Posts by 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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Once Again

January 9th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Chana Beri lost her son Meir during the Yom Kippur war.

She lost her grandson Moshe during the Lebanon War.

Now, she lost her great-grandson Erez Orbach in a terror attack in Jerusalem.

May his memory, and that of his fellow murdered soldiers, be for a blessing and may we merit to live in peace. Amen.

Am I depriving someone of a job

January 4th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

Question:

I read an article in the newspaper which mentioned that older workers need to retire at 55 so that young people can get jobs. Am I depriving youngsters from getting jobs?

Siti

Answer: 

Dear Siti,

The short and simple answer is NO. The article you read ignores the fact that God created each and every one of us as unique individuals with unique contributions to make to society. Your job is to continue working and adding value to the life of others.

God didn’t put Adam in The Garden to work it only until a younger person who needed a job came along. A growing garden means jobs for all who wish to work. What is more, it is a common fallacy to think that a person with years of experience behind him can be replaced by a young first-time-job-seeker. Not true.

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Should I get life insurance?

December 28th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 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.”

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.

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