Monthly Archives: August, 2019

Values Change – So Let’s Change Values

August 29th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 41 comments

We are coming to the end of a week of Grandma Camp, where I have been  doing crafts, playing games, reading stories and enjoying the company of five charming young ladies. I have had little time to write. Instead, I’m going to throw out an idea without elaborating on it, in the hope that you will mull it over, discuss it and draw your own conclusions.

An unsurprising, yet still disturbing, poll  this week revealed that younger Americans value patriotism, religion and having children substantially less than their elders and less than their elders did at their age. What do they value? Tolerance. (It is worth mentioning that a strong argument can be made that college students and those in their twenties today constitute one of the least tolerant generations in decades.)

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Holy Money

August 27th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 31 comments

Dan Ariely is an Israeli-American teacher at Duke University in North Carolina.  I think he’s smart and very well educated.  Based on his weekly column in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal he is often insightful and entertaining.  However, his recent answer to the question of whether people’s salaries accurately reflect the value they provide to society, lacked wisdom. 

He lamented the fact that many people create a lot of value and don’t get paid much, citing teachers as the best example.  I am going to leave aside the obvious fact that most rabbis probably feel that rabbis are underpaid and a liberal arts graduate with a bad choice of majors probably feels intuitively that specialists in Byzantine frescoes are underpaid.  I am leaving those aside as I leave aside the fact that Dan is a teacher because I am not that interested in the feelings of rabbis, liberal arts graduates or teachers.  I am much more interested in their thoughts than I am in their feelings.

It was Dan’s closing sentence that revealed a lack of wisdom.  Here it is:

“Maybe one day we will evolve as a society and base people’s salaries on their actual contribution to the common good.”

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Don’t Say It – Don’t Think It

August 23rd, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 10 comments

What three words can undo your child’s fond memories of summer? What eleven words can seriously damage your relationship with your child?

Imagine this scenario: You and your children are at the beach, or the park, or the market. School starts in a few days. A fellow mom says, “Aren’t you counting down the days?” Without thinking and maybe with an exaggerated eye-roll you answer, “I can’t wait.” Or worse, you say, “I’d go crazy if I had them home for another week!”

What message have you just given your children? The message that having them around is a burden. The message that they go to school, not for their own benefit, but for yours.

I was speaking to a long-time pre-school teacher over the weekend and I asked her what she sees as the biggest difference in her students’ parents from twenty years ago to today. One of her answers was that many of today’s parents are at a loss when they have to spend time with their children. Some of them actually seem afraid of that scenario. They are comfortable driving their children from one activity to the next and they can plunk their kids in front of screens to entertain them, but they are unsure of themselves when it comes to simply being together.

How we talk affects how we act. I don’t know one woman who wouldn’t cringe if her husband referred to her as his “ball and chain.” Yet, that language was actually once pretty widely used in banter.  It didn’t serve to make men adore and admire their wives or make wives feel appreciated. It is good that it is no longer socially acceptable to speak like that. Let’s make an effort to hear how we talk about our children and insure that they—and we—know that if we send them to school it is for their benefit and that we sacrifice our time with them for that reason alone.

Come Out Fighting

August 22nd, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 46 comments

A funny thing happened on the way to last week’s Musing. Actually, it wasn’t funny and neither is it rare. My thoughts, the ones that seemed so organized in my head, did not translate well onto paper. What was unusual was that the deadline for publishing the Musing loomed so close last week that I had to abandon my efforts.  Instead, I took one part of what I wanted to say and built the Musing around that, specifically my conviction that any gun control legislation must be linked to legislation that attacks a sacred cow of Democrat politicians. Otherwise, any changes will be a disaster for both the country and the Republican Party.

I’m going to try again to expand my ideas. Some of you were appalled that I might even consider red-flag legislation. I am aware of the potential abuse of those laws and how dangerous they could be. However, I do believe that refusing to discuss those laws or other gun-control measures puts conservatives in a losing situation. Those concepts sound so eminently reasonable to any voter for whom 2nd Amendment rights are not a priority. Faced with a picture of mourning families and media that only presents the side of the story that fits its agenda, many citizens cannot even imagine what there  is to discuss. 

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How much work is too much work?

August 21st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments

First off, I must thank you for all of your insights that have made my life – and the life of others whom I have stewardship over better. Thank you.

I think I’m losing balance in my life and I want to see what your (and the Bible’s) views are on the situation. My conflict comes from my employer who requires me to travel 1-3 times a month on weekends and I also work full time during the week (6 am to 4pm). I know my employers are my customers and I want to make them as happy as I can. 

