Monthly Archives: November, 2019

A Tale of Two Bettys

November 29th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

Some people impact the world by appearing on a public stage; others impact the world through the quiet example of how they live. This week, I along with hundreds of others, bid farewell to a diminutive giant of a woman whose everyday behavior inspired those privileged to know her to become better versions of themselves.

Betty Cahn and her husband, Joe grew up knowing that they were Jewish but, especially for Joe as a fifth-generation Reform Jew, largely ignorant of the full scope of what that meant. After Mr. Cahn’s service as an officer in the US Navy during World War II, he and his wife followed a trajectory similar to that of thousands of their peers, including raising their two children. However, at a time when most of their contemporaries began looking forward to retirement, Mr. and Mrs. Cahn were introduced to Torah Judaism. Invited by a friend to a class given by my father-in-law, they attended and loved it. “Coincidentally”, at the same time their grown son developed a newfound interest in his faith. Within a short time, Mr. and Mrs. Cahn stopped by the synagogue on the beach in Venice, California, that my husband founded together with Michael Medved. The Cahns added my husband’s weekly Bible class to their schedule and Mrs. Cahn joined my class for women as well. Within a short time, they were not only our students but our neighbors as they embraced Sabbath observance, keeping kosher and many other features of an authentic Jewish lifestyle.

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Did you contradict yourselves, Rabbi and Susan?

November 27th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I would like to say thank you very much Rabbi Lapin, your book Business Secrets From The Bible is a game changer. Changed my life. I do have one question though in regard to something you wrote in Secret #18. 

You make mention that students evaluating teachers is a backwards practice. I think I see your angle with this line of thought, but I also see that the students are the customers of the teacher, or at least one of the customers. If teachers don’t receive reviews from them sometimes, how will they know how to better improve the product that they are giving the students? 

I understand that under a certain age, students’ cognitive abilities are not developed enough to perform such reviews. However, for older students, especially those in university who are paying for the product the teacher is delivering, why is it a bad thing for the product the teacher delivers to get reviewed? Looking forward to your answer.

Kind Regards,

Emanuel E.

Dear Emanuel,

You are asking a wonderful question. We always appreciate being forced to question our own assertions. One of the problems with today’s society is how often people only read things that align with their beliefs. We rarely hear true debates of the old-fashioned variety where ideas, not people, are dissected and where honest questions rather than vicious attack is practiced.

You are pointing out that we often extol the idea of a free and ethical market where the usefulness of a business is recognized by the fact that it has customers. We seem to be suggesting that the same is not true for colleges. You are saying that surely, a teacher who receives good reviews and whose classes are oversubscribed is delivering proof that he or she is successful.

In a classical and honest college experience where education was paid for and delivered as a resource, this would be true. You yourself recognize that if students are not paying for their own education, their views lack credibility. They are, in fact, not the customer. The government and their fellow citizens are. 

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Thanksgiving

November 26th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Expressing gratitude, whether to God, to people, or one’s country, is a mysterious but reliable portal to optimism.  There is no more effective way to induce the happy sensation of optimism and hope in our souls than finding opportunities to say, “Thank-you!”

Wishing us all a meaningful Thanksgiving.

Girls in the Locker Room Meet Boys in the Boat

November 26th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Those of us blessed to be born during safe times in prosperous places  grew up with certain illusions. Among them was the confidence that we could plan reliably for our futures. Military veterans, refugees from war-torn countries, and those who have survived a critical medical situation know otherwise. While we can and must make our best personal efforts for a successful life, outside forces  will sometimes derail  us. At that point, we have no choice but to react.

That reality struck me forcefully when I read Daniel James Brown’s book The Boys in the Boat. The young men featured overcame adversity, persevering until they excelled at the sport of rowing. This they did, winning a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Yet, the book doesn’t end there. Along with other men of their generation, their educational and individual aspirations soon took second place to the task of defeating Adolf Hitler, not in a series of games but in the arena of war. As such, this inspiring and uplifting book ends with the recognition that some of these young men ended up having their futures tragically cut short while those who survived the tumultuous years of World War II had to adjust and realign their plans.

Some threats such as approaching war are readily recognizable. Others—sometimes subtle warning signs of what is to come—are far easier to ignore or miss altogether. Threats are often camouflaged  and human nature makes us expect danger to look similar to how it looked in the past.

