TRENDING TODAY

The Daggers are Unsheathed

On November, 29, 1981, my husband and I were sleeping on our sailboat, anchored  in Avalon Bay on Catalina Island. On that night, as we slumbered, we were just a few hundred yards from where Natalie Wood drowned under suspicious circumstances. The next morning, when we emerged on deck with our coffee, the tranquility of the bay was disturbed by a small fleet of police vessels.

About a year earlier on December 8, 1980, we were dining with friends at a restaurant in Manhattan when word arrived that only a few blocks away, John Lennon had been murdered. In other words, I was close to the scenes of at least one and possibly two crimes at opposite ends of the country, in surroundings starkly different from each other. If that isn’t suspicious, what is?

The above facts are bad enough, but I am sorry to tell you that as a third-grader, I participated in teasing an unpopular schoolmate. A few years later, I cheated on a test when a teacher let me take it home, trusting me to take it honorably.  While I am ashamed of both those things, there are other actions I have done or not done that to an even greater extent I wouldn’t want to see on the nightly news.

I’m telling you these things so that you will understand why I will have to turn down any Supreme Court nominations that come my way as well as refrain from running for public office. When it comes to anyone with conservative principles, no ludicrous associations or past sins are ever too small to mention, too unsubstantiated to rely upon, or happened too long ago to be irrelevant. Too many on the Left have long stopped debating ideas, preferring instead to destroy people.

We Jews have just finished a period of the year known as the Ten Days of Repentance. They begin with Rosh Hashanah and conclude with Yom Kippur. During that time, Jews (at least those of us who try live according to Jewish ways) examine our deeds from the past year, ask forgiveness from people we have hurt and pray that God pardons us for our transgressions against Him.

That part about asking forgiveness from people we have harmed is a tough one. Sometimes the person is no longer around; sometimes it would hurt them to share what we did. In the latter case, the more proper thing to do is to live with our guilt. Other times, we ourselves are blithely unaware of or have forgotten an action or statement that wounded another person. Too often, we can think of a dozen reasons that asking forgiveness is unnecessary or impossible. And sometimes, people who claim we harmed them are unstable, lying, malicious, missing the whole picture or motivated by things that reflect on them, not on us.

We are given a lifeline. You see, in our complex lives, all of us have many chances to be the offender and the injured party. Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that God will treat us as we treat others. If we graciously forgive, magnanimously gloss over hurts rather than stewing in them, and assume misunderstanding rather than malice when we think someone wronged us (which may or may not be based in reality), God will look at our transgressions with a similarly benevolent eye. We need to believe in our own dignity and the dignity of others, doing our best

Like anything meant for mature adults, the ideas of forgiveness are tangled, detailed and complex. There are times when restitution must precede asking forgiveness and times when taking the seemingly hard line is the more compassionate and correct way to go. We don’t have to, and sometimes are forbidden to, automatically accept responsibility for things that never happened or were horribly misconstrued, though sometimes we do just that in the name of peace.  For serious Jews, this period of the year is a marathon, not a stroll.

Only God can dispense perfect justice. Down here in the world of mortals, we can aim for lofty goals and strive to make a society that comes close to achieving them. At the same time we must recognize that encouraging a society where we endlessly attack, accuse and believe the worst about each other ends in a dangerous and doomed path.

I don’t personally know either Paul Manafort or Brett Kavanaugh. I I don’t know Brendan Eich who was forced out of Mozilla in 2014  or Lawrence H. Summers who was forced out of the presidency of Harvard University in 2006. (The last two names now seem like canaries in the coal mine.)  I don’t know dozens, perhaps hundreds or thousands of other prominent and not-well-known people who have lost their jobs, missed out on promotions, been ostracized or worse for being conservative, saying something that might be construed as conservative or, the worst sin of all, having anything to do with Donald Trump.

Some of these people are far from role models, others are highly admirable. That is irrelevant to the message that is being sent. It is a mistake to judge these cases on individual merit or deal with them one at a time. We need to recognize that, while some accusations may be valid and others may actually be powered by sincerity, right now there is an overarching attack on democracy, free speech, freedom of thought and religion and other mainstays of the American system. By not responding to these cases with determination, firmness and strength we are acquiescing in the message that anyone who doesn’t support, or at least kowtow to, the increasingly fascistic, socialist and hate-filled liberal Left will be destroyed.

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Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom

It is no secret that I love homeschooling. That doesn’t, however, make me opposed to traditional schools. One of my major concerns during sixteen years teaching at home was, “Am I causing my children to miss out on Mrs. Richman?”

