Posts by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Grab the Gold

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

Here’s a question for politicians:  Do you really want to fight poverty?  I mean do you really, really want to end poverty, or do you just want to get re-elected?

If you really mean it, I have some good news for you along with some bad news.

The good news is that you no longer need to impose confiscatory rates of taxation upon hard-working families in order to give some people the money that other people have earned. 

The bad news is that many of your constituents would rather deal with the disease than confront the cure.  The reason I say this is because the one sure way to defeat poverty in one generation is to enact policies that would ensure that most children will be raised by married parents in wholesome and intact marriages.  The problem is that many of your constituents are more committed to liberal social policies that undermine marriage than they are to ending poverty.

The Brookings Institution, which is certainly no friend of traditional morality, through its Center on Children and Families is only one of many reputable organizations whose research has left little doubt that children do far better when they grow up in a traditionally strong family.  Many on the left ask, “But why should growing up with a married mother and father have anything to do with how well children do in their careers when they grow up?”

One answer is leadership.  For a family to thrive, effective parental leadership is vital.  For a business enterprise to thrive, effective leadership is just as essential.  Not surprisingly, a child growing up in a strong family absorbs the lessons of leadership from his parents and is thus equipped to deploy that leadership later on.

Here are three lessons of leadership crucially necessary for successfully managing a family as well as for running a business organization.

(i)  When leaders make mistakes or commit moral lapses, the entire enterprise, family or business, is imperiled.  Just think of Hollywood’s once prominent and prospering Weinstein entertainment colossus.  Or, just think of any of the families you know torn asunder by infidelity. Leadership means responsibility rather than privilege or license.

(ii)  Leaders know that when they do make mistakes, they, and only they carry the burden of repairing the consequences of those mistakes. 

(iii)  Leaders know that part of their job is ensuring that children, employees and associates retain strong moral anchors in accordance with the value system of the family or organization.  They must exercise constant vigilance because if subordinates lose their links to the central moral core, lapses in conduct are sure to follow.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us these three practical lessons in leadership from a fascinating sequence of events related in chapters 6-8 in Joshua. 

Here is a brief summary of the story.  Following God’s instructions to Joshua, Israel conquered the city of Jericho.   Though Joshua directed that all its treasures should be consecrated to God, one fellow named Achan helped himself to some choice items of plunder. 

Joshua’s military advisors indicated that Israel’s next target, the city of Ai, would require no more than a small force to gain a quick victory.  That small army was ignominiously defeated by the men of Ai, and Israel was thrown into doubt and fear.  God explained to Joshua that the calamity was caused by transgression; someone had stolen items from Jericho.  He assured Joshua that all would be well if the culprit was punished, and He instructed Joshua how to identify the perpetrator. 

The next morning Joshua paraded the people through a selection process, finally identifying Achan.

Achan confessed to having taken a garment from Shinar (many translations mistakenly say, ‘Babylonian garment’) along with a quantity of silver and gold.  After Achan was executed, Israel again attacked the city of Ai and this time they triumphed decisively.   

Among the questions we must ask:

(i) Why was all Israel punished with such a shocking defeat when only one man, Achan, committed the wrong?

(ii) Why did God not simply identify the miscreant Himself, rather than having Joshua conduct a mysterious identification process? 

(iii) We can understand why Achan took silver and gold but why a cloak from Shinar?

Ancient Jewish wisdom provides the answers:

(i)  The leader of Israel, Joshua, was just as culpable as Achan.  God never declared that Israel should not plunder Jericho. Joshua came up with this unnecessary prohibition on his own. (Joshua 6:18).  If only Joshua had not added his own restrictions to God’s direction, what Achan did would have been permitted.  Israel could have legitimately plundered Jericho just as God explicitly told them to do at Ai. (Joshua 8:2)  All of Israel was punished by a terribly defeat because the leader had erred.  He had promulgated a law that God had not directed.

(ii)  God didn’t identify Achan as the criminal because Achan didn’t violate God’s law; he violated Joshua’s law.  Thus the onus was upon Joshua to solve the crime.  God sometimes leaves us to climb out of holes that we ourselves dig.

(iii)  The Shinar garment is Scripture’s way of making us refer back to the Bible’s first mention of Shinar in Genesis 10:10. Along with three other references close-by, these allude to Nimrod’s war against God.  Achan did want the gold and silver.  However, because he mistakenly believed that God had prohibited that treasure, to get them he first had to break his relationship with God just as Nimrod had done.  After that he felt free to seize the gold and silver.

