Posts in Ask the Rabbi

When is ‘connecting with others’ a mistake?

April 27th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

I accept your teachings of God’s desire for his children to interact with one another and am intellectually exploring those ideas.  As a gifted software engineer interacting with other humans is not one of my strengths and I am attempting to get better at it.

Over the past couple of years, however, I felt the need to disassociate myself with two former friends.  One was quite close; the other lives two doors away from me.  Without getting into gossipy details, I feel there are a certain set of circumstances that it is okay to disassociate from another human.  One example might be that the friend was asking your assistance in carrying on an extra-marital affair.  Another might be that the friend had anger issues and regularly yelled at you, your wife, and your children.  But what if their actions were less harmful?  What if a person regularly insulted you?  Regularly asked you to work on his for profit business for free?   Ran a business where both he and the employees knowingly broke the law?  

So what principles should be applied to harmful human associations?  Where is the line drawn?  What kind of venues should be left open for reconciliation?

Peter B.

Answer: 

Dear Peter,

Thank you for writing with such self-awareness.  Many very competent people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics feel less capable in human relationships.  We think there should be a special course helping these talented people expand their considerable abilities into relationships.  We know of what we speak. One of us (that would be Rabbi Daniel) actually became an electronics engineer. Worried that 10 hours a day in a lab with instruments would encourage a disconnect from people he switched into sales and became what they called then, a tech-rep.

While we certainly speak glowingly of the importance of human relationships, we hope that no one interprets our words to mean that we should have unthinking interaction with others. In fact, one of the episodes on Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show Volume 2 discusses the dangers of associating with the wrong people.

Ancient Jewish wisdom even presents certain rare circumstances where an entire community should shun individuals. The instances you give of people trying to lasso you into participating in their wrongdoing or supporting their wrongdoing suggest good reasons for pulling away from those relationships. We’d just like to add that the “less harmful” examples you ask about sound quite harmful to us.

Having said that, sometimes a bit more forcefulness and forthrightness can keep a relationship from ending unnecessarily. On occasion, avoiding confrontation results in prematurely ending a relationship. For example, someone who keeps asking you to work for free on their business might benefit more from an outright polite but firm statement that you can’t do that rather than an evasive, “I’m really busy right now,” which encourages them to repeat the request. Some people come from a culture where insults show friendship and closeness. Stating that you aren’t comfortable with that type of exchange might allow you to maintain a cordial relationship.

Like most things, relationships fall into different categories.  There is a large gulf between bosom buddies and ‘cross to the other side of the street’ people you need to avoid. Most people fall into the spectrum between those two extremes.

Enjoy the variety,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Separate vacations for married couples?

April 19th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

I am thinking about taking a 7 day bicycle/camping trip. However my wife cannot go for many reasons ( mostly because she dislikes biking). We have never been apart this length of time.

What does ancient Jewish wisdom have to say about being apart, by choice? 

I have read all of your books ( except the Thought Tools I am currently reading) and listened to all your CDs -some many times and watched your DVD’s. I must say this has help me very much in business and relationships. Thank you! I look forward to more.

Thank you, 

Jerry R.

Answer: 

Dear Jerry,

First of all, we appreciate hearing that our resources are helping you. It truly encourages us.

Your question is a great one and we compliment you and your wife for thinking this through. While husbands and wives can certainly have different interests, using the limited vacation time most of us have to follow those interests separately has the potential of becoming problematic.

Ancient Jewish wisdom specifically speaks about reserving the first year of marriage for building the marital relationship and we would suggest hesitating if you are newly married. It also insists that at any time in the marriage a husband cannot change his field of work to one that requires more time away from home without his wife’s agreement. So, separation is treated seriously.

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How could Jethro be so honored?

April 13th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 8 comments

Hello, as always I would like to start by saying thank you for sharing your knowledge. And thank you for the time you give in answering our questions.

 I have so many questions when reading the Bible and there are so many of them that I have often said to myself or anyone around me, “I will ask the Rabbi “. But here is just one:

In Exodus 18 we read that Moses’s father in law Jethro came and gave Moses a good advice and Moses followed it. My question is, since Jethro was not an Israelite, was this advice part of God’s will/plan? Having the 70 rulers helping Moses, was it God’s plan?

Halle

Answer: 

Dear Halle,

Not only was Jethro’s advice accepted, but the entire section of the Torah that includes the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai is known by his name (Exodus 18:1–20:23). He is honored and respected in Jewish tradition.

