Flag Day

June 14th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

A number of rulings that have to do with the American flag have been handed down by the Supreme Court on June 14th, Flag Day, in different years. Wouldn’t it be interesting to re-read the arguments and imagine if certain Justices would rule differently were they to have seen down the road? Would those who dissented from the majority opinion wish they had agreed and vice-versa? Wishing you a respectful Flag Day.

Horrified or Amused?

June 14th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

While some people may be concerned about N. Korea or Iran, in the really important news of the week, Netflix banned employees from looking at each other for more than five seconds. Asking a co-worker out more than once is similarly discouraged and, after having been turned down, every effort should be made to avoid that colleague. At about the same time, the National Health Service in England is preparing to diagnose a teenager with its first case of internet addiction and studies show an unprecedented number of U.S. college students are seeking mental health counseling.

While all this was going on, one of our daughters went to enroll her young son in a new school. To her amusement and horror, most of the forms she was asked to fill out overwhelmingly asked about her child’s therapies and special needs. She felt like apologizing for his being a rather uncomplicated kid.

When did normal human interaction and run-of-the-mill childhood become unconventional?  Have we seriously become incapable of differentiating between discomfort and true harassment or of taking responsibility for creating many of the problems we then turn to government and officialdom to solve?

Netflix, and entertainment in general, produce and present media that overwhelmingly revolve around violence or romantic involvement. Sophomoric humor abounds, much of it relating to behavior between the sexes. Sexual interplay between unmarried adults is presented as completely normal and natural. Perhaps employing some internal censorship to produce old-fashioned value-laden shows would be more effective than bulking up the employee instruction manual?

Some individuals have always faced more serious emotional challenges, but it seems to me that we should be worrying less about man-made global warming and instead focusing more on man-made psychological dysfunction. Parents in the 1940s kept their children away from swimming pools in the hope of shielding them from the polio virus. What should parents do today to increase their odds of raising mentally and morally healthy youth and  swim upstream from a culture designed to produce the opposite?  Should Netflix’s new rules simply be laughed at and headline grabbing dysfunction ignored as millions of parents are actually doing just fine? Are N. Korea and Iran a more serious threat than the suicide of western civilization?  Or are things actually better than they seem and are the sensational headlines (to employ a frequently used phrase) just fake news and easily refuted by spending time with one’s rather normal friends and relatives? 

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What is ancient Jewish wisdom?

June 12th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

I read your books and listen to many of your on-line teachings very often. My question is: What is “Ancient Jewish Wisdom”?  Is it something like common sense for a Jew or a way of thinking  based on discussions among Jewish teachers or is it actual books that you are referencing. The reason for my question is to explain your teachings to others in my circle. How do I reference this source, if my main tool is the Bible.

Shami M.

Dear Shami,

We mention ancient Jewish wisdom so often that our first instinct was to go to the FAQ (frequently asked question) section on our website and then direct you there. We were a bit shocked to find that we don’t have an answer posted. You can be sure that most of this letter will find its way to that location.

We coined the term ancient Jewish wisdom to describe the oral tradition that has accompanied the written Bible since the time of Moses. God dictated the Bible to Moses during the daylight hours on Mount Sinai and during the nights he drilled the great teacher of Israel on the hidden meanings and multi-layers found in every letter and word.  Throughout the Bible there are “hooks” that remind us to look to the oral tradition. These include words that seem to be misspelled, contradictions, unusually shaped letters and unusual words, numerical values of words and so much more.

All that material was taught to the Israelites during the forty years in the desert, history’s longest graduate school program.  From them it was handed down, parent to child and teacher to disciple. About two thousand years ago it began to be written down in an extremely abbreviated shorthand form for fear of it becoming forgotten. It is studied and taught in traditional Torah-oriented Bible seminaries till today.

Obviously, there are challenges, such as technological ones that did not exist generations ago. In her book, Daniel Deronda, author George Eliot refers to the rabbis as “the great Transmitters,” a phrase that we treasure. One very valid way to judge the degree to which a rabbi is a reliable source of knowledge is to ascertain how faithful his ‘transmission’ is to the past, and who his link to that transmission is. Examples and delivery can be updated and modernized, but not the essence of the teaching itself. Anything valid must conform to knowledge that is based on God’s transmission to Moses.

