Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Why the different childbirth rules?

June 21st, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

In Leviticus 12 it talks about the purification of women after childbirth.

Why is the woman considered unclean for twice the amount of time if she gives birth to a female than if she gives birth to a male? (I understand being unclean from a medical perspective of healing, but I thought it took the same amount to heal regardless of gender) 


Dear Elin,

Our egos are struggling here! It seems that you have not read every Thought Tool or Ask the Rabbi that we have posted. (Disclaimer: we are smiling as we write this)

One of the absolutely worst translation mistakes in Scripture substitutes the word ‘unclean’ for the Hebrew word ‘TaMEI’. If we could, we would go through all English Bibles crossing that word out.

Please look at these two posts where we refute the bad translation and then come back so that we can deal with your specific question.

Having, hopefully, expunged that terrible translation from your mind, we want to preface our answer by saying that we cannot do justice to this topic in the format available to us, but we do hope to give you a glimpse into reality.

Now that you understand a bit more about what the word TaMEI conveys, you will see that the physical act of childbirth renders a woman TaMEI. She has lost a living part of herself and as much as she rejoices in the new baby, her body no longer houses a new life. That is a reality that mustn’t be ignored for her to move forward in a spiritually and mentally healthy way.

As to the discrepancy between giving birth to a son or a daughter,  if you think about it, you might see the beginning of an answer. In The Thorn Birds,  Colleen McCullough’s best-selling book, the mother gives birth to many boys and one girl. There is a poignant sentence which speaks of her wonderment at having boys emerge from her body which isn’t present where her daughter is concerned. She (partially mistakenly) thinks that she understands her daughter by virtue of shared femininity.

It is true that mothers have a deep understanding that the future ability to nurture new life is already present in their infant daughter’s body. They have given birth to someone who, with God’s blessing, will give birth as well. The extended period of TaMEI when the Temple stood, reflected that understanding.

Your question, like many we receive had multiple parts. As we did in this case, we often edit these questions to answer only one part. It is the only way that we can keep this column from becoming too long. We hope that this at least starts you down a fresh, many thousands of years old, way of thinking.

Now go cross out all the ‘unclean’s in your Bible,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 *  *  *

Don’t be stuck with bad or limited translations!
This inside look into the wonders of the Hebrew language will astound you.


Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language

Our son just ‘came out.’

June 14th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 48 comments

How do I answer my son who has declared he is homosexual?  My beliefs are against this practice.


Dear L.,

You must be in tremendous pain and we pray that you feel ‘hugs’ from God as you go through this time.

So many parents are undergoing this challenge in our days. The entire ethos surrounding us says that this is your problem not your son’s, and, yet, you are faithful to a tradition that existed for centuries before ‘modern’ thinking came into vogue and will still be around when the ‘modern’ becomes old-fashioned.

We want to remind you, during your time of anguish, that contrary to contemporary norms of positioning nearly everything in terms of identity politics, Scripture does not accept the existence of a person defined as a ‘homosexual’.  There are many sins and a male having sex with another male is one of those sins.  When a man engages in a Biblically prohibited activity called homosexuality, it doesn’t change who he is. Similarly, a Jew who engages in the Biblically prohibited conduct of eating a ham sandwich does not change his identity into being a “ham-eater”.  In other words, homosexual is a behavior, not an identity.  In spite of what your son or the latest social science might believe, he is not a homosexual.  He is your son who has yielded to a temptation to sin.  He may be feeling confused and his peer group are patting him on the back, praising him for his courage in ‘coming out.’  The fact that he sinned yesterday is no guarantee that he will continue to do so.   In spite of popular culture’s wrong-headed insistence, men can and often do abandon the practice of homosexuality.   Obviously we realize how out of step our teachings are with today’s popular culture but our mission is to tell the truth rather than to win friends (Should those two goals be in conflict.)

