Monthly Archives: February, 2017

Face Time

February 28th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

The defining question of our times: Are people no more than sophisticated baboons?  Are we the product only of random, materialistic evolution?  Why does it matter?  Because if the answer is ‘yes’ then whenever men do bad things, they do so only because of genetic imperative or imposed societal influences.  It would mean that humans have no more choice about their behavior than do baboons.  The political, social, criminal and economic consequences of how this question is answered are colossal.  The past fifty years of American cultural change substantiate this assertion.

The consequences to the personal and business lives of individuals are no less significant.  If I decide that, like bears, bunnies, and baboons, I too must act upon urges, appetites, and emotions, neither my wife, children nor my business partners can ever truly trust me.  As a business professional of this bent, I would mistakenly assume that my employees and customers have only materialistic desires, assumptions that would surely mislead my enterprise.

Yet to any genuinely curious person with no axe to grind, the evidence that humans are distinctively different from all other species of life on the planet is overwhelming.  We are the only species that will imperil our physical bodies in order to gain some spiritual solace.  We risk damage to our systems by absorbing alcohol, drugs and tobacco for non-physical benefit.  Some of us engage in risky sports for non-physical benefits like a rush or a thrill.

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Immigration and the Protesting Rabbis

February 27th, 2017 Posted by AAJC Happenings 2 comments

On Monday, February 6, some 200 rabbis and rabbinical students protested outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.   19 of them blocked traffic and were arrested for disorderly conduct.  The group was protesting President Trump’s executive order placing a 90-day hold on immigration from seven countries which lack adequate security programs to vet the peaceful nature of visa holders: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Teru’ah, the left-wing rabbinical group that organized the protest, said it was meant to show that many Jews oppose the ban.

“We remember our history, and we remember that the border of this country closed to us in 1924, with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.  We know that some of the language that’s being used now to stop the Muslims from coming is the same language that was used to stop Jewish refugees from coming“, she said. 

As the great-grandson of a rabbi who immigrated to the United States in 1924 because of religious persecution, these words caught my attention.

My Zaida, Rabbi Jacob A. Dubrow, was a rabbi in the Vinnitsa region of Ukraine.  During the Russian Civil War, he was marked for death by Ukrainian Whites.  Fleeing to a large city he survived the threat, but was at risk for deportation to Siberia when the Reds were victorious.  He escaped Ukraine and acquired a hard-to-get visa to the United States.  His wife and daughters followed and arrived in New York in 1926.

I wonder what Zaida would have said about the travel ban.

Zaida was a Lubavitcher chasid, an Orthodox Jew.  He passed away decades before I was born; even my father knew him only as a child.  Nonetheless, having followed in his path as an Orthodox rabbi, and having close friends within the Lubavitch movement, I am confident I know what he would have said.

Zaida was a quiet man, a scholar.  He was thoughtful, benevolent, but firm.

Undoubtedly, he would have been against a blanket ban on immigration from war torn countries. He would have advocated that America accept peaceful refugees of war seeking a better life for their families.  He would have supported families being allowed to reunite; without that, my grandmother and her sisters would have never been allowed to join him in the United States.

Yet, he was a wise man.  He would not have supported, for example, the immigration of the Ukrainian Cossacks who tried to kill him.  His passion for justice would have led him to do all he could to stop barbarous murderers from entering this country.  Being benevolent does not mean being a fool.

Zaida would not have relied on a letter from Cossack leader Admiral Alexander Kolchak, certifying that a potential immigrant was upstanding.  He would have advocated a vetting system to make sure people from cultures that embrace murder and mayhem, were indeed peaceful and of law abiding.

A rabbi who escaped death by telling his neighbors he was traveling north and instead travelled south, would have never accepted the liberal concept that all people are inherently good, that all humanity would be sweet as apple pie if only we welcome them into our homes.  Zaida saw human beings at their worst, and he would have passionately advocated keeping those who embraced evil away from these hallowed shores.

The very notion that the United States should rely on Iran – a country that threatens to destroy Israel and America – to vet visa holders to make sure they don’t want to destroy America, is madness.  The idea that Syria, Sudan and Somalia have the will and ability to separate 100 Muhammad Attas from 1000 of his peaceful coreligionists is absurd.

Ignoring evil is not a Jewish concept.  It is a liberal concept.  Liberal rabbis protesting in support of unchecked immigration from countries where large swaths of the population seek to destroy the West are sorely misguided. To be Jewish is to be benevolent.  But to be Jewish is to recognize the reality of good and evil.  Judaism values doing good, selfless and endless good – within the context of supporting good and destroying evil.  Sadly, those who don’t recognize the reality of evil are least prepared to stand against it.

