Monthly Archives: December, 2020

Our Family Cheating Scandal

December 31st, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 25 comments

Several in our family tackle the same newspaper’s crossword puzzle every day.  We’ve been having a bit of a debate. Is it, or is it not, cheating to look up an answer to a clue? No one is completing the puzzle for a prize, no one signs an honor code before being allowed to fill in any answers and most frequently, each day’s puzzle is long-forgotten before the next day’s newspaper arrives. The puzzle provides a few minutes of intellectual stimulation every morning, not a competitive step towards career advancement. 

Each day’s puzzle gets progressively harder as the week moves on. Each household that subscribes to the same newspaper has one member who enjoys the puzzle. After all, it is often much more relaxing than the news! Mondays and Tuesdays are relatively easy. Wednesday, most of us can manage. On Thursday, we occasionally work jointly. Friday, no one has time for a puzzle —Shabbat is coming! Various family members have different areas of specialty: sports, science, history, current pop-culture, pop-culture pre-1980, etc. Together, we do rather well. Sometimes, though we are all stumped, but we know that the answer is easily accessible via technology. 

That is when our naysayers chime in. While no one objects to our pooling resources (let’s hear it for family togetherness!), one or two of the non-puzzle fans have snidely suggested that looking up an answer is cheating. 

Our most recent discussion on this topic took place as a cheating scandal at West Point came to light. With tests being administered online, dozens of cadets have been cited for cheating on a calculus exam administered this past spring. Their actions are in direct contradiction to the West Point honor code, ”A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” 

The good news, if I can term it that, is that there have been other cheating scandals. There is no need to cry “the sky is falling” while seeing this as unprecedented misconduct. There is even a silver lining. Overwhelmingly, those who cheated were first-year students, a sharp contrast to the last large incident in 1976 that involved upperclassmen. One might hope that the occurrence points to a problem in instilling values, especially in light of the difficulties posed by COVID, that needs to be solved rather than being an example of complete and irrevocable failure. 

Nonetheless, I’m wondering if honesty is less valued today than it used to be. West Point’s honor code even sounds somewhat archaic. Ironically, this is partially due to an increase in transparency. In the glamorous Hollywood of the 1950s, studios falsely presented stars as romantically involved, knowing that they would lose audience if the truth of those stars’ private lives was known. Years ago, ubiquitous social media wasn’t present as it is today to instantly reveal the hypocrisy and mendacity of dishonest politicians. Was Bill Clinton’s disreputable behavior worse than John F. Kennedy’s or for that matter, Warren Gamaliel Harding? Or do we just know more about it? 

I am not downplaying the need for honesty or the negative ramifications when a populace does not believe (often with good reason) those in public office, the media, scientists and others who used to be seen as trustworthy. I’m just trying to figure out what would have happened if my grandfather, who used to fill in the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen, would have had access to Google. Would he have used it? Would you? 

No cheating. Just daily clues into yourself.
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Forty years later, we still disagree about tithing.

December 29th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 20 comments

I know tithing is important for God’s blessing on my family finances. However, my husband refuses to tithe. 

Before the Covid curse overtook our country, he had, finally, begun to give  $50 per week, some weeks. I begged him for most of our 40-year marriage to tithe. He has always said we cannot afford to tithe. 

I have felt so hopeless because he is in charge of all the money. I have worked a little over the years, allowing me a small SS income of $674 per month. I do tithe on that now. 

I have some resentment toward my husband. I have prayed all these years for God to change his heart in this area. He is a Christian and wouldn’t miss church. He has a moral compass facing due N. He has been a deacon for many years. He is very knowledgeable of the Bible. He’s read it front to back several times. He says tithing is OT and not required under the grace of the NT. Do you have any wisdom for me?

From:

June P. 

