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.

Financial Book Package

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Change Jobs – Become a Futurist

In case you are contemplating a career change, I want to suggest becoming a ‘futurist’ (i.e. a secular prophet).  It is not as hard as it may seem.  You boldly announce provocative predictions.  If they subsequently come to pass, you triumphantly proclaim your prescience.  If they don’t, you make new predictions.

Consider one of the country’s most respected ‘futurists’, Professor Paul Ehrlich who teaches in the Biological Sciences department at one of America’s most illustrious universities, Stanford.  In 1968 he wrote The Population Bomb which opened with this sentence-

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. 

In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death…”

 Note that he didn’t say that overpopulation could become a problem one day.  He didn’t say that feeding the world’s growing population could become a challenge.  He said explicitly that during the 1970s hundreds of millions of people would starve to death.  As we all know, that didn’t happen.  He wasn’t even close.  He also predicted that by 1980 all animal life in the planet’s oceans would be extinct and that by the year 2000, England will have ceased to exist.  He is still a highly paid and respected professor at Stanford.  Would you want this man teaching biological science to your child in exchange for your tuition payment of $60,000?

Writing Future Shock in 1970, Alvin Toffler predicted underwater cities, the doubling of the planet’s population in ten years, and the proliferation of wear-once-and-throw-away clothing made of paper.  However, he also predicted the growing popularity of home-schooling and the decline in manufacturing jobs so his score is much better than that of Ehrlich.  Nonetheless, the score is irrelevant, go ahead and become a ‘futurist’.  You have nothing to lose.  In fact, with the helpful tip I am going to provide you, your score will easily exceed that of the two ‘futurists’ I have written about above.

That said, it is important to distinguish between ‘futurists’ and professionals who know their own fields so well that they can spot the gentle ripples that herald approaching events.

Fifty years ago, in April 1965, Gordon Moore predicted home computers, electronic wrist watches, and portable telephones.  All these and more would become possible, he argued, because the number of components that were being crammed onto integrated circuits or ‘chips’ was going to double every couple of years.  Now, Gordon Moore was not a professional prognosticator.  No, he was not a ‘futurist’ he was an entrepreneur.  He was the co-founder of Intel, perhaps the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer.  And all his predictions have indeed come true because he didn’t try and predict the weather or social demographics.  He confined his vision to the process and consequence of raising the value of sand (silicon dioxide) by melting it and blending it with other elements.  In other words, manufacturing semiconductors.

In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for sand is CHoL.  Exactly the same word also means non-holy, or without God.

חל           חל

CHoL          CHoL

sand         secular

If you’re a regular Thought Tool reader, you know by now that uniquely in Hebrew, if one word has two meanings, the deep reality of that word can only be fully comprehended by somehow blending the two meanings.

So, we should explore why CHoL means both secular and sand.  Fortunately we possess a clue in that the Hebrew word for rock, TZUR usually means God. Here follows one of the more than twenty-five examples of this just in the Book of Psalms.

The Lord is my rock….

(Psalms 18:3) 

Just like God, an unshakable, immovable, reliable mass upon which you can even build a skyscraper is a rock.  The quality of sand is the opposite.  Sand is always blowing around in the wind.  It is without solid substance and cannot be built upon or relied upon, exactly the qualities of secularism.  Secular fads blow in the wind; it would be sheer folly to build anything upon any secular fad.

This makes it far easier to understand the verse:

The start of all wisdom is fear of the Lord….

(Psalms 111:10)

Trying to understand how the world really works while remaining sublimely oblivious to something as central and as important as God is impossible.  For a ‘futurist’ to try predictions without any awareness of God and the spiritual dimension is as far-fetched as for a baker to try making a cake without any awareness of ovens and how they work.

So if you want to become a futurist, albeit one with a slightly better track record than Ehrlich and Toffler, keep God and spirituality in mind.  I’m sure you’ve read about how the so-called Millennials, people in their thirties who came of age at the turn of the century, have unusual employment expectations.  Unlike their parents’ generation, they are driven less by money and more by other more spiritual considerations such as meaning and purpose in the world.  Neither we nor the world in which we live and function are entirely material and physical.  The spiritual dimension is real.  You need to understand it even if for no other reason than the majority of the people with whom you interact, try to live in harmony with God and His spiritual realities.

