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Gillette’s Male-bashing Commercial and Donald Trump

Here is a quick thought on the new male-bashing, virtue-signalling Gillette ad.  I think it is wrong to ask whether this is a good business move for them or not. I think it is a good move. Their company name has been in the news non-stop for the past few days.

What would make it a bad move for them? If conservatives didn’t individually decide to boycott  their products, as I’m sure many will, but if a number of conservative organizations and all conservative media voices picked one member of Gillette’s Board of Directors, or one person high-up in the company and dug up dirt on him or her. Perhaps exaggeration and lies might even be involved. (Needless to say, I’m not recommending this, but I think it is a worthwhile train of thought to follow.) The message that, “If you start up with us or don’t agree with our thinking, you will be punished,” would come across loud and clear and make other companies hesitate before jumping on the politically correct bandwagon. This is pretty much what happens when companies offend liberals.

I don’t expect that to happen and I admit to being happy that it won’t. I’m not into mud-wrestling. But for anyone still wondering why so many of us greeted Donald Trump’s election with glee, this should help you understand. I am delighted that after Nancy Pelosi tried to bully him the president with warnings about delaying the State of the Union address because of the government shutdown, President Trump didn’t grovel and he didn’t insist on taking the high road. Instead he explained that her desired trip abroad would, unfortunately, have to be canceled because of the shutdown. YES!!!

Bossy Women – Like Me?

I have been watching a lot of one particular daily TV show lately. I actually recommend this show to you, though I am not an objective observer. The show is Ancient Jewish Wisdom, hosted by my husband and me. While I think the content is fascinating, I was trying to track one specific feature.  Do I interrupt my husband too much?

Two—not one, but two—recent letters accusing me of exactly that precipitated my reviewing past shows. Both letters were from women and to be fair, we have received many more than two letters from men and women telling us how much they enjoy the on-air interaction between us. However—please pay attention here—to my recollection, we have never received a letter saying that my husband interrupts me.

Let me state right away, that we have taped close to 400 Ancient Wisdom Shows. That adds up to about 200 hours of talking. My perusal of a few shows reveals that as professional as we try to be, each of us sometimes interrupts the other. On balance, I’m sure I definitely break in to my husband’s words more frequently than he does to mine, but there is a simple explanation for that. (And it’s not what you think!)

The Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show is actually the second TV show we have hosted. The first was many years ago, on a local station out of Portland, Oregon. My husband was invited to tape a few shows there and we took the opportunity to drive there together from Seattle via the scenic route down the coast, rather than him flying there alone.  To my surprise, and perhaps a little dismay, when we arrived at the studio I discovered that I was expected to be part of the program as well.  Although I had occasionally filled in for my husband’s radio show, television was a new ballgame to me and not one in which I was sure I would feel comfortable.

After some back-of-room bargaining with my husband, I consented when he agreed that I could chime in whenever I wished, but he was responsible for ensuring that there was no dead air time. In other words, the onus was on him to keep the show moving.  To this very day we retain that arrangement whenever we appear in person together or tape broadcasts.  One of the results of this arrangement is that while I will frequently throw the discussion to my husband after I have said my piece, he rarely throws it to me because he has agreed not to catch me unaware. When I do have something to say (which is often!) I have no option but to fling myself into the conversation. Perhaps we should resort to a kick under the table, but I’m not crazy about that idea. Maybe we can come up with a more subtle clue.

Notwithstanding the dynamics of my own marriage, this idea of judging men and women differently is widely relevant. A few years back, the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, wrote her book Lean In, encouraging woman to be aware and proactive in the business world. While I disagreed with a major premise of hers that a better world,  “…would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes,”  (and wrote about it here) I did find a number of the points she made to be quite valid. These include the idea that while an assertive man might be considered confident, an assertive woman might be considered aggressive. The exact same action that comes across as forceful in a man labels a woman as pushy.

I want to be clear that I give no credence to the claim made by Hillary Clinton supporters that she lost because she is a woman. Most voters who did not support her, including me, would happily have voted for a principled, competent, conservative woman. Like so much else in our culture (incredibly including a push back on the Lean In movement because it encourages women to help themselves rather than seeing themselves as victims who should demand privileges from government) this is a puerile, illogical and pathetic argument.

Nonetheless, the reality is that of course people do look at men and women through different lenses. There’s a very good reason for that—they are different! Sometimes being a woman is an asset and other times it’s a liability.  That’s true for being a man as well.

