Posts by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

What does the Bible say about moms working outside the home?

August 14th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 27 comments

What does Ancient Jewish wisdom aka the Bible say about moms? I am naturally a hard working professional however I am also a relatively new mom.

My husband provides, I stay home with my 1 and 3 year olds. If I did work we could make some upgrades.

This topic wasn’t mentioned in Business Secrets from the Bible. What do you say about it?

Amber T.

Dear Amber,

What does the Bible say? The assumption underlying the Bible’s prescription for life is that if each person fulfills his or her obligations, the society will prosper. The basic component of the society is the family, not the individual (though of course there are provisions for those who are alone). Together, a man and a woman make a unit where each of them and any associated children can physically, emotionally and economically thrive. The unit suffers if both husband and wife do exactly the same things, just as a business partnership where each partner does exactly the same as the other would make no sense.

To this end, in the Torah, women are not obligated with most of the positive, time-bound commandments. What does this mean? Women, like men, may not murder, steal or gossip. These are negative commandments. The Torah  obligates women to observe the Sabbath and eat kosher. But commandments that require one to be somewhere or do things in a time-limited manner, such as appearing at the Temple in Jerusalem (or today in synagogue) or even being forced to testify in a court case, are not incumbent upon women. The idea is that a woman is not asked to do anything that would conflict with her ability to care for her household and children. That is her primary responsibility.

Our culture’s message is quite different. Somehow we have turned work into a woman’s prime responsibility as well as painting it in a rosy glow of self-fulfillment as if we are all highly paid and stimulated CEOs of multi-national corporations. To this end, it is most important that our relationship with our children not be allowed to interfere with our training or career advancement. Our children are secondary to our professional aspirations. Hence the demands that government and business change until that is so. That’s certainly not how we see the world.

Here are some of the questions that we would ask you and your husband to consider. And we reject the idea that a husband should say, “It’s her decision,” about matters that impact the big picture of the family any more than a wife can say, “It’s his decision,” about those same matters.

  • Is this entirely a financial matter?
  • Are you being swayed by social pressure that tells you that being with your children is betraying your level of intelligence and training?
  • Are you feeling unfulfilled at home and if so, why? Do you know other young mothers or do you find yourself sitting in the park with nannies and babysitters?
  • How many hours would you need to work to manage those “upgrades” taking into account paying a baby-sitter as well as associated costs like wardrobe upgrade, more prepared food, travel expenses etc.?
  • How do the “upgrades” compare with being the prime influence in your children’s lives and being able to focus on your marriage?
  • Is there something that you can do that will either bring in some income without upending your home situation or that will provide you with credentials or education for the future?
  • Do you crave being a hard working professional or would you prefer to see yourself as a hard working professional wife and mother who does something else on the side?
  • What provides you with soul-satisfaction? What can you do to get more of that from an avenue other than career?
  • Do both you and your husband value what you are doing as a mother or do either of you take it for granted or disparage it?

The most important thing we think you and your husband should do is to picture your goals and dreams for the future, both for you as a couple and you and your children as a family. What is important to you in terms of who your children become? Whatever you do in the short-term should build towards that long-term vision. In that way, you will remain true to your responsibility where family is your primary concern.

Enjoy all the different stages of your life,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Is it time to demand a raise?

August 7th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I am trying to decide if I am wrestling with a sense of entitlement, or have I truly experienced an injustice in my workplace.  My situation is this:  I have been given many additional responsibilities at my work due to an acquisition of my company.

My workload has increased greatly, but I have not received a meaningful raise to reflect this. The painful part is that other employees who used to do these tasks are still making the same salary.  In other words, they are paid the same to do less work and I am paid the same to perform  much more work.  Another by product of this arrangement is that my opportunities for advancement have been diminished. 

Should I complain, or demand a raise?  Or, should I just be grateful to have a job?

Chris T.

Dear Chris,

We appreciate that you are trying to look at your work situation from a number of different perspectives.  However, our answer to both the choice you present in your first sentence and your question to us in your last paragraph is: none of the above.

You don’t say how long ago your company’s acquisition took place, but there is an adjustment period when any big changes take place in a work environment. An injustice, albeit one about which you can do very little, is when the boss’ nephew gets double the salary for half the work. A sense of entitlement is when the boss’ nephew expects to get double the salary for half the work. During an adjustment period, it may take time for new management to get the whole picture, but they aren’t being unjust. Neither are you showing a sense of entitlement for wanting to be compensated properly.

