Monthly Archives: June, 2018

We’ve Come a Wrong Way, Baby

June 27th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 72 comments

Are we happy yet? A few years ago, in Dallas, my husband and I gave a ‘Money and Marriage’ seminar. I spoke about the brilliant Virginia Slims cigarette ads of the late 1960s. Using the advertising slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” the ads contrasted sepia-tinted cheerless, oppressed-looking women from earlier decades with modern Virginia Slims women – bold, happy, often wearing colorful pants suits and liberated by, among other things, their ability to smoke openly. My point was that these ads actually gave an unspoken anti-feminist message. Women could only come a long way by behaving like men, in other words, by smoking.

With that in mind, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at last month’s report from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. Not only have young women achieved parity with men in getting lung cancer, they are actually getting ahead of men

What a triumph for feminism!

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Who gets the inheritance?

June 26th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

My Grandparents are doing their estate planning. They have two children, one of whom has two kids and the other four. They are having a hard time deciding if they should split assets evenly between the families or evenly between the individuals.

Evenly between the individuals would seem to favor one side of the family over another, evenly between the two families would favor the individuals of the smaller family and creates a disparity between their children. Is there any biblical guidance to help think through this situation?

Austen

Dear Austen,

You may have noticed that we often ask questions as part of our Ask the Rabbi answers. Here is our question for you: Have your grandparents asked for your input? If the answer is no, then we suggest that you read no further. Not much in life is as unwelcome as unsolicited advice.

However, if your grandparents had asked us this question, this is how we would have started our response.

  • Cain and Abel
  • Isaac and Ishmael
  • Jacob and Esau
  • Joseph and his brothers

Sadly, it is extremely common for inheritance issues to split families apart. No matter what the reasoning, in the emotional aftermath of losing parents money issues become inseparable from emotional ones. Dormant rivalries and hurt feelings that go back decades move front and center. So, we firmly advise that assets be split equally among children. The money one leaves is unimportant compared to the relationship between one’s children. (The Biblical mandate for the eldest to receive double is part of an entire structure of laws that pertain to very few people today.) Peace and love among their descendants are of utmost importance to your grandparents.

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Talking Gorillas and Thirsty Hebrews

June 26th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 34 comments

Koko, the famous female gorilla, recently died at the age of 46.  She became famous for being able to speak.  More than famous – Koko became an international celebrity.  Movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, William Shatner, and Robin Williams vied to be photographed with her.  Rock stars like Sting sang her praises.  Professors and politicians pirouetted with Koko in front of news cameras.  Papers like the Washington Post regularly ran features on the gorilla who was also, more than once, the cover story for National Geographic.  She starred in TV shows and documentaries.  All because…well, because she could speak (via sign language), right?

Koko’s interface with the world was psychologist Francine Patterson who devoted more than 40 of her 71 years to the gorilla with whom she lived in a remote, guarded location in the Santa Cruz mountains of Northern California.  Patterson tells us that she had conversations with Koko about death, about the meaning of life, and about the gorilla’s fervent desire to become a mother. 

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Et tu, America?

June 21st, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 40 comments

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.

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

June 21st, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 5 comments

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?

June 20th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

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.

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The Write Way

June 19th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 22 comments

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.              rapidly

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: (more…)

Flag Day

June 14th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

A number of rulings that have to do with the American flag have been handed down by the Supreme Court on June 14th, Flag Day, in different years. Wouldn’t it be interesting to re-read the arguments and imagine if certain Justices would rule differently were they to have seen down the road? Would those who dissented from the majority opinion wish they had agreed and vice-versa? Wishing you a respectful Flag Day.

Horrified or Amused?

June 14th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

While some people may be concerned about N. Korea or Iran, in the really important news of the week, Netflix banned employees from looking at each other for more than five seconds. Asking a co-worker out more than once is similarly discouraged and, after having been turned down, every effort should be made to avoid that colleague. At about the same time, the National Health Service in England is preparing to diagnose a teenager with its first case of internet addiction and studies show an unprecedented number of U.S. college students are seeking mental health counseling.

While all this was going on, one of our daughters went to enroll her young son in a new school. To her amusement and horror, most of the forms she was asked to fill out overwhelmingly asked about her child’s therapies and special needs. She felt like apologizing for his being a rather uncomplicated kid.

When did normal human interaction and run-of-the-mill childhood become unconventional?  Have we seriously become incapable of differentiating between discomfort and true harassment or of taking responsibility for creating many of the problems we then turn to government and officialdom to solve?

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What is ancient Jewish wisdom?

June 12th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

I read your books and listen to many of your on-line teachings very often. My question is: What is “Ancient Jewish Wisdom”?  Is it something like common sense for a Jew or a way of thinking  based on discussions among Jewish teachers or is it actual books that you are referencing. The reason for my question is to explain your teachings to others in my circle. How do I reference this source, if my main tool is the Bible.

Shami M.

Dear Shami,

We mention ancient Jewish wisdom so often that our first instinct was to go to the FAQ (frequently asked question) section on our website and then direct you there. We were a bit shocked to find that we don’t have an answer posted. You can be sure that most of this letter will find its way to that location.

We coined the term ancient Jewish wisdom to describe the oral tradition that has accompanied the written Bible since the time of Moses. God dictated the Bible to Moses during the daylight hours on Mount Sinai and during the nights he drilled the great teacher of Israel on the hidden meanings and multi-layers found in every letter and word.  Throughout the Bible there are “hooks” that remind us to look to the oral tradition. These include words that seem to be misspelled, contradictions, unusually shaped letters and unusual words, numerical values of words and so much more.

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