TRENDING TODAY

Granite Men; Marshmallow Boys

Imagine a woman in the mid 1800s crossing North America by wagon train. Now imagine her amazement if she was to travel a  similar distance today by jet. Multiple blessings of gratitude would spill from her lips. I tried to keep this in mind recently when I was cramped into a small seat, grazing shoulders with my neighbor, not quite sure where to place my legs and basically confined to that place for six hours.

Still, the trip was long. I was not disciplined enough to focus on work or even to concentrate on the current book I am enjoying reading. American Airlines, aware that a benumbed clientele makes for a successful flight, provided each passenger with a personal entertainment device that had more movies available than I have ever seen on an international flight  let alone a domestic one.

My flight was long enough for me to watch a personally constructed double feature. My first choice was a relatively recent movie that a friend had recommended, The Intern, starring Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway. After that, when there were still a few hours left to the trip, I pulled up the classic from 1942, Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. My interest in Casablanca, which I last saw many years ago, was sparked by references to it in a wonderful book I just read, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. The book highlighted certain details from the movie. (I include this completely irrelevant information only because I know many of you are voracious readers and I do recommend this book.)

Seeing the two movies one after the other inevitably led to comparison. I particularly want to focus on the male leading men. I don’t know how old Rick, Humphrey Bogart’s character is supposed to be, but my guess is that if you showed the movie to college students today, most of them would guess that he is older than the audience thought him to be in 1942. His face is mature; his bearing solid.

The Intern reiterates that Robert de Niro is playing a seventy-year-old character. His face, too, is mature and his bearing solid. To the amazement of his younger male colleagues, he not only wears a suit and tie to work, but—prepare to be shocked—he shaves each and every day including on weekends.

The contrast to the younger men in the movie could not be greater. They are soft and cuddly looking. Not only are most of them not clean-shaven but their hair is not even groomed. They probably don’t know how to fasten a tie and might not even own one. While not the main point of the movie during the course of events, as they grow to respect and admire Mr. de Niro’s character, some of them begin to model his physical appearance. Nevertheless, before that happens, they represent the desired look for their generation. With the exception of military men, the rugged, strong, manly look is not common. Neither, is the rugged, strong, dependable man. The popular phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ in and of itself suggests that being manly is problematic.

Casablanca was made at a time when the Allies’ success in World War II was uncertain. At its conclusion, Humphrey Bogart says, “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” Stopping the Nazi threat to civilization took priority over personal ambition, love and emotion.

There are young men today, many in the military, who do live for noble ideals greater than their personal feelings and fulfillment. They are not the young men popularized today on Youtube, Netflix or in movies. Humphrey Bogart portrayed a flawed character, not a saint. In that way he honestly represented a generation of young men from the 1940s, warts and all, to whom we owe a great debt. The culture may not present that type of man as a role model, but as even one of today’s movie shows, that doesn’t mean that young men (and women) today don’t crave exactly those examples.

 *   *   *   *

Would you rather live in an Abraham world or a Nimrod world?
The choice is still being made today.

ON SALE
Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel

Should my children read Harry Potter?

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I’m an orthodox Jewish homeschool mom of five and I love your show! Our homeschool curriculum focuses heavily on reading good literature and my kids have just reached the age where Edward Eager’s tales of magic, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as many others in the fantasy genre are on many recommended reading lists.

I’m unsure of how to approach the element of magic in children’s stories. The Torah forbids witchcraft, so should stories that feature magic be anathema to my Torah-observant kids?

Thanks for the great materials you produce. I consider them part of my continuing education. 🙂

Jessie W.

Dear Jessie,

We’re delighted that you watch our show and that you are homeschooling. As you may know, we homeschooled for many years and a number of our grandchildren are now being homeschooled as well.

Some of our children were the intended audience age when the first Harry Potter book came out.  This book became a major topic of discussion among both the Jewish and Christian homeschoolers we knew. More than any other topic we can think of, the families we knew (and respected) were all over the map on this one.

Approaches ranged from an absolute ban on reading any sort of fantasy to those who couldn’t see any problem whatsoever with the genre. Our view was somewhere in the middle. We made a judgment call and will share some of our considerations, but we would like to emphasize that each child and his surroundings need to be taken into account. Unlike certain questions, such as whether a child should call a parent by his first name where the answer is clear cut (absolutely not!), this question has a lot of room for knowing an individual child, the specific book, subjectivity and praying for Godly wisdom.

When they were young, our children, like many others, delighted in books featuring talking animals who dressed and behaved like people. As parents we saw these books as imaginative, not sinister. Part of the developing toddler sense of humor was understanding that a moose would not go into a store to buy candy and a duck would not toss a salad for a dinner party.

We saw Edward Eager’s books like Half-Magic  or The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit as more sophisticated versions of the same idea. They are incredibly clever stories of things that can never happen; imaginative rather than sinister.

As children grow, it is important for them to understand what the Bible is warning about and forbidding one to dabble in. There are spiritual forces in the world that we cannot easily understand and that nonetheless can do great harm. For example, the focused wishing of evil on someone, for example via a voodoo doll, can have an effect. It is forbidden. In the same way, some people are capable of communing with the dead. This is possible – and forbidden. Statues coming to life under a full moon or finding a coin that allows you to move backwards in history are not real options, so we didn’t see reading about them as problematic.