Dear June,

In all honesty, much of what we have to say will be more helpful to newly married or about-to-be-married couples than it might be to you. In more than 40 years of marriage, we imagine that you and your husband have navigated a number of difficult situations. Without making light of your feelings, you most probably have learned techniques for turning resentment into acceptance and moving on in a healthy way. 

One question we urge you to ask yourself is why this long-standing problem is hitting a sore spot now. You opened your letter to us by saying that tithing is important for God’s blessing on your finances. Are you worried about money in a way that you previously weren’t? If so, those concerns should be aired in your marriage. 

We would word our views on tithing (or giving charity) in a different way than you do. We believe that, among many other instructions, God tells us that not all of our money actually belongs to us. At least 10% is given to us in order for us to give it away. While we think (and we elaborate on this in the book, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money) that being generous and giving often helps one make more money, it is not a case of quid pro quo. A society in which people tithe will be more prosperous. While most individuals also will do better, it isn’t a magic formula for making money, but something we do because it is the right thing to do.

Since our area of wisdom is only from the perspective of ancient Jewish wisdom, we cannot comment on your husband’s theological understanding of tithing. As the upright and religious man you describe him to be, he firmly trusts that he is doing the right thing. Is there a religious mentor that you can both speak to who might help you understand this view?  

The issue that your letter does raise is how important it is to set up financial understanding from the outset of a marriage. When the husband is earning the living and the wife is running the home, the money belongs equally to the two of them. If two partners run a store together and one mans the counter and makes sales while the other does the marketing and maintenance, the one who handles the cash is not the “owner” of that money. In the same way, finances belong to the couple. From day one, whether or not you worked, you should have had the freedom to do as you wished with a certain amount of the money brought into the house, as he should have as well. While your husband may not feel that tithing is necessary, we assume he would not have objected to you ear-marking some of your portion of the funds for charity. 

Our impression we have, which might be mistaken, is that you almost feel that you are being punished in some way for 40 years of not tithing. We are quite sure that God smiles on happy marriages, so while charity might be important, so is staying true emotionally to the man in your life. 

Blessings, 

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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The Snake that Roared

December 28th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

We knew a frustrated father whose 20-year-old son was enrolled for the fourth year in some go-nowhere-course at a local college while emerging from his room only for the occasional meal. The manner he displayed towards his parents was typical of that displayed by those living on charity towards their benefactors, which is to say generally sullen and resentful.  The many long and loud conversations during which dad tried to motivate his son were about as productive as that college course, “Women, Culture, and Society” in which Sonny Boy was enrolled. 

After some family coaching sessions with us, during which we not only advised dad what to do but helped him find the strength and determination to do the necessary,  Sonny Boy returned home one night to find that his key did not work on the front door.  He circled to the rear of the house in order to find an open door or window, but to no avail.   Regardless of the late hour, he tried to phone his parents. There was no response but he did find a text on his phone from his father. 

It detailed the monthly rent that would henceforth be charged, a separate fee for meals, and at what times of the day the father would be available to the son for a phone conversation.  The next three months went by painfully for both parents and son, but thereafter an almost magical transformation occurred.  The son found a job in which he excelled, the silly college course long forgotten. He discovered a new respect for his parents and their relationship became loving.   

Sometimes, talk eventually becomes counterproductive. Only action helps. Have you ever  found yourself frustrated by endless conversation while you knew that the time for critical action was passing?  Here is your roadmap to transformation.

Genesis chapter 46 enumerates Jacob’s children and grandchildren by name, arriving at a total of seventy souls who came to Egypt.  All is as expected until we arrive at Jacob’s fifth son, Dan.

Dan’s sons: Chushim.
(Genesis 46:23)

That’s right, Dan’s “sons” suggests a plural, yet there is only one—Chushim*.  Strangely, his name ends in the manner that masculine plural nouns end in Hebrew—IM.  So yeladIM means boys; sefarIM means books, and susIM* means horses.  Though Dan only has one son, ChushIM, there is an important hint in the ending of his name that he is actually plural—two people.

