Did I Really Peek Into Your Closet?

March 28th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 2 comments

I don’t mean to startle you by revealing a secret of yours, but here goes.  I know that in your closet, you have items of clothing you haven’t worn in a very long time.  There! I told you.  You have garments that have been hanging there for years that you just can’t bring yourself to discard.  Even without skulking creepily around your closet, I know this to be true.

This is not the place to provide you with guidance on how to sort your wardrobe and decide what should stay and what should go.  But this is just the place for me to offer ancient Jewish wisdom’s explanation behind your reluctance to trash the old trousers.  The good news is that your sadness at slinging out that old suit reflects really well on you.

I am sure you are one of those well-organized souls whose home and work space are clean and neat.  You are quick to purge unneeded papers, books, tools, recipes, and kitschy family heirlooms.  You even threw out last Thursday’s perfectly delicious dinner leftovers with barely a twinge.  But you just cannot throw out clothing.  You’ll be relieved to know that there is a perfectly good reason.  Clothing is different.

Our clothing imparts identity and dignity to us and those are more important to us than even food.  We all remember stories of the down and out salesman who spent his last few dollars, not on a meal but on a new suit and a shoeshine, knowing they would buck him up for his next interview even more than hot food.

I almost never ridicule the fashion industry; I even follow it somewhat and respect it.  Naturally some of the silly excesses seen on the more outlandish haute couture runways deserve whatever ridicule they earn. But we are the only creature on the planet that expends so much time and energy on clothing ourselves.  For me, the fashion industry helps prove that we are not part of the continuum of animals; we are unique, touched by the finger of God.

The fashion industry is correct in providing all its wondrous variety because clothing is not merely utilitarian.  The one piece mechanic overalls that I sometimes wear would not be suitable for a night on the town.  This is why God rejected the utilitarian fig leaves stitched by Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:7), replacing them with Divinely tailored leather outfits (Genesis 3:21).

Shame and embarrassment are the flip side of identity and dignity.  We do almost anything to stave off shame and embarrassment.  During WWII, the Nazis, not content merely to take the lives of their Jewish prisoners in the death camps, first removed their dignity as well by stripping them.  Some lost their will to live right there.  Many desperate individuals have even taken their own lives because of shame and embarrassment.  Ancient Jewish wisdom regards giving a needy person a job or even a loan as a far higher level of compassion than giving him a handout because that preserves his dignity.

In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, one of the words for clothing is LeVuSh (לבוש) which means ‘for the purpose of avoiding embarrassment’.  For this reason, we retain an affection, perhaps a subconscious respect and even appreciation for our clothes that makes it harder for us to drop them into the garbage than it is to throw away other unneeded items.

We see this profound connection between a human being and his clothing in a deep and almost impenetrable section of Leviticus.  Chapter 13  discusses types of skin lesions that are medical manifestations of purely spiritual problems.  On the podcast, I often discuss holistic health, but for present purposes suffice it to say that there is a far stronger bond between our souls and our bodies than conventional western medicine comfortably confronts.  The indisputable efficacy of placebos is just the tip of this particular iceberg.

Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that the skin conditions discussed in Leviticus 13 are actually physical conditions caused by spiritual flaws. Certain immoral behaviors produce visible symptoms on a person’s skin, although we can no longer detect them today. Amazingly, they produce lesions upon his clothing as well.  We would have expected Scripture to describe the skin lesions and their treatment, then the clothing.

Yet, what we actually see is that skin lesions are first discussed. (Leviticus 13:38-46)

Then lesions upon the patient’s clothing are discussed. (Leviticus 13:47-59)

Only then is the cure for the patient finally presented. (Leviticus 14:1-32)

In other words, the lesions upon the clothing are one additional manifestation of the spiritual disease afflicting the person wearing that clothing. The person’s behavior affects his clothing.

This deep link connecting us with our clothing is alluded to again during the description of the consecration of Aaron and his sons, the priests.

…and he shall be consecrated, his clothes
and his sons and their clothes with him.
(Exodus 29:21)

Our clothes are almost as much a part of us as is our own skin; no wonder we find it difficult to discard them.  Furthermore, knowing of the bond between us and our clothing helps us sculpt a beneficial relationship with them.  Here is the most important tip.

  Regardless of comfort, we should select and wear clothing that characterize our ambitions and goals.  Our clothing influences how we are viewed by our spouses, children, friends, and work associates.  Even more importantly, our clothing powerfully influences how we view ourselves.  I strongly advise people who work at home to dress exactly as they would were they about to commute to a downtown office.

Yes, do clear out your closet already!  However, I wouldn’t throw anything other than worn out rags in the trash.  Fortunately there are many worthy organizations that will accept your unneeded clothing.

