Posts by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Where Should My Tithe Go?

December 11th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Is tithing still relevant today?  Is it solely giving to the church that we attend every week or we can give to other needs (needy relatives, needy pastors from poor countries…) If we apportion the 10% to our church + needy relative + needy pastors, are we sinning against God?

My husband gives to our parents instead of giving tithing because he feels that taking care of parents is a type of giving too. A relative has just lost her job and we thought of giving a part of the tithe to help tide her over.

I feel guilty if I don’t give my full 10% to God by giving only to my home church but my church is a mega church and it receives a lot of tithing and offerings.

Thanks for teaching us the real meaning of tithing based on your understanding of Hebrew and ancient Jewish wisdom.

Sincerely,

Julie

Dear Julie,

The idea of being charitable is so common in both religious Jewish and Christian circles that we may not appreciate how amazing that is.  Many Americans chuckled at a series of PSAs – Public Service Announcements – that ran a few years ago, encouraing people to give 5% of their income to charity.  Millions of ordinary people routinely and without second thought, tithe – giving away a tenth of their earnings based on Biblical principles.  In fact, they don’t even see it as their money. The way we sometimes put it, is that we are glad to work for a Boss who gives us a 90% commission.

With that introduction, different religious groups encourage slightly different methods of giving. We cannot tell you what to do. Each person should affiliate with one spiritual approach and act accordingly. We can only describe what happens in Jewish circles.

In accordance with God’s commands, traditional Jews are not allowed to handle money on Saturdays, the Sabbath, or on holy days.  These are the very days that attract largest synagogue attendance.  Yet, there can be no offering or passing around of a basket for tithes.   Instead, most synagogues have a membership fee, though they encourage people to give beyond and above that. We pay some or all of that annual fee out of the tithe we owe but it would be most unusual for anyone’s entire tithe to go to their synagogue.

We would like to comment on your statement that your church doesn’t need your money because it is so big. If this is where you worship and the pastors there are serving you, then it would be spiritually unhealthy for you to be only a taker and not a giver. You are asking if your entire tithe needs to go there, which we cannot answer since we come from a different religious approach, but to give nothing would be inadvisable.

General charitable guidelines were recorded by Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) and they tend to be followed until this day. Among other things, these guidelines rank helping someone gain an independent livelihood as more praiseworthy than simply giving a hand-out. The guidelines also prioritize giving locally to one’s family and community before giving to strangers and distant communities. 

Sometimes, charities that are categorized under tax law are also valid for tithing, while other times they are not. Likewise, to use America as an example, while the IRS might not consider helping out a struggling neighbor to be deductible, the money would be considered as part of a tithe under a Jewish understanding.

In the Lord’s language, the word for tithe actually means one tenth.  Interestingly enough, the word also hints at wealth.  The implication is that by tithing, one not only helps others but also advances oneself towards greater wealth, not as a quid pro quo but in ways we describe in a chapter on the subject in our book, Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language.

Imagine what a world we would live in if everyone valued earning money and voluntarily and thoughtfully gave 10% or even a little more of what they made.

We hope this helps you and your husband give joyously,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Is Airbnb anti-Semitic?

December 5th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

I’m currently an AirBnB host to earn extra money (I don’t need the extra income).  Recently AirBnB came out with a new policy not allowing Jews in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria to rent out their homes. 

To me this seems like anti-Semitism and would like your advice on what to do?  I’m debating about canceling all future reservations, so AirBnB doesn’t receive any income from my property.

Thanks,

Justin L.

Dear Justin,

We feel so privileged to have people like you reading our columns. You hold yourself to a high ethical standard and are willing to back up your convictions with action.

We’re not crazy about the term anti-Semitism because we don’t know how to define it, any more than we can define racism, misogynism or most other “isms.” Try defining these terms for yourself.  You’ll see, it is not easy.  It is far too easy to hurl labels and take refuge by claiming that you recognize it when you see it, as Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography in the 1964 Supreme Court Case. We are not fans of terms that change depending on the speaker, the day and whims and fancy.

However, what we can define is when one group is treated completely differently from all or most other groups. This is the standard that Airbnb (as well as the BDS movement, the United Nations and many others) meets. Israel is penalized for behavior that is excused, ignored or even lauded in others.

Israeli Jews living in Judea and Samaria may no longer rent out their homes and apartments on Airbnb. Yet Muslims, Christians, and citizens of the Palestinian Authority are free to continue doing so. The boycott targets only Jews. 

