Monthly Archives: December, 2016

Great News! Donations to Liberal Organization are Soaring

December 29th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 13 comments

This might strike you as strange, but I think the fact that individual donations to liberal organizations, including Planned Parenthood, are increasing is great news. Not because I support these organizations and want them to have funds to carry out their objectives; I don’t. However, the increase in donations reflects a fear that government funds (a.k.a as money confiscated from taxpayers) will be less available under a Trump administration. I hope those fears are justified.

On this issue, I lean libertarian. I don’t want to see funds moved from liberal organizations to conservative ones. I want to see funding in general cut back. I  resent the National Endowment for the Arts using tax money to promote artwork that ridicules and insults Christianity such as the monstrosity known as Piss Christ, but I have no desire for the government to fund pro-Christian art or art that denigrates atheists. How about leaving funding to private individuals or, if they choose, local governments?

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Should I get life insurance?

December 28th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

Question:

I am contemplating obtaining life insurance for our family. It is very confusing all together. Is it worth it or are we wasting our money? Overall what is your view? 

Thank you

Maria L.

Answer: 

Dear Maria, 

There are really two questions we think we hear you asking.  (1) Is it okay to make yourself, well, sort of redundant?  One might say, now that I am so necessary to my family, God will take care of me. But if I buy life insurance, I am making myself less necessary so perhaps God says, well, I can take you because your  family will be fine.  (2)  Is it financially a good decision?

On the first question first, God wants us all to be interdependent and mutually supportive of one another.  When society comprised few individuals and life was simpler, the small farming village knew that if Tom had an accident, Joe, Harry, and Ted would take care of his family.  It was an unofficial insurance company.  But with life as complex as it is now,  we can no longer leave it to informal arrangements so life insurance becomes the institutionalized form of helping one another.  And there is nothing wrong if Harry who organizes all the cooperation to help Tom’s family makes a living out of doing so. In other words, a life insurance company operating profitably while providing this service is a good thing.  We don’t think that having insurance is making yourself redundant or that it raises any moral or religious questions.  Obviously everyone’s circumstances are different but a conversation with a trusted financial advisor or experienced insurance person is definitely the way to go. Then analyze the available plans in terms of what might make sense to you.

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Thank you, Mr. Sowell

December 27th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Thomas Sowell, one of the nation’s finest economists and writers has just announced that he will no longer be writing his regular column. If you have not read his articles and books, you are impoverished. Change that. He has the rare talent of explaining complex ideas in palatable bites and the wisdom and insight to understand how the world really works. We hope he will keep writing, even if not on such a regular basis, and appreciate the opportunity to say thank you and God bless to a great American.

“Much of the social history of the Western world,
over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked
with what sounded good.”

New Year – Old Year

December 26th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

When I was nine, I saved up every penny to fulfill my yearning for an electric train.  Finally, I ran to the hobby store. Arriving home, I set up the circular track.  My little engine, pulling two coaches and a caboose, circled endlessly, repeatedly passing the same wooden station and plastic trees I set up beside my track.

I dreamed of laying out one long straight run so that my train could explore new landscapes.  But one long track would quickly take the train out of my sight.  Neither straight line nor circle was ideal.

What a metaphor for life!  Making each year merely a dreary replica of last year is as dissatisfying as constantly seeking the new and novel.

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Searching for an Honest Woman

December 22nd, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 22 comments

The ancient Greek philosopher, Diogenes, famously carried a lantern as he looked futilely for an honest man. We’re talking over 2,000 years ago, so maybe we can put the current media hysteria about fake news in perspective.

However, the reality is that many of us today see reporters, TV hosts, bloggers and columnists as partisan propagandists. We view media outlets as centers of distortion, censorship and hypocrisy. Our conclusions are not without reason.

In the days when debate was actually a clearly defined skill, people recognized that being able to see your opponent’s point of view was necessary to argue your own case well. At the time of America’s founding, while there was propaganda and misinformation, there was even more learned debate and published material arguing for various perspectives. How amazing that Thomas Paine’s Common Sense or the Federalist Papers were read and discussed by everyday citizens (or citizens to be) not by obscure academics!

These observations led me to spend an hour listening to Oprah Winfrey’s interview with First Lady Michelle Obama. I had been struck by the contrast between highly negative articles including quotes from the interview and glowing reports of the interview on platforms from opposite sides of the political aisle. Not surprisingly, the comments under each article mostly shared the opinions expressed. I didn’t see anyone mentioning a few good points and a few troubling one. Everything I saw presented an analysis that was black or white as well as predictably in line with the author’s political views. I wanted to make up my own mind rather than have it made up for me.

