Posts by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Should I pay for chores or give an allowance?

March 28th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

 

As my children help with chores around the house, should I reward them for the work done or give an allowance instead?

Thanks,

Doland B.

Answer: 

Dear Doland,

Ask ten parents this question and you will likely receive ten different  answers. Ask one parent at ten different times in his or her children’s life and you will likely receive different answers as well. Enter the words, “Should I pay my child to do chores?” into a search engine and many discussions of allowances will come up as well.

We actually don’t have a horse in this race. We think the important thing is to realize that whatever decisions about finances you make teaches your children some moral message so it is worth your while trying to focus on what messages about family, work and money you want to convey to your child. In our opinion, these should include:

  1. Every member of a family contributes to the functioning and success of that group. Parents and children both fulfill responsibilities because that is what people in a loving group do.  Depending on the children’s ages, make sure they understand that parents don’t just get to do whatever they want either.  Everyone plays a role. The reward is intrinsic. Normal cooperation in keeping the house running, cleaning up after oneself and helping other members of the family are standard and expected behaviors. In the Lord’s language the word for ‘family’ actually means ‘we each serve one another.’
  2. In society money is a medium for gauging how well you are supplying the needs and desires of people. Whichever system you use, you should still encourage a child look for ways to earn money, whether at home or in the neighborhood This means that the child has the option to seek, accept or turn down these jobs and sees the connection between work and having money.
  3. It is important to learn how to manage money including the experience of giving charity, saving, and balancing short and long term desires.
  4. Money mistakes are best made in a safe environment at a young age.

Neither allowances nor money for chores should become a constant source of contention.  The bribe and threat method of parenting is a poor one.  If you find yourself frequently saying things like, “Pick up your toys and I’ll give you a cookie,” or, “If you don’t vacuum you won’t get your allowance,” something is off kilter.

You don’t have to swear fealty to one method; most likely you will adjust whatever you’re doing as time passes and according to specific children’s ages and temperaments. Whichever approach you adopt, try to avoid it appearing capricious. The system that decrees how much they get should be transparent and be treated like a contract.  For instance, if you tell the child she’ll get $3 a week for taking out the trash, and she subsequently misbehaves in some other area,  you can’t punish her by withholding her $3.  You need to find another consequence for her misbehavior.  If you want to institute a system of financial fines for certain behavior, this has to be predefined. You can’t just impose a fine when you can’t think of another response.

Again, depending on age, there are very good financial resources for teaching children about money. Check out our friend, Dave Ramsey.

Like so many aspects of raising children, the work of picturing what you hope to see years down the road helps you make decisions in the present.

Enjoy the journey,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Don’t miss this week’s special pricing on The Genesis Journeys Set! If you are raising children, please take particular note of The Gathering Storm with its discussion of why Noah’s family merited to be  saved with him.

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How much loyalty do I owe my boss?

March 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

Thank you for your valuable insight into how the world really works. It has proven true time and again in my life as you would expect. 

I have been offered a position with a competing company in my industry that pays more and offers a benefit package. In addition my new partner is a harder worker then my current one and also better connected in my city. 

I was hired in my previous position being told that eventually I would be approached like this and would I have the integrity to stay with the company I am currently employed at.

Do I owe my current employer a debt of loyalty since they gave me the position I currently have?

Thanks,

Gregg

Answer: 

Dear Gregg,

Thank you for affirming the value of our teachings in terms of how the world REALLY works!  We love hearing that readers enjoy our work but when people tell us that they found our teachings not merely interesting or enjoyable but actually useful, the fireworks go off for us.

Congratulations on the job offer. It’s always nice to receive validation that your work is recognized. Your letter raises a number of very interesting issues but omits some of the information we’d need to answer your question definitely. Nonetheless, we’ll try to be useful to you.

It isn’t clear to us if your present boss asked you to commit  not to accept an offer from this specific company or to make a general commitment of loyalty. It’s also not clear to us what your response was at the time you were hired.

We’re sure you can see that no employer should ask you for lifetime loyalty. (A commitment never to leave is nonsensical in all circumstances other than marriage.) That would make an employee into a serf, with no ability to better himself. Some firms do have non-compete clauses where employees agree not to join competing firms within a certain location or time. Even these agreements are being regularly challenged in court, because the idea of restricting someone’s free movement is problematic. A company retains good employees by offering inducements such as good working conditions, salary increases and a path to advancement, not by shackling them.

On the other hand, training a new employee is both dollar and labor intensive. An employee often doesn’t earn his salary in terms of adding to a company’s bottom line until a period of time has passed. It is possible that a competing firm has established a legal but unethical policy of poaching newly skilled workers just when they know enough and have enough experience to be valuable in their chosen field.

You aren’t asking us for legal advice, of course. You, admirably, want to do the right thing. We want to emphasize that we reject your current employer’s notion that remaining in this job is a measure of your integrity.  It’s your prerogative to seek to improve your situation always, including by seeking superior employment. In our view, if you gave a general commitment and you have been at your company for a reasonable time, let’s say two years, we think you should feel that you have discharged that commitment.