I pray that God give President Trump the strength and fortitude to protect the citizens of this great country, and that America continues, for centuries to come, to accept millions of peaceful immigrants, whatever their religion or lack thereof, who embrace the Judeo-Christian values that have made this country great.

This article appeared first in The Jewish Press.

Sadly Saying Goodbye to My Friend, the Late Great Michael Novak

February 27th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Michael Novak has gone home to our Father in Heaven. He was a good friend, mentor. I always felt privileged to stand stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him whenever we shared a platform defending God’s plan for human economic interaction. About ten years ago he showed me a book he was working on with his daughter Janna and soon thereafter that wonderfully moving book was finished and published. In the 90s Michael encouraged me to write a regular column for his newly founded magazine Crisis which I did.
http://www.crisismagazine.com/search-results?cref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.crisismagazine.com&ie=utf-8&hl=&q=Lapin&sa=Search The process taught me more than my columns taught my readers I am sure.

Raised as a Roman Catholic, Novak believed as a young man that socialism was the ideal economic arrangement. But he began to notice a flaw: While socialism sounded good in theory, in practice it didn’t work—and non-elites fared the worst.
Capitalism had little high-minded theory, but in practice it literally provided the goods. If ordinary folks did so much better under capitalism, maybe the caricatures—e.g., that it is all based on greed—were wrong. Maybe free markets had their own virtues and were defensible, and even superior to other economic systems on moral grounds.
From this recognition sprang his most important work, “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism,” which changed America’s public debate when it was published in 1982. “Democratic capitalism,” he wrote, is “neither the Kingdom of God nor without sin. Yet all other known systems of political economy are worse…….

https://www.wsj.com/articles/michael-novak-crafted-a-moral-defense-of-democratic-capitalism-1487948401

Three Cheers for Generation Z

February 23rd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

Can a video make you want to cry and cheer at the same time? Well, that was my reaction to this amazing video created by sixteen-year-old Autumn in reaction to a foolish and, dare I say, downright evil, article that ran in Teen Vogue magazine trivializing abortion. 

In her video, Autumn discusses the idea of female empowerment, dismissing the claim that ridding yourself of the bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh is empowering. Even if, to some degree or other, you accept abortion, each one is a tragedy not a triumph.

You won’t be shocked to hear that I do not read Teen Vogue. Nevertheless, Autumn’s video led me to take a look at its webpage. Here is their tag line: “The rebellious, outspoken, empowering magazine that you need right now.” A quick look at the titles suggested that their definition of rebellious is  walking in lock-step with academia, entertainment and most of the media. Outspoken, I grant them. Nevertheless, my biggest question had to do with the word empowering. 

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Gender and Geography

February 22nd, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 33 comments

As a child growing up in South Africa, National Geographic magazine was not just something to pick up idly in the dentist’s waiting room.  It was a monthly magic carpet ride that enchanted me so much that a subscription bringing that familiar yellow cover to our mailbox each month was one of my favorite birthday presents.

It wasn’t only the spectacular photography of faraway places, it was also the advertisements.  In my mind’s eye, I still clearly see that rapturous red 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air.  There were intoxicating ads for cameras carrying names like Leica and Haselblad that I could but dream about.  There were pictures of housewives in American kitchens that I gazed at in wonder.

Mostly, however, the magazine sparked my life-long love for travel and appreciation of scientific exploration.  It taught me that wherever in this big, colorful world they were, humans want pretty much the same things.  From icy landscapes to the Sahara Desert, from mountain top communities to valley villages, people try to build families and make it possible for their families to thrive.

I haven’t looked at the magazine for years now, so I was quite shocked by a recent issue of National Geographic.  Its cover carried a picture of a boy dressed to look like a girl and bellowed out GENDER REVOLUTION.  Huh? In National Geographic? Really?

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I can’t afford your books.

February 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 51 comments

Question:

your books are very expensive for me to buy as i am currently unemployed is there no other way that i can get hold of your books Desmond

Answer: 

Dear Desmond,

We appreciate that you recognize that our books have the potential to help you advance in your financial life.  We think there may be a few preliminary ideas worth contemplating in advance of reading our books.  It seems to us that you are asking for a gift of the books rather than for advice and we also know that unsolicited advice is difficult to accept, but we are sure that we can provide you with more valuable and more effective help this way.  Please know that we care for you—if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have answered your question at all.  We sincerely hope that our very real concern for you and for others in similar circumstances, will be the ‘sugar that helps the medicine go down’.

