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Gotcha!

Picture this scene. Your eight-year-old daughter comes running in with blood pouring down her hand. Sobbing, she explains that her teenage sister left the food processor cutting blade in a sudsy sink full of water. When younger sibling reached in to get a spoon, she badly cut herself.

In addition to bandaging up the wound, are thoughts of punishment for the older child running through your head? After all, the rule about not leaving sharp objects concealed so that they can hurt someone has been discussed many times.

I actually do not remember if I called out my oldest child’s name in anger (though I’m sure she does) before realizing that the “blood” was actually ketchup and the entire story was a fabrication concocted in the mind of a mischievous, sometimes verging on fiendish, little girl.

Knowing the entire story, in context, makes a world of difference.

The above story is one of many I could tell about that impish little girl with a glint in her eye. She is now a lovely young woman, married, the mother of two little boys and a practicing nurse. Fortunately, her sense of humor has matured while remaining vibrant. My thoughts immediately jumped to her when I saw headline snippets of a hard-hearted and clueless Washington state senator declaring that nurses spend their time playing cards.

The facts were almost as incorrect as in my opening story. Senator Maureen Walsh did say that nurses, “…probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” But she was making a point, poorly worded as it was, that was not meant to denigrate nurses or nursing, but rather to point out the difference in the needs of hospitals in urban, rural and remote areas. In a debate on regulations, she was highlighting that rules which make sense under certain conditions can be crippling under others.

My point isn’t whether her argument is accurate or a good one. That should emerge from debate and factual information. However, instead of discovering what she actually said and discussing it, what happened was a public keel-hauling, taking her remarks out of context and stirring the social media pot of venom. Could her words have been more carefully chosen? Of course. Yet, there is not one of us who hasn’t clumsily said something we could have better articulated.

My daughter, who worked in the ICU for two years has, along with her colleagues, missed meals while on 12-hour shifts. They have found it impossible to catch a rest or go to the bathroom. We increasingly treat both our doctors and nurses poorly, if not cruelly, in ways that demoralize them and decrease the care they can provide for patients. Some of that is the result of regulations that sounded good on paper but worked out completely differently in reality. Debate on many issues is desperately needed. A society that plays “gotcha” instead of encouraging open conversation and dialogue, as it did with Senator Walsh, is establishing a more dangerous scenario than the one concocted in my eight-year-old’s imagination.

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What do you eat at a Passover feast?

As a chef, I have a question pertaining to the traditional Passover meal. The traditional Seder dinner typically includes gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel and carrot and prune tzimmes. Now, we know that none of these foods originated in ancient Israel – they’re from a later period in Jewish history during the diaspora and after the destruction of the Temple.

But my question is, what would have been a traditional Passover meal in ancient Israel? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living at the time of King Solomon or the Prophet Isaiah? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living in the time of Herod’s Temple?

Thank you,

Joshua F.

Dear Joshua,

Are you trying to start an international incident? A religious war? The foods you cite—gefilte fish, potato kugel, carrot and prune tzimmes and the other foods you mention are traditional foods only for Jews whose ancestors lived in eastern Europe. But, we Jews have been around for a long time and we have lived everywhere from China to Morocco, from Johannesburg to Gibraltar. Some of these communities lasted for a short time, others for thousands of years. Jews were expelled from Egypt, Libya and other Islamic countries during the second half of the twentieth century but a few still live in Iran and many other countries that would surprise you. A traditional Syrian or Yemenite Passover meal would have none of the foods you mentioned.

Even the ceremonial foods that are required as part of the Passover Seder will look different in different communities. For example, a vegetable from the ground is needed, but our own family uses potatoes while other families use leeks. The matzah itself, the centerpiece of the meal, looks quite different if baked by those from Arab countries vs. European ones.

Having said that, you ask what the meal would have looked like in the land of Israel when the 2nd Temple was standing. There would have been wine, roasted lamb (which we deliberately do not have at the Seder today) matzah and a vegetable. The spices and methods of cooking would have been those of the place and time. There certainly would not have been the plethora of kosher for Passover items that fill grocery stores today.

If you’re looking to recreate a historical meal, we would suggest looking in cookbooks from the Yemenite community, which dates back to the days of King Solomon. You might also look at the Roman Jewish community that pre-dates the destruction of the Temple.

The bottom line is that “Jewish” cooking is any cooking that follows the laws of kashrut, the basics of which are shared by all these communities. Other than that, each community adapted to what was available and popular in its own country. So, please, in the pursuit of peace, stop talking about traditional Jewish cooking!

