The Atheist and the Rebbetzin Should Be Friends

April 20th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma, features a song that allows for a rollicking dance sequence even if it doesn’t do much for the plot. The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends  is a social commentary on the tension between ranchers and farmers in the early 1900s in Oklahoma Territory. The closing lines (after Aunt Eller stops the fighting by brandishing her gun), are:

“I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else,
But I’ll be danged if I ain’t just as good!”

I think it safe to say that well-known atheist Sam Harris and I (Rebbetzin means Rabbi’s wife) disagree on whether traditional Judeo-Christian morals and values are good for society or not. I think we agree, however, on allowing those with whom we disagree to present their case and the need to recognize that holding an opposing opinion does not automatically make one evil. In fact, having rational and respectful conversation is a wonderful way to refine one’s arguments, recognize flaws in one’s logic and potentially sway opinions. If you believe that your ideas have merit, there is no reason to fear such an exchange.

I know that Mr. Harris holds these views because my husband and I were in the car for an extended time this week giving us the opportunity to listen to a fascinating podcast. As a guest on the podcast Harris expresses serious concern about a society that is quick to marginalize and demonize ideas that don’t match the reigning ideology even when those ideas are based in science and fact. For that matter, in the desperate desire to shut them down, opposing ideas aren’t even necessarily presented accurately. He is one in a growing line of thoughtful liberals, including Professor Alan Dershowitz, who are waking up to discover that the ‘new and improved’ world they participated in creating, is dangerously retrogressive.

I hesitate to recommend listening to the interview which was episode #1107 on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast only because the host seems to have a limited vocabulary that repetitively features one vulgarity. The good news is that he allows his guests, Sam Harris and  Maajid Nawaz to do most of the talking. They are articulate men with fascinating experiences and while I know there are many areas where we disagree, we share a deep concern for the dogmatic silencing of dialogue taking place in the Western world today. An alliance between conservatives and the increasingly rare traditionally open-minded and thoughtful liberal is a friendship worth cultivating.

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Are men serious when they say this?

April 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

I am a 56 year-old woman who has never been married. I have recently decided that I would like to find a man and get married even in this later time of life. This surprises me because it was never really one of my goals to get married, but I have realized that I do not want to be alone for the rest of my life.

My question is this: I have signed up for a couple of dating websites. I also go on dates with people that I am introduced to from other people but I find this same issue that I am emailing you about.

What I have noticed with a lot of men around my age is they say they are looking for and still have not found “the one.”  I am surprised that I am running into this as these are men that should know by now that there is really no “one person” for another. I will acknowledge there are instances where someone finds their so-called “soulmate,” but I believe these instances are few and far between. But these men seem to think that they will find the one even this late in life and expect fireworks, etc. when they meet someone and life will be just all hunky-dory when they meet this special person.

In my opinion, they are acting like teenage girls.  What are your thoughts on this whole finding “the one” to marry? And how do I reconcile this in my head?  Do I just not even consider getting to know men who have this notion because truthfully I doubt if I would be “the one?”

Sincerely,

Julie G.

P.S. I realize now that I should not have waited so long to find a mate.

Dear Julie,

Your sentence, “In my opinion, they are acting like teenage girls,” gave us a chuckle though we realize that this isn’t a laughing matter. You are, of course, correct in recognizing that waiting for “the one” is a good recipe for staying single.

However, we would take a man’s statement about “the one” to be an opening comment rather than considering it a closing argument.  For instance, instead of dismissing the man who claims to be ‘waiting for the One’ perhaps instead keep the conversation going by saying, “I also used to think marriages are made by waiting for the one, but I have since learned that time is better spent trying to become the One.” 

If this waiting for the One is not coming up in conversation, but instead it crops up on an online questionnaire or in the first few minutes of meeting someone, we think it just might be an easy quip that could precede a deeper conversation.  (If it’s online, it could also be the easiest and best box to check even if it doesn’t actually describe someone’s thoughts.) We agree that spending a lot of time with a man who is waiting for fireworks and a symphony orchestra is a waste of time, but we would at least give time for a cup of coffee before deciding that this truly describes that particular individual’s  worldview.