Originality, defined as completely new ways of thinking, is not prized in ancient Jewish wisdom; faithfulness and fidelity are.  Delivery and application of ideas can be updated, but not the basic source of the wisdom. One of the most important questions to ask a rabbi is, “Who is your rabbi?”.  In this system, a teacher (or rabbi) is seen as a window into ancient Jewish wisdom.  He should barely be seen; only the view beyond the window should stand out in 3D multicolor clarity.  If the window can be seen, it means that window is not completely clean.

A surprising amount of ancient Jewish wisdom disseminated into the Christian community and became part of what we call the Western world. One could literally spend a lifetime studying and not absorb the entire blueprint of existence that flows from the Torah. Without knowledge of Hebrew and without a link to someone in the chain of transmission, it is not knowledge that one can intuit or reach by means of reasoning or common sense. Often the truth is counter-intuitive and in contradiction to current thinking.

There are excellent resources and, unfortunately, terrible ones out in the greater world. At Lifecodex Publishing and at the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, our mission is to share important parts of this transmission and to arm those who are faithful to God with a deeper understanding of His wishes and His guidance to us.

We appreciate your joining us on this journey.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Fill Your Basket

June 11th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Before we can achieve great things we have to be able to picture great things. Someone whose parents constantly fought doesn’t know that family life can be conducted in pleasant and calm tones. A person who only knows hourly wage-earners can’t imagine acquiring a position with a large monthly salary.  Accepting your current circumstances as your normal, ongoing reality is a terrible trap.

Who would have blamed the Israelites for accepting their nomadic lifestyle as normal?  After two hundred years of slavery, followed by forty years wandering around a desert, how could they picture themselves becoming independent landowners?

Every Israelite should have dismissed the words of Moses as hopeless fantasy when he said to them:

And it shall be when you come into the land that the
Lord your God gives you as an inheritance…
(Deuteronomy 26:1)

What made them accept the vision of their own Promised Land without skepticism?

The secret is that Moses presented them with a vision, not a fantasy. He didn’t promise a utopian future divorced from reality; he let them know that with blessing comes challenge and responsibility. That was believable. He not only promised them their Promised Land and its abundant harvests, but he also revealed the duties and obligations that would be theirs along with the abundance. 

In the future, they will take their first fruits, put them into a basket, and take them on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In other words, as recipients of God’s blessing they must acknowledge Him as the source of that blessing and welcome the obligation to follow His ways.

That first fruits ceremony is described in Deuteronomy 26:1-11. A real attention-getter jumps off the Hebrew page—a rare word for basket.  The word ‘basket’ appears about twenty times throughout Scripture and most times the Hebrew word used is sahl.

ס   ל

L ← ha ← S

…and the birds were eating them from the basket…
(Genesis 40:17)

In our first fruits passage, the word basket appears twice (Deuteronomy 26: 2&4) but the word used is not sahl but the very unusual word, teneh.

ט   נ   א

he ← N e ← T

The letter samech, pronounced ‘S’ in the first word, sahl (basket) is shaped like a closed circle.  Not only is the word sahl missing in the first fruits passage but amazingly, there is no appearance of the letter samech in all those eleven verses.  The verse immediately preceding contains a letter samech (Deuteronomy 25:19) and a few verses later (Deuteronomy 26:18) we spot a samech.  While samech is not one of the most frequently used letters, here an unusual Hebrew word is employed in order to avoid introducing the letter samech in the more common word for basket. Why is it so important that the whole first fruits passage should not contain that letter?

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the fully enclosed circular shape of the letter samech hints of boundaries and limitations. These have no place in a passage filled with God’s promise of limitless abundance.  For this reason, teneh replaces sahl to signify a veritable cornucopia of plenty. But along with being able to envision God’s ability to deliver abundance, one has to recognize that responsibility accompanies that gift, signified by the bringing of the first fruits.

Never view your today as your inevitable tomorrow.  But merely fantasizing about a tomorrow with health, wealth, and love is unrealistic and entraps you in an unchanging today.  Envision your promised land without limits but with accompanying obligations.  Make a specific plan with strategic steps, each of which is another obligation on the road to a better future, but don’t limit your picture of that future. Convert hopeless fantasies into energizing visions by eagerly anticipating the responsibilities that will accompany God’s bounty.