Whenever parents understand and absorb these three lessons they are better able to build a strong and effective family.  These three lessons also help business leaders build strong and effective organizations.  Yes, successful marriages and happy families not only give their children a ladder from poverty to prosperity but they also give their children a head start in becoming excellent organizational leaders themselves.  That would be good for them and for their society.  But are politicians willing to declare what almost everyone knows? Namely, that stable marriages are the finest environment for children and society.  I don’t know.

Nimrod’s rejection of God serves as a prototype for rejecting God to our very day. If this intrigues you, delve deeper into the verses describing Nimrod’s building project, the tower of Babel. Learn not only what his name means in Hebrew but also the tactics he used that are effectively still being used to sever people from a relationship with God and His teachings. Our audio CD set, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel is currently on sale.

Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel MP3
SALE
Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel
SALE

Never Marry Your Grandmother

February 5th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

“My boyfriend is driving me crazy! Does he want to get married or not?”

“My husband and I were both thrilled when I became pregnant. But when I mention the baby, he sometimes gets this terrified look on his face. Is he happy about our baby nor not?”

The answer is…drum roll please…Both! The author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote,

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold

two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,

and still retain the ability to function.”

People are complicated and since most of the joy in life as well as most of the problems come from dealing with others, it is helpful to gain greater understanding into human relationships, particularly between men and women.

Take a look at Scripture’s list of prohibited sexual relationships. It starts with close relatives and ends with bestiality. (Leviticus 18:6-23)

Pretty straightforward. Except, we are perplexed to discover that one and a half chapters later the entire list is repeated. This time, however, it starts with adultery and ends with close relatives. (Leviticus 20:10-21) Is it repeated to help folks with short memories?

No. The purpose of the Torah is to teach us how the world REALLY works and that includes understanding sexual relationships. Relationships between men and woman are complicated because they are driven by complex and often conflicting forces.

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals relationship secrets while resolving the problem of the two lists in two almost adjacent Biblical chapters. It turns out that the lists are similar but not identical. They list the prohibited sexual relationships in different sequences, thus hinting at the two chief forces driving sexual attraction.

The first list in Leviticus 18, encapsulates our innate drive for reproduction. It is not just women who experience ‘baby-hunger.’ While women tend to experience it earlier (playing with dolls offers a clue) men also eventually yearn for the immortality that a child can confer. Most men want their children to be like them. The first list starts off with the relationships that would theoretically most appeal when reproduction is at the forefront of men’s minds.

The surest way to conceive children who resemble oneself would be to reproduce with a mate from one’s own family. While this sounds strange to our ears, focus on the concept rather than picturing it. So this list mentions prohibited family members first. It concludes with alternatives less tempting to someone focused on reproduction such as another man’s wife in which case the child would belong to someone else. Finally come homosexuality and bestiality where no offspring can possibly result.

The second list expresses men’s urge for sexual pleasure. It offers its own sequence in descending order of appeal. Most attractive is another man’s wife. Many men perversely find themselves attracted to married women whom they would totally ignore if the same ladies were single.

Forbidden fruit powerfully attracts so it constitutes the first prohibition in Leviticus 20:10. Continuing to look at the world through the eyes of a man who is only interested in a sexual relationship with no other component whatsoever (like reproduction or companionship and growth) we find the powerful sexual attraction of homosexuality and even of bestiality. These prohibitions are next in the list. (Leviticus 20:13-15) Finally, given that most men are not sexually titillated by close relatives, the list ends with those.

Now the two lists no longer suggest redundancy but, taken together, they reveal an exhilarating glimpse into reality. It isn’t surprising that relationships between the sexes frequently lead to heartbreak when not only do we not instinctively “get” each other, but we often don’t even “get” ourselves.

We only need to look at current headlines to see that male-female relationships are easy to mess up. Yet we still seek that one special someone and hope to share a lifetime of commitment. We are delighted to announce that we have gathered our three most helpful resources for choosing a spouse and sustaining a marriage. Get all three together in one budget-friendly package. You will find practical advice, amazing insights and an understanding of the first two chapters of Genesis that is unlike any you’ve learned. Check out our Lasting Love Set today!

See My Words

January 29th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

It is so easy to become impatient when a toddler, colleague, client, customer, or patient go on and on when telling us a story. In turn, when we are the ones relaying information, we get frustrated when our listeners tune us out. Too often, instead of our employees, boss, spouse, children or students paying attention, they seem uninterested or distracted.

How do we become better at both giving and receiving information?

