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Flames, Family and Finance

In which countries is it easiest to form a new business?  You’d think that with more than two-hundred years of entrepreneurial culture, the United States would rank fairly high.  And we did.  Until about 1962, starting a new business in the United States was quicker, cheaper, and easier than anywhere else.  Not surprisingly, the country enjoyed the highest rate of new business startups of anywhere in the world.

However, since then, America has been steadily slipping and sliding down the rankings until today the country ranks behind Poland, Lithuania, New Zealand, Singapore and about ten others.  Concurrently however, over the same fifty years, the number of U.S. government programs taxing money away from those who work for it and offering it to others has skyrocketed.   It is made available almost on request in the form of cash, free food, free cell phones, free housing certificates, and so on to almost everyone who applies. 

Not only has the number of give-away programs soared, but it has become ever easier to join the ranks of the receivers.  Why would a society of rational people make it harder for folks to start businesses and easier to become dependent upon one’s fellow citizens?

There’s another number that in the last 50 years has also climbed faster than a Blue Angel F-18 jet at a summer airshow.  That is the proportion of American children born to unmarried mothers.  We all know the basic rule that the more money you give for certain behavior, the more of that behavior you’re going to get.  Again the same question: why would rational people subsidize behavior that produces babies more likely to grow up in dire circumstances? 

The only possible answer is that it is not rational citizens making these tragic decisions but rather rational politicians who want votes and rational bureaucrats devoted to permanent tenure.  The only way for them to achieve these ends is to destroy families and limit financial independence.  Only a small minority of welfare recipients are people who live in intact families, using the word ‘family’ in its traditionally understood meaning. Harming both the finances and families of citizens is precisely what you do if you want to increase the size and power of government. 

As Chanukah recedes into the background for another year, let’s recall that nearly 2,200 years ago, in addition to outlawing certain religious practices, the Greeks attempted to destroy Israel’s families and their finances. (Maimonides, Laws of Chanukah)  To be independent means having family and finances so the Maccabees went to war against the Greeks to defend both. 

Before banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden late in the third chapter of Genesis, God made sure that they had each other along with the ability to make bread. (Genesis 3:19)  In Torah nomenclature, the word bread can also mean money.  Still today, many people refer to money as ‘bread’ or ‘dough’.  Directly after leaving Eden, Adam and Eve started their family.  If you’re going to be independent and free, you need your family and your finances.

Uniquely among Jewish holy days, on Chanukah we continue making money by going to work while at the same time gathering each evening with family to light the menorah and share traditional songs and stories.  It is the festival that more than any other blends together money and family. The candles we lit for the past eight nights were timed so that they would shine, in the words of ancient Jewish wisdom, “while people were coming home from work,” while the obligation to light falls not on each individual but on, “a man and his family.”  It is the only holyday on which there is a tradition to give children gifts of money. 

All Greeks, whether those from thousands of years ago or their secular-fundamentalist counterparts of today, know that if they can break the ties that bound parents and children together as well as the ties between productivity and reward, they can destroy a culture.  Our response must be to double down, forming families and celebrating family togetherness while also working hard for economic gain.

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Censored Cilla

Hoop skirts and petticoats went out of style before my time as did butter churns. Nonetheless, I am two generations closer to a time when those items were in general use than my grandchildren are. And while I love sharing classic books with the young ones in my life, I also look out for writing situated in current times.

With this in mind, I was delighted to meet the fictional protagonist Cilla Lee-Jenkins, a spunky and funny eight-year-old aspiring author. Like the author, Susan Tan, Cilla’s family is composed of both “white-bread” American and Chinese immigrant grandparents.  The first two books in what may well become a long-running series were almost entirely a pleasure to read. (There is a third book I have not yet read.) Aye, there’s the rub.

In the second book, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is a Classic, Cilla’s aunt gets married, providing a pleasurable peek into both Chinese and Korean wedding customs. The sour note comes as Cilla’s aunt’s friend, Jane, is introduced along with her own girlfriend and soon-to-be spouse, Lucy. Sigh.

No big deal is made of the relationship, which suggests to me an assumption that children growing up today should not question two men or two women getting married any more than they would question people from different states getting married. The norm has changed and the expectation is that only someone still in hoop skirts would even think that an explanation is necessary.

Reading books where single-sex relationships are treated as matter-of-fact, of course, promotes exactly that result. Yet, consigning children to only read books written decades or centuries earlier doesn’t seem to be a solution. I turned to my daughter with this dilemma to find out how she would handle it with her ten and eight-year-olds. She had an easy fix for this particular book, consisting of a black marker and a pen to write in an alternate fiancé’s name.  It does mean that my daughter would read the book on loan from the library and then, if she decides it is worth her daughters’ attention,  would need to purchase a copy that she could edit.

When I asked what she would say if her daughters questioned the edit, her response made me smile. Her children are used to edited versions of all sorts of material, including finding paper clothing pasted in her teenage son’s sports magazines. The general concept, that mommy and daddy believe that what you read and see shapes your character, has been present since birth and raises no questions.

I realize that “progressive” parents, teachers and librarians would most likely be aghast at this close censorship of reading materials. Yet, they too monitor media for children extremely carefully and write and read with goals in mind. That is precisely why homosexual relationships are  put into so many children’s books and shows these days. We aren’t differing in the concept of supervision as much as in what we are choosing to present.

(If you do like what you see and purchase using the links in this post, we will receive a small commission on the purchase.)

Pearl Harbor, Chanukah and the Greatest Generation

Chanukah begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev and continues for eight days. Because its date depends on the lunar rather than the solar calendar, in some years, Chanukah overlaps with Thanksgiving while on others it coincides with Christmas. This year, the fifth day of Chanukah lines up with the anniversary of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

In a special prayer we say each day of Chanukah we thank God for handing victory to a small, dedicated group who went to battle against the mightiest empire of the day. As part of that battle, they also faced internal opposition from the Hellenists, who were Jews who succumbed to the appeal of Greek culture.  These Hellenistic Jews wanted their faithful brethren also to abandon God.

