Three Cheers for Generation Z

February 23rd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 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. 

What I saw on their website was a fair dose of social and political indoctrination. I saw articles that will sow confusion in teen lives that have enough inherent confusion due to hormonal and psychological changes. I saw the expected amount of consumerism. I looked for empowerment and realized that I have no idea what that word means.

Is empowerment perhaps a substitute for self-esteem? The self-esteem movement has withered. Studies showed that criminals ranked higher in self-esteem than law-abiding citizens. So did American schoolchildren, who thought of themselves as proficient in math and English despite doing less well on tests in those subjects than schoolchildren from other countries.  Those foreign students who did not consider themselves outstanding easily outscored the Americans. Self-esteem produced a cadre of people who spoke well of themselves rather than behaving in ways that would produce self-respect as well as generate respect from others. 

Has the self-esteem movement morphed into the empowerment movement?  Does empowerment mean being the best you can be or making sure that others cannot succeed? Is it defined as being able to do whatever you want no matter the cost to anyone else? Does it mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people or something completely different at a hundred different times? 

Looking at Teen Vogue, like looking at so many other parts of our culture, can be depressing. Listening to voices like Autumn reminds me that there are many teens and young adults who are rebelling far more than a left-leaning, jump onto the latest bandwagon magazine is. They are actually willing to stand against the tide to fight the hedonistic, secular culture. They  are articulate and outspoken messengers for empowerment in the best sense of the word.

If you know a teen whose life perspective comes from magazines like Teen Vogue, comedy apps and left-leaning teachers, make sure you provide a counterpart. Here’s one suggestion that will spark non-conformist thinking as well as opening up a valuable conversation.

Order by Mail


Gender and Geography

February 22nd, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 27 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?

I know of course that, prodded by secular fundamentalists in academia, politics and entertainment, American culture is trying to indoctrinate us into accepting that gender is of no significance.  But why is joining this nonsensical crusade important enough for NatGeo to risk destroying a 125 year legacy?

The colossal cultural canyon cutting across this country divides those who believe the Bible is God’s Message to mankind from those who believe it to be no more than a repressive anachronism.  Those who soothingly concede it to be a ‘literary masterpiece’ are actually on the latter side of the debate.  Since the Bible is best defined as God’s depiction of how the world REALLY works, the debate underpinning nearly all political and cultural arguments can be defined this way.  One side believes that there is a reality that includes many unchangeables, immutably implanted in human nature, while the other side insists that all can be changed.

Naturally, for the secular fundamentalist, if God is not the Ultimate Power, then human beings must be.  Furthermore, anything the Bible decrees, is by definition wrong if not actually evil.  This helps explain seeming paradoxes such as that most people who oppose the death penalty also support abortion.  The explanation is simple; the Bible supports capital punishment and opposes abortion.

The irrational cultural fury against smoking is explained by the desire to demonstrate moral virtue by discovering a secular sin.  The Bible prohibits suicide and discourages all activities that damage the body though it does not explicitly prohibit smoking.  Not surprisingly, a secular fundamentalist culture encourages euthanasia (or assisted suicide), but fiercely fights tobacco.

Rejection of reality is a paramount characteristic of the belief system that I call secular fundamentalism.  Anyone with eyes in their head (and without an advanced degree) knows that the nuclear family unit works best.  Not only does it produce the best children and future citizens but it promotes societal stability and prosperity.  But the Bible advocates for the basic unit of society to be a man and woman united in monogamous marriage along with the children they raise.  Therefore, the obvious position for secular fundamentalism to adopt is implacable hostility toward the traditional family.

Again, most people whose souls haven’t been scarred by six or seven years in a university know that all of history but particularly the recent 20th century proves that large government running a centrally controlled economy doesn’t work.  But secular fundamentalism routinely rejects reality.  What is more, the Bible teaches a system of religious morality informing a free market system of what I call ethical capitalism.  Thus it is inescapable that a secular fundamentalist culture must promote a progressive agenda tending to socialism.

Finally, and most importantly, the Bible entirely ignores skin color as a distinction between humans but no more than only three hundred words into its total of nearly half a million words, it unequivocally establishes male and female genders as the fundamental difference in humans.  Male and female He created them.  Naturally, secular fundamentalism has to take the opposite position.  Defiantly screaming “Gender Revolution” is secular fundamentalism’s response to the Biblical, “Whoever is for the Lord, come with me” (Exodus 32:26)

Thank you National Geographic.  You always teach me something.  While you were still faithful to your original stated mission, “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” you taught me about world geography.  Now that you have abandoned that mission in the hope of being admired by the world of secular fundamentalism, your recent issue helps me understand that almost all of so-called modern culture is based on rejection of the Bible and its values.

This means that much of modern culture is based on rejection of reality.  Succumbing to this culture of secular fundamentalism that permeates almost every corner of our environment can disconnect us from our instinctive tie to reality. This will almost certainly inflict real damage upon our relationships and upon our finances.  Meanwhile, a reliable anchor to reality remains the Bible.  The more of it we absorb and the more clearly we grasp its inner meaning, the more firmly will be our link to reality and the more reliable and effective will be our actions and pronouncements.

