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Autism, TSA and the Upcoming Election

October 20th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 thoughts on “Autism, TSA and the Upcoming Election”

Recently, my husband and I flew on Thursday to Phoenix, where he spoke for a Dave Ramsey sponsored Business Boutique event on Friday and for a local synagogue on Shabbat.

Not until the next day did we read of massive TSA lines in Chicago and of 3,000 bags that missed outgoing flights from the Phoenix airport due to TSA incompetence. In contrast, our TSA lines moved swiftly and it was the airline itself rather than TSA that behaved incompetently, consistently announcing an on-time departure despite the fact that anyone looking out of the terminal could see that there was no airplane on the tarmac. Eventually, they changed the departure time on the announcement board — to an hour after the flight actually left. Nonetheless, we were grateful to arrive safely at our destination and to meet our luggage there.

Shortly before this trip, I read an amazing book, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism. I ordered the book at my library, having read a review of it. That was a good move, as had I seen it on the shelf I think I would have walked past, expecting it by its size to be interminable and dry. It was anything but. The book is fast-paced and reads almost like a mystery story leaving you eager to find out what happens next.

What in the world does airline travel have to do with the lessons of autism’s history? The modern story of autism goes back only a few decades and the guru of the movement for a long time was Dr. Bruno Bettelheim. His credentials? Actually, he didn’t have any. Neither his degree from an Austrian university in art history nor his adulation of Freud equipped him to direct the lives of thousands of families facing serious difficulties. Dr. Bettelheim concocted the idea of the ‘refrigerator mom.’ In other words, a lack of maternal love led to autism. This may have been a slight advance over the culture of the day that would institutionalize the most severe cases and encourage parents to forget they ever had such a child, but it caused unnecessary anguish and his misguided ‘treatments’ were ineffectual.

What changed? What challenged the idolization of the non-medical doctor whose advice was followed by most physicians? Parents. Parents who were able to look past the cult of the expert and knew that their understandable exhaustion and frustration at dealing with their children did not mean a lack of love and that they certainly didn’t cause the autistic behaviors. In effect, a parental revolt led by a small number of parents overturned academia at a time when doctors were held in high esteem. Physicians played the part of the mindless crowd of The Emperor’s New Clothes, while mothers and fathers acted the part of the little boy who could see the truth.

I do recommend reading the book, but I also see an optimistic parallel for the potential for a revolt by average, normal flyers to the TSA morass. In many ways, the TSA debacle, begun by a Republican president as a reaction to a real and present danger and inevitably morphing into an expensive, failing bureaucracy, represents the entire government structure. Both Trump and Sanders’ popularity came from a revolt against the ‘experts’ and insiders of the Republican and Democrat parties who populate that behemoth. Just as in the battle to understand autism, not every defiant step is an advance. The battle can be messy and get sidetracked in negative ways. However, a growing coalition of people who may vehemently disagree with each other, agree that the status quo is destructive. No matter what happens in November, they can force an unresponsive, arrogant ruling class, whether in politics or medicine, to change course.

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I Want More Children-My Husband Doesn’t

October 20th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 thoughts on “I Want More Children-My Husband Doesn’t”


Hello, I am 41 with 2 children ages 8 and 10.  I have been begging my husband for a third child for nearly 3 years now and he will not allow it. He says he does not want another child, and I am so upset, angry and heartbroken. I feel like it’s unfair of him to steal my right to procreate and that this is not really his decision. Why does he get what he wants and I am left without?

Please tell me how I can get him to change his mind. I am furious and grieving all at the same time, and it is destroying our marriage.



Dear Marianna,

You sound very desperate and suffering as you long for another baby. If this has been going on for three years, then we can understand that your marriage has suffered.

Please, please, please get some outside help. Make sure, that whether it is pastoral counseling or short-term therapy, the person you are trusting values and reveres marriage.  Either go as a couple or else start individually. No one can tell you how to change his mind and no one can tell him how to change your feelings. Someone competent can help you both strive to a peaceful resolution. Granted, you can’t have half a child, but you can save your marriage.

It is so important not to see this issue as either you or your husband “winning” or as an issue of “rights.” It is not a case of his stealing your right to procreate any more than it is a case of your forcing him to have a child against his will.  There are no individual winners or losers in marriage; the couple wins or the couple loses. When the couple loses, so do the children. Is it possible that by being so angry you are not being the best mother you can to the two children for whom you are already responsible?

Your husband probably does not understand the depth of your feelings, making it hard for him to empathize. What started as a disagreement on one issue, no matter how profound, has now evolved. In your eyes, your husband probably doesn’t care about you or else he would acquiesce. Of course, he could make exactly the same claim.