There is so much wisdom beneath the surface of Scripture. We explore four Biblical sections in great depth in our Genesis Journeys Set. You’ll be amazed at how much practical guidance for understanding the world and its impact in your life there is in the almost eight hours of audio and the study guides. The more you know the rules of life, the better you can play the game. Find out more about these CDs and enjoy a discount on both the physical and download versions this week.

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Leaning Left

March 23rd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

One of my granddaughters recently completed a homeschool assignment requiring her to tell a fairy tale from the point of view of one of the minor characters. She did a wonderful job relating Jack and the Beanstalk from Jack’s mother’s perspective. I think she may have a future in journalism.

I regularly scan a variety of newspapers and magazines. As part of that process, I view many news articles and opinion pieces from sources that pride themselves as being mainstream. Overwhelmingly, they tell news events from a Democrat and liberal perspective. Even the Wall Street Journal, whose opinion page skews right, presents the news as seen through liberal eyes.

As an example, look at the Gorsuch nomination hearings slated to begin this week. (I’m writing this on Monday so much will have happened by the time this appears, but it still serves as an illustrative example.) Despite unassailable consensus that he is qualified for the position of Supreme Court Justice, Democrats are either expressing opposition or threatening consequences for any legislator who doesn’t oppose him.

Are the headlines full of stories of Democrats being the “Party of no”? Do newspaper reports speak of bullying by the Democrat base and how harmful it is to our civilization? Are accusations of hatred and bias against white Protestants being hurled? Of course not. That would be the paradigm if a liberal president – shall we say by the name of Obama- nominated a liberal justice – shall we say Sonia Sotomayor or Elana Kagan, and the Republicans did anything other than bow in obeisance.

Here is another example. I have enjoyed reading Peggy Noonan’s column for many years. However, I think she is out of touch with reality. She recently wrote an article urging President Trump to reach across the aisle, citing the working relationship between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill. Well, that sounds like a great idea. So does sitting back and watching Cheers while interspersing our conversation about Princess Diana with exclamations of amazement that people can actually talk on phones that aren’t connected to wires. Somehow, I don’t think any of those things will be happening again. If leading Democrats resembled Tip O’Neill, Daniel Moynihan or Scoop Jackson, Donald Trump wouldn’t be president. Yet even a conservative columnist like Ms. Noonan thinks that Republicans are the ones who need to bend. She sees events from the base point of the Left even if her head and heart place her on the right.

The popular radio show/podcast, This American Life, just featured a discussion with Mike Wilson, the editor of the Dallas Morning News.  Mr. Wilson, to his credit, wanted to understand the thoughts of those who berated his newspaper for having a liberal bias. He invited two men who wrote disapproving letters to discuss their criticisms. They articulated that they felt that the newspaper tried to be fair, but was blind to the staff’s prejudices.

Yet within the podcast episode (episode #612, the second to last story), lay an example of the very type of bias being critiqued. One of those upset with the Dallas Morning News, a local doctor, gave Mr. Wilson a specific example of a headline he felt was slanted along with an example of a liberal tilt he saw within the article that followed. Listening carefully, the editor responded to the first example saying, “I should speak to this. If we’re looking to find common ground in our conversation, we just found it…,” agreeing that the headline was inappropriate.  Mr. Wilson asked for further elaboration about what the reader found offensive in the example he showed within the article, and ended up saying, “That’s a good criticism.”

Yet how did the podcast end? With the interviewer asking Mr. Wilson if he felt bad because he hadn’t convinced his visitors that the newspaper wasn’t biased. Excuse me? How about asking if he had learned that he needed to be more aware of the bias that does exist. Even after working on the episode, the producer for This American Life wasn’t able to see that he was viewing the issue through a distorted lens.

Do the New York Times or the Washington Post or yes, even the Wall Street Journal, want to know why I turn more and more to right-leaning sites? It is because I am so tired of finding myself still seen as a minority voice constantly on the defensive. Despite the fact that November’s election results highlighted how much the news media is out of touch with vast sections of America, there has been no change. The best of them still seem unaware of how parochial they are. Maybe their assignment should be to write every article from many different perspectives and publish them all. Let the reader discern the truth from that mix. Like my granddaughter, they might actually begin to understand a different point of view.

* * *

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How much loyalty do I owe my boss?

March 22nd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

Thank you for your valuable insight into how the world really works. It has proven true time and again in my life as you would expect. 

I have been offered a position with a competing company in my industry that pays more and offers a benefit package. In addition my new partner is a harder worker then my current one and also better connected in my city. 

