Posts by slapin

Our daughter is dating an old man!

August 21st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Dear Rabbi & Susan, my wife and I have enjoyed watching your show on TCT for several years.  We have also appreciated reading several of your books and listening to your podcasts.

 A little background: we are a blended family; I am Jewish, and my wife is a non-denominational Christian. Neither of us have been regular attendees of any church or synagogue. We have one daughter, 41 years old, who lives a few hundred miles away; and who we see 4-5 times per year.  Sadly, we did not introduce her to either Judaism or Christianity during her upbringing, and she is now an agnostic. We love her dearly, and respect that she has made herself a self-supporting and independent woman.

 Our problem: our daughter has recently told us that she is “exclusively” dating a 62 year old man. She has apparently known him for about two months, and the exclusivity began about one month ago.  We do not believe they are living together. He has been married, and has children and grandchildren.

 Our daughter has never been married, but once had a 5-year live-in relationship; and she is childless. She recently stepped up her on-line dating, because she said she realized that the pool of eligible bachelors was getting smaller as she grew older.  This was how she met this man.

 We have not yet met her “boyfriend”, and are quite reluctant to do so until after we have first had an opportunity to visit with her alone and face-to-face.  We told her that a few days ago when she called to arrange a visit from the both of them.

 We are both having great difficulty with accepting the idea of her having an intimate relationship with a man easily old enough to be her father.  Frankly, from a photo we’ve seen, we think it’s likely he’s actually older than the 62 years he claims to be (which we understand is common with on-line dating).  My wife and I are in our early 70s, and he doesn’t look any younger than us.

 When we next visit with our dear daughter, we plan to discuss the difficulties we see, should she continue this relationship; not the least of which being the statistically-likely steep decline in health he will suffer over the next ten years.  We will try to use our best logic to overcome her apparent emotional attachment to the man. In the meantime, I’m looking at public sources to try to find out more about him.

 We are really baffled by her choice. Regardless of whatever good qualities he might possess, his age is the real issue for us.  Are we wrong to feel this way? We certainly don’t want to alienate our only daughter, who we love deeply. But we do believe we should try to discourage the relationship.

 Please give us your advice.

B.W.

Dear B.W.,

Oh dear. As painful as it is to watch our children fall off their bicycles and scrape their knees when they are little,  it is harder to watch them head for what we are certain is unhappiness when they are grown. The almost irresistible urge to protect our child doesn’t disappear at a pre-ordained birthday.

You clearly love your daughter and, just as clearly, she has been an independent adult for many years. We hope our words don’t cause you pain, but we don’t think you are in the best position to offer her advice in this situation. 

Had you asked us initially (and we say this not to hurt you but hopefully to help someone in the future) we would have suggested holding your tongues and professing happiness at her happiness until and unless you found more red flags than age.  We are saddened to have to tell you that you made a mistake in telling her that you won’t welcome her and her man in your home until you’ve spoken to her alone first. Think about how that sounds to her and you’ll understand why we say this. You are indeed fortunate that she wants you to meet someone who is becoming important in her life. At this point, after your negative reaction, she is probably less willing to share any concerns with you than she otherwise might have been.  

There are a few possible rays of sunshine. Let us play this out and see what might happen. Your daughter is a mature and sensible woman who is probably quite lonely and has made a conscious decision that she wants to be in a long-term relationship, possibly marriage. At 41, she is probably not thinking of children and she is probably very aware of common age-related health issues. Perhaps she has made a very concrete analysis and decided that this man is so wonderful that even if they only have a few good years together, she wants those few years. And as we all know, he may turn out to be the healthy one in the relationship – there are no guarantees. 

Opposing her relationship only on the basis of age tarnishes your opinion in your daughter’s eyes.  We’d have recommended you enthusiastically welcomed their visit. During that visit, you might have uncovered other flaws than age which you would have been able to discuss rationally with your daughter.  Alternatively, you might have been so impressed with him that even you would have seen the age question diminish in importance. Either way, your stance would have enhanced rather than eroded your relationship with your daughter.  

You don’t say if this man is divorced or widowed, but his children and grandchildren may be an asset in your daughter’s eyes. Maybe she sees herself being welcomed into a loving family. Not only shouldn’t  this man’s age alone automatically disqualify him, but his age may have some benefits. Again we can’t help mentioning how happy you should have been that she values your opinion enough to bring him to visit you.  A visit, we might add, which would have been awkward for the man too. Give him credit for having been willing to do you the courtesy of visiting you.

