We are delighted that you are visiting us online and hope you spend some time looking around. In honor of the Sabbath our office and store will be closed from sunset on Friday night through Saturday evening (Pacific time).

Murder in Tennessee

December 1st, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 thoughts on “Murder in Tennessee”

I was heartbroken, as indeed every decent person should be, at the murder of six Tennessee schoolchildren last week. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of heartbreaking news and this quickly disappeared off the national news headlines. This specific incident, though, haunted me. I was also angered at how little attention it received.

Here are the basics. A speeding Chattanooga school bus was driven off its designated route; it overturned and slammed into a tree. So far six children have died with many others injured. Going back months, there are numerous records of parents and students lodging complaints against the driver, Johnthony Walker, for reckless driving as well as for cursing and threatening the students on his bus. The school’s principal also brought her concerns to the attention of school officials. Walker, too, made numerous complaints, clearly showing himself to be unhappy with his work.

I understand that in legal terms the driver is being charged with vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving, rather than murder. That doesn’t cut it for me in human terms. We have an extremely unsatisfactory situation that was kicked down the road until it exploded in tragedy. Now, after deaths and injuries, it received its ten minutes of media attention, producing no outcries from President Obama and evading the interest of the chattering media class. The parents, the teachers and the principal who saw how unfit the driver was are surely guilt and grief-stricken. This will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

What about the rest of us? Why did this move off the front page so quickly? Does anyone doubt that had the driver been white, the president and press would be shouting from the rooftops about how racism (and Donald Trump and the Republican Party) were guilty of these deaths? If the driver shot the children instead of causing the bus to crash, the president and press would relentlessly focus on this incident.

Yet, because the liberal hobgoblins aren’t found in this case, this isn’t worthy of attention. Shouldn’t we be asking how it is that someone who should have been immediately fired when the complaints against him were verified was still entrusted with children’s lives? Shouldn’t we be asking if he was still driving because of union rules, fears of lawsuits or any other legal handcuffs placed on the wrists of the school district? Shouldn’t we be telling parents that in the final analysis they should not place their trust in teachers, principals and schools but need to protect their children themselves? Shouldn’t we be demanding to know what requirements exist for anyone working in the public school system whether as a bus driver, janitor or teacher? Shouldn’t the Black Lives Matter protesters who have all the time in the world to object to November’s election results, claim that the six lives of these Black children matter too? Shouldn’t we ask whether there are tools that parents in a wealthy district would have had at their disposal had a  similarly unfit driver been uncovered?

Millions of parents around this country entrust their children to the government educational system. All too often they get little education. Is it too much to ask that at the very least their physical lives should be protected?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Little Book of Definitions (I’m sure you have more!)

December 1st, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 thoughts on “Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Little Book of Definitions (I’m sure you have more!)”

FAIR —   Allowing a significant proportion of the population to live off money earned by other people

GREED—Wanting to keep my own money that I earned and use it as I choose

COMPASSION—Politicians confiscating my money and giving it to chosen recipients in exchange for votes

CHARITY—Me giving as much of my money as I choose to recipients I choose to consider worthy without government as a middleman

Is My Gut Instinct Right or Wrong?

November 30th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 thoughts on “Is My Gut Instinct Right or Wrong?”

Question:

I have a question about dating.  I am a old fashioned kind of guy in a modern world.  I am a millennial, but I like the old fashioned way of doing things.  I am at conflict a lot in relationships because of this.  

One of the more recent conflicts involves whether or not me and my girlfriend should be at each others places, alone.  We each live alone, and could visit each other whenever, but I wonder if that is a good idea, or if we should keep the dating in the public space, as that might be more appropriate for Christian dating.  I need to know what is proper, and what might be overdoing it on my part and being too restrictive.  I appreciate your help.  

Justin

Answer: 

Dear Justin,

Thank you for being an old-fashioned guy; we don’t see ‘old-fashioned’ as pejorative. Au contraire it is a tribute and our daughters along with countless Godly young women also see it this way.  This country needs more old fashioned gentlemen. 

