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Et tu, America?

I recently ordered something from Nordstrom and checked the box to pick it up at my local store. After arranging my schedule to make time to go get it in person, driving over, parking and waiting in line, the saleswoman couldn’t find my order. “We think it will be delivered. Here’s the number to call if you don’t get it. You’ll get a busy signal but keep dialing over and over and eventually you’ll get through.”

Well, that’s exactly what happened. Except, it didn’t happen with Nordstrom.  Had it been Nordstrom that iconic store most likely would not have messed up in the first place. Had there been an error they would not have put the onus on me to track down the missing item. There also would have been a heartfelt apology along with some compensation—perhaps a refund or a complimentary gift.

However, the above story didn’t happen with a private business such as Nordstrom. It took place at the United States Post Office.

A few months ago, my husband and I were away taping television for a week and we filled in the USPS form to hold our mail and deliver it on our return date. That day, upon our return, I met our local mail-woman on her daily rounds expecting her to have our accumulated mail. No such luck. She said, “Oh, I forgot it,(insert expletive). I’ll bring it tomorrow.”

Trying to avoid the same problem on a more recent trip, I checked the other box on the form saying that we would pick up our mail ourselves at our local branch. Trying to do exactly that triggered the above response.

One of the things that delights me about President Trump’s administration is that if he heard the above story, I don’t think his response would be either, “Well, what can you do? That’s the Post Office,” or “We need more tax money to make the Post Office function better.” I think he would be appalled and determined to cut the Post Office’s budget while improving the service.

The civil service was instituted in the late 1800s to solve the problem of federal administrations handing out government jobs as prizes to cronies, relatives and supporters. In contrast to the spoils system that preceded it, it was meant to be a merit system allowing those who could do a good job to do so regardless of their political party affiliation or connections. Over recent decades it has changed from a merit system to one of entitlement. Jobs are distributed based on distorted notions of fairness rather than merit, with less and less expected of employees and little accountability. Not surprisingly, private delivery companies constantly win greater market share while many of us avoid using the government-operated post office as much as possible.

Our just-returned-from trip was for a family wedding in Rome.  We found Italy with its 2,000+ year-old Jewish community fascinating and the people we encountered were warm and friendly.  However, we could not help but notice numerous examples of what appeared to be a labyrinth of a bureaucratic system.

What struck us, however, was that upon returning to America we encountered a baggage system at Newark airport that was so horribly incompetent that it could only have been designed by a fiendish brain harboring a diabolical malevolence towards the traveling public.   Upon finally recovering our suitcases, we gratefully headed for Customs and Luggage Control.  To say that this next government function made the Italians look like juggernauts of Germanic efficiency would be too generous.  The mindless and meaningless contortions to which this part of the airport subjected us, made us feel we were unwitting participants in a Marx Brothers movie.  Except that at 11:00 pm after a long flight, it was far from funny.  It was abundantly obvious that jobs that weren’t needed had been created and that no one really cared if the system served the public well.

The United States has neither the antiquities nor the Mediterranean warmth and charm of Italy.  However, it did used to be a land of opportunity with a dream of moving upwards each day to an ever better tomorrow.  Dissolving that old spoils system over a hundred years ago was partly what made American efficiency the envy of other countries.

I know I am not being realistic but the best way to raise government approval ratings a little closer to those of Nordstrom would be to dissolve the civil service system as it now stands. 

I know I am not being realistic but the best way to raise government approval ratings a little closer to those of Nordstrom would be to dissolve the civil service system as it now stands.  Is it time to privatize all its functions? The many civil-service employees who want to do a good job, and are capable of it, would be hired privately and those who think that taxpayers owe them a living would not.

