Posts in Ask the Rabbi

When is the time to stop grieving?

December 3rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin,

My church has been under grief for over a year, due to a lady in the church losing her baby girl just before she was born.The woman had to give birth to the baby even though the baby was going to be dead on arrival due to a blood clot that stopped the baby’s heart. 

Last night I attended a women’s meeting where the women of the church old and young got up and declared that grief is always a part of us, there is no expiration date, and we just need to grieve forever, allowing grief to be apart of us.And saying things like no one knows anything about grief unless they have experienced the same thing themselves.Talking about the physical debilitation it can do to your body and so on. 

Then after all this they had the woman who lost her baby get up and answer questions about her grief talking about it for 30 minutes or more. She proceeded to make angry remarks about people whose babies had been healed and how praying and putting your grief down to live a victorious life was all more harmful than good, because a life of faith is a hard life with no advantages except for the afterlife.

Needless to say I don’t feel like this is biblical at all.Yes, we have time to grieve,but it shouldn’t be for ever and one eventually needs to pick up the pieces and move on.

Please help! Thanks ever so much for your time.

Gina

Dear Gina,

As a student of our teachings, you  have most likely heard us often explain  that, as important as our emotions are, we must be in control of them rather than allowing  them to control us. You have successfully worked on yourself to “think Biblically”  and what you have learned is guiding you. We want  to validate that your instincts in this case are entirely correct.

As you say, ‘it shouldn’t be forever’ because if it is, added to other deaths in the church community, all of them also observed forever, eventually the church becomes overwhelmed by an incessant tsunami of grief in the midst of which no celebration of anything is ever possible.

The Bible does impose a time limit on (public) grief “and when the days of his grief were over” (Genesis 50:4) and “The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.” (Deuteronomy 34:8)  Privately, one observes an annual commemoration on the anniversary of death however, imposing one’s grief upon the entire community forever is wrong.

We do want to   warn you  that we don’t think that there is anything that you can say or do that will change the minds of the women in your church. They seem to be following today’s general culture that elevates feelings above all else.

Ancient Jewish wisdom has a great deal to say about grieving. This should come as no surprise. Life and death, and joy and sadness are huge parts of our lives. Ignoring death is unhealthy but so is letting those difficult periods overwhelm us.

The grief of this woman in your church seems to have turned into a bitterness against church teachings and God.  She needs wise and warm counseling from a faith leader. People who mean well sometimes say unhelpful things to those who are suffering. Among these are statements like, “If you truly had faith, nothing bad would happen,” or “You must be very special for God to choose you for such an affliction.” People are uncomfortable around grief and while trying to help, can cause a great deal of pain.

Unfortunately, by attempting to validate this woman’s pain (a good thing) it seems that, as a group, the women in your church are losing all perspective (a bad thing). As it says in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a proper time—and time limit—for all things. “A time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance”.

In Genesis 23:2 it says that Abraham cried after the death of his wife, the matriarch Sara. Not visible in translation is that, for all time in a proper Torah scroll, one of the letters in the word meaning ‘to cry for her’ is written small. This leads us to the ancient Jewish wisdom teaching that Abraham diminished his grief. While personally devastated at the loss of his loving partner, he recognized that his mission in life demanded both a proper mourning and then a return to active and joyful life. Learning to do so doesn’t mean forgetting or turning your back on your loss. If does mean that stopping to actively grieve is as important as actively grieving. Life has changed and we can never go back to what it was before this death, but our own life, filled with meaning and happiness, does need to go on.

We have written in a number of places about the Torah’s directives for dealing with the loss of a close relative, starting with seven intense days of mourning surrounded by friends and family and then an easing back into full life. A death in utero or delivering a stillborn baby follows a different path. In some ways that can be more difficult. There has been a trauma, but the mourning is private and less regimented. What we can learn, is that making this into a public, unending mourning is not helpful. Rather than supporting this poor mother’s healing, her grief (and anger) is becoming institutionalized. This is not good for her and it certainly isn’t good for the church family.

