PORTFOLIO – COBBLES

A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table

Samsa was a travelling salesman.

TODAYS PAPER

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.

Did You Respond ‘Yes’?

Here is a quick yes/no quiz which will reveal important information about your personality:

  • Do you occasionally make thoughtless remarks which you later regret?
  • Are you usually concerned about the need to protect your health?
  • Is it normally hard for you to own up and take the blame?
  • Do you sometimes resent the efforts of others to tell you what to do?
  • Do your past failures sometimes worry you?
  • Do you have a small circle of friends rather than a large number of acquaintances?
  • Do you sometimes find it difficult to express your emotions?
  • Would the idea of making a complete new start cause you any concern?
  • Do you find it challenging to ‘start the ball rolling’ at social gatherings?
  • Do you ever find yourself wondering if anyone really cares about you?
  • Are there any things about yourself on which you are a bit touchy?
  • Do you sometimes put off doing things and then discover it is too late?
  • Do you ever feel that your age is against you (too young or too old)?

Finished?  Now, how many times did you answer ‘yes’?  More than 3? More than 8? What! You answered ‘yes’ to more than 10 of the questions? Well, then you clearly need to purchase our special program for social stragglers available at a special price of only $10,000.  (Just joking)  The above questions came from a Scientology questionnaire but they resemble the questions often crafted by hucksters of all kinds trying to prey on our all too human weaknesses.

It is of course easy to come up with questions that most people will identify with and to which they will nod their heads affirmatively.  Here is another good one:

Do you feel that many of your problems were caused by your parents?

There are armies of therapists, analysts and psychologists making enviably lavish livings doing nothing but listening to their clients complain about how their parents ruined their lives. Often, they encourage their clients in those beliefs.

Of course, our parents provided our DNA but it is equally true that they provided us with much more than our eye color and other biological realities.  They provided us with the start of our value system and certain character traits.  This is why we sometimes catch ourselves talking to our children in the same words that our parents used with us many years ago.

They almost certainly bequeathed us some negative characteristics against which we must struggle.  They also gave us much of our talent and our inbuilt aptitudes.  Are our lives impacted by our parents and how they raised us?  Of course, hugely.  Are we therefore condemned to relive our parents’ mistakes and passively endure any negative circumstances of our birth and upbringing?  Of course not.  Consider Abraham.

…originally your ancestors lived across the river;
Terach was the father of Abraham, and of Nachor;
and they served other gods…

(Joshua 24:2)

Abraham’s father was an idolater which helps us understand why God told Abraham:

Go away from your land, your relatives,
and your father’s house to a land that I’ll show you.

(Genesis 12:1)

Just as Abraham was not condemned by his parental background to follow into the worship of idols, neither are we forced to do anything because of our own parental background.

Because real life is complex and often messy, there are subtleties beneath the surface.  See these verses:

These are the chronicles of Terach; Terach gave birth to Abram, Nachor,
and Charan, and Charan gave birth to Lot. 

(Genesis 11:27)

Terach took his son Abram, and Lot, the son of Charan, his grandson,
and his daughter-in-law Sarai the wife of Abram his son,
and they departed together from Ur Kasdim to go to the land of Canaan;
and they arrived in Charan and they settled there.

 (Genesis 11:31)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that late in life Terach renounced idolatry and commenced a spiritual odyssey.  He removed his family from an area with bad influences but never made it to his intended destination of Canaan. Nonetheless, his effort bequeathed to his son, Abram, the ability to more willingly make a change in life.

Thus, when God eventually told Abraham to leave his family and start his own journey, Abraham was primed to do so, partially because he had seen his father doing the same thing. Efforts and changes we institute in our lives, even if they fail or are only incremental, can propel our descendants in the right direction.

Obviously our parents impact our lives.  If we were fortunate in the ovarian lottery then most of the impact from our parents is for good.  However, even in those cases, there are also inevitably some destructive elements in our legacies. Like Abraham, we each must grab the power to shape our own destinies.  We should vehemently reject the notion that we are helpless victims of our parents’ biology or mistakes. Most importantly, we should shoulder the responsibility of gifting our children with the strongest foundation we can give them.