This verse can help:

Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the words which your eyes saw,
… and you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.
(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Why does Deuteronomy 4:9 refer to words that are seen? We see things, not words. I sympathize with the plight of translators who often mistakenly write, “Just watch out for yourself…lest you forget the things which your eyes saw…”

(more…)

Banish Stinking Thinking

January 22nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 33 comments

Nobody I know ever warned more effectively against “Stinking Thinking” than my unforgettable friend, the late Zig Ziglar.  His son, Tom, carries his father’s legacy forward, doing his bit to help banish the scourge of Stinking Thinking.

What is Stinking Thinking? It’s the business professional saying to him or herself, “I’ve called enough customers for one day; it’s time for a break.” It’s the harried homemaker thinking, “I can’t carry on; nobody appreciates me.” It’s the employee avoiding making the case for requesting a raise by saying, “I’m probably not worth any more than I’m being paid.” It’s the overwhelmed mom doubting her ability to cope with one more toddler temper tantrum or the dad coming home and sitting down in front of the TV instead of spending time with his children and wife as deep down he knows he ought. It’s the writer thinking that he or she can’t sit in front of the keyboard for another minute and it’s you and me explaining to ourselves why we shouldn’t exercise more than we do.

Stinking Thinking can’t be overcome by arguing with ourselves; our lower self has far better debating talents than our higher selves. Stinking Thinking can best be defeated by utterly obliterating the idea that is discouraging our progress upwards.

(more…)

Salvaging Six Minutes

January 16th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

I wasted six irrecoverable minutes last Thursday.  I was in a hotel room watching a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on television justify his failures, and those of his colleagues, by pointing a finger of disdain at a large part of the American population.  Poor results were because too many Americans were too selfish to understand his heroic sacrifices on behalf of other Americans and other not-yet-Americans.  I was as dismayed by the poor quality of some of our elected as I was about my wasted six minutes.

Later, while driving, I contemplated how I might try and benefit from those lost six minutes. Many a mile went by with no hope of rescuing that time wasted in front of the TV screen.  Then, all of a sudden, my wife, Susan, asked me, “Do you know that in only two places in the Five Books of Moses, does Moses speak ‘before the Lord’ rather than ‘to the Lord’”?  I laughed delightedly because while those six minutes were certainly irrecoverable, they were no longer wasted.  I was able to learn from them.

Let me explain.  It can be disconcerting when, during a conversation, someone utterly ignores what you just said and continues talking as if you hadn’t said a thing.  You feel as if perhaps you didn’t say it at all.  There can only be two explanations.  Either the person is incredibly rude or else you didn’t speak the words, you merely thought them; in reality they never made it to your mouth.

Consider this conversation between God and Moses:

The Lord spoke to Moses saying.  “Come, speak to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and he will let the children of Israel out of his land.”   And Moses spoke before the Lord, saying, “The children of Israel did not listen to me, how then will Pharaoh listen to me, seeing that I am of uncircumcised lips?” And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and He commanded them concerning the children of Israel…
(Exodus 6:10-13)

(more…)

Banished and Vanished

January 8th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

For a while in middle school, I was friendly with a boy whose father attended school events as frequently as mine did; which is to say—never!  Ours was a natural alliance between two outsiders who turned to one another for company while other boys dallied with their dads.  His father was a doctor while mine was a rabbi.  His weary response to everyone asking about his father was, “With patients.”  Mine was, “With congregants.”

I remember wondering why lawyers, stockbrokers, and plumbers were always there at games with their sons.  How come they weren’t with clients and customers?  What was it about rabbis and doctors?  Not until later did I realize that some jobs really are more like ministries and missions.  Under normal circumstances, bookkeepers, car dealers, and social workers are home with their families for dinner.  For certain medical specialties and for clergymen, normal circumstances are helping a person in need rather than heading home because the clock says dinnertime.

Naturally, there is a price to be paid.  Nothing is for nothing, so it sometimes does happen that the children of parents who are super-dedicated to their work suffer.  It goes without saying that there are compensating benefits.  I did learn what commitment to one’s obligations means and understood the idea of having a life purpose. I respected my father immensely.

(more…)

Pressing Restart

January 1st, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

I have been known to say that Judaism is my way of life while boating is my religion. After all, some religious observances require a special litugical language, unique clothing and are practiced on certain days.  Check, check and check for boating. But even for those of you with other religions, there are many life-metaphors to be found in the wonderful world of boats. Boats and people both embark on journeys and both can reach their destinations or sink.

When a boat is in the doldrums it is in that notorious windless zone near the equator. Old-time sailing vessels were often stuck there for weeks.  When a person is listless and despondent, he is also said to be in the doldrums.  But there is one major difference. While sailboats must await changing weather, humans have the miraculous capacity to bring about change in their lives themselves. 