Perhaps what these church ladies need is for a pastor or church leader to offer a special class on how God calls upon us not to follow our hearts and emotions.  He would draw a distinction between secular culture in which talking about feelings has been elevated into a form of secular devotion and religious culture in which we learn to control our feelings and not be controlled by them. “Remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes,” (Numbers 15:39)

We hope that you can share your reservations with others especially those in leadership, Gina, but you will need to do so in a firm but sensitive way. This is no easy task.

Everything in its time and place,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Did you contradict yourselves, Rabbi and Susan?

November 27th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I would like to say thank you very much Rabbi Lapin, your book Business Secrets From The Bible is a game changer. Changed my life. I do have one question though in regard to something you wrote in Secret #18. 

You make mention that students evaluating teachers is a backwards practice. I think I see your angle with this line of thought, but I also see that the students are the customers of the teacher, or at least one of the customers. If teachers don’t receive reviews from them sometimes, how will they know how to better improve the product that they are giving the students? 

I understand that under a certain age, students’ cognitive abilities are not developed enough to perform such reviews. However, for older students, especially those in university who are paying for the product the teacher is delivering, why is it a bad thing for the product the teacher delivers to get reviewed? Looking forward to your answer.

Kind Regards,

Emanuel E.

Dear Emanuel,

You are asking a wonderful question. We always appreciate being forced to question our own assertions. One of the problems with today’s society is how often people only read things that align with their beliefs. We rarely hear true debates of the old-fashioned variety where ideas, not people, are dissected and where honest questions rather than vicious attack is practiced.

You are pointing out that we often extol the idea of a free and ethical market where the usefulness of a business is recognized by the fact that it has customers. We seem to be suggesting that the same is not true for colleges. You are saying that surely, a teacher who receives good reviews and whose classes are oversubscribed is delivering proof that he or she is successful.

In a classical and honest college experience where education was paid for and delivered as a resource, this would be true. You yourself recognize that if students are not paying for their own education, their views lack credibility. They are, in fact, not the customer. The government and their fellow citizens are. 

Whenever a third party pays, quality falls and costs rise.  Imagine each time you visit the grocery market, the checkout cashier submits  your bill to be paid for by your fellow citizens. You would load up your cart with many more items than you really need and the supermarket would price them far higher than you would normally accept.  This is a little how our university system is working.

We aren’t familiar with colleges around the world. However, the United States has a broken system. Among other problems, higher education receives too much government money (which of course means money confiscated from fellow citizens) to be equated to a business. Too many universities offer meaningless degrees that allow students to spend wasted years and emerge uneducated, ignorant and often invested in destroying society. Students and their families often  sink heavily into debt to earn a degree that offers nothing real in terms of earning money or expanding their knowledge. Whereas eighteen-year-olds at times in history have often been mature adults, too many college students today expect the privileges of adulthood without any of the responsibilities. Colleges provide them with an opportunity to delay growing up. 

If you don’t like how the supermarket treats you, your best recourse is to shop elsewhere.   The university student has virtually no recourse since almost all higher education institutions conduct business in the same way.

Clearly, there are serious and dedicated students and fine educational institutions with worthy professors. These students are truly seeking knowledge and expect to emerge from their studies with skills that can benefit themselves and their fellow citizens. Under those circumstances, we agree that student reviews can be valuable. When we criticized the practice of students grading teachers, we should have noted that we were referring to educational venues where reviewing teachers means noting who gives an ‘easy A,’ and, even more so, rewarding those teachers whose politics align with the most extreme Leftist ideas while trashing those teachers who are independent thinkers. Reviews in this case are often used to encourage grade inflation and to censor speech.  We consider them an insidious aspect of modern so-called education.

In summary, our language was too broad. Were we to sit down with you in conversation, we feel sure that we would agree on when student reviews are valuable and when they are destructive. 