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Needlessly Offensive?

June 7th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 41 comments

I got called on the carpet—very politely and graciously—but called on the carpet nonetheless. The challenge came from a viewer of our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show. I’m not sure when the particular episode aired so I haven’t found it yet, but I must have spoken critically about substituting pets for people. I imagine that I might have mentioned a pet food ad that irks me which shows a cat saying, “Mom, please get me….”

In her letter, our viewer said, “Susan, my animals are my family. They’re all I have. I think the old “walk a mile in my shoes” before you are so critical. My pets are there when I go to bed and when I get up in the morning. I know I’m not their Mother but they are probably the closest living thing to me.” She is making a perfectly valid point and I imagine that my words cut her, for which I am sorry. Yet, I don’t think I can leave it with just an apology.

One of the dilemmas for society is how to deal with unique individuals and their specific circumstances while at the same time maintaining public policies and social norms. At one and the same time, we want to be accepting and helpful to all, but in doing so we run the risk of normalizing things that we don’t want to encourage.

Let’s look at the example of teen pregnancy. I think we can all agree that if a fifteen-year-old girl gets pregnant and opts to keep the baby, she, her baby and society will be better off if she finishes high school. However, when the school sets up a nursery on-site and provides extra support for this mom, it sends a message to other girls that this is a viable and perhaps even a positive scenario. There is a mismatch between caring for the individual and protecting the larger entity. 

Even when there is no element of mistaken behavior, there can be a conflict between a person and the group. When I was a youngster, my friends and I spent most of our summer afternoons riding bikes, splashing in backyard plastic pools and, if enough of us were around, playing punch ball in the street.  For some reason, we didn’t get together in the morning. Instead, I would park myself in front of the TV and watch I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons and the rest of the morning line-up. Some of the episodes stick in my mind through today, including one from the show Family Affair. Unlike what the title brings to mind in today’s environment, Family Affair was an innocent depiction of a bachelor who unexpectedly found himself, with the help of his British valet, raising his orphaned nieces and nephew.

An episode that I distinctly remember concerned the teenage niece, Cissy, suffering as her school prepared for its annual mother-daughter evening. Understandably, the evening loomed as a painful one for the motherless girl. Granted, the school administration could have been more proactive and discussed the evening with her uncle, but it was completely unimaginable that an annual get-together would be canceled because of an orphan in the class.

I think that if the show was taped today, current sensitivities might have her school friends thoughtfully scrap the event. That did not happen in 1966. What we have seen happen in real life in the ensuing years is schools erasing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day from their calendars in order not to make children from broken homes feel bad. That became a step on the road towards insisting that all family compositions are equally positive. By not wanting to make anyone feel bad (an impossible goal – one can be sure that the fictional Cissy deeply missed her parents and that the pain would more strongly surface at major life events) we inadvertently sent a message that led to more heartache for more people.

Our society continues to send mistaken messages, among them that career is more important than marriage and family. As part of that message, we are told that animals are interchangeable with children. I have a daughter and you have a cat so we are both mothers. In parts of Europe today one can barely find a baby aisle with diapers and bottles, but one can find shelves filled with delicacies for dogs. Don’t worry about missing out on children—your pets will love you.

Naturally, there are those who are alone, sometimes even housebound, and who derive comfort, affection and a loving relationship from their pets. That is wonderful. I’m sure that I could have made it clearer that I wasn’t directing my words at those individuals. But I do think it important, as a society, that we not send a false message that at the point when people are making decisions about their future, they come to believe that a pet and a child are equivalent. So, I cringe at the idea that words of mine might have hurt someone, but I also cringe at the idea of going along with a trend towards replacing people with animals that will lead to heartache and sorrow down the road. I thank our viewer for writing and hope she understands.

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Is my aunt using me?

June 6th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 33 comments

I have a very wealthy aunt who is in the top 1% of the top 1%. I see her every couple of weeks, when she invites me down to accompany her out to dinner or perform work around the house for her. Long story short, I’m an entrepreneur launching a very exciting and possibly *extremely* profitable business online.

In this process my biggest problem is more cash for expansion. I honestly work very, very hard and am dedicated 110%, but so much advancement could be made overnight had I been blessed with the cash to do so.

