A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table

Samsa was a travelling salesman.


In a world where everything is changing, find comfort in wisdom that is timeless.

Today’s Paper is a daily collection of current events with commentary from Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

Your Next Postcard = The Transcontinental Railroad of The 1860s

When the Golden Spike was driven in the spring of 1869 to join the railroad that came from the east to that which came from the west where they met in Utah, a new era of human productivity began. Anything that facilitates human connection brings positive results whether it was the telegraph in 1844 or the telephone, radio, television right up to the Internet in our time. Every time you pick up the phone to connect with someone, positive steps are set in place even though you may not know the eventual result. When you write someone a postcard and drop it in the mail, it might end up as significant as the first time it became possible to ride the rails across the continent. We never know what can grow from the seeds of human connection. Try it!

Sloppy Shoes and Donald Trump

What is wrong with the following scenario? Mr. and Mrs. Jones have three children. Over the course of a week, each of the children leaves his or her shoes lying in the middle of the living room floor. Mr.and Mrs. Jones ignore the first child’s messiness rationalizing that she is in the middle of finals. Mr. and Mrs. Jones excuse the second child’s carelessness because his girlfriend just broke up with him and he’s feeling down. Mr. and Mrs. Jones confiscate the third child’s shoes, berating her for being so sloppy.

You don’t have to be a parenting expert or in favor of shoes being left lying around to recognize that something is off-kilter in the above family. That is why I was not upset by President Trump’s tweet following the criminal car-ramming in Virginia on Saturday, August 13. While the President was lambasted for initially condemning hatred and violence “on many sides”  rather than singling out white supremacists, I didn’t take it that way.

Granted, I have no idea what goes on in President Trump’s mind and I don’t think that we are exactly “kindred spirits,” but wasn’t ready to jump on the indictment bandwagon. In fact, once emotions of the day have subsided, I wish he would give a serious, thoughtful speech explaining that there is a problem when marginalized people on one end of a spectrum are used to condemn large groups of Americans.

Here is a quote from one newspaper article about the gathering that ended in violence. “The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and another arrived to protest the racism.” In other words, wanting a statue of Robert E. Lee to remain where it has stood for many years is inherently racist. No! It is not. It may be something that should be challenged and discussed, but ascribing racism as the only reason for opposing the statue’s removal is wrong. Was the side General Lee chose during the Civil War a side that supported slavery? Yes. But it is a sad comment on the lack of education, wisdom and discernment on the part of people today that we aren’t able to handle the complexities that surrounded the heinous sin of slavery amidst other issues including states’ rights. Maybe a generation that gets their political understanding from late night entertainment shows should grow up before demanding an overthrow of history?

In a country where we hear the comment, “His motives are unknown,” when someone yells Allahu Akbar while murdering people and where those who speak of killing all white people or who attack people because they’re white get no media attention, there seems to be only one association that leads to  immediate and virulent condemnation. I’m certainly not in favor or neo-Nazis or white supremacists. But, something is wrong with a scenario that not only sees them as the only violent or hateful people in America, but wantonly includes millions of upstanding citizens among their number.  In America today, child #1 gets away with anything as does child #2.  Only child #3 is criticized.  All the time.

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Can I keep my children safe?

Michelle Carter was just sentenced in the text message case [where she was found to encourage a young man to commit suicide and didn’t call for help when he did so]. Is there a moral equivalent in the Bible by which one could instruct their children so that they do not go down the path of either of the participants in this event? 

Is it possible that both were equally mentally disturbed and this is only an anomaly? Is social media distorting our mores and morals?

 How would a parent use scripture to keep their children on the correct path when young people are so absorbed in social media to the point it takes over their life, personality, and time?

Michael G. 


Dear Michael,

You actually asked four interesting questions tucked inside your letter. In the case you reference, a young woman was sentenced for encouraging her boyfriend’s suicide. It got attention because there was a trail of text messages detailing her words. Yet, from a moral perspective (rather than a legal one because of proof) there is no difference between this case and one that might have taken place decades ago with conversation substituting for texts. Urging someone to take his life, whether by letter, speech, texts or skywriting is wrong. The message is the problem, not the medium.

We have no doubt that both these individuals were deeply troubled. In fact reading between the lines of the news story suggest a history of bizarre behavior on the part of both players in this tragedy. However, your next question, “Is social media distorting our mores and morals?” intrigues us. Some individuals are born more susceptible to emotional and mental problems than other people. We think that there is no question that trends in our times, including the prevalence of time spent online and bullying social messaging, can exacerbate certain unhealthy tendencies. Today’s media can certainly cause problems for some who might have been perfectly emotionally healthy under different circumstances. From an emotional point of view, the support and balance one gets from a relationship with a real flesh-and-blood friend is not at all replicated by a so-called friend on social media.   We wish they’d have come up with another term than ‘friend’ for the slender digital connection made online. At the same time, the online community is a tremendous gift for some who, for whatever reason, would be less connected in any way to people without the Internet.   With all its shortcomings, for these people, a frail electronic connection might be better than they’d have done in pre-Internet days.