If, instead, you specifically gave your word not to move to the specific company that has approached you, then we think you should learn a lesson to be more careful with commitments, but that the ability to look yourself in the mirror means that you cannot accept this offer. It all depends upon what commitment you made – but doesn’t everything?

We hope this is helpful.  Let us know what you decide.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Can you give too much?

March 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

Question:

First I would like to say thank you for what you do.

My question is how much is too much when a Christian does good things for others? My mom does so much for people she knows and I am happy about that. But sometimes I feel like she overdoes it. 

I know the Bible say we should help, share and be there for others. How much is too much? 

M.

Answer: 

Dear M.,

Thank you for your thank you. We shortened your submission because it was actually three separate questions and we didn’t have room to answer all three. We  also can’t answer your question specifically for Christians, since that isn’t our sphere of knowledge. What we can do however, is share guidelines from ancient Jewish wisdom.

You don’t say why you think your mother overdoes her acts of kindness nor do you reveal your age. Are you a teenager at home who misses your mother because she is out of the house caring for others instead of sharing time with you? (Of course, adults can desire more time with their mothers as well.) Are you worried about an aging mother damaging her health because she takes care of others while ignoring her own physical needs? Are you concerned that your mother is depleting her bank account and will not be able to cover her rent or insurance payments or are you seeing your inheritance being given away and worried about that? Each of these is a different circumstance. Your concerns may be none of the above.  Without knowing, we’ll do our best to respond with general principles.

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Do I have to become a people person?

March 1st, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Question:

When growing up, it seemed reasonable that some people liked to build and tinker with things as opposed to interacting with other people.  I became an engineer and am quite happy working with things rather than others.  My like-minded brother thinks we should build on our strengths and not be dragged down by spending time trying to eliminate our weaknesses.

I recently was exposed to attachment theory, the bonding to a person’s mother in the first year of life.  There is a category of attachment called avoidant attachment.  People with avoidant attachment generally remember little about their childhood and have relationship difficulties.  I feel this applies to me.  As I understand it, God has preprogrammed development to happen in stages.  Once that stage is passed, it is very difficult to recover it.  As an example, there is a window in which children learn to speak.  If they are deprived from talking with others during this period, then it is almost impossible for them to learn later how to make the necessary sounds used in normal speech.  Similarly, if we did not learn how to have relationships when we were quite young, it seems futile to try and develop that ability when we are older.

My brother and I seem to fall in line with the comment from Linus of Charlie Brown: “I love mankind, it is people I can’t stand.”  Like most (if not all introverts), I find interacting with people to be draining and eventually need to be alone.  My brother is quite content with considering himself a non-people person and feels no need to attend family functions.  I am trying to process the concept that God created man to be relational and that being a non-people person is a “defect” that needs to be corrected.

So my question is what is your thought about being a non-people person?

Richard M.

Answer: 

Dear Richard,

Thank you for writing and expressing your question in such an articulate way. Our guess is that quite a few people will be nodding in agreement as they read your question. 

Without writing a dissertation in response, we would like to explore some of your premises. We agree that God created humans to best and most easily be open to certain things at defined stages of our lives. The example you gave, of acquiring language, is one such reality. However, while we might need to work much harder at another stage of life and possibly never have the same proficiency as we might have developed at the best time, that is very different from saying that we should not even try if a window has passed. 

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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

If God is in charge, why is my effort necessary

February 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 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)

Am I being stopped from fulfilling my potential?

February 7th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

Question:

Can someone in our life redirect our God-given destiny? If this person, with or without any bad intention, succeeds in doing so to us, wouldn’t God’s first plan for us be cancelled?

I’ve been having these problems because in my house my dad often shows a bad temper, and many times his display of anger interferes with my plans. I was often afraid to proceed with my plans due to his anger to our family, including me. It’s like emotional contagion from him. I’m afraid I’m not fulfilling my God-given destiny. Please shed a light to this question.

Filemon G.

Answer: 

Dear Filemon,

Filemon, you don’t say how old you are and so we will try to give an answer that will give you some guidance whether you are a teenager or an adult. Obviously, the younger you are, the fewer choices you may have in what you can do, but no matter what your age you can work on what you think.

We could have a fascinating conversation over the course of many hours as to how free will works if God has a destiny planned for us. What happens to someone who is killed when they are young? Was that their destiny or did the killer’s free will interrupt their destiny? There are thousands of pages of ancient Jewish wisdom on this topic, so instead of a philosophical discussion that can’t even touch the tip of the iceberg, we would like to bring it down to a practical level. 

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My mother is a hard-core Leftist? How can I respect her?

January 25th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 38 comments

Question:

My mother is a hardcore leftist. She views government as a savior. I am completely on the other side- I am a conservative. 

We always crash, argue and go weeks without speaking. (This is WITHOUT talking politics!)  

I understand about Honoring thy Mother and Father- but it seems impossible to build anything with a person whose ideology is destruction. How can I Honor the Lord with this commandment when I have no optimism in having a healthy relationship with her?

