Monthly Archives: February, 2020

Keep the Good, Leave Out God

February 27th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 27 comments

While driving to my exercise class the other day, I was listening to a religiously agnostic podcast host grapple with the challenge of filling the void left behind when taking God and faith out of life’s equation. Recognizing the benefits of community and support that often stem from religious affiliation and acknowledging the increase in isolation, pessimism and depression among today’s youth, he wondered how to achieve all the advantages that faith brings while leaving God and His direction out of the picture. His words reminded me of historian Will Durant’s quandary at realizing that the “advances” he enthusiastically promoted as an atheist might be leading people and society in the wrong direction.

(more…)

Is a bribe always a bribe?

February 26th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

My question is on Bribe and the Biblical application. It is a problem especially here in African countries. For example, I submit my Visa Application, and I’m all qualified and I give the official a gift. The immigration official did not do anything other than what his job prescribed; he just approved the visa faster than he might have otherwise done.

What does ancient Jewish wisdom say about this and how can we escape such in our day to day business?

Michael M.

What a fascinating question you ask, Michael. The Biblical prohibition on a judge accepting a bribe is extremely serious.  A judge is a person upon whom the entire system of justice depends; he strikes a fatal blow against his society and its vital institutions by accepting bribes.  The Bible is very clear on this. 

However, you describe not a judge but a public official.  Furthermore, your encounter might just as easily have occurred with a non-governmental official, say a loan officer at a bank or the representative of a building contractor.  In any of these interactions, a ‘gift’ might have been solicited in order to lubricate the process that the vendor is already being paid to facilitate.  The Bible does not prohibit you from giving any of these kinds of ‘gifts’ however it certainly does condemn the dishonesty of the employee who by soliciting and accepting your ‘gift’ just in order to do his job, is harming his employer.

(more…)

Thirty is the New…You?

February 25th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 5 comments

Soon after earning my Private Pilot’s License, I was sitting in the left seat of a Piper Cherokee single-engine airplane flying at 5,000 feet over the Mozambique jungle on a course for Lourenco Marques.  I had no idea that soon thereafter the beautiful landscape beneath me would be transformed into a bloody battlefield of a civil war, resulting in the mass exodus of about a quarter of a million skilled Portuguese citizens and the destruction of an Indian Ocean paradise. 

On that sunny afternoon, however, I was accompanied by a British friend who was visiting me.  We rented a plane in Johannesburg, and with my fresh piloting skills, we set out to fly to the coastal resort now known as Maputo.

I tell you this partially in the spirit of self-indulgent nostalgia, but mainly to describe what happened when John, comfortably ensconced in the right seat, excitedly spotted a large herd of elephants below.  I immediately threw the P-32 into a bank and began carving a large circle through the clear African skies so we could keep the mesmerizing sight in view.  I must have done two or three complete circles as we gazed in wonder at that herd of one of God’s most astounding creatures.

(more…)

Your Children, Their Values?

February 23rd, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

During the almost two decades that I homeschooled, I tried hard to let my friends whose children were in school know that I wasn’t judging them. And, I usually wasn’t. I was too busy being hard on myself and wondering if I was making the right decision. When mothers would say to me, “I wish I could do homeschool, but…” I responded that it wasn’t for everyone and that there were many good educational paths.

In hindsight, my husband and I are thrilled that we homeschooled. Of course, our children missed out on certain positive experiences, but that is part of real life. Since no children are always in the perfect class in the perfect school with the perfect teacher, everyone misses out on certain positive experiences.

However, hindsight has also revealed how too many of my peers didn’t realize that the messages their children were receiving in school frequently ran counter to the family’s values and beliefs. They thought their children were learning math, literature, history and science; they didn’t realize that these were being packaged in an anti-faith, anti-patriotic and anti-family container. Even if the early years’ teachers were neutral, their children were ill-equipped to counter the hard-sell propaganda on college campuses.

(more…)

Despair and Hope

February 20th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 29 comments

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that in attempting to solve a problem we sometimes make things worse. Not only do characters in Jane Austen’s books learn this lesson, but examples abound in personal and public lives. Ronald Reagan told his son that his greatest regret was being the first governor to sign a no-fault divorce law. While his intentions were good, it was a decisive step in devaluing marriage and the traditional family, a move that has harmed men, women, children and the country.

A Wall Street Journal editorial (Feb. 20, 2020) bemoans the difficulty business are having filling blue-collar positions and concludes that we need more legal immigration since a greater percentage of young people are enrolling in college and their participation in the labor force is lessening.  I happened to read that editorial at the time that I am reading Senator Ben Sasse’s book, The Vanishing American Adult. I have just started the book, but I was intrigued by the idea he presents that the increase in mass schooling was a major factor in developing a previously non-existent youth culture in the United States. Mr. Sasse points out that in 1870 fewer than 2 percent of the population were high school graduates while by 1950, that percentage had risen to 75 percent. It is obviously higher today.

(more…)

Immoral Advertising Tactics?

February 19th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

Hello Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin.

You’ve often spoken of the moral benefit of business and “ethical capitalism.” I’m an ardent capitalist and believe wholeheartedly in the good that business has done and will continue to do. I’ve spent my entire life in business, whether it be as a paperboy, dishwasher, or as a computer network engineer, and love it.

I did want to get your thoughts about something that troubles me. Do you believe there is danger, or even immorality in some of the tactics used in advertising these days? For example, are marketers being deceitful when they push the “magic buttons” of our subconscious that make us want to buy, or at the very least stimulate our interest? Does the issue stop with advertising? Can salespeople also be walking this line?