Thinking in either of those terms, “injustice” or “entitlement” suggests an emotional analysis rather than a businesslike approach. We heartily recommend that you remove emotion from the equation.

Similarly, complaining is a bad idea in general because that is a release of emotion rather than a productive step. Demanding a raise is also an emotional phrase. Instead, you should build the case for explaining to management what you are doing currently and what you can and hope to do for the company. If you don’t have a work review scheduled, you should try to schedule one.

Practice presenting your facts in an unemotional way. You can certainly say that you would like to advance in the company and would appreciate being told what skills you should work on developing to set yourself up for that.

Before you go in for a meeting, you need to decide if you are willing to look elsewhere for a more suitable job or if you hope to stay where you are. How strongly you speak will be a function of that. No one should “demand” a raise, unless he or she is willing to leave if the answer is no. We would recommend not pulling that trigger unless you are sure the gun is loaded – in other words, you have other options on the table. Even if that is the case, human nature pushes back against demands, so we would encourage you to use more tactful language.

We assume that this is an ongoing situation rather than your response during the turmoil of the first few weeks under the new circumstances. It is a good opportunity to take stock and assess your abilities. You may choose to accept the situation or make plans to improve it. In general, feeling resentful is detrimental to both those choices.

Wishing you success as you sideline the emotion,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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What do I tell my daughters?

July 31st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 32 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

After Adam and Eve eat and are questioned about the forbidden fruit, we read [in Genesis 3:16]:

Unto the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’

What is the real meaning of “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”?

I’m looking for an explanation I can share with my wife and six daughters, especially given the current Western world trend of promoting the empowerment and independence of women.

Thanks for your all your great teaching and your work creating the AAJC.

Just as an aside, you may like to know that your father, Rabbi A. H. Lapin married my parents in Johannesburg in 1956.

Dear David,

Your closing sentence was heartwarming for us as my late dad was a distinguished rabbi for many years in Johannesburg.  You reminded us of the time we were once chatting with a woman in a park. After hearing our name, she said, “Oh, your father married me.” At that point our six year-old daughter, Ruth, who was playing nearby, pulled herself up to her full 40 inches and said, “He did not. He married my grandmother.”

A direct answer to your specific question would entail sitting for many hours and studying those verses with your wife and daughters. However, there is a prerequisite to doing that learning. The Torah is a package deal. It doesn’t work well when verses are lifted out of context. That is why both sides of an issue whether it be slavery in America in the 1800s or immigration today can easily find “proofs” for their ideas by isolating a few words or phrases from Scripture.

We study the Torah with a few basic assumptions.

  1. The Torah is God’s word and as such is timeless and infallible and a true description of reality.
  2. The Hebrew language is a crucial and indispensable part of its message without which 100% comprehension is impossible.
  3. When we don’t understand something or emotionally object to it, it is due to our lack of comprehension rather than to any flaw in the Torah. In addition, certain parts of the Torah may only reveal themselves and make sense as future history unfolds.
  4. When valid transmitters of the oral tradition appear to disagree, they are actually each providing a window into one small piece of the picture as the Hebrew word for argument reveals. We explain this in our book Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language in the chapter titled, “Feud for Thought.”

Working with those assumptions is easier when emotions aren’t involved. The verse you quoted is one that provokes defensiveness and even anger among many today. The Passover Seder speaks of four sons who ask questions about the Exodus. The wicked son actually “tells” rather than “asks” his question. We all have a part of that son in us which means that sometimes our minds are closed to truly being interested in learning the answer.

We don’t think that you or your family are coming from that perspective. However, we would suggest starting with God’s response to both the snake and Adam’s sins before moving on to Eve. Both because they will evoke less emotion and because Eve cannot be seen in isolation. Working through those verses (which done at all properly should take many hours) will set the stage for the response to Eve.

While it is true that there is no way we can do justice to your question in this format, we can at least, give you a glimpse of the complexities inherent in God’s response to Eve.  The verse you quote, Genesis 3:16, takes us about 4 hours to teach adequately. For instance, the fifteenth word in the verse, yimshol is often misleadingly translated as rule.  The root of the word is mashal, which is also the name of the Biblical book of Proverbs—Mishlei.  The accurate meaning of the word is neither rule nor proverbs, but implies being influenced by the actions of others.  Hence, the Biblical book contains many aphorisms, contemplation of which can influence actions. 