Thanks for keeping us on our toes,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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My Wife is Amazing – We’re Getting a Divorce

November 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I enjoy the wisdom that you show us, your happy warriors, through your many avenues of teaching. I’ll keep my question brief. Why is it, that when a celebrity couple decides they no longer wish to honor their matrimonial vows, they always praise the other person for being such a wonderful person and say they have the highest respect for him or her? If they have that respect and stated emotions, why not stay together? I won’t belabor the point. I’ll merely include a link to the story that prompted my thoughts.

I would love to hear your thoughts, even if it is merely to say that many of these marriages are based on “feelings” and not true love.

Eric B.

Dear Eric,

If you’ll excuse us, before answering your question we would like to explain the phrase you used, ‘happy warriors’.  This is how  I, (RDL) envision the listeners to my popular  podcast. One of those happy warriors, Andrew, started a growing Facebook page where listeners discussed the latest podcast. A short while ago, he agreed to morph that page into a new group, Friends of Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin, in order to broaden the conversation to those who may watch our TV show, read our books and columns or know us in other ways. It is fun to watch the group grow and to see our “friends” meeting each other. In this way the ‘happy warriors’ phrase has expanded beyond its original meaning.

Back to your question. Honestly, we had never heard of the couple featured in the magazine, but we did look at the link you sent. In a post on Instagram, the husband wrote, among other things, “With our hectic work schedules we could not be busier, and over the last few years have grown apart,” and spoke of his soon-to-be-ex-wife as, “one of the most incredible women I have ever met and the best mom to our kids.”

Your question seems to be that if that is how he feels about her, why are they getting divorced, especially as he says that their main focus is their two daughters. For loving parents, the logical solution to “growing apart” might be spending more time together.

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I Have So Many Interests – How Do I Monetize Them?

November 13th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

This is Omar E. – born in Rome from Egyptian muslim father and Italian catholic mum.

I just recently discovered your material and I quickly became addicted to it. I would like to ask you something – what’ s your views on destiny? And more in detail – are some people destined to be failures?

I am 36 years old and I have always been a passionate learner. Throughout my life I have been involved in various different fields – I have a Jazz drums degree, been cooking in some of the most prestigious kitchen in the world, got a Sommelier certification, I have been trading stocks for 4 years while studying various types of technical analysis (TPO, Market Profile, Point and Figure, Fundamentals and more).

While I am very proud of all the things I have learnt, I have never been able to monetize as much as I wanted. Once I felt I started to master a certain profession – I quickly began to lose interest and my attention and focus went somewhere else… But now I am struggling to provide money for my family, and this is very frustrating. It seems to me that for some folks success just come easy, while all my efforts for some reason don’t produce the wanted outcome.

I have a great wife and daughter – and I am very grateful for that – but now I am just wondering whether I should just accept that I am a great fast-learning person, but making money is not in my destiny.

Hope to hear from you, thanks for your time.

Faithfully,

Omar E.

Dear Omar,

We are intrigued by your unusual background and are so happy you wrote to us.  Your letter spoke to our hearts , especially since your decisions greatly impact the lives of two other people, your wife and daughter. However, we did say to ourselves, “Surely we’ve discussed this before?”

Our quick search of Ask the Rabbi questions and answers over the past ten years revealed a number of people who wrote with similar questions (a sample of which we will link to at the bottom). But here’s our not-surprising conclusion: each individual faces his or her own background, challenges, rationalization of behavior and life-path. As such, we hope that each time we answer a similar question, we hope that we can add something additional to whatever we said before.

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Changing a Lifetime of Behavior

November 6th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

I am a 61 yr. old Christian male. I was brought up in a strict home, children should be seen but not heard. My Father was a stickler about everything; lights, water, doors and was constantly correcting me. I too have become a nit picker.

I pray for Go d to grant me patience and understanding, but it is so hard for me. What can I do in addition?  Is there a passage in the Torah/Bible which will give me guidance and help me to grow and become a better husband, grandfather etc.?

I don’t want people, my wife in particular, to become bitter and resentful towards me. G d willing you can give me an answer.

Oh by the way, my wife and I are regular watchers of your program on TCT. G d Bless you, your wife and family for you are a ray of hope in a dark world.