We see another unmistakable sign of  a duality in the tribe of Dan:

When blessing his sons, Jacob compares Dan to a snake:

Dan will be a serpent on the highway, a viper by the path…
(Genesis 49:17)

By the end of Deuteronomy, Moses compares Dan to a lion:

…Dan is a lion cub…
(Deuteronomy 33:22)

From snake to lion is quite a leap.  It certainly seems that Dan has undergone major transformation in the few centuries separating the two verses.  In fact he is assigned a prestigious and protective post north of the Tabernacle during the desert journey. (Numbers 2:25)

What started this transformation? Ancient Jewish wisdom describes a rather strange story. When Jacob’s sons arrived at the Cave of Machpelah to bury their father (Genesis 50:13), their Uncle Esau confronted them saying, “That burial plot belongs to me.”  The stunned sons reminded Esau that he sold his inheritance to Jacob, but he refused to give ground. The brothers then dispatched Naftali, the swiftest runner,  back to Egypt to fetch the contract to prove that the plot indeed belonged to Jacob. Meanwhile they waited.

Chushim, the son of Dan, was deaf and did not hear the entire discussion.  When he asked, “What’s the delay?” his uncles explained how Esau was holding up the burial. This outraged Chushim. “Must my grandfather lie in disgrace until Naftali returns?” he yelled.  He immediately jumped up to strike Esau, killing him.  Jacob was then buried.  

What caused Chushim to have such an instantaneous and strong reaction?

Lengthy, protracted  conversation and negotiation can eventually start having  a numbing effect.  It can gradually erode the certainty of one’s position.  One begins to “understand” the other side.  Think of how many today have begun to “understand” those who claim that being born white is proof of being privileged.

By contrast, the deaf Chushim who heard none of the interaction with Esau knew only what he saw, namely that, “Grandpa lies in disgrace.”  He recognized Esau’s intent for what it truly was—a desire to remove Jacob and his descendants from continuing the heritage of Abraham and Isaac.  The delay was for the sole purpose of demeaning Grandfather Jacob rather than a valid confusion over a contract.

We are certainly not meant to model our behavior exactly on that of Chushim. However, those of us with ambition to improve our lives can learn from him. Sometimes we need to transform ourselves radically from snakes to lions as it were.  Such transformation is best brought about through action rather than talking, arguing, organizing or coordinating.  Often we can get ourselves out of the rut by a convulsive leap rather than by endlessly discussing detailed drawings and descriptions of the obstacles in our path.  Chushim really was two people—Chushim the First before transformation and Chushim the Second thereafter.

Are you ready for action? As 2021 begins, get off on the right foot with Chart Your Course: 52 Weekly Journaling Challenges with Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin. On sale now, this book guides you to make the most of every day. 

* Recommended Bible references:
Horses: SusIM – סוסים. p. 1826 – 6th line from the bottom – 2nd to the last word. The ב at the beginning of the word means ‘with.’
Dan’s son, ChushIM: חשים – p. 146, 15th line, last word

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Facing Fear

December 28th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

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

Anxiety in children was on the rise way before COVID but, unfortunately, it is even more prevalent now. Fear itself isn’t a problem—it’s an opportunity to either become empowered and take action or, God forbid, to take the opposite path and become anxious and fall into dejection.

Let’s take a lesson from Jacob as he prepares to meet his brother, Esau, while bringing his family home after years of living with his father-in-law, Laban.  Genesis 32:8 tells us that when Jacob heard that Esau was advancing towards him with 400 men, he was very frightened and distressed. Immediately after the Torah tells us this—in the very same verse—it continues to tell us that he split the people that were with him into two camps to prepare for battle.   His fear also spurred him to prayer and earlier, worried about a hostile encounter, he had sent presents to appease Esau.  Fear that is overwhelming and leads to despair isn’t good.  But fear can also be a motivator, a force that inspires us to act decisively and turn to God in prayer.