In your lovely letter, you disclosed why you are now contemplating marriage; you don’t want to be alone for the rest of your life.  And presumably, you seek a man who also doesn’t want to be alone.  While the desire to avoid loneliness is a necessary precondition for marriage—even God said, “Not good for man to be alone”—it is not sufficient. 

Not being alone because you have a husband solves your need but in a very passive way.  Similarly, you solve his need but just by being.  Our question to you is what are you eager to do actively for someone else other than just being there.  In other words, we think your goal of changing your marital status could be more quickly achieved by contemplating what else would you be committed to adding to a man’s life.  Focusing on what you would give rather than on what you would take often propels the courting process into overdrive.  Another way of looking at it is asking yourself why a great man would be incredibly fortunate to be married to you.

We would also like you to ask yourself whether you are a very results-oriented and driven individual which may be causing you to come across as using too much of a businesslike approach to dating. We are all in favor of dating seriously (we prefer the term courting) however meeting someone with whom to share a life should not be confused with a job interview. 

We would encourage you to have a balance between wariness that keeps you emotionally safe and being too quick to close yourself to options. By the time anyone is in his or her late 50s there is a great deal of history that has led to formation of character. It takes time to begin to reveal oneself.

We hope you would consider becoming a resource for younger women in helping them understand the value of marriage earlier than you did.  Perhaps offer some lectures or classes on the topic at your church or community center.  Quite possibly one of those younger women you help might introduce you to your future husband.  Our guidance here is based on the ancient Jewish principle that again and again we see that people who help others solve a certain problem find their own problems being resolved.

We are actually a bit surprised that only in your 50s are you thinking that marriage has something to recommend it and wonder what led to that way of thinking. We are sure we are not the only ones who would be fascinated to hear you speak on this topic while you reveal yourself and your thought processes in a personal and practical way.

We look forward to your sharing good news with us,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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The When and Where Matter

April 17th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

This evening, Tuesday April 17, Susan and I are doing a live TV show in Akron, OH before a studio audience.  Among other teaching, we will accept questions from people in the audience to which we shall respond by employing principles of ancient Jewish wisdom.  This is what we do with our Ask the Rabbi feature that appears on our website each week. Except that tomorrow evening, we shall see the people asking and get to meet them after the one-hour show is done.

Imagine someone in the audience asking, “Rabbi, I want to get a divorce, but my wife who is here with me is really hurt and wants us to work on our marriage; what should we do?”  There is, of course, no way to respond helpfully to all the pain oozing out of that question in the few minutes available in the show format.  I know that both Susan and I would view it as a really inappropriate question to ask in a public forum.

A lawyer friend told me that, more times than he would have expected, he would be celebrating a family birthday at a restaurant when a client would approach him saying, “I know you’re in the middle of dinner, but…”  What would follow would be some technical issue that could have and should have been addressed in an office environment. 

As you roll down the track of life, with the exception of the very rare serendipitous incident, most positive events that improve your life occur only when you make them happen.  In almost all cases, that means interacting with another person and coming to some agreement.  It might mean a man persuading a woman to go out with him on a date.  It might mean two business professionals agreeing upon a mutually profitable transaction.  It might be a student getting a university admissions office to accept her application.  In most instances, one of the people is the ‘seller’, the ‘supplicant’ or the ‘proposer’ while the other agrees or declines.  Selecting the most propitious circumstances for the meeting is part of success strategy.   Choosing the right place and the right time to discuss something with someone is an imperative.  Yet so many seem oblivious. 

Take a lesson from Jacob who had a very sensitive discussion looming with his estranged brother Esau.  Jacob had received the blessing (Genesis 27:27) from Isaac which, he, Jacob, had purchased from Esau years earlier.  (Genesis 25:33).  Esau was furious and swore to murder his brother.  Jacob escaped into exile spending 20 years with his uncle Laban whose daughters he married. 

Now, returning home, Jacob dispatched messengers bearing gifts to his brother Esau.

Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau,
to the land of Seir, the field of Edom.
(Genesis 32:4)

The obvious question that we are expected to ask is why Jacob sent messengers to intercept Esau during one of the latter’s visits to Seir? After all, it wasn’t until much later (Genesis 36:6) that Esau left Canaan and relocated to Seir. At this point in the narrative, Jacob could still have arranged his encounter with Esau in Canaan where they both lived.