(more…)

A Rabbi’s Warning to Christians

December 28th, 2017 Posted by AAJC Happenings 125 comments

I am certainly not a Winston Churchill. I am not even a Jean Francois Revel. I am having enough trouble just trying to be a Lapin. But I am issuing a very serious warning about a problem with deep consequences, just as they did. It is a warning about the earliest stages of what could become a cataract of disasters if not resisted now.

During the 1930s, Winston Churchill desperately tried to persuade the English people and their government to see that Hitler meant to end their way of life. The British ignored Churchill, which gave Hitler nearly 10 years to build up his military forces. It wasn’t until Hitler actually drew blood that the British realized they had a war on their hands. It turned out to be a far longer and more destructive war than it needed to be had Churchill’s early warning been heeded.

In 1983, a brave French writer, Jean-Francois Revel, wrote a book called How Democracies Perish. In this remarkable volume, he described how communism’s aim is world conquest. For decades he had been trying to warn of communism’s very real threat. Yet in January 1982, a high State Department official said: “We Americans are not solving problems, we are the problem.” (Some things never change.) A good portion of the planet fell to communism, which brought misery and death to millions because we failed to recognize in time that others meant to harm us.

Heaven knows there was enough warning during the 1980s of the intention of part of the Islamic world to take yet another crack at world domination. Yet instead of seeing each deadly assault on our interests around the world as a test of our resolve, we ignored it. We failed the test and lost 3,000 Americans in two unforgettable hours.

I am not going to argue that what is happening now is on the same scale as the examples I cite above, but a serious war is being waged against a group of Americans. I am certain that if we lose this war, the consequences for American civilization will be dire.

Phase one of this war I describe is a propaganda blitzkrieg that is eerily reminiscent of how effectively the Goebbels propaganda machine softened up the German people for what was to come.

There is no better term than propaganda blitzkrieg to describe what has been unleashed against Christian conservatives recently.

Consider the long list of anti-Christian books that have been published in the past few years. Here are just a few samples of more than 50 similar titles, all from mainstream publishers:

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

Piety & Politics: The Right-wing Assault on Religious Freedom

Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism

Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America

Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right

What is truly alarming is that there are more of these books for sale at your local large book store warning against the perils of fervent Christianity than those warning against the perils of fervent Islam. Does anyone seriously think America is more seriously jeopardized by Christian conservatives than by Islamic zealots? I fear that many Americans believe just that in the same way that many pre-World War II Western intellectuals considered Churchill a bigger threat to peace than Hitler.

Some may say that today’s proliferation of anti-Christian print propaganda is nothing to become worried about. To them I ask two questions:

First, would you be so sanguine if the target of this loathsome library were Blacks or Jews? Just try changing the titles in some of the books I mention above to reflect racism or anti-Semitism instead of rampant anti-Christianism and you’ll see what I mean.

Second, major movements that changed the way Americans felt and acted came about through books, often only one book. Think of Rachel Carson’s 1962 error-filled Silent Spring that resulted in the pointless banning of the insecticide DDT and many unnecessary deaths. Other books that caused upheavals in our nation were Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, many of Ayn Rand’s books and of course Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

No, I would advise you not to underestimate the power of books to alter the behavior of the American public, and I fear for an America that has been influenced to detest Christianity by this hate-filled catalog.

It is not just books but popular entertainment also that beams the most lurid anti-Christian propaganda into the hearts and minds of viewers. One need only think of who the real targets of the comedic movie Borat are. The brilliant Jewish moviemaker Sacha Baron Cohen, as his title character, using borderline dishonest wiles, lures some innocent but unsophisticated country folk, obviously Christians, to join him in his outrageously anti-Semitic antics.  Cohen then triumphantly claims to have exposed anti-Semitism. In fact, he has revealed nothing other than the latent anti-Christianism of America’s social, economic and academic secular elites.  Many other movies and television productions echo this shameless anti-Christian bigotry in the name of entertainment.  Interestingly enough, their courage attacking Christian beliefs is never displayed by similarly irreverent and insulting assaults on Islam.

Even the recent PBS documentary, “Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence,” managed to do more attacking Christianity than defending Judaism.

Richard Dawkins, an Oxford University professor, is one of the generals in the anti-Christian army of the secular left. American academia treats him with reverence and hangs on his every word when he insists that “religious myths ought not to be tolerated.”