On the television show that Susan and I enjoy hosting we often let down our hair a little, as it were.  We get a bit personal, sometimes talking about our parents and extended family.  We lovingly smile at memories, even some mixed ones, and we hope that in time, our own children will do the same.  Were some things in our lives more challenging because of our parents?  Of course. Many more things were made possible by those same parents.  They did their best for us, just as we hope we shall be seen to have done for our children.

Do you ever wonder what your children really think of you?  You answered ‘Yes’?  Well then you certainly need our special 3 DVD set of Ancient Jewish Wisdom!  (Just joking—but it is really a good buy!) We hope you will enjoy twelve of our most popular shows on DVD and available, on sale, right now.

 

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Jury Duty

I am not sure that I was entirely truthful earlier this week. I’m not sure that anyone else with me in the room was either.

We were together in a courtroom, having been chosen as the pool from which a jury would be selected. The presiding judge asked a series of questions. For each question, if our answer was a yes, we were told to stand up and then he went around the room asking for our juror number, which he jotted down.

Some of the questions were straightforward. Was anyone not a citizen of the United States or not a resident of the city?  Then, after being asked to listen to a long list of police officers’ and detectives’ names, we were asked if we knew any of the aforementioned  people.  But some of the questions were trickier.

We were asked if we would give more or less credence to the testimony of a member of law enforcement than we would to anyone else. That was one of the ones that perplexed me. I was raised to respect the police and still do, but at the same time I also am aware of corruption on the force, including tampering with evidence. Depending on the impression made by an officer, I might give either more or less weight to his or her words than to someone else’s. As far as I was concerned, there really wasn’t enough time to think through the complexity of the question.

Then, the accused violent offender was asked to stand. We were asked if anything about her appearance might prejudice us. I’m pretty sure that most of us weren’t truthful about this question; only two people rose to say yes. The fact is that we humans are incredibly susceptible to people’s looks. I didn’t rise to my feet, not because I didn’t feel myself getting a first impression (and those do have a lasting impact) but because I didn’t want to offend some of the people around me who would make their own guesses and judgments about why I was answering yes, and possibly be hurt by what their guess of my reasoning was.

And so on and so forth. The experience was both uplifting and depressing. It was heartening to see so many people assemble and take their civic duty seriously. It was depressing to feel how overburdened and sluggish the legal system is. It was uplifting to see an extremely diverse group of hundreds of potentials jurors treating each other with respect and courtesy.  It was distressing to think how badly national, statewide and local politicians and educational elites run things, helping to ensure a steady stream of young, violent offenders.

I was not chosen for the trial, for which I am grateful. While I appreciate the concept of being tried by a jury of your peers, I’m not sure that is what actually takes place or that justice is best being served.

*  *  *

What do the Hebrew words for law and compassion tell us?
Can it change the way we deal with students, employees, politicians and children?
Don’t let English translations limit your understanding.

SALE

Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language
29 Hebrew words poked, prodded and unpacked

 

Why the different childbirth rules?

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) 

Elin

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.

http://rabbidaniellapin.com/sabotaging-success/

http://rabbidaniellapin.com/what-do-the-words-abomination-and-unclean-mean/

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

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

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Buried Treasure: Life Lessons from the Lord’s Language

Do You Know Who Is Fighting America’s Real War?

Back in the 90s I wrote a book, America’s Real War. In it I demonstrated how a deep canyon cuts through American culture. On one side are all those who believe that Biblically-based Judeo Christian values are vital for our nation’s survival. On the other side are those who view such values as primitive obstructions to progress. America’s real war is not between America and Russia, or China, Or Islam. Nor is it between rich and poor, blacks and whites, or men and women. It certainly isn’t between Jews and Christians. It is a war between those who see Judeo Christian values as vital and those who see them as obsolete barriers to progress. There are rich and poor on both sides. Blacks and whites on both sides. Men and women on both sides. And yes, there are both Jews and Christians on both sides. Whether today’s children will grow up in an America that bears any resemblance to the country that won World War II depends upon which side triumphs in America’s Real War. We are currently working on a new edition of the 20 year-old book with new chapters explaining, among other things, the bizarre alliance between secular fundamentalism and Islamic jihad.

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