Mrs. Richman was my fifth-grade teacher. Our class full of easily bored and, hence, mischievous kids adored her. We worked harder in her class than for any other teacher. She introduced us to Shakespeare, setting us passages to memorize that I still remember. We honed our writing skills and in eighth grade I submitted a composition I had written for my fifth-grade class, and received an ‘A’ on it. She loved Greek mythology which, years later, led me to take classes in Greek and Roman classics in college.

I wish I could remember her teaching methods; all I know is that I looked forward to school every day and I credit Mrs. Richman with instilling in me a love of learning.  Our class and she partnered so well together that the next year she moved up a grade with us. Since as sixth-graders we now worked under a departmental system, she was only our English language teacher, but that subject remained a favorite.

I have no idea what Mrs. Richman’s politics were, if there was a  Mr. Richman and if they had children. I knew little personal data about her. She must have been old because as a fledgling teacher she had taught my father. She was a smoker, something we knew from seeing her on the street as we left the school building. She was a New York Mets’ fan, taking our class to a game one day and making us into diehard Mets’ fans for two years. Other than that, with the self-centeredness of youth, as far as we were concerned her life revolved around us. Mrs. Richman died shortly after school closed the summer after sixth grade, leaving a legacy of stimulated students behind her. 

What if, by teaching my own kids at home, I was depriving them of their own Mrs. Richman? I was fortunate to attend a wonderful school for both elementary and high school, and I had many good and very good teachers. There were one or two poor ones, but they were few and far between. As a teaching mother, I felt that I could equal them (sometimes doing the job very well, well or poorly) but not Mrs. Richman.

Over the years I resolved that concern. How I did so remains for another Practical Parenting post.

Sharing downloads – is that ok?

Hello, 

 I recently downloaded Tower of Power from your website. Is it ok to share this with people inside my organization or should we purchase a separate copy for everyone? 

 Thank you, 

Mike 

Dear Mike,

Before answering your question, we want to compliment you on asking it in the first place. The question shows a sensitivity that suggests that you run your business on ethical grounds and that you don’t box ‘religious behavior’ into only some parts of your life while you isolate it from others.

We are delighted for you to share our teachings in the same manner as you would share a physical book. You are welcome to assemble a group and listen to the download together just as you might read aloud from a copy of a book that you own. You can also pass on a book you own to one person at a time and as such could pass on your download to one person at a time.

What is not permissible, according to both Scripture and United States copyright law, is to xerox a book in place of buying many copies. You will find a note of this prohibition in the front of most books.

This works for ebooks and audio downloads as well. When a library buys a downloadable copy of a book from an author, they purchase each copy they will be making available. If all the copies are “out” you will be put on a waiting list for the ebook. The library cannot lend out limitless copies. Similarly, we do request that you not copy the download of Tower of Power and distribute it.

As our society becomes more virtual and less physical, it is so important  to ask questions just as you are doing, to make sure that we don’t inadvertently overstep boundaries. While no one reading this would dream of snatching a book from a bookstore while the clerk’s attention is elsewhere, our minds don’t automatically transfer our ethics to new and different situations.

Back in the 1980s when the idea of purchasing software was in its youth, many people copied software for their friends. It took a while for the industry to mature and for people to realized that intellectual property was much like any other property and that the ancient Mosaic law that has been responsible for so much of the development of civilization—thou shall not steal—applies equally.

May your organization prosper,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Storm Shelter

I am spoiled. When I contemplate boating, I picture vacationing with my family among the magnificent islands of the Pacific Northwest. But except for a blessed few people and times, boarding a ship has not meant leisure, but instead was a risky way for crossing oceans.

Traveling by ship was dangerous and frightening in the days before exotic cruising. Ships served as the precarious means of transportation to start a new life, for trade or as a means of livelihood like the potentially deadly 19th century whaling ships and, indeed, today’s commercial fishing boats.

The book of Jonah opens with a different type of boating:

And Jonah arose to flee… from before God…
and he found a ship going to Tarshish…
(Jonah 1:3)

And God sent a big wind over the ocean and there was a great storm
upon the ocean and the ship appeared likely to shatter.
(Jonah 1:4)

And the sailors were terrified … and they threw all the articles
on the ship into the ocean to make it lighter
and Jonah went down
to the bilges of the ship, lay down and fell asleep.
(Jonah 1:5)

The word ship appears four times in these three consecutive verses. Only by looking at the Hebrew text can you see that the word in the first three instances differs from the fourth. The first three use the the Hebrew word ONiYaH. The final instance of ship uses the word SeFiNaH.