I (Susan) once read a book aimed at parents coping with children whose behavior was tremendously painful to the parents. The author spoke with compassion and practical wisdom to parents whose children were prostitutes and criminals, drug addicts and predators. However, she abandoned her general compassionate attitude to tell parents who were disappointed and suffering because their children practiced homosexuality that they, not their children, had a problem. Do not let yourself believe that.

You, as so many others, see your child going down a path contrary to God’s directions. You may be feeling guilt and shame along with distress and sadness. Those are most likely counterproductive emotions.

The question, as we see it, isn’t so much what you should ‘answer’ your son as how to continue your relationship. Naturally, we encourage you to discuss your situation with your personal spiritual leader. In addition, we think that modern technology provides a tremendous boon. We would recommend linking online (and perhaps that will lead you to individuals with whom you can meet locally) with others who share your beliefs and your challenge.

While there is a common theme, each family has its own dynamics and each child has his or her own complexity. We think you will find solace in sharing your story with those who understand and hearing what others choose to say or do will provide you with ideas that will help you forge your own path as they resonate or don’t resonate with you. We would be extremely hesitant to give a blanket response to such a complex question.

Remember that he is still your son.  He is not a new alien being. He should know that loving him and rejecting his actions are not contradictory.

Always, of course, keep praying and reminding yourself that salvation can come in an instant.

Wishing you blessing,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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What insights can we get by looking at the Hebrew words for parents and children? Quite a lot. Read this book to understand the profound message behind those and 28 additional powerful words.
Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language 

Were a third of Jacob’s sons illegitimate?

June 6th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

Deuteronomy 23:3 says that a bastard is not part of the assembly unto the 10th generation.  How can that be when half of Jacob’s sons were born to his concubines and became the heads of tribes?


Dear Peggy,

If you are not a lawyer you may not know the difference between manslaughter, 1st degree murder and 2nd degree murder. If you aren’t a gourmet chef you may not distinguish between Hungarian paprika and Spanish paprika. Yet, in the courtroom or a five-star kitchen a great deal may hinge on those distinctions.

The Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 23:3 is mamzer. It is generally mistranslated as ‘bastard’.  This is not what the term means. Mamzer is a technical term that refers to the very rare case of a child of a man and a woman who are not allowed to marry, such as siblings or a married woman and someone other than her husband. So, for example, while the Torah much prefers children to be created within marriage rather than outside of that holy covenant, the child of an unmarried couple who are legally able to get married but did not do so, is not a mamzer.


What’s the point of a blessing before eating?

May 23rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

Would you or Susan write about the appropriate way to pray before meals? I’ve heard two different views. One view indicates that we shouldn’t “ask” for our food to be blessed, as God already said, as His people, He will bless our bread and water. Instead, we should simply bless & thank Him, as our provider, etc. The other view indicates we should, indeed, ask His blessing on the food, prior to partaking of same.

Please advise…

Thanks 🙂

Christine B.


Dear Christine,

Although this isn’t your question, we (at Ask the Rabbi you get both of us!) would like to explain one of the major misconceptions about kosher food. Many people think that kosher food is food that is blessed. When a company has kosher certification, as thousands of large and small brands do, rabbis visit the company’s manufacturing facilities. However, they are not coming to bless the food but to supervise the production. Depending on the food, a rabbi might stay on the premises full time or alternatively drop in for sporadic visits. Every ingredient and its source, the methods of cooking and even the delivery containers are scrutinized.

Back to your question, Christine.  We would come down on the side of thanking God.  After all,  whatever food the earth brings forth is already blessed.  Consequently, we recommend thanking God for providing us with food and blessings us with such tasty sustenance   We ourselves,  say a blessing both before and after eating. The short blessing before eating is a formal acknowledgement (and it is important that our own ears hear our own mouth utter those words) that God supplies our food.  This blessing changes slightly according to the type of food. For example, before eating an apple we say, “Blessed are You, King of the world, who created the fruit of the tree.”