In other words, we humans managed to “distort our mores and morals” before the Internet, before typewriters, and before ball point pens. It is something we have always been rather good at.

That doesn’t mean that we can be sanguine. The greater the technology available to us, the greater potential it has to be used for both good and for bad. Just as we demand more maturity and practice before we let a child drive a car than we do before we let him roller skate, we do need to pay more attention to our children as technology and communication expand. Just as you wouldn’t hand your sixteen-year-old your car keys with no limitations or rules, parents have the obligation to provide rules and restrictions, alternatives and supervision rather than allowing social media to take over their children’s lives, basically replacing parents as the prime instillers of values. We would suggest that in today’s times, children, teens and young adults need more time with their parents (and parents acting more wisely and  thoughtfully) than they did in some other generations.

The many basic messages of Scripture (such as valuing all life)  that provide for healthy living are timeless. It’s up to us to figure out how to apply those messages in appropriate ways for our times.

Make sure you have both quality and quantity time with your children,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Shem, Ham and Jafeth may not have texted,
but they were also subject to their generation’s immorality.
How did Noah keep them on the right path? Find out in:


The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah





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The Four Sees

If you’re fortunate enough to have a new baby in your life you already know how he or she constantly brings moments of joyful discovery.  Here is one that recently startled me.  From about their first birthday, babies respond to eye cues more than head direction cues.  This is really quite amazing.  What this means is that when I direct my face towards the left but move my eyes to look right, the baby follows my eyes not my head!

Animals don’t do this.  They are very alert to the direction that the head of another animal is facing but seem oblivious to eye movement.  Most animals including baboons and chimpanzees will glance in the direction they see a human looking.  But if a person faces one direction and moves his eyes to another, the primate will follow the face not the eyes.  (A dog may be an exception here, but I’ll discuss that in the future.) In fact, we seldom see any animal looking in any direction it is not facing.

Of course, it is not only babies who seem to be cued significantly by people’s eyes.  We adults do that all the time.  Regardless of the direction a person’s head is facing, we watch the eyes.  A politician may be facing you and speaking to you, but watch his eyes glance over your shoulder to spot someone more important.  A flirtatious glance is revealed by the eyes.  Sometimes, people roll their eyes to reveal disdain.

But why are our eyes so much more revealing than those of animals?  It turns out that no creature on the planet has as much white of the eye as do we humans.  Thus, our eyes are uniquely equipped to reveal their movement.  Because God gave this special gift, the white of the eye known as the sclera, to His children, we are able to easily and quickly read another person.  A lot of exposed white suggests shock or fear.  Reduced white is a happy smile. Skilled artists make use of how much the white of the eyes reveals.

Yes, human eyes really are quite different from animal eyes. Perhaps this is why of over five hundred references to eyes in the Hebrew Scriptures, all apply to humans or to God.  When eyes are first mentioned, the word appears three times in three consecutive verses in Genesis chapter 3.

For God knows that in the day you eat of it, then your eyes shall be opened,
and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

(Genesis 3:5)

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise,
she took of its fruit, and ate, and gave also to her husband with her;
and he ate.

(Genesis 3:6)

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

(Genesis 3:7)

Eyes have nothing to do with the biological process of sight in any of those three verses.  Eyes in verse 5 refers to the intellect.  Eyes in verse 6 refers to the emotions and eyes in verse 7 refers to the sensual.  In our relationships with others, we relate either intellectually (business partners, study partners, etc.) emotionally (friends, lovers, etc.) or sensually and physically.  Often a relationship involves more than one of these.

Similarly, in all the other many Scriptural instances in which eyes are mentioned, the deeper meaning always goes beyond the simple process of biological vision.  Before we communicate with someone else by speech, we are already communicating with our eyes.  We were created to Connect, to Communicate, to Collaborate, and to Create.  Indeed, the four Cs!  No wonder that tiny humans yet incapable of speech communicate via their—and our—eyes.

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The institutions of society that make our lives comfortable and secure, such as the economy, the military and so on, all depend upon human relationships. When one aspect of human relationships deteriorate, so do the others. If marriage collapses in a society, don’t expect its economy or its military to long survive. Is there a way for the average family to build its own ark in which to survive the turbulent storms swirling around its foundations? Find out by listening to our 2 audio CD program, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah, on sale this week.

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