א נ י – ה                       ם פ י נ ה    

ship: SeFiNaH                  ship: ONiYaH

How can Scripture suggest that the ship Jonah slept in is different from the ship described earlier? One clue is that this is the only place in Scripture where a sailing vessel is called a SeFiNaH.

Take a look at two more Biblical vessels. In the days leading up to the great flood, God instructed Noah to make an ark:

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood…
(Genesis 6:14)

Later, Moses’ mother floats her son down the Nile:

And when she could hide him no longer
she took for him an ark of bulrushes…
(Exodus 2:3)

Although English translations sometimes call Moses’ craft a basket, the Hebrew labels both a TeiVaH.

ת ב ה

Ark:  TeiVaH

The different words for floating conveyance reflect different purposes. Neither Noah nor Moses had a destination. Their arks were not designed to be sailed or even controlled. Their boats were merely refuges from peril.

The ship Jonah boards is a commercial one. Her crew chooses to face constant struggle. There might be too much wind or too little. There are shoals and reefs to avoid. The challenging trip is undertaken in order to accomplish a goal.

When Jonah goes to sleep at the end of verse 5, he is using the ship for a uniquely different purpose. He is avoiding reality. The ship is a hiding place for him, not a means to a destination. It isn’t even a refuge; he is indifferent to its fate as well as his own.

We get an added clue to the function of a SeFiNaH from the Hebrew word itself. One magic of Hebrew is that certain letters share a relationship. When you exchange one of these letters for the other, the two words that result share a connection. Among these related letters is the first letter of the root word for Jonah’s boat when he goes to sleep and the first letter of the word for “hidden”. (Remember that Hebrew reads from right to left)

  צפן      ספן

        Boat      Hidden

On extremely rare occasions one needs to board an ark. Buffeted by external forces, be they physical, social or economic, there is no further action one can take to influence one’s life. At that point finding refuge, as in a TeiVaH and surrendering all to God’s mercy is the only option.

But most of the time, one wants an ONiYaH, a purposefully sailed ship whose course need to be constantly adjusted and controlled. The ship to avoid at all costs is Jonah’s SeFiNaH, the equivalent of burrowing under the blankets and giving up.

In ancient Jewish wisdom, a sailing ship sometimes serves as a metaphor for a self-contained existence. When you leave the dock you must carry everything you need with you. Acquiring anything additional is uncertain; it depends on weather and wind, both of which are out of your control. Preparation is a prerequisite for a successful passage. Part of the preparation is making sure you board the correct ship.

Reading the news it isn’t hard to think that the world is going to pieces around us. Like with Jonah, sinking into despair is tempting, yet wrong. Forming a deep relationship with God is the best way to arm and motivate oneself to take action. One way of achieving that is by delving deeply into His word. Today’s Thought Tool is a reprint from 2009 and perhaps even more timely than it was then. You can have it to read and reread in the book Thought Tools Volume 2. That book, along with over 20 other ancient Jewish wisdom resources,  is available in our Complete Library Pack and Complete Library Pack PLUS. As we prepare to close our store for Yom Kippur both of these, filled with timeless tools for life,  are on sale during this period of time when Jews read the book of Jonah aloud as God is sealing the fate of individuals and nations for the coming year.

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THOUGHT TOOLS

  • Storm Shelter September 17, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - I am spoiled. When I contemplate boating, I picture vacationing with my family among the magnificent islands of the Pacific Northwest. But except for a blessed few people and times, boarding a ship has not meant leisure, but instead was a risky way for crossing oceans. Traveling by ship was dangerous and frightening in the Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Sharing downloads – is that ok? September 17, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - Hello,   I recently downloaded Tower of Power from your website. Is it ok to share this with people inside my organization or should we purchase a separate copy for everyone?   Thank you,  Mike  Dear Mike, Before answering your question, we want to compliment you on asking it in the first place. The question shows a Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • The Daggers are Unsheathed September 20, 2018 by Susan Lapin - On November, 29, 1981, my husband and I were sleeping on our sailboat, anchored  in Avalon Bay on Catalina Island. On that night, as we slumbered, we were just a few hundred yards from where Natalie Wood drowned under suspicious circumstances. The next morning, when we emerged on deck with our coffee, the tranquility of Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Is Evangelical Support Good for the Jews? September 6, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - The following appeared in Jewish in Seattle magazine, the August/September 2018, edition. The question posed to Rabbi Daniel Lapin was, "Is Evangelical support good for the Jews?" Forgive me for conforming to the rabbinic stereotype of answering a question with a question but when you ask “…good for the Jews?”  which Jews do you mean?  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, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on The Blaze Radio Network. 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 has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.

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