To answer this question we need to remember that one of Esau’s wives was Oholibama (Genesis 36:2) who was from Seir and whose father, Anah, was a prince of Seir (Genesis 36:20).   Now we understand; Esau was visiting Seir with his wife for a family get together.

Jacob carefully planned his rapprochement with his brother.  What he wanted to convey in this long-awaited meeting was, “Look, family matters. We are connected as brothers and we need to live that way.”  Jacob had two choices about the most propitious location in which to bring up this sensitive family matter.  He could approach Esau at his home base in Canaan which was exactly where the original trouble that split them took place.  Alternatively, he could approach Esau while he was far from his office, focusing on family in far-off Seir.  Clearly that was the better choice.  Since the meeting went as hoped and the enmity was put aside, we can see that Jacob strategized well. 

When and where we schedule important meetings matters.  The obvious may not always be the best choice.  It nearly always warrants some strategizing.

Practical lessons like this spring from the Torah, God’s blueprint for our life. We package five of our audio CDs that reveal many of these tips and techniques in what we call the Biblical Blueprint Set. It is on sale right now allowing you to spend a few enjoyable hours absorbing wisdom you can absorb and apply.

And if you’d like to join our studio audience tonight and ask your own appropriate question, we’d love to see you.  Just contact our office (crystol@rabbidaniellapin.com) now for free tickets. 

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Yet We Live

April 12th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

As human beings, we struggle to know ourselves; no matter how close we are to someone it is impossible to completely know another person. This is particularly true for our parents.

When my friend, Naomi*, was sitting shiva (the Jewish week of mourning) for her mother, she discovered some flabbergasting news. Naomi’s father was her mother’s second husband. Not only had she been previously married, but she and her first husband had two children. That husband and those children were murdered by the Nazis.

Naomi had known that her mother was in a concentration camp, though her mother never spoke of those years. She knew that her parents met in a DP camp; she knew that she and her older siblings, named for slaughtered grandparents, were born after her parents reached America’s blessed shores. But she never imagined that her mother’s life had included a previous young family. This information explained so much. She now could see her mother’s hyper-vigilance combined with a certain emotional gruffness not as personality quirks but as the tortured expression of inestimable pain.

I was unusual among my classmates in having four living grandparents. In addition,  all four of my grandparents were in America from before World War I. My parents were born and grew up in New York City. My father even had grandparents and great-grandparents of his own living nearby. Since my grandparents never spoke of their murdered parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, I had infinitely less personal exposure to the Holocaust than my schoolmates who sometimes listened to their parents’ midnight screams as nightmares took them back to unbearable days.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want to share an uplifting, optimistic and soul-affecting video with you. Before I do, here is an introduction.

Last week, at the Passover Seder, many Jewish families like ours said the following words in Hebrew, “For in every generation they stand over us to annihilate us and the Holy One Blessed Be He, saves us from their hands.” This is often sung to an upbeat tune, which is rather odd when you think of the first part of the sentence. My friends’ parents also sang this, yet each one mourned way too many loved ones who weren’t saved. Why didn’t they reject this statement as untrue?

The verse refers to the Jewish people as a complete organism. As long as there is one Jew left to sing these words, it is a true testimony. And yes, as a people with a long history, there are many horrific examples of slaughter, yet by God’s grace we are still here.

This post-Passover time of year is associated with Rabbi Akiva, whose famous statement, “What is hateful to you do not do to others,” has become a universal credo. Rabbi Akiva was the premier teacher of his generation at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. He watched 24,000 of his students die in a plague. What did he do after such a devastating event? He chose five men and began teaching them so that the future would be assured.

As a child, I didn’t understand the greatness of those who suffered and saw their lives trampled and yet who picked themselves up and chose to have new children and new lives. Only a few survive today from that generation. Yet as this video (with English translation) shows, religious or not, learned or not, the overwhelming majority of the survivors followed in Rabbi Akiba’s footsteps. What an inspiring lesson this is for us.

*Naomi is not her real name. She is a composite of a number of my friends.

