TRENDING TODAY

A Veterans’ Day Ignorance Tax?

How does Veterans Day differ from Presidents Day? How does each differ from Memorial Day? These aren’t variations on a riddle, but our idea for raising taxes. In our opinion we should forget about sin taxes on cigarettes or junk food; we should reduce business and income taxes and we should make up the difference with an ignorance tax.

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, marking the anniversary of the end of World War I, November 11, 1917. In 1938, as war clouds rolled over Europe once again, Congress made Veterans Day an annual national holiday, to be observed on that date. Notice the use of the word ‘observed.’ That is completely different from the word celebrate which would be appropriate for the Fourth of July.

Yet fewer people each year actually know the difference between these unique days. Even fewer can distinguish between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.  Congress eased the path to ignorance by passing the National Holiday Act moving most Federal holidays to Monday, thereby placing the focus on a three day weekend instead of the event itself. (And while this might be slightly off-topic, who decided that apostrophes were unnecessary after the words ‘Veterans and ‘Presidents?)

Since these days have become prime shopping days, quite different from their original intent, our idea is that every consumer should take a quiz based on the day’s specific theme. Sales tax for that day should be levied based on how well one does on the quiz.  Score high and pay little; score low and pay a lot. Veterans, of course, would pay no tax. Rather than going into government coffers the money collected could be matched with a recipient charity that exemplifies the day’s focus. Punishing ignorance while increasing gratitude towards our veterans sounds like a winning move all around.

From Abram’s Warriors to Our Children

Your Mother’s Guidance by Rebecca Masinter

One of the best-known transmitters of ancient Jewish wisdom, Rashi, gives us a definition of parenting in his remarks on Genesis 14:14.   His words are foundational to our understanding of our role as parents. Abram goes out to rescue his nephew, Lot, who has been taken captive and he takes with him, chanichav, his trainees, or the ones he had been mechanech, educating, in his home.  Rashi helps us out and defines the root of the word chinuch used to describe these people in words that I am roughly translating as, “This word chinuch is a term of the initiation or beginning of a person or tool’s usage in the manner he will continue in for the future, and this is the meaning of King Solomon’s statement, ‘Train a child…’ (Proverbs 22:6).” The Hebrew word in Proverbs, translated as the verb ‘train’ is the same as the noun for those men Abram took with him to war.

And there we have it—the idea that what we’re doing as parents is not scrambling day to day as we try to cope and get through one more bedtime or one more carpool. We are training and equipping our children for their life journey, for the path that is uniquely theirs and that they will continue on their whole lives long.  We see this idea in the verse that Rashi quotes from, “Train or educate a child according to his way.”  This in itself is a meaningful line and is quoted extensively in parenting classes, but it isn’t the entire verse.  The verse ends, “…even when he becomes old he won’t sway from it.”

Have you ever wondered why King Solomon uses the term, “even when he becomes old…”?  Why didn’t he say, even when he grows up or becomes an adult he won’t depart from it?  I think that this insight is at the root of all parenting.  King Solomon knows that chinuch isn’t about what the child will be like when he is 18 or 30, chinuch is about raising a child so that straight through to the end of his life, when he is an old man, he is still on the path his parents started him on.  Chinuch isn’t short sighted; quite the opposite.

The message is that that our task as parents is to begin with the end in mind.  Chinuch involves thinking about what our child’s unique path is that is truly inherent to him and that will carry him through his whole life, and what we need to do to develop, facilitate, and enhance that journey.

Those of you who have been with me on Your Mother’s Guidance for a while know that I really don’t like to share specific parenting how-tos.  I like to share concepts and ideas we can each think about and implement in our own ways for our own families.  The reason gets to this core definition of chinuch.  No two children will have the same life journey.  No two families are even remotely similar, and no one other than the two parents God has entrusted with the responsibility for those children can possibly know what is the right chinuch for that child. 

Mrs. Bruria Schwab once shared with me a lesson from her father who told her that chinuch is compared to a boat.  A boat travels on the ocean on its own path and no other boat can exactly follow the same path.  You can see where a boat is going and try to follow in the same direction, but you will be hit by different currents, winds, and tides, and even if you end up in the same place, you will not have gotten there exactly the same way. 