I’m trying to cut expenses, but my wife won’t get on board

May 16th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

I have been listening to your podcasts for about a year now and find them very insightful. I was raised a Baptist and am now a confirmed Roman Catholic. I find that every week your subject matter always seems to address something that is going on at that moment. 

I have had a lot of changes in my life recently, some by choice, others by necessity. At 38 I have realized that my wife and I need to start being good stewards of our money and to stop living beyond our means.

 I now have a career that requires that I have good credit but is a decent paying job. My problem is that I am having trouble getting my wife onboard with the idea. I realize that we need to tighten our belts for the time being. 

Do you have any advice on how to convince her of this?

Thank you for your time and God bless you.


Frank G.


Dear Frank,

Congratulations on the new job as well as on entering the world of economic adulthood. Living beyond your means isn’t a good idea at any time, but recognizing that in your late thirties rather than later hopefully gives you time to turn things around.

You don’t mention how long you’ve been married, but it sounds like you are unilaterally changing the rules of the marriage. If until now, you and your wife have been spending indiscriminately and somehow making do, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you can’t just come home and announce a new way of living. You may have had an epiphany but your wife hasn’t.


What’s wrong with pride?

May 9th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

What does ancient Jewish wisdom say on the topic of “pride”?

My whole life I’ve grown up in an Evangelical home, and between Sunday school and a Christian school I was constantly told that, “Pride cometh before a fall”. I remember at one point a teacher said Pride is one of the worst of sins because so many other sins are symptoms of Pride.

But in my own life, I think I could use more pride. It wasn’t because of obedience to God that I spent a couple hours cleaning my car last weekend or tidying up the lawn—it was that great sense of accomplishment I felt afterward which can only be described as pride! And I think it was the lack (or fear of) pride that kept me from cleaning my car for months or tidying up the lawn for weeks until it got too bad to ignore.

So it seems that pride is a very positive thing. We should have pride in our country, be proud of our kids, and proud of our accomplishments. And it seems what the Bible is talking about is not as much pride, as much as it is ego.

Are there two types of pride? I’m hoping ancient Jewish wisdom can help clarify the topic. 

Thank you,



Dear Sean,

Congratulations on having a clean car and tidy lawn and for bringing this question to our attention. We had never paid attention to the popular mistranslation of Proverbs 16:18 that you cite, “Pride cometh before a fall.” While no translation is perfect, arrogance would be a far better translation of the Hebrew.

What is the difference?


I feel isolated because I don’t have children

May 3rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

Thank you for your teachings. I am a Christian who grew up in a traditional Christian home and graduated from Christian school. Now, as an adult married 17 years to my Christian husband; however, I have no children due to an ongoing illness. 

I am now coping with the reality that I will likely never have children.  I am now in my forties. This has been a great disappointment for me. I have seen many childless women groups on the internet, but I am careful who I take advice from. I should add that my husband and I have a wonderful marriage, but I am wondering how I best serve the Lord though I am not a mother?  

What makes this most difficult is that I feel socially isolated. I have been reading my Bible and searching scripture for my new purpose. Are there any biblical scriptures you suggest? 

Thank you for taking the time to consider my question.



Dear Elizabeth,

You are, indeed, going through a difficult challenge.  The Bible leaves much unsaid about the emotional pain felt in many heart-breaking situations, but when it comes to childlessness it gives us numerous examples of women suffering devastating pain because they couldn’t conceive. We are sure that surrendering the dream of having children is almost unbearable.

We are going to assume that you and your husband have decided against adoption or you would have phrased your question differently. Perhaps you have also thought of foster parenting and rejected that idea for your own reasons. We do suggest that you find some way, whether within your own extended family or by reaching outside that group, to connect to the next generation. It is important for all of us to envision a future that lasts beyond ourselves.


When is ‘connecting with others’ a mistake?

April 27th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 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.


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.


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.


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.


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?



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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