Mothers are known for worrying.  Some of us even become specialists in the field!  So I think it’s important for us to ground ourselves in this message.  Fear is okay, but we want to learn to use it as a tool that drives us to prayer, to cast our burdens on God and put Him in the driver’s seat of our lives, as well as to take whatever action is within our control at that time.  Once we’ve done those two things, we need to drop the fear.

There is nothing wrong with even a righteous person being frightened, but the important thing is to know how to react when we feel fear.  Jacob’s fear inspired him to connect with God through prayer and to act productively with gifts and battle plans.  Interestingly, that’s the last we hear of Jacob’s fear.  Once he’s prepared in those three ways, he is no longer afraid, not even when he’s left alone and wrestles with an angel. 

Out of all the lessons our children can learn from us these days, using fear positively is very timely and valuable.   It is easy to catch ourselves fear-mongering, worrying, predicting, discussing negative possibilities in ways that build anxiety or fear.  Instead, let us model the positive use of fear and discuss it with our children.

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An Outsider’s View of an American Christmas

December 23rd, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

One of the most noticeable aspects of being in Israel is how the  Jewish calendar dominates, as well it should. Signs on buses offer good wishes for the holidays in September, bakeries sprout Chanukah delicacies in the winter, and school and government calendars are built around Jewish festival days.

Growing up in America, in my Italian-Catholic and Jewish neighborhood, come December, Christmas was the dominant feeling in the air. Whether it was the music in the supermarkets or on the radio, the brightly lit houses on my street, or the special Christmas cookies in the market (which, happily for us kids, were frequently kosher), it was impossible not to know what the season was.

It may not have been my holiday, but it was lovely.

As I recall it, things started changing in the 1970s, when those shouting about the “energy crisis” attempted to turn lighting up your house into a statement of selfishness rather than celebration. I can think of other factors that, over the next few decades, minimized Christmas Day. The devaluing of religion in general and households headed by single parents with less focus on building family traditions (especially ones that, even in our politically correct world, favor men as ones who are more comfortable with stringing electric wires high above the ground), are two that leap to mind.  While our Founding Fathers, those men who meticulously saw freedom of religion as an imperative, declared Christmas as a Federal holiday, since then,  confusion, lack of education, and outright hostility about the United States’ religious heritage transformed  ‘Merry Christmas’ into ‘Happy Holidays’ and then subsequently into, “I’m safer not saying anything.”

This year, the government response to COVID has struck another blow. Is this scientifically, politically, economically, or culturally driven? Most likely, all of the above are correct. This lays the onus on those of you to whom the day is a sacred, religious observance to ensure that in your homes, even if the gatherings are smaller, the practices of the day shine brightly.

Wishing you a merry Christmas,

Susan

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You recommend developing a specific skill set. Does Scripture suggest otherwise?

December 23rd, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

I read about specialization in your book, Business Secrets from the Bible , and was very excited. However the quotation from Ecclesiastes below does not seem to promote specialization due to future uncertainties:

“Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.” Ecclesiastes 11:2.NIV.

Am I getting it wrong?

Clement

Dear Clement,

We are eager to get started on answering your question in the spirit of, “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” On the other hand, “Don’t cross that bridge until you come to it,” so perhaps we shouldn’t compose our answer until the deadline for Ask the Rabbi and Susan is looming.

Not surprisingly, we (Rabbi Daniel and Susan) approach this differently from one another since “Opposites attract.” Yet, we also share views as you might guess, since, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Seriously, we are big fans of learning and having familiarity with Scripture. Yet, phrases taken out of context and treated as no more than adages or aphorisms are not useful.

Even lovely sounding words, of which the Bible has many, such as, “Love your friend as yourself,” (Leviticus 19?) or, “Honor your father and your mother,” cannot be a guide for life at face value. Do those words mean that if you buy a new car, you must also buy one for your friend? Do they mean that if your father tells you to shoplift, you need to do so?