Answer: 

Dear Krystle,

For the purposes of this answer, it would make no difference if you were liberal and your mother, conservative.  We aren’t going to discuss the relative virtue of the politics here, but we do want to make the point that having differing world-views can come in many forms. There are many liberals who would say that conservatives have an ideology of destruction. They would point to skepticism on man-made climate change and suggest that Republicans want women to die from back alley abortions. So let’s focus on relationship repair and maintenance.

You say that you “crash, argue and go weeks without speaking,” even when you avoid politics. Since our first suggestion would have been to avoid politics even to the point of not taking the bait if your mother brought up certain topics (covering your mouth with duct tape can be helpful here) it seems that there is something fundamentally troublesome about your relationship. It isn’t only about politics. 

The religious obligation to honor your mother is not synonymous with enjoying her company. Along with any siblings you may have, you must be sure that she has her basic needs met.  The Fifth Commandment also means not contradicting her no matter how provocative or foolish you find her statements.  Ask, inquire, even challenge politely but don’t contradict.  Introduce your viewpoint with the phrase, “I sometimes feel that….”   Avoid presenting her with threats or ultimatums and whenever the conversation first begins to turn awkward or uncomfortable, politely excuse yourself, “I am sorry but I have to leave now.”

Not speaking for weeks on end makes it difficult to be assured that she is basically okay.  While this may not be so important right now, as she ages there is every likelihood that it may become a problem.  For example, you need to know she has food. This doesn’t mean that you must go eat with her, but you do need to be around her enough, or have someone reporting to you, to know what’s going on. 

Certainly, cutting off contact is extreme. Especially if your mother’s social circle is limited, being in touch with you may very well make a huge physical difference in her health. Is there any way you can organize your time together so you spend it at activities such as going to the movies or a concert where you are sharing time but little conversation? Staying home and playing cards or watching TV are other options. Phone calls don’t need to last an hour, but they should be regular. 

In other words, no matter how vehemently you disagree with your mother’s views or dislike her personality, you are going to have to find a way to cope. You need to rally all your creative energies and seek suggestions far and wide to do this in as painless a way as possible. It doesn’t need to be a healthy relationship, but it does have to be a relationship.  

It is just remotely possible that deep down your mother yearns for a normal relationship with you but due to psychological damage or emotional frailties she lacks the ability to communicate that effectively.   If you do both actually want to have a relationship, then some joint counseling might accomplish wonders.  A third party, neutral facilitator or mediator can make an enormous difference in these situations.  With a purposeful program, you might end up with a restored relationship with mom.  Stranger things have happened.

We wish you success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

How do I learn Kabbalah?

January 18th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 46 comments

Question:

I am studying kabbalah.  Last year my kabbalah mentor suggested I buy the Zohar book at close to $400 which I couldn’t afford.  Now, it is selling for $72. They say it is translated in English.  My question is if it will have the same effect of spiritual benefits if it is not in its original language.  Will I be spending my money for nothing.  Thank you!

John R.

Answer: 

Dear John,

We’re going to try to answer this delicately because we are  aware that our answer may dismay you. But you did ask, right? 

Imagine if someone offered you a high-priced pill to solve a physical problem you were having, let’s say high blood pressure, and your blood pressure went down. Did the pill work? It is indeed possible that the pill worked in accordance with well established medical and pharmacological principles.  However it is also possible that the pill  was really a  placebo made from innocuous ingredients.  It was your miraculous human mind and its belief in the efficacy of the pill that was responsible for the health improvement you experienced.   To the chagrin of many, and to the amazement of some doctors, that can and does happen. 

Kabbalah (also known as caballa, kabala, kabbala, Qabala, etc….) is an authentic part of ancient Jewish wisdom. However, we can assure you with no doubt whatsoever  that people who publicly teach it or claim to be teaching it to students who have no solid background in Hebrew, Scripture, Mishnah, Talmud, and Halachah, may be teaching some interesting things but they are not teaching Kabbalah.  

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Are my academic studies a mistake?

January 11th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

Question:

I was wondering what are your thoughts on why modern Universities tend  to support “progressive ideals” and go left. As a conservative on a University completing a postgraduate degree , it seems that  this left leaning culture seems to be increasingly and overtly celebrated on campus. 

Secondly, what is your opinion on the role of a University professor/Academic as a vocation  and how it fits in with the idea that we ought to be obsessively pre-occupied with serving God’s fellow creation? The reason for asking is that the science field I am involved in is largely knowledge/theoretical based rather than service based.

Ken

Answer: 

Dear Ken,

Many excellent books and articles have been written explaining why campuses overwhelmingly tilt Left. They make fascinating reading and we do suggest that if your life is heavily campus-based, you delve into this subject.

In brief, however, as I often explain on my podcast ( https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show ) there are basically only two lenses to reality. One is God-centric and humble while the other is arrogant and secular-materialistic. The former says we’re on this lonely planet because God put us here while the latter takes the position that we’re here by a random accident that makes us nothing more than super-sophisticated chimpanzees.

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