For this reason, I am writing to address parents who may not recognize potential perils facing their children. I am going to use one example to make my point, but I strongly urge each mother and father to take time on a regular basis to  ask themselves if anything  similar might be endangering their children. When our children’s physical and emotional health is at stake, waiting for others to sound the alarm and provide guidance isn’t enough. When we are surrounded by Neville Chamberlains, calling us warmongers and telling us that we are exaggerating the dark clouds on the horizon, each of us truly has to decide that the groupthink is correct or we must be willing to serve as our family’s own Winston Churchill—unpopular, derided and scorned until later years prove us right.

The issue that provoked these strong words is the decision of the school district in Palatine, Illinois to allow male and female students to access locker rooms based on “how they feel”. The ACLU helped a ‘transgender student’ bring this suit to the school board and, if you read or listen to many news reports, only the most backward bigots oppose letting children “be who they are”. Conservative news sites at least showed the other side. They featured a girl on the swim team, changing clothes multiple times a day, who is uncomfortable doing so next to a biological male. Yet, even as she squirms with embarrassment, she tries to sound loving and warm towards her fellow student. I assume that is because she has been trained through the years to distrust her own feelings in favor of minority ‘cultural darlings’. For her to be in public school at this point means that her parents, too, have made peace with a step-by-step normalization of views that were universally considered radically extreme only a short while ago. Each of us has to decide which straw will be the one that is too much for us to bear.

I don’t know this individual child or her family and wouldn’t presume to tell them what to do. But, if you are reading this and have not already recognized the unhealthy and insidious nature of society targeting your children, I am speaking to you.  Pulling your child out of school, either to a carefully vetted and chosen private school or to homeschool, may very well not accord with your child’s wishes. It means leaving friends and either being unable to participate in team sports or having to exert tremendous effort to do so. It may mean seriously considering a closer, or a new, attachment to your religion. Private school means added expense and homeschooling usually entails one parent needing to seriously curtail his, or more likely her, earning power. It very well might mean completely changing the trajectory of your family’s life, deviating from the future you so carefully planned.

There is no draft and no rampaging army forcing us to react at this point. Many parents are concerned about the direction society is taking and for this reason are paying attention to politics. That is important, but will not protect our children today. If you read about the increasing mental health issues presenting in our teens and college students, look carefully at what is being promoted in government schools and on college campuses, and contemplate what a different world we are living in, you may well decide that you are in a battle right now and doing nothing is a form of surrender. The stakes for your child and family are high.

You Want Others to Think Well of You?  Good!

November 26th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

With an increasing sense of unease, I read reports about criminal assaults of unimaginable brutality committed against innocent passers-by.  In many instances, there was no robbery involved; the motivation was clearly not gain. It turns out to be nothing but an expression of nauseatingly violent hatred against a stranger on account of his political persuasion or his religious beliefs or because of his white skin color.  Sometimes it is just for the nihilistic joy of destruction. To my knowledge, this form of anti-social behavior is occurring more frequently in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Today we rightly condemn past times when similar assaults took place, though the political persuasions, religious beliefs and skin color might have been different. Yet, today we often avert our eyes from these attacks and pretend they aren’t happening. 

I am sure that there must be one or two people in your world for whom you harbor intense dislike.  I know that is true for me. There are even a few human beings whose actions I view as so evil and destructive that I do believe the world would be better off without them.

What stops you and me from creeping up behind one of these people we dislike (okay, detest) and ferociously slamming our fists against the back of their heads so savagely that they collapse to the sidewalk?  Precisely this is now happening ever more frequently, and what is more, most of the thugs elude capture and escape justice.

So, why don’t you and I launch barbaric assaults on those most deserving of our censure?  One important answer is that we refrain from violently attacking strangers in the street for exactly the same reason that those conscienceless criminals do commit those attacks: In order to earn and maintain the approval and esteem of others.

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Different Strokes for Different Folks

November 26th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

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

Recently, I found myself with two children who, one right after the other, made identical comments that were not appropriate for that time.  You may or may not be surprised to hear that I responded very differently to each child even though the issue was identical.  Why would I do that?  Well, the same reason you do it!  As any mother or teacher knows, the point of responding is not to get anything off my chest or to play my scripted role and simply say lines that are pre-determined as the response for this particular action.  No.  My response isn’t for my own sake, but for the sake of my child. Therefore, my reaction had to be different to each child because each child is different. Each one needed something different from me in that moment. 

