Posts tagged " christian "

Do orthodox Jews interpret the Bible literally?

June 17th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment


My pastor tells me that, “The most orthodox view historically seems to be not a literal interpretation,” with the creation story in Genesis 1-3.

Would you agree with this? Are there other passages in the Torah like this? Are their hints in the Hebrew that suggest something to be non-literal?  ∼ Jarred


Dear Jarred,

A few days ago, Jews celebrated the festival of Shavuot, known in English as Pentecost. Shavuot falls during the Hebrew month of Sivan, whose sign is twins. (General culture adapted this idea turning it into the zodiac sign of Gemini.)


Should I be in business with a sinner?

April 7th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment


I have been a born-again Christian for 35 years. During that time a health and wellness company I worked with as an independent contractor/nurse for 25 years, decided to sell.

They offered the company to myself and a homosexual man. I was always service and he was the sales arm of the business. I went ahead with the partnership, and the business has been blessed beyond belief. The business allows me to bless others by helping educate them to lead a healthy life. 

My partner knows I am a born again Christian, but I do not judge him. I have taken the stance of hating the sin, but loving the sinner. Do you feel this is wrong for my husband and myself? 


∼ Patti


Dear Patti,

Congratulations on owning and running a business that fulfills you and blesses so many. We’d like to expand your question so that it covers multiple examples rather than only the one you mention. God-fearing people could have the same concern about a business partner who publicly sins in any number of ways, not only the sin you describe.


The Road Not Taken

March 17th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

If you like to talk to tomatoes; if a squash can make you smile

If you like to waltz with potatoes, up and down the produce aisle

Broccoli, celery, got to be VeggieTales! 🎵 🎵 🎵

If you can’t put the music to that jingle, then you probably also do not know Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. No, these are not nicknames of notorious Vegas mobsters. They are actually two of the cast of popular characters that includes Petunia Rhubarb, created by the fertile minds of Phil Vischer and his team during the 1990s when they started the VeggieTales production company. If you know none of this, clearly you were not raising Biblically-committed Christian kids back then. By the way, the Lapin family, along with many of their Orthodox Jewish friends were as enthusiastic fans as were their Christian playmates. (more…)

How can I be respectful to my unbelieving family members?

June 24th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


I have two sisters who are causing big dilemmas in raising our 2-1/2 year old daughter. One sister is living with her boyfriend and their new baby and doesn’t attend church. She consistently dresses very provocatively, when she comes to our house.

The other sister is an angry atheist who swears and takes God’s name in vain constantly. She talks freely of getting drunk, premarital sex and other inappropriate topics in front of our daughter and my eight-year-old niece. My practice so far has been to ignore the immodest dress from the one sister, and to say in a hushed tone to the other sister, “Oh, we probably shouldn’t talk about that stuff in front of [the niece]” 

My husband and I are committed Christians and both volunteer in our church regularly. When I was a kid and a high schooler, I erred on the side of being ungracious and judgmental, and in college I tried very hard to change that. Now I fear I’ve swung too far the other way and important boundaries are being crossed. I feel like I’m making huge efforts to be respectful and loving of my sisters while they are disrespectful of me and my family. What would you advise?

Thank you so much for your wisdom!

∼ Emily


Dear Emily,

The question you ask hits close to home for so many people. We think you are being astute in recognizing that you leaned too far in one direction when you were younger and that this might have encouraged you to lean too far in the other direction now.

Family relationships are important and we don’t think people should be quick to terminate or minimize them. At the same time, your primary responsibility is to be your daughter’s protector and to maintain the spiritual integrity of your family.


Who’s the Puritan Now – originally posted March 5, 2009

March 13th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

One delight of Pacific Northwest living is the sheer pleasure that a sunny day provides. Shortly after we moved here, a guest at our Shabbat meal told of a meeting that took place around his company’s conference table, which overlooked Puget Sound. A representative of top management, flown in from the east coast for the occasion, was sitting with his back to the window informing those present that their office branch was being shut down. To his amazement, as he delivered this devastating news, those sitting opposite him broke out in huge smiles. When he expressed his bewilderment at their reaction, he found out that his news had been eclipsed by the appearance of sunshine breaking out over the Sound.