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Festive Weekend

December 22nd, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

We wish you a joyous Chanuka or Christmas with family, friends and community.

Did I Accelerate My Mother’s Death?

December 21st, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

Question:

My Mom passed away suddenly in April.  She had been having intestinal issues for a couple of months & I finally figured out it was from a prescription she was taking.  I had the doctor change it, but less than a week later, she died.  

I blame myself for not discovering sooner the medicine was causing it, and have blamed myself ever since, believing I let her down & am heartbroken.  She was my biggest inspiration.  As you can imagine, I miss her terribly.

 My husband says it is not my fault, and it was her time to go, but I feel I would still have her if I had figured it out sooner.  Do you think we each have a certain time we are appointed to die?

Becky

Answer: 

Dear Becky,

We are truly sorry for your great loss.  What a lovely tribute you give to your mother when you write, “She was my biggest inspiration.”

Blaming yourself is a natural reaction, but we agree with your husband that it is not a correct or productive one. Your letter makes clear (we edited for space; you provided more details) that you and your husband devotedly took care of your mother. If you could see into the future or if you were omniscient, you would have known that her medication was causing a problem; but those powers are not given to us. Her death may be completely unrelated to her treatment, as well. There is no reason to feel bad for being a human being. You did the best you could with the realities you saw.

We do believe that God appoints a time for each of us, however we also believe that human actions can accelerate or delay that time. Otherwise, there would be no reason to punish a murderer or to provide medical care or to pray for someone who is ill. Yet, we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that we are in charge.

Your loss is still fresh and your emotions are raw. Try not to divert yourself from the pain by focusing on self-flagellation.  You are still in the first year of mourning so rather than repeatedly reliving the medication issue in your mind, focus on all the good times you shared, all the gratitude you feel, and the wonderful example she set.

By sharing your mother’s story you are reminding us all to pay close attention to medicine interactions and of the need to monitor doctors. By sharing memories of her, you can encourage women to recognize their importance as mothers. The pain will never completely go away though it will lessen. The guilt should be abandoned right away.

Sending virtual hugs,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Do as I Do, Not as I Say

December 20th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 26 comments

Years ago, the little yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois, had a pathetic basketball team.  Just a bunch of slightly nerdy kids stumbling around the court.  Their star forward  dribbled like a drunk trying to stomp a cockroach.  They were so low in the Jewish schools’ league that they usually fell off the bottom of the page.

One day—wonders of wonders—the Chicago Bulls offered to coach them to basketball excellence.  This was going to be The Dirty Dozen all over again.  There is something deeply moving about watching hopeless losers rising to stardom.  King David’s words would resonate throughout Jewish Chicago, “The stone the builders despised has become the cornerstone.” (Psalms 118:22)

What a generous act of magnanimity.  Living legends of basketball like Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman unstintingly giving of themselves.  Through their concern, a motley collection of kids who had never known what it was to hear fans roaring approval, would ultimately achieve success in sports.

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Always Bad News

December 16th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 3 comments

Our friend, Michael Medved, often points out that the media thrives on bad news. This can give you a skewed and pessimistic view of life. I had to chuckle when I saw the Wall Street Journal main headline today, “Dollar Rise Triggers Global Turmoil.” Not, “The Dollar Is Doing Great,” or “Confidence Soars with Trump’s Election,” but instead a negative view of the dollar doing well. A great reminder not to overdose on the news.

Soft Skills

December 15th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 20 comments

My husband and I spend a fair amount of time filming our TV show, Ancient Jewish Wisdom on the TCT network. We used to work on our set in Marion, IL, but recently we started taping in the Akron, OH studio.

Every time we have been there, we interact with a large number of station employees. Some make up the camera crew, some direct the show, while others are involved with administration or post-production work. The employees span the spectrum of age, race and gender. To be honest, we are not an easy couple to host. Anytime we spend the day there, TCT asks someone to drive half an hour to pick up and bring kosher food to us.

Here is what I have noticed. Every person we meet is unfailingly competent, cheerful and willing to go the extra mile to do their own job as well as any other task that is needed. We are very often there from early in the morning until late afternoon. Many days when we leave the building, staff that has been there with us from the morning is setting up for an evening event. Yet, the hard-working professionalism and downright niceness never flag.

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