Second and more importantly, try and practice your futurism in an area you know well.  When my expert German mechanic tell me that my car’s water pump is going to die within the next few hundred miles, he is invariably correct.  Occasionally he tells me who will win the next election.  In this he invariably turns out to be wrong.

Perhaps my most effective resource for absorbing the relevance and impact of the spiritual side of life is my book Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language.  I would enjoy knowing that you have this in your library and are able to apply its lessons to the many family and business circumstances in which you need to peer into the future a bit.

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Amazon, Apple, and DNA

Internet giant, Amazon, is famous for its frugality. This means cheap desks cobbled together from wooden doors and scraps of lumber. It also means main cabin air travel, even for senior executives, on long flights.  This corporate parsimony didn’t suddenly appear from nowhere.  Although he was already a senior vice president at a successful hedge fund, Jeff Bezos and his wife borrowed a car and drove themselves to Seattle to start Amazon in a garage.

Apple products are cool.  Even people who don’t know the term ‘cool’ can best grasp its meaning by strolling through an Apple store.  Even the Apple store is cool.  Mall operators vie with one another to win an Apple store because it generates so much foot traffic.  Though he was a far more talented electronic designer, Steve Wozniak left Apple after losing out to the ever-cool Steve Jobs, despite owning most of Apple’s early patents.  The corporate cool of Apple didn’t suddenly appear from nowhere.  Jobs beamed out cool from the earliest days in Cupertino.

Did Bezos driving an old car cross-country in 1994 or Steve Jobs wearing his black turtleneck sweater in 1976 set the pattern for the future?  It is hard to be sure but it certainly seems probable. Whether you are starting a family or a factory it is worthwhile sparing some thought to what ideas will be implanted in the cultural DNA of your venture.  Whether you are acquiring a business or a mate, probe early history for hints of the cultural DNA that might have been implanted that will show up years later.   

We see this in Scripture.  It is all but impossible to grasp fully the purpose, impact, and destiny of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem without knowing anything of its early-stage cultural DNA.  When its construction is detailed in the First Book of Kings, we see an incongruous reference. Instead of dating commencement of building to the king’s reign, as would be expected, the first reference is to an apparently unlinked event nearly 500 years earlier:

And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomons reignhe began to build the house of the Lord.
(I Kings 6:1)

Then we find an iconic phrase, Machon LeShivtecha—a place of your dwelling—appearing four times, almost like a recurring motif. (I Kings 8:13, 39, 43, 49)  It is impossible to read this special phrase in Kings without being transported back to Exodus when the phrase first makes its appearance in the song that the Children of Israel sing after their triumphant crossing of the Red Sea.

A place of your dwelling
(Exodus 15:17)

This wording suggests that the Exodus that occurred a week earlier will only find its ultimate fulfillment in the erection of a place for God to dwell in half a millennium later.  This comes as no surprise to us because Moses repeatedly assured Pharaoh that the purpose of Israel’s leaving Egypt was to worship God. 

Lest we be left in any doubt that the cultural DNA of Solomon’s Temple is rooted in the Exodus from Egypt 500 years earlier, we find explicit reference to the Exodus no fewer than six times during the detailing of the Temple in the eighth chapter of the Book of Kings.

What is the connection between the Jerusalem Temple and the Egyptian experience? Before you can commit to serving God, you have to viscerally understand that only such service can liberate one from the tyranny of having to serve man.  After years of  Egyptian slavery, the Israelites comprehended how preferable it is to serve a loving  God rather than a human tyrant.  Thus, it in order to understand completely the Temple that Solomon built, we need to study the lines linking it to the Egypt experience which was part of its cultural DNA.  These lines serve as an excellent reminder of how important it is to explore the cultural DNA of a person or organization’s past in order to understand its present and future.

I am quite certain that this kind of Biblically-based insight can strengthen each of us and make all our undertakings far more effective.  For more practical insights from the Exodus,  I ask you to go ahead, right now while the thought is still fresh, and order our audio CD, Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt.

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America and the Jews

This morning, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel delivered a historic address to the Congress of the United States of America.  He alluded to the face of Moses staring down upon the chamber but neglected to mention that Moses is the only face depicted full-on rather than in profile.  Moses enjoys special placement in America’s great hall of government.

