Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Dating during divorce process

February 7th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I am a 29 year old woman and I am currently going through a divorce. I did not initiate the divorce and I did my best to be a faithful and good wife to my husband despite his unfaithfulness, lack of financial provision and other issues. 

The one thing I want most out of life is to be a wife and mother. My question is: is it ok to date while the divorce is still pending? I was living in the US with my husband but since the divorce I have moved back to my home country (the United Kingdom). 

I am a Christian but would be interested to hear your point of view on this.

Hannah

Dear Hannah,

It sounds like you have been through a number of very difficult and disappointing years. We pray that the future holds much happiness and fulfillment for you as a wife and mother.  If you handle things correctly from here on and God blesses you, there is every chance of the good life awaiting you up ahead.

For people of faith, marriage is entered into by engaging in two separate processes.  One is obtaining a civil marriage, according to the laws of one’s country. The other is spiritual; more of a covenant that includes God in the new relationship.  We usually think of it as the religious ceremony  in contrast to the civil contract.

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How can I make it to the top?

January 31st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

I would like to know  how I can get God’s help in being successful in reaching top position in the area of finance when the competition is so high and there are people who are smarter than me and I have been encountering so many defeats  and humiliation while I am working towards my goal.

Kurian K.J.

Dear Kurian,

Based on your letter, we are assuming that English isn’t your native tongue, but we hope we understand your question correctly.

Sometimes, when addressing live audiences,  I (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) ask them if they think God wants us to be rich.  Some say ‘yes’ and some answer, ‘no’.  I then explain that God hasn’t shared His desire on this with me. However, I do know that a good and loving God, in the grand scheme of things, set up a system that rewards those of His children who devote their lives to helping His other children. In general, the more people you help and the more unique that help is, the better you will do financially.

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What do you think of bitcoin?

January 23rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

What is your opinion of bitcoin? It would seem that it does not exist in the true sense and does not serve other human beings. Investments only have value when other people place a value on them.

Jeff N.

Dear Jeff,

We’re getting a strong urge to start this answer by saying that nothing in our Ask the Rabbi column should be taken as investment advice and that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can answer your question.

The point we would like to make is that bitcoin’s value, as you say, is based on people’s willingness to honor it. That is true for many things we call money. For example, United States savings bonds are “backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government.” If the government falls or become dishonorable, the bonds quickly become worthless. The service any form of monetary exchange provides is allowing people to function economically in a more sophisticated manner than basic bartering. But any government behaving immorally by inflating its currency in order to surreptitiously tax its citizens will quickly find its currency valueless.

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What do I tell my teens about masturbation?

January 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 33 comments

Question: This is a serious question.  I have teenagers now.  What does the bible have to say about masturbation?  And is there a difference in teaching between boys and girls?  I would really appreciate an honest, biblical answer.  Thank you.

Joanne

Dear Joanne,

Of course this is a serious question but we understand why you felt it necessary to forewarn us.  And a serious, honest, Biblical answer is exactly what we would have done our best to provide, even had you not explicitly requested it.  We also empathize with you and admire how seriously you are accepting the responsibility of raising children.  In today’s cultural climate, it is enormously challenging to raise wholesome teenagers.  However, we feel certain that doing so with Biblical help is far easier than without.  For this reason, our answer involves you sitting down with each of your children in front of a Bible and studying some Scripture together. 

Sex in general can feel awkward to discuss, particularly out of context.  Its intensity is irrational and its power mysterious.  When sexual relationships form, the process involves ambiguity and risk of rejection.  Solo stimulation bypasses all of that for a small, sad, mimicking of sensation.  Yet all attempts to rationalize sex, demystify and reduce it to no more than a mutual spasm in the spinal column, as taught in most sex ed. classes at what we call GICs (public schools=government indoctrination camps)  have failed to improve male-female relations in America.  So, it is with some trepidation that we try to tackle this topic here. 

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Surely you can’t take this verse seriously

January 10th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

You teach the importance of taking the laws as a whole.  But verses  like Deuteronomy 22:21pronounce you must stone a woman to death in the door of her father’s house. 

If you cannot pick and choose what to follow, and you cannot say that it isn’t to be taken literally, what must I say about this contradiction?

This is perhaps why people pick and choose…

Meta

Dear Meta,

We have a feeling you are asking a question that many share. We certainly do think the Bible becomes meaningless if we only follow verses with which we agree or understand. You are mistaken, however, in believing that we, or other Bible-believing Jews, follow the Bible’s English translation literally.