Kurt G.

Dear Kurt,

Wow. That is our reaction to your letter. Being willing to assess things afresh and to embrace the hard work involved in uprooting decades of bad habits makes you a rare individual.  We feel proud to have you among the audience of  our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show

While we greatly value prayer and Bible study, our answer is not going to be to read a few verses of Scripture or an exhortation to pray harder. We have something far more challenging for you to undertake.  But it will work.  We believe that when it comes to working on our character traits, only actions count.   You should certainly pray for His assistance and there are many verses that can speak to your heart, but you need to take action.

One of the great flashes of Biblical insight that we can all use effectively to transform our lives for the better is this: It’s not our thoughts that change our actions as much as it is our actions that change our thoughts.  Act now the way you would act if you already felt the way you wish you felt and your feelings will eventually fall into compliance with your actions.  Please reread that last sentence again.  Then you will understand why there is no more ardent advocate for the anti-smoking position than the former smoker who took the profound action of quitting. 

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I (Don’t) Wanna Shake Your Hand?

October 30th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 39 comments

Lately, almost whenever I meet salespeople and also socially, people extend their hand to shake. As a woman I do not want to shake strangers’ hands.

Recently a car salesman approached my husband and then me. I kept my hands behind my back and smiled at the salesman. He asked, “Do you not want to shake my hand?” I said I was in covenant with my husband and do not shake hands.

However, I do NOT want to hurt people’s feelings. Do you have a polite, kind way of avoiding the handshake without going into detail? I would appreciate a ‘tool’ for this new lunging intrusion.

Thank You,

Catherine

Dear Catherine,

We are fascinated by your question. When I (RDL) was growing up under the flag of the British Empire, there were definite protocols accepted by the entire society. It was a woman’s prerogative to choose whether to extend her hand to a man or not. For a gentleman to put his hand out first, reflected gaucheness and bad manners.

To this day, men about to be introduced to Queen Elizabeth II of England are warned not to extend their hands until and unless the Queen does so first.

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My Mother-in-Law is Impossible

October 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

Do you have some wisdom for me?  My mother-in-law has been a constant strain on our marriage.  To give an example:  This last weekend we made a special trip to an amusement park where we joined up with my in-laws.  While we were there,  my mother-in-law did everything she could to keep my husband from riding rides with my children or being around me. 

It went so far, that my mother-in-law spun the old story: about how she used to carry my husband around everywhere and she made him promise that he would one day carry her around.   After this retelling of the story,  she got him to carry her around like a bride crossing a threshold for 5 minutes.   🙁  In the amusement park.  🙁  In front of everyone.   🙁

I don’t know what to do. I have so many in-law stories it is ridiculous.   I keep making myself choose JOY because it is a choice.  At the same time however,  I would love to hear some teaching for me or me and my husband, on the topic of unhealthy in-laws and healthy in-laws.  This way maybe I  can be a good mother-in-law someday, and my husband and I can traverse this choppy ever recurring water. 

Signed,

Your friend

Dear Friend,

We absolutely love the way you are using a problem in your life as a springboard for training yourself for the future. The Bible repeatedly tells the children of Israel to be kind to the stranger “because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”  Obviously, the Hebrews had little choice and didn’t want to be strangers in the land of Egypt but people still  can choose how to react when they are treated badly. Tragically, some take the attitude of “payback time,” looking to mistreat others as they were mistreated. You have cleverly and bravely adopted the Biblical response of using your own mistreatment to make you more sensitive to others.

Nonetheless, you and your husband do have a problem. However, it may not be the one you are thinking of. Let’s  focus on the phrase you used, “…she got him to carry her around…” As an adult, your husband made the decision to carry his mother around. Your mother-in-law may be difficult; she may be very difficult, but she probably did not whip out a pistol and force her son to do so. The problem is not your mother-in-law.  The problem is that you and your husband haven’t yet got onto the same page dealing with this problem as you most likely have for so many other issues in your married life.