What is more, Airbnb has listings in many contested regions such as Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and Turkish-occupied Cyprus to name just two.

Many years ago, some of our children were in the audience at a business event whose speakers included Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream company. This was at a time when U.S. troops were deployed in Iraq. Our children came home and said that the ice-cream maker’s words were not only anti-American but actually wished our soldiers ill. That was the end of our purchasing Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream.

Despite the popularity of the dessert in our home, we don’t imagine that the company noticed our lack of support. It was less a statement to them than a statement to ourselves, though if enough people would do the same thing, the company’s bottom line would be affected.  We simply could no longer enjoy that ice-cream. We are impacted by the things we say and do, even if nobody else is.  For this reason, acting on principle has value even if nobody else will ever know.  The point is, we know.  And the action strengthens us.

On the other hand, we have problems with the political positions of so many companies and we have not treated them all similarly. We would just about have to homestead on a self-sufficient farm to do so. We do try to react when a company’s behavior is egregious rather than simply wrong and harmful. We may very well be inconsistent. But inconsistency is not hypocrisy.

Justin, we think that this is a call you have to make for yourself. If you are asking whether we think that Airbnb is singling out Jews and Israel in a way that they do not treat others, the answer is yes. If you will sleep better at night knowing that you are not partnering with them, then we salute you.

Live with conviction,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Giving Tuesday Winner

December 4th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

We’re delighted to announce that Carola from Tacoma, WA was the winner of an Income Abundance Set in our Giving Tuesday raffle. We thank everyone who donated on that day (of course, we appreciate donations all year round!) for helping us to continue putting out Thought Tools, Ask the Rabbi, Susan’s Musings, podcasts, and our TV show as well as sponsoring appearances and speeches. You can find out more about the American Alliance of Jews and  Christians here.

Does the Bible have advice for losing weight?

November 27th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

I’m trying to find areas in the Bible that deal with overeating and weight gain.  I have had this struggle, like countless other women I’ve known, for my entire life, especially now after having our first son, and I’m wondering where I can find more information from God on this so that I can have more success in this area.

Thanks so much!

Melissa M.

Dear Melissa,

What an understatement it is when you say that this is a struggle many women have. While the Bible and ancient Jewish wisdom have a great deal to say on eating, it isn’t explicitly focused on overeating or weight gain. 

For instance, here is the first occurrence in Scripture of God issuing a commandment to man:

And the Lord God commanded the Adam saying,
“Of every tree of the garden eat you must eat
.
(Genesis 2:16) 

 Many English translations get it wrong by translating, “…of every tree of the garden you shall surely eat”

The original Hebrew does not say “surely”.  Instead it repeats the commandment to eat.  Here is what the Hebrew would look like if accurately translated:

“…of every tree in the Garden you must eat, you must eat.”

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that God’s first explicit directive to people repeats the verb ‘to eat’ to tell us to perform two separate and distinct acts with every mouthful. We are to eat for both physical and spiritual reasons.  That way we extract the full benefit from every morsel of food.

Perhaps this helps explain that the more correct our attitude to food is, the more we will eat in an appropriate way leading to a side benefit of maintaining a healthy weight.

The Torah asks us to say a blessing both before and after eating. The blessings relate to the specific food, forcing us to ask questions such as, “Does it grow in the ground or on a tree?”, “What is the main ingredient in this soup?”, and “Did I put peanut butter on the cracker because I was craving a cracker or was I craving peanut butter and needed a base for it?” This discourages mindlessly finishing our children’s egg so as not to waste it (we are not alternatives to garbage cans) or picking our way through a pantry shelf while tidying up.

Ancient Jewish wisdom urges us to sit down to eat rather than grabbing something on the run. We recite a closing blessing on whatever food we ate, which means we make a conscious decision that we are finished eating rather than nibbling away for hours. As much as possible, we eat with other people rather than alone and are meant to craft the conversation in a way that elevates the meal so that it is a spiritual as well as a physical feast. For mothers with small children, this could translate into taking the extra few minutes to actually set ourselves a place at the table, complete with napkin and cutlery, and perhaps reading something uplifting while we eat, even if we only have a few minutes allotted to ourselves. Once our children are older, we can enjoy their company and make sure we are discussing interesting, age-appropriate ideas rather than eating in silence or gossiping.

