“Hate-Speech” and Twitter – Rabbi Lapin’s Response

October 19th, 2018 Posted by AAJC Happenings No Comment yet

Rabbi Daniel Lapin was asked to respond for a news article to Louis Farrakhan’s most recent anti-Semitic remark on Twitter, and on Twitter’s hypocrisy in addressing “hate-speech”. Here is his submitted quote:

“Jews, along with all Americans, are best served by constitutional fealty and it is the First Amendment to the Constitution that happily makes America one of the few nations not to criminalize what is called “hate-speech.” The reason I say “happily” is because we Jews would rapidly become hate-speech legislation’s first victims, as teaching certain Biblical chapters is made illegal. In America, Louis Farrakhan may freely utter his opinions about Jews, and being a private sector company, Twitter may freely choose to publish those opinions. But Twitter betrays its moral mendacity by providing Farrakhan with a megaphone while banning many voices like the Christian blogger, Elizabeth Johnston, for opposing the sexualization of young children by Teen Vogue magazine. Americans would be better served by a Twitter that practiced no censorship at all. And Twitter would be better off too.” ~ Rabbi Daniel Lapin, American Alliance of Jews and Christians

Elections are coming

October 19th, 2018 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

There are a number of times in the past that my husband and I voted for third-party candidates as a way of sending a message to the GOP elite. They didn’t get the message, by the way. We weren’t alone and ignoring what we were feeling is what led to the election of President Trump.

This year, however, with elections coming up, I would vote for any Republican candidate, including ones I distrust and dislike. Things are so volatile that I don’t know if there are any foregone conclusions and the danger of giving the Democrat Party any more control is present and real.

The Gosnell Movie

October 18th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 27 comments

I did not want to see this movie. Despite its PG-13 rating, I knew that it would be distressing. How could it not be? Dr. Kermit Gosnell was a prolific abortionist sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. He was convicted for (among other things) murdering three infants and of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient at his clinic.

The reason that I am posting this as a Practical Parenting column as well as a Musing is that I recommend you take the parental guidance part of the movie’s rating very seriously. I would not have wanted to see this movie when I was pregnant or nursing. If my child’s youth group was going to see it, I would try, at a minimum, to see it myself first and decide if it is appropriate for my child. In Hollywood’s world, gore and violence are routine, so to them this movie may seem unremarkable, but the subject matter is mature and the visual impact is powerful.

The Gosnell trial is relatively recent history and the movie’s producers make clear that most of the material is drawn from transcripts and police reports. I knew of the trial and how unprofessionally the press tried to ignore it. It was a fight to produce the movie as well, and there is no question that there is a strong cultural attempt to suppress it. Each and every person who acted in or worked on the film is a hero because there will be ramifications to his or her career.

The movie is gripping. I am not qualified to write a review that talks about the acting, directing, musical score or other aspects. I can only say that the movie touched and disturbed me deeply. Concern that this might happen, of course, is exactly why I didn’t want to see it.

So, why did I make myself view it? I did not see it to pat myself on the back for being pro-life. Kermit Gosnell was not on trial for performing legal abortions. He was either a very disturbed or a very evil man – probably both. I know caring and good people who support abortion. None of them would defend his actions. To say that his clinic was unsanitary is a gross understatement. He reused instruments intended for single use, had unqualified teenagers dispensing anesthesia and drugs and killed babies who were born alive. Indeed, he was convicted precisely because he broke the law.

If that is so, why is it so important to so many news outlets, newspapers, media influencers and politicians that people not see this movie? I think it is because Kermit Gosnell is not the only bad guy in this story. The government of Pennsylvania, its politicians, health department and social services failed the women of that state, especially low-income minorities. Because they saw abortion as a sacred cow that must not be questioned, they did not carry out inspections or respond to complaints. Laboring under a false, sanctimonious belief that nothing must prevent women’s access to an abortion clinic, they all but guaranteed that women would be abused. Were it not for the relentless political pressure of the pro-choice movement, Kermit Gosnell would have had his medical license revoked. Were it not for the importance of abortion to secular society, Gosnell’s practice would have been closed. The records make clear that nail salons received more scrutiny than abortion clinics. Had Gosnell not been protected in this way, lives would have been saved.

This movie is disturbing as well because, today, abortion is light years away from how it was understood in Roe v Wade.  Abortion today is a widely accepted and celebrated culture. Furthermore, science, in its understanding of the fetus and its ability to treat newborns born prematurely, is worlds away from 1973. The description of legal abortions in the trial was unsettling. 