Is Harry Potter, a brilliant book and not surprisingly a best-seller, different in a real way to the above books or even to the TV show Bewitched?  We don’t know. Many times cultural influences are incredibly subtle.Our second-hand understanding is that the Harry Potter books became darker as the series went along. (Our children were older at that point and I think their interest waned, but anyway they were then at an age to make their own decisions.) We know parents who explained to their children that while they allowed the early books into their homes, they would not let in the later ones.

Realistically, each family needs to decide where certain lines are drawn as well as knowing the point at which forbidding something makes it intensely desirable. There are only so many issues where one can take a stand unless one moves to a community with only like-minded people and shuts out the outside world. 

What we would strongly recommend is forging a relationship with your children that has them respecting and caring what you think. That means explaining your views and listening to theirs. It also means taking the time to read and watch the things to which they are being exposed and doing so with a keen eye. You and they need to develop the ability to see the message behind the message and hone an awareness of what is shaping morals and ideas. Dinnertime conversations are priceless.

We are sure you are already aware of this, but cultural messages are constantly being sent by all sorts of literature. You are raising only one area of concern but parent-child interactions, male-female relationships, views of America and attitudes to money are only four areas where values can be easily absorbed through reading.  For example, we rejected Berenstain Bear books for our children because the father was often portrayed as a genial buffoon whose wife and children were clearly smarter and more accomplished than he was. 

You need to be clear on what your family values are. While we appreciated C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series and most of our Christian friends loved the books, we personally chose not to share those with our children. Narnia is a Christian parable and as such, no matter how lovely a story, it wasn’t meant for our Jewish family. One of our friends, whose children grew up to be just as committed Jews as our children, made the decision to let her children read the Narnia series. Each parent should take the responsibility to make those decisions herself.

Our homeschooling was very literature based and we have wonderful memories of read-aloud sessions with teenagers perfectly capable of reading to themselves. We hope you create many wonderful memories of your own.

Enjoy these years,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

  *    *    *    *

Is your image of the Tower of Babel based on VeggiTales for children? 

Are you ready for the grown-up version? 

Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel

ON SALE

Grab the Gold

Here’s a question for politicians:  Do you really want to fight poverty?  I mean do you really, really want to end poverty, or do you just want to get re-elected?

If you really mean it, I have some good news for you along with some bad news.

The good news is that you no longer need to impose confiscatory rates of taxation upon hard-working families in order to give some people the money that other people have earned. 

The bad news is that many of your constituents would rather deal with the disease than confront the cure.  The reason I say this is because the one sure way to defeat poverty in one generation is to enact policies that would ensure that most children will be raised by married parents in wholesome and intact marriages.  The problem is that many of your constituents are more committed to liberal social policies that undermine marriage than they are to ending poverty.

The Brookings Institution, which is certainly no friend of traditional morality, through its Center on Children and Families is only one of many reputable organizations whose research has left little doubt that children do far better when they grow up in a traditionally strong family.  Many on the left ask, “But why should growing up with a married mother and father have anything to do with how well children do in their careers when they grow up?”

One answer is leadership.  For a family to thrive, effective parental leadership is vital.  For a business enterprise to thrive, effective leadership is just as essential.  Not surprisingly, a child growing up in a strong family absorbs the lessons of leadership from his parents and is thus equipped to deploy that leadership later on.

Here are three lessons of leadership crucially necessary for successfully managing a family as well as for running a business organization.

(i)  When leaders make mistakes or commit moral lapses, the entire enterprise, family or business, is imperiled.  Just think of Hollywood’s once prominent and prospering Weinstein entertainment colossus.  Or, just think of any of the families you know torn asunder by infidelity. Leadership means responsibility rather than privilege or license.

(ii)  Leaders know that when they do make mistakes, they, and only they carry the burden of repairing the consequences of those mistakes. 

(iii)  Leaders know that part of their job is ensuring that children, employees and associates retain strong moral anchors in accordance with the value system of the family or organization.  They must exercise constant vigilance because if subordinates lose their links to the central moral core, lapses in conduct are sure to follow.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us these three practical lessons in leadership from a fascinating sequence of events related in chapters 6-8 in Joshua. 

Here is a brief summary of the story.  Following God’s instructions to Joshua, Israel conquered the city of Jericho.   Though Joshua directed that all its treasures should be consecrated to God, one fellow named Achan helped himself to some choice items of plunder. 

Joshua’s military advisors indicated that Israel’s next target, the city of Ai, would require no more than a small force to gain a quick victory.  That small army was ignominiously defeated by the men of Ai, and Israel was thrown into doubt and fear.  God explained to Joshua that the calamity was caused by transgression; someone had stolen items from Jericho.  He assured Joshua that all would be well if the culprit was punished, and He instructed Joshua how to identify the perpetrator. 

The next morning Joshua paraded the people through a selection process, finally identifying Achan.

