time when we feel full and sated, it would be so easy to forget He who gave us the food.

14.  Hallel.  The section of the Seder in which we praise God.  After having worked our way through the first 13 steps, we know that we have made progress but we herein acknowledge that in the final analysis it is all up to God.

15.  Nirtzah.  Acceptable to God.  Here we reflect that through God’s love and acceptance of our imperfections and our efforts we achieve true spiritual transformation. Our fifteen steps are done and we feel the ever present light of the Almighty shining brightly enough to carry us through the entire year until we are privileged to do the Seder again, ideally in Messianic times, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

This ‘fifteen-step program’ leading to authentic transformation is one of many growth opportunities Passover presents. More  appear in earlier Thought Tools, including those found in our Thought Tool Set. This time of year is particularly attuned to spiritual growth. Make the most of it.

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Legacy: Your Money or Your Life

The first three planks of the Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Engels in 1848 are: (1)  End private ownership of property; (2) Institute a heavy progressive income tax; and (3) End children inheriting their parents.

How did those two saboteurs of civilization come up with those three first steps to a socialist paradise?  Why not, for instance, (1) No more tall buildings; (2) Mandatory vacations; and (3) Beef for everyone on Wednesdays?

The reason that Marx and Engels made the three choices they did is because of how they answer the ultimate human question: “How did we get here?”  There are only two possible answers: (1) God created us.  (2) By a lengthy process of unaided materialistic evolution, lower level animals like cockroaches evolved into higher level animals like baboons and humans.

Marx and Engels start with an irrational rejection of God.  That leaves them with no choice but answer number two above.  The logical next step is that we humans are nothing but another species of animal.  Since no animals own property, neither should we.  Since no cows or sheep accumulate milk or wool but hand it all over to the farmer, so should we hand over all we accumulate to our farmers in centralized government.

Finally, since no animals retain a closer relationship with their own offspring than with any other animals, neither should we.  When someone dies, his possessions should benefit all children, not just his own. Communists dream of a one hundred percent ‘Estate Tax’ or as it is more appropriately called, ‘Death Tax’.

Those who decide differently on the ultimate question of how we got here correctly conclude that through the Bible, God clearly expresses His preference for everyone owning property.  Furthermore, a tax to a central authority of greater than ten percent is viewed as confiscatory. (I Samuel 8:15).

Finally, God could hardly be clearer that government has no role in the sacred transfer of property from parents to children that we call inheritance  (Numbers 27:6-11).  There is nothing virtuous or Biblical about the statements frequently made by super-successful individuals like Andrew Carnegie or Warren Buffett when they suggest that there is something wrong with dying wealthy.  There is nothing wrong with dying wealthy and bequeathing your children a legacy. On the contrary, that legacy is part of God’s plan for parent-child connectivity.

From interactions with audience members at the financial conferences I often address, I have learned that when they speak of “legacy” people mean both financial and spiritual.  Not only do we want to leave our children fiscal assets but we equally deeply desire to leave them a spiritual legacy.  We hope that the money they acquire from us after we join God will help them and their children live successfully.  We hope that the spiritual and ethical teachings that we leave them will play an even more significant role in helping them live successfully.

Nobody who gives the correct first answer to the ultimate human question will be surprised to hear that in the Lord’s language, Hebrew, Scripture uses the same two words to speak of financial (tangible) inheritance as it does to speak of spiritual inheritance.  The words are NaCHaLaH and YeRuSHaH. The latter is often transliterated as Jerushah, which was a popular and beautiful girl’s name in Colonial America.

 

…the Lord is his NaCHaLaH… (spiritual inheritance)

(Deuteronomy 10:9)

…to give you their land as a NaCHaLaH (tangible inheritance)

(Deuteronomy 4:38)

God commanded us the Torah as a YeRuSHaH (spiritual inheritance)

(Deuteronomy 33:4)

…and I will give it [the Land of Israel] to you as a YeRuSHaH…  (tangible inheritance)

(Exodus 6:8)

By demonstrating the strong link between a financial legacy and a spiritual legacy, the Bible is teaching us that spiritual strengths build financial strength and make you a wise steward of wealth.  Thus it makes sense to convey to your heirs, not only the financial result of your enterprises but also the spiritual principles that guided you in those enterprises.

In that way, you can reasonably expect your children to further build what you bequeath to them rather than dissipate it.  You can also expect them to continue using their money to support your values. Dissipating and squandering wealth or rejecting parents’ morals often happens in families that transfer assets without matching spiritual guidance.

Much of my life work has been collecting and condensing spiritual principles of money.  You might already possess Thou Shall Prosper and Business Secret of the Bible in your library.  However, now I am imploring you – and making a book package temporarily available at an amazing price – to acquire copies for each of your children. Inscribe the books and gift them to your children helping them understand the importance you place on the principles contained therein.  If there are young people not related to you but whom you mentor, I ask you to consider doing the same.  There are enormous financial challenges lying ahead and it is not too early to equip young people with the spiritual tools so vital for financial success.

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