If you’ve been reading Thought Tools for any length of time and certainly if you are following our new Scrolling through Scripture online course, you know that ancient Jewish wisdom reveals important information mined from data embedded way beneath the surface. Each word of Scripture contains layers upon layers of meaning. We recently finished celebrating the eight-day holiday of Chanukah. Our Chanukah audio CD is titled: Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life  because the number eight always implies things that are above the natural. We could study in depth the verse you are quoting in Ecclesiastes but for here and now, one kernel of wisdom that emerges is combining human effort (seven) with allowing room for partnering with God and going above nature (eight). 

However, in its plainest sense, the verse you quote does not contradict specialization in business. A better translation of the Hebrew than the one you are quoting might be, “Give a portion to seven and also to eight for you do not know what misfortune will come to the land.” Even on its most basic level, this suggests not, “putting one’s eggs all in one basket,” such as investing all one’s assets in one stock. I do speak in my books, as I’m sure you saw, of staying flexible and able to shift with events and technological advances.  The recommended doctrine of investment diversification does not in any way contradict the critical importance of acquiring specialized knowledge and skills with which to serve others.

Sayings are lovely, but they are also simplistic. One of the goals of learning Scripture seriously is to have a broad overview of how the many seemingly contradictory and confusing aspects of life combine cohesively to produce a complete picture.

Holistically yours,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Your Seven Solutions to Your Giant Problem

December 22nd, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Please don’t be freaked out that I know this about your life.  Right now, there is an action you can take, some specific thing you can do, some commitment or decision you can make that will result in a huge improvement in your family life, your business life, your social life or your health. And I know this about you because it is true for my life also.  In fact, it is true for everyone.

So why have you been procrastinating?  I know the answer to that too.  We know what to do but we don’t do it, and the reason is usually fear.  We fear failure, we fear success, we fear change, we fear embarrassment, we fear commitment and so much more.  It started early in our lives.

“Leave the light on please,” says the child, “I’m scared of the dark.”  Perhaps the most common emotion expressed by little children is fear.  Long before they become comfortable articulating emotions like happiness, excitement, and sadness, small children speak of fear.

Though we speak of it less as we grow up, we feel it just as acutely.  Just ask the adult who has been invited to give a speech before a large gathering.  People fear approaching strangers and they fear harmless insects.

To be sure, there is a healthy fear that keeps us from doing dumb and dangerous things, but what about the fears we all have for activities with utterly harmless repercussions?  I don’t know what your particular fears and phobias are, but I’m sure you have them.  I know I do.

It’s worthwhile overcoming the fears that hold us back.  Though about 10,000 books on dealing with fears and phobias have been published, I find that I need only one book. 

Let’s glance at Deuteronomy, the book recited by Moses during the last thirty-six days of his life as he attempted to strengthen Israel and help them overcome their own fears of the next phase of their national development—conquering the Promised Land.

The book opens with the first verse providing geographic coordinates describing where this happened.

These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan…
(Deuteronomy 1:1)

Verses 2 and 3 provide time coordinates describing exactly when this all happened.

It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb…And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month…
(Deuteronomy 1:2-3)

And in a perfectly logical sequel, the fifth verse reads:

On this side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this Torah, saying. 
(Deuteronomy 1:5)

However, just before verse 5, the narrative is interrupted in a most perplexing way:

After he killed Sichon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived at Ashtaroth Edrei.
(Deuteronomy 1:4)

Huh?  What has this got to do with anything?  Moses did many marvelous feats and vanquished many enemies along the way during the previous forty years in the desert.  Why interrupt the narrative with verse 4 mentioning just these two obscure rascals, Sichon and Og?

Well, it turns out that Sichon and Og are what are described as giants.

