Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Am I reading too much?

June 20th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

Hello Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,

I am wondering if it is possible to gain “too much” knowledge. We know that Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden because of their disobedience, eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when instructed not to. However, as I have grown to understand it, their transgression was more in trying to “…be like God” and have His knowledge.

I love learning. I learn any way I can. I have a book in my hand (electronic or printed) almost all the time when I’m not occupied at work or with family. Am I potentially being sinful in my pursuit of knowledge?

Thank you.

Dennis J.

Dear Dennis,

What an interesting question! Before we move on to our answer we just want to say that ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes (as you correctly wrote) that Adam and Eve ate, not from the Tree of Knowledge which might have suggested that knowledge itself was part of the problem, but from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

Till that fateful bite, we humans had the ability to instantly and reliably know whether a particular action was good or evil.  That ancient surrender to tasty temptation forever confused us.  Now, in virtually every wrong and prohibited action, it is tragically possible to identify good, and in every good action it is sadly possible to see bad.

For instance, shouldn’t we  generally endorse and support homosexual marriage because after all, isn’t marriage good, and don’t we wish to see loving relationships?  Or, perhaps we should ban Bibles in public places since it surely is wrong to make some people feel distressed and excluded?

As you know these fallacious arguments are being advanced every day by those who view Judeo-Christian principles, not as vital for this nation but as primitive obstacles to progress.  And these mendacious twists persuade many.  Thank the serpent!

Back to your question. Like you, we are avid readers. When we moved, books made up the majority of our boxes. Yet, you are correct that the pursuit of knowledge (like so many other things taken to an extreme) can become a false god. We know of men who acquire degree after degree but never use any of what they learn to contribute to the world. We also know of those who worship pursuit of  “expertise” and when God’s word conflicts with the experts, His is the one they choose to ignore.

We doubt that any of this applies to you. You mention having both work and family which means that reading is not stopping you from living. We assume that you are judicious in choosing what you read and avoid books that have no redeeming value.

However, since you are raising the question, we would encourage you to ask whether you are a bit out of balance. Only you can answer if you are sometimes giving too much time to reading. Should you be spending more time with people, both family and community? Should you be exercising more or putting in more hours at work? Is your mind preoccupied with what you are reading so that you aren’t giving proper attention to other things? Is your pursuit of knowledge an end in itself or does it serve the purpose of making you a bigger person more capable of contributing to the world?

Answering these questions you tell you if you are being consistent with, “The beginning of knowledge is the acknowledgment of God.”

Happy reading,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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What is ancient Jewish wisdom?

June 12th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 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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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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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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Wife vs. Friend

May 24th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

I’ve been married for 18 years and we have 3 beautiful kids.

I think we have a problem. My husband is helping a friend by letting him borrow his truck a for little more than 2 months now. Every Thursday my husband drives the 2 youngest ones to school in our two passenger van. I asked him to ask his friend to return our truck so he could drive the kids to school safely, but he said that he is helping the friend and can’t ask him that yet.

Help me understand if I’m being selfish when my concern is the safety of the kids? On top of that his friend has been using the truck for more than two months. I think this has been enough time to get on his way, since his is getting paid regularly.  I assume he’s doing okay because I heard that the friend even loaned money to someone.

Do you think I’m being mean to my husband and his friend? I also laid out my views and concerns for my husband, on the first day he let the friend use the truck. I was even concerned that we may be holding his friend back from moving forward and  getting the better things in life for himself. 

Thank you so much for everything that you and Susan do. I watch your show every day on TCT and I’m now reading one of your books. I have a much better idea of things now because of you.


Gina S.

Dear Gina,

We’re delighted that you find our shows and books helpful. That encourages us to keep taping and writing.

You are actually asking three different questions:

  1. Is your husband driving your children in an objectively unsafe way?
  2.   Is your husband giving his friend help in a way that keeps his friend from taking responsibility for his own life?
  3. What say do you have in how your husband helps his friend?

It is possible that your husband thinks that doubling up on seating is perfectly safe but you don’t. However, we have a suspicion that your concerns do not stem entirely from the safety issue or you wouldn’t have let your husband drive the children even once in an unsafe manner.

You might be right that it would be good for the friend to become more independent, however you can’t know that for sure. It is possible that your husband’s friend has shared confidences with him that you don’t know about or that other factors are in play.

The third question is really the pivotal one in terms of your marriage. We feel that your question is far more of a state-of-marriage question than it is a child-safety question or your concerns about the friend’s own situation.