Hearty appetite,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Find the Father

Progressive societies tend to quickly impose restrictions on behaviors that are considered dangerous to ‘society’.  Occasionally, this goal of providing security for society is achieved at the cost of people’s freedoms but progressive voters don’t doubt that the exchange is a worthwhile one.

For instance, some people, many of them thoughtful and educated parents, choose not to vaccinate their children for various reasons.  Progressive politicians like New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, have little hesitation in imposing mandatory vaccination orders with fines of $1,000 for violators.  This sounds logical and seems to be prudent public policy. In the name of public health government trounces parents’ freedoms.

Years ago the freedoms of a private citizen to open a restaurant that allowed smoking were abrogated.  By that time, the rights of people to smoke in most public areas had long since been trampled.  How was this achieved?  By government addressing what it saw as its duty to provide health for all.  But wait, then surely government should have banned not only smoking but also mountain climbing and bungee jumping along with all other life-threatening activities?  “No,” answered big-government progressives. “While climbing and other high risk activities imperil only the participant himself,”  they insisted, “smoking jeopardizes everyone because smoke exhaled by the smoker pollutes all the air for all living things.”   Again, the greater good was achieved with a corresponding loss of freedom judged by many to be a worthy exchange.

To be clear, then, we are comfortable restricting the freedom of parents to make their own health decisions for their children and we are okay with restricting the freedom of restauranteurs and of people who choose to smoke tobacco.  Yet, at the same time we utterly reject the notion of restricting the freedom of people who engage in a certain activity which imposes great public health penalties along with other costs on us all and which significantly increases the likelihood of us becoming the victims of criminal violence.

What is this damaging activity?  It is conceiving and giving birth to children without the partners being married.  Why is this as or more damaging than second hand smoke or unvaccinated children?  As the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and other studies show growing up without a father in the home dramatically increases the likelihood of teens engaging in criminal behavior.  The National Center for Education Statistics points out that 71% of school dropouts are fatherless.  Children in fatherless homes are four times as likely to be dependent on welfare.

In America, about one-third of all children born this year will live in homes without their father present.  This adds immeasurably to the likelihood of you becoming a victim of a violent crime perpetrated by a man who grew up without a father.  It guarantees you having to help underwrite the more than a hundred billion dollars a year that this growing trend costs. 

Up until the 1960s in no group in the United States was a teenage unmarried mother a common sight.  Since then, government and culture have methodically removed all the impediments to having children out of marriage.  Well-intentioned government programs have eviscerated those social attitudes and economic realities that used to be such an effective barrier to this destructive conduct. The cost to the health and safety of individuals and the public have been enormous.

Whenever a group of people suffers from the pathologies of crime, poverty, and homelessness, the main culprit is nearly always fatherless families.  After two hundred and ten years, Egyptian slavery had undermined the role of the Israelite father.  Before any tiny spark of freedom could be ignited that would lead to a healthy nation, father-led families needed to be restored as a normative pattern.

Speak to the whole community of Israel and say that on the tenth of this month each of them shall take one lamb to each father-led home…They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts… of the house in which they are to eat it. They shall eat the meat that same night…roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs.
(Exodus 12:3-8)

Aware that in years to come, the word ‘family’ will come to lose much of its meaning, the Hebrew text prophetically avoids the word mishpachah—family.  Here it uniquely stresses the father-led home.

The inescapable point is that before a damaged group of people can attain real freedom, they must first restore the foundational pillar of a healthy, functioning society, namely the father-led home. 

Why does a government that compels its citizens by force to vaccinate their children against measles not at least check the health of illegal immigrants arriving from countries with comparatively high prevalence rates of tuberculosis? 

One might also ask why a government that shuts smokers into small designated areas never quarantined AIDS carriers even while that deadly disease was considered to be highly contagious?

The answer surely is that to a government whose driving values are secular liberalism rather than the American constitution, some things are just more important than public health.  Not impinging on the ‘rights’ of all to enter the United States is more important than public health.  Not casting any aspersions on the demographic group whose sexual choices were then believed to be behind the spread of AIDS was more important than public health.  And since the 1960s, not even criticizing anyone’s sexual behavior even when that behavior will bring a child into a fatherless home is more important than defeating poverty and crime. 

