Posts tagged " parents "

Can I keep my children safe?

August 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments

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.

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How far does the 5th Commandment go?

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

Does the 5th commandment also apply to relatives who had a major role in my life?

I am very new to the Jewish teachings. Pastor Larry Huch talked about you and said you were good friends so I looked you up on the internet and have been listening to you since. In all my 13 years in church, I have never heard anyone teach what you teach. I appreciate the materials you make available to all.

Here is a matter that I need to lay to rest.

I was born and raised in the Ivory Coast, a country with too many ethnic divisions. My mom told me in the tradition of their ethnic heritage the aunt (the mother’s sister) is really my mother. That’s what they have been believing for years. So that’s how in 1998, my aunt and her husband who had 3 sons, paid my way to come and live with them in the U.S. b/c “she doesn’t have any daughter” my mom told me. I was 15 and left my parents, siblings and friends back in the Ivory Coast.

My relatives paid my way through high school and college. At a price. I was the one doing all the household chores out of duty. Cooking, cleaning up after them, doing dishes on Christian holidays while her husband and sons play video games and surf the internet. In all honesty, I spent 10 miserable years living with them and do not remember a happy day. I don’t like their personalities and being around them. There was always the “you owe us” attitude.

Fast forward today, I live alone and The Good Lord has given me a job. I still have my mother in the Ivory Coast that I take care of on a regular basis. My dad is 73 and retired. They are divorced and both of them do not have any financial savings. So their financial help falls on me b/c my 2 siblings are not helping at all. The younger, 30 years old, has cut contact with the family and the older, 36 years old only cares about her.

I feel a financial obligation only toward my relatives (even though, I did not live with them for free) b/c they paid my way through school, along with food, housing, clothes, medical bills etc… so I send them some money, when I can on an irregular basis but according to them, it is not enough. My aunt doesn’t want to work so she stays home all day and her husband makes a six figure salary, more than me. Their 3 sons are living their own lives. My mom tells me I need to do what they are supposed to do and I refuse to shoulder their responsibilities toward their own parents.

I don’t have enough finances to take care of 2 sets of parents and build a life of my own. I don’t feel a “5th commandment” mandate toward my aunt and my uncle. They consider themselves as my parents but I do not. My mind has never accepted them as my mother and father according to their ethnic tradition. The 5th commandment only applies to my mother in the Ivory Coast and my 73 year old retired father.

What does the Torah and ancient Jewish wisdom have to say about this kind of situation? 

Thank you for helping.

Neal

Dear Neal,

We tend to shy away from letters as long as yours, but we found your story so riveting that we made an exception. We are also tremendously fond of Pastors Larry and Tiz Huch, and appreciate that you found us through them.

One of the issues you raise is the challenges that come up when someone replaces one cultural or religious tradition with another one. This is a common theme that plays out when a child immigrates to a new country with its own way of life. The pattern and understanding that an aunt is like your mother, isn’t one that you accept. While this may be painful for your family to hear, the “rules” they are holding over your head don’t apply to you.

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Did You Respond ‘Yes’?

June 27th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

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.

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Our son just ‘came out.’

June 14th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 49 comments

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

L.

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.

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Should we homeschool?

June 2nd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 1 comment

Question:

“How do you feel about home schooling? My wife and I are thinking of doing this to finish educating our two daughters who are now in 4th and 6th grades.”

∼ Heath N.

Answer:

Dear Heath,

This question is like telling the late Steve Jobs that you are thinking of switching from Microsoft to Apple and asking what he thinks about that. In total, we homeschooled for about sixteen years. One of our children was home for only one year, most spent some time in high school and for some, college was their first entry into the organized educational system.

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Should I stop my child playing?

March 3rd, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Dear Rabbi Daniel & Susan Lapin,

I am a Christian woman who is enjoying the journey of learning our Jewish roots. I recently ordered your library collection and I am quite enraptured in the wisdom that is shared. You are absolutely right when you say, ‘You need a rabbi!’ 

I have a question regarding children and playing pretend. Growing up I often played pretend, most often pretending to be different people in different careers. Occasionally though, I would pretend to be a cat or dog. I never thought anything of it as I have so often heard and seen children pretend to be animals at some point in time. After listening to your teachings though on how God made us in His image, I question whether pretending to be an animal in playtime would be forbidden in a Jewish home. When we pretend to be a grocer, doctor, mother or superhero, we are serving humanity and setting our mind on things that God would want us to do or character traits God wants us to have; whereas if we pretend to be an animal, we are not preparing ourselves in any way for growth. 