So, what do we do about the fact that people judge men and women differently and that can be unfair to individuals? Here is my suggestion: Live with it and deal with it. I know that the letters we receive come from affection for both my husband and me and wanting the best for us. By the grace of God, we live in a vibrant world filled with contrast and variety. We can each make an effort to respect all individuals and to be aware of our biases, but a world where we pretend that differences between the sexes don’t exist and any manifestations of those variations should be erased would indeed be a bland, colorless and miserable one.

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Savings vs. Tithing

I finished my medical training in 2016, this on top of my training as a pharmacist. I have a plan in place to pay off my student loans in 5 more years. My wife is an engineer but is currently staying at home with our three children. She is planning on going back to school to get a teaching certificate when our children start school so that we can get a nice tuition discount at our parish school.

We live below our means, I contribute the max to our 401k and and we drive inexpensive cars. I have read your book (Thou Shall Prosper-loved it) and I tithe around 10% of our net income to our church and various charities.

It has come to my attention that we need to contribute around 11,000.00 a year more to “retirement” accounts than we are currently doing. I would like to contribute to a backdoor Roth IRA account automatically from my paycheck every pay period , which means my net income would go down, and I would tithe less.

So I am struggling with whether or not it is ok to tithe less but contribute to retirement more, or if I should forgo investing more in retirement until I make more money.

Thank you so much,

DoctorSquared

Dear DoctorSquared,

We were ready to take a nap by the time we had finished reading of all your personal and professional accomplishments! You and your wife sound like thoughtful, caring and disciplined people.

Please allow us to try and rephrase the question you are asking. We think it is one that applies in many different situations. Are we under any obligation  to manage our finances in order to maximize tithing?

We have been asked similar questions from people inquiring whether they should tithe on pre or post-tax income. As always, we encourage people to ask someone in their own faith family, but we can only say that from the perspective of ancient Jewish wisdom, you tithe on the money you actually receive and that is available for your needs and desires. If taxes reduce what you get to take home, then you do not tithe on the amount that went to the government and that you never received.

In a not entirely different parallel, if someone is held up on his way home from picking up his weekly pay envelope and all his money is confiscated, he naturally does not pay a tithe on the money that was stolen.

If poor people glean and gather wheat from the edges of your field before you harvest, you wouldn’t pay a tithe on that wheat which you never harvested. (Leviticus 23:22)

In your case, the same reasoning applies, but with a twist. If prudence dictates that you put money away for the future, then you are not getting that money and don’t need to tithe on it. You certainly don’t have to ignore what you understand to be the best for you and your family in order to have more to tithe. However, down the road, whenever you do access that money you will then need to tithe on it. In other words, when it is yours to use, you owe tithe.

We should iterate 10% is a minimum and one can always choose to give more to charity. While ancient Jewish wisdom doesn’t suggest giving too much no one needs to meticulously take care not to go an iota over 10%.

We’re delighted that you benefitted from Thou Shall Prosper and wish you continued family and financial success.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

P.S. With three young ones, be sure to send your wife over to my (Susan’s) Practical Parenting page.

*  *  *  *  

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Don’t Build a House; Build a Boat

I’ve noticed that when someone in a group casually says, “Oh, I live on my boat down in the harbor” everyone hearing him perks up with interest.  Eager questions quickly follow.  But when someone says, “I live in my car behind the supermarket,” people go quiet and someone changes the subject.

There are, of course, many differences between living in a car and on a boat, but I enjoy this observation by an author, Arthur Ransome, who plays a big role in my family’s reading.  “The desire to build a house is the tired wish of a man content thenceforward with a single anchorage.  The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final resting place.” 

Someone living in his car is, well, living in his car.  (Living in a fully-equipped RV is quite different.) But someone living on a boat is on a journey. At any point he could cast off the mooring lines and head to Haifa, Honolulu, or Hong Kong.

Feeling settled is very seductive but feeling unsettled is more productive.  To their parents’ dismay, God arranged things so that when approaching those teenage years, children start feeling unsettled.  Other than when with their friends undergoing the same stage, young people approaching adulthood often feel they don’t really belong anywhere.  The last time they felt comfortably ‘at-home’ was as children cocooned in the security of parents and family.  The next time they are going to feel ‘at-home’ will be once they’re in their own homes. 

Without that God-given incentive, young people would likely want to remain as children in their parents’ homes forever.  That symptom of teenagerhood, the vague indefinable anxiety of not belonging anywhere, eventually helps trigger the quest to find a home by building one’s own. 