Recently they approached me and requested I ‘think and pray’ about working more hours during the week. They want me to take 1-2 more days to work in the evening. They told me I can just ‘come in later,’ which is fine, but it takes time away from my family.

My family isn’t awake at 4 am when I work now, but they are when I get home at 4. If I was to wake up at 8 and get to work at 9, my family is still asleep – and it just takes 3 hours a day away from them.

When can I say no? Can I say no? If I was to adopt this schedule I would only see my kids for around 4-6 hours a week – especially on the weeks I travel. 

To complicate matters, 2 years ago I wanted to increase my value to my customers so I started a company that supplies my employers with half of their clients. (My side business funnels business to my employers) So finding another job will cut into my income substantially. The only reason I’m in business is because I’m employed by them.

Essentially I’m asking: Should I do everything my employers ask to make them (my customers) happy? 

What’s the line if there is one?

Thank you,

Ben

Dear Ben,

As always, to give you specific advice we would have to be in a position of holding many hours of conversation with you and your wife to understand what you do, what your options are, how financially healthy your bank account is, your children’s ages and a slew of other pertinent factors. (This is exactly what we do in our personal coaching program.) All we can do is raise issues that you should consider.

When we were actively serving the synagogue we founded in Los Angeles, we also started an associated elementary school. Since our synagogue initially was composed mostly of singles, the school drew its students from  other sources, for example Jewish families in the neighborhood who were not affiliated with any synagogue. As part of the admission process, parents agreed to attend a number of “parent educational evenings” which I (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) led. 

The question you ask is similar to one that I posed to these parents early on. I asked each mother and father to write the answer to the following question on a piece of paper:

How many days am I willing to be  away from home each month or agree to my spouse being away from home on business travel per month, in order to double our family income?

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Our daughter is dating an old man!

August 21st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 44 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan, my wife and I have enjoyed watching your show on TCT for several years.  We have also appreciated reading several of your books and listening to your podcasts.

 A little background: we are a blended family; I am Jewish, and my wife is a non-denominational Christian. Neither of us have been regular attendees of any church or synagogue. We have one daughter, 41 years old, who lives a few hundred miles away; and who we see 4-5 times per year.  Sadly, we did not introduce her to either Judaism or Christianity during her upbringing, and she is now an agnostic. We love her dearly, and respect that she has made herself a self-supporting and independent woman.

 Our problem: our daughter has recently told us that she is “exclusively” dating a 62 year old man. She has apparently known him for about two months, and the exclusivity began about one month ago.  We do not believe they are living together. He has been married, and has children and grandchildren.

 Our daughter has never been married, but once had a 5-year live-in relationship; and she is childless. She recently stepped up her on-line dating, because she said she realized that the pool of eligible bachelors was getting smaller as she grew older.  This was how she met this man.

 We have not yet met her “boyfriend”, and are quite reluctant to do so until after we have first had an opportunity to visit with her alone and face-to-face.  We told her that a few days ago when she called to arrange a visit from the both of them.

 We are both having great difficulty with accepting the idea of her having an intimate relationship with a man easily old enough to be her father.  Frankly, from a photo we’ve seen, we think it’s likely he’s actually older than the 62 years he claims to be (which we understand is common with on-line dating).  My wife and I are in our early 70s, and he doesn’t look any younger than us.

 When we next visit with our dear daughter, we plan to discuss the difficulties we see, should she continue this relationship; not the least of which being the statistically-likely steep decline in health he will suffer over the next ten years.  We will try to use our best logic to overcome her apparent emotional attachment to the man. In the meantime, I’m looking at public sources to try to find out more about him.

 We are really baffled by her choice. Regardless of whatever good qualities he might possess, his age is the real issue for us.  Are we wrong to feel this way? We certainly don’t want to alienate our only daughter, who we love deeply. But we do believe we should try to discourage the relationship.

 Please give us your advice.

B.W.

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Bye, Bye Baby

August 20th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Just over a week ago, Susan and I were blessed by the arrival of a new granddaughter. Along with her parents, we, her siblings and cousins are excited to welcome her. At the same time, we know many couples of ‘grandparent-age’  who have no grandchildren and, at the moment, see none on the horizon. 

Many of these folks chose to delay marriage and limit the size of their own families wanting to be able to nurture their careers, provide their children with “extras” and save for future college expenses. They encouraged their own children, both sons and daughters, to establish their careers, sample a variety of romantic relationships and enjoy the early years of adulthood before getting married and starting a family. Quite a few of them are still waiting for their now thirties-something children to begin thinking of marriage and children. Some of them have been informed that building a family   isn’t part of their children’s vision and even marriage may or may not happen.  

