Lots of Hope

Imagine a desperate man making his way on foot through a desert.  Exhausted and thirsty beyond endurance he keeps driving himself forward, day by day, in the hope of reaching an oasis.  Eventually, he can go no further and drops hopelessly to the hot sand.  Rescuers discover his body only a half-day’s walk from a large oasis.

Let’s rewind and replay the story with the same man.   Except in this version, he knows exactly where the oasis is located.  In this account, when he reaches the place where he gave up and died in the first story, he is exactly as exhausted and just as madly thirsty.  Yet he does not give up and die.  Why?  Because he knows that redemption lies just over the next sand dune, a half-day away.  Knowing—not hoping or believing, but knowing—that redemption is near endows us with superhuman powers.  The mere knowledge that the oasis is near endowed this man with the power to overcome the heat and thirst.

It is hard to build a business.  Urgent need for capital can entirely wear down even the hardiest entrepreneur.  Gnawing worry morphs into fear that he won’t find the funds, diminishing the effectiveness of most business professionals in this unenviable position.

Compare that situation with an entrepreneur who is grappling with precisely the same pressures except that he knows that his next round of financing is happening in three weeks’ time.  The knowledge that redemption is round the corner endows this human with astonishing powers.

Then there is the married couple struggling to hold their marriage together. One day he is doing his best while she feels it all to be futile; another day she is willing to move mountains in the hope of saving her marriage while he has emotionally checked out. As any counselor knows, the odds of a successful salvage are slim.

Now imagine that each is shown a future vision of their marriage so happy and solid that all recollection of past suffering has been expunged.  Just the knowledge that they will be joyfully reconciled makes the hard repair work so much easier to accomplish.

This is one message of Passover. Let me offer a brief example of how ancient Jewish wisdom combines seemingly unrelated incidents to overwhelm us with a Technicolor extravaganza of Truth.

Here are the first two uses of an extremely rare word in Scripture—Mitmameha, meaning delaying or lingering:

And he [Lot] lingered
(Genesis 19:16)

…and they [the Israelites] were not able to linger
(Exodus 12:39)

Here is another feature unique to the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt and Lot’s rescue from S’dom:

…and he made them a feast and he baked Matzoh…
(Genesis 19:3)

…and with Matzoh on bitter herbs they ate it.
(Exodus 12:8)

Let’s look at two more examples of the strong similarities that unite the account of the Israelites escaping from a doomed Egypt to safe refuge, and the account describing Lot and his daughters escaping from a doomed S’dom to safe refuge:

And God rained upon S’dom and Amorah sulphur and fire…
(Genesis 19:24)

…and God rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
(Exodus 9:23)

Finally, from the Hebrews’ rescue out of Egypt emerged the nation of Israel and from Lot and his daughters’ rescue out of S’dom emerged the nations of Amon and Moab.

Many more striking similarities link Lot’s rescue from the soon to be destroyed S’dom with the Jews’ rescue from the soon to be destroyed Egypt.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explores the linkage. As improbable as it seemed, it was possible for Lot to escape the destruction of his city.  Passover teaches that not only is redemption available for one man and his family, but even on a national level, God can bring redemption where no hope exists.

As humans, we can’t know for sure what lies ahead, but the next best thing is to know that it is possible. One of the great gifts that God gives His faithful is the eternal vision of tomorrow’s redemption no matter how dark it may look today.  Knowing this in our heads and believing it deep in our hearts makes today’s journey bearable.

Powerful and practical lessons like this one leap from Scripture as well as from the Hebrew language itself. We neglected to make sure that everyone knew our store and offices would be closed the past two days, so we are extending the sale on our best-selling book, Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language for another 24 hours. Many readers tell us how this book enhanced their lives.  It penetratingly probes God’s inner meaning into twenty-nine of His special words providing non-Hebrew-readers with uplift and inspiration in short easily digestible doses.  We’d love it if you made it part of your library and perhaps invest in a few copies to enable you to bless others at opportune times.