Og’s stature, as one of the refaim group of giants is colorfully described in Deuteronomy 3:11.  In fact, there are seven nouns used in the Five Books of Moses to describe giants: refaim, eymim, giborim, zamzumim, anakim, avim, nefilim.  And here is the strangest thing.  Far from being somewhat uniformly distributed throughout the Tanach, they are heavily concentrated in the book of Deuteronomy.  Though briefly alluded to in some of the other books such as Genesis, and Joshua, no book of the Bible contains anywhere near the number of references to giants as the book of Deuteronomy.

Do these seven words really allude to massive men of grotesque proportions? Are they what we imagine Goliath to have been?  Well, strangely enough, not one of these terms is used in describing the life and death of Goliath in I Samuel 17.  We are told he stood over six cubits tall, but he is never referred to as a giant.

While it is adequate to translate these seven words as ‘giant’ for purposes of the narrative, Ancient Jewish wisdom wants us to derive valuable life lessons from Scripture, not merely a narrative, so, therefore, reserves these seven terms for giants to mean specifically fears that terrify and paralyze us.  That is why Goliath, the most famous of giants; is never referred to in terms of refaim, eymim, giborim, zamzumim, anakim, avim, or nefilim.  These seven terms are reserved for fears frightening enough to freeze us in stationary poses.

The Book of Deuteronomy records Moses’ final speech to his people and he repeatedly uses these seven terms for giants, or more accurately paralyzing fears, in order to prepare Israel for the tough times they will face as a newly free and independent nation.   Moses repeatedly mentions the ‘giants’ reminding Israel in his fourth sentence that he already slew two of the monsters.  He describes how he confronted them and defeated them. Then he assures Israel that they too will be able to overcome these representations of all the paralyzing phobias they are yet to encounter.

Why does Scripture need seven different words for monster fears? Are there seven varieties of paralyzing phobias?  Not exactly; every fear is really a fear of loss. It could be loss of life, loss of money, loss of loved people, loss of loved things, loss of health and many other potential losses.  When we fear, it is always a loss that we fear.  In Hebrew numerology, the number seven always refers to natural completion.  We see this in days of the week, colors of the rainbow, notes of the Do-Re-Mi scale, and other examples.  Even the Hebrew word for seven, SHeVA* also spells out the word for full satisfaction.  When we are complete with no loss, we could be said to be in a state of SHeVA*, a state of satisfaction and a state of seven.

Our worst fears involve the loss of, well, everything.  We would lose our satisfaction or our state of seven. Each aspect of the ‘sevenness’ of satisfaction is removed separately by another aspect of fear, hence seven separate views of terror.

The procrastinators among us must immerse ourselves in a fear detoxification program where we learn that, like giants, fears can be conquered.

*See examples in our recommended Bible:
SHeVa = seven = שבע.  See Genesis 41:29, p. 126, 4 lines from the bottom, 6th word from the right. 
SeVa = satisfied, plenty = שבע.  See Genesis 41:29, p. 126, 4 lines from the bottom, 9th word from the right.

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AAJC December 2020 Report

December 21st, 2020 Posted by AAJC Happenings No Comment yet

Dear Friend,

Everyone gets too much mail and we all make frequent use of the delete button, but I implore you to take four minutes to read this note to the end in the hope that it might speak to your heart.

Let me start with good news: in spite of the Coronavirus this year, the work of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC) has been blessed. We change the politico-cultural landscape by changing hearts and providing good people with spiritual ammunition to fight the good fight. Requests for our resources and interactions with our ‘Happy Warriors’ reveal that during 2020 we encouraged nearly twice as many people as last year. “What’s the bad news?” you’re asking.

The bad news is how extensively socialism has been appealing to young people this year. The fact is that most of the beauty, affluence, freedom, and compassion of civilization is due to its Judeo-Christian foundation. Few of us would prefer to live under any other cultural system in the world. The idea of living in a post-Biblical, socialistic society is frightening. Yet that is just what progressivism promises. We must increasingly offer the alternative, the antidote.

