Posts by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

What’s up with Jonah?

November 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

My question is about Jonah.

Why was he so angry with G-d that he would not go to Nineveh? Here is a man so stiff-necked that he would rather drown than obey G-d? Here is a man who kept himself in the belly of a sea giant for three days before he repented and agreed to do as G-d instructed him. After preaching in Nineveh, he sat down and again was angry.

Why?

Catherine G.

Dear Catherine,

Like you, we are fascinated by the book of Jonah. In fact, it has been the topic of at least four Thought Tools as well as one section of our audio CD, Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity. (Go here and type Jonah in the search box to find the relevant Thought Tools.)

This correctly suggests that the topic is too large for an Ask the Rabbi answer. However, we wanted to focus on one of your sentences. You write: “Here is a man so stiff-necked that he would rather drown than obey G-d.”

We would like to suggest that you can go to any mall, airport or university and find that the majority of people there fit that description as well. Sadly, you can go to many churches and synagogues and find the same. Obeying God is easier in theory than in actuality. We all tend to resist being told to do things we don’t want to do or to refrain from those things that we do want to do. We often rationalize and  intellectualize our refusal; sometimes we simply pretend that God has nothing to say about the issue at hand.

Don’t you know people who are drowning in unhappiness rather than obey God’s vision for family and society? There are pieces of Jonah in all of us. Studying him should encourage us to look in the mirror.

Wishing all of us Bible study that makes us uncomfortable,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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We hope you had a chance to read our annual AAJC letter.
If you missed it, you can see it HERE
.

 

Giving Thanks

November 22nd, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Wishing everyone a day of gratitude for our many blessings. May it remind us to give thanks every single day of the year.

As a single mom, should I be thinking about marriage?

November 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

What’s the biblical instruction for a single mother who met the Lord during pregnancy? I feel I’m not called to be single, but have not dated for over 11 years, as I was dedicated to mothering.

From a biblical perspective, should I seek marriage or seek singleness?

Thank you!

Mka

Dear Mka,

There’s a phrase, Kol HaKavod, used in Israel when someone has done something exceptional. It literally means “all the honor [to you],” and is a way of acknowledging actions that go above and beyond the norm. We say to you: Kol HaKavod.

Firstly, you changed the path of your life, and that of your child, by findng the Lord during your pregnancy. Since then, you devoted yourself to being a mother and, we assume, making a fulfilling life for yourself. By not dating, you focused on the relationship already in your life, with your child. When a single mother dates it frequently introduces emotional, psychological and often physical, instability into a child’s life.

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What’s up with women not helping each other?

November 8th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan, 

I enjoy your podcast discussions about relationships between men and women. I wonder if you have any thoughts you may like to share regarding women who discriminate against other women? Sadly, I don’t feel women are very supportive of other women and wonder why this is? 

Thanks and God bless you.

Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

Your question has vast implications.  These include political, social, business, and family as well as others.  Though we are working on a book about the interface of money and male-female relationships, we’ll try and respond to your question a lot more briefly.

The Bible describes several examples of difficult relationships between women including: Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 16), Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29) and Penina and Hannah (I Samuel: 1).

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Who were the Nephilim?

October 25th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Genesis 6:2-4 talks about the sons of God taking the daughters of men in marriage. If I am understanding the passage correctly it would seem that the Nephilim were the progeny of these relationships, and that they were the “heroes of old, men of renown.” 

I have heard various interpretations of these passages. Recently a friend of mine brought up these passages to support the theory that there were extra terrestrial or heavenly beings on the earth during this time. 

What is the most widely accepted interpretation of this passage?

Nathan S.

Dear Nathan,

Funnily enough, I (Rabbi, not Susan) spoke about this very section as the guest rabbi in a synagogue in Montreal this past Shabbat. I was given insufficient time to address that teaching fully and, here too, we have limited space in our Ask the Rabbi section. All we can do is give the beginning of an approach.

Starting from the last point in your letter, we aren’t very interested in “the most widely accepted interpretation of this passage.” Biblical understanding isn’t a popularity contest. While we’re sure you mean “interpretation” by worthy people, there are so many depths to the Torah that what appear to be different approaches are actually complementary ways of viewing the Bible.  This is reminiscent of the fable of the blind men and the elephant. Each man feels a different part of the beast. So, one describes thick poles (the legs), another a rope (the tail) and yet another a trumpet (the trunk). They are all actually describing the same creature. Similarly, when there are many different pieces of ancient Jewish wisdom on one verse, as disparate as they seem, they each provide one window into the truth.

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Was my response to my son appropriate?

October 18th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

Once again I need to pass on your wise words to one of my children. My 15-year-old shocked me last night when, after recounting how I had come up with a non-conventional (but not prohibited) method for building a card tower, and leading my teammates to win a “competition” ( done for fun at back-to-school night), my son said, ” You’re not going to like this, but at school they would call that, ‘a Jew move.’” He said this in earshot of a friend, who agreed. 

I was shocked. First, I asked him, ” Are you ‘dissing’ your heritage?” To which he said, “Umm, yes.” Then I asked him, “Or are you using a colloquial ‘diss’ that is actually a compliment, since it means you were smart enough to figure out a solution to the problem before anyone else?” His answer “Yes, that too.” I was still so upset, I told him I felt it was disrespectful to his heritage, and it bothered me so much I was leaving him to eat his dinner alone. And I left the room. 