My Parents are Separating

May 15th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

First off, thank you for all that you both do and the wisdom you dispense through your podcasts, books and teachings. I find them all tremendously valuable and you have impacted my life for the better.

I have a question regarding my parents. Their marriage has been on the rocks for the past five years and they are now choosing to separate, but not divorce, because of their beliefs. Their issue is not due to infidelity but seems to be a communication and pride problem. They have been married for over forty years and have raised five children together, of which I am the youngest.

My question is what should our response be as their adult children? My instinct is to not get involved or share my opinions because it could be seen as taking sides and it doesn’t seem respectful.

As for background: we all live near our parents, there are many grandchildren in the family, we are all Christians, and we see each other often. I am struggling to identify what my responsibility is in this situation while still honoring my parents. My wife and I disagree with them not choosing to work harder on their marriage but we don’t know if it is our place to confront them on it.

One of my siblings suggested talking to them as a group, what do you think?

Any insights you could provide would be most welcome. Thank you tremendously.



Dear Sam,

Your sad situation reflects an important truth. No matter how old one’s children are, divorce is going to affect them. Of course, it also affects more distant relatives, friends, social circles and work groups. We are very sorry that you and your siblings and children are facing this situation.

Having said that, your instincts are spot on. In our audio CD on the Ten Commandments we explain why the Fifth Commandment about honoring parents is related to the Tenth Commandment, “Do not covet.” In short, recognizing one’s specific place in relationship to others is something that leads to happier interactions. We also explain why the Fifth Commandment is placed on the first tablet that otherwise deals with the interaction between people and God, while the second tablet deals with interactions between people and people. Honoring parents seems to be in the wrong place. Correctly understanding why there were two tablets clears up this confusion but even on a basic level it is clear that one’s parents occupy a position that no other people do.


Night and Day; Day and Night

May 9th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

In Genesis there is written this phrase: “so there was evening, and there was morning.”

I was brought up in a Western country and learned to think in the way of: you live, learn and work in the daytime and than you rest from your labor the following night. So the pattern is: day-night. But in the Creation story the pattern laid down by God seems to be night-day. Is this how it works?

If yes, what is the benefit to think in the pattern night-day instead of day-night? I can think of a few advantages but I hope you will help me in this.

In the same line of thinking is my related question: If Jewish people fast, do they fast from 18.00 hours till 18.00 hours or like Westerners from 24.00 hours till 24 hours?


Dear Wouter,

You are correct that,  based on the beginning of Genesis, the Jewish day starts in the evening and goes through the following evening. There are two days in our calendar where a fast starts with sunset and last for about 25 hours, ending an hour after sunset on the next day.

You can see traces of this pattern in the Western world where Christmas Eve ushers in the holiday. In colonial days in America, Sunday observances frequently began on Saturday night. Even up until the mid-1800s stores in Hartford, Connecticut were closed on Saturday nights as part of Sabbath observance. 

Before we comment on the benefits about which you ask, we want to make clear that our day starts in the evening because that is how God established it since Adam and Eve. It isn’t a case of making a pro and con list and then deciding which we think makes the stronger case.


What was Lot thinking?

May 1st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

In Genesis 19:8 Lot offers his daughter to the men of Sodom instead of his two visitors (the angels). This had always bothered me. I can’t imagine throwing my daughter out of my house to be raped. Can you explain this mindset to me?

Kathy H.

Dear Kathy,

To put it simply: No, we cannot explain this mindset to you. And, if we may say so, that may not be the best question. The Bible isn’t literature where we look at character development to better understand the story. We look at character development in the Bible, among many other things, in order to better understand the world and ourselves.

Perhaps in a number of hours of study, we could look at each word, indeed each letter, in this section of the Bible and begin to get a comprehensive picture, but in the limitations of an Ask the Rabbi column, we can’t begin to do this justice.

However, we get so many more questions than we can answer and we decided not to just put yours to the side because of one point it gives us the opportunity to share.


My wife wants me to get a toupee

April 25th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan,

You speak and write a lot about Biblical marriage and while sometimes it sounds a bit too good to be true,  my wife and I largely follow your teachings.  We’ve had many issues crop up and we have often found answers in your work. 