A benefit of thinking in this way about food is that it encourages awareness. While, unfortunately, like anything else, the letter of the law can be followed without the spirit, such as by hastily mumbling the blessing, if done correctly, we should be cognizant of each and every bite. We should also be consciously grateful to God for providing us with food as well as understanding that it is meant to serve the purpose of fueling our bodies so that they can accomplish great things.

Our focus should be on taking care of the bodies God graciously allows us to inhabit, rather than on hitting certain weight points. Pregnancy and nursing are going to change our bodies just as a lived-in home looks different, and much more welcoming, than a museum with cordoned off exhibits. While women should make every attempt to look attractive for their spouses, being “put together” does not mean possessing the physical body of our eighteen-year-old selves. There is a difference between having a more ‘mature’ figure and looking slovenly or as if we lack self-respect. (Obviously while in the throes of morning sickness, or during those post-partum weeks, or while three kids are down with the flu, managing to change out of pajamas in itself shows enormous effort.) In a good marriage and as spouses spiritually mature, non-physical criteria become more important.

If we had a sure-fire secret formula for losing weight, we would be on top of the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest individuals.  What we do hope we have left you with, Melissa, is a change in focus from weight and eating to one of awareness of and gratitude for the food you eat. Most of all, we hope you and your husband have a respect for the wonders that your bodies let you achieve and a desire to take as much care of those bodies as you would give to any fine and precious machine.

With hopes that this provides food for thought,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

There are only a few hours left in #Giving Tuesday. While donations to the American Alliance of Jews and Christians are welcome at any time of year, today Facebook and PayPal will match contributions, maximizing your support for our work. In addition, we would like to express our appreciation for your help in a tangible way, and anyone who donates on that day (via any method) will be entered into a drawing to win one of Rabbi Lapin’s most popular teaching sets. We appreciate you giving this your consideration.

AAJC Happenings – Update from Rabbi Daniel Lapin

November 25th, 2018 Posted by AAJC Happenings No Comment yet

Dear Friend—

In hoping to enlist your support for our work here at the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, I could list our activities, events, appearances, and publications—and I shall do so.  But first you deserve a picture of the umbrella beneath which everything we do flourishes.

Let me try this metaphor: Imagine plucking a beautiful rose from your garden and placing it in a vase on your dining room table. Your first impression is that you made a pretty smart move.  No longer do you need to go outside, cross your lawn and stoop down at the rose bush to enjoy the flower’s beauty and its fragrance.  It is right there on your table.  However, by the next day or two, you begin to have doubts. Your severed flower has begun to droop, and its colors are fading while its sisters, still on the plant outside, are flourishing in their loveliness.

Initially, when our culture detached the frighteningly fragile flower of society from its roots, the eternal Biblical values of the Judeo-Christian tradition, it looked like a pretty smart move.

It looks a lot less smart now.  It is now apparent to us all that what distinguished life in America from life in most other places, was widespread acceptance of the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of civilization. Until the early 1960s, people were mannerly, kind, and compassionate because of our Biblical heritage. People were basically law abiding, family-minded, and hard-working for the same reason. Can you believe that the phrase “…under God…” was easily inserted into our Pledge of Allegiance as late as 1954? Can you imagine this happening today?

Yes, there is a canyon cutting through our culture. But no, contrary to the propaganda messages that attempt to indoctrinate us, the canyon does not separate rich from poor, or men from women, or people with black skins from people with white skins, or Christians from Jews. These are false and secular divisions. They are artificial.

The canyon does seem to separate those who view Judeo-Christian, Bible-based values as vital for civilization’s survival from those who view those values as primitive obstructions to what they see as progress.

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 to do so.

We continue 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 program carried on The Blaze, iTunes, YouTube and other platforms, and we put out a daily television show, Ancient Jewish wisdom with Rabbi Daniel & Susan Lapin produced by the TCT Television Network.  The AAJC has sponsored my appearances before more than a thousand pastors and Christian leaders during 2018 as I strengthened their hearts and encouraged their passions. My regular synagogue speeches carry the same goal.

This work and more, will continue in 2019 as we see enthusiasm for our efforts grow. With your help this can be done. I am not going to suggest how much you should or can give. This is an intensely personal decision; however, I will tell you that for our programmed activities in 2019, we have planned a program requiring a budget of $600,000. Our leadership is discussing expanding our work beyond the borders of the United States of America. In an increasingly connected globe, bad ideas spread quickly; but good ideas and true beliefs can be spread just as effectively. To that end, I have been privileged to carry the banner of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians to the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and Switzerland. In all three countries I was amazed to see such receptivity to timeless truth.