We have a reminder of this principle in chapter 20 of Numbers.  Here, we have the very enigmatic story of God commanding Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water for the nation. Instead Moses struck the rock, leading to the decree that Moses wouldn’t lead the nation into Israel.  There are so many questions and so many lessons we can learn from this story, but I would like to share just one angle with you today.

Forty years before this point the nation also needed water (Exodus 17), and believe it or not, God commanded Moses to hit the rock to make water flow.  Why was hitting the right response at that time, but 40 years later hitting was inappropriate and talking should have occurred?  What’s the difference? 

The audience is different!  40 years earlier, the children of Israel had just left slavery.  They were just beginning to come together as a spiritual nation and they still, so to speak, spoke the harsh physical language of slavery. Hitting and physical force seemed a natural and appropriate step for people who had just come out of 210 years of physical slavery.  But now, 40 years later, it is a new generation which needs water. This generation has had 40 years of Moses’ leadership and Torah learning, and they are about to enter Israel, a land sensitive to subtle spiritual behaviors.  This generation didn’t need to learn about physical force, they needed to learn how to use subtle and spiritual powers like speech to influence nature. 

This explains why God tells Moses, “Since you HIT the rock rather than speaking to it, you will not lead the Jewish people into the Land of Israel”.  The nation needed a different style of leadership at this point in time than the one they needed 40 years earlier.  The desired result was identical—water from a rock, but the response was different because the nation was different and needed to learn something different.

I believe this serves as a powerful reminder to us parents to modulate our responses to each child individually.  One size does not fit all; rather it’s different strokes for different folks!  It’s empowering for our children to know that we speak to each of them individually and treat them individually because they are individuals. We honor and respect their individuality by acknowledging who they are apart from their siblings and trying to give each one what they need from us one by one.   We can ask ourselves before we speak, “What tone of voice, what words, what response does my child need from me right now?” and try to act accordingly. 

A Child’s Guide to Impeachment

November 20th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 45 comments

While I do try to keep up on politics, I have not followed any of the House impeachment hearings. Obviously, I haven’t written about them either.  At home I have a shelf of classic children’s stories that explains my nonchalance.

The Little Engine That Could tells the story of a train loaded with fruits and vegetables, toys and books that cannot make it up a steep mountain incline. Forced to stop, it pleads with other locomotives passing by for help so that the children on the other side of the mountain will have what they need. Along comes an arrogant train, a down-in-the-mouth train and others who refuse the small train’s supplications. Finally, a small engine comes along and is moved by the plight of the toy clowns and stuffed dolls. Repeating the mantra, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” the engine’s dedication and devotion to the task at hand allow it, despite its small stature, to pull the  train over the mountain.

As praiseworthy as the train might be, and as much as I may have read the story countless  times in the hopes of teaching the importance of persistence to my children, people can be dedicated and devoted to wrong causes as well. Since election night 2016, many Democrats have remained single-minded in their resolution to get rid of  President Trump by means other than electoral. The facts, the truth, precedents  and reality have little to do with their constant impeachment mantra, “We think we can, we think we can, we think we can.”

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My Wife is Amazing – We’re Getting a Divorce

November 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I enjoy the wisdom that you show us, your happy warriors, through your many avenues of teaching. I’ll keep my question brief. Why is it, that when a celebrity couple decides they no longer wish to honor their matrimonial vows, they always praise the other person for being such a wonderful person and say they have the highest respect for him or her? If they have that respect and stated emotions, why not stay together? I won’t belabor the point. I’ll merely include a link to the story that prompted my thoughts.

I would love to hear your thoughts, even if it is merely to say that many of these marriages are based on “feelings” and not true love.

Eric B.

Dear Eric,

If you’ll excuse us, before answering your question we would like to explain the phrase you used, ‘happy warriors’.  This is how  I, (RDL) envision the listeners to my popular  podcast. One of those happy warriors, Andrew, started a growing Facebook page where listeners discussed the latest podcast. A short while ago, he agreed to morph that page into a new group, Friends of Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin, in order to broaden the conversation to those who may watch our TV show, read our books and columns or know us in other ways. It is fun to watch the group grow and to see our “friends” meeting each other. In this way the ‘happy warriors’ phrase has expanded beyond its original meaning.