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Flying, Elephants and Donkeys

Soon after earning my Private Pilot’s License, I was sitting in the left seat of a Piper Cherokee single engine airplane flying at 5,000 feet over the Mozambique jungle on a course for Lourenco Marques.  I had no idea that soon thereafter the beautiful landscape beneath me would be transformed into a bloody battlefield of a civil war, resulting in the mass exodus of about a quarter of a million skilled Portuguese citizens and the destruction of an Indian Ocean paradise.

On that sunny afternoon, however, I was accompanied by a British friend who was visiting me.  We rented a plane in Johannesburg, and with my fresh piloting skills, we set out to fly to the coastal resort now known as Maputo.

I tell you this partially in the spirit of self-indulgent nostalgia, but mainly to describe what happened when John, comfortably ensconced in the right seat, excitedly spotted a large herd of elephants below.  I immediately threw the P-32 into a bank and began carving a large circle through the clear African skies so we could keep the mesmerizing sight in view.  I must have done two or three complete circles as we gazed in wonder at that herd of one of God’s most astounding creatures.

All of a sudden, I was jerked from my reverie by the startled realization that the elephants were far closer than they had been earlier.  My eyes darted to the altimeter and to my shock we were only fifteen hundred feet off the ground.  We had lost over three thousand feet of altitude!  Needless to say, I wasted no time returning to straight and level flight and with adrenaline pulsing in my veins I began a climb to resume our proper altitude.

But how did that happen? Pilot error of course.  My attention was on the elephants instead of on flying.  More importantly, I had forgotten a fundamental principle of flight.  Turning takes energy.  When I banked into a turn quite a lot of energy that had previously been providing lift and keeping us in the air was now being redirected towards changing our direction. This meant that less was available for the task of keeping us airborne. This is why, like every pilot, I was taught to add power when starting a turn.  While pressing on a rudder pedal and turning the yoke, push that throttle forward.  Since my scare that day over Africa, I have never forgotten this lesson.

The same is true for a car.  Should you ever lose your brakes, get into neutral and try to make as many turns as possible.  The car will come to a standstill far more quickly than if you continue steering straight.  Turning takes energy and drains it away from the forward motion of the car.  The same is true for a boat.  A successful yacht-racing helmsman knows that every single rudder movement costs speed.

Why do I tell you all this?  Because everything spiritual has a physical parallel or as ancient Jewish wisdom puts it: the kingdom of heaven is mirrored by the kingdom of earth.  Just as airplanes, cars, and boats require energy to change course, so do we humans need considerable energy to bring about a course change in our lives.

Ancient Jewish wisdom affirms how God blesses those who struggle to rid themselves of undesirable habits or to acquire good ones.  Not many people do this successfully because it is hard.  Changing course in life takes considerable energy.

Is there something about your life trajectory that you’d like to change?  There must be.  It is so for almost everyone one of us fired up by the dream of divine perfection and our innate desire to emulate it.  Changing a life course is daunting.  Starting it without realizing how much energy it is going to take can be discouraging.  If you don’t know in advance how much work it will involve, when you hit the first challenge you assume it is impossible. Really, you need to push that throttle forward and pour on the power.

Though others around us don’t always recognize it, when we do successfully change our life-course, we become new people. You might almost think of it as being reborn. Imagine that after a rigorous program of dieting and exercise you lose thirty pounds.  Knowing that you’re a new person makes it far easier to realize that you no longer crave certain foods and can’t imagine a day without the exercise that you credit with your amazing new energy levels.  It can be a bit dispiriting when old friends compliment you on your trim look but fail to perceive that you’re a new person. Still, over time, as they see different behavior and new lifestyle choices, they gradually recognize you as someone new with the same name as the friend they used to know.

In Numbers chapter 32, we read about a man named Yair.

