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Take My Advice?

Let me go out on a limb and suggest that you not run your life based on the experiences of, or advice given by, Bill Callahan, Paul Dolan or Ann Landers. Like some of you, the only one of the three whose name was familiar to me before today was advice columnist Ann Landers (actual name Eppie Lederer). She, along with her twin sister of Dear Abby  fame, had an outsized influence on Americans in the second half of the twentieth century.

However, recently two reviews crossed my desk. The first was of musician Bill Callahan’s latest album where I was intrigued by the discussion of the evolution of his music. According to reviewer, Mark Richardson, Mr. Callahan’s earlier 15 albums share a theme of alienation. Mr. Richardson shares one of the musician’s quotes from an interview in 2009. “I’m not afraid to die lately. I don’t have any kids to look after. I don’t hold any great worth for humanity.”

While neither Mr. Callahan nor I believe that the only way to have worth to humanity is to have children, his current music is different. His latest work, produced after he bought a home, married and had a child, reveals his feelings on being needed.

The second review I saw was of a book by Professor Paul Dolan. He argues that studies show that women, in particular, are happier and better off without spouses and children. This seems to echo a much circulated Ann Landers’ column from 1975 where she asked readers if they would choose to have children again, if they had the opportunity to change their pasts. At the time, the results caused quite a stir when about 70% of respondents said they would not. While her poll was debunked as unscientific and follow-up surveys produced completely conflicting totals, Professor Dolan (whose book I have not read) suggests that intellectually rigorous studies would support Ann Landers’ conclusions. I register my skepticism.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Professor Dolan’s book becomes standard reading in Women’s Studies courses. It echoes the Left’s prejudice against marriage and family. I, too, am not objective, though my own biases suggest that both women and men are happier when devoted to a spouse and children. Singer Bill Callahan’s experience rings far more true to me.

In today’s fractured, false, and corrupt society, many social and political arguments are stated as “proven”. Yet, as our culture moves away from timeless truths and abandons the compass of morality, we become easy prey for ephemeral fads and passing whims. That portends much regret and disillusionment down the road for those who follow the crowd rather than seeking the truth. ‘Question authority’ may have been a rebellious slogan of liberals in the Sixties, but it should be the mantra of every independent-minded person today.

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Should I quit my job?

I have been listening to you for several months now and I have greatly appreciated the wisdom you share. However, I am currently struggling to apply some of it to my profession because I work at a public school.

Yes, I teach high school music in a GIC and thus am paid by the tax payers of my school district. As such, I do not have a ‘customer’ whom I serve in any direct manner. Additionally, my salary advancement is dependent upon taking more graduate and continuing education courses rather than my job performance.

That said, I try very hard to be conscientious in my work and diligent to serve my students and the community which is paying my salary. However, even I have found it difficult to be motivated at times to do my best work when I know it will make no difference in my paycheck.

I should note that I am a Christian who really believes God called me into this position five years ago, but I am not certain I should stay long term. Based on ancient Jewish wisdom, what would you recommend to someone in my situation? Should I stay in the teaching profession and attempt to counteract the ‘government indoctrination’ of which you speak? Or is my young family best served by me pursuing a different line of work?

Thank you for taking the time to consider my question!

David V.

Dear David,

We’re delighted that you have been finding value in the weekly podcast. You may have heard me (RDL) say that my job is not to massage listeners with warm butter but to tell them the truth. Since you asked this question about your professional life, we are going to show you respect by answering it honestly and directly without any sugarcoating.

You are most likely filling an important function at the GIC (Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools) where you teach. Not only are you exposing your students to music but you are also, we are confident, exposing them to an excellent example of a Christian man.

However, while you are doing your students some good, as the years go by you will probably not be doing the same for yourself or your family. There are a number of reasons why this is so and you have articulated one of them. (We are going to be incredibly non-politically-correct now and note that we are writing this answer for you as a man, husband and father. We would give a different answer to a woman, wife and mother.) When increasing your salary has nothing to do with how you perform your job, you will be very susceptible to gradual and incremental loss of self respect. As an honorable man you will strive to give your best at your job, but already you are beginning to feel the lack of motivation. As your family responsibilities grow along with your economic needs, you can already see the writing on the wall that will relegate your teaching to what energy you have left over. After all, your paycheck won’t change.