In 2007, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible was published. While it was a clever marketing idea, the author did things that no observant Jew, from Abraham until today, ever did such as throwing pebbles at an adulterer. He also neglected to do things that are and have always been part of Judaism such as praying while wearing phylacteries every morning.  Unlike his year-long adventure foolishly wearing a white robe and sandals, we follow the vast body of ancient Jewish wisdom that explains the details, unpacks the mysteries, and makes sense of the written one.

While certain minor details vary among serious Jews according to their various traditions, there are many more that are shared. In our age of international communication we can see that Jews in Yemen and Poland, for example, separated for centuries and surrounded by completely different cultures, all followed the same general outline for kosher food. That outline is not detailed in the written Bible but is part of the oral transmission. It’s similar  for all our observances. One group might light oil lamps to welcome in the Sabbath while another might use candles, but both will mark the entrance of the Sabbath with natural flames.

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When is messy too messy?

January 2nd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

I am wondering if ancient Jewish wisdom applies to de-cluttering a house. I’m a mom of three with a fourth on the way, and I have never erred on the side of neatness (to put it lightly.) But I also dream of a mostly orderly house where all the spaces function so that we can have the family life we want.

I’ve concluded that personal character flaws in myself are part of the problem, but the harder I work on it, the more kids I have, and the more I am surrounded by chaos and laundry. I also think the values I learned growing up were depression-era, frugality-focused, never-waste-anything values, whereas our reality is middle-class America where things flow into our house on a daily basis, but not back out.

Plus I have a highly creative, productive little five-year-old artist for whom all her works are precious, and even with judiciously displaying art for a week or so and then either stowing it in her art box or discreetly filing it in the circular file folder, the art piles up. I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I think she has the heart of the problem by the tail, but not everything she recommends seems congruent with a growing family, or for multiple opinions within that family over what items “bring us joy.”

In the meantime, if I let up for three hours, the house starts to fall into chaos. (The other two children are twin girls, nearly two years old.) I can’t help but feel that if we had fewer things, and if everything had a place (preferably a place that could be secured against marauding toddlers) our home would be much more livable.

So to sum up: 1) Do you have a Bible-based philosophy, or advice, for the management of physical items that come into our homes and for finding a balance of livability and order? 2) How do you handle children and their desires to never throw anything away, being respectful of their feelings and also training them to help their family now and manage their own homes later? 3) How about spouses (ah-hem) who maybe still feel anxiety about throwing things away that “we might use someday”? What do we do with the never-waste-anything mentality that can be laudable, but also paralyzing?

Thank you for your time and thoughts!

Heather M. 

Dear Heather,

Your question resonated with me (Susan) partially because of what you see in the accompanying picture. 

I am in the process of culling through games discarding those that get little attention. We have no little ones left at home, but we do still have a house full of toys, games and books thanks to the blessing of grandchildren. Until a few years ago we had a house large enough to store piles of things, so most of the games you see stayed on the shelves and are now in second-generation use. In other words, we feel your pain.

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How can you and Dave Ramsey be friends?

December 27th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 57 comments

I know we Jews are taught tolerance, etc., but I’m curious about something. As you’ve probably heard, your friend Dave Ramsey signs off his radio show with “…there’s ultimately only one way to financial peace, and that’s to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus.”

If I’m interpreting Dave correctly, he seems to be saying that the right way to live—in fact the only way—is as an Evangelical Christian. I’d be very interested in hearing about how you were able to forge a friendship with him, despite his position.

I know we can like someone without liking everything he does or says, but given your differences in religion and how fundamental faith is to each of you, hearing how you deal with this might help me in my own life.

Thanks very much!

Sincerely,

A. N.

Dear A.N.,

You are asking a very important question whose answer is fundamental to how people of all religions live peacefully together in the United States.  Interestingly enough, it is in today’s non-religious and even aggressively secular environment of the universities and schools of academia that free speech and ideological latitude are sternly repressed.  By contrast, religiously committed Jews and Christians find themselves increasingly allied in facing common concerns.  This peaceful co-existence among people of different beliefs has been fundamental to America’s success and is today increasingly under assault by hard left groups as well as by many Moslems and others under the camouflage of “political correctness” . 