Moslem countries and secular-left activists constantly call for a boycott of Israeli products (such as the BDS movement) or disparage Jews worldwide. It is worth noting that while they virulently insult Jews and Israel,  they do not follow through by actually purging their countries and lives of medical, technological and other inventions that were created by Jews or developed in Israel. Somehow, they still use the polio vaccine, drip irrigation, Estee Lauder cosmetics and  Waze. They even play Rummikub and Mastermind. Speaking and advocating hatred is easier than living by their principles which reject Jews and Christians as unworthy of respect.

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Should I leave a job I hate to become a chef?

April 5th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

I am 33 years old, married, no children yet, but probably soon. My wife works as a school teacher and I work a low level office job. I am considering switching careers to go after a dream of being a professional chef. 

I am struggling with the potential financial ramifications, feeling I am being “irresponsible,” and feeling money will always be a problem if I go down this path. My wife is very supportive and wants me to go after this dream instead of staying in a job I dislike. We already live on her income alone so money will be tight, but we will not starve. 

Am I being selfish if I make this change and putting my family under unnecessary stress? I am so conflicted! I appreciate your advice. Thanks.

David

Answer: 

Dear David,

Please accept our compliments for facing reality and asking the tough questions.  While we don’t want to sound harsh, it sounds to us like you are being irresponsible by remaining in a low level office job at your stage of life. You mention that you and your wife hope to have children soon, but that you are dependent on her salary as a teacher for your basic expenses. That sounds like trouble is simmering on the horizon.

We want to praise your wife for supporting your dream while also carrying a heavy load.  It is clear to us, and obviously also to you, that a  change is needed.  We are pretty sure that your wife’s support for your idea of becoming a chef is partially her profound  hope that you will do something to accept responsibility for improving your financial situation.

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Should I pay for chores or give an allowance?

March 28th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

 

As my children help with chores around the house, should I reward them for the work done or give an allowance instead?

Thanks,

Doland B.

Answer: 

Dear Doland,

Ask ten parents this question and you will likely receive ten different  answers. Ask one parent at ten different times in his or her children’s life and you will likely receive different answers as well. Enter the words, “Should I pay my child to do chores?” into a search engine and many discussions of allowances will come up as well.

We actually don’t have a horse in this race. We think the important thing is to realize that whatever decisions about finances you make teaches your children some moral message so it is worth your while trying to focus on what messages about family, work and money you want to convey to your child. In our opinion, these should include:

  1. Every member of a family contributes to the functioning and success of that group. Parents and children both fulfill responsibilities because that is what people in a loving group do.  Depending on the children’s ages, make sure they understand that parents don’t just get to do whatever they want either.  Everyone plays a role. The reward is intrinsic. Normal cooperation in keeping the house running, cleaning up after oneself and helping other members of the family are standard and expected behaviors. In the Lord’s language the word for ‘family’ actually means ‘we each serve one another.’ (more…)

How much loyalty do I owe my boss?

March 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Thank you for your valuable insight into how the world really works. It has proven true time and again in my life as you would expect. 

I have been offered a position with a competing company in my industry that pays more and offers a benefit package. In addition my new partner is a harder worker then my current one and also better connected in my city. 

I was hired in my previous position being told that eventually I would be approached like this and would I have the integrity to stay with the company I am currently employed at.

Do I owe my current employer a debt of loyalty since they gave me the position I currently have?

Thanks,

Gregg

Answer: 

Dear Gregg,

Thank you for affirming the value of our teachings in terms of how the world REALLY works!  We love hearing that readers enjoy our work but when people tell us that they found our teachings not merely interesting or enjoyable but actually useful, the fireworks go off for us.

Congratulations on the job offer. It’s always nice to receive validation that your work is recognized. Your letter raises a number of very interesting issues but omits some of the information we’d need to answer your question definitely. Nonetheless, we’ll try to be useful to you.

It isn’t clear to us if your present boss asked you to commit  not to accept an offer from this specific company or to make a general commitment of loyalty. It’s also not clear to us what your response was at the time you were hired.
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Can you give too much?

March 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

Question:

First I would like to say thank you for what you do.

My question is how much is too much when a Christian does good things for others? My mom does so much for people she knows and I am happy about that. But sometimes I feel like she overdoes it. 

I know the Bible say we should help, share and be there for others. How much is too much? 

M.