While we fully understand your desire for another child, you neglected to tell us the reasons behind your husband’s refusal. A wise counselor will discover that. Perhaps his worries are financial. If so, the issue now is not about not wanting another child but about being concerned about the costs. Perhaps his concerns are about another baby taking your attention away from him and depriving him of a wife or maybe he feels that you are already struggling to give your two children the attention they need. Is he worried about both your ages and the possibilities of birth defects? Each of these concerns can be approached once they are acknowledged.

We applaud you for not conceiving behind your husband’s back. You are aware that children should have the gift of two loving parents.

Anger and bitterness tend to breed anger and bitterness. They are often a substitute for sadness and grieving. We pray that you get through this difficult period and find joy in whatever size family is right for your family.

Wishing you serenity,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Thought Tool Update

October 20th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 0 thoughts on “Thought Tool Update”

Thanks for your comments about needing a visual. Please check out the Thought Tool again – let us know if the Hebrew visual is helpful.

While we are learning how to take full advantage of our website, one of the things that we are most enjoying is hearing from all of you through the comments section. Being able to easily edit the teaching in response to your comments is an additional treat.

What’s in a Name?

October 19th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 23 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?”

In an act of unprecedented ostentatiousness, Gerald Guterman chartered the famous ocean liner, the QE2, along with its one thousand crew members to celebrate his son’s bar-mitzvah in 1986.

Our son’s bar-mitzvah was solemnized in a small synagogue built on the Los Angeles ocean front in the 1940s.  Guterman was trying to add meaning to his family celebration by means of an extraordinary location.  We were blessed to add meaning to a picturesque old house of worship by having it house our act of religious significance.

Henry Wallingford proposed to his girlfriend one night in an empty football stadium which he rented for the occasion.  The loudspeakers blared romantic tunes while the giant scoreboard flashed out, “Gillian will you marry me?”  As soon as the astonished girl said, “yes,” waiters trotted out with two chairs and a table bearing a white tablecloth and a large bouquet of flowers.  The couple was then treated to a catered gourmet meal on the fifty yard line.  Henry was trying to add meaning to his proposal by means of an extraordinary location.

My sailboat on which the future Mrs. Lapin graciously said “yes” to my anxiously blurted out proposal will always be dear to my heart.  The power of our commitment to God and to one another bestowed special significance on that old boat.

Our dining room table was built to have food served upon it. Nonetheless, years of Lapin family meals around it have imbued that table with such emotional resonance that sometimes, to my eyes, it seems to emit a warm glow.  Meaningful human activities impart spiritual significance to objects and places.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches this by depicting a scene that begs a question:

And Jacob journeyed to Sukot… therefore he called the name of the place Sukot.
(Genesis 33:17)


Here’s the question: How could Jacob have journeyed to Sukot when it only acquired its name after he got there?  I would have written that verse, “And Jacob journeyed to a place and named the place Sukot…”

Well it turns out that the first time the word “Sukot” appears in that verse it is spelled ordinarily. The last time it appears it acquires an extra Hebrew letter vav connoting an additional dose of spiritual significance.

In other words, the place may well have been called Sukot.  However, because of the powerful human act of construction, the place was changed. The name acquired the extra vav reflecting that something significant had taken place there.

In case you feel any inclination to dismiss this as a coincidence, Scripture repeats this pattern.

And they came to the valley of Eshkol …they called that place the valley of Eshkol…
(Numbers 13:23-24)


Do you see the same question?  If it was called valley of Eshkol because of something they did after they got there, it should have just been an anonymous place when they arrived.

It turns out that the pattern is identical.  The first word Eshkol is spelled without the Hebrew letter vav but the vav is added when they call the place by that name. This connotes the spiritual significance of what the Israelite spies did there.

Our actions do impact the world around us.  When you show up regularly at synagogue or church for services, you are not only satisfying your own spiritual needs.  You are making that place more spiritually significant for all the other worshippers.

When you perform an action in a certain place, you change the cosmic reality of that place. Gettysburg, Normandy and the sites of many other battles were different places because of the actions which humans performed there.

While we easily understand that we can physically pollute or clean up an area, we must know that we can also spiritually contaminate or sanctify locations. As humans formed in God’s image, we participate in the world’s creation as we interact with it.

We are now in the midst of the week of the festival of Sukot, a time of great rejoicing. Once again, our office and store are opening and closing on certain days. We are extending our amazing sale on our Library Pack and Library Pack PLUS with gratitude for your patience.