Parenting is envisioning the end goal for each child. Where can this child be as an old man or woman? What does he need to help him get there?  No two people will be the same.  This truly is the beautiful and crucial job of mothers. 

Find a few minutes to get out of the daily scramble every now and then and tap into the long term picture.  It may be that we will still do many of the same things we do now, but our motives and emotions will be completely different when we’re doing them as parents who are initiating our children onto the path of life that they will continue living long into the future.

Change of Heart

This week, the young granddaughter of a friend of mine had a heart procedure, part of the continuing treatment of a condition with which she was born. Within 36 hours, she was home from the hospital and smiling. While I don’t know the particulars of her medical circumstances, I think it fair to say that had she been born in an earlier  time she might not have survived the challenges she faced in infancy. Certainly, the continuing care would not have had her so quickly back at home and feeling well. God’s mercy is good and we are grateful for His medical messengers.

Working on our own hearts, however, has not become any easier over the generations. Whatever our flaws, be they a tendency to anger, to envy, to vanity, to holding grudges, there has been no advance in technology that allows us to quickly overcome our internal adversaries. The list in the previous sentence could be much longer and each individual’s particular challenge presents in a slightly different way. Not only is there no quick fix for our character flaws, but our hearts and minds rationalize our shortcomings so that even acknowledging the existence of our defects requires real  courage and honesty.

I once had the privilege of being consulted by a wise woman who was facing secondary infertility. Although her first pregnancy and delivery came with stunning simplicity, the years were passing and a much desired second child was not coming. At the same time, she and her husband were contemplating accepting upon themselves a particular religious obligation. She confided to me that she was nervous that, even subconsciously, she might be making a deal with God: I’ll commit to this behavior  for You  and in return You will give me another child. If God didn’t keep His end of the deal, she might distance herself from Him and resent the observance. Only once she had  worked on herself to separate her prayerful pleas from her commitment to religious growth did she and her husband incorporate this new practice into their lives.

While this couple did indeed welcome a new child within the year, they were correct in recognizing that we don’t make quid-pro-quo deals with God. We can only commit to what we will do, not to His response. This idea was tragically illustrated when, in 2014, three Israeli teenage boys didn’t arrive home when expected. Their kidnapping (by a Hamas-inspired Palestinian) galvanized the Jewish community (among others) around the world. The eighteen days until the boys’ mutilated bodies were found sparked hundreds of thousands of heartfelt prayers and many commitments to good deeds. Speaking of that time, Racheli Frankel, the mother of one of the boys said,

“I thought that prayer had a lot of power to it, but it doesn’t work like an ATM. You don’t press buttons and get results. G-d isn’t my employee. I told my children, ‘We will pray, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu [God]  will act in accordance with His will.’”

Just as we know that God may not respond in the way we wish He would, we also know that He cherishes our growth. We can soften our hearts instead of adamantly defending our right to be hurt, or extend charity and graciousness to others way beyond what we thought we could, or push back in others ways against our often deeply embedded, instinctive way of looking at the world. When we do so, our healing and good spiritual health can be genuine and long-lasting even if we need to work on ourselves for more than 36 hours.

__________________________________________________________________________
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Changing a Lifetime of Behavior

I am a 61 yr. old Christian male. I was brought up in a strict home, children should be seen but not heard. My Father was a stickler about everything; lights, water, doors and was constantly correcting me. I too have become a nit picker.

I pray for Go d to grant me patience and understanding, but it is so hard for me. What can I do in addition?  Is there a passage in the Torah/Bible which will give me guidance and help me to grow and become a better husband, grandfather etc.?

I don’t want people, my wife in particular, to become bitter and resentful towards me. G d willing you can give me an answer.

Oh by the way, my wife and I are regular watchers of your program on TCT. G d Bless you, your wife and family for you are a ray of hope in a dark world.

Kurt G.

Dear Kurt,

Wow. That is our reaction to your letter. Being willing to assess things afresh and to embrace the hard work involved in uprooting decades of bad habits makes you a rare individual.  We feel proud to have you among the audience of  our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show

While we greatly value prayer and Bible study, our answer is not going to be to read a few verses of Scripture or an exhortation to pray harder. We have something far more challenging for you to undertake.  But it will work.  We believe that when it comes to working on our character traits, only actions count.   You should certainly pray for His assistance and there are many verses that can speak to your heart, but you need to take action.

