Posts by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Despicable Names

October 27th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments


Why do some of the names in the Old Testament have such bad meanings?  Can’t they be self-fulfilling prophecies?



What a great question!  We would like to add an explanation for people who are new to ancient Jewish wisdom. We frequently mention, on our TV show and in our resources, that every Hebrew name in Scripture has a meaning. Even relatively little known names provide information about the person or the generation he or she represents. So, as we explain in our audio CD, The Gathering Storm, the names representing the generations spanning Adam to Noah (Genesis chapter 5) tell us what sort of decline was taking place during that era. Your question might refer to someone like NaVaL (or in English, Nabal) from I Samuel: 25 whose name translates as despicable.

As you correctly point out, parents who give a child a name such as that, would start the child off with something of a handicap in life. For this reason, many countries or jurisdictions reserve the right to reject certain names on a birth certificate, while some countries even provide a list of pre-approved names from which parents must choose their baby’s name.

On occasion, Biblical names are Divinely bestowed as in the case of Isaac (Genesis 17:19). His correct name in Hebrew is YiTZCHaK which means ‘and he will laugh.’ Others, such as many of the twelve tribes, are given a name by their mothers or fathers with a specific meaning in mind.

When it comes to someone like NaVaL, we don’t think that is what his parents called him. It is a name that came after the fact and represents how those around him saw him, along the lines of ‘Honest Abe.’ The name is who he is; not a prophecy or prediction given at birth. Perhaps the man NaVaL even celebrated his character and relished that name just as Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili adopted the name Stalin, with its implications of combining the strength of steel (stal) with a tribute to Lenin.

Thanks for keeping us on our toes,

Rabbi Daniel (in Hebrew, God will be my judge) and Susan (in Hebrew, Shoshana- a lily) Lapin

Potatoes and Healthcare

October 26th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Imagine if a world body declared that every country must consume the same quantity of potatoes and rice per capita as every other. No more regional preferences. Whatever is eaten in one region must be embraced everywhere. It would be ridiculous. On the other hand, if a small town made that declaration regarding the families that resided in that town, it would be dictatorial but not as disruptive. The more homogeneous the people and culture of a country, the more socialized its medicine can be. The more varied  the populace, the more of a failure socialized medicine will be. If immigrants through the centuries are a symbol of America’s greatness, they are also one reason that socialism and America are incompatible.

Closing Holy Day

October 23rd, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Sunday night, Oct. 23, starts the final holy day of this Jewish month that is chock-full of festivals. It seems a special gift from God this year, to take extra breaks from listening to the news and views out there. If you’re not Jewish or perhaps you are Jewish but don’t observe these holy days, why not challenge yourself to shut your computer, turn off your radio and talk only to yourself and to those you meet in person for one day a week?  You will most likely find that your level of discourse and thought rises immeasurably.

I Want More Children-My Husband Doesn’t

October 20th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments


Hello, I am 41 with 2 children ages 8 and 10.  I have been begging my husband for a third child for nearly 3 years now and he will not allow it. He says he does not want another child, and I am so upset, angry and heartbroken. I feel like it’s unfair of him to steal my right to procreate and that this is not really his decision. Why does he get what he wants and I am left without?

Please tell me how I can get him to change his mind. I am furious and grieving all at the same time, and it is destroying our marriage.



Dear Marianna,

You sound very desperate and suffering as you long for another baby. If this has been going on for three years, then we can understand that your marriage has suffered.


Thought Tool Update

October 20th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Thanks for your comments about needing a visual. Please check out the Thought Tool again – let us know if the Hebrew visual is helpful.

While we are learning how to take full advantage of our website, one of the things that we are most enjoying is hearing from all of you through the comments section. Being able to easily edit the teaching in response to your comments is an additional treat.

Courage. Faith. Principle

October 14th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

We spent Thursday night with a few hundred Christians who are picking grapes in Israel. Then we met a small group of new Jewish Israeli immigrants on Friday morning. All these people are in the “occupied territory,” a term designed to denigrate them and twist public opinion. How wonderful to be with strong and Godly people. You can catch an interview with some of these people on the current podcast.

I’m Burnt Out

October 13th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments


After a few years of over-working and ignoring the warning signs, I may have reached a “burnout” stage. What used to be easy at work is now difficult; the drive I used to have feels like it has been sapped; and I have noticed a negative change in my attitude. 

Does ancient Jewish wisdom provide any useful information for recovering from “burnout” and metaphorically get back in the saddle?

Justin A.


Dear Justin,

Congratulations on recognizing that ignoring your warning signs resulted in a small problem growing into a larger one. We hope that your words serve as a warning to others not to turn a blind eye to warning signs. (Then there are those people who magnify a bad stretch and put flashing red lights on normal feelings—the opposite of what you did which leads to a different but equally serious problem.)

Imagine if you had physical symptoms that suggested that you were pre-diabetic. At that point, certain lifestyle changes might keep the symptoms from worsening and a full-fledged case developing. However, once your health was severely compromised, it would be much harder to fix.


How should I deal with panhandlers?

October 6th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments


What is your philosophy on panhandlers and what would you recommend one do when the city you’re in encourages people to put their money in change machines (they look like parking meters) supposedly for the purpose of helping the poor instead of giving to panhandlers directly?



Dear John,

May we answer the second part of your question first? Personally, we think that governments are ill-equipped to disperse charity. We would much rather research and choose charities, preferably religious ones, knowing exactly what the philosophy of the charity is, exactly how funds are dispersed, and what percentage of donated money actually goes to the needy. So, we would pass by change machines set up by the city.


October 2nd, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

As we celebrate Rosh HaShana,  the start of the year 5777, we pray that it be a be a year of mercy and blessing.


What to do with a disgruntled member?

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


I am a homeschool mom who is connected to a homeschool community. We meet on a weekly basis. The children are tutored by the moms and are paid. The moms are encouraged to help out and use their talents with organizing field trips, taking photos to create a year book , etc.

 We have a situation where one mom, who was involved very much and due some circumstances after paying full tuition, decided to register her children in a school. In the contract it states that parents after  paying tuition will not get a refund. She is very disappointed because she is treated the same as a parent who did not lift a finger. What is a biblical approach to this case?



Dear S.,

Financial interactions and human interactions are intertwined. While money allows us to work together peacefully, it can also be the source of ill feeling and friction.