Maybe this isn’t the best outcome for your daughter. Two months is not a very long time. We imagine that her friends as well as her own awareness will lead her to assess the situation if it continues.  At age 41 she is probably not unaware of what is involved in becoming a step-mother and step-grandmother. Looking at it from his family’s point of view, it is possible they are concerned at the age gap from the other side. They might be viewing your daughter as a fortune-hunter! Yours may not be the only objections. 

If you told us that your daughter had two identical suitors except that one was fifteen years older than the other, we would agree that the older age was a liability. But she isn’t asking you for help in choosing between two men; she is letting you know that she is interested in one man. In this case, we actually see no reason that this man’s age should automatically disqualify him from getting your approval. You may still be seeing a young woman when you speak to your daughter; it sounds like she is acknowledging that she is no longer in that category. 

However this progresses, your daughter and you need to continue in a loving relationship.  Try your hardest to undo the hurt caused by telling her she’s not welcome with her friend.   If she is making a mistake, she will need your support and if she is making a rational and wise move you will want to share in her joy. 

We pray that all turns out for the best,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Our Hearts – Then Our Children’s Hearts

August 20th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

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

I actually had many thoughts I wanted to share this week but, as happened most of this summer, I have raced through the days doing so much and also not being able to do so much. Let me try to get at least one thought down.

The words, “Hear O’ Israel the Lord our God the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4),” are known as the shema and observant Jews say it multiple times a day.  It continues: “And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart.  You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lay down and when you arise.” 

A great transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom known as the Alshich notes two powerful points for parents.  The first is that if someone wants to teach someone else Torah or character development, he or she must first embody and contain those qualities.  That’s why the words first say, “upon your heart”. First, we have to make sure that God’s wisdom and the fruits of that are in our hearts.  They have to be part of us before we can pass them on. 

Once we have made God, the Bible and Scriptural behavior part of us, then they will be part of our children too.  If Torah is in our hearts, it will enter the hearts of our children.  That, explains the Alshich, is why the next verse doesn’t use the Hebrew word for teaching “v’limadtem,” in the phrase “and you should teach them.” Instead, it uses the Hebrew word, “v’shinantem.”  The root of this word is “SHiNuN” and it means something sharp like a sharp tooth.  (SHeiN is a tooth in Hebrew.) If the words of Torah are sharp like an arrow, and if they are coming from our own hearts, they will naturally pierce our children’s hearts.  The influence will be natural, piercing, and intense, because it comes from our hearts.

In other words, what excites us, excites our children.  What bores us, will also end up boring our children.  We can spend these last few days of summer developing ourselves, learning, growing, and strengthening our own connection to God and His wisdom. That alone will have a powerful effect on our children.

Dear Senator (Lindsey) Graham

August 16th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 52 comments

Dear Senator Graham,

I’m going to get right to the point. Do you remember how during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings the veil over your eyes lifted and you realized that some of your esteemed colleagues on the Democrat side of the fence were willing to use vile and underhanded methods to achieve their goal? Keeping another Trump nominee from getting on the Supreme Court was so crucial that they trampled honesty, integrity and the Constitution.

Many in the media and many in Congress have spent every day since President Trump triumphed over Hillary Clinton doing whatever they could to get him out of office. Millions of dollars have been wasted , government institutions have been badly damaged, flagons of ink have been spilled and venomous and vicious words have been hurled like grenades  trying to undo the last election. I’m not positive you and some of your long-time colleagues understand that you are as hated as the President. So are those of us  who voted for him. Some of you may wake up every day saying, “If only we had a more diplomatic president with more gravitas, this extreme hatred of conservatives and Republicans wouldn’t exist.” Please, please channel back to the Kavanaugh hearings and realize those views are mistaken.

Like you, I am appalled by wanton violence in our society and grieve at lives lost and families traumatized. However, I do not for one minute think that concern for Americans is motivating the push for more gun control measures by your esteemed colleagues on the Left. As Rahm Emmanuel famously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”  And they see an opportunity now to win the next election despite a field of candidates with unpopular and impractical ideas.

They remember as I do, that President George H.W. Bush lost his  second term in 1992 because, at the seductive urging of Democrats,  he betrayed those of us who elected him after he promised them, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” If they can get President Trump to betray his base, they hope that betrayal will also cost him a second term and lead them back into power, as well it might.

Can we do something to actually restore a culture of life and mutual respect to our society? I hope so. I even have some ideas. Part of the package might indeed have to include stronger background checks and red flag laws, albeit with full recognition of the potential dangers of such steps. However, if those are the only steps taken, then my dear Senator Graham, you will have been played. If any legislation addressing this issue does not cause as much political pain to Democrats as it does to Republicans, then this is not about making a more peaceful America. It is about undoing the last election.