I was hired in my previous position being told that eventually I would be approached like this and would I have the integrity to stay with the company I am currently employed at.

Do I owe my current employer a debt of loyalty since they gave me the position I currently have?

Thanks,

Gregg

Answer: 

Dear Gregg,

Thank you for affirming the value of our teachings in terms of how the world REALLY works!  We love hearing that readers enjoy our work but when people tell us that they found our teachings not merely interesting or enjoyable but actually useful, the fireworks go off for us.

Congratulations on the job offer. It’s always nice to receive validation that your work is recognized. Your letter raises a number of very interesting issues but omits some of the information we’d need to answer your question definitely. Nonetheless, we’ll try to be useful to you.

It isn’t clear to us if your present boss asked you to commit  not to accept an offer from this specific company or to make a general commitment of loyalty. It’s also not clear to us what your response was at the time you were hired.

We’re sure you can see that no employer should ask you for lifetime loyalty. (A commitment never to leave is nonsensical in all circumstances other than marriage.) That would make an employee into a serf, with no ability to better himself. Some firms do have non-compete clauses where employees agree not to join competing firms within a certain location or time. Even these agreements are being regularly challenged in court, because the idea of restricting someone’s free movement is problematic. A company retains good employees by offering inducements such as good working conditions, salary increases and a path to advancement, not by shackling them.

On the other hand, training a new employee is both dollar and labor intensive. An employee often doesn’t earn his salary in terms of adding to a company’s bottom line until a period of time has passed. It is possible that a competing firm has established a legal but unethical policy of poaching newly skilled workers just when they know enough and have enough experience to be valuable in their chosen field.

You aren’t asking us for legal advice, of course. You, admirably, want to do the right thing. We want to emphasize that we reject your current employer’s notion that remaining in this job is a measure of your integrity.  It’s your prerogative to seek to improve your situation always, including by seeking superior employment. In our view, if you gave a general commitment and you have been at your company for a reasonable time, let’s say two years, we think you should feel that you have discharged that commitment.

If, instead, you specifically gave your word not to move to the specific company that has approached you, then we think you should learn a lesson to be more careful with commitments, but that the ability to look yourself in the mirror means that you cannot accept this offer. It all depends upon what commitment you made – but doesn’t everything?

We hope this is helpful.  Let us know what you decide.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Say Little and Lead Much

March 21st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

Leaders enjoy many benefits.  People seen as leaders get promoted and opportunities come their way.  Parents whose children respect them as leaders have more functional families.   But how do you begin the process of getting others to see you as a leader?

We have all seen leadership in action.  Perhaps one participant at a meeting emerges as the clear leader of the group.  Or people listen more attentively to one person than to another.  Groups coalesce around the one individual who is regarded as more authoritative than anyone else.

I’m sure you’ve seen parents who enjoy such excellent rapport with their children that obedience is almost automatic.  It is clear that the children view the parents as leaders.  Authentic leadership skills that are effective in a work environment are also effective in a family or social environment.  We just need to know what these skills are.

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Ever Wonder About the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

March 19th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

The synagogue I was privileged to plant and serve in California had a ball team that played in a local league. We called our synagogue ball team, “The Elders of Zion”. Since this is the name of one of history’s most notorious anti-Semitic forgeries, not everyone was amused but the team thrived and gradually people loosened up and chilled out. Meanwhile, I thought it was time to tear the covers off those “Elders” which I do in this podcast episode. Don’t miss it as I don’t think I want to leave it up on the Internet indefinitely. The episode is entitled Who’s Running Things: The Bilderbergers? The United Nations? Jews? Secret Socialists? Well, I explain the true answer here: https://soundcloud.com/rabbi-daniel-lapin-show

Behind Every Great Man…

March 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 50 comments

Quick! Is this a complimentary statement or an insult? “Behind every great man stands a great woman.” I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about this phrase. How exactly do I feel about it?

While I haven’t tried this experiment, I conjecture that if you asked college students what they think of those words, most would dismiss it as a relic of patriarchy. After all, it reeks of a time when women weren’t expected to be great themselves but only support staff. A variation of the saying is , “Behind every successful man there is a woman,” but this only emphasizes the potential problem even more. (For the purpose of this conversation, I am going to focus on wives rather than mothers, not because I underestimate maternal influence but because that’s a different discussion.)

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Can you give too much?

March 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

Question:

First I would like to say thank you for what you do.

My question is how much is too much when a Christian does good things for others? My mom does so much for people she knows and I am happy about that. But sometimes I feel like she overdoes it. 

I know the Bible say we should help, share and be there for others. How much is too much? 

M.