One can shape the actions of others by wielding force as do kings and governments. One can also make others comply with your wishes by making them want to do so by means of payment of some kind. Finally, one can influence others in a course of action by example and peer pressure.  All of these three could be seen as a form of ruling.  The verse we are examining references a combination of the above.   

For example, one part of that is God warning that sadly, women will come to be influenced in their actions by what men do.  Could there be a more tragically accurate description of the feminism of the past fifty years? And this is only one word of sixteen that we have glanced into.  We know this isn’t much to be going on with but better we tell you the truth even if it is not easily accessible. 

The thing to remember is that a broad picture of reality is being drawn here of life outside of Eden. It is no longer a perfect life, as all of us can confirm just by looking out the window. However, understanding it lets us cope better with life in a way that provides dignity, respect and fulfillment to both men and women.

Leaving your question mostly unanswered,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 

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Rest in Peace, Mrs. Ziglar

July 30th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 9 comments

Some relationships are special blessings. For us, one of these was our friendship with Zig and Jean Ziglar.  Zig was the public face, but we had the privilege of meeting and spending time with “the Redhead” as well. There are countless number of people whose lives have been improved because they were touched by Zig and his tireless work as he helped others attain their dreams. We know, as he often said, that without Jean he wouldn’t have achieved his life mission. Theirs was a true partnership.

Jean was gracious, lively and full of warmth. She loved her family and church. She even made room for us in her heart and we send our heartfelt condolences to Tom, Cindy, Julie and the rest of the Ziglar family.

Why don’t you live in Israel?

July 25th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I’m always wondering why your family never moved to Israel?

Matt

Susan and I did something unusual last week. While we always work on the Ask the Rabbi column together, our answers to this question diverge somewhat because of the different way each of us was raised. Susan answered this question in her Susan’s Musing and I am going to initially answer here, although Susan will join in at some point – you will see us switch from singular to plural.

As Susan said in her response, the commandment to live in Israel is one among many. While she was raised in a religious Zionist atmosphere that does encourage Jews from around the world to move to Israel, I was not. In the worldview of my family and my teachers,  the political State of Israel, founded largely by atheistic socialists in the early years of the 20th century, certainly did make it easier to live in Israel.  However,  from a religious point of view, the obligation for a Jew to live in the holy land had been no less stringent earlier while the land was under Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman or British rule. In other words, the mass return of Jews to the land after the State’s founding in 1948 was not really the equivalent to the return under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah around 400 BC. 

Not only was the State of Israel merely a political entity, in its early years there was a great deal of hostility towards religion. My great-uncle and teacher, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian, relocated to the land of Israel late in his life and opened a Yeshiva (Bible school). My parents sent me as a 12 year-old to live and study with him for a few years.  I clearly remember the taunts and provocations that came my way from anti-religious Israelis. On our part, we loved the land as Jews have for millennia, but the founding of the sovereign State of Israel in 1948 didn’t really change much.  That was how I was raised.  Needless to say, both the State of Israel and my views have changed over the years.

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Meeting my girlfriend’s children

July 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

I first became aware of your work after having seen a talk that you gave on a program with Pastor John Hagee.  I subsequently purchased Thou Shall Prosper, and I think that it’s a fantastic book, and one that I often return to, not merely because of how eloquently it’s written.  

Recently, I fell in love with my friend’s wife. When we first met twelve years ago, I developed feelings of infatuation for her.  But in wanting to do the right thing, I talked myself out of them.  At the time, I thought to myself that it wasn’t appropriate for me to think such things about the woman of another man.  

Many years passed, and gradually I lost touch with my friend as our relationship began to dissipate.  I found that I remained in touch with her every now and then and would sometimes help her with assignments for her work. She eventually informed me that she hadn’t been close to her husband for a number of years, and I was shocked to hear such news.

Suffice it to say, our feelings grew for one another, and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about her.  We’re together now as a couple, and I feel like destiny has made it so.  I have felt moments of guilt for this, despite her having reassured me that they no longer loved one another.  It nevertheless is a difficult predicament to find oneself in. 

We have been talking recently about how we should introduce me to her children.  She has two beautiful children from her previous marriage, ages 10 and 5.  She has stated that she would prefer to introduce me to the children gradually and as a friend, so as to not cause trauma to them, after having been through so much with the divorce.  I do respect this, and in my heart I want so much to have a good relationship with them, and for them to like me very much.  As much as I want to respect her wishes and make her happy, I feel that it would be more honest in the long run to be open with the children and tell them about our relationship, as it would engender trust. 