All the best,

Susan Lapin

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What Is a Jewish Issue?

August 14th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind 5 comments

My husband and I have many friends and relatives who grew up in America and now make their home in Israel. Some of these people served with distinction in the American military; others contributed to the United States through their businesses or other means. All of them are grateful to the country of their birth even though they no longer live here.

On their behalf as well as on the behalf of those of us who currently call the United States home, I felt compelled to respond to the following social media post I saw.

“…I only feel sorry for family and friends who are infected with Trumphobia and blinded to recognizing that there is no current Democrat candidate who would NOT be a disaster for Israel and the Jewish People. [that should be ] The only Jewish concern.” (my bolded emphasis)

I immediately submitted my opposition to this post on social media and I wish to share that response with you. I am expanding it slightly since my reply was off the cuff and I now have more time to review it, but the gist of what I said is the same:

I’m afraid I have to disagree with your words, Mr. X. I am concerned for America and actually get annoyed when politicians think that because I am Jewish I only care about Israel and those of my own faith. I care deeply about the United States of American and her citizens, whatever their faith.

I happen to think that in today’s world what is bad for Jews and Israel is bad for America and vice-versa. If those interests ever separate, then one group will be behaving in ways that violate Biblical values. We will need to oppose whichever it is— either America’s policies or those of Israel. I don’t mean on minor disagreements which have to occur if each government cares primarily for its own citizens as it must, but I mean a real rift because one nation sides with Godly values and direction while the other doesn’t. Standing with the Jewish people always means lining up with Biblical Truth and both the United States and the State of Israel have many policies that do that and some that don’t. Standing strongly for those values is my “Jewish concern” and I am grateful to live in a country where so many Christians share that concern.

Journeys

August 12th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 1 comment

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

The Torah calls Numbers 33 through Numbers 36 by the collective name, “Journeys of.”  In these chapters, the Torah records all the journeys and encampments of Children of Israel during our 40 years in the desert.  Numbers 33:2 says, “Vayichtov Moses,” “and Moses wrote” their goings out and journeying. Then verse by verse the Torah tells us where we started to travel from and where we camped and again where we journeyed from and where we camped.  Over and over, 42 times!  We know the Torah doesn’t waste any words and we also know we don’t need these places as an exercise in mapping skills or historical geography.  It must be that we are supposed to learn something vital from this list of our journeys.

One lesson we can glean here is recognizing that it isn’t only destinations in life that are important, but the journeys are as well.  We fall into the trap of living our lives waiting for the next big accomplishment or stage; our own and our children’s. We miss treasuring the process day by day independent from when we actually reach the goal.  We wait eagerly for the time the baby will finish teething, the preschooler will be toilet trained, the teenager will wake up early on his own, and on and on.  The message for us here is the process is also valuable, not just the end product.  Enjoy the journey!  Appreciate it!  Recognize the process as being worthwhile and beneficial, apart from the hoped for future accomplishment.

Interestingly, the great transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom known as Rashi, provides an allegory to help us understand these 42 journeys. He tells a story of a king whose son was ill. Father and son traveled far away to find a cure.  On the way back the father recounted to the son each place they stayed on the way and what had happened there.  This is a message of being able to look back in time and retroactively appreciate the process that led to healing and growth. 

I’m sure we can all relate to this and look back in our own lives at our own life journey where looking back allows us to see how each step led us to where we are today.

Another great transmitter, the Ohr HaChaim, says that Moses actually had a little notebook and each time they traveled and camped he wrote down a verse describing that journey in real time.  Then when they reached Arvos Moav, God told Moses to assemble all the verses recounting the journeys and put them in one place, the section we are looking at now.  In other words, Moses recorded the journeys as they happened, place by place.  To me, this is a message of valuing and appreciating life’s journeys as they’re happening, not only looking back in time but finding the meaning in our journeys day by day, in real time.  Together, these two transmissions tell us to focus on each journey as we are on it as well as looking back and getting the bigger picture that is only available over time.

For today, let’s try to savor each stage our children are in and the stage we’re in as well.  The journey itself can be beautiful and meaningful.  This section reminds us to appreciate the process rather than just the destination.

Nothing Positive on the Horizon

August 8th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 comments

If you watched the recent  Democrat debates, you could be forgiven for thinking that the United States of America is beset by an evil and malevolent force, the National Rifle Association. Candidate after candidate spoke of the NRA as a dark and sinister organization responsible for violence and death. 

In the week after the debates, two tragic mass shootings, not to mention other “regular” gun deaths, spotlighted these remarks. As I write these words, my membership renewal notice from the NRA is on my desk.