Each Heavenly chosen word and phrase in Scripture holds life messages such as this one.  Our written, audio and video resources are designed to help you gain a fuller understanding into how the world REALLY works in all its wondrous and varied detail through exploring this ancient Jewish wisdom. Our Library Pack and Library Pack PLUS provide tremendous value all year round, but this week, until we close for the final days of Passover on Thursday evening, we are offering an additional discount. This opportunity will be gone soon, so act now.

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Helicopter Mom – Me?

If there is one thing that, until now, I have never been accused of, it is being a helicopter parent. If anything, more than a few of our children’s friends’ parents thought that my husband and I allowed our children too much independence. One of our daughters was incredibly upset that we did not sign her up for SAT review classes or care enough about her grades once she attended a ‘real’ high school.

Yet, as homeschooling increases in the United Kingdom, one British columnist has labeled me, by association and after the fact,  a “militant,” “arrogant,” and “controlling” mother who homeschooled to “dominate and diminish” my children. Wow!

To be fair, the author, Janet Street-Porter is willing to debate home-schooling mothers she knows and works with. Her strong language seems to more headline-grabbing than actually insulting. However, I think it is worth analyzing and rebutting her arguments.

While homeschooling has become rather mainstream in the United States, that isn’t so for much of the rest of the world. It is highly regulated in some countries and illegal in others, most notably Germany. When I was teaching my children, the most frequent accusation hurled at us was that we were hampering their socialization skills. That was laughable If you knew our outgoing children and the many friendships and relationships they had, but that tired allegation didn’t even make it into this article.

Instead, the article’s slant is the damage caused to British society in general and their  children in particular by parents take them out of the system. Ms. Street-Porter contends that those who don’t feel the school system is satisfactory from an educational point of view are  selfish to care only for our children rather than working within the system to improve academics for all. I admittedly am not familiar with British bureaucracy, but if it is anything like America, we’re not talking a fix that will be accomplished within the schooling lifetime of any student today.  Things are that bad and the status quo is too entrenched. I know many homeschooling parents who actively work to improve education on a community and national level. Doing the best for one’s own child doesn’t mean that you don’t care about anyone else’s.

Another accusation hurled at homeschooling parents in this article was a reluctance to embrace the necessity of discipline. Again, unless British schools are complete opposites from American ones, most homeschooling families are far more disciplined than classrooms, not less. Parents who are disorganized wimps can scrape by when their kids are out of the house for many hours a day. When the kids are always home, structure and routine usually co-exist with learning and play.

As for the recommendation that children must learn to handle bullying and that homeschooling to avoid it will reduce children’s resilience and ability to get along with others, I think that is completely misguided. Most parents that I know who homeschool in response to classroom, school bus and schoolyard bullying start out as reluctant homeschoolers.  They have worked with their children, the teachers and administration to try to solve the problem, all to no avail. They are making a difficult decision not to sacrifice their children’s emotional health.

The article closes with this paragraph: “Sadly, too many modern parents want to control every aspect of their children’s lives – monitoring their movements via special apps, calling them every few hours to make sure they are “safe”. Home-schooling is just another form of insidious control.”

One of the easiest ways to monitor your child is to put them in a controlled environment for most of their waking hours. In other words, send them to school. My children and many of their homeschooling peers were far more independent and had a wider variety of activities than their friends who marched in lock-step with twenty or so other children of precisely their own age. Dominating and diminishing my children? I prefer to think of homeschooling as assisting my children in reaching their full potential; propelling them aloft rather than helicoptering over them.

THOUGHT TOOLS

  • Find the Father April 22, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin- Progressive societies tend to quickly impose restrictions on behaviors that are considered dangerous to ‘society’.  Occasionally, this goal of providing security for society is achieved at the cost of people’s freedoms but progressive voters don’t doubt that the exchange is a worthwhile one. For instance, some people, many of them thoughtful and educated parents, choose… Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • What do you eat at a Passover feast? April 23, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin- As a chef, I have a question pertaining to the traditional Passover meal. The traditional Seder dinner typically includes gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel and carrot and prune tzimmes. Now, we know that none of these foods originated in ancient Israel - they're from a later period in Jewish… Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Gotcha! April 23, 2019 by Susan Lapin- Picture this scene. Your eight-year-old daughter comes running in with blood pouring down her hand. Sobbing, she explains that her teenage sister left the food processor cutting blade in a sudsy sink full of water. When younger sibling reached in to get a spoon, she badly cut herself. In addition to bandaging up the wound,… Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Prayers April 22, 2019 by Susan Lapin- Our hearts and prayers go out to our Christian friends whose co-religionists were massacred on one of the holiest days of their year. This is a crime not only against them, but against all humanity. 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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