Instinctively I feel that I am right about this somehow, but I feel in our current society time-honoured wisdom is eschewed in favour of theories and new models for parenting.  I would be so grateful if you have any insights that you might be able to share that relate to our situation.  

Kind regards,

Karl

 P.S – I really admire the work that you do that goes towards creating understanding between Jews and Christians, I derive a great deal personally from such works, and have found that I’ve learned about Judaism in the process.

Dear Karl,

We appreciate your kind words about our work, though we suspect that you may not be as happy with how we respond to your question here. You were absolutely correct years ago when you recognized that it is completely inappropriate to fantasize about someone else’s wife. That is even a prohibition that ranks as the tenth of the Ten Commandments!

After acknowledging that you behaved correctly many years ago, we must say that we noticed too much focus on feelings in your letter. We think that it is important anytime one must make important life decisions,  for the brain, mind and objective morality to dominate feelings.

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Wonderful news!

July 16th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

A few weeks ago, we asked you to pray for the infant grandson of dear friends of ours. We are thrilled to share that Lion Huch, son of Pastors Luke and Jennifer Huch and grandson of Pastors Larry and Tiz Huch has been discharged from the hospital and is cancer-free. Here is Pastor Luke’s announcement:

“INFANT LEUKEMIA SURVIVOR Baby Lion Update: Special announcement from Pastor @lukehuch! Thank you so much for your continued prayers! We have the victory!!! Lion is healed, Lion will live, and Lion will thrive! Repost and share with others so they can hear the good news!!!”

Please keep praying as Lion is scheduled for further treatment to ensure that the cancer doesn’t come back. This is truly a miracle and we are rejoicing.

Reacting to the Morgue

July 10th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 37 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

This year I became a med student. Therefore, with anatomy lessons I go to the morgue. It’s a great way to learn, however, I can’t help but feel rather uncomfortable.

That got me thinking – Is it an appropriate way to learn?

God bless you.

With kind regards,

Julie

Dear Julie,

First of all, congratulations on getting into medical school. That is quite an accomplishment.

As you go through school and residency and embark on a medical career, you are going to be called upon to do many things that will make you uncomfortable. Not only will you dissect cadavers but, among other things, you will be cutting into living people and be exposed to intimate and hidden parts of people’s bodies. You will be surrounded by people in deep emotional trauma. You will sometimes make mistakes that have the most serious consequences as well as blessedly do just the right thing at the right time with amazing results.

In order to be effective, it can be helpful to remember that you are in the process of fulfilling your God-given mission to heal.  “…I am the Lord your Healer” (Exodus 15:26)  Just as He heals us, so should we emulate Him and also become healers.  You know that you will need to learn to act professionally and overcome your feelings. That doesn’t mean to cauterize your feelings but it means to control them.  The danger is that you can do that so well that you end up slightly  dehumanizing  yourself in order to do what needs to be done.

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Is it wrong for us to ask for help?

July 3rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 8 comments

I heard your podcast recently regarding the United Nations and how damaging it is to give money to poor nations without them earning it.  My wife and I are currently in the adoption process, and started an online funding page.  The adoption is very costly, so we know we needed help.

However, after hearing the before mentioned podcast, was it wrong for us to ask for donations?  Should we focus on earning the money needed for the adoption, and not ask for donations or gifts from other people?

Vinny P. 

Dear Vinny,

How wonderful to hear that you and your wife want to open your hearts and home to a child. And thank you for listening to my (RDL) podcast.

There is a world of difference between individuals asking for and receiving help and government bodies distributing money gathered involuntarily from taxpayers.  The United Nations, in a way that would horrify its early supporters who placed such faith in the body, has become a gargantuan behemoth that today frequently provides money that enriches cruel despots rather than helping those for whom it is intended. It has also become a dung heap of corruption and high-living by its bureaucrats. 

If people choose, of their own volition, to help you and your wife, they will usually do so because they know, trust and like the two of you. They will want to join you and share in the opportunity to participate in this exciting and beautiful endeavor. If, through the incredible reach of the internet, people who do not know you find your page they will hopefully do due diligence and convince themselves that you are for real and that your home will be a blessing to some child. The point is that you are giving people an opportunity which they are free either to seize or ignore.

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Wishing us all a wonderful 4th of July

July 3rd, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Here are two presidential quotes to enjoy during this week of the Fourth of July:

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”
Abraham Lincoln

“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

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