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Finding The Off Switch: Four Reasons I Observe Shabbat

April 10th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind 1 comment

This terrific piece by Peter Himmelman appeared in Forbes. Peter is a musician and businessman and also the son-in-law of Bob Dylan the musical icon of the 60s:

“With the pace of technology and its demand for our attention increasing month-to-month, comes the challenge of occasionally leaving it behind. I’ve found some answers in my over thirty-year observance of Shabbat, (the Jewish Sabbath), a time when the use of technology is prohibited. While I don’t believe that the strict tenets of this observance are appropriate for all people, I am strongly convinced that many of its ideas would be helpful if they were incorporated on some level.

Technically speaking, there are thirty-nine types of labor that are prohibited on Shabbat. They include things like using money, making fire, planting, carrying things from a public to a private domain, sewing, cooking, fastening two things together, and writing. Over time, each of the thirty-nine prohibitions was extrapolated on to prohibit the use of things that weren’t in existence at the time these laws were instituted. Some examples include driving a car, which runs on a combustion engine and is a violation of the prohibition against the use of fire; and using electronics of any sort, which demands a completed circuit and is a violation of the principle of joining two things together. This last prohibition effectively renders all cell phones, computers, and televisions completely off-limits during the twenty-five hours of Shabbat.

I was recently involved in a creativity symposium in San Francisco. Among the speakers was a former senior editor at a well-known technology publication with whom I had a chance to speak about the idea of stepping back from technology, and how the rituals of Shabbat echoed a very important, if often missing, dimension of technology: our ability to shut it off. Not just to shut it off once a year, or for a few moments throughout a day, but by a regular, systematized means. He observed that the ritual of Shabbat seemed to point not to some ancient and irrelevant past, but to a decidedly postmodern view of our integration with technology.

When people talk about some thing or some idea they feel is outmoded I’ll frequently hear them say, “Seriously, it’s 2018…” (Or whatever year it happens to be.) It’s often assumed that we live in a “modern age” and that things that are not modern, such as a 3,300 year-old Jewish ritual like Shabbat observance, should be discarded, or worse, placed in the same hermetically sealed box one puts all things anachronistic; things worthy of occasional review as cultural curiosities, but certainly not as something to take seriously. Even as a kid I never could help feeling there was a flaw in this kind of thinking. Sure, technology has sped up the pace of our lives, but in terms of real change, there’s been no difference made at all in everyday human experience, in spite of all our so-called advances.

Take the delivery systems of music for example. First, there was the piano roll, then the clunky 78 played on the old Victrola, followed by the 33 and a third LP, the 45 single, the eight track, the cassette, the CD, the DAT, and most recently, digital streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. Interestingly, none of these music delivery systems, no matter how sophisticated, has changed the visceral effect of music on the human spirit. At no time did any technology ever feel old-fashioned either. We never laughed at the eight-track when it came out; it wasn’t quaint, it was cutting edge. The idea of having your own music in your car at the touch of a button was revolutionary.

People also felt they were living in the modern age in 1716, and in 1116, and also in 116 BCE. They felt this way because nothing has fundamentally changed. Fathers love their daughters the same today as they did in the past, the sun was bright back in 1916 too, and it burned your eyes if you stared at it too long. The touch of a loving hand on the skin of a person in 1416 felt identical to the way it feels on your skin in 2018. The worried face of the moon still looks the same, and a cold November wind on your neck feels just like it did since time immemorial.

To say that something as central as the regulated cessation of creative effort —which is in essence, what Shabbat is about—so that one can focus on what has already been achieved, is somehow old fashion, is to miss the point. Shabbat is by nature, timeless. It cuts to the essence of what so many of us lack: a regularly recurring time of reflection.

Any good composer or painter knows that as important as it is to be immersed in the sound of the symphony he or she is working on, or to be engrossed in the images he or she is setting down on canvas, it is equally important to step away from one’s creative work and to observe with clarity and renewed objectivity just what it is that has been created. Shabbat brings with it an opportunity to step away and better see life, not as a series of compartmentalized actions, but as a unified whole. Here are a few ways the tenants of Shabbat can help you in your life.