Achan confessed to having taken a garment from Shinar (many translations mistakenly say, ‘Babylonian garment’) along with a quantity of silver and gold.  After Achan was executed, Israel again attacked the city of Ai and this time they triumphed decisively.   

Among the questions we must ask:

(i) Why was all Israel punished with such a shocking defeat when only one man, Achan, committed the wrong?

(ii) Why did God not simply identify the miscreant Himself, rather than having Joshua conduct a mysterious identification process? 

(iii) We can understand why Achan took silver and gold but why a cloak from Shinar?

Ancient Jewish wisdom provides the answers:

(i)  The leader of Israel, Joshua, was just as culpable as Achan.  God never declared that Israel should not plunder Jericho. Joshua came up with this unnecessary prohibition on his own. (Joshua 6:18).  If only Joshua had not added his own restrictions to God’s direction, what Achan did would have been permitted.  Israel could have legitimately plundered Jericho just as God explicitly told them to do at Ai. (Joshua 8:2)  All of Israel was punished by a terribly defeat because the leader had erred.  He had promulgated a law that God had not directed.

(ii)  God didn’t identify Achan as the criminal because Achan didn’t violate God’s law; he violated Joshua’s law.  Thus the onus was upon Joshua to solve the crime.  God sometimes leaves us to climb out of holes that we ourselves dig.

(iii)  The Shinar garment is Scripture’s way of making us refer back to the Bible’s first mention of Shinar in Genesis 10:10. Along with three other references close-by, these allude to Nimrod’s war against God.  Achan did want the gold and silver.  However, because he mistakenly believed that God had prohibited that treasure, to get them he first had to break his relationship with God just as Nimrod had done.  After that he felt free to seize the gold and silver.

Whenever parents understand and absorb these three lessons they are better able to build a strong and effective family.  These three lessons also help business leaders build strong and effective organizations.  Yes, successful marriages and happy families not only give their children a ladder from poverty to prosperity but they also give their children a head start in becoming excellent organizational leaders themselves.  That would be good for them and for their society.  But are politicians willing to declare what almost everyone knows? Namely, that stable marriages are the finest environment for children and society.  I don’t know.

Nimrod’s rejection of God serves as a prototype for rejecting God to our very day. If this intrigues you, delve deeper into the verses describing Nimrod’s building project, the tower of Babel. Learn not only what his name means in Hebrew but also the tactics he used that are effectively still being used to sever people from a relationship with God and His teachings. Our audio CD set, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel is currently on sale.

Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel MP3
SALE
Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel
SALE

Body and Soul

While preparing Gila Manolson’s book, Hands Off: This May Be Love for a second printing, I took the opportunity to look through it again. The following quote jumped out at me:

“God created our bodies and souls to work together as one, with the soul defining one’s identity and the body expressing it. Our dress, speech, and behavior should all reflect who we really are, deep within our innermost being. Only then can we be fully ourselves.”

Gila Manolson; Hands Off: This May Be Love

THOUGHT TOOLS

  • Grab the Gold February 13, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin - Here’s a question for politicians:  Do you really want to fight poverty?  I mean do you really, really want to end poverty, or do you just want to get re-elected? If you really mean it, I have some good news for you along with some bad news. The good news is that you no longer Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Should my children read Harry Potter? February 13, 2018 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin - Dear Rabbi and Susan, I'm an orthodox Jewish homeschool mom of five and I love your show! Our homeschool curriculum focuses heavily on reading good literature and my kids have just reached the age where Edward Eager's tales of magic, C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as many others in the fantasy genre Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Granite Men; Marshmallow Boys February 15, 2018 by Susan Lapin - Imagine a woman in the mid 1800s crossing North America by wagon train. Now imagine her amazement if she was to travel a  similar distance today by jet. Multiple blessings of gratitude would spill from her lips. I tried to keep this in mind recently when I was cramped into a small seat, grazing shoulders Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Body and Soul February 12, 2018 by Susan Lapin - While preparing Gila Manolson's book, Hands Off: This May Be Love for a second printing, I took the opportunity to look through it again. The following quote jumped out at me: "God created our bodies and souls to work together as one, with the soul defining one’s identity and the body expressing it. Our dress, Read More

PODCAST

Listen to our podcast on the go or wherever you are!
Uncover how Ancient Jewish Wisdom can positively impact every aspect of your life.

Listen Now   

TV SHOW

We teach. We laugh. We even argue.
Scripture comes to life, guiding us all towards more happiness and success.

Watch Now   
Join the over 42,000+ people who have chosen to receive FREE weekly teachings from Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin revealing ancient Jewish wisdom for their lives.
Send Me Thought Tools   

Videos

Enjoy an assortment of video messages from Rabbi Daniel Lapin!

  • Homepage Video 1
  • Homepage video 2
  • Homepage video 3
  • Homepage video 4
  • Homepage video 5
  • Homepage video 7
  • Homepage video 8
  • Homepage video 10

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.

Speaker

Author

Rabbi

GET IN TOUCH

Do you have a question you’d like to discuss or simply want to stay in touch?

Send us an email at: admin@rabbidaniellapin.com or use the contact form below.

X