Anyway, one day I was driving my aunt to the airport (I am basically her personal assistant when she summons me to be), and she told me how nice money is to have because you therefore never have to worry about it. Without thinking, she blurted out that she donates about $150,000 a year to various and always changing organizations. Upon saying this, I saw her face immediately switch to a bright red “WHOOPS” expression.

Now I know I have absolutely zero claim to her money at all, but am I wrong to feel somewhat unloved by her now that I realize she’s pumping mind-blowing amounts of money into a multitude of other directions and rejecting mine – all the while acting like my best friend, biggest ally, and cheerleader?

Also let me just mention that when I do work around her house she will throw me $20 – $40 bucks or so, but when I subtract the gasoline I spend traveling 40 minutes each way to her house, is not as great as it first appears.

I don’t want to seem selfish or entitled – I’ve been maintaining being a good nephew and just smiling and helping her in every way she asks – but at the same time I can’t help but realize that a very minuscule percent of the money/lifeblood she is constantly spreading elsewhere, to complete strangers, would vastly advance my business, and ultimately the quality of my entire life in exponential proportions.

Deep down I feel like she might simply be using me to be her little helper when needed, and doesn’t actually want to see me succeed because then she’d lose me as such – and that’s why she doesn’t actually help financially. This is the only reason I can find for her decision not to donate to my business because she gives so much away to others. Could she be putting up a front that she is “rooting for me” and “wants to see me succeed” but really just wants to keep me where I am and benefit from my younger ignorance and desire to be a good nephew? Am I playing the fool right into her hands and advantage? Could I be experiencing a form of “all talk and no walk” by her? I really hope you answer this Rabbi and Susan as this has been a mind ripping situation for me. I sure could use your wisdom!


Dear Drew,

We found your question quite intriguing, partially because you show great maturity by recognizing that you are not entitled to your aunt’s wealth but that, since she is an older member of the family, you actually have a responsibility towards her.

At the same time, you are struggling to build a business and see how effortlessly she could solve what you see as your greatest problem. That makes you suspect that she actually doesn’t want you to succeed and leaves you with hurt feelings. You now see her as “throwing” money at you when you help her, but we’re willing to bet that she politely hands it to you and the word throw reflects your incipient resentment rather than her actions. 

We, of course, do not know your aunt nor do we know you.  However, we did pick up certain clues in your letter (which we needed to shorten but we retained both the meaning and the flavor). It seems to us that you have not yet developed a full understanding of business. This is imperative in order for you to succeed.

You explained that you could think of only one reason for your aunt’s decision not to donate to your business.

We are struck by your use of the word donate. One donates to charity but one invests in a business. Your aunt seems to be a very charitable woman. She may or may not be a savvy businesswoman and she may or may not invest her money in start-ups. Either way, it seems to us that you would like her to invest in you or help you, not to give you charity.

This means that you need to approach her as a businessman, not as a nephew, though obviously your relationship gives you the opening. If she does evaluate investments, she may have valuable feedback for you. If she is indeed in the top one-hundredth of the top 1% she most definitely employs the professional services of financial advisors and money managers. 

We’d advise you to ask your aunt if she’d be willing to ask her advisors to look over your business plan. If you do not yet have a formal, professional business plan you might want to approach your aunt and ask if she will help you (now we are talking about a donation or gift) take classes or hire a professional to guide you on how to turn an idea into a viable business. Very few new businesses succeed and she would be doing you a greater kindness by helping you get off on the right foot (or realize that your idea, as is, is not viable) than by blindly giving you money.

We don’t want to discourage you from being a good nephew, but it is possible that being at her beck and call makes your aunt think of you as an aimless boy rather than as a busy man ready to embark on a seriously successful business career. Even your description of the money she gives you being used up in buying gas suggests that you are thinking in a smaller way than a successful businessman must.

You might want to show her a more proactive face and initiate contact instead of waiting to be summoned. Let her know that you have a tightly scheduled month coming up because you are working so hard but want to be available if she needs you so could you and she please plan out your schedules in advance. Call her just to say hi and see how she is rather than waiting for her to call you.

Investors seldom put their money into enterprises run by those they see as their “little helper” as you put it.  Once you see yourself in a different and more serious light, your aunt will most likely also start seeing you differently.