Regardless of how bad they may be, current circumstances possess inertia that is reflected in idioms like “Better the devil you know…”. A Jewish woman whose children live nearby us survived several years in Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen concentration camps.  She bore the number A-8603 tattooed on her arm.  She used to say, “Being in the camps was gehenom (hell) but emerging from the camps after liberation in 1945 was almost as bad!”  While the concentration camps and slave labor were absolutely horrific, and life was always in jeopardy, at least there was an infrastructure. Freedom was frightening; there was no structure at all.

Whether you are a single person vaguely contemplating matrimony, a harried mother wishing she could get her household under control, or a business professional struggling to build a profitable enterprise, just continuing to do the familiar exerts a powerful appeal, even when the familiar is unpleasant and unsatisfying.

Desiring tranquility is chasing an illusion.  It contradicts the reality of life which is not meant to be a relaxing snooze on a sunny beach.  Wanting to be settled in that way is a little like someone feeling so secure that he unlocks his door, turns off his intruder alarm, and goes to sleep.  Nobody is surprised to hear that uninvited nocturnal visitors inflicted losses upon him.  Ancient Jewish wisdom is quite specific about the negative effects of seeking tranquility. 

Jacob settled in the land where his father had sojourned…
(Genesis 37:1)

The Hebrew word for “settled” is VaYeSHeV and it hints at seeking tranquility.  Ancient Jewish wisdom points out that after Jacob ‘settled down’ the disagreements between his sons, between Joseph and his brothers, escalated to tragedy.  In other words, turning off and tuning out (as the Hippies used to say) is not an option for live people living life passionately.  If you decide to withdraw from the ever-fresh opportunities and challenges of life, God sends something your way in order to get your attention.

Let’s see another instance of where Scripture uses that word ‘settled’,  VaYeSHeV: י-ש-ב

And Israel settled in Shittim whereupon the people began to [behave immorally]
with the daughters of Moab.
(Numbers 25:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that on their lengthy journey through the desert, Israel usually ‘encamped’.  They didn’t usually settle.  Encamped suggests an awareness of the temporary nature of one’s condition and a heightened state of alertness.  By contrast, settling hints at complacency which can invite problems.  Sure enough, settling in Shittim brought Israel a whole heap of problems.

The opening verse of the Book of Psalms:

Happy is the man who didn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked and didn’t stand in the ways
of sinners and didn’t settle in the company of scoffers.
(Psalms 1:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that if life forces you into proximity with less than ideal people, keep on walking.  If you have no choice but to talk with them, don’t sit down, remain standing in order to remind yourself that you’re not joining them. Finally, whatever you do, never settle down with those people.  Of course, the Hebrew word for settle is again that same word we’ve seen before; the word that suggests throwing in the towel and giving up the fight.

It goes without saying that we all need our anchors in life.  As I repeatedly remind listeners to my podcast, the more that things change, the more we must depend upon those things that never change.  It is only by knowing exactly what anchors in our lives never change that we are liberated to embrace change.  It is what allows us to escape the tyranny of our current condition.  Having those anchors allow us to cast off the mooring lines that tie us to yesterday and thrill to the fight and challenge that is tomorrow’s journey.

 

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THOUGHT TOOLS

  • Don’t Build a House; Build a Boat January 15, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin- I’ve noticed that when someone in a group casually says, “Oh, I live on my boat down in the harbor” everyone hearing him perks up with interest.  Eager questions quickly follow.  But when someone says, “I live in my car behind the supermarket,” people go quiet and someone changes the subject. There are, of course,… Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • Savings vs. Tithing January 15, 2019 by Susan Lapin- I finished my medical training in 2016, this on top of my training as a pharmacist. I have a plan in place to pay off my student loans in 5 more years. My wife is an engineer but is currently staying at home with our three children. She is planning on going back to school… Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Bossy Women – Like Me? January 17, 2019 by Susan Lapin- I have been watching a lot of one particular daily TV show lately. I actually recommend this show to you, though I am not an objective observer. The show is Ancient Jewish Wisdom, hosted by my husband and me. While I think the content is fascinating, I was trying to track one specific feature.  Do… Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Gillette’s Male-bashing Commercial and Donald Trump January 17, 2019 by Susan Lapin- Here is a quick thought on the new male-bashing, virtue-signalling Gillette ad.  I think it is wrong to ask whether this is a good business move for them or not. I think it is a good move. Their company name has been in the news non-stop for the past few days. What would make it… 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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