A Man and His Donkey

No, this isn’t about politics. I might use another animal in the title if it were.

I read Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin last month. It’s a Dave Ramsey recommended book, and one of my 2011 goals is to read one business/marketing book each month. I’m one month behind.

One of Rabbi Lapin’s stated goals is to explain why Jewish people seem to succeed so often. Being a rabbi and a successful businessman, he seems qualified to address the topic. His unique perspective on finances made this an interesting read. However, it was his occasional references to Scripture that fascinated me.

I’m not Jewish. To my knowledge, Jesus is the only Jew I know. I don’t think Kansas has a huge Jewish population, but I could be wrong. Maybe I’m surrounded by Jews but they’re all so successful and prosperous, I never see them.

TT: That was a bit flippant. My apologies. Rabbi Lapin is so matter-of-fact about the whole thing, he’s got me doing it.

Rabbi Lapin posits that prosperity is intrinsically linked to understanding the universe as God created it.  Jews, thanks to the Torah, are in a unique position to exploit this fact. Being God’s chosen people, and speaking and reading God’s perfect language (Hebrew, if you were wondering) allows them to make the most of their resources.

Like I said, an interesting read.

But what does that have to do with a man and his donkey? Here it is.

According to Rabbi Lapin, when donkeys show up in scripture, they are symbols of man’s fallen nature. A donkey isn’t always a donkey, you see. The Torah teaches each man is actually two men – one is the materialistic, fallen creature and the other is the spiritual, transcendent creature. Both are real, but only one can be in control. For the Jew, the spiritual man must lead and the materialistic man must serve. Thus, in scripture, a man saddling his donkey is actually a man getting his materialistic nature under control.

Yeah, I had to read it several times myself. Lapin uses the example of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac (and, boy, does he have some odd things to say about that) to illustrate. It’s too complicated to share here. You’ll have to read the book.

I’ve heard this “dualistic nature” concept before. The Gnostic heretics took it so far as to completely separate man’s spirit from his body in regards to sin. As long as your spirit knows the right stuff, it doesn’t matter what your body does; you’re saved. Not true, but nice try. What caught my attention here is what a Jewish rabbi has to say on the subject.

Rabbi Lapin says for the Jew all of life is a struggle against your natural tendencies, a disciplined training of self to become what you are not.  See, he would never say, “I yam what I yam” (even if he liked Popeye and I can’t speak to his preference). He would say, “you are what you choose to make yourself.” Knowing about this inherent duality allows the Jew to overcome it.

So, in the next year, when my donkey gets out of control as it has recently, I will grab that bridle and saddle and make her behave. It’s the only way to prove I’m better than her, you see.

We’ll see if I am. I’ve got a lot of year ahead of me.

About Robynn Tolbert

Born in Kansas and born again at age six, Robynn has published two novels and started her third. Robynn, aka Ranunculus Turtle, lives in Kansas with a clowder of cats, a patient dog and a garden.

20 comments on “A Man and His Donkey

  1. My dearest Turtle,

    I too believe that we have a dual personality, “Good and Evil,” my bible lays out the rules of engagement on these two. We all have a constant battle going on internally. I myself prefer the simple way of stating it. Your life is what you perceive it to be. No more, no less. God’s word is so simple. We make it complicated.We all have it in us to be prosperous but….. Is this what we were meant to be. Live for today and let God lead you where he will.

  2. Great post, Princess Turtle.

  3. Really interesting. I wonder if that symbolism continues into the New Testament.

    • Well, since he’s Jewish, I doubt he’d take the time to apply it. hehe!

      • Perhaps Dave Ramsey would take it there since he recommended the book to you. 😉

      • Right. But since Jesus was Jewish, He’d have known about that representation. So, maybe that is why He chose to ride a donkey–as a statement that He has control over the physical. You could even take it farther, since He asked his disciples to bring the donkey to Him, it shows that he has control over US having control over the physical….

        Am I over-thinking it?

      • Personally, I like your thinking, Kat. But when Jesus rode the donkey, did he have a saddle on it?

      • You two crack me up!

        I hadn’t considered New Testament applications for the symbolism, mostly because I’m not entirely certain I agree with the rabbinical interpretation of scripture as gleaned from reading this one book about finances (hehe!). Taking a page from Vaulter’s Momma, I tend to be a literalist when it comes to the Bible. I’m not sure I’m smart enough to handle something more complicated, and taking the phrase “Abraham saddled his donkey” and turning it into THIS is complicated.

        What I really want to know is how rabbis interpret Balaam and the talking donkey. Rabbi Lapin doesn’t cover that.

      • Balaam’s talking donkey was also my first thought when you talked about donkeys in your blog entry. And all I can think right now is what my son standing behind me would think if I was to read all of this to him. For him “riding the donkey” means taking a ride on the carousel at the mall. 😉

  4. As far as a dual nature, I don’t think that’s quite true. I see it more as a triune nature since we are made in the image of God.

    There’s the body, the soul, and the spirit. Even the soul has a triune nature in that it is comprised of the mind, the will and the emotions of the person.

    The spirit gives life to the soul while residing within the body. When all three are working properly, then there is complete agreement. But because of our fallen nature this will never happen until we are in our incorruptible bodies.