Improve creative thinking

It’s an axiom, of physics that two things cannot occupy the same space. And just as this applies to things, it also applies to ideas. To be at our creative best we need to make an empty space through the cessation of our creative endeavors. Only by stopping our constant output can new inspirations take hold.

Slow down life’s hectic pace

As we learn to breathe more slowly in the practice of meditation, adopting the rhythms of Shabbat-time into our lives has the same beneficial tendency. To many people the world feels chaotic, out of control. Too often it seems, we are guided by demands and situations, rather than by our own volition. Shabbat is the bedrock in time that cannot be moved aside for anything other than life-threatening situations.

Improve relationships

When I got my first recording contract in 1986, I decided I would work to protect my most valuable resource. It wasn’t artistic control over what songs to record, or the power to decide what my record jackets would look like —my most valuable resource was my time.

I made it known that I would not perform on Shabbat no matter what the reason. It wasn’t as if my convictions weren’t tested. There were slots on The Tonight Show that I turned down, opportunities to be the opening act for top artists like Sting, that I waived away —all because these prospects, while good for my career, would have violated my observance of Shabbat, and as a consequence my understanding of time as something precious, something that belonged to me (and later, to my family) alone.

Shabbat is time away from iPhones and computers and errands and shopping and every conceivable distraction. We humans hunger to be heard, to be seen, and to be known, but we suffer from a paucity of attention-giving and attention-getting. Just as it’s impossible to make music without an instrument, it is impossible to create thriving relationships without making space and time for them to flourish.

Gain a more mature life perspective

As children we couldn’t help but be burdened by our unfulfilled desires. We wanted the things we wanted —immediately. Waiting for any length of time just wouldn’t do. Our immature minds were not yet sophisticated enough to realize that staving off a momentary pleasure for a longer-term gain would, in the end, bring us far more pleasure. Shabbat is about honing our sense of gratitude.

Most of us work to make a living and strive to achieve the things we desire, but we also need to feel as if we’ve come home again, come back to some midpoint. By regularly postponing our manic ascent up an assumed ladder of success, we come to see life from a broader, richer perspective.

By first finding, and then being brave enough to use the “off-switch,” we gain the sweet, and all too rare sense, of having finally arrived at our destination.”

My husband is holding me back

April 10th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

We have an opportunity to increase our family income by double. We currently make about 40K a year between my husband and I.

I was accepted into a one year program that would give me the skills and connections to make between 50-80k a year myself excluding my husbands income. We would have to move about 500 miles away from our families and where we were both born but only for a year and then we could decide where to go after that.

My husband doesn’t want me to accept. He isn’t one for change and hates California, he doesn’t want to live there even for a year… I want to honor him and I understand that making more than him could cause some strain on our marriage… am I wrong for wanting this? I’m trying not to be bitter… but I’ve always been a bit ambitious and the idea of turning this opportunity down has caused me some internal struggle.

Cynthia S. 

Dear Cynthia,

You sound like a sincere and sensitive woman who is trying her hardest to cope with a difficult challenge.  Our usual disclaimer applies even more to you and your dilemma:  Since we don’t know any of our ‘Ask the Rabbi’ letter-writers personally we can hope only to raise discussion points that will be helpful along with perhaps a few considerations that you may not have yet contemplated.  We also have great confidence in our readers and know that they often contribute valuable comments.  We always read them with great interest.

You clearly recognize many of the valid concerns involved, including some that conflict with one another. You are aware of the need to respect your husband and of the potential threat to your marriage that earning more than he does can impose. You are also aware of the importance of every individual, man or woman, making the most of his or her talents, abilities and opportunities.

A number of things are unclear from your letter.  You mention that between you both, you earn $40K.  Is that half each?  Or is it mostly your husband’s earnings or mostly yours?  A joint income of $40,000 doesn’t go very far these days, yet you don’t suggest that you are struggling. Is your husband on a path to higher earnings or is he content with things as they are?  Do you feel that you are more ambitious than he is?

You don’t mention children. Are you young newlyweds, an older couple without children or in some other category? Is your husband’s reluctance to move related to family issues (perhaps an ill parent) or simply a matter of personal preference?

Was your husband aware of and supportive of you applying to this program in the first place, or does he feel blindsided by you having been accepted? Do you feel that his objection is based mostly on geography or do you feel that he is also reluctant to see your earnings increase?  What is the basis of your relationship and what attracted you to each other? All of these are important questions to explore.