And so it was a few week’s ago, on an unseasonably warm and sunny day, that my husband and I and our daughter, Tamara, celebrated by going out for ice cream. After all, a cheery day might not appear again for months. We had not patronized this ice cream parlor since the previous summer, and so it was a bit of a shock to find that renovations had taken place. The tables and chairs were the same, but alongside the name of each ice cream flavor was a new and unwelcome addition –the calorie count,

Now I am perfectly aware that going out for ice cream is neither good for my budget nor my waistline. At the supermarket, I can get a half gallon container that will serve eight for less than it costs the three of us to get one scoop apiece at the ice cream parlor. And it comes as no revelation to me that despite the claims I made when I was pregnant that ice cream was vital for the calcium it supplies, I actually am cognizant that there are more efficient and less caloric ways to get the same amount of required minerals.

When we go out for ice cream it isn’t to assuage hunger pangs or to check off a box on the food pyramid. We do it as a treat, and just as it would detract from our pleasure if the chain trumpeted how highly priced their ice cream is, it detracted from our delight to have the calorie count thrust at us. Instead of enjoying making a choice between flavors, Tamara and I found ourselves asking if the one we really wanted was worth 40 more calories than our second choice. Instead of taking pleasure in savoring the ice cream, I found myself figuring out how many minutes of exercise would be necessary to counteract the activity. All in all, Tamara and I had less fun than we anticipated (truthfully, I don’t think my husband even noticed that the calorie counts were posted).

I frequently find that the media label as old-fashioned and reactionary those who hold views similar to mine about sexual matters, family issues, art and language. They metaphorically pat on the back those whose thoughts are opposite mine, calling them progressive and realistic. Yet, I am convinced that the Puritanical streak is universally thriving. The food police support my view. For each of us, certain things are simply beyond the pale. As for me, while I agree that good physical health is important, I can’t help thinking that most traditional sins pose an even greater threat to society than obesity.

Glossophobia – originally posted July 9, 2009

March 6th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

According to the intensive .16 second long research I just did on the web, we humans are full of phobias. Ranking relatively high – though quite below fear of spiders – is glossophobia, fear of public speaking.

In general, this one passed me by. While I certainly get nervous before teaching a class or giving a public address, I love speaking before a group. And so it came about that when my husband was going to miss his weekly radio show (KSFO, Sundays 1-4) because they have not yet rigged commercial airplanes to accommodate traveling hosts, I agreed to fill in for him. After all, how hard could it be to chatter for three hours? My daughters and I have been known to keep conversations going for far longer than that, often with four or five of us chiming in at the same moment. (This has the side effect of terrifying young husbands who have grown up with only one sister.)

For anyone who is thinking of a career in radio, let me share some hard earned wisdom. When you are talking into a studio microphone, the microphone doesn’t smile, nod its head or respond in any other way. There is zero immediate feedback telling you whether you are being witty and wise or interminably dull and dim-witted. This is most unnerving.

Despite having diligently prepared my opening remarks and having timed them to get me to the first commercial break, I was acutely uncomfortable. For all I knew, I could just as well be reciting Longfellow ballads into the air and indeed might be reduced to doing so by the third hour.

Fortunately, just after the first break the lines began to ring with callers commenting on my thoughts. You can be quite sure that I was heaping blessings on their heads and getting a particular thrill from the homeschooling mom who is a Musings reader, at the same time that I was worrying if the calls would continue. All in all, the three hours were a combination of enjoyable stretches punctuated by moments of terror.

Since marrying my husband, I have done innumerable new and unusual things. Whether it was crossing the Pacific in a sailboat or sitting in Barbra Streisand’s house while she asked my opinion of a new song, or eating a kosher meal in Arkansas with Governor and Mrs. Huckabee, my life has taken some unanticipated paths. Who knew that even something that I thought I knew how to do, like talking, would get a different and out of the ordinary twist?




You Owe $36.52 More or Less – originally posted July 29, 2009

February 27th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

My bank and I rarely agree on how much money is in my account. This is a circuitous way of saying that despite the fact that I do know how to add and subtract as well as use a calculator, I can’t seem to reconcile my bank statements accurately.

As long as the bank thinks I have more money than I do, I figure that I’m safe. But recently, there has been a new development in the monthly “by how much am I off?” game.

About a month ago, while checking to see which checks cleared I noticed that the bank paid out fifteen dollars less than the amount on the check I had written. The payment was to a small family business that did some work for me, so I sent them fifteen dollars, explaining that it was to straighten things out. It seemed odd at the time, but easy to fix.

