Monthly Archives: January, 2018

How can I make it to the top?

January 31st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

I would like to know  how I can get God’s help in being successful in reaching top position in the area of finance when the competition is so high and there are people who are smarter than me and I have been encountering so many defeats  and humiliation while I am working towards my goal.

Kurian K.J.

Dear Kurian,

Based on your letter, we are assuming that English isn’t your native tongue, but we hope we understand your question correctly.

Sometimes, when addressing live audiences,  I (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) ask them if they think God wants us to be rich.  Some say ‘yes’ and some answer, ‘no’.  I then explain that God hasn’t shared His desire on this with me. However, I do know that a good and loving God, in the grand scheme of things, set up a system that rewards those of His children who devote their lives to helping His other children. In general, the more people you help and the more unique that help is, the better you will do financially.

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See My Words

January 29th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

It is so easy to become impatient when a toddler, colleague, client, customer, or patient go on and on when telling us a story. In turn, when we are the ones relaying information, we get frustrated when our listeners tune us out. Too often, instead of our employees, boss, spouse, children or students paying attention, they seem uninterested or distracted.

How do we become better at both giving and receiving information?

This verse can help:

Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the words which your eyes saw,
… and you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.
(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Why does Deuteronomy 4:9 refer to words that are seen? We see things, not words. I sympathize with the plight of translators who often mistakenly write, “Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the things which your eyes saw…”

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Through No Fault of Their Own

January 25th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 62 comments

Sometimes, phrases get repeated often enough that they become widely accepted. This doesn’t mean that they are true. I’m not talking about deliberate untruths as in Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ statement, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” I am talking about words we think of as truisms, ones that are often faulty, but which we casually accept as reality.

For example, I remember a friend responding with, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” when hard-to-believe rumors surfaced of scandalous behavior by a local religious leader. We all know too well today of the danger in ignoring horrible behavior that must be addressed.  However, inverting America’s legal principle into “Guilty until proven innocent”  places titanic power in the hands of the hate-filled, the overzealous, careless, or even just the  mistaken. One venomous tweet today can destroy a perfectly innocent life. Automatically believing that, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” substitutes one injustice for another.

With the discussion of DACA front and center, one repeatedly hears that the Dreamers (a politically brilliant term that obscures the issue) came to the United States illegally through, “…no fault of their own.” We aren’t really talking about fault; we mean that the illegal action of entering or remaining in the country was not actively theirs. Their parents made a choice that placed them in that position.

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What do you think of bitcoin?

January 23rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

What is your opinion of bitcoin? It would seem that it does not exist in the true sense and does not serve other human beings. Investments only have value when other people place a value on them.

Jeff N.

Dear Jeff,

We’re getting a strong urge to start this answer by saying that nothing in our Ask the Rabbi column should be taken as investment advice and that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can answer your question.

The point we would like to make is that bitcoin’s value, as you say, is based on people’s willingness to honor it. That is true for many things we call money. For example, United States savings bonds are “backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government.” If the government falls or become dishonorable, the bonds quickly become worthless. The service any form of monetary exchange provides is allowing people to function economically in a more sophisticated manner than basic bartering. But any government behaving immorally by inflating its currency in order to surreptitiously tax its citizens will quickly find its currency valueless.

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Banish Stinking Thinking

January 22nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 33 comments

Nobody I know ever warned more effectively against “Stinking Thinking” than my unforgettable friend, the late Zig Ziglar.  His son, Tom, carries his father’s legacy forward, doing his bit to help banish the scourge of Stinking Thinking.

What is Stinking Thinking? It’s the business professional saying to him or herself, “I’ve called enough customers for one day; it’s time for a break.” It’s the harried homemaker thinking, “I can’t carry on; nobody appreciates me.” It’s the employee avoiding making the case for requesting a raise by saying, “I’m probably not worth any more than I’m being paid.” It’s the overwhelmed mom doubting her ability to cope with one more toddler temper tantrum or the dad coming home and sitting down in front of the TV instead of spending time with his children and wife as deep down he knows he ought. It’s the writer thinking that he or she can’t sit in front of the keyboard for another minute and it’s you and me explaining to ourselves why we shouldn’t exercise more than we do.

Stinking Thinking can’t be overcome by arguing with ourselves; our lower self has far better debating talents than our higher selves. Stinking Thinking can best be defeated by utterly obliterating the idea that is discouraging our progress upwards.

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Cringe and Applaud: The Reality of President Trump

January 18th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 66 comments

I received an email asking why I have been uncritical about President Trump’s character and words. His rough and vulgar way of talking is in direct contrast to my emphasis on refined speech. I wouldn’t tolerate his brash boastfulness in my circle of friends and to top it all off, my correspondent notes that the President’s history of adultery runs counter to my values.

My correspondent is correct in all her facts. I wrote about my struggles in coming to terms with supporting Donald Trump during the primaries and I wrote about why I chose to support him in the election.  Once he was elected I have stayed silent about his “outrages” for a number of reasons.

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What do I tell my teens about masturbation?