Answer: 

Dear M.,

Thank you for your thank you. We shortened your submission because it was actually three separate questions and we didn’t have room to answer all three. We  also can’t answer your question specifically for Christians, since that isn’t our sphere of knowledge. What we can do however, is share guidelines from ancient Jewish wisdom.

You don’t say why you think your mother overdoes her acts of kindness nor do you reveal your age. Are you a teenager at home who misses your mother because she is out of the house caring for others instead of sharing time with you? (Of course, adults can desire more time with their mothers as well.) Are you worried about an aging mother damaging her health because she takes care of others while ignoring her own physical needs? Are you concerned that your mother is depleting her bank account and will not be able to cover her rent or insurance payments or are you seeing your inheritance being given away and worried about that? Each of these is a different circumstance. Your concerns may be none of the above.  Without knowing, we’ll do our best to respond with general principles.

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Snow Day; Grow Day

March 14th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

A couple I knew, misunderstanding the meaning of being loving parents, raised their children with no rules and little restraint.  You won’t be shocked to hear that their two kids grew into demanding little monsters.

The parents blamed the children’s teachers for why their children were ‘difficult’.  They explained that their children ‘had issues’ because of preservatives in food. They blamed the tiny tyrants’ grandparents.  They never were able to see their poor parenting as the central problem.

It’s hard to live an effective life when you are blind to cause and effect.

Imagine someone waking up on a recent morning in Washington DC, to discover that forty inches of snow fell in the night.  Shivering with cold, he turns up the thermostat to no effect.  He tries to turn on the lights, but the electricity is out.

Listen to him saying, “I can’t believe this!  What bad luck!  On the same morning, no heat, no lights, and on top of that, there’s a load of snow all over my yard.”  He sees three separate, simultaneous but disconnected inconveniences, not comprehending that they are all linked.

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Why Are Weather Warnings These Days Increasingly Apocalyptic and Increasingly Wrong?

March 14th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Have you noticed how winter weather warnings are increasingly over-hyped lately? “This one is a killer, folks!” or “This will be the biggest storm of the season 12-18 inches of snow” are the usual headlines but it’s become a case of crying “Wolf!”. It’s almost as if weather forecasters are trying to outdo one another with ever more grandiose visions of snowmagedon. Why do they predict such dire outcomes when time and time again, what actually arrives is not a howling hurricane but a whimper.
Some might say, better safe than sorry but this completely ignores the massive and entirely unnecessary costs imposed by disruption to business and home life. Schools closing unnecessarily cause parents to have to miss work. Businesses and offices fear the liability that could accompany ignoring serious storm warnings so they announce one or two day closures. There are real costs associated with apocalyptic forecasts that don’t materialize.
Why do they do it? There is a vast political-bureaucratic disaster industry in America. FEMA is one of many agencies who collect federal and state funds based on their ‘disaster needs’ and ‘disaster readiness’. Announcers and forecasters are liable to fear repercussions from under warning but experience little or no consequence from over warning. People are just relieved that the horrors did not materialize. What is more, a materialistic culture sees prevention of possible loss of life as the highest value. Many would, if they could, limit non-official vehicles to a speed limit of 20mph which would save over 60% of the 30,000 annual vehicular deaths. Costs to business are largely invisible so mayors and others gain valuable airtime talking of their urgent desire to protect their voters from harm and of their many programs to prevent any hurt. This is just one more example of how a damaged culture works against its own health.

Addendum to Purim Musing

March 10th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 8 comments

Important: Do not read this if your maiden or married name is Lapin or if you are married to a Lapin. For everyone else, I’ve got to tell you what happened. Carlisle, while your scone recipe would have solved my baking problem,  I needed a frosted cake for the Sunday Purim feast because I had made books from fondant to go with our theme and they will sit on the frosting. (I do hope to try the scone recipe another time.) We will be about forty people, so I actually need two cakes. I found a chocolate cake recipe that, doubled, called for everything I had in the ‘couldn’t use for the hamentaschen’ bag and it was a mix in one bowl recipe. Perfect! Of course, I had to add other ingredients too. Lots of them. And then – and I promise you that I am not normally a scatter-brained individual – I forgot that I already had baking powder and baking soda in the mix and I added them. Do you know how if you put in too much salt or too much sugar you can adjust a recipe? Well, when you put in too much baking powder or too much baking soda, the advice is to throw it out and start over! It will make your cake bitter. AARGH! This is why you should not read this if you are going to be at the Sunday special meal. I tried scooping out as much baking powder as I could and I am going to bake it anyway. I will at least have a base for my fondant creations and everyone will have had so much sugar through the day anyway that if the cake is inedible so be it. Please keep my secret and don’t think too harshly of me.

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