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Wind in your Sails











By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
January 19, 2014

History does not repeat itself-exactly. Nonetheless, we'd be foolish to ignore certain similarities from which crucial lessons can be learned. Consider the similarities shared by the years 1913 and 2013.

In 1913, Great Britain was the strongest world power and the home of the world's currency, the pound sterling. It was also groaning beneath the burden of debt and the costs of maintaining far-flung military forces while facing a fast growing Germany threatening to disrupt existing geopolitical patterns.

A century later, America groans beneath seemingly insurmountable debt and is burdened by the costs of overseas military adventures. While still the world's strongest power and home to the world's currency, the dollar, it faces a rapidly expanding China disrupting existing geopolitical realities.

In 1913, America's 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, was internationalist and academic with little executive experience. Wilson's campaign slogan was "tax the rich." The 16th Amendment authorizing the income tax was ratified a month after his inauguration. A century later, the country's 44th president, Barack Obama, is internationalist and academic with little executive experience. His presidency is largely based on taxing those he calls "the rich."

China today is not the same as Germany a hundred years ago. Britain then is not America today, and Wilson and Obama are not identical twins.

However, ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that valuable lessons await those who acknowledge the distinctions of history while recognizing the similarities. Consider Moses and Joshua.

The waters of the Jordan River dried up to allow Israel to cross on dry land (Joshua 3:13-17) just as the waters of the Red Sea did (Exodus 14:21-22).

Joshua was told to remove his shoes because he stood upon holy ground (Joshua 5:15) exactly as Moses experienced (Exodus 3:5).

The book of Joshua reveals another similarity between Joshua and Moses when it explicitly announces that Israel feared Joshua just as they did Moses all the days of his life (Joshua 4:14).

Furthermore, in only two cases is the blast of the shofar referred to in Hebrew as a yoveil, literally 'a jubilee'. These are during Moses' paramount achievement, bringing the Torah down to Israel from Mt. Sinai and during Joshua's famous achievement, the capture of Jericho.

...when the yoveil blows they may ascend the mountain. (Exodus 19:13)

... when they blow with the horn a yoveil... (Joshua 6:5)

While the similarities teach us much, the differences are equally important. Joshua learned from Moses' activities but he didn't mindlessly imitate them. For example, Joshua sent two spies for a military purpose only, whereas Moses sent twelve spies for both military and political purposes.

Many today despair economically. They worry that there are no profitable roles for them in today's hi-tech economy. This gloom has permeated the job landscape before. From the 1920s through the 1950s, Detroit was the center of America and if you weren't working in the automobile industry, you felt like a nonentity. Then came plastics followed by electronics with limitless new opportunities. We all know where Detroit is today.

Every day brings new developments with new opportunities; we live life as a video not a snapshot. Each new frame brings change and fresh vistas to enter and conquer.

The word yoveil features in Leviticus 25:10:

You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants; it shall be Jubilee (Yoveil) for you...

Yoveil here is linked with liberty and the freedom to start over and move forward. Just as Sinai and Jericho provided that opportunity on a national level, it exists in each of our lives as well. Circumstances challenge us, history repeats itself, but we are at liberty to change the future by acting differently than in the past.

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Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.

You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.

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China today is not the same as Germany a hundred years ago. Britain then is not America today, and Wilson and Obama are not identical twins.