God brought about the Exodus to give the Israelites freedom to follow Him. He warned Pharaoh, “Let my people go so that they may worship me in the desert.” (Exodus 7:16) By following God’s rules, people would interact in a way that would create a safe and secure community. Tyrants understand that once God is out of the picture, they can reverse that equation, seducing citizens into trading freedom for the promise of safety and security, which will never be delivered.

Much more cultural energy is being pumped into the anti-Christian propaganda campaign than was ever delivered to the anti-smoking or anti-drunk-driving campaigns of years gone by. Fervent zealots of secularism are flinging themselves into this anti-Christian war with fanaticism.

If they succeed, Christianity will be driven underground in America, as it has been elsewhere, and her benign influence on the character of America will be lost. In its place we shall see a sinister secularism that menaces Bible believers of all faiths. Once the voice of the Bible has been silenced, the war on Western Civilization will be strengthened and we could see a long night of barbarism descend.

Without a vibrant and vital Christianity, America is doomed, and without America, civilization is doomed.

Which is why I, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, am so terrified of American Christianity caving in.  I believe that we Jews and Christians must stand together replacing our timidity with confidence and our diffidence with daring and determination.  Almost every day, we see the battle lines being drawn. Defense will be far harder down the road if we ignore the danger signals now.

We feel that it is important to have prominent Jewish and Christian voices on the right side in the struggle for America’s future and your gift helps us recruit and train those voices.  We pray that your heart leads you to support our work at the American Alliance of Jews and Christians and are grateful to you for joining our mission.

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 (EIN 26-07642520). We have several different ways now that you can make your tax-deductible donation:

With my deepest gratitude,

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, President
American Alliance of Jews & Christians

Wishing Everyone a Grateful and Faithful Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Am I doing wrong by taking government money?

November 20th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Is it wrong to receive EBT and cash aid? Am I being selfish by not working?

I’ve considered your topics on serving others and receiving money for it, would this be making money without serving others?

I would appreciate your general thoughts on this subject, but I want to describe what my personal situation is like currently.  Maybe you can address both?

For my personal situation… I am 20 years old.  I am single with no children or dependents.   I am not in any way disabled or unable to work.  I am working to get financial licenses and become self-employed (100% commission or even become business owner/broker in the future.  In the meantime, I have accepted EBT and Cash Aid in order to pay bills if I fall short on my income goals rather than (in my eyes) restrict my time to hourly paid position, leaving me less time to pursue something I feel I am more qualified for and can do-  I also have accepted EBT and Cash Aid because I felt an hourly job would/could my distract my mental focus or take energy away from the project I really want to pursue.

I really appreciate any thoughts you can share even if it simply points me in the right direction!

Thank you, (Rabbi) Daniel, Susan, and team!

Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

The fact that you are asking these questions tells us that you want to live a life of principle and morality, for which we salute you. We would like to answer on two levels, one of objective morality, but also that of your own personal good.

On one hand, you are not lying to the government in order to get these benefits. In fact, the government tells you that you are entitled to them. Nonetheless, as a moral person, we think that in your head and heart you feel uncomfortable. In this case, your feelings are correct. The fact that the government allows or even encourages something makes it neither moral nor prudent.

We would suggest that you randomly pick a name out of the phone book and say out loud to that fellow citizen, “Gretchen Johnson, I thank you for paying high taxes to support me, and I appreciate your putting off getting your daughter a winter coat so that I can have some of your money without having to work.” “Mr. Henderson, please thank your wife for understanding that you couldn’t celebrate your anniversary with dinner out, because your taxes were raised to allow me not to work.”  We think that because of the person you are, saying those words out loud will make you feel uncomfortable.

You see, Stephanie, the government has no money of its own. It can only take it from some citizens and give it to others. The only other option it has is to print more money, which makes whatever money people do earn worth less than it was worth previously. So, by availing yourself of these programs you are choosing to live off the sweat of other people’s brows.

A useful way of judging the morality of any specific action is to ask yourself how would things work out if everyone did it.  By this measure, for instance, we can know that dropping your candy wrapper on the sidewalk or in the park is an immoral action.  It’s easy to see that if everyone starting living on government handouts, the system would quickly collapse.  (This is, of course quite different from someone who lives on welfare during a crisis for just a short time. ) You are asking because you’re a bit uneasy at having essentially made it your lifestyle, not because of a crisis, but because it seems to advance your goals.