I’d like to explain why I intend extending my membership. Of course, there is no amorphous blob “THE NRA.” It is a membership organization that represents millions of Americans. We are hunters and non-hunters, old and young, male and female, and made up of individuals belonging to many religions, colors, ethnicities and backgrounds. 

Here’s the salient point: Leftist media and the Democrat candidates on those stages present a picture of  a spectrum with kind, loving people who intelligently support gun control on one end. In this mistaken view, the opposing side must be made up of cruel, hateful and stupid people who support the NRA.  (Alternatively, and since casting millions of Americans as Deplorable didn’t seem to work so well last election cycle, they present the NRA as if it has a life of its own, rather like Athena who sprouted full-grown from Zeus’ head.) 

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Talking Down to Me

August 7th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 5 comments

My friend Chana Jenny often writes about lessons she absorbs from things that happen in her daily life. I enjoy reading her inspiring posts and when I read the following one, I asked her if I could share it with you. She graciously agreed. I hope its message of monitoring how we speak to ourselves uplifts you as it did me.

Yesterday, at 4:29 I got a text message from my kids’ speech therapist asking why we hadn’t shown up for our 4 and 4:30 appointments.

What 4 and 4:30 appointments?!

Yes, I did remember setting up appointments. But for some reason, they weren’t on my calendar.

The speech therapist was rightfully upset. Her schedule was full, she would have seen other clients if she’d known we weren’t coming. And, since we were her final appointments of the day, she ended up waiting around when she could have already been on her way home.

So I went back and looked at my calendar, and figured out what had happened. A few weeks ago I had moved our appointments from an earlier day to yesterday so my two kids could go together. And later on, looking at the calendar while I was distracted on the phone, I had seen yesterday’s appointment and thought (with 1/8 of my distracted brain) that the new appointment was the one I’d canceled, so I crossed it out.

Anyway, you can imagine how I felt, and the kind of mental self-flagellation that ensued.

“How could you have missed 2 appointments? Why did you cross out that appointment! What a scatter-brain you are! Hopelessly disorganized!”

And then the phone rang again. It was the speech therapist’s secretary. Calling to give me a piece of her mind.

Which led to more: Scatter-brained! Disorganized! Hopeless…

And then I caught myself.

And remembered one of my all-time favorite workshops with one of my favorite rabbis called: “The Belief Notebook,” in which every day we would write down a false belief we were having that had been triggered by a certain event. And then we would write down a true belief regarding the upsetting event to replace the false one.

During the workshop, I spent several months responding to my false beliefs with true beliefs morning after morning. And it made a huge difference, reducing my daily self-flagellation dramatically.

So this is what I did yesterday.

I thought of my disempowering false belief: “I am hopelessly scatter-brained and disorganized.”

And I thought of the trigger: Not taking my kids to their speech therapist appointments.

And I thought of a true belief: I am almost always on top of appointments. I show up more or less on time, and cancel at least 24 hours before if I can’t make it. But occasionally, as a person juggling a lot of schedules and information, there are mess-ups.

Ahh, that felt much better. True beliefs generally do.

Over the next few hours, I felt the false belief (“scatterbrain!”) bubbling up within me. But with a firm hand I replaced it with the true belief (You’re not scatterbrained, you’re just human).

Anyway, I wanted to share that with you, for the next time you start thinking stuff about you that isn’t true 😀.

Smile – Your Parents are Watching

August 4th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 4 comments

Sometimes, the connection between my childhood and that of my children and their children seems as if it should span hundreds of years rather than decades. That is certainly how I felt reading an article guiding parents who are considering allowing  the use of facial recognition technology by their children’s camps. After all, who wants to scroll through dozens of pictures of other people’s children in order to find pictures of one’s own offspring? The technology would allow parents to immediately zoom in on their child as the counselors and administrators document activities throughout the day.

To be sure, as the article mentions, there are privacy concerns. Will others have access to the pictures, what if they are stolen, etc., etc. I want to raise a different concern. Do our children really need us looking in at every moment of their lives? Maybe, any pictures at all beyond the official bunk shot are actually an intrusion that we should reject.

In the quaint, ancient times in which I went to camp, our lives there were separate from our lives at home. Once or twice a week, camps demanded postcards or letters to our parents as the price of admission to dinner. Some kids wrote one sentence, others wrote missives. We did not have to worry that our disappointment at being the last one picked for softball or our elation at winning color war would belong to anyone other than ourselves. Camp was a place where we could break out of molds, explore new interests and flex our personalities. It was a medium of growth partially because only we chose what to share with our parents. Did a “non-sports” kid spend extra time shooting baskets? Did a quiet dreamer try out for the play? Maybe the picky eater devoured everything in sight when no other options were available and fresh air and exercise stimulated her appetite. No one was going to ask us about inconsistencies with year-round behavior.