In addition, you will almost inexorably find yourself drawn to political positions that will selfishly serve you even if they hurt the community, such as increased taxation for teacher pensions and anti-charter school activity. As you claim more benefits through your job it will sometimes be at the cost of hurting the students and their families. Please understand, we never blame anyone for acting in their best economic interests as long as they act morally and honestly.  But we are questioning whether placing yourself in such a situation for the long term is in your best interests.

There is another problem that you didn’t mention. Your livelihood is not secure. Should budget cuts be necessary and the system cuts back on arts education you will be left high and dry. You are relying on others to ensure that you are employed rather than taking control of your future. Additionally, at the moment, you are basically being paid a wage dependent on your being in a certain place at a certain time. There is no way to grow that algorithm by having others work for you or by earning money when you aren’t on call. We believe every man should try and adjust his circumstances to be in business rather than being merely an employee.  In your case, we aren’t sure whether that might mean starting to develop a private music instruction business on the side or something else quite different.  But we encourage everyone, even the person pouring your coffee at the corner coffee shop, to consider himself to be an entrepreneur in the beverage business even though he currently might have only one “customer” for his services, namely his employer.

Lastly, have you considered what you will do if the GIC demand that you teach in a way that conflicts with your values? We can think of any number of events that the administration might want to celebrate with music that would run counter to your own ethics.

David, as you probably already know, we are ardent supporters of using some of one’s money, skills and time for volunteerism and charity. We recommend that you channel your desire to help youth into those activities.

Meanwhile, we do think you should be pursuing something (that may or may not be music related) that is more of a business rather than a position.  Growing a marriage and raising a family is ever so much easier when financial stability is part of the picture and when you respect the man in the mirror.

Keep making music,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Don’t Go Bananas

Our bodies need potassium to help maintain normal blood pressure and heart function.  The good news is that a banana supplies about 10% of the potassium we need each day.  The bad news: potassium is toxic.  Potassium poisoning is called hyperkalemia, not a pleasant condition.  Before throwing out all your bananas, read on.

Tenure made it possible for university professors to teach without fear of being fired regardless of prevailing politics.  Making it impossible to terminate a teacher seemed a good idea.  Yet, tenure has allowed professors to indoctrinate students with their own prejudices and beliefs rather than teach them.  Some tenured professors also get sloppy about teaching, seeing no need to engage with their material or students.

Unions once served a vital need. However, many have told of gaining a union job where it is almost impossible to be fired and being sternly warned by fellow workers to slow down productivity. After all, one hard worker highlights the lack of industry of others. He or she also makes it harder for the department to demand more employees.

Slow is the operative word.  Have you noticed how slowly some post office clerks saunter to serve you?  How about Department of Motor Vehicles workers? In Washington DC most of the people rushing are on their way to lunch.  In fact, few government workers exhibit the slightest urgency about their work.

If you’re trying to obtain a job, a promotion or a raise, never meander. Stride purposefully even if you’re going to the washroom.  Few behaviors irritate the person paying your salary more than seeing you amble around as if on a seaside promenade. 

Always act as if there is a shortage of time.  You know why? Because there really is a shortage of time.  Here’s a bonus: acting with urgency brings professional advancement.  As the wise King Solomon put it:

See a man urgent about his work—he will stand among kings.
(Proverbs 22:29)

It is bad enough that dawdling makes you look listless and lethargic to others.  Far worse, that is also how you begin to appear to yourself. Drifting through your day makes you feel complacent and fills you with an illusion of security.  Few of us do our best work while feeling overly secure.

When your boss says, “I want you to feel at home here,” he doesn’t mean he wants to see you draped lazily over a couch for the afternoon.

For best results, even in our homes, husbands and wives shouldn’t feel too much at home! Taking the most important relationships in our lives for granted is a recipe for disaster.

God’s wisdom ensures that even on your own land in Israel, you shouldn’t feel too laid-back and over-secure. You thought it was your own land? Well, guess what! You can’t sell it completely.

The land shall not be sold in perpetuity for the land is mine and
you shall be strangers and temporary residents with me.
(Leviticus 25:23)

God wants us always to feel like strangers?  Right! He doesn’t want us ever to feel too secure because excessive security destroys drive, annihilates ambition, and kills creativity.  Being a stranger means not feeling at home and thus it means putting your best foot forward, and doing so swiftly not slowly. Tenure? Unions that make it impossible for anyone to lose their job regardless of malfeasance?  Well, when they create a sense of excessive security, they are not so good. Not for the people who can’t be fired and not for the people who depend on their work.