I don’t really expect Donald Trump to solve the challenges caused by America’s increasingly intractable public sector.  But perhaps he is taking us back a little to a line from Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address:  “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

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Dear Rabbi and Susan The Skeptic and the Rabbi Hands Off! This May Be Love I Only Want to Get Married Once Thought Tools Volume 1 Thought Tools Volume 2 Thought Tools Volume 3

First Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress is attacked by Jewish journalist quoting his rabbi

Pastor Robert Jeffress displays what I believe to be admirable courage in resisting the invidious idea that Judeo-Christian, Bible-based faith must to be stuffed out of sight where it can inflict no influence on American culture. He and his church, Dallas’ First Baptist erected a bill-board advertising the church’s commitment to faith and freedom and mentioned the name of Pastor Jeffress’ sermon for this coming Sunday-America is a Christian Nation.
This triggered macro-aggressions in Jewish journalist Robert Wilonsky who wrote an angry polemic slamming Pastor Jeffress in the Dallas News. Why do I mention the Jewish faith of this journalist? Only because he himself drew attention to it right near the beginning of his furious tirade against Pastor Jeffress. “My rabbi warned me there would be days like this.” Well, I have no idea of who his rabbi is, but I am deeply distressed that again, secularized Americans of Jewish ancestry should play conspicuous roles in the attempt to create a post-Christian America.
I have written extensively elsewhere and spoken many times explaining why Jews and other non-Christian minorities should be grateful that this is indeed a Christian nation so I won’t go into that again here. Politics is really nothing more than the practical application of our most deeply held values and the crusade to make sure that all values have a place at the political table other than Christian is dangerous. I support Pastor Jeffress’ work in bringing Judeo Christian Bible based values to greater relevance and prominence in the culture.
Whether one agrees with Pastor Robert Jeffress’ politics and theology or one does not, anyone passionate about freedom and open debate in America has to be troubled by the attempts to silence the good pastor which resulted in the removal of the billboard for which he paid. Even if it is only his opinion that America is a Christian nation, that opinion needs to be censored?
This rabbi finds that development deeply disturbing.

Am I reading too much?

Hello Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,

I am wondering if it is possible to gain “too much” knowledge. We know that Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden because of their disobedience, eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when instructed not to. However, as I have grown to understand it, their transgression was more in trying to “…be like God” and have His knowledge.

I love learning. I learn any way I can. I have a book in my hand (electronic or printed) almost all the time when I’m not occupied at work or with family. Am I potentially being sinful in my pursuit of knowledge?

Thank you.

Dennis J.

Dear Dennis,

What an interesting question! Before we move on to our answer we just want to say that ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes (as you correctly wrote) that Adam and Eve ate, not from the Tree of Knowledge which might have suggested that knowledge itself was part of the problem, but from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

Till that fateful bite, we humans had the ability to instantly and reliably know whether a particular action was good or evil.  That ancient surrender to tasty temptation forever confused us.  Now, in virtually every wrong and prohibited action, it is tragically possible to identify good, and in every good action it is sadly possible to see bad.

For instance, shouldn’t we  generally endorse and support homosexual marriage because after all, isn’t marriage good, and don’t we wish to see loving relationships?  Or, perhaps we should ban Bibles in public places since it surely is wrong to make some people feel distressed and excluded?

As you know these fallacious arguments are being advanced every day by those who view Judeo-Christian principles, not as vital for this nation but as primitive obstacles to progress.  And these mendacious twists persuade many.  Thank the serpent!

Back to your question. Like you, we are avid readers. When we moved, books made up the majority of our boxes. Yet, you are correct that the pursuit of knowledge (like so many other things taken to an extreme) can become a false god. We know of men who acquire degree after degree but never use any of what they learn to contribute to the world. We also know of those who worship pursuit of  “expertise” and when God’s word conflicts with the experts, His is the one they choose to ignore.

We doubt that any of this applies to you. You mention having both work and family which means that reading is not stopping you from living. We assume that you are judicious in choosing what you read and avoid books that have no redeeming value.

However, since you are raising the question, we would encourage you to ask whether you are a bit out of balance. Only you can answer if you are sometimes giving too much time to reading. Should you be spending more time with people, both family and community? Should you be exercising more or putting in more hours at work? Is your mind preoccupied with what you are reading so that you aren’t giving proper attention to other things? Is your pursuit of knowledge an end in itself or does it serve the purpose of making you a bigger person more capable of contributing to the world?

Answering these questions you tell you if you are being consistent with, “The beginning of knowledge is the acknowledgment of God.”