Societies do fail. History is full of examples and Genesis lays out the steps that led to the first such failure at the time of the Flood. Much is obscured by an English reading.   I recommend that you avail yourself of the benefits from the insights of ancient Jewish wisdom. You will be better prepared to confront the realities of today’s challenges if you learn this section thoroughly. You can do so with The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah, a 2 audio CD set. Both the download and physical versions are on sale this week making it an appropriate time to begin your study.

The Gathering Storm

I can’t afford your books.

February 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 49 comments


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


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 4 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

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.


If God is in charge, why is my effort necessary

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


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

Tom P.


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.


Was Pres. Trump Wrong To Critique Judge Robart? It Depends…

February 9th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

We always opposed so-called Hate Crime Legislation enacted under President Clinton in 1994. Whether in favor or against, you’d have to agree that it allows the state to impose different penalties upon two people who committed the identical crime based entirely on what the government decided was in a citizen’s mind. It is usually only God who knows what is in a person’s heart and mind. We humans have the capacity to judge only one another’s actions.
The collapse of this principle has now brought us to this time when the same action condoned when perpetrated by a Democrat is roundly condemned when done by a Republican.
In his State of the Union address in January 2010, President Obama, in an unprecedented breach of decorum, harshly criticized and insulted the Supreme Court to the faces of the six justices sitting right in front of him. There was almost no press criticism of the president.
Recently President Trump issued a tweet critical of a Seattle District Judge who had just issued a ruling against him unlikely to stand. His 140 characters unleashed a firestorm of press protest.
We think that the only people entitled to condemn President Trump’s tweet are the few people who similarly condemned President Obama’s far worse finger in the eye of the entire Supreme Court in 2010.
Either the behavior of insulting the judiciary is wrong or it isn’t. The answer should not depend upon the political affiliation of the perpetrator.

Wanna Talk About Me

February 9th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 35 comments

Toby Keith’s country music song, I Wanna Talk About Me always makes me laugh. It stops being funny when it isn’t about a guy who says to his girlfriend, “I like talking about you, you, you, usually, but occasionally I wanna talk about me,” and instead represents the plea of children to the adults in their lives.

We live in strange times. Many parents are clueless. In the 1940s, Mama’s Bank Account was a popular book. Renamed as I Remember Mama it became a movie, play and TV show. It was a peek into author Kathryn Forbes’ Norwegian grandparents’ lives as they raised a family in the United States. The title story, if memory serves me correctly, was how her grandmother frequently spoke about a bank account that could be accessed in an emergency, thus providing her children with a sense of financial security. Only when the children grew up did they find out that there wasn’t really any savings account and how vulnerable they truly had been.

Many adults today similarly work to provide their children with a feeling of safety. The mother whose checkbook is running low but whose children see her putting money in the Salvation Army bucket isn’t only modeling charitable giving. She is reassuring them that they are fortunate enough to help others rather than alarming them about their own financial difficulties. The father who presents a confident face to his young children despite privately worrying about being laid off, allows them to focus on their schoolwork rather than on fear.

And then there are the, “I wanna talk about me,” parents and teachers. Sometimes, they are simply careless, speaking about adult matters within earshot of children. Or they just might not have the self-control to regulate their emotions during tough times. Most of us can relate to those scenarios, though hopefully we work on ourselves to do better.  Other parents and teachers are more problematic and need to be called out.

They are the adults who misuse the children in their lives for their own aims, often political.  Teachers have their students write letters to politicians opposing anti-union measures. School projects are based on environmental fears. Assignments present complex issues as one-sided and terrifying. In the anti-logging political environment of Washington State in the 90s, some parents had to deal with sensitive children’s night terrors where youngsters pictured loggers armed with menacing chainsaws coming after them.

What brought this Pacific northwest memory to mind was reading a quote from one African-American mother as to why she participated in the women’s march opposing President Trump. She spoke of her daughter’s fears that they would be deported to Africa. Now, this was not an illegal immigrant from Ghana; the implication was that this was a multi-generational American citizen. If her daughter was truly afraid of deportation that means that the adults in that child’s life are responsible for that fear. Whether it is the mother, teachers, or friends’ parents, these adults are ignorant and need to better educate themselves. Alternatively, they deliberately play into lies in order to advance their own political philosophies. Meanwhile, a child is needlessly terrified.

This is not a Right/Left issue. I am a pro-life proponent, yet I object to posters that show dismembered babies at public rallies  because they don’t belong where children can see them. No one should deliberately place  horrible images in a child’s mind. Likewise, I  would object to a teacher assigning letters to a politician pleading for refugees not to be let into America because students are worried about being blown up by terrorists. Terrifying children is a particularly unwholesome activity.

We walk a fine line between educating our children about issues of the day and passing on our own convictions, and betraying our trust as their guardians. Even when real and immediate danger is present, thrusting our fears onto our children’s fragile shoulders is wrong.  Certainly, using them as political pawns is indefensible.

Am I being stopped from fulfilling my potential?

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


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.


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.