An unusual rule surrounds the lights of Chanukah that are kindled each of the eight nights of the holiday. Before you can light the flames, there must already be light in the room. The Chanukah lights cannot be used for utilitarian purposes. The menorah beckons us to have vision, not to limit ourselves to what is within our sight. Before we can tap into the miracle of oil that burned beyond its physical ability, we have to prepare the room.

Winston Churchill recognized the tragedy at Pearl Harbor as the turning point in efforts to beat back a Nazi regime that was spreading darkness and evil across Europe. Like so many of their generation, President George H.W. Bush and Senator Bob Dole, who came to honor him this week, answered the call to defend their country and its ideals. Comrades who did not survive the war were not granted the same opportunity for sterling careers, as well as children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Veterans likely felt the need to be worthy of the blessing of life so many of their peers were not granted.

Whether we think of the Maccabees 2,179 years ago or Americans joining the Allied forces seventy-seven years ago, war takes a devastating toll. Later generations reap the rewards of victory, frequently not only taking those rewards for granted but often despising them. This year Chanukah and December 7th overlap and our focus has been drawn by the funeral of President Bush to the ‘Greatest Generation’.  Let us resolve to provide whatever light we can in what often seems like a dark world, as we keep in mind the greater vision and ask God to redeem us once again.

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Is Airbnb anti-Semitic?

I’m currently an AirBnB host to earn extra money (I don’t need the extra income).  Recently AirBnB came out with a new policy not allowing Jews in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria to rent out their homes. 

To me this seems like anti-Semitism and would like your advice on what to do?  I’m debating about canceling all future reservations, so AirBnB doesn’t receive any income from my property.

Thanks,

Justin L.

Dear Justin,

We feel so privileged to have people like you reading our columns. You hold yourself to a high ethical standard and are willing to back up your convictions with action.

We’re not crazy about the term anti-Semitism because we don’t know how to define it, any more than we can define racism, misogynism or most other “isms.” Try defining these terms for yourself.  You’ll see, it is not easy.  It is far too easy to hurl labels and take refuge by claiming that you recognize it when you see it, as Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography in the 1964 Supreme Court Case. We are not fans of terms that change depending on the speaker, the day and whims and fancy.

However, what we can define is when one group is treated completely differently from all or most other groups. This is the standard that Airbnb (as well as the BDS movement, the United Nations and many others) meets. Israel is penalized for behavior that is excused, ignored or even lauded in others.

Israeli Jews living in Judea and Samaria may no longer rent out their homes and apartments on Airbnb. Yet Muslims, Christians, and citizens of the Palestinian Authority are free to continue doing so. The boycott targets only Jews. 

What is more, Airbnb has listings in many contested regions such as Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and Turkish-occupied Cyprus to name just two.

Many years ago, some of our children were in the audience at a business event whose speakers included Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream company. This was at a time when U.S. troops were deployed in Iraq. Our children came home and said that the ice-cream maker’s words were not only anti-American but actually wished our soldiers ill. That was the end of our purchasing Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream.

Despite the popularity of the dessert in our home, we don’t imagine that the company noticed our lack of support. It was less a statement to them than a statement to ourselves, though if enough people would do the same thing, the company’s bottom line would be affected.  We simply could no longer enjoy that ice-cream. We are impacted by the things we say and do, even if nobody else is.  For this reason, acting on principle has value even if nobody else will ever know.  The point is, we know.  And the action strengthens us.

On the other hand, we have problems with the political positions of so many companies and we have not treated them all similarly. We would just about have to homestead on a self-sufficient farm to do so. We do try to react when a company’s behavior is egregious rather than simply wrong and harmful. We may very well be inconsistent. But inconsistency is not hypocrisy.

Justin, we think that this is a call you have to make for yourself. If you are asking whether we think that Airbnb is singling out Jews and Israel in a way that they do not treat others, the answer is yes. If you will sleep better at night knowing that you are not partnering with them, then we salute you.

Live with conviction,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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THOUGHT TOOLS

  • Flames, Family and Finance December 10, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - In which countries is it easiest to form a new business?  You’d think that with more than two-hundred years of entrepreneurial culture, the United States would rank fairly high.  And we did.  Until about 1962, starting a new business in the United States was quicker, cheaper, and easier than anywhere else.  Not surprisingly, the country Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Is Airbnb anti-Semitic? December 5, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - I'm currently an AirBnB host to earn extra money (I don't need the extra income).  Recently AirBnB came out with a new policy not allowing Jews in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria to rent out their homes.  To me this seems like anti-Semitism and would like your advice on what to do?  I'm Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Pearl Harbor, Chanukah and the Greatest Generation December 6, 2018 by Susan Lapin - Chanukah begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev and continues for eight days. Because its date depends on the lunar rather than the solar calendar, in some years, Chanukah overlaps with Thanksgiving while on others it coincides with Christmas. This year, the fifth day of Chanukah lines up with the anniversary Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Giving Tuesday Winner December 4, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - We're delighted to announce that Carola from Tacoma, WA was the winner of an Income Abundance Set in our Giving Tuesday raffle. We thank everyone who donated on that day (of course, we appreciate donations all year round!) for helping us to continue putting out Thought Tools, Ask the Rabbi, Susan's Musings, podcasts, and our Read More

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About Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America’s Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, popular international speaker and best-selling author. He hosts the Rabbi Daniel Lapin podcast as well as co-hosting the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show on the TCT network with his wife, Susan. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner, thus improving peoples’ finances, family and community life  has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths.

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