And the children of Machir the son of Menasheh went to Gilad, and took it and dispossessed the Amorites who were in it…and Yair the son of Menasheh went and captured the towns there and called them Chavot Yair.
(Numbers 32:39-41)

Three centuries later, we encounter the another Yair, possessing strange similarities to his illustrious ancestor.

After him arose Yair of Gilad who judged Israel twenty two years and he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys and they had thirty cities that are called Chavot Yair to this day, in the land of Gilad.
(Judges 10:3-4)

You probably do not read the Lord’s language yet, but below is the original Hebrew text for the phrase, “and he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys and they had thirty cities.”

30 sons and donkeysReading from right to left, you’ll notice that words 3, 7, and 9 (green) resemble one another. They are the three usages of the number thirty.

Furthermore, you’ll see that words 8 and 10 (blue) look identical, though word 8 means ‘donkeys’ while word 10 means ‘cities’.

Let’s examine three questions:

(1)  Why the emphasis on thirty?  (2)  Why donkeys?  (3)  How are donkeys related to cities that they should share a word?

Answers:
(1)  Every number has unique significance in ancient Jewish wisdom. The number thirty means ‘poised on the threshold of a new life phase.’  To emphasize this point, chapter 4 of Numbers informs us no less than seven times that the Levites commenced their careers of temple service at the age of thirty.  Just as the Levites were poised on the threshold of something life transforming, we see Yair doing his utmost to transform his life away from the pattern established by the two previous judges, Tola and Avimelech.

(2)  Riding a donkey in Scripture means far more than transport.  It always means employing the material, dominating it in order to rise to something higher.

(3)  Both donkeys and cities suggest growth; one through material means and the other through social.  Because we grow through interaction with other people, crowded cities allow greater personal growth than lonely rural areas.  This is why, in an effort to atone and win his way back into God’s good graces, Cain built a city. (Genesis 4:17)

Tola and Avimelech led Israel ineffectively and badly.  Yair knew he had to change course, emulating not his immediate predecessors but rather the original Yair.  Knowing how much energy change of direction takes, he employed three strategies that each of us can use to motivate ourselves.

(i)  He lived significantly in the spirit of thirty—intensely convinced he was poised on the threshold of transformation.

(ii)  He determined to use all his resources, family, material, and social to rise higher.

(iii)  He kept in mind the image of success exemplified by the first Yair and drew inspiration just as we can draw inspiration from the success of others.

Changing course demands much power. Not every attempt at changing course is successful, but every attempt is worthwhile and using Scriptural strategies always increases one’s odds.  At the very least, knowing that changing course is hard helps prepare us for the task.

If you would like more insights into Hebrew, our best-selling Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language is deeply discounted right now.  The fascinating insights in this book will help enable you to achieve greater heights, in the spirit of Yair.

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700 Club Clubbed

The aftermath to my appearance on The 700 Club with my friend Pat Robertson last Monday astounded me.  Like noxious mushrooms after a rain, articles suddenly sprang up condemning Pat for something people thought he said, and condemning me for not condemning him.  Also, I received a bunch of negative communications, almost all of them from self-proclaimed Jews.  I find myself sadly amused by hostile letters written to a rabbi that are filled with Yiddish curses.

They ranged from one or two politely critical ones to the majority, featuring vile and vulgar expletives about me and my family; two contained explicit death threats.  I am not complaining, I’m a big boy and can take care of myself.  I am accustomed to telling the Truth and living my life accordingly in spite of the anger this occasionally generates among fervent and extremist secular fundamentalists of all ethnic backgrounds.

What drives people with extremely limited data to rush to judgment and quickly criticize, condemn, and excoriate others?  What happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt?  I think it is collateral damage from the retreat of religion.  I believe that it is Biblical wisdom that lubricates human social and economic interaction and when that becomes eroded, people rush to judge one another harshly.