    The only way we see complete agreement so that we can learn how this works is by observing God: The Holy Spirit (the spirit), The Father (the soul: the mind, will, and emotions – all very much present throughout scripture), The Son (the body). Jesus even said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” and we know the Holy Spirit was with Him as it came upon Him after water baptism. Also, Jesus is found in the first few chapters of Genesis as it is said that God walked with Adam in the cool of the day.

    The main internal argument of the individual that is a Believer is between the Spirit and the Body of that person. The Soul is sort of stuck in the middle as it has to weigh out things before deciding which way to go, which is why it seems so much as if we have a dual nature instead of a triune nature. But never forget that the emotions of a human Soul come into play as well, and sometimes those go against both what the Spirit knows to be true and what the Body wants to happen.

    The mind causes the soul to be in quite a unique predicament. As the mind is a part of the soul, yet is housed within and around the physical brain which is a part of the body, the mind is the part of the soul that is most connected to the body. Yet Paul in the book of Hebrews gives the illustration of the soul and spirit being so close to each other that he compares it to the relationship between the joint and marrow of a bone. With the soul being so intrinsically connected to both the body and the spirit, then for fallen humanity redeemed by the blood of the Lamb it is no wonder that the term “battle for one’s soul” came to being. The soul is in a battle between the body that will never be redeemed and a spirit made alive in Christ.

    Because of this, we are to crucify our flesh and take the time to read the Bible so that we can input the information into our mind, thus over time renewing the mind and affecting the physical brain of the body with the neural pathways that is needed for us to understand God when He speaks to us through His Spirit. That is why God seems so far away from us, or why we can’t seem to understand Him that much, when we are not consistently in the Written Word that He left behind for us to read.

    When we renew our mind and understand what God expects from us, then we can give our will over to His will and that allows us to calm down and not worry about how to handle things because it’s no longer in our hands but in the hands of the One that is far greater than us and can handle those things far better than we ever can. As a result, our emotions are then under control and we are able to then have our soul in the right way that He wants of us.

    Then, it’s a matter of hearing from the Holy Spirit within our spirits, our minds being renewed by the Word of God will recognize that what the Holy Spirit is saying is correct because the Holy Spirit will never argue with the Word of God, then our minds tell our bodies what to do that the Holy Spirit instructed of us and the bodies can each argue all it wants to, but when you keep yourself under the blood of the Lamb and subject your body as an offering of sacrifice and praise to Him, then the body has to do whatever you tell it to do.

    “Okay, that sounds nice in theory, do you have it mastered?”

    No, I do not. But there are times when I see it happening, and that lets me know that as long as I keep crucifying my flesh and reading the Word of God for the renewing of the mind and praying in the spirit, then I will keep getting there even closer than I am now.

    And I’ll probably learn a lot more along the way too as God instructs me.

    So shall it be for all of us.

    • Dear readers, we’ve officially run the extremes of Vaulter’s Momma’s K.I.S.S. principle to the triune, possibly sextune, nature of humanity. We cater to all comers here in The Collective. 🙂

  5. This reminds me of the book I’m reading for one of my classes, “The Christian in Complete Armour”
    The writer says (in a chapter on the nature of war)
    “Take comfort in the fact that you are a wrestler. This struggling within you, if upon the right ground and to the right end, only proves there are two nations within you, two contrary natures, the one from earth earthly, and the other from heaven heavenly. And for your further comfort, know that although your corrupt nature is the elder, yet it shall serve the younger.” FABULOUSLY ENCOURAGING! 😀

  6. After posting, I realized I hadn’t invited my readers to play with me. I was going to ask for something less cerebral, like “If your material side isn’t a donkey, what animal would it be?”

    These comments are way more constructive. Excellent!

  7. My dearest Turtle,

    I believe if we go to the book of Ecclesiastes. We find that the great King Solomon lived his whole life searching for wealth,wisdom,love and happiness. All of which he obtained by the grace of God,only to find that in the end. All is vanity. He finds that the only things worth anything are to live life,love God and be happy. He finds that simple is what it is all about.

  8. by the way, I would be an a___, like quite a few others.LOL

  9. Seriously, though, I’m reading these kinds of books hoping to gain some understanding of the business/ marketing field. You know, for when I do get published.

    One of Rabbi Lapin’s other points is you should never stop pushing the envelope on what you know. We are our own worst enemies. Our donkeys take the lead when they should be under control, and it can seriously mess up life’s journey.

    Even Solomon might agree with that. Pursuing all the things his donkey wanted left him cold and empty. Ultimately, only the “fear of the Lord” gives meaning to life.

    And I have no problem with simple. When I’m not being a donkey or a turtle, I’m a sheep. Simple is good.

  10. My dearest Turtle,

    Your right, simple is better. It puts me in mind of the child trying to eat an artichoke , he peels away all the leaves looking for the treasure. Not realizing the leaves are the treasure.

  11. Totally missed this when it was posted – probably lost to deep in the Renegade Project, lol

    But I thought I’d say that my Husband requested this book for Christmas and has been reading it. He seems to be quite enjoying it. Hasn’t mentioned the donkey yet, but has mentioned the temptation to go read the Torah.

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