Then this month, I noticed that the bank had, on my behalf, paid my supermarket almost ten dollars more than the cost of my groceries. This time, I visited my bank’s local branch to ask what was going on. While I admit that my handwriting is not the most legible, I could view the check on-line and it just didn’t wash that either the digits or the written out amount looked anything like the amount deducted.

I was a bit taken aback when the bank representative didn’t seem to be at all surprised by what had happened. Instead, he told me that the misreading of checks was an increasing occurrence. This wasn’t as a result of new technology; it was escalating human error.

I know that I am looking only at the experiences of one person among the millions of daily transactions, but it does strike me as odd that as the government is getting more involved in the day to day operations of banks, I’m noticing that the level of reliability, responsibility and attention to detail is plummeting. Just a coincidence – or not?


Howgwash – originally posted on Nov. 18, 2009

February 20th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

One of the guidelines at our Shabbat table is the “one conversation” rule. Unlike a dinner party where the polite thing is to converse with the person on one’s left and right ( I confess that my notion of dinner party protocol may be shaped by novels written in the 19th century), we want everyone at the table involved in one discussion. To that end, we try to gather a congenial group and to raise issues of general interest.

Well, every rule has an exception. I can think of more than one occasion when our close friends Liz and Brian were over and the conversation turned to some principle of physics. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Brian is a brilliant physicist. His wife, Liz, might never have studied physics had she not married him, but in order to share more fully in his life, she has become quite a student of physics herself. My husband has a physics background and our son, Ari, majored in that subject in college.

I can think of a few times that I, along with some of the other guests, were totally befuddled by the conversation this group started. While we all have perfectly respectable I.Q.’s and can speak intelligently on many subjects, when the physics talk began it left us behind. Despite that fact that we couldn’t all participate in, let alone understand, the topic under discussion, it was fascinating to listen to the exchange of ideas.

In contrast to this, I remember one meal when we had three visitors whose words made absolutely no sense to me. Since they were all bright individuals, my first thought was that the conversation was over my head. After listening for a while longer I concluded that it wasn’t a lack of understanding on my part, but rather that our guests were spouting nonsense, influenced by a seminar they had just attended.

I felt the same way when I read a recent interview with the actor Woody Harrelson. He was asked how he felt working on a film that had army support, considering the fact that he was against the Iraq war. His response included these words,

“It was a good experience for me because it’s one thing to consider yourself pro-peace, like I consider myself…”

Excuse me. What exactly does it mean to be “pro-peace”? There are valid and cogent reasons to either support or oppose specific military actions. Good people who articulate arguments on both sides are “pro-peace;” they differ on how best to achieve it.

One of the steps on my road to homeschooling was listening to my daughter’s third grade teacher expound on how SSR would be a vital part of the classroom experience. SSR? I found out that stood for “sustained silent reading,” or in simple language – reading quietly to oneself. Considering that my daughter and her classmates would happily read from morning till night and turning reading into a time-limited, mandated school subject could only diminish the pleasure they got from books, I decided that in this case labeling reading SSR was an attempt to make an everyday activity sound complicated and in need of professional supervision.

Similarly, depending on my mood, I either laugh or cringe when I see an area labeled a “gun free zone.” It would be more honest to label the location a “law abiding citizen gun free zone”. Fantasy play may be valuable for toddlers, but it is dangerous for adults.

I love having Brian and Liz over and I am perfectly happy to be exposed to differing points of view. Unfortunately, our public discourse is filled less with people explaining cogent views to others and more with senseless babble designed to squash intelligent discourse. Words are too often used for propaganda purposes rather than enlightenment, to obfuscate rather than illuminate. In our years of homeschooling we provided our children with many hours of SSR. We also devoted many hours to twaddle detection, hopefully ensuring that they will be able to evaluate what they read and hear.



Trial by Mouth – originally published Jan. 28, 2009

February 13th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Celebrity endorsements can mean a great deal to a company. So we thought it a tremendous coup when Illinois Governor (though probably not for long) Blagojevich give an unsolicited plug for our audio CD, Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak.

After all, while the governor is not being impeached for his vulgar language, I have to think that it impedes his attempt to portray himself as an innocent, wronged victim when the tapes that (allegedly) implicate him in criminal activity have every second word bleeped out. Fair or not, I know that I am less likely to give the benefit of the doubt to someone whose mouth needs a good scrubbing.

 While neglecting to mention the name of the product – you get what you pay for, as Governor Blagojevich well knows- he made a very strong case for our teaching. In interviews this week, he acknowledged that his foul language harmed his wife as well as noting how difficult it is to control such a loathsome habit.