We read of parents calling college professors and even bosses to advocate for their children. We read of twenty-somethings unable to transition to adulthood. We see how many people live their lives with an eye to how they look on social media rather than on who they are. There are all sorts of technical concerns with using face-recognition technology, especially as it relates to children. Yet, it might still be damaging even if it is 100% secure.

  

Guest Musing: Could Refraining from a Physical Relationship Cause Harm?

August 1st, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 37 comments

I was sorry to read about Josh Harris’ impending divorce and his move away from Christianity. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, in 1997, as a young man, Josh wrote an influential book about courtship called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He then served as a pastor for many years. Every divorce is sad (even when necessary) and when children are involved this is even more so. Similarly, it is disturbing to hear about anyone moving away from a relationship with a faith that has so much to offer.

I thought that there was a great deal of insight in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, though over the years I have heard pushback against it. Josh Harris even repudiated his own writing. As I see it, people can twist any idea, taking it to an extreme or misusing it. That doesn’t necessarily make the original idea valueless.

My husband and I were proud, a few years back, to publish a book by Jerusalem-based relationship expert, Gila Manolson. Her book explored the physiological and psychological effects of touch and why and how prematurely introducing touch into a relationship can be a mistake. I asked Gila to comment on the response of those who married before sleeping together or possibly even kissing (most unusual in our day) and then, when their marriages did not work out as planned, claimed that they would have done better had they, indeed, shared a physical relationship before their wedding night. What follows is her response.

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Shhh! It’s Private

July 28th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

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

Numbers 24 contains the blessings that the prophet Bilam said to the Jewish nation when he was hired by King Balak for the opposite purpose.  Perhaps the most famous line of all of his prophecies is one that Jews say as part of each morning’s prayers, “Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov mishkenosecha Yisrael.” “How good are your tents, Jacob; your dwelling places, Israel.” 

Rashi, one of the great transmitters of ancient Jewish wisdom, explains that the goodness of the Jewish people’s tents is that they were arranged so that the doorways of the tents were not facing each other.  No family could look through their tent entrance and see into another family’s home. Even though a camp of over a million people may seem to be a place where privacy is lost, the Jewish camp was deliberately structured to create and protect privacy.

There is so much I want to say on this and so much for each of us to think about!  For today, I’d like to focus on the value of creating and protecting privacy for each family.  We live in an age where on all levels, privacy is being lost.  Basic assumptions that we used to have of what was protected and private information are overturned as so much information is now public and easily accessible.  Since the culture is so overwhelmingly one that does not protect privacy, I believe we, as mothers, need to be proactive in teaching our children the Biblical value of privacy, and not just assume they will pick it up or understand it on its own.

For example, I live on a block with many wonderful families and many, many precious children.  Fairly frequently an emergency vehicle is called to our block.  The innocent natural inclination of children is to stand around in groups watching. What child isn’t fascinated by fire engines and ambulances?  In order to teach my children privacy I make a point of calling my children inside when an emergency vehicle is outside and we close our window blinds.  They know that at that moment we aren’t able to help the family that called for assistance, but we can give them the dignity of privacy. We can proactively choose to not look.  I feel strongly that this is important for me to teach my children.

Similarly, when I get off the phone there is often at least one child who asks, “Who was that?”  You would think they would learn by now that I don’t answer that question!  I say, “It was someone calling to talk to me, not you, so I’m not going to give out their name.”  I’m not trying to hoard information or act as if I’m not being open with them, rather I am teaching that privacy is important and if there isn’t a need to share someone else’s information, I won’t do so.

I believe that the message my children also receive is that just as I’m protecting other people’s privacy, so too I will do that for them as well.  I hope it’s understood that I won’t read their diaries, listen in on their calls, or enter their rooms without knocking.  Privacy is important!  (Just so you know, as far as computers in my home we stress that nothing that happens on a computer is private.  Anybody can access it even if you think it is secure, and we do monitor our children’s computer usage, openly telling them that we are doing so.)

As always, and I haven’t said this in a long time so new readers may not know how I feel: I can only share with you what works for me and my family, I don’t believe that I or anyone else can tell you what you should do with your family.  God gave each of us the wisdom and insight to know what is best for our families and please don’t take anything I share as anything more than what works for me.  As always, my hope is that you will listen with an open mind and then apply these thoughts in a unique way for your family.  Privacy is an important Jewish value, and I believe we can all think about how we teach it and model it in our homes, but your ways may be different from mine and that’s terrific!

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