One more matter to establish is the legitimacy of the program itself.  How much will this program cost you?  Are you really sure that it will trampoline you to earnings of between $50K and $80K a year?  We don’t want to sound negative but our antennae were set jangling a bit by the term you employed in describing the benefits of the program, “skills and connections.”  Let us urge you to be very certain about this program.  You see, Cynthia, we just don’t know any educational programs that in only one year can qualify you for a job paying quite so much.  If it is indeed on the up-and-up, it must have a very long waiting list of eager applicants; in which case you are indeed fortunate. But if it is not, then all the other questions raised are irrelevant. 

Once you have satisfied yourself and your husband that this is a truly viable course of action, you have to arrive at a decision.  Like so many other questions that arise in married life how you arrive at a decision is far more important than the decision you reach.  The process of discussion that brings you to a decision can either grow your marital relationship or harm it. There isn’t a global right or wrong answer, only one that will be right or wrong for the two of you at this time in your marriage. You would both need to have Solomonic wisdom to handle the necessary discussions between yourselves alone. This is one of those times that we would certainly advise you to consult wise counsel. The catch, of course, is that the person whom you consult needs not to have an agenda of his or her own. That is harder to find today but it is crucial.  You should seek someone who can help the two of you understand and value each other and your relationship to a greater degree as you move toward a mutually acceptable decision. 

We wish you a bright, fulfilling, and prosperous future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Predictably Offensive

April 9th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 24 comments

If you pass by a lady who is  standing on a busy sidewalk and staring upwards, it probably doesn’t mean much. She might be stretching her neck or watching a butterfly.  If you pass by a crowd of twenty people all avidly gazing upwards, it probably means that something is happening up there.

If one person invests in a crypto-currency it’s hardly worth noting, but if ten thousand do it’s a trend that should be understood.  If three or four companies depart a high-tax state for one in which taxes are low, politicians might ignore it.  But if hundreds move each year, it would be sheer folly for state leaders to ignore the trend. 

If every individual picked his own profanity, swear word, or obscenity, there’d be little to discuss.  But if millions of speakers over many centuries confine their verbal vulgarities to mostly three categories, discovering why could be valuable.  It turns out that almost all dirty dialect and putrid patter revolve around the bathroom function of defecation, the sexual function of copulation, and God.  I discuss a number of reasons for this in my audio CD on the topic, but I’d like to look at an additional explanation.

Looking first at excremental eloquence, why this particular form of human waste?  Why don’t people say, “He needs the ear-wax beaten out of him”? Or, how about, “That air turbulence scared the saliva out of the pilot”?  Or why not, “That politician is talking such nasal mucus”?  I have never heard any driver say, “Oh urine! I took a wrong turn!”  Of all human body waste, why does only excrement enjoy such common usage in ordinary conversation today?

Similarly, of all the many activities in which humans regularly engage, why is a succinct synonym for sexual intercourse so widely used as an expletive?  This is so common that it is the rare Hollywood film that doesn’t bombard the ear with a fusillade of f-words. 

Lastly, why does God feature so prominently in curses and insults?  The fastidious Frasier Crane of the eponymous NBC sitcom, Frasier, would, in his frustration, frequently exclaim, “For the love of God!”.  Why not, “For the love of rice” or “For the love of Jupiter”?  Even those who insist He doesn’t exist can’t seem to stop themselves from using His name.

Civilization is nurtured by maintaining a distinction between public and private.  That distinction helps sustain human dignity.  For the most part, animals do not distinguish between public and private; only humans do.  Society can survive a certain amount of wrong-doing in private but as soon as the reprehensible and destructive conduct becomes widely practiced in public, all is lost.  Private homosexual behavior has always existed and was often tolerated but moving it into the public arena and clamoring for its public acceptance during the last years of the twentieth century changed everything.  What people do in private impacts only themselves.  But doing it in public encourages others and gradually obliterates standards.