A certain amount of security allows us to sleep at night; too much security encourages us to sleep during the day.  A little potassium — just what the doctor ordered.  Too much — danger. And those bananas?  Yes, eating about 10,000 in half an hour could be perilous.

Not only is there a problem in taking those closest to us for granted, we should not relate lightly to any human being in our orbit. And—for a most successful life, we should constantly be expanding our circle of relationships. Learn why and how to do so with our audio CD set, Prosperity Power: Connect for Succe$$.  This resource, on sale now, will amaze you with its power to improve your finances among other areas of your life.

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What a Burden!

When the word “burden” appears three times in an article (with an additional showing in the subtitle) and the word “privilege” is nowhere to be seen, it isn’t hard to detect a bias. That was my first impression after reading Wall Street Journal food columnist, Bee Wilson’s essay entitled, “Feeding a Family Isn’t a Job for Mothers Alone.” 

I don’t want to talk about the premise of the article, though I do (surprise, surprise) have some thoughts on it. The subtitle: “In an era of processed foods, wholesome home cooking is more important than ever—and men need to share that burden,” pretty much lays out the author’s views. For my part, I was more struck by a sentiment underlying the whole article that is rather common today. I speak of the sentiment that life should be pleasurable and easy.

I’m a self-inflicted victim of this thinking myself. I generally expect to have a certain amount of time each day for reading, exercising and relaxing. My normal schedule allows me a night’s sleep. I assume that much of my day, including work, will be enjoyable. For this, I should be overflowing with gratitude.

What happens instead, however, is that my expectations increase along with my blessings. If my grandmother almost never ate out in a restaurant, and my mother did so a few times a year, I think it perfectly normal to have food prepared for me a few times a month. If my grandfather was grateful for any job that allowed him to feed and clothe his family, my generation expects that work should be emotionally gratifying. Instead of being overwhelmed with the blessing of having the financial means, safe environment and abundance of food with which to feed a family, we feel the burden of having to cook and prepare meals repeatedly.

I vividly recall the first time I supplemented our eldest child’s feeding with some solid food. I was swamped with a panicky feeling as I realized that, after months of relative ease where my milk could supply all her needs, she was soon going to want to eat numerous times a day. It would be years before she could take care of herself in that regard! I also know well the tired feeling of having no idea what to make for dinner and little energy with which to make it.  I am certainly not yearning for a return to the days of working in sweatshops or as sharecroppers.  I have no desire to see men and women dying young as years of exhausting labor takes its toll. Nonetheless, Ms. Wilson’s article reminded me of how easy it is to pity ourselves when, in reality, even our problems are those of the blessed and fortunate.

P.S. Please note that our office and store will be closed from Friday night, June 7 through Monday night June 10 in honor and observance of the holy days of Shavuot (Pentecost). Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. In recognition of that, in addition to the 2 books that were already featured on sale this week, until we close for Shabbat, we are also offering The Ten Commandments: How Two Tablets Can Transform Your Life audio CD for a reduced price.

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THOUGHT TOOLS

  • Don’t Go Bananas June 7, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - Our bodies need potassium to help maintain normal blood pressure and heart function.  The good news is that a banana supplies about 10% of the potassium we need each day.  The bad news: potassium is toxic.  Potassium poisoning is called hyperkalemia, not a pleasant condition.  Before throwing out all your bananas, read on. Tenure made… Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Should I quit my job? June 7, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - I have been listening to you for several months now and I have greatly appreciated the wisdom you share. However, I am currently struggling to apply some of it to my profession because I work at a public school. Yes, I teach high school music in a GIC and thus am paid by the tax… Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Take My Advice? June 13, 2019 by Susan Lapin - Let me go out on a limb and suggest that you not run your life based on the experiences of, or advice given by, Bill Callahan, Paul Dolan or Ann Landers. Like some of you, the only one of the three whose name was familiar to me before today was advice columnist Ann Landers (actual… Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Tesla’s Reality Check June 5, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - In an article about how far fewer people are buying Tesla cars and the subsequent decline of Tesla stock, the reporter quoted Tesla founder Elon Musk reassuring Wall Street analysts, “The inhibitor is affordability. It’s got nothing to do with desire.”   Musk was explaining that all is okay because countless customers still desire Tesla… 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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