For those with a slightly more tolerant outlook, he asks, “It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children?” He suggests that the state should intervene to protect children from their parents’ religious beliefs. Needless to say, he means Christian beliefs, of course. Muslim beliefs add to England’s charmingly diverse cultural landscape.

The war is against those who regard the Bible to be God’s revelation to humanity and the Ten Commandments to be His set of rules for all time. Phase one in this war is to make Christianity, well, sort of socially unacceptable. Something only foolish, poor and ugly people could turn to.

We have seen how a carefully constructed campaign pretty much made it socially unacceptable to drink and drive. For years, there had been stringent laws against drunk driving. They achieved little. In the end, the practice was all but eliminated by groups allied with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and their effective ways of changing the way Americans thought about it.

We have seen how a carefully constructed campaign has pretty much made it socially unacceptable to smoke. In the face of a relentless campaign (dare one call it propaganda?), Americans became docile and forfeited the right to make their own decisions. Nobody was willing to stand up to the no-smoking tyrants. Nobody even asked whether health was sufficient grounds for freedom to be reduced. Now, entire cities and even states have banned smoking, not only in public places but even in privately owned restaurants.

Tyranny comes when citizens are seduced into trading freedom for the promise of safety and security.

Considerably more intellectual energy is being pumped into the propaganda campaign against Christianity than was ever delivered to the anti-smoking or anti-drunk-driving campaigns. Fervent zealots of secularism are flinging themselves into this anti-Christian war with enormous fanaticism.

If they succeed, Christianity will be driven underground, and its 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 can begin and we shall see a long night of barbarism descend on the West.

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

Which is why I, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, devoted to Jewish survival, the Torah and Israel am so terrified of American Christianity caving in.

Many of us Jews are ready to stand with you. But you must lead. You must replace your timidity with nerve and your diffidence with daring and determination. You are under attack. Now is the time to resist it.  Defense will be far harder down the road if we ignore the danger signals now.

If your heart leads you to support our work at the American Alliance of Jews and Christians, there are three more days left in 2017!  We feel that it is important to have prominent Jewish voices on the right side in the struggle for America’s future and your gift helps us recruit and train those voices.

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). You can make your tax-deductible gift by clicking HERE, or by mailing in your gift to AAJC, P.O. Box 58, Mercer Island, WA 98040 or by calling (888) 722-2441 and saying that you want to support AAJC.

Donate to AAJC today!

Not Your Average English Country Garden

December 26th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Born to a confused sixteen-year-old girl impregnated by a man she met at an English pub, virtuoso guitarist Eric Clapton didn’t have much of a wholesome family childhood.  His father vanished before he was born and he was raised by his grandmother, led to believe that his mother was his sister.  Young Eric was soon playing guitar on the streets of London while passers-by dropped coins in his hat.

Years later, in rehab for alcohol addiction after having become an international music star, Eric writes in his autobiography:

“…I was absolutely terrified, in complete despair.  At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way, and I fell to my knees.  In the privacy of my room I begged for help.  I had no notion of who I thought I was talking to, I just knew I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with.  Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help and getting down on my knees, I surrendered.  Within a few days I realized that something had happened for me.  An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there was much more to it than that.  I’d found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted or needed to believe in.  (emphasis added) From that day until this I have never failed to pray in the morning on my knees asking for help, and at night to express gratitude for my life and most of all for my sobriety. ”

Eric survived and went on to thrive because he took his soul seriously.  Treating his addiction as if it only afflicted his body wasn’t working.  Like the famed twentieth century Swiss psychiatrist who played a role in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous by recognizing that alcoholism has a spiritual dimension, Clapton involved his soul by using prayer.

(more…)

Sagittarius Surprises

December 19th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

Before dawn, Jerry Westfield and his two excited boys boarded their runabout at Ala Wai Harbor.  Stowing the fishing gear along with their lunch, Jerry yanked the cord and started the Evinrude outboard while his sons tossed the mooring lines onto the dock.

The black sky turned to cloudless cobalt as they slipped out to sea, past the enormous gray hulls of the battleships lying quietly at anchor. It was going to be a glorious day of fishing and their spirits rose along with the sun. The fish were already biting, and the glinting windows of distant Waikiki Beach hotels seemed to be applauding their prowess.  All was well until eight o’clock that morning, December 7, 1941.

To remind oneself of how quickly circumstances can deteriorate, one doesn’t need to reflect back seventy years.  A little over sixteen years ago, on a sunny Tuesday morning in September, the lives of every American changed for the worse.  Most of us can easily identify a moment in our own lives that dashed our dreams.

(more…)

X