Dennis

Dear Dennis,

How wonderful it would be if more young people saw how the trajectory from paperboy to dishwasher to computer network engineer works. One of the reasons we believe that laws raising the minimum permissible wage are immoral is because they interfere with the freedom of two people to negotiate their own financial relationship, an important part of God’s plan for human economic interaction.  One of the reasons we believe that minimum wage laws are stupid is that they remove entry-level opportunities and keep young people or those without necessary skills from getting on the ladder to success. In the real world, employers hire people who can help them make a profit. If an employee causes them to lose money because his value is less than his salary, then the company will replace him with machinery or hire only employees who have more to offer.

(more…)

Google Shmoogle, Going Mad

February 18th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 13 comments

My accountant recommended I start taking one 40 milligram Atorvastatin tablet before bedtime.  I now pour a quart of synthetic fuel additive into my car’s fuel tank every filling because the plumber who fixed our kitchen sink advised it.  My auto mechanic said that everyone should expense carpet cleaning on their federal income tax.  You may well laugh but many people vote the way their favorite Hollywood celebrity recommends.  Many people raise their children according to the dictates of the latest issue of psychology magazines and many people choose what car to buy on the basis of the mindless ramblings of a hysterical Nordic teenager.

Wouldn’t you be really relieved to know that you had access to fully reliable information?  (…and no, that wouldn’t be the Internet.) Well, think of your rabbi as the ultimate antacid.  I am about to bring you relief.  That’s right; I am about to show you how and where you can seek dependable data about whatever troubles you.

The first step is to determine into which of two categories your question falls.  Does your question have something to do with the natural sciences?  Is it about how things are and not about how things should be?  Is it about things or animals more than about people?  Example: What is the highest mountain visible from a city with a population of more than five million inhabitants?  Most questions of this type have one unarguable answer.  Let’s call this basket of questions, category A.

(more…)

Much to Say and Not Saying It

February 18th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 4 comments

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

Mothers are supposed to talk. A lot. That is one of our strengths. When we walk with a young child, we point out leaves and caterpillars. When we read aloud with our children we share our opinions about the characters’ choices.  We show interest in our children’s lives by asking questions that lead to more than one-word answers. Sometimes, however, we also must stay silent.

Genesis 34:5 says, “And Jacob heard that he [Shechem] had defiled Dina while his sons were in the field, and Jacob was silent until they came.”  He didn’t rush to respond, but kept his counsel and waited.  Even after the whole story is over Jacob doesn’t rush to press his opinion on his children.  He tells Simon and Levi a short rebuke, but Simon and Levi answer him back and they actually have the final word in this section.  Jacob doesn’t respond back to them, he bides his time and holds his tongue until the very end of his life when he addresses their role in this story. (Genesis 49:5)

Similarly, when Reuben moved Jacob’s bed to his mother,  Leah’s, tent, the verse says, “and Israel heard.”  Jacob noticed what happened but he waited and didn’t respond immediately.  Here also, he waited until Genesis 49 in his final blessing to rebuke Reuben for this action.

(more…)

Let’s Talk, You Evil Bigot

February 13th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

Not everything can be resolved through discussion. As my husband says, if the Pope and Planned Parenthood sat down over coffee, they will never agree about abortion.  Yet, our society seems to be moving towards the ridiculous extreme that nothing can be solved by discussion. It seems that ad hominem attacks, ascribing the worst possible motives and being unable to conceive that anyone with whom you disagree is acting in good faith are all now normal.

This idea struck me forcefully this week after seeing reactions to the half-time show at the Super Bowl. I did not see the show myself (or the game), but there wasn’t any factual disagreement about the provocative nature of Jennifer Lopez’s performance. In a column I read on a site aimed at mothers, one woman wrote that the show was soft porn and unsuitable for a sports event targeted towards families. She did not call JLo horrible names, she did not say that anyone who enjoyed the show was a pervert, she simply said that this was inappropriate for any society encouraging more respect for women.

(more…)

How should I teach my kids about evolution?

February 12th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

I am an evangelical Christian who enjoys your program immensely on the TCT network.  I have gained much insight through your program and it makes Bible reading quite enjoyable when you understand the actual meaning of the Hebrew words. 

I have two questions that I hope you can answer or point me in the direction of where I can find these answers on your website or what reading materials you have available on these subjects.

1) I love reading the Bible, and for years I have come across directions, such as North, South, East and West that doesn’t always seem that it is actually talking about the direction on the compass, perhaps I am mistaken, are there deeper meanings, poetic meanings, errors in translation? 

2) I have many friends who choose to homeschool or send their children to faith-based schooling rather than the (American) public school system.  I have found it curious that the main reason they chose this route was on one core topic, evolution.  I also chose a faith-based school for my daughter but that wasn’t my main reason.  She was not taught evolution, at the time I was grateful, I don’t believe in evolution and I didn’t want that taught to my daughter.  My question is, should we teach this “theory” as a part of learning and understanding our world even if it goes against our religious beliefs? Should we let them make that decision as adults to learn what their peers were learning in secular elementary school? 

I appreciate both of you, and I look forward to your expertise and opinions. 

Sincerely,

Susan K.
(Pennsylvania)

Dear Susan,

We encourage people not to “slip in” more than one question, but since your first one is asking for a resource rather than an answer, we will make an exception. You are absolutely correct that directions mean more than they seem in Scripture. We give one amazing example in our audio CD set, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel and another one, regarding the words up and down as used in directions, in our DVD, Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show Volume 3.  Both of these will give you enlightening keys for understanding and interpreting the insights that slide right by the casual and unknowledgeable reader.

(more…)

Sign up to receive our AAJC newsletter and our free weekly teachings!

Sign Up Now!

Follow AAJC on its new Facebook Page!
X