…in righteousness you shall judge your friend.
 (Leviticus 19:15)

Still, this is a bit vague. After all, what does ‘righteousness’ really mean?  Fortunately, ancient Jewish wisdom tells us about very important paragraph markings that can be seen in a traditional Torah scroll.  These divisions provide a graphically visible separation of a Torah column into specifically related topics. This verse is part of a paragraph which includes another verse:

…and you shall love your friend as you love yourself
(Leviticus 19:18)

Thus we see juxtaposed two parallel ideas (1) judge one another righteously, and, (2) love one another as you love yourself.

In other words, judge others the way you’d like them to judge you—giving the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, those who wrote angry denunciations were rushing to draw the very worst of conclusions.  They were hardly judging the way they’d like to be judged themselves.

I do have to say that the impact of these few vitriolic letters was utterly overwhelmed by the colossal cascade of positive and enthusiastic letters from friends and fans who saw the 700 Club interview on CBN.

Which brings me to an interesting aspect of most of the vituperative letters: most of those who scrawled them did not bother to view the twenty-minute show.  They wrote to me after reading Internet reports written by ideologues not shy about their hatred for religious conservatives such as Dr. Robertson and me.

Disregarding the obscenities and threats they contain, these letters revealed that their authors view Pat Robertson as virulently anti-Semitic and me as a hateful and unworthy member of the Jewish people for associating with him.

Let’s see what the interview was about and what Dr. Robertson actually said.  We were discussing my new book Business Secrets from the Bible which is a sequel to the best-seller from 2002, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money.

In this new book, I reveal forty business secrets from the Bible, but in a short interview, I focused on only a few examples.  One of which was that many start-up entrepreneurs mistakenly try to do everything themselves.  I explain that you should try to do those things that only you can do while hiring others to do everything else.

Attempting a humorous example, I observed that you seldom find Jews tinkering with their cars or mowing their lawns on weekends.  I did not say that there are no Jewish lawn landscapers or Jewish car mechanics.  That would be nonsense; like other successful groups, Judaism does not view any form of work as menial.

My point was that auto-mechanics should hire plumbers to fix their water pipes, and lawn maintenance specialists should hire auto-mechanics to fix their cars.  This frees each to become more competent in his own field and better able to serve his fellow humans.  I explained that not only would my mechanic repair my car more competently and more quickly than I could but that in the time he did so, I could probably make more money than he would charge me if I applied myself effectively to my own trade.

During the 700 Club interview I mentioned the Biblical foundations for this principle of the morality of specialization which western economics only grasped when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations at the end of the 18th century.

Responding to me, Dr. Robertson laughingly alluded to diamond polishing as a popular Jewish specialty.  This is to say that diamond polishers should not repair their own cars any more than auto mechanics should spend months polishing a raw diamond to present to their fiancées. Instead, they allow the diamond specialist to do the polishing while they pursue their own work.

There was nothing troubling in this conversation.  Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the industry knows that over 90% of the diamond business, whether in Manhattan, Antwerp, or Tel Aviv, is conducted by Jews.  So what?

There was nothing anti-Semitic in this conversation.  There was no suggestion that all Jews are rich.  I explicitly stated that obviously there are poor Jews but at the same time, it is hard to ignore that Jews are disproportionately represented among the Forbes Four Hundred and other listings of the financially successful.

The entire point of much I have written and published is that Jewish financial success is not racial and genetic but cultural. Furthermore I demonstrate how anybody can learn, understand and apply the cultural principles rooted in the Bible just as so many Jews have done over the centuries.

However, there are always a few bitter and hateful individuals.  People whose loathing of Judeo-Christian tradition and repugnance for Biblically based conservatives makes them abandon facts and focus with frenzied fanaticism on microscopic morsels they scoop up and transform into bogus evidence to justify their hate.

Pat Robertson, regularly honored and loved by Israelis for his remarkable generosity to the Jewish state has yet to be shown to have ever caused harm to any Jew.  It is a frighteningly dangerous precedent for Jews to abuse the terrible term anti-Semite in order to bludgeon those with whom they disagree into silence and submission.  It is not only dangerous but it is also stupid and evil.  Some of my fellow Jews should be ashamed of themselves.  I know I was embarrassed to see a friend so insulted by those to whom he has always been kind and gracious.