Very few people today actually look at abortion with rational and probing minds. It is a sacred sacrament of the Left, not open to debate. The good people I know who are pro-choice will need to ask themselves and answer serious questions if they see this movie. Not questions about Kermit Gosnell and his actions, but tremendously uncomfortable questions about the entire pro-choice movement and about legally sanctioned abortion. No wonder so many want to keep this movie under wraps.

As an adult citizen of a country in which abortion is legal, I felt obligated to see this movie. I believe that any honest pro-choice individual who squirms at the current suggestion that having an abortion is a reason for pride or a wonderful rite of passage should see Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (an unfortunate subtitle in my opinion). Despite the reservations I expressed at the beginning of this Musing, I would use every bit of parental pressure at my hands to make sure that any college-aged student or older child of mine saw it.  Because of cultural repression, that isn’t going to be easy. That, in itself, should encourage all principled and open-minded people to make the effort.

On another note: I am friends with many of you on Facebook. Due to changes on that platform I will now be posting my Susan’s Musings, Ask the Rabbi (and me!) and Practical Parenting posts on my new page instead. Find out when there are new posts by following me here.

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I feel like a stranger in my own home.

October 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

My husband (second marriage for both of us)  and I live in a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house. Our 24-year-old nephew is living in the house with us for the purpose of learning my husband’s trade and going to college part time. I am feeling uncomfortable with this arrangement as he is not my blood relative and he has asked me if I am “trying to give him hints” which I don’t think I really answered at the time due to being caught off guard.

Later I explained to him I am not his friend, I am his aunt. I see my role during this time as helping him to get up and out on his own. I told him he needs to go out and make friends of his own age. He moved from another state and has not made much of an effort that I know of to be social.

I never explicitly talked about the “hints” comment with him, but mentioned it to my husband who said we don’t really know what he meant by that but if it ever comes up again they will have to have a man to man talk.  I tried to not worry about it, but am as careful as I can to always dress very modestly, and try not to be alone with him.

He is doing well in his work but I feel profoundly uncomfortable with this arrangement. I told my husband I would like to be able to shower in our camper in our yard and I even said I would be ok with living in the camper until we are able to find another way to work things out. My husband is not in favor of me living out there but is ok with me showering out there, however he has not had time to set it up for showering yet.

I sometimes shower in the middle of the night when not too tired or wait until the weekend to shower, when our nephew goes to stay with his birth mom, step dad and half siblings about an hour away. He is supposed to be with us a year.

Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Susan, please share your thoughts with me on this.

Dear Acea,

We know exactly what we want to tell your husband, but unfortunately he isn’t asking for our advice. Will he pay attention to our words? If not, you need to find someone to whom he will listen. If there is no one (or no one who will give the correct advice) then this is one of those times where you must stand up for yourself with strength and determination.

The short answer is that this is unacceptable. It isn’t just a minor issue.  It is absolutely and completely not ok. Your husband has an obligation to provide you with a home in which you feel comfortable. For you to need to shower in the middle of the night and feel nervous and on edge in your home means that he is failing in his duties.

It goes without saying that a man’s obligations to his wife are far more significant than toward his nephew or even his brother.

Of course we do not want to contribute to tension and disagreement between you and your husband but we do have to say that you are being too accommodating. Having your nephew live with you without strict parameters goes against time-tested ancient Jewish wisdom (this would be so even if he was your blood relative, by the way). If anyone should be moving into the camper, it should be your nephew. Even that is only acceptable if you are comfortable having him so close by. If his words or actions make you feel nervous or embarrassed, then he should not be on your property at all. He certainly should not be entering your home at any time that your husband isn’t present neither should he ever enter without knocking and being admitted. 

Your husband’s nephew is probably a little immature. Most 24-year-old males who are not yet supporting themselves are not men, but boys. And boys entertain fantasies.  When he asked about whether you are trying to send him hints, we know without any doubt exactly what he meant by that and are a little surprised that your husband didn’t. 

We suspect that perhaps your husband is just trying to avoid confrontation and is hoping that things will gradually settle down without him having to sit down for that serious ‘man-to-man’ talk with his nephew. 

We are not sure if your husband is mentoring his nephew for his nephew’s benefit, for the business’ benefit or for both. If your husband is trying to help his nephew, it cannot be at your expense.  If your husband’s business needs the help, then you can graciously assist with providing meals and other support to your nephew, but asking you to share what sounds like fairly compact living quarters is way too much.