People around the world are responding to the seductive calls of far-left politicians, many not embarrassed to identify as socialists. Sadly, many consider Christianity the greatest threat to their views. They have weaponized Covid-lockdowns to harm churches and synagogues. Their attempt to vilify Christians is succeeding. We are now at the next stage where the most basic traditional values dear to both Jews and Christians are under actual assault.

Clearly the future of civilized freedom rests upon our ability to defeat the forces of secular, socialist, progressive tyranny. This can be greatly assisted by combining the resources, energies, and conviction of both Jews and Christians. There is much work to be done, much of it within the world’s Jewish communities, to help bring about a full and effective alliance.

We intend to keep on doing this and much more during the coming year, and with your help, our efforts will be blessed. The American Alliance of Jews and Christians continues to change the hearts that will change the culture by consistently publishing three weekly resources, Thought Tools, Susan’s Musings, and Ask the Rabbi. We put out a weekly audio podcast carried on The Blaze, iTunes, YouTube and now, many other platforms. We also put out a daily television show, Ancient Jewish Wisdom with Rabbi Daniel & Susan Lapin produced by the TCT Television Network and which we make available online. We republished America’s Real War, the book that presents the AAJC manifesto and so it is again available. In the fall, we launched a new website to encourage our Happy Warriors to connect. This allows those who share our values a place to “meet up” and strengthen one another’s resolve. It is a forum for discussion and fellowship.

During this year it has been almost impossible to hold live events, however, unexpectedly, Zoom has allowed us to reach large new audiences both domestic and foreign. We have provided programs for audiences of over 600 at a time not only in the USA but also in the UK, Switzerland, and several Caribbean countries. We have made available a new Hebrew/English Bible and an in-depth Bible study program called Scrolling Through Scripture to disseminate the fuel that drives us.

Our organization’s reach continues to grow. Our resources are now becoming available in Hungarian, Chinese, Croatian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Korean. It is important that we make common cause with like-minded friends all over the world. Even before the world reopens, we are planning more events and appearances, more outreach, more persuasion, friendships and alliances, and more effectiveness as we focus on our commonality—the Bible.

Working together, you and I are making a difference in protecting that vital set of foundational values, and I appreciate your partnering with the American Alliance of Jews and Christians.

With your help, which is your personal decision, we will make all this and more come to pass in 2021. We are planning activities that will require a budget of $750,000.

I greatly appreciate your spectacular generosity in the past and I humbly enlist your support for what lies ahead. Any amount that your heart and prayers lead you to devote to this work will be a sacred element of our efforts and I thank you. If right now is not the best time for you to partner with me in the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, your prayers and good wishes are also so very needed.

Whatever support you can give to our work will be very much appreciated. American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC) is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. We have several different ways that you can make your tax-deductible donation:

  • By mail (send Check or Cash in enclosed envelope) to: AAJC, 110 W. 6th Ave, #267, Ellensburg, WA 98926. (note this is a new address)
  • Through our website (Credit Card, PayPal and other online donation options).
  • Amazon Smile (a small portion of your Amazon shopping purchases will go to AAJC). 

May God bless you and protect you and may we all be privileged to do our part in protecting the legacy He entrusted to humanity on Mount Sinai over three thousand years ago.

Thank you for helping make my life work possible.
Sincerely,

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, President
American Alliance of Jews and Christians

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COVID Victim or Victor?

December 21st, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 1 comment

We human beings habituate very easily to new ideas and actions. Growing up, my mother taught me to grease a pan by dipping a paper towel into Crisco shortening (hydrogenated oil was not a phrase we knew) and smearing it over the pan. Years later, when I set out to bake some cookies and realized that I didn’t have any Pam, I almost aborted my effort before remembering that women managed to bake before the invention of spray oil.

In that vein, a young mother told me that she needs to tell her son to take off his mask when he is home from daycare. In his four-year-old life, wearing a mask has become a norm. He doesn’t question it; instead, he questions when he is allowed to discard it.