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She’s offering me security. Is that enough?

October 16th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 34 comments

I am in my late 30s and not doing so well financially (but that’s absolutely about to change having come in contact with your teachings).

I am currently with a lady who is 5 years older than myself and doing pretty well for herself. Should I for financial security settle down with her even though I am not totally confident when I am with her in  public, or leave her and take my chances?

Francis H.

Dear Francis,

While we take great pride in our books, CDs and DVDs and our many other resources and we are elated about the many thousands whom they have benefitted, we’re afraid that we have to question your assumption that they will help you. We are not sure you are ready for them.

We say this because your letter reveals a very unmasculine passivity. One can be in his late 30s and go bald without having done anything to have caused that to happen. You can be in your late 30s and be less agile than you were at 18 even if you eat healthily and exercise. You don’t get close to 40 “not doing so well financially” without having taken some wrong steps in the past and having failed to take some very necessary right ones. Our resources, we feel, are superb but they are not magical elixirs— in order to be effective, and they can be stunningly effective, they need commitment, hard work and willingness to significantly change. Are you ready for that? Think seriously; are you really ready for that?

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How do you keep current events from getting you down?

October 7th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Hello Rabbi Lapin and Susan,

I am generally an optimistic person, and the Jewish faith we share teaches us to be optimistic, even in difficult times. However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to feel optimistic about our country’s future, given the vitriolic, hateful language and actions employed on a daily basis against President Trump and conservative values in general.

This, combined with the lightning speed with which the PC forces are seeming to “have their way,” forcing us into either silence or acquiescence with things we are against morally and ethically, has given me the blues.

Do you see hopeful signs, and if so, where? Thank you.

Your friend and student,

Judy G.

Dear Judy,

We think you are speaking for many when you say that there are times that you find it hard to be optimistic about the future of the United States. As you also say, Judaism fundamentally teaches optimism, but it is not a “sit back and do nothing” optimism. The Torah demands action aimed at propelling things in the right direction.

If we may say, your own story, which you tell so eloquently (and humorously) in you wonderful book, The Skeptic and the Rabbi, is a large part of our answer. Could you ever have imagined writing the letter you just wrote us back when you were a devotedly liberal woman? People and their ideas are capable of change. 

Much of the reason you were liberal was because of a caring nature and because of your belief in core values, among them independent thinking, intellectual exploration and compassion. Back then you thought that those values belonged to the Left.  Today, however, it is clear that genuine liberalism is scorned by leaders of the  Democrat Party, colleges and media.

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We’re Moving Towards God, but Come from Different Faiths

October 2nd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Thank you so much for your podcast and your books, your work is tremendously enlightening and has enriched my life immeasurably.

I grew up as an atheist and discovered God as an adult. I am struggling finding the right path for me to learn about God and follow his teachings.

My own family background is Jewish on my mother’s side, but my husband comes from a Christian background (but secular). We have started attending church because he is now also yearning to follow God’s word. I enjoy church and Bible study but feel somewhat uncomfortable there due to my Jewish background. However, I want to support my husband and show a united spiritual front to our children, and I want my children to grow up in a Bible-believing community, instead of around the toxic secular values that my husband and I grew up with in school and society.

What is the right path for me?

Sincerely,

Anita

Dear Anita,

Thank you for your warm and encouraging words.  We really appreciate hearing that we are adding value to your life.  We think that you are a wise and courageous woman. We say this without knowing you because you understand the importance of presenting a united front with your husband and of giving your children a spiritual reality and a safe community.

Little did you or your husband think that it would matter that two people, both of whom came from families with a secular mindset, had different religious backgrounds. Yet, like most couples who have blithely ventured down these perilous pathways only to discover eventually that it does matter, you too have seen the same. It sounds like you are both on a growth trajectory and that takes honesty, courage and strength.

We encourage you to allow the process to play out. While there are huge theological differences between Torah observant  Judaism and Christianity which we’d never try to blur, the truth is that when contrasted with an atheistic or secular worldview, they have much in common.

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