If this answer sounds strongly assertive it is because we want to make sure that you do not feel an obligation to compromise or “wait things out,” or not to be so sensitive. Standing up strongly for what is right makes one a good, not a bad wife. A man’s home may be his castle, but a woman’s home is her castle, her nest and her domain.

Wishing you a home of joy,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Still Mothering: An Update

October 16th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting 6 comments

Almost six years ago, I wrote:

My baby came home. O.k., as a third-year medical student, he isn’t technically a baby. He isn’t even technically my baby as three younger sisters arrived after him. And he only came home for four days. But any mother reading this knows what I’m feeling.

There seems to be so little I can do for my children now that they are grown. It filled my heart to be able to cook his favorite meal, prepare his bed with clean sheets and pick him up at the airport. Forgotten is how tiring it was to prepare nutritious meals every night, to do constant laundry (though from about the age of nine my children were responsible for their own clothing) and to be the on-call chauffeur. Also forgotten (almost) is the exhaustion of sleepless nights when he was an infant, the disgust at his joyful eating of slugs in the back yard as a toddler and even my fright and annoyance when as a teenager he almost drove my car off a cliff.

At least when he was younger I could take care of him. I could nurture the illusion that I could keep him safe. For a few precious years my kiss or hug cured most ills; my attention fed most needs. Even later, when my touch wasn’t quite as magical, I could welcome his friends to our house and expose him to books, various skills and nature. Not so today. As much as I would like to smooth his path, I cannot produce his soul mate. I would do more harm than good by contacting the powers-that-be and explaining to them why he will make a fabulous doctor and they should give him his first choice of residencies. I can’t spare him the pain of maturing or save him from his, altogether human, mistakes.

I do what I can. First and foremost is prayer. A distant second comes grabbing whatever opportunities I have to feed and nurture him. For which I am most grateful for the past few days.

An Update:

The third-year medical student was accepted to the residency of his choice, finished that training and is into his second year of serving in his specialty. There remained little I could do to ease his way over that grueling path.

His soul mate didn’t show up quickly. To our delight, she did appear, though as the young couple lives thousands of miles away, we don’t see them as often as we wish. When my husband was invited to speak for a wonderful business located near our children, we joyously accepted.  This past Shabbat, our son and daughter-in-law graciously welcomed my husband and me into their home.

Our son has been grown-up for a long time now. His choice of career means that many times a week he makes decisions that severely affect people’s lives. His father and I have been in awe of his maturity. What a thrill it was to see our lovely new daughter join him, care for him and cherish him and he, her. I’m still praying, but now it is for two, not one. And while we enjoyed having them as guests a few weeks ago, there was a special pleasure in being the guests ourselves, for which I am most grateful.

Building Blocks – Not for Kids Only

October 16th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

Jews around the world recently finished an annual cycle of reading the Five Books of Moses (the Torah) and immediately began reading again from the beginning of Genesis.  Since so many of us met the “stories” in Genesis as children, we sometimes neglect to view the book with adult eyes.  Ancient Jewish wisdom analyzes each letter and word, revealing treasure that we can only uncover with a mature viewpoint. I’d like to share one example. 

In the beginning, God created 92 basic elements including the well-known hydrogen, oxygen, gold, silver, copper, platinum, uranium, calcium and lead.  The remaining 83 include lesser known elements such as titanium, tellurium, caesium and cadmium.

While it is true that the periodic table today contains over 100 elements, only the first 92 occur naturally.  The others must be artificially made and are generally unstable.  They undergo nuclear rearrangement and radioactive decay shortly after being synthesized.

In other words, the entire universe is made with only 92 basic building blocks we call atoms.  Everything that we use and which makes life possible and wonderful comes about through combining the atomic building blocks into compound molecules.

Thus, water, air, steel, wood, plastic, wool, silk, potatoes and marshmallows are all mixtures of those 92 building blocks.  Even the table salt that our bodies need and which adds flavor to French-fries is a mixture of sodium and chlorine.

Obviously, true science never conflicts with the Torah and many of the secrets that God embedded in His book reveal this.  If you’ve been learning with me for a while, you know that every Hebrew letter has a numerical value. The Hebrew word for nature, HaTevah, has the identical numerical configuration (86) as the ineffable name of God, the Creator, that appears in Genesis 1:1 Elokim (86).  The lesson is that to understand God, we must try to understand His creation.

The account of Creation runs from Genesis 1:1 all the way to Genesis 2:3.  Those 34 verses contain exactly 92 separate discrete Hebrew words.  That’s right!  The building blocks of Creation number exactly the same as the building blocks used to describe it.  92 words to describe 92 elements!  Please tell me that you’re utterly astounded by God and His Book.  I know that I am.