January 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 35 comments

Question: This is a serious question.  I have teenagers now.  What does the bible have to say about masturbation?  And is there a difference in teaching between boys and girls?  I would really appreciate an honest, biblical answer.  Thank you.

Joanne

Dear Joanne,

Of course this is a serious question but we understand why you felt it necessary to forewarn us.  And a serious, honest, Biblical answer is exactly what we would have done our best to provide, even had you not explicitly requested it.  We also empathize with you and admire how seriously you are accepting the responsibility of raising children.  In today’s cultural climate, it is enormously challenging to raise wholesome teenagers.  However, we feel certain that doing so with Biblical help is far easier than without.  For this reason, our answer involves you sitting down with each of your children in front of a Bible and studying some Scripture together. 

Sex in general can feel awkward to discuss, particularly out of context.  Its intensity is irrational and its power mysterious.  When sexual relationships form, the process involves ambiguity and risk of rejection.  Solo stimulation bypasses all of that for a small, sad, mimicking of sensation.  Yet all attempts to rationalize sex, demystify and reduce it to no more than a mutual spasm in the spinal column, as taught in most sex ed. classes at what we call GICs (public schools=government indoctrination camps)  have failed to improve male-female relations in America.  So, it is with some trepidation that we try to tackle this topic here. 

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Salvaging Six Minutes

January 16th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

I wasted six irrecoverable minutes last Thursday.  I was in a hotel room watching a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on television justify his failures, and those of his colleagues, by pointing a finger of disdain at a large part of the American population.  Poor results were because too many Americans were too selfish to understand his heroic sacrifices on behalf of other Americans and other not-yet-Americans.  I was as dismayed by the poor quality of some of our elected as I was about my wasted six minutes.

Later, while driving, I contemplated how I might try and benefit from those lost six minutes. Many a mile went by with no hope of rescuing that time wasted in front of the TV screen.  Then, all of a sudden, my wife, Susan, asked me, “Do you know that in only two places in the Five Books of Moses, does Moses speak ‘before the Lord’ rather than ‘to the Lord’”?  I laughed delightedly because while those six minutes were certainly irrecoverable, they were no longer wasted.  I was able to learn from them.

Let me explain.  It can be disconcerting when, during a conversation, someone utterly ignores what you just said and continues talking as if you hadn’t said a thing.  You feel as if perhaps you didn’t say it at all.  There can only be two explanations.  Either the person is incredibly rude or else you didn’t speak the words, you merely thought them; in reality they never made it to your mouth.

Consider this conversation between God and Moses:

The Lord spoke to Moses saying.  “Come, speak to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and he will let the children of Israel out of his land.”   And Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “The children of Israel did not listen to me, how then will Pharaoh listen to me, seeing that I am of uncircumcised lips?” And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and He commanded them concerning the children of Israel…
(Exodus 6:10-13)

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O Magazine’s 2010 Deplorable Moment

January 12th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

By all accounts, Oprah Winfrey gave an impressive speech at the Golden Globes. It has been a heavy work week for me and I haven’t managed to listen to it myself, but since she is an articulate and personable woman who has made a career out of connecting with millions of people (largely female), her triumph is unsurprising. With her name being mentioned in just about every news report this week, I was reminded that I have written a few times about her in my Musings.

In 2010, I posted a letter to the editor I had written to her magazine. Upon re-reading, I think the problem on which I focused only grew as seen when Hillary Clinton labeled a huge swathe of the population as “deplorable.”  Here is a reprint of that Musing.

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Surely you can’t take this verse seriously

January 10th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

You teach the importance of taking the laws as a whole.  But verses  like Deuteronomy 22:21pronounce you must stone a woman to death in the door of her father’s house. 

If you cannot pick and choose what to follow, and you cannot say that it isn’t to be taken literally, what must I say about this contradiction?

This is perhaps why people pick and choose…

Meta

Dear Meta,

We have a feeling you are asking a question that many share. We certainly do think the Bible becomes meaningless if we only follow verses with which we agree or understand. You are mistaken, however, in believing that we, or other Bible-believing Jews, follow the Bible’s English translation literally.

In 2007, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible was published. While it was a clever marketing idea, the author did things that no observant Jew, from Abraham until today, ever did such as throwing pebbles at an adulterer. He also neglected to do things that are and have always been part of Judaism such as praying while wearing phylacteries every morning.  Unlike his year-long adventure foolishly wearing a white robe and sandals, we follow the vast body of ancient Jewish wisdom that explains the details, unpacks the mysteries, and makes sense of the written one.

While certain minor details vary among serious Jews according to their various traditions, there are many more that are shared. In our age of international communication we can see that Jews in Yemen and Poland, for example, separated for centuries and surrounded by completely different cultures, all followed the same general outline for kosher food. That outline is not detailed in the written Bible but is part of the oral transmission. It’s similar  for all our observances. One group might light oil lamps to welcome in the Sabbath while another might use candles, but both will mark the entrance of the Sabbath with natural flames.

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