Over 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson proposed depicting the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt upon the Great Seal of the United States.  How remarkable that the new world should consider featuring on its great seal, the Israelites, a nation so symbolic of the old world.  They associated the birth of America with the Hebrews for the same reason that motivates many Americans today to view Israel and the Jews in a special light.

No country has been a more stalwart friend of Israel than America and no other society has ever been more hospitable to its Jewish population.  In no other nation has any Jewish community enjoyed a longer period of tranquillity and affluence.  The bond between America and her Jews is so conspicuous that it has even attracted foreign attention.  Hundreds of books have been published in Europe, Asia and many Islamic countries, that chronicle the extraordinary prominence that Jews enjoy in America.  Life has been good for American Jews.

One explanation often advanced to account for the hospitality enjoyed by America’s Jews has been the size of the American Jewish community and its economic and political influence.  In other words, the argument goes, America has been good to her Jews because their power has allowed her little alternative.  In addition to demonstrating astonishing ingratitude, this argument is as wrong headed as claiming that turning on street lights causes the sun to set.  A moment’s reflection reveals that American Jews have achieved affluence and political prominence precisely because of the security and tranquillity they have enjoyed here for so many years.

Furthermore, if, as some claim, America’s support for Israel were based entirely on political expediency, that support would originate from the State Department.  It does not.  Instead, it springs from the Christian heartland of America and from the deep commitment to Judeo-Christian values felt by so many Americans.

Americans’ fondness for Judaism and Israel manifests itself in those politicians who can least be said to preside over major centers of Jewish culture.  For example, it is hard to make the case that Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Robert Pittenger support Israel in order to placate the large number of Jewish voters in Texas and North Carolina.  It is clearly Christian commitment to the Bible that lies behind America’s affinity and friendship for Judaism.

The real bond linking American civilization and the Jews is that they are the only two nations founded on an idea rather than on a land.  Judaism and America were founded on commitment to the loving God of Abraham and to freedom from human tyranny.  Furthermore, they are the only two peoples that foreigners can join with all subsequent rights.  Just try to become accepted as a naturalized Englishman, Frenchman, Swiss or Japanese.  However if one becomes a naturalized American or converts to Judaism, one becomes a full American or a full Jew with all rights, save one:  a convert to Judaism cannot become king, and a naturalized American cannot attain the presidency.

Shortly after the founding of both the American and the Jewish peoples, each experienced a horrendous civil war.  Both the war between the North and the South and the war between Judah and Israel were over moral issues and both nations emerged from their travails stronger than they had been before.

Only two countries, America and Israel, swing their doors open wide to welcome even poor and down-trodden immigrants who share their ideals.

The founders of America, the Pilgrims, were called “separatists.”  Similarly the early Jews, Abraham and his family, were called “Ivrim”—Hebrews, or in English— “separatists.”

The first settlers in both America and Israel found primitive populations who knew nothing of the God of Abraham.  Both America and Israel eventually built their capital cities in a manner designed to guarantee equal access for all.  Neither Washington DC. nor Jerusalem belongs exclusively to any one state or tribe.

Jacob launched the Jewish people by replacing his son Joseph with Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Menashe.  “They will be to me like Reuben and Shimon” said Jacob, thus changing the twelve tribes into thirteen. (Genesis 49:5)  Similarly, the twelve colonies launched their great enterprise, the United States, once Rhode Island became the 13th original colony.  Evidently the founding fathers knew that the number of elements required for the founding of a holy nation had to be increased from twelve to thirteen.

Our currency expresses this important idea that unity has its origin in thirteen.  The phrase e pluribus unum, printed above the eagle on the one dollar bill, contains thirteen letters, as does the phrase annuit coeptis printed above the pyramid.  There are thirteen layers of stone in that pyramid, thirteen stars above the eagle’s head and thirteen stripes upon its breast.  There are thirteen arrows clutched in one talon and thirteen olives upon the olive branches in the other.  And all this symbolism of thirteen is found only on the one dollar bill.  In Hebrew, a language which associates a numerical value with each letter of the alphabet, the word for “One,” Echad, possesses a numerical equivalent of thirteen.