By proactively thinking about how you and your girlfriend should behave now, you are setting the foundation for a successful relationship in the future, or alternatively for ending a relationship without unnecessary hardship and regrets. Either of these are satisfactory outcomes.

Ancient Jewish wisdom includes a timeless truth known as yichud. That Hebrew word derives from the root of togetherness. Yichud stipulates that men and women who aren’t immediate family members should not be secluded together. 

Because our society is so clueless when it comes to male/female relationships, we published Gila Manolson’s book on the topic. She makes the point in Hands Off: This May Be Love! that there are many psychological and physiological benefits to understanding the power of touch and confining touch to marriage.  One point she makes, convincingly in our  opinion, is that training oneself to desexualize attraction has its own dangers. Yet, what else can a couple do if they commit to not sleeping together but put themselves in isolated circumstances where that would be a natural urge?  You are training your beings not to react to one another—hardly a good idea. That is exactly what you and your girlfriend would be doing by visiting each other’s apartments. You would lose if you betray your standards, but you also lose by living up to them. In other words, we think that your concern is extremely valid and believe that you are showing intuitive wisdom.

On behalf of all old-fashioned gentleman,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

In Front of the Eight Ball

November 29th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 20 thoughts on “In Front of the Eight Ball”

“Rabbi Lapin, please stop talking and writing about money; all you’re doing is perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes!”  This was the phone call I received a while ago from the head of one of the Jewish organizations concerned with anti-Semitism.  Knowing it was futile, I still recommended that he worry more about Moslems than about me.

“Rabbi Lapin, I love your weekly email messages but I get really turned off by the commercial message. I know you have to advertise, but it detracts from the spiritual high you give me.”  This was an email I received from a long-time reader of our work.  I responded by explaining how making money can be as much a way of serving God as worship is. I suggested that her attitude really placed her ‘behind the eight ball’ financially.  Hoping she wouldn’t be too put-off by another advertisement, I recommended she read Thou Shall Prosper for the full explanation

Then I assured her that I would write more on the topic. Here it is.

Compare these two verses and see if you can spot the subtle but significant distinction.

Abram took his wife, Sarai, and Lot, his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired…
(Genesis 12:5)

Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he possessed—and Lot was with him…
(Genesis 13:1)

Both journeys involved three people: Abraham; his wife Sarah; and his nephew Lot.  Both trips also involve Abraham’s wealth.  The main difference is that on the first journey Lot was wholeheartedly with his relatives, Abraham and Sarah.  By the second journey, the text indicates that Lot was more attracted to the wealth than to his uncle and aunt.  Looking at the arrangements of words in that verse, one could say that the possessions came between Abraham and Lot.

We are not shocked when five verses later we read of growing disagreement between the establishments of Abraham and Lot.

And the land did not bear them to dwell together, for their possessions were many, and they could not dwell together.
(Genesis 13:6)

The Hebrew root word for substantial possessions, ReCHuSH, appears exactly eight times throughout the Abraham story.

ר  כ  ש
SH   CH  R

Before we examine the meaning of the number eight, let’s identify one other phrase that appears eight times in the Abraham account.

And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba…And Abraham arose from before his dead, 
and he spoke to the sons of Het
(Genesis 23:2-3)

And the sons of Het answered Abraham…
(Genesis 23:5)

And Abraham arose and prostrated himself…to the sons of Het
(Genesis 23:7)

During the account of Abraham’s negotiation with the sons of Het for a burial plot, they are referenced eight times.  It is clearly deliberate since some of the mentions could have been replaced with a pronoun or omitted.

Mentioning sons of Het eight times is interesting because the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the letter named Het, whose assigned numerical value is, yes, eight.

ח

So, Abraham’s wealth and his largest expenditure are both referenced eight times. Furthermore, he hands over a substantial slice of his assets to people named, “Sons of Eight.”

We need to know what the number eight signifies in Biblical thought.  An important Biblical tool is knowing that the first mention of something in Scripture is a good place to search for that thing’s essential meaning.