You cannot dictate your aunt’s actions but you can control your own. We encourage you to think, act and present yourself as a business professional and we are sure that this will help move you onto the path of becoming one. We do want to bring our books, Thou Shall Prosper: The Ten Commandments for Making Money and Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance to your attention as we think the practical guidance they give could be helpful in reshaping your vision of yourself. 

Wishing you a prosperous and family-friendly future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Adding Our Prayers

June 5th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Two people we admire tremendously, and are honored to call friends, are Pastors Larry and Tiz Huch. Their family is battling now for the health of their precious grandson, Lion. We are keeping Lion, his parents and his whole family in our prayers and ask you to do the same.


First and foremost. We will be victorious.
There is no easy way to say this, but our 7 month old baby boy Lion, has been diagnosed with Leukemia. He will begin treatment today. This will be a 2 year treatment process. Though leukemia is seen amongst older children, it is an incredibly rare disease in infants. Only 150 infants a year total are diagnosed with leukemia who are under the age of 1 year old. As you could try to imagine, this news has shaken our world to the core but we have great faith. We are and will remain steadfast. Being that Lion is so young, treatment comes with challenges. So we are going to fight this. Lion is going to fight. Jennifer is going to fight. I am going to fight and we are going to beat this. We know we are not alone in this journey and battle. We know God is with us and so are all of you. Your positive thoughts, words, prayers, emails, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, text messages, phone calls, voice mails, prayer meetings, meals and support mean the world to us so please keep them coming. How or why something like this would happen to a baby boy as sweet as Lion is a complete mystery to us. He is our whole world. But we know, for certain, Lion is going to make a full recovery. He is as strong as they come and then some and God has a divine plan and destiny for his life and our family and we will fulfill it together. We will see this through, from the valley to our victory. Our hearts, minds and body’s are with our baby son. Our eyes are fixed on his healing and our hope rests in God. Lion will Live! He will do great through his treatment! Mommy, Daddy and Baby will be strong! Our family will be whole! Pray and speak only positive words! We love you all!
Luke, Jennifer, Lion.
#LionStrong #ValleyToVictory #PrayForLion

One Picture…

June 5th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

How easy it is to become impatient with a long story being recounted to us by a toddler, colleague, client, customer, or patient.  Unfortunately, leadership, whether in business or the family, sometimes depends upon making the best decision after receiving nothing more than a written or verbal report.

When we are the ones relaying information, we can get frustrated as our listeners tune us out. Instead of our employees, spouse, children or patients paying attention, they seem uninterested or distracted.

How do we become better at both giving and receiving information?

This verse can help:

Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the words which your eyes saw,
and you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.
(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Why does Deuteronomy 4:9 refer to words that are seen? We see things, not words. I sympathize with the plight of translators who often mistakenly write, “Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the things which your eyes saw…”

While ‘things’ is a possible alternative meaning for the Hebrew word, DeVaRiM, which is used here, it is not correct in this context.  DeVaRiM, meaning words, is the Hebrew name for the fifth of the Five Books of Moses and is the second Hebrew word of the book.


These are the words (DeVaRiM) which Moses spoke to all Israel…
(Deuteronomy 1:1)

As our verse reveals, central to the entire theme of intergenerational Torah transmission is that we must transmit to our children and grandchildren specific words and not general things. But spoken words like the Torah taught by Moses are heard not seen!

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the unusual language in the verse refers to the fact that the entire Sinai revelation was an integrated, comprehensive, multi-media experience; a sort of son-et-lumiere show. There was a visual depiction of the words spoken by God.

Why was this necessary? 

When we see a landscape, a statue, a battlefield or a building, we instantly grasp the entire picture.  No translation is necessary.

Many of us still prefer watches with hands because by merely glancing at the position of those little hands, we instantly understand that we’re late.  Seeing a colorful graph reflecting sales figures immediately lets us know how the company is doing compared to last year.  A picture really is worth a thousand words.

When we look at details or hear a recitation, our brains need to convert the information into useful real world information such as “you’re late!” Listening to a lesson, a speech or a piece of music requires that we concentrate through its entirety since it imparts meaning only once our brains have assembled hundreds of words or musical notes into one integrated totality.