The intrinsic similarity between these two great nations was not lost on the early Americans.  Neither is it lost on their descendants, so many of whom still share a devotion to the Judeo-Christian principles that fueled our nation’s earliest visions.  Robert Frost’s The Gift Outright and John Winthrop’s Citie on the Hill are only two of the many literary examples that reflect this deep spiritual bond that links Judaism and the American dream.

The graciousness extended by most Americans towards their Jewish friends is not the result of having been intimidated by those friends into a mood of sullen acceptance.  It is a wholehearted embrace surrounding one sentiment best expressed by the Scriptural words, “and I will bless those that bless you and those that curse you, will I curse.” (Genesis 12:3)  Many Americans still revere those words as they do God Almighty who spoke them.  American Jews have always been the beneficiaries of that sentiment.  The joyous serenity of life experienced by American Jews is safe only for as long as most Americans continue to subscribe to that Biblical sentiment.

My life mission is providing access to the Bible through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom – much of it wisdom that was known to this country’s founders. I encourage you to explore our store and delve into understanding the world, not through the latest transient trend, but rather with God’s timeless wisdom.

 

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Love Your Neighbor – Really?

One of the most frequently recurring questions that I am asked is this:  “Rabbi Lapin, I try to live my life as an upright and decent person and I try to make my decisions according to the Biblical code of good and evil but I often feel exploited.  Sometimes relatives count on my good nature as they ask to stay at my home for lengthy visits while they tour nearby vacation areas.   Other times co-workers ask for favors that go way beyond normal collegial cooperation.  I am at my wit’s end because I know they view me as a God-fearing, kind and compassionate Christian.  They assume that since I love them, I must agree to their requests. Sometimes, though, I find these requests excessive and I feel resentful.  I don’t see how I can refuse without appearing unchristian but I don’t like feeling resentment. How can I reconcile my self-expectations of love with those of other people in my life?”

Let’s face it. Loving others isn’t always easy.  Even loving one’s friends and relatives can sometimes be a bit demanding.  This is especially true when things begin to resemble a bottomless pit.  Imagine your neighbor borrowing your lawnmower in the name of your love for him, then demanding your hedge trimmer before he hosts a late night noisy party, always confident of your obligation to give him endless love.  When is enough, enough?

I sympathize.  The Bible does demand much from us.  What are we to do when others latch onto our moral commitment to behave agreeably and exploit it?  Well, today I want to do more than sympathize.  I want to provide you with a solution to the dilemma created by your faith and dedication to God’s word.

Clearly the one specific Bible verse causing this consternation is:

…and you shall love your friend as yourself, I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:18)

This verse appears problematic because a casual reading of it could imply that whenever I love myself enough to get me an ice-cream, I need to get you one too.  And you, and yes, you too!   Does it mean that when you purchase a lovely new outfit, you should buy one for each of your friends and neighbors as well?   Upon reflection, that does seem ridiculous, but if it is what the Scripture says, well…

Happily ancient Jewish wisdom comes to the rescue pointing out that the Hebrew text actually reflects that you must love your friend just as you would expect him to love you.  No more and no less.

In other words, would I expect my friend or neighbor to buy me an ice-cream whenever he gets one for himself?  No, of course not.  Would you expect your friend to get you a pretty new dress whenever she got one for herself?  No, of course you wouldn’t.  The message is clear; do not expect more love than you would deliver in the same circumstances.

Once we learn how to overcome the problem of limitless expectations on the part of those we love, learning how to love those among whom we live is very worthwhile.  It can help us love others once we realize that loving someone else “as yourself” does not mean you ought to love him as much as you love yourself, but as much as you’d expect him to love you.  Do things for other people in the name of your love for them, to the extent that you would expect them to do the same for you.

As soon as we apply these reasonable limitation on expectations, we can love fearlessly.  However we must remember why we should indeed love our friends at all.  The concluding phrase of Leviticus 19:18,  “I am the Lord,” reminds us that we are all God’s children and as such, we are all brothers and sisters and by that relationship, worthy of one another’s love.

One way to show love for each other, as well as to celebrate our being created by God, is to properly use the gift He uniquely gave to human beings – speech. When we speak rudely or use foul language in a public area, we are stating a lack of care for others.  When we use profanity among our friends and family, we degrade ourselves and them. In the process, as we show in our audio CD, Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak, we damage our economic chances as well as our opportunities for lasting love. An hour listening to this CD can change your future.

Peril cover 143

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