Here are the three ideas we ask you to consider:

1. On a regular basis, we tidy up grammar and spelling mistakes in the questions that people submit to our Ask the Rabbi feature.  We understand, and ourselves fall prey to, the lure of high speed communication. Unlike a handwritten letter that would be reread and often recopied with an eye to how it looked, our computers (or other devices we use to send messages) lure us into writing and clicking “Send” without a second glance.

That is a luxury that anyone looking for a job, or a favor, cannot afford. You only get one shot at a first impression. Whenever we have a job opening in our ministry, we immediately discard any applications or resumes containing spelling or grammar errors. You are asking us to invest in you by presenting you with our material, yet your email suggests that you weren’t willing to take the time to present yourself at your very best. When you go for a job interview, dress, speak and behave in a way that is above the level for which you are applying. We are sure you could write a better letter, Desmond, which brings up point #2.

2. The twenty-eight words you wrote us reek of hopeless despair.  One of the things most employers seek is a ‘can do’ spirit. We don’t know where you are based, but your letter did not explain that you tried to get our books from your local library or that you live somewhere without access to any such facilities. You didn’t mention offering to trade some work for a small bookstore in exchange for one of our books or using ubiquitous social media to try to swap something you have for one of the books.  The way you phrased your short question leaves us wondering whether you did put much effort into accessing our materials.

Our website offers a plethora of valuable and free teaching in the form of Thought Tools, Ask the Rabbi, videos and other material, yet you don’t indicate that you have made use of that or express gratitude to us for making it available. We don’t need the thanks as much as you need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and appreciation.  Nor do you mention how much time you have spent consuming information that you can easily access. Whenever you go for an interview or ask for a favor, you improve your chances of success if you show that you are familiar with the company where you are interviewing or that you have put effort into doing whatever is in your power to strengthen your case.

3. One of the four resources in our Income Abundance Set is a CD that retails for $10.95. At times, we have offered a download sale for $5. Our books, at times, have been for sale for $15. Can you honestly tell yourself that you are incapable of scraping together that much money? Are you the only one in your family or social group who would benefit from one of our books or could a few people perhaps chip in a few dollars apiece and share a book? Reading and discussing it with others would actually make it more valuable as a resource.

Our ministry regularly donates and gives away books, CDs and DVDs. While we donate to people who we recognize truly have no way to acquire our material on their own, such as incarcerated prisoners, we more frequently give our material as gifts to those we see volunteering their time and effort to worthwhile causes without asking anything in return or to those who, while working for pay, go the extra mile in their job.

The most important piece of advice we can give you is to take charge of your future. View yourself as the active ingredient in changing your life. Do not sit back and wait for others to save you, either through their generosity or through force of government. You can have a different future than your present circumstances suggest, but you are the person who needs to work hard and be creative and resourceful. Presenting yourself to others as unambitious and needy is not the road to success.

We recognize that our answer is not what you had hoped for.  We hope it doesn’t sound harsh and that our genuine desire to help you shines through.  We do think that society and culture today encourage self-pity, a sense of victimization and laziness. We believe that the tough love approach is a more honest and successful pathway. We truly think that our answer provides you with an opportunity to change your thinking and your behavior in ways that will have you writing to us within six month letting us know that you have stepped onto the escalator of success.

Wishing you Godspeed,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Governments Can Be As Immoral As Individuals (or even more!)

February 20th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 5 comments

California is only one of many states that have routinely been neglecting infrastructure maintenance for decades. Why? Surely not for lack of money. After all, California has found money for eye-poppingly expensive boondoggles like the bullet-train to nowhere or economically insane wind farms and solar energy experiments outside of Palm Springs. So why no proper maintenance of gas lines, (see the San Bruno explosion of a few years ago) water lines, and yes, dams. Oroville Dam, in no danger of catastrophic failure, nonetheless has had its twin spillway systems virtually destroyed because needed maintenance over the past two decades has been neglected. Why? For the same reasons that you can drive through certain areas and find neglected and run-down houses being lived in by people who have the money for an expensive car or two sitting in the driveway. It is just more fun buying new stuff than looking after old. For politicians there is far more opportunity for graft and patronage on glitzy new projects than on the decidedly unglamorous work of routine, timely maintenance of older infrastructure and equipment. I discuss this further and show the Biblical morality that is being violated by both government and individuals who neglect the material possessions they have. click here https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show

On Rabbis and Immigration (Guest Musing)

February 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

I am delighted to share my Musing platform with Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt. You will soon hear more about Rabbi Rosenblatt who we are delighted to welcome as director of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC). He shares our passion for and commitment to an America firmly based on Judeo-Christian values. Like us, he is deeply troubled when Judaism is misrepresented as modern liberalism. He was moved to compose the following piece.