Am I taking this too far? I am not a wife or mother yet but should I ever become one, I hope to raise my children in a way that pleases the Lord.

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Don’t Call Me Mom – originally posted Feb. 12, 2009

August 29th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Is it just me, or do some of you also cringe when you see ads for pet food where the cat or dog looks soulfully into the camera and says something along the lines of, “Mom, this food will keep me healthy and strong. Will you buy it for me?”

Mom? When did pet owners turn into parents? Was it some time after parents turned into friends and asked their children to call them by their first names? What kind of weird world is this where you imagine your cat calling you Mom while your child calls you Stacy?

Like most mothers, I was absolutely thrilled when each of my children started saying Mommy. (A word to the wise here- I know some mothers who work very hard on making sure their child first learns to say Daddy. Isn’t that what you really would prefer to hear at 3 a.m.?) And at around age three each of them experimented with calling my husband and me by our first names, which we laughed about privately while we made sure they knew that was unacceptable.

Then, over the phone one day, a young man who had recently become engaged to our daughter, called me Mom. I’ll admit to feeling some very weird sensations at hearing that word come from the mouth of someone whom I barely knew. I mean, I knew my own children for quite a while before they called me that! But, of course, he was doing the absolutely right thing. My own future mother-in-law, many years earlier, had me use the word Mom in every sentence I spoke to her until it sounded natural to both of us. In succession, three more sons-in-law call me Mom, and in each case I am delighted to answer to that name.

But I draw the line at four legged creatures. Those ads don’t strike me as cute nor do they pull at my heartstrings. They instead make me both recoil and feel troubled at a world which is actually getting more and more confused each day. Warm and loving relationships can and should exist between people and animals. But years ago, radio host Dennis Prager mentioned being astounded at how when talking to students, many said that if their pet was drowning as well as a stranger, they would save the pet. They were quite sure they were making the moral and correct choice.

Suggesting that owning a pet is the same as being a parent doesn’t make the animal any happier; but it does devalue the mother/father/child relationship while diminishing the value of all human life.

The Child Equation

June 22nd, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

 

Reading an article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal entitled, “The Case for More Kids,” gave me the impression its real headline should have been, “Having Kids Isn’t as Bad as You Might Think, but It’s Still Pretty Bad.” A sunny, optimistic view of family it was not.

Maybe I am overly sensitive but phrases such as, “every additional child makes parents just 1.3 percentage point less likely to be ‘very happy’,” and “child No. 1 does almost all the damage” didn’t leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

The piece would leave most readers wondering why in the world anyone has any children.  It did not have this effect on me.  My children have brought immeasurable joy to my life (despite occasional periods where I need to remind myself of the long term picture).   I was further inoculated from the article’s baleful proposition because I had spent the previous Sunday with parents who delight in their families.

That day, my husband and I both had the privilege of speaking at the second annual National Orthodox Jewish Homeschooling Conference in Baltimore, MD. This event brought together mothers and fathers from around the country who are a part of a growing group of religious Jewish homeschooling families.   My husband spoke about stepping outside convention by removing our daughter from the school we had ourselves founded.   For my part, I tried to give newer homeschoolers reassurance that down the road their children would be well-balanced and happy members of the larger community.

But we received more from the conference than we gave. Firstly, I delighted in meeting women whom I have known as members of an online support group, but never before had the opportunity to greet face to face.  Getting to know them was such fun.  Over the years, we have shared questions, suggestions, difficulties and triumphs and it was a thrill to actually talk in person. 

But more importantly, the day was an opportunity to be surrounded by folks who are passionate about parenting.  While this passion for parenting isn’t exclusive to homeschoolers, it is overwhelmingly present in the homeschooling community.  Rather than adding up the financial cost of having children as the author of Saturday’s newspaper article did, these parents count the blessings. Rather than seeing children as an emotional drain, these parents view their kids as a source of emotional pleasure. Most importantly, rather than asking, “What’s in it for me,” these parents see children as a gift from God to be treasured. 

There was a great deal of practical homeschooling advice offered over the course of the conference, which is no longer relevant to my daily life.  Nevertheless, the day provided an injection of fun and optimism along with a reminder that there are still young parents who view having children through a bright lens rather than with a jaundiced eye.

 

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