What else are we being led to think of as normal? I am hearing refrains of low expectations for today’s students. Having missed so much school and with so much of school taking place on ZOOM or in classrooms with masked teachers, we should expect little of today’s children. They will lose math skills, have fewer communication skills, they will be behind— maybe we should just sign them up for years of government support because they aren’t being given the tools to succeed.

What a twisted and nefarious prediction! We used to highlight stories of success for our children. Today’s educational establishment and too many parents instead highlight stories of victimization and failure. There is no quicker way to turn our children into failures than to expect them to be so.

Each and every parent has the sacred responsibility to provide a path to success for his or her children. There are true stories, not of one unusual person, but of many people who triumphed over grueling circumstances. Are we actually going to use COVID as an excuse for failure when thousands of enormously successful people came out of slavery, arrived on these shores penniless and not knowing English, spent their formative years hiding from the Nazis, or fought life-threatening and debilitating childhood illnesses?

This pandemic continues to present challenges to parents. It has also made one of the overarching conflicts of our culture even more clear.  Each of us must choose to stand, and to have our children stand, in the line labeled “losers/victims”  or in the line labeled, “strivers/victors.” It is absolutely a choice, not a pre-determined reality.

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On Shaky Ground

December 17th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 76 comments

If I told you that I missed writing a Musing last week because I was under the weather, I would be telling the truth. But I wouldn’t be telling you the whole truth. Certainly, some of the fogginess in my mind came from the medication I was taking and was a result of my body working on healing, but in all honesty, much of it was coming from feeling emotionally ungrounded.

Every once in a while, a bigamist or a con-artist or even a mass-murderer is unmasked. He turns out to be the nice guy who everyone liked. His wife, his neighbors, his employer all had no idea that he was a monster. I don’t think that I’m the only one who feels unsteady when such news breaks and is hyped all over the media. Suddenly, I start looking at people I know and…wondering.  I start seeing fault lines in ground that I had always thought of as rock steady.

I feel that way now as I am coming to accept that Joe Biden will be sworn in as our next president. This certainly isn’t the first election where my preferred candidate lost. That is a normal fact of life when one lives in a free country. I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton or for Barack Obama. Yet, I understood their appeal and the limited appeal of their Republican opponents. I felt that an honest and fair election had taken place and even though  I worried about the repercussions, I accepted them.

This election is different. The unrestrained hatred of President Trump, the vitriolic dishonesty of the mainstream press, the suppression of information and the deliberate release of misinformation over the past four years has me looking at the incoming administration and…wondering.

Will I be forced to choose between my own religious, moral, patriotic, and ethical beliefs versus obedience to those running the government? I recently read a piece written by the daughter of two Soviet dissidents living in the now-extinct U.S.S.R. When her mother and father acted in opposition to the oppressive government, they did not know that they would prevail. That is always the pattern in a fight against wrong.

We are in the final day of the holiday of Chanukah where we speak daily of God’s allowing the weak to prevail against the strong, the righteous to triumph over the wicked. When the Maccabees fought, they did not know of their eventual (and sadly, temporary, triumph). Neither did the Union soldiers fighting against the Confederacy during the American Civil War or the Allies fighting against the Nazis in World War II. What is important to remember, is that while the fight ultimately was against evil ideas put into practice, many of the people who ended up siding with those immoral causes were aligned on that side by fear, geography, ignorance, and a host of other reasons, not from an ideological agreement.

I do believe that Leftism is not just wrong, but evil and incompatible with the Constitution.  Identifying when Leftism starts dominating the Democrat Party rather than just being a force within it, will be an important moment in our nation’s history.  It is a moment that I pray we’ll never face, but that prayer is uttered while teetering on shaky ground.

What is more important than understanding first principles?
After years of being asked for a program like this…
Announcing: Scrolling through Scripture
an online course with Rabbi Daniel Lapin

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