On Monday, February 6, some 200 rabbis and rabbinical students protested outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.   19 of them blocked traffic and were arrested for disorderly conduct.  The group was protesting President Trump’s executive order placing a 90-day hold on immigration from seven countries which lack adequate security programs to vet the peaceful nature of visa holders: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Teru’ah, the left-wing rabbinical group that organized the protest, said it was meant to show that many Jews oppose the ban.

“We remember our history, and we remember that the border of this country closed to us in 1924, with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.  We know that some of the language that’s being used now to stop the Muslims from coming is the same language that was used to stop Jewish refugees from coming“, she said. 

As the great-grandson of a rabbi who immigrated to the United States in 1924 because of religious persecution, these words caught my attention.

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If God is in charge, why is my effort necessary

February 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

Question:

If God determines our wealth and marriage partner, is there a point to purchasing a book on how to obtain these?

Tom P.

Answer: 

Dear Tom,

Did you ever watch the 1960s’ TV show Gilligan’s Island? Seven people became castaways when their boat foundered. One of these was known as the Professor. While the show was far from reality TV, the Professor had access to the same raw materials as each of the other stranded passengers. While they fashioned cups out of coconuts and used fronds to fan themselves, he turned the same materials into communication and transportation systems.  We each construct something different with the raw materials assigned to us and what we construct often depends upon what we know.

We do believe that before conception, God declares who our ideal marriage partner is and that each year He decides what our ‘work-multiplier’ is.  That is not the same as handing us those things. Just as one person can turn a one-room apartment into a palace while another can turn a mansion into a prison, we can mess up a relationship with the greatest potential and elevate a relationship that starts out as second-rate.  Without the right knowledge and without having acquired the correct patterns of conduct, we may never meet our divinely assigned partner, or having met her, we might repulse her.  

Similarly, God may allot us a certain ‘work-multiplier‘ meaning that He has decided how much financial abundance each unit of our work will deliver.  But the kind of work we do and how effectively we do it is entirely up to us and those decisions are very much a function of what we know and what best practices we have absorbed. Again, information and wisdom are vital.

So, we would strongly encourage you and, indeed, all of us to treat marriage and wealth acquisition as areas where we constantly want to read, listen and learn how to improve. We should each strive to make the most of what God graciously prepares for us even as we pray for His help in doing so. 

Be a professor,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

May  we suggest starting your search for practical help with our audio CD
Boost Your Income: 3 Spiritual Steps to Success (available by download or by mail)

Lasting Lights

February 14th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

Imagine a room full of shouting people; walls plastered with large sheets of paper covered with scrawls. What is it?  A kindergarten for children with poor social skills?  No, it is a typical brainstorming session.

Originated in the 1940s by advertising man Alex Osborn, brainstorming with its freewheeling tossing out of ideas and absence of criticism, is controversial. Some swear by its effectiveness while others dismiss it as nothing more than entertainment for executives.

I frequently facilitate corporate brainstorming sessions and I’ve also done some rewarding ones with my family. They can work well. However, a certain Torah principle must be followed.  Once ideas and solutions have emerged during the fun period, you’re only halfway through.  The tough process of analyzing, critiquing, and reconciling conflicting ideas must be tackled or the first part was a waste of time.  Expecting to achieve insight without hard work ignores reality. Let’s take a clue from Scripture.

The Torah is divided into 54 sections called Sedras, each with its unique name. A Sedra encompasses a number of Biblical chapters. The chapters as we know them are not part of ancient Jewish wisdom. They were put in place by Archbishop Langton during the 13th century. While the chapters are useful for locating verses in Scripture, they occasionally distort God’s intended divisions. Sometimes, Stephen Langton even presented one chapter as bridging two different Sedras, causing us to miss a shift in focus. Analyzing the original Sedra divisions and their names is a worthwhile endeavor. For instance, only six Sedras have names of people in their titles; 3 who were Jewish and 3 who were not.  In each group, two are righteous and 1 is wicked.  Sarah, Pinchas, and Korach comprise the first group while Noah, Yitro, and Balak make up the second.

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