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Learning from all Cultures

December 20th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

As a Bible believer, is it best for us to follow only Biblical guidelines rather than learning the positive values from other cultures, such as Japanese or Chinese cultural values? I thought this would enrich our lives as well as our Biblical learning, but may not be what the Bible guidelines suggest us to do.

Thank you as always, Rabbi Lapin.

Dear Filemon,

You do ask interesting questions. This question is particularly apt because we are answering your question today, which is the eighth and final day of Chanukah. Despite popular attempts to make the historical battle of Chanukah sound politically correct by portraying it just as a long-ago fight for religious freedom, the holiday actually represents, for all time, the internal battle between those faithful to their faith and those who want to resculpt their faith to fit into the popular culture.

The dominant culture of that time was (Syrian-Greek) Hellenism and many Jews became Hellenists.  As a matter of fact, the ancient historian Josephus records how the most popular cosmetic surgery back then, twenty-one hundred years ago, was Hellenized Jews undergoing foreskin restoration procedures. 

However, the Syrian-Greeks did not, like other cultures, want to exterminate Jews.  They didn’t even demand an abandonment of Judaism. They demanded that Judaism become subservient. If a conflict existed between their values and Judaism, Torah, the constitution of Judaism, took second place. (I’m sure you see the parallels to today.)  For instance, as we hinted at earlier, Hellenists saw the body as perfect and the gymnasium as a temple, thus they forbade circumcision.  Loyal and faithful Hebrews continued to maintain that ritual.  The Maccabees , those who fought the battle, insisted that in every way, Torah values are always paramount. 

However, we don’t reject every idea of Hellenism outright. In Genesis 9:27, God blesses the father of the Greek nation with a gift for beauty. However, and this is vital, He praises it when it “dwells in the tents of Shem.”  In other words, ancient Jewish wisdom recognizes that there are legitimate values to be found in the nations, meaning nations other than those who follow the Torah. The primary condition for accessing that wisdom is that it must always be viewed through the prism of Torah; the Torah mustn’t be judged through its prism.

Today, for instance, in several cultures gender is viewed as fluid and subject to an individual’s choice.  Measured against Scripture’s, “Male and female He created them,” we have to reject the popular view as false.  It’s as if we have a foolproof nonsense detector which we can use to measure the value and authenticity of all ideas.

Not only is there no need to reject learning from many cultures; it would be foolish to do so. However, to explore the values of other cultures one has to feel secure in judging all aspects of those cultures against the Truth and rejecting any ideas that conflict with God’s vision, no matter how tempting, rational or popular they may sound.

Enjoy your studies,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Why is this word capitalized in the Bible?

December 12th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments

In Psalms 42:7… “in this land of Jordan and Hermon, in Mount Mizar, where deep calls to deep in the roar of Your cataracts”…..  “Your” is capitalized.

Are the scriptures simply referring to waterfalls that belong to Hashem… or is there a deeper truth?

Gilbert M.

Dear Gilbert,

We agree with you that the editors of the English translation you are reading capitalized the word ‘Your’ to emphasize that the pronoun refers to God. We also agree that there is deeper meaning in every word in Scripture. However, there is no deeper meaning in the capitalization of ‘Your’ or any other word in Scripture because the original Hebrew text, from Genesis to Chronicles has no capitals!

The Hebrew language possesses no capital letters. Each letter looks the same whether it starts the first word in a sentence or a paragraph or whether it starts the name of a person or of an object. (There are five special letters that take a different form when they appear at the end of a word, but that is another and much longer story.)

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Burial and Second Marriages

December 6th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

Burial question: My wife died after 30 years of marriage. We raised 2 children and have a large extended family. At the time I bought a double plot (vertical) for her and myself, and next to that, a double for her parents. Her Mom is next to her now. After 5 years I remarried. My new wife would like to square away our burial needs. I’m sure the kids would like me near their Mother and Grandparents, but that’s rather awkward for my new wife and her family. Do you have any advice?

Dear Mark,

God puts us all on this planet in an imperfect state.  It would be fairy-tale-awesome if every man and woman lived in a long enduring and happy marriage and both return to their Creator at the same time.  However, that is not how the world REALLY works!  You know this, and you’ve heard all the platitudes about how sensitive this situation is and how everyone involved should try to be understanding, and that there’s no easy solution, and so on.  Let’s deal with reality.

First, we want to express our delight that you seem to have found happiness again after a long marriage.  Many widowers don’t get this second shot, so accept our congratulations along with the wish that your second marriage brings you joy.

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