Answer: 

Dear M.,

Thank you for your thank you. We shortened your submission because it was actually three separate questions and we didn’t have room to answer all three. We  also can’t answer your question specifically for Christians, since that isn’t our sphere of knowledge. What we can do however, is share guidelines from ancient Jewish wisdom.

You don’t say why you think your mother overdoes her acts of kindness nor do you reveal your age. Are you a teenager at home who misses your mother because she is out of the house caring for others instead of sharing time with you? (Of course, adults can desire more time with their mothers as well.) Are you worried about an aging mother damaging her health because she takes care of others while ignoring her own physical needs? Are you concerned that your mother is depleting her bank account and will not be able to cover her rent or insurance payments or are you seeing your inheritance being given away and worried about that? Each of these is a different circumstance. Your concerns may be none of the above.  Without knowing, we’ll do our best to respond with general principles.

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Jonathan and David – something hidden?

March 8th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

Question:

I have now been following you for some years and always enjoy reading your writings or listening to your podcasts. 

Recently, I was sharing with a friend about the deep friendship that existed between David and Jonathan, which I had always interpreted as nothing more than friendship, when I was struck to see the amount of writing suggesting that they actually had a homosexual relationship. I was wondering what the Jewish interpretation(s) were of the various passages between 1 Samuel 18 and 2 Samuel 1 referring to the relationship between the two. 

Would you be able to shed some light? It would be so appreciated. Such an interpretation would appear to go completely against Leviticus 18:22, and I could not help but wonder why God would have retained David as King if what he did was detestable before God. When David sinned with Bathsheba, God rebuked him and David repented. But regarding his relationship with Jonathan, I do not see any rebuke from God.

Jean-Pierre

Answer: 

Dear Jean-Pierre,

There is a reason we speak of ancient Jewish wisdom rather than modern Jewish wisdom. It is not because the wisdom is applicable only to those who lived long ago or because there can be no fresh applications to our time. We firmly dispute both those mistaken ideas. However, everything must be grounded in the written and oral Torah transmitted from God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Original thinking comes in applying the ancient wisdom to new circumstances, not in ignoring or negating it. 

We find Secular Fundamentalism’s desperation to find validation for their moral squalor in the writings of Scripture to be fascinating.  Do we care if there is any validation for our views in the writings of, say, Karl Marx.  Of course not! Because we have little regard for him.  Secular Fundamentalism’s yearning for Biblical validation reveals the deeply embedded, perhaps subconscious, respect they actually do have for the Bible.

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Do I have to become a people person?

March 1st, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Question:

When growing up, it seemed reasonable that some people liked to build and tinker with things as opposed to interacting with other people.  I became an engineer and am quite happy working with things rather than others.  My like-minded brother thinks we should build on our strengths and not be dragged down by spending time trying to eliminate our weaknesses.

I recently was exposed to attachment theory, the bonding to a person’s mother in the first year of life.  There is a category of attachment called avoidant attachment.  People with avoidant attachment generally remember little about their childhood and have relationship difficulties.  I feel this applies to me.  As I understand it, God has preprogrammed development to happen in stages.  Once that stage is passed, it is very difficult to recover it.  As an example, there is a window in which children learn to speak.  If they are deprived from talking with others during this period, then it is almost impossible for them to learn later how to make the necessary sounds used in normal speech.  Similarly, if we did not learn how to have relationships when we were quite young, it seems futile to try and develop that ability when we are older.

My brother and I seem to fall in line with the comment from Linus of Charlie Brown: “I love mankind, it is people I can’t stand.”  Like most (if not all introverts), I find interacting with people to be draining and eventually need to be alone.  My brother is quite content with considering himself a non-people person and feels no need to attend family functions.  I am trying to process the concept that God created man to be relational and that being a non-people person is a “defect” that needs to be corrected.

So my question is what is your thought about being a non-people person?

Richard M.

Answer: 

Dear Richard,

Thank you for writing and expressing your question in such an articulate way. Our guess is that quite a few people will be nodding in agreement as they read your question. 

Without writing a dissertation in response, we would like to explore some of your premises. We agree that God created humans to best and most easily be open to certain things at defined stages of our lives. The example you gave, of acquiring language, is one such reality. However, while we might need to work much harder at another stage of life and possibly never have the same proficiency as we might have developed at the best time, that is very different from saying that we should not even try if a window has passed. 

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I can’t afford your books.

February 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 51 comments

Question:

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

Answer: 

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

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