And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
(Genesis 21:4)

In ancient Jewish wisdom, circumcision represents humans partnering with God to build His world. God created man, but we humans improve man by removing his foreskin.You won’t be surprised that the Hebrew word for oil, SHeMeN, spells out the number eight.  God creates oil, but it is valueless until man extracts its energy by burning it.

Abraham was the first human to accumulate wealth and the first person to invest some of that wealth in real estate.  By being mentioned exactly eight times, both activities hint at a partnership with God. Like so many other important Biblical insights, this is counterintuitive.  Left to our own, we tend to think of making and investing money as somehow unGodly, unBiblical, or at the very least, decidedly unspiritual. In reality, money is one avenue in which we partner with God to improve His world.

This is an appropriate time to discuss the number eight as we approach the holiday of Chanuka – the only festival designated for eight days. The implications of this holiday for our modern lives are mind-boggling and largely revolve around the numbers eight and twenty-five. If you’d like to hear more, listen to our audio CD Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence Into a 25/8 Life. This isn’t ancient history; it is living revelation and the CD is available now at a holiday sale price.

Festival of Lights_white bg

The Most Protected Minority In The United States

November 29th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 8 thoughts on “The Most Protected Minority In The United States”

The late unlamented Abdul Razak Ali Artan was one of the over 75,000 Somali Moslems resettled in America by President Obama.  He chose to repay his new country’s hospitality and graciousness by trying to kill as many of his fellow Ohio residents as possible. Predictably, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are utterly clueless as to what his motive may have been.   Oddly enough, no such reticence seems to have afflicted law enforcement in the hours following Dylann Roof’s shooting spree in Charleston. Then they knew instantly that his racist hatred of African Americans was responsible. Why were authorities comfortable attributing the Charleston event to an evil ideology but they are obviously very uncomfortable attributing the Columbus event to an equally evil ideology?   Well, you all know the answer don’t you?  Why?

Give Thanks!

November 24th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 0 thoughts on “Give Thanks!”

Wishing everyone a gratitude-filled and wonderful Thanksgiving.

If You Give a Homeschooler Some Salt

November 23rd, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 18 thoughts on “If You Give a Homeschooler Some Salt”

If you have avoided children for the past thirty years, you may not be familiar with the classic book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. This popular tale, written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, reveals a probable chain of events familiar to us all. If you give a mouse a cookie he might want a glass of milk; the glass of milk might lead to a request for a straw and so on and so forth until the mouse’s desires loop back to requesting another cookie. We’ve all been there, whether with mice, children or ourselves. How many of us have upgraded an outfit, room or website only to discover that the new and improved look compels us to upgrade another and then another item?

This just happened to me. I decided to clean out my pantry and discovered a ridiculous amount of salt. I know how this came about – I don’t cook with salt very much yet I buy new boxes of both table and kosher salt (which describes the size of the crystals, not its kosher status) for Passover each year. Since we never finish these containers, they pile up.

These days, salt is not an expensive item. Even so, I was reluctant to simply throw it away. I texted my two daughters asking if they wanted salt to make relief maps with their children who are in a homeschool geography club. I should have known better. I got an immediate response saying what a wonderful idea it would be if I would make relief maps with the girls. That of course led to searching for videos on how to actually make the salt dough and finding printable maps of Washington and Maryland, the girls’ respective assignments. I needed to pull out paint and scissors and run to the store for flour as well. Since two of my darling granddaughters were already coming over, they might as well stay for supper so I put up a batch of macaroni and cheese which, incidentally, called for a pinch of salt.

I may not be crazy about mice, but if you give a retired homeschooling mother some salt, she will think of an educational project which will lead to enjoying her blessings. Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

img_1034

I Want to Switch Jobs

November 22nd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 thoughts on “I Want to Switch Jobs”

Question:

I enjoyed your book Thou Shall Prosper. I am looking for any suggestions regarding the frustrations I am having with getting a job. My degree is in engineering and I have worked several jobs as both a sales engineer and technical support person. I don’t like engineering! My family coaxed me to do engineering. 