Happy reading,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Hands Off! This May Be Love I Only Want to Get Married Once Thought Tools Volume 1 Thought Tools Volume 2 Thought Tools Volume 3 The Skeptic and the Rabbi Dear Rabbi and Susan 

The Write Way

In our age, when electronic communication has all but supplanted ink on paper, it is easy to overlook the great value of a handwritten letter.  Precisely because it is so effortless and inexpensive to dispatch messages, the value of an ink on paper letter has risen even higher. In an age when we communicate online with all our friends at once, a handwritten letter emphasizes, “I really care about you.”

History gifts us with letters between John and Abigail Adams as well as Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine.  Written with ink on paper, the letters reveal warmth of feeling and closeness that the men’s political nemeses probably never suspected they possessed. Letters between parents and children, friends, and even business acquaintances give us glimpses into multi-faceted lives otherwise too easy to dismiss with stereotypes and generalizations.

The handwritten word lets us forge relationships while hasty, impulsive electronic communication often serves to sever them. Let’s take a lesson from the years preceding the Flood.

And it was, when man began to increase…
(Genesis 6:1)

ר י ב                         ל ר ו ב

to increase                  quarrel

                                 

V o R al                           V i R

 In Hebrew, the word for “increase” is ‘laRoV’. The word is similar to the word for quarrel, ‘RiV’. In Hebrew, words that share core letters beg to be examined together. Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that this phrase doesn’t refer to population size. It is describing people who have lost a shared moral framework and see each other as rivals rather than partners. Ten friends is a stimulating group; ten random people is an annoyance; ten enemies is a mob. Genesis 6:2 goes on to say how women became the victims of this lack of fraternal feeling. Economically, sexually and socially, things rapidly went downhill from there.

Now is an appropriate time to make sure that you are building real relationships. Writing handwritten letters is one helpful tool. Here are five tips:

1.   Obtain a nice fountain pen rather than using the promotional ballpoint pen from your last hotel room.

2.   Acquire some good quality notepaper rather than using an 8 ½ X 11 piece of white paper you removed from the copier machine.  Get matching envelopes.

3.   Keep pen, paper, envelopes and stamps together in some handy location so that when you consider writing a letter, you can instantly follow up with the action.

4.   Write alone and in silence, far from your computer and phone.  You’ll enjoy seeing how pen and paper stimulate your brain once you’ve banished the electronics.

5.   Think about what you wish to achieve and plan an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  Write a draft; hone it and write a final copy.

You’ll get better and better at handwriting letters; your penmanship and style will both quickly improve.  Don’t allow thoughts of posterity to inhibit you; not all your letters will be worth keeping and not all will be kept.  Every now and again, you’ll write a gem that will show up years into the future and bring delight to others. 

When Susan and I write books we are actually writing long letters to our readers, even when the format doesn’t reflect that. We appreciate how many of you read these “letters” we have written. For only a few more days all of the paperback books in our collection (and some by other authors we recommend) are on sale. We hope these add a touch of entertainment, growth and inspiration to your beach outing or summer picnic.

Summer Reading Sale
all paperbacks only $9.99 apiece!

The Skeptic and the Rabbi Thought Tools Vol. 1 Thought Tools Vol. 2 Thought Tools Vol. 3 Hands Off! This May Be Love I Only Want to Get Married Once Dear Rabbi and Susan 

THOUGHT TOOLS

  • The Write Way June 19, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - In our age, when electronic communication has all but supplanted ink on paper, it is easy to overlook the great value of a handwritten letter.  Precisely because it is so effortless and inexpensive to dispatch messages, the value of an ink on paper letter has risen even higher. In an age when we communicate online Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Am I reading too much? June 20, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - Hello Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin, I am wondering if it is possible to gain "too much" knowledge. We know that Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden because of their disobedience, eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when instructed not to. However, as I have grown to understand it, Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Et tu, America? June 21, 2018 by Susan Lapin - I recently ordered something from Nordstrom and checked the box to pick it up at my local store. After arranging my schedule to make time to go get it in person, driving over, parking and waiting in line, the saleswoman couldn’t find my order. “We think it will be delivered. Here’s the number to call Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • First Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress is attacked by Jewish journalist quoting his rabbi June 21, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - Pastor Robert Jeffress displays what I believe to be admirable courage in resisting the invidious idea that Judeo-Christian, Bible-based faith must to be stuffed out of sight where it can inflict no influence on American culture. He and his church, Dallas' First Baptist erected a bill-board advertising the church's commitment to faith and freedom and 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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