We can’t leave it there. We must ask what valuable lesson God is imparting to us. The lesson is clear.  God created a world for connection.  He created atoms to connect into molecules and molecules to connect into the things we need. He created words to connect into verses, musical notes to connect into songs, and people to connect with one another for fulfillment and happiness.  Every socio-medical study arrives at the same conclusion.  People with strong connections to other people – friends, family, worship community and business associates – live healthier and happier lives. From the first word of Genesis, God is urging us to absorb the reality of a world of connection. 

Genesis and the rest of Scripture provide God’s blueprint for life. Much of it reveals its secrets only through ancient Jewish wisdom. I share some of the most eye-opening and amazing tips for life in 4 audio CD sets that are available together in our Genesis Journeys Set. This approximately 8 hours of audio will thrill you and reshape your life. I invite you to access it as a download or by mail while it is on sale right now. 

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Book Recommendation: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

October 14th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

I get a thrill every time I read a book that prods me to grow a bit, makes my day brighter or grants me a portal into a world different from mine. When a book does all three of those things it is a definite winner. It gets bonus point if I can share it with the young people in my life and watch it expand their horizons.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is such a book. Since it came out in 2012, many of you have probably read it already and/or seen the movie version. I was a late-comer to the fan club since I tend towards classics, but I came across it recently and I want to share my delight.

Wonder tells the story of fifth-grader Auggie Pullman, a boy born with a severe craniofacial deformity. Because of health concerns and repeated operations he has never been to school, and now that is about to change. The book is divided into sections that tell of his entrance to school through his own eyes and then through the eyes of his “normal” sister, her boyfriend and her estranged  childhood friend, as well as from the perspectives of some of Auggie’s classmates, whose behaviors range from kind to bullying.

This book is more powerful than a hundred anti-bullying slogans or lectures. Aside from humanizing a boy who looks different, it respectfully shows the challenges of children (and adults) dealing with something drastically different from what they usually meet. The various perspectives provide a  tremendous opportunity to realize that others see the world differently than we do.

This book and its sequels are recommended for ages 8-12. I disagree. I would suggest ages 8 through adult. Certainly, it can be invaluable for teenagers. This would make a great book to discuss as a family, especially if parents can do more listening than talking. It is one of those books that we can only hope stays with us long after we finish reading it. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

October 11th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 38 comments

Something has been troubling me throughout the #MeToo movement’s ascendancy and I’m sure that I am not alone. That our modern society has a problem in relationships between the sexes is not in question. Neither is the fact that historically there has been a power imbalance that allowed bad men to harm women more easily and frequently than bad women could harm men. This isn’t only a question of social and economic mores but also deals with the reality that, in general, women are physically less strong than men and, of course, are the ones who get pregnant. Despite the attempts of ideologues to deny it, most of us also acknowledge a reality of psychological and, for want of a better word, soul differences between men and women that leave women more vulnerable.

The #MeToo movement has done a service by exposing the extent of despicable treatment towards women that many of us, male and female,  were truly unaware of or dismissed as an unfortunate but unchangeable part of life. I am not speaking here of unquestionable breaches of the law such as putting knock-out drugs in a woman’s drink and then raping her. I’m also not speaking of complaints that are ludicrous like a woman claiming sexual harassment because a co-worker compliments her haircut. When we include those types of extreme instances in a general discussion we miss the opportunity to actually improve society.

What I would like to do today is to react to calls I’ve seen for men to behave respectfully. I am all in favor of respect. However, I do think that addressing men alone misses the complete story. Unless we want to advance the idea that women are helpless, incompetent and passive creatures, we need to demand an accounting on the distaff side as well.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is to view the #MeToo movement as a male/female issue. In my mind, there are and always have been moral men and women who treat each other well and there are and always have been immoral men and women who look to take advantage of members of the opposite sex. (Of course, history up to the present shows that interactions between people of the same gender are frequently less than upright, but that is not today’s prominent issue.) There are both men and women who respect themselves and those who do not.

Anyone who thinks that all men should be accountable for each other (being male, particularly a white male means you are privileged and as such deserving of being punished even if it is an injustice) or that all women are accountable for each other (we must believe all female victims) has to be willing to talk about enablers and manipulators (for the purpose of this Musing, I’m leaving aside liars).