Obviously, as one individual, your share in this is minute. What originally was intended to be a way of helping those who are desperately in need has turned into an immoral scheme. The fact is that with so many others around you taking advantage of these options, you might even think of yourself as a patsy for not participating in the plunder. In fact, the system, including many of the plans that help with college tuition, are set up to benefit some to the detriment of others. Nonetheless, even if it is common, honorable people should feel uncomfortable at taking money from other people’s pockets, not because they are at the end of their rope, but so they can have an easier life.

This brings us to the destructive effect that taking this money has on your personality. To be sure, working at a job would theoretically leave you less time to pursue your goals. We think, however, that seeing others not as those whom you take advantage of, but rather those with whom you can have a mutually beneficial relationship will increase your earning potential.  For most people to be successful in business, they need to feel good about what they do. Suspecting deep down in your heart that you might be a selfish and greedy individual is like being constantly sabotaged by invisible enemies undermining all your efforts.

Because you asked us this question, we think that you are a good person, just one whose country has ill-served you by placing other people’s money so easily in your reach and encouraging you to take it. But mindset begets action which in turn, begets mindset and we think that taking this money diminishes you as a person. In the long run getting your credentials or skills more slowly while proudly being able to look at yourself in the mirror, will end up making you financially more productive.

We’d like to share this a wonderful poem with you that is posted in Susan’s Practical Parenting column. You can read it here: https://rabbidaniellapin.com/the-man-in-the-glass/

With confidence in your future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Is the world one of shortage where we must each scramble to get what we can? 
Or is it a world of plenty that has enough for all if we follow Divine wisdom?
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My girlfriend’s earning potential is greater than mine.

November 13th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

I have listened to a few of your podcasts that talk about the perils of income disparity between spouses, where the wife earns more than the husband. I’m a guy, and frankly the topic terrifies me because I’d rather drive nails through my feet than face the prospect of divorce because of this kind of thing. 

I’m dating someone who does not earn more than me but she has high potential to do so later.Am I heading for disaster?

Justin

Dear Justin,

I (RDL) often speak about the connection between money and marriage on my podcast and I (Susan) frequently cover variations on the same theme in my Musings. In this forum you get the two of us together! 

A few years ago, we did a multi-day conference in Dallas on the topic and we are working on a book as well. Some of what we write below comes out of that manuscript. So, you have touched a hot-button subject for us and one in which, not surprisingly, much of what we have to say contradicts popular culture.

One of the sentences in your letter concerns us.  We hope we’re wrong but you sound passively resigned to being terrified.  Why isn’t that fear fueling your financial climb to a new level at which that fear would evaporate?  Part of being a male is developing and feeling ambition.

(more…)

Honor Our Veterans

November 9th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.   General Douglas MacArthur

Combatting Small-Town Gossip

November 6th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

How do you appropriately defend against a false witness? Recently I have come across a situation where someone was falsely blamed in a situation. I did not witness the supposed misdeed but I know the nature of the person blamed and know them to be far removed from the type of behavior indicated from the “blamer”. I also know the nature of the finger pointers and what they have to gain from such false witness. Popularity and position.

It is not a criminal or illegal occurrence but it has tainted the individual in question to a degree within a small rural assembly. I feel like my hands are tied. Do you have any advice for this situation other than continued show of support?

I realize this may seem vague but I do not wish to create any more drama in an already ridiculous situation.  I do feel that this is a repetitive situation in small town communities. The circumstances change but the story is sadly the same. Many times over.

Karma M.

Dear Karma,

The problem you pose and the question you are raising is not confined in any way to small towns. Our society is awash in false accusations and the politics of personal destruction.

We are often in a bind. Years ago, in a more moral age, it was easier to believe the adage, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Now, it is meaningless.  The news media have become practiced experts at producing smoke with no fire; without even a naked flame.  Ancient Jewish wisdom is always uncompromising about not spreading or listening to slander or gossip.

However – and in our day and age this is a huge “however” –  an exception  can sometimes be made if there is possibility for harm by not sharing some potentially true negative information. For example, imagine being a new resident in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors are uncomfortable with their children sleeping  over at one family’s house.  They can’t substantiate their concerns, but there is general discomfort. Should they fill you in or not?

(more…)

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