Our verse teaches the correct technique for coping with the challenge of conveying and receiving information.  As listeners, we need to exercise our memory muscles in order to concentrate on converting a long flow of words into one complete picture that we can almost see in our mind’s eye. Only then can we exercise judgment and leadership in arriving at the right conclusion and taking the best actions.

When relaying important information, try to make it come alive, using words and imagery which captivate our listener and help him visualize what we are saying. Try making your listener see a picture rather than just hear words.

In directing the children of Israel to convey words to children and grandchildren, God taught us how to effectively do so. The words must be so alive that they can actually be seen just as they originally were when God presented them.

Parents know that children learn more from what we do than from what we say. Early in Genesis we see an example of this when Noah’s actions transmit his values to his children in a way that makes them and their wives deserving of escaping the Flood along with their parents. To discover more about these verses as well as those concerning the Nephilim, the dimensions of the Ark and more, access our 2 audio CD set, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah. Along with the fully illustrated study guide, I have tried my best to paint a picture of that Biblical episode in a way that will bring it to life and relate it to your life. Get it on sale now.

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Our Palestinian Angel

May 31st, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

I have a story to tell you. I have been thinking about this for a week and would love to hear your reaction as well. But first, as Sgt. Friday used to say on Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Two and a half years ago, one of our daughters had a pregnancy complication. With God’s grace, she and her husband welcomed a small but healthy son a few weeks early and via an emergency C-section. As grateful as we are for the conclusion, it was scary and traumatic.

Because of her history, our daughter’s second pregnancy was automatically classified as high-risk. Along the way, the doctor repeatedly told her of serious problems she was potentially seeing on the ultrasounds. God answered our prayers and each ominous warning faded away. Eventually, when the baby was almost two weeks past due date, labor started.

Our daughter was adamant about doing whatever was necessary to have a natural delivery rather than another C-section. Being a nurse, as she is,  comes with advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side her insurance is incredible. The down side is that she needs to use whatever doctor is on call and even today many doctors are not fans of VBACs (vaginal delivery after Caesarian).

A week earlier, at a regular check-up, God sent our daughter a gift in the form of a labor and delivery nurse who gave her detailed instructions on what to say and do to advocate for a VBAC once she was in labor. Our son-in-law was fully armed to be her spokesman. He manfully did his job.

Because of this, our children spent a lot of time hiking the hospital corridors rather than following the usual course of laboring women staying in bed. At one point, an OB doctor they did not know rushed over to them and said, “Are you the woman trying for a VBAC?” Upon getting an affirmative reply she said, “I’m a big proponent of VBAC. You’re doing the right thing,” and proceeded to give the patient a hug.

Hours passed and the doctor on call began grumbling that they needed to get things moving or they were putting the baby at risk and they should think of a C-section. Just at that point, the OB they had met earlier dropped in to say goodbye as her shift was over and she was heading home. When she saw what was going on, she pulled off her jacket and said, “I’m staying. We’re going to do this together.”  Two and a half hours later, our healthy and beautiful grandson entered this world in a natural delivery.

Here is the part I have been processing over this past week. When this wonderful doctor came in to the room, our son-in-law noticed that she was wearing a Gaza pin on her coat. He had also heard her conversing in fluent Arabic with a patient in the next room. From the belongings in the room and our son-in-law’s prayers, our children were easy to identify as Jewish.

This doctor was not assigned to our daughter. After an exhausting through-the-night shift, there was absolutely no professional obligation on her to help. And while it would be lovely to say that politics should not enter a medical setting, it certainly could, especially when going above and beyond the call of duty. Yet, as a doctor and human being, she was so committed to the idea of VBAC (and I have to think, frustrated that so many of her peers are leery of them) that her passion and humanitarianism took center stage.

Our family is grateful to this doctor on a personal level. Even more so, as Gaza erupts again in ways that I am sure this woman and we see through diametrically opposite lenses, I see her actions as an omen of hope.

It would be lovely if all cultures equally promoted peace and goodness and if we could make problems vanish by just singing Kumbaya, but that is not reality.  There are certainly warm-hearted Moslems as well as warm-hearted Jewish individuals. There are wicked Moslems as well as wicked Jewish individuals. But when we talk about cultures, there is a gaping difference. Jewish culture encourages making peace and respecting those of different backgrounds. In many countries and certainly in Gaza, hatred of Jews is encouraged. There are celebrations when a terrorist slits the throat of an Israeli baby. Candies and cakes are distributed in honor of terrorists. Children’s stories and TV shows depict Jews and Israelis as demons. Hostility is fomented.