The only people left in the whole world who still openly like Jews and support Israel are America’s Evangelical Christians.  I sometimes worry that God might wonder whether we Jews really do deserve these good friends.

Meanwhile, let’s remember that we unnecessarily jeopardize relationships by failing to judge others the way we’d like to be judged.  Furthermore, those to whom you do extend the benefit of the doubt will never forget your goodness.

3,326 years ago, God judged the Egyptians while bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. Each year, we relive this Exodus by celebrating Passover, including refraining from work and earning money on the first and last two days. See the sidebar for next week’s details. Take advantage now of our remaining open hours to enjoy holiday savings on our Library Pack and Library Pack PLUS (including free shipping in the continental U.S.). These packages provide hours of stimulation, enjoyment and growth, improving your economic, family and social life at an unbeatable price. Enjoy!

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All or Nothing

Sadly, but readily, I’ll confess that I am no dancer.  It’s not that I wouldn’t like to be a Fred Astaire on the dance floor.  It’s just that when I dance, more than anything else I resemble a drunk trying to trample a cockroach.  One of my many problems in this arena is that I remember only one thing at a time.  I can remember a kindly advisor (actually it was a contemptuous teenager) at a family celebration telling me to wave my arms.  This I can do but since the rest of me stands as rigidly as the Statue of Liberty the overall effect is less Astaire and more like a seizure.  When I remember to bounce lightly on my toes while syncopating my feet, well, we’re back to stomping cockroaches.  It really is important to apply all elements of an integrated solution; to use all the recommended ingredients in a recipe.

Running a business means taking care of production, marketing, accounting, and several other key areas.  No matter how proficiently you pursue only one of those, if the others are neglected, you won’t see success.  Building a happy and tranquil family also depends on simultaneously progressing on a number of fronts.  A military campaign is another example of this principle.  If an invasion is successful but the air cover and supply lines are neglected, all is lost.  No complex task or project can be accomplished with blinders on.  One must understand all the components that taken together comprise success, and then figure out how to move forward on them all at the same time.

Part of Israel’s success as a modern, democratic state is surely due to her ability to focus simultaneously on defense, tourism, industrialization, infrastructure, immigration, and many other concerns.  In all likelihood, understanding the total picture entered the DNA of Israel from the following Scriptural source:

 And you shall guard them and do them [the laws and statutes] for doing so [is evidence of] your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations who, when they hear about ALL these statutes will say surely this is a nation of wisdom and understanding. (Deuteronomy 4:6)

 Ancient Jewish wisdom describes how this verse would have read almost identically had the word ALL been omitted.

 …when they hear about these statutes (they) will say surely
this is a nation of wisdom and understanding.

 See what I mean?

Nonetheless, that word ALL is vital.  If the nations see Israel observing and doing only selected laws and statutes, perhaps only those they feel emotionally drawn to, the result would be quite different.  The nations will not say, “This is a nation of wisdom and understanding”. Instead they are more likely to say, “How weird, bizarre, and generally inexplicable is this nation!”

Revering only the parts of the Bible we like the sound of, does not make us effective children of God; it subjects us to ridicule.  Seeing the Bible as the comprehensive life plan that it is, not only makes us effective but it also makes us admired.

There are those who take the Bible seriously on family matters but who ignore it at work.  There are those who meticulously study the Bible and obey its edicts on charity and justice but who regard its rulings on other social issues to be anachronistic.  All the folks in these examples are getting as much benefit from the Bible as they would from eating a culinary delight prepared by a careless chef who omitted a few key ingredients.

When you respect the Biblical statutes, that important word ALL is the key.  If you try to make a bed so perfectly that a sergeant’s coin bounces off the blanket, you need to pay equal attention and apply equal tension to ALL four corners. God’s word is no different. Whether certain concepts resonate with us while others baffle us, we do well to recognize that they are all intertwined.