Back to your question. Honestly, we had never heard of the couple featured in the magazine, but we did look at the link you sent. In a post on Instagram, the husband wrote, among other things, “With our hectic work schedules we could not be busier, and over the last few years have grown apart,” and spoke of his soon-to-be-ex-wife as, “one of the most incredible women I have ever met and the best mom to our kids.”

Your question seems to be that if that is how he feels about her, why are they getting divorced, especially as he says that their main focus is their two daughters. For loving parents, the logical solution to “growing apart” might be spending more time together.

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Land Ho!

November 18th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

Quiz time.  Can you name seven countries that grant their citizens rights to own real property and that protect those rights thus empowering their citizens to sell, mortgage or rent their property for their own benefit?

No? Let me help. Here are a few in the top twelve:  Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Holland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Here, in contrast, are seven in the bottom twelve: Yemen, Haiti, Nigeria, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan.

You might note that hungry hordes are desperately trying to leave all countries in the second list in order to immigrate, legally or not, to any country in the first list.  You might attribute that to a coincidence, but if you’re a long-time happy warrior, you will already have heard from me many times that the Lord’s language, Hebrew, lacks a word for coincidence.  Not only are people urgently fleeing countries with low regard for property rights, but all the countries to which they wish to go are societies founded with regard for a majestic book of mysterious origins that we call the Bible.  And that too is no coincidence.

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Job Description: Willing to Be Unpopular

November 18th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 3 comments

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

Today, I’d like to take a look at the first unpopular stand a Jewish mother took. In Genesis 21, Sarah tells Abraham to banish Yishmael and Hagar from their home.  We tend to think of this as a straightforward decision but the verse tells us that Abraham was deeply pained by Sarah’s stand.  “And the matter was very bad in the eyes of Abraham…” (Gen. 21:11). He didn’t want to send his son Yishmael away.  God stepped in and told Abraham that Sarah was right, but initially at least, Sarah’s decision was made despite the fact that it would cause pain and be uncomfortable.  We aren’t told what young Isaac’s reaction was to losing his older half-brother, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that he may also have been disappointed and not enthusiastically happy the day Yishmael left!

Clearly though, Sarah was right.  Banishing Hagar and Yishmael was necessary for Isaac’s growth and destiny.  The lesson I’d like to look at today is simply that sometimes our job as mothers is to make unpopular decisions.  I just read a fascinating book by Dr. Leonard Sax called The Collapse of Parenting.  [Editor’s note: Yes, this is the same book that I previously recommended. Rebecca and I often share books and appreciate hearing each other’s input.] Over the last three decades as a family physician he witnessed the change in parents’ self-perceived job description.  Parents used to see their role as training children to participate in and contribute to their culture and society.  Now parents’ often stated goal is to make their children happy.  This is a disturbing trend and I think it would be short-sighted to claim that this is only true in the general society, and not in Bible-centric homes.   I think this shift is a reality today that we need to face.

Our job really isn’t to make our children happy.  On the contrary, we need to know and accept that part and parcel of our job is making decisions that make our children unhappy.  Sometimes, we see with our greater life experience and insight that something a child greatly desires is not best or that something painful is beneficial.  Good parents do this all the time from enforcing bedtimes to limiting desserts, playtime, or technology.

What I’d like to point out today is that the benefits to our children when we say no and enforce limits is even greater than they may appear at first.  In addition to the obvious value of getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy food, or whatever the other immediate benefit may be, is the emotional health that only comes from children coming to accept a parent’s decision that goes against their desires.  Developmental psychologists understand the process of children being disappointed and coming to accept situations where they don’t get what they want as necessary and integral for emotional growth and development.  A child who doesn’t experience sadness or doesn’t run up against a wall of parental futility can’t emotionally mature into a healthy adult.

For today, perhaps the lesson we can think about is a message from Sarah first difficult decision.  Sometimes mothers are unpopular.  If we are clear on our goals and values as parents we will know when and how to enforce limits, knowing that parenting is not a popularity contest, and that our children’s maturity and health depend on our ability to say no.

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