I recently read an account of a Moslem woman in Hebron during the 1929 pogrom that took place there against the Jewish community. (Yes, there were Jews in Israel before 1948 and there was violence against them before the establishment of the State or the success of the Israeli army in battle.) The wife of one of the leaders of the pogrom hid a rabbi in her home and told her husband that she would die before seeing him harmed. One can find current stories of Palestinians shielding Jews who took a wrong turn and ended up in hostile neighborhoods. But the above people are going against the flow of their education and culture. In contrast, when an Israeli mistreats a Palestinian the force of culture comes down against him. The thrust of education is towards peace and respect.

So, our angel of a doctor deserves recognition not only for being a stellar example of her profession, but also for showing that each and every individual can choose to step outside negative cultural influences and chart a better path. I don’t know if she is the product of an unusual family or if she independently chooses life and love, but the more of her there are, the better world for both our children and hers.

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What is my son’s father’s role?

May 30th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 21 comments

I trust you are well, I am a South African single mother.

My son is 10 years old and is starting to get difficult to deal with. The other day he lied for two weeks about his ear phones that he lost and said they were at school in his locker.  I called his dad to assist in disciplining him and he was very dismissive and said he must just go look for the earphones. For me it was not about the earphones but about the fact that he lied.  How do you think I should have handled this? Should have I done the disciplining just by myself or was I right by including his dad? I grew up in a household that had both parents present and when disciplining happened it was done by both my parents.

I am actually so confused and afraid I will not raise a good boy without involving his dad therefore I always see the need to include his dad even though he is not that useful. It may be because he was raised by his grandmother and mother.

I hope you can assist me and point me to scriptures I can get encouragement, guidance and strength from.

Kind regards

Bulelwa M.

Dear Bulelwa,

Our hearts go out to you.  You are bravely facing the reality that raising a son to be a good man is vitally important but not an easy task. Doing so in a home without a father is certainly more difficult.

One of our hardest life lessons is learning to deal with our reality. It is so tempting to say, “If only” and think that if we were richer, prettier, wealthier, smarter, healthier, had different parents or were born in a different place our lives would be so much better. Yet, we all have to deal with what is truly in front of us.

It sounds like you had parents who acted as a devoted team. “If only” you could provide your son with the same. You cannot. Once you accept this truth, you will be better able to face the normal challenges that come with an adolescent boy. You will have to shoulder that responsibility yourself.

While you can be grateful if the father helps, you have to look to yourself rather than to him. We don’t know the situation and maybe you can have a talk with the father and encourage him to step up to the plate, but until that happens, you will have to fill the role yourself. You are not a couple and that is the reality with which you have to work.

We agree with you that the issue with the earphones is the lying. We would encourage you to talk to your son and let him tell you why he lied. Was he afraid of punishment? Is he aware of tight finances and felt miserable about losing something that cost money? In a calm way you can let him know how important it is that he be an honest person. Don’t let your imagination run away with itself so that you magnify this one incident into defining his character. It is only one of many opportunities you will have for conversations that gradually sculpt your son’s moral code.  Of course, you need to model all the virtues you wish for him in your own behavior.

We do think that a teenage boy needs a man or two in his life. This is tricky when the father isn’t available. You need to be careful to shield your son from men who are potentially abusive and keep a sharp eye on any developing problem areas. Are there reputable male youth groups or sports teams whose leaders and coaches make a point of building men? Do you have brothers, neighbors, church friends or relatives who can step in?

We would like to leave you with a Scriptural reference to a fine man whose father did not accept proper responsibility for him – King David. In Psalms, King David refers to himself (Psalms 86:16 and 116:16) as “son of your maidservant.” His mother, rather than his father, was the mainstay of his upbringing. Yet he became king of Israel and author of Psalms.  Not bad for a boy whose dad didn’t think much of him.

Raising children today in the best of circumstances is challenging. Your situation is even harder. We have faith that with hard work and prayer, your son will become a man who brings honor to you and to his Creator.


Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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