This crucial teaching that economic and sexual truths are inextricably linked leaps at you out of the Hebrew verses leading up to the Flood in Genesis. (Rabbi, you mean sexual depravity can really destroy finances?) Share my 2 audio CD set, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah (specially priced right now) with your friends and family. You will be amazed and uplifted to hear how ancient Jewish wisdom on these verses applies prophetically to our times, right now, right here. Learn how to construct a spiritual ark for your family, enveloping those you love with God’s protection.

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What Time Is It?

Guess what, kids!  We’re going to Disneyland in three years’ time!  Guess what, Honey!  We’re being transferred to Paris for two years; our flight’s this afternoon, just after lunch.  Both scenarios are equally ludicrous.  It is also absurd to fire an under-performing employee and give him twenty-four months’ notice but telling the same employee that he must be out and off the premises within an hour is just as wrong. What time is right?

How long should you spend psyching yourself up to propose marriage to your girlfriend? A week? A month? An hour?  Which is right?  “We’re offering you the job and would like to hear back from you with your decision in _____.  Well, how long?  We’d like to hear back from you in twenty minutes?  Silly!  We’d like to hear back from you before the end of next year? Ridiculous!  What time is right?

As usual, ancient Jewish wisdom points us in the right direction.  See these verses:

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place…
(Genesis 22:4)

 And on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast…
(Genesis 40:20)

 …let us go…three days’ journey into the wilderness, so we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.
(Exodus 3:18)

And be ready by the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down…
(Exodus 19:11)

And it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal dress…
(Esther 5:1)

Joshua commanded the officers…saying, prepare provisions for within three days you shall cross over this Jordan…
(Joshua 1:10)

For space reasons I have confined myself to only a few of the many Scriptural references to three days.  Is it not peculiar that all these events and many others in the Bible involved a time span of three days?  Why not five days?  Why not four days? Coincidence?  No, of course not.  It’s a lesson.

Like all numbers, the number three in Torah nomenclature possesses its own special significance.  It alludes to how we humans experience time.  We are aware of the past, we understand something called the future, and we live the present.  It is always in the context of these three parts of time that we should evaluate our lives and our experiences.

When we wonder whether something will be fun, we are really asking whether it will make the present pleasurable.  One of the reasons a car accident can be so horrifying is the realization of how its consequences might affect the future.  I recently saw an interview with an elderly criminal sentenced to one hundred and fifty years behind bars. He said that what made life intolerable was not the thought of dying in prison, but that of losing connection with his children and grandchildren.  In his case, having a past made the present much more unendurable than it might have been for someone who did not already have deep and rich relationships with descendants.

Through the preponderance of three-day time spans, Scripture is telling us that we need to take into account our past, our present and our future.  Whether it is Abraham confronting the reality of sacrificing his son, the Israelites preparing to meet God at Mt Sinai, or any of the other examples, people need to give themselves enough time to integrate the experiences of the past with the approaching future into something they can absorb in the present.

In our own lives, when large decisions or changes loom, the three-day metaphor tells us that the right amount of time needs to be enough time to acknowledge where we are coming from and assimilate that with where we are, while moving decisively into the future. Taking too little time leaves us reeling while taking too much time dulls us, just as ignoring any of the three points of past, present and future leads us down faulty paths.

Moving from difficult straits to brighter horizons using three spiritual secrets revealed during the Exodus is the heart of my audio CD, Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt.  The practical and powerful tips in this audio CD transformed the destiny of the Jews, propelling them from poverty to prosperity and from misery to independence.  They can do the same for individuals.  Now would be a good time to decisively improve your future by changing your present!  Are there any whom you love who need a boost into a better life-orbit?  For a tiny investment, you can bless them. This amazing life-changing resource is available at a substantial discount right now (even more when you download!) and can guide you to harness your past, utilize your present and move forward to a better future.

Let Me Go

P.S.: Clash of Destiny remains on sale for another 24 hours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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