So, some companies employ athletes like Michael Phelps to represent them while others prefer Hollywood stars like Jennifer Anniston. As for Rabbi Daniel Lapin productions, we think that Governor Blagojevich is an outstanding case study of why everyone needs to hear Perils of Profanity, and proof of the good you can do by giving it to any young adult you care about.
Rather than paying a celebrity endorsement fee, we’d like to offer the governor some advice. In one interview he said:

“Had I known somebody was listening, I wouldn’t have used language like that.”

Well governor, in the future you would do well knowing that somebody is hearing each word you utter, for He is always listening.


It’s the Genes, Stupid – originally posted Feb. 2007

February 8th, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

February. An often bleak, cold and dark month. This may be the reason why, aside from the obvious commercial implications, cheerful, bright, pink and red valentines endlessly bombard us as soon as February approaches. For women’s magazines the theme of the month’s issue is pre-ordained – romance. Generally this means that even more clap trap than usual will be disseminated. Hollywood couples who have made it past the five week mark will be lauded as proof that enduring love still exists and “experts” will step forward to explain the new, advanced methods for attracting and holding on to a mate.

Right on track, in a statement so absurd that one knows without checking that the author is an academician, comes a quote from Melvin Konner, MD, professor of anthropology and behavioral biology at Emory University. Commenting on a study of rodents which suggested that injecting male meadow voles with the chemical vasopressin increased their likelihood of linking up with female meadow voles, the doctor states,

“There’s something at work with a couple that stays together for 50 years, bad years included. It’s hard to imagine that it’s just a question of compatible personalities or strict beliefs.”

Imagine. If we only had universal health insurance we could have a nation of young couples streaming to the nearest chapel and we could assure them that divorce is no longer a threat. A regimen of injections would turn us into a nation of long term, happily married couples.

I don’t mean to pick on Dr. Konner, who after all sounds like he was simply wondering out loud rather than recommending a policy. Later on, in the same magazine that featured his quote, is an article highlighting committed couples, including one who has passed the fifty year mark. It is clear that indeed they were initially attracted by compatibility but weathered and continue to weather difficult times through shared beliefs and views.

But in today’s cynical and bruising world thousands of young people are reaching marriageable age as products of broken homes; probably just as many as products of unfulfilled ones. It is easy for them to believe various academics who proclaim that marriages were never meant to last for fifty years. It seems sensible to them that as the expected life span increases it is only normal for couples to divorce and pair up with new spouses, or that marriage itself is obsolete and meaningless.

Studies such as the one that made the cover of news weeklies a number of years ago suggesting that there is an “adultery gene” or ones that suggest that commitment is biologically driven advance the argument that people are helpless beings who can only act as we are programmed. As such we are not responsible for or capable of controlling our behavior.

What a dismal message to send. And how different it is from the message that God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden (when life spans were even longer than they are today). As my husband and I have been preparing the newest volume in our Genesis Journeys  series, focusing precisely on what that message is, I can’t help recalling a February event that I was privileged to attend two years ago. Hosted by then Governor and Mrs. Huckabee of Arkansas, the focus was on promoting commitment in marriage and it had nothing to do with a magic pill or monthly injection.

The highlight of the evening (aside from my husband’s speech) was a moving video of the president of a respected Bible college announcing his resignation in order to stay at his wife’s side while she dealt with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Like the thousands of other women in the room, my eyes were overflowing as he explained how his wife had supported him in all his endeavors and now she was in need of his company. Although she didn’t seem to recognize him, his presence calmed her down and gave her peace, and so he was choosing to free himself of other obligations to be with her. Not because he thought it was “only fair” or as a “payback” but because it filled him with joy to ease her distress.

I imagine that this man and his wife probably felt they were compatible when they embarked on their marriage many years earlier. But I doubt if it was hormones that led them to stay together. My guess is that there was a constant recognition that communication, hard work and common goals were needed to keep them compatible and, indeed, that strict beliefs laid the foundation for and built the protective fence around their relationship.

I don’t think there was anyone in the Altel Arena in Arkansas, male or female, who didn’t say a silent prayer asking for a marriage as blessed as that one. And I also don’t think there was anyone there who thought that achieving that kind of marriage was a function of winning a genetic lottery or having access to new drugs rather than of making a constant and sustained effort, through good times and bad, to attain it.