What seemed like a prudent and good idea for how to organize a family is now causing disappointment and pain. They are facing a yearning for grandchildren, or in some cases great-grandchildren, whom they assumed would naturally come along. They failed to recognize that building a legacy of generations is not an automatic  default condition. 

In the Book of Ruth, Naomi advises her widowed daughter-in-law to get to know a local nobleman by the name of Boaz with an eye to marriage. 

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Our Hearts – Then Our Children’s Hearts

August 20th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ Post by Rebecca Masinter

I actually had many thoughts I wanted to share this week but, as happened most of this summer, I have raced through the days doing so much and also not being able to do so much. Let me try to get at least one thought down.

The words, “Hear O’ Israel the Lord our God the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4),” are known as the shema and observant Jews say it multiple times a day.  It continues: “And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart.  You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lay down and when you arise.” 

A great transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom known as the Alshich notes two powerful points for parents.  The first is that if someone wants to teach someone else Torah or character development, he or she must first embody and contain those qualities.  That’s why the words first say, “upon your heart”. First, we have to make sure that God’s wisdom and the fruits of that are in our hearts.  They have to be part of us before we can pass them on. 

Once we have made God, the Bible and Scriptural behavior part of us, then they will be part of our children too.  If Torah is in our hearts, it will enter the hearts of our children.  That, explains the Alshich, is why the next verse doesn’t use the Hebrew word for teaching “v’limadtem,” in the phrase “and you should teach them.” Instead, it uses the Hebrew word, “v’shinantem.”  The root of this word is “SHiNuN” and it means something sharp like a sharp tooth.  (SHeiN is a tooth in Hebrew.) If the words of Torah are sharp like an arrow, and if they are coming from our own hearts, they will naturally pierce our children’s hearts.  The influence will be natural, piercing, and intense, because it comes from our hearts.

In other words, what excites us, excites our children.  What bores us, will also end up boring our children.  We can spend these last few days of summer developing ourselves, learning, growing, and strengthening our own connection to God and His wisdom. That alone will have a powerful effect on our children.

Dear Senator (Lindsey) Graham

August 16th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 56 comments

Dear Senator Graham,

I’m going to get right to the point. Do you remember how during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings the veil over your eyes lifted and you realized that some of your esteemed colleagues on the Democrat side of the fence were willing to use vile and underhanded methods to achieve their goal? Keeping another Trump nominee from getting on the Supreme Court was so crucial that they trampled honesty, integrity and the Constitution.

Many in the media and many in Congress have spent every day since President Trump triumphed over Hillary Clinton doing whatever they could to get him out of office. Millions of dollars have been wasted , government institutions have been badly damaged, flagons of ink have been spilled and venomous and vicious words have been hurled like grenades  trying to undo the last election. I’m not positive you and some of your long-time colleagues understand that you are as hated as the President. So are those of us  who voted for him. Some of you may wake up every day saying, “If only we had a more diplomatic president with more gravitas, this extreme hatred of conservatives and Republicans wouldn’t exist.” Please, please channel back to the Kavanaugh hearings and realize those views are mistaken.

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What Is a Jewish Issue?

August 14th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind 12 comments

My husband and I have many friends and relatives who grew up in America and now make their home in Israel. Some of these people served with distinction in the American military; others contributed to the United States through their businesses or other means. All of them are grateful to the country of their birth even though they no longer live here.

On their behalf as well as on the behalf of those of us who currently call the United States home, I felt compelled to respond to the following social media post I saw.

“…I only feel sorry for family and friends who are infected with Trumphobia and blinded to recognizing that there is no current Democrat candidate who would NOT be a disaster for Israel and the Jewish People. [that should be ] The only Jewish concern.” (my bolded emphasis)

I immediately submitted my opposition to this post on social media and I wish to share that response with you. I am expanding it slightly since my reply was off the cuff and I now have more time to review it, but the gist of what I said is the same:

I’m afraid I have to disagree with your words, Mr. X. I am concerned for America and actually get annoyed when politicians think that because I am Jewish I only care about Israel and those of my own faith. I care deeply about the United States of American and her citizens, whatever their faith.

I happen to think that in today’s world what is bad for Jews and Israel is bad for America and vice-versa. If those interests ever separate, then one group will be behaving in ways that violate Biblical values. We will need to oppose whichever it is— either America’s policies or those of Israel. I don’t mean on minor disagreements which have to occur if each government cares primarily for its own citizens as it must, but I mean a real rift because one nation sides with Godly values and direction while the other doesn’t. Standing with the Jewish people always means lining up with Biblical Truth and both the United States and the State of Israel have many policies that do that and some that don’t. Standing strongly for those values is my “Jewish concern” and I am grateful to live in a country where so many Christians share that concern.

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