But we have looked throughout your work and your website for an answer to the question that is causing some stress in our relationship right now.  We have both agreed to be bound by your answer as we want the contention to end.  Here is our problem.  I am balding.  No, that does not fully describe the situation.  From the beautifully full head of hair I proudly sported when we got married, I have now progressed to the point where, frankly, I am as bald as a billiard ball.  There I’ve said it.  It happened surprisingly quickly; I am not happy about it of course but I have accepted it.  I’ve even come up with some humorous lines to respond to my ‘well-meaning’ friends teasing me. 

Here is the problem.  My darling wife wants me to wear a hairpiece or to undergo a major hair transplant.  As I said, I am not happy about my new look, but I would be even less happy about trying to hide it.  I would feel ridiculous resorting to either a wig or hair transplants.  I think I am explaining my wife’s position by saying she feels that our marriage makes us indivisible and how I look affects how she feels just as she knows that I appreciate how she looks and the trouble she takes to look that way.  I think she feels that appearing next to me in public makes her look older though she hasn’t said that. 

If I have to do what she wishes, I will do so in good grace and accept it as I have accepted being bald.  I think if you both say that I don’t have to change the appearance that God has given me, she will also accept it and come to get used to my shiny new look.

We love your television show and appreciate all the teaching you do.



Dear Fred,

This has to rank as one of the most interesting questions we have ever received. As we worked our way through it, we wanted to make sure that we knew what you were not asking as much as what you are asking. You are not asking about a marriage in which one spouse feels that the other is letting him or herself go to “pot.”  This too is an important question but it’s just not yours. 

We also want to commend you both on agreeing to be bound by the answer of a third party—in this case, us.  We too set up this kind of problem-solving-dynamic early in our own marriage.  The idea is that when a disagreement occurs, its resolution does not involve a “He won” or “She won” scenario. Instead, for the benefit of the relationship, and by virtue of your earlier agreement to be bound, the relationship wins.

Balding is not under your control. We might compare it to a woman’s hair turning gray. However, that isn’t even a fair equivalent because coloring a woman’s hair today is incredibly common and acceptable. It is also less invasive physically and emotionally than a wig or implants.  Your options are a medical procedure (transplants) or a toupee which is still the barb of jokes. So, your wife’s request is a big deal.

On the other hand, her feelings are also a big deal. Making one’s wife happy is serious business.  We know from how God created the human being that few things make a man happier than bringing ecstasy to his wife.  (Deuteronomy 24:5) This applies in the living room and kitchen and in public as much as in the bedroom.


Are men serious when they say this?

April 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

I am a 56 year-old woman who has never been married. I have recently decided that I would like to find a man and get married even in this later time of life. This surprises me because it was never really one of my goals to get married, but I have realized that I do not want to be alone for the rest of my life.

My question is this: I have signed up for a couple of dating websites. I also go on dates with people that I am introduced to from other people but I find this same issue that I am emailing you about.

What I have noticed with a lot of men around my age is they say they are looking for and still have not found “the one.”  I am surprised that I am running into this as these are men that should know by now that there is really no “one person” for another. I will acknowledge there are instances where someone finds their so-called “soulmate,” but I believe these instances are few and far between. But these men seem to think that they will find the one even this late in life and expect fireworks, etc. when they meet someone and life will be just all hunky-dory when they meet this special person.

In my opinion, they are acting like teenage girls.  What are your thoughts on this whole finding “the one” to marry? And how do I reconcile this in my head?  Do I just not even consider getting to know men who have this notion because truthfully I doubt if I would be “the one?”


Julie G.

P.S. I realize now that I should not have waited so long to find a mate.

Dear Julie,

Your sentence, “In my opinion, they are acting like teenage girls,” gave us a chuckle though we realize that this isn’t a laughing matter. You are, of course, correct in recognizing that waiting for “the one” is a good recipe for staying single.

However, we would take a man’s statement about “the one” to be an opening comment rather than considering it a closing argument.  For instance, instead of dismissing the man who claims to be ‘waiting for the One’ perhaps instead keep the conversation going by saying, “I also used to think marriages are made by waiting for the one, but I have since learned that time is better spent trying to become the One.” 

If this waiting for the One is not coming up in conversation, but instead it crops up on an online questionnaire or in the first few minutes of meeting someone, we think it just might be an easy quip that could precede a deeper conversation.  (If it’s online, it could also be the easiest and best box to check even if it doesn’t actually describe someone’s thoughts.) We agree that spending a lot of time with a man who is waiting for fireworks and a symphony orchestra is a waste of time, but we would at least give time for a cup of coffee before deciding that this truly describes that particular individual’s  worldview.


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