A few months back, I heard an episode of NPR’s This American Life that featured a female reporter interviewing young men in Australia. It seems that it is considered a “game” there for a young man to run into a group of young women near the beach and slap one woman’s backside. The reporter was appalled and tried desperately to explain to a one of these men in particular what was wrong with his behavior.

When he said that the women didn’t object she pointed out that perhaps they were afraid to respond negatively. That was a good point. However, he countered that about 20% of the time, he ended up with a hook-up for that night and that more frequently than that he heard the “chosen” female boast about her attractiveness to her mates.

I have never been to Australia and don’t know the culture there. But this doesn’t seem to me to be a situation for which men bear sole responsibility.  As long as there is a plus side that is delivered by a fair number of “victims,” the responsibility has to be shared. It is perfectly plausible to imagine a responsible male chastising this young man and being accused of being a prude by both the young man and a number of the girls in the vicinity. Perhaps the females sometimes saunter in certain locations to get exactly the response our callow youth is willing and eager to deliver? How is he to learn which women want to be treated like that and which do not?

Shortly after my husband and I were married, he was asked to deliver a speech to a group of women, (not obviously Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist or atheist) on Christmas Eve. Why one would ask a Rabbi to give a talk on Christmas is obvious if one is looking for an available religious leader. But why were these women available?

Their organization – and I kid you not – was composed of women having affairs with married men. They told my husband that Thanksgiving and Christmas were the hardest days of the year for them. Other days each woman might believe that her boyfriend was leaving his family; on holidays they knew that to be a lie. Now, exactly how many men would be having adulterous affairs if no woman allowed herself to get involved with a married man? If women truly cared about other women enough, adultery would just about disappear.

We navigate a complicated world. Women and men are both unique individuals as well as belonging to numerous groups, one of which is dictated by gender.  Each behavior we choose affects others associated with us. This does not mean we should be interchangeable in the eyes of the law (in other words reprisal attacks) nor in other people’s eyes. But it is ludicrous to pretend that in our day and age men and men alone are responsible for women being mistreated, let alone when that word is not clearly defined.

It is not blaming the victim to suggest that if more women acted like ladies, the upside of being a gentleman would be greater.   The responsibility for more respectful discourse and behavior between men and women falls on everyone. If close to 50 years after the debut of Ms. Magazine women feel so victimized, perhaps both genders need to rethink which “reforms” led to a better society and which took us in the opposite direction.

 

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Is it too late to flourish?

October 9th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

At age 65 and as a divorced man, is it too late to be the man God originally intended me to be?

I had a pretty successful career financially but never fulfilled the passion and purpose you speak about that men must have.  I think after 32 years my wife decided she had better strike out on her own because she didn’t feel I was the man who would provide and protect in the long haul. Together we had built what I thought was a good life and good family.  Sadly, I see where I fell short.  

I have just finished taking care of my ailing mom for two years prior to her recent death at 93. The challenge is now that my assignment is over, and having put my career on hold for 2 years, I am now 65 with the corporate world asking where have you been and why don’t you just retire?  I know retire is not in the bible and I still have full energy, capacity and drive to make a difference.

My question is at 65 is it too late to be a real man, and fulfill the destiny God has created me for?

Regards,

Rick E.

Dear Rick,

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you! If you bring energy, capacity and drive to your work, then you can accomplish a great deal. My (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) own teacher and uncle, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian, embarked on his most famed and productive work when he was in his seventies. 

We hope you already know that Colonel David Sanders built up the Kentucky Fried Chicken company between his seventieth birthday and the time he passed on, aged 90.  Samuel Walton didn’t get the Walmart company going until he was nearly 50 years old. Raymond Kroc only conceived of the McDonalds vision when he was well into his fifties.  And these are just a few of the more prominent examples of people who found their economic niche late in life.  There are millions of others who built up successful, if lesser known enterprises after a late, late start.

(more…)

Rabbi Lapin on Iranian TV

October 9th, 2018 Posted by AAJC Happenings No Comment yet

You may not have heard, but on Friday, September 14, 2018, Rabbi Daniel Lapin appeared on television throughout Iran.

“If a billion Muslims became Evangelical Christians tomorrow, would the world be a better place?”

This is the simple yes/no question that Rabbi Daniel Lapin has become famous for asking to large audiences. As a result, he was invited to tape three shows with Iran Alive Ministries under the direction of Dr. Hormoz Shariat. Iran Alive Ministries beams full time Christian programming to an estimated 2 million Christians in Iran as well as to a large secularized Muslim audience that is actively seeking a religious alternative to Islam.

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