How could I have handled this better? What should I have added? (I left the room before I told him that when another parent said, ” She’s folding the cards!” the teacher said, “Yes, you may need to fold the cards a bit.”)

Dear Mrs. M.,

Even if some time has passed since this event, it is still not too late to have a discussion about it. Actually, your emotional reaction had its own impact and there is value in that, but a calm and rational conversation is also necessary.

We think you should start by explaining how each of us is sensitive on certain topics based on our personal experiences. These can include our race, religion, gender, economic status, physical health and stature, history of mental issues, place of birth and an endless number of other factors. Just as poking a physical sore spot on our body elicits a stronger reaction than poking a healthy area of skin, we react more fiercely when someone pokes at an area where we are emotionally vulnerable. Your son ‘poked’ a sensitive area of yours.

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How can I support Israel?

October 10th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments

Hi Rabbi! I have been listening to your teachings for about 5 years and they are incredibly valuable! Thank you for your willingness to state the truth, even though it can be difficult for people to hear and is counter-culture. I have two questions totally unrelated to one another but both important:

1) Do you have an opinion on (name of ministry)?

2) Is there a recommended method for an individual to support Israel from US soil?

Thank you so much!

Carissa G.

Thanks for being a long-time listener, Carissa. We are very blessed with a wonderful large audience who is eager for the truth of how the world REALLY works even when the information causes cognitive dissonance.

You asked our opinion of a ministry. We aren’t comfortable answering that because it isn’t someone we know personally and, as such, we probably have less knowledge of the pastor than you do. The world is a very large place.

As for supporting Israel, at this time in history, supporting Israel has a lot in common with supporting America. Both countries are under assault and we all must refuse to be cowed and silenced by bullies. We need to speak up because what people around the world say about both Israel and America tells us more about them then it does about either Israel or America. That means that is is well worth making the effort to becoming educated and articulate on the topics. Make sure that the information you get is honest and fair.

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Should we keep trying?

October 3rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

My wife and I have had a pretty rough few years of marriage.  Issues like conflict between her and my family, and the two of us having different personalities are the main reasons for these problems.  I feel like some of my screw ups, (weak communication, insensitive at times) are part of  being a male, and not at all an intentional disrespect to her.  She feels that having 2 opposite personalities never lets us “click,” and she is ready to move on.  We have 2 kids, 6 & 8, and have been married for 14 years. 

 I don’t feel God would have  brought us together, only to give us a yearning for a “soul mate” after we have been blessed with so much.  Is the thought that there is someone who is more compatible, a legitimate reason for divorce?  Any resources you can point me to would be greatly appreciated.  I love your podcast and books.  

Thanks for your wisdom!

Matt M. 

Dear Matt,

It sounds like you and your wife have been on a downward spiral for a while. We do have a book recommendation based on your question, “Is the thought that there is someone who is more compatible, a legitimate reason for divorce?” The fact is that in our culture, one doesn’t need a “legitimate reason for divorce.” However, it sounds as if your wife is hesitating to move forward with ending the marriage perhaps because, even deep down, she believes that she made a covenant for life. Diane Medved’s readable and powerful book, Don’t Divorce: Powerful Arguments for Saving and Revitalizing Your Marriage, might give her reasons to rethink her picture of divorce in addition to whatever spiritual and religious views motivate her. Especially with two children in the picture, in our view, divorce should always be seen as the very last resort and only for the most extreme reasons.

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I can’t stand religious hypocrites!

September 27th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

I am very sensitive for various reasons to religious hypocrisy.

Though I am no longer a Christian, I grew up as one and remember hearing a sermon or lecture about how the sin of hypocrisy is not just about claiming to be of a particular faith and then not following “the rules”.  It’s much worse – if someone turns away from G’d because of someone’s hypocrisy, the hypocrite takes on the ultimate destination of the seeker.

If a Jew demands “righteousness” of other Jews and voices condemnation of other Jews for not being perfect Jews and then goes around committing the same sins, how is that seen in Judaism?  How is it handled?

Laura M.

Dear Laura,

While we did abbreviate your letter for practical reasons, your aversion to religious hypocrisy came across loud and clear. Yet, we think that hypocrisy might be one of those words that means different things to different people.

You speak of a Jew—though you could be speaking of someone of any religion—who condemns others for not being perfect and then commits the same sins.  There is a world of difference between imperfection, inconsistency and hypocrisy.

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My Wife Wants to be Cremated

September 12th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 37 comments

My wife has stage 4 cervical cancer and is not healthy enough for the standard treatments. We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best. 

She has expressed a desire to be cremated.  It’s cheaper, and when I pass I will  be interned at Arlington as I am a veteran.  It sounded OK to me at first but I’m having reservations.

Your thoughts, should a Jew or a Christian consider cremation?

Robert H.

Dear Robert,

We are moved by your words, “We are preparing for the worst but praying for the best,” and pray that God responds favorably to your prayers.

While we love teaching what the Torah says we aren’t comfortable telling you as a Christian how to act. We recommend that you discuss this with a respected mentor and/or clergy from your own faith.

We can tell you that in Torah Judaism, proper treatment of the body after death is defined as burial, just as God told Adam toward the end of Genesis chapter 3. This is so important that, for faithful Jews, even if one’s parents expressed their wishes to be cremated, their children may not carry out those wishes. The idea is that after death, the parents will have entered a World of Truth and will be appalled that they ever wanted to do something counter to God’s law. As such, giving them a proper burial is actually following their final wishes.

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