While people prefer privacy for urination, or for that matter, cleaning their ears or picking their noses, when it comes to defecation they tend to insist upon it.  Similarly, even passionate kissing in public usually evokes unease in bystanders; certainly, more intense sexual interplay calls for privacy. When I speak to God and ask His help in overcoming my failings it is a private interaction. When God speaks to me He indicates what He expects of me. If I were to tell others that God told me what they should do or not do, they would rightly feel some discomfort. Though we worship in congregations, we each cherish our own personal relationship with God and like any intimate relationship, its most important aspects are private.

Using these three private areas of human life as squalid conversational expletives helps to erase the distinction between public and private and makes the speaker feel bold and brave.  He deludes himself that he is a heroic revolutionary tearing down artificial barriers to open and honest communication.  The reality is that he is merely coarsening the culture and eroding the underpinnings of civilization.

Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak is one of our best-selling audio CDs. I am gratified that so many have found it incredibly useful in their own lives as well as raising awareness of the role of profanity in destroying our society. We are highlighting the download at half-price and the physical version at 30% off this week.

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Each Generation We Must See Ourselves

April 4th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 25 comments

We are in the midst of Passover and I am delighted to be sharing the festival with so many children and grandchildren.  At the same time, that means that my computer and I haven’t seen a great deal of each other this week. My head is full of menus and cooking timetables, leaving little room for pondering current world affairs. One main focus of Passover, however, is realizing that without continually keeping an eye on the past, present and future, humans are prone to mess up. With this in mind, I’d like to share a Musing from April, 2012 that is no less relevant today.

 

“In each generation every person must view themselves as if they left Egypt.” A few nights ago, Jews around the world recited a sentence expressing this thought at the Passover Seder. Shortly before the holiday started, my son, Ari, saw one aspect of this idea come to life.

I think most of us picture ourselves on the right side of history. Had we lived in different times and places surely we would have stood with the abolitionists rather than the slave-owners; would have joined the Resistance rather than the Nazi Party; and would have opposed Stalin rather than embracing him. We more easily picture ourselves following Moses through the sea rather than ignoring him and the God he represented.  But the majority of Jews did not leave Egypt. Eighty percent chose loyalty to Pharaoh and the status quo.  Bad choice.

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How did Moses know he was an Israelite?

April 3rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

Hello,

First I would like to say that I watch your show every morning and I absolutely love it. Thank you so much for what you are doing. I have learned so much!

Now for my question, how did Moses know he wasn’t Egyptian and that he was an Israelite? It’s driving me crazy. Am I missing it in scripture or is the answer found in ancient Jewish wisdom?  Thanks for reading.

Respectfully,

Cynthia A.
Boston, Virginia

Dear Cynthia,

We are delighted that you watch our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show on TCT. We are also delighted with your question! It is a wonderful question that shows a willingness to seek beyond the surface of Scripture and explore it with mature eyes.

We suggest you can find the beginning of an answer in Scripture, by looking in Exodus and in Chronicles, with ancient Jewish wisdom filling in the blanks. In Exodus 2:6 we see that Pharaoh’s daughter knew that the baby she drew from the water was a Hebrew. She even looked for a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby! In 1 Chronicles 4:18,  we find a woman named Bit-Ya, daughter of Pharaoh. The name Bit-Ya translates as “daughter of God,” and ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that God called her by that name saying, “You called Moses your son though he was not; I will call you my daughter though you are not.”

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Trapped at the Sea, tra la la

April 2nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 13 comments

Guests constantly visit my study and though I talk to them, sometimes quite loudly, they are strangely invisible to everyone else. One frequent visitor is my father. His presence helps me prepare speeches. When the ideas flow too slowly or I find myself struggling to memorize a difficult paragraph, I invite him in.  He knows how hard it is but he nods encouragingly and tells me that he often encountered similar challenges.

Sometimes, Orville and Wilbur Wright join me. They’re an interesting pair.  I invite them whenever I find myself falling into the trap of envying others. I eavesdrop as they mutter to one another about Samuel Langley who was given $50,000 by the United States War Department to build a flying machine.  In 1903, $50,000 was  a lot of money! When Langley’s contraption crashed into the Potomac, he gave up.  Orville and Wilbur remind me that they persevered year after year, crash after crash, while others got the press and the awards. In December 1903, the Wright brothers succeeded.

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