One of the great flashes of Biblical insight that we can all use effectively to transform our lives for the better is this: It’s not our thoughts that change our actions as much as it is our actions that change our thoughts.  Act now the way you would act if you already felt the way you wish you felt and your feelings will eventually fall into compliance with your actions.  Please reread that last sentence again.  Then you will understand why there is no more ardent advocate for the anti-smoking position than the former smoker who took the profound action of quitting. 

Rather than trying to acquire patience and understanding as emotional abstracts in the hope that they that will then change your actions, realize that changing your actions (even if, at first,  it feels false to you) will result in greater patience and understanding. The trick is consistency and expecting a long race, not a sprint.

Therefore for right now, focus on the specific few actions you most wish to start doing and upon those you most wish to obliterate from your repertoire

Having watched yourself follow in some of your father’s damaging footsteps, you are well aware of the negative consequences of your behavior. We would like to offer four concrete ideas with which to start your journey. 

  1. Pick one or two very specific things to work on that are within your reach. Trying to do too much almost inevitably will lead to giving up. Perhaps you can make one positive and one negative resolution. For example, commit yourself to one hour a day—maybe in the morning or at dinner time— when you will say nothing negative to or about anyone!  At the same time, commit yourself to noticing and articulating something once a day that your wife does for which you are grateful or something you appreciate about her. If you are critical outside that hour or fail to thank her properly for everything she does, don’t beat yourself up. Once this hour of the day and this one positive statement have become routine and easy, add another incremental step. You might extend the time to two hours. 
  2. Start your day by writing down in a private notebook three things for which you are grateful.
  3. Each night before going to bed/sleep, maintain a written daily journal of your successes and failures that day in the specific area on which you are working. This keeps you accountable to yourself and to God. If you have a male friend in your life to whom you can report once a week, that will be a great help. He should be someone who can provide strength and support as you fight this battle.
  4. Let your wife know how much you care for her and how you are working to be more worthy of her. Ask her to have patience with you as you strive to improve. You and she must both know that you will sometimes fail. Greatness comes from trying again and again.

Based on our experience with many other wonderful warriors fighting the war of personal development, we can confidently say that using these four tactics, we expect you will achieve encouraging results by the end of the first thirty days. Then on to the next stage!

The American folk-artist known as Grandma Moses began painting seriously at the age of 78. The original Moses began his career in leadership at the age of 80. Harland David Sanders was older than you are now when, after a lengthy string of business failures, he got the idea of franchising his chicken recipe, creating Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Ignore any voices inside of you telling you that you are too old or entrenched in your ways to change. As ancient Jewish wisdom states, “According to the effort is the reward.” It also says, “Who is strong? He who can overcome his bad habits.”

May your efforts bear fruit and bring happiness to your family,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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THOUGHT TOOLS

  • Animals Are People Too, Right? November 5, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - Don’t you know that homosexuality is natural?  Surely you must be aware that same-sex behavior involving courtship and pair-bonding has been observed in hundreds of species of animals? California’s Proposition 47 ensures that a career criminal (Sorry, I forgot that San Francisco prohibits that term in favor of “justice-involved-individual”) who steals money or property suffers… Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Changing a Lifetime of Behavior November 6, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - I am a 61 yr. old Christian male. I was brought up in a strict home, children should be seen but not heard. My Father was a stickler about everything; lights, water, doors and was constantly correcting me. I too have become a nit picker. I pray for Go d to grant me patience and… Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Change of Heart November 7, 2019 by Susan Lapin - This week, the young granddaughter of a friend of mine had a heart procedure, part of the continuing treatment of a condition with which she was born. Within 36 hours, she was home from the hospital and smiling. While I don’t know the particulars of her medical circumstances, I think it fair to say that… Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • A Veterans’ Day Ignorance Tax? November 11, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - How does Veterans Day differ from Presidents Day? How does each differ from Memorial Day? These aren’t variations on a riddle, but our idea for raising taxes. In our opinion we should forget about sin taxes on cigarettes or junk food; we should reduce business and income taxes and we should make up the difference… 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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