I have also owned two businesses in landscape design and supply. Both of which I sold. I recently tried two technical sales support positions and I did not enjoy either one. I enjoy customer support but no longer enjoy the technical side. Any suggestions?

Cori Z.

Answer: 

Dear Cori,

We had to laugh reading your question because, it could have been written by me! (Rabbi Daniel, not Susan) I also went into engineering after being encouraged to do so by my family. I guess they hoped there might be a redeeming economic value to the mischievous and disruptive contraptions I engineered that got me thrown out of several schools.

While I do have an aptitude for engineering, I was miserable working in that field because I was working with things rather than with people.

I had also started and sold a business, in my case a boat-building company. In other words, I feel your pain.

Then I went into sales. And I loved it! Every encounter was another opportunity to get to know another person.  Winning a customer was just another way of helping another human.

It sounds that, like me, you prefer working with people to working with things.  Like me, you have probably also discovered that once you have learned how to sell and are comfortable doing so, it is relatively easy to change what you are selling or for whom you are selling it.

(Both of us again)  Any company should be interested in someone who walks through the door and announces, “I will bring in more sales revenue for less than it will cost you to hire me.”  If you are good at sales, a commission based income is better than a salary. While you may need to start out with much less than you hope to earn, increasing your income is in your own hands.

The important thing is to sell a product or service in which you truly believe and that you are passionate about. We are not saying you should seek only fields for which you have enthusiasm and passion.  We are saying find the right people and product to work with or for and then devote yourself to developing passion for what you are selling.

In this area, we don’t know a better teacher than our dear, departed friend, the late Zig Ziglar, who work is carried on so ably by his son, Tom. Buy their training resources and absorb them into your very bloodstream.

If you are working for a company, you should make sure that you agree with the company’s core values and are confident the relationship will be one of integrity. For us, we began sharing ancient Jewish wisdom, first with Jews who had not been exposed to it and later with Christians who had lost that part of their heritage. That has been our passion for many years now.

We hope you can follow a similar path by finding the intersection of a need that your fellow human beings have and your passion to cater to that need. As a bonus, please be assured that understanding how the physical world works through the lens of engineering will really be useful in other areas of your life.

Finally, we want to suggest gently that for the young person you sound like, the six positions you have already worked at is a few too many. (Unless we’re wrong and you are describing a sixty year career!) Please, commit yourself soon to a job and don’t even consider quitting until you’ve been successful at it. We think that by that time, you will be enjoying it immensely.

Wishing you success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Hope!

November 22nd, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 thoughts on “Hope!”

Extreme views beget extreme views – and they also catch media attention. But some people are actually able to think for themselves and express themselves rationally. Kudos to Steven Van Zandt (I admit to not being familiar with his name but he’s a well-known guitarist) for calling out the cast of Hamilton for dressing down Vice-president elect Pence at the conclusion of a performance that Mr. Pence attended. Mr. Van Zandt was clear as to his opposition to the Trump-Pence team, but eloquent and above all, fair and thoughtful in his words. Unfortunately, the actor who read the rebuke to Mr. Pence, missed the point. Still, it is nice to see an attempt to pierce through the holier-than-thou attitude that assumes that rude, inappropriate behavior is o.k. as long as it is liberal.

Bouncing Back from Failure

November 22nd, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 29 thoughts on “Bouncing Back from Failure”

One of the big reasons that some people flourish while others just remain frustrated by their painful circumstances is shame.  Shame about failing or about having failed.  The mortification is painful enough to prevent any further attempts.

Of the hundreds of world cultures identified and studied by the great social anthropologist, Joseph Daniel Unwin, by far the majority associate failure with shame.  Feeling embarrassment and shame after failure is common precisely because it is the normal and natural reaction to failure.  Normal and natural it may be but that doesn’t mean that we should regard it as acceptable.  Many things are normal and natural yet we correctly confine them to the private.  Similarly, a private sense of humiliation upon failure is certainly normal and natural.  But rising above those feelings is our human challenge.

(more…)