Reprinted from June 22, 2011 

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Courage. Faith. Principle

October 14th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 2 thoughts on “Courage. Faith. Principle”

We spent Thursday night with a few hundred Christians who are picking grapes in Israel. Then we met a small group of new Jewish Israeli immigrants on Friday morning. All these people are in the “occupied territory,” a term designed to denigrate them and twist public opinion. How wonderful to be with strong and Godly people. You can catch an interview with some of these people on the current podcast.

I’m Burnt Out

October 13th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 thoughts on “I’m Burnt Out”


After a few years of over-working and ignoring the warning signs, I may have reached a “burnout” stage. What used to be easy at work is now difficult; the drive I used to have feels like it has been sapped; and I have noticed a negative change in my attitude. 

Does ancient Jewish wisdom provide any useful information for recovering from “burnout” and metaphorically get back in the saddle?

Justin A.


Dear Justin,

Congratulations on recognizing that ignoring your warning signs resulted in a small problem growing into a larger one. We hope that your words serve as a warning to others not to turn a blind eye to warning signs. (Then there are those people who magnify a bad stretch and put flashing red lights on normal feelings—the opposite of what you did which leads to a different but equally serious problem.)

Imagine if you had physical symptoms that suggested that you were pre-diabetic. At that point, certain lifestyle changes might keep the symptoms from worsening and a full-fledged case developing. However, once your health was severely compromised, it would be much harder to fix.


Vulgar, Lewd and Getting My Vote

October 13th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 44 thoughts on “Vulgar, Lewd and Getting My Vote”

If you’ve known me for a while, you know that I have a visceral, negative reaction to vulgarity. Guests to our home have been on the receiving end of a withering stare for saying something judged as ‘not refined,’ an anemic, weak distant relative of Donald Trump’s words. I expect my daughters to be treated with respect and I reject ‘locker room’ banter as immature and  boorish.

I’m also voting for Donald Trump. I have nothing to say to anyone voting for Hillary Clinton because of Trump’s leaked words. That is simply hypocritical. Not only does she possess her own potty mouth, she colluded with her husband to degrade the moral level of America.  On this issue, she and Trump are two sides of a coin.

The other option is one that many public Republican figures are taking—to leave the president option blank on their ballot. I admit to feeling a pull towards that choice. Donald Trump is not only vulgar, but he is also a braggart and possessor of other poor character traits that I despise. While I thought that his statement apologizing for his disgusting words was classy, I think it would be naive to assume he is actually a changed man. As a private individual, I can give him the benefit of the doubt, but I need to vote for him acknowledging that his repentance might be transient or even expedient rather than sincere.


Escape Yesterday

October 12th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 8 thoughts on “Escape Yesterday”

God spare us from these things, but have you ever wondered how someone who apparently had everything to live for, took his or her own life?  A young woman recently qualified as a physician, with grueling years of training behind her and on the threshold of a promising career, throws herself off her hospital roof.  A father parks his car on the George Washington Bridge, races to the guardrail and leaps over it to drop two hundred feet into the Hudson River. It took three days to recover his body.

Neither of these two sad victims had exhibited any mental instability.  It goes without saying that both were dealing with what must have appeared to be insurmountable problems. As a result, each made a perfectly calm and rational decision to end it. Permanently.  These are just two of the cases that came across my radar screen recently.  Both these tragedies involved individuals who felt that their predicaments were beyond help.


Choose Life

October 11th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 thoughts on “Choose Life”

What if you do not want to pray for life? That thought ran as an undercurrent through my mind as I prayed the extra prayers during the Ten Days of Repentance that culminate with Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. Many of those prayers plead with God for the opportunity to live for another year. The soft whisper I heard was spurred by a beautifully written article, dictated by use of voice recognition technology because author Ben Mattlin cannot use his hands. Severely disabled from birth, he fights for life each day as he has done from infancy. During that time, he graduated from Harvard, became an accomplished financial journalist, married and raised two children, and achieved many other goals of which many healthy people only dream. In his article, he explains how much he values his life and how much value his life has. He was partially motivated to write by the legally sanctioned refusal of treatment to a fourteen-year-old born with the same birth defect as he, spinal muscular atrophy.


More Police Officers Killed

October 10th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind 1 thought on “More Police Officers Killed”

Two more police officers were targeted and killed on Saturday in California. Meanwhile, for taking on the job of protecting the public you get reviled by President Obama and the media who assume you are guilty even after being proven innocent. If the bad apples in politics were removed, we’d have an almost empty Senate. If the bad apples in the police force were removed, we’d still have a robust force.

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