Gillette’s Male-bashing Commercial and Donald Trump

January 17th, 2019 Posted by AAJC Happenings, On Our Mind No Comment yet

Here is a quick thought on the new male-bashing, virtue-signalling Gillette ad.  I think it is wrong to ask whether this is a good business move for them or not. I think it is a good move. Their company name has been in the news non-stop for the past few days.

What would make it a bad move for them? If conservatives didn’t individually decide to boycott  their products, as I’m sure many will, but if a number of conservative organizations and all conservative media voices picked one member of Gillette’s Board of Directors, or one person high-up in the company and dug up dirt on him or her. Perhaps exaggeration and lies might even be involved. (Needless to say, I’m not recommending this, but I think it is a worthwhile train of thought to follow.) The message that, “If you start up with us or don’t agree with our thinking, you will be punished,” would come across loud and clear and make other companies hesitate before jumping on the politically correct bandwagon. This is pretty much what happens when companies offend liberals.

I don’t expect that to happen and I admit to being happy that it won’t. I’m not into mud-wrestling. But for anyone still wondering why so many of us greeted Donald Trump’s election with glee, this should help you understand. I am delighted that after Nancy Pelosi tried to bully him the president with warnings about delaying the State of the Union address because of the government shutdown, President Trump didn’t grovel and he didn’t insist on taking the high road. Instead he explained that her desired trip abroad would, unfortunately, have to be canceled because of the shutdown. YES!!!

Bossy Women – Like Me?

January 17th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 32 comments

I have been watching a lot of one particular daily TV show lately. I actually recommend this show to you, though I am not an objective observer. The show is Ancient Jewish Wisdom, hosted by my husband and me. While I think the content is fascinating, I was trying to track one specific feature.  Do I interrupt my husband too much?

Two—not one, but two—recent letters accusing me of exactly that precipitated my reviewing past shows. Both letters were from women and to be fair, we have received many more than two letters from men and women telling us how much they enjoy the on-air interaction between us. However—please pay attention here—to my recollection, we have never received a letter saying that my husband interrupts me.

Let me state right away, that we have taped close to 400 Ancient Wisdom Shows. That adds up to about 200 hours of talking. My perusal of a few shows reveals that as professional as we try to be, each of us sometimes interrupts the other. On balance, I’m sure I definitely break in to my husband’s words more frequently than he does to mine, but there is a simple explanation for that. (And it’s not what you think!)

The Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show is actually the second TV show we have hosted. The first was many years ago, on a local station out of Portland, Oregon. My husband was invited to tape a few shows there and we took the opportunity to drive there together from Seattle via the scenic route down the coast, rather than him flying there alone.  To my surprise, and perhaps a little dismay, when we arrived at the studio I discovered that I was expected to be part of the program as well.  Although I had occasionally filled in for my husband’s radio show, television was a new ballgame to me and not one in which I was sure I would feel comfortable.

After some back-of-room bargaining with my husband, I consented when he agreed that I could chime in whenever I wished, but he was responsible for ensuring that there was no dead air time. In other words, the onus was on him to keep the show moving.  To this very day we retain that arrangement whenever we appear in person together or tape broadcasts.  One of the results of this arrangement is that while I will frequently throw the discussion to my husband after I have said my piece, he rarely throws it to me because he has agreed not to catch me unaware. When I do have something to say (which is often!) I have no option but to fling myself into the conversation. Perhaps we should resort to a kick under the table, but I’m not crazy about that idea. Maybe we can come up with a more subtle clue.

Notwithstanding the dynamics of my own marriage, this idea of judging men and women differently is widely relevant. A few years back, the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, wrote her book Lean In, encouraging woman to be aware and proactive in the business world. While I disagreed with a major premise of hers that a better world,  “…would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes,”  (and wrote about it here) I did find a number of the points she made to be quite valid. These include the idea that while an assertive man might be considered confident, an assertive woman might be considered aggressive. The exact same action that comes across as forceful in a man labels a woman as pushy.

I want to be clear that I give no credence to the claim made by Hillary Clinton supporters that she lost because she is a woman. Most voters who did not support her, including me, would happily have voted for a principled, competent, conservative woman. Like so much else in our culture (incredibly including a push back on the Lean In movement because it encourages women to help themselves rather than seeing themselves as victims who should demand privileges from government) this is a puerile, illogical and pathetic argument.

Nonetheless, the reality is that of course people do look at men and women through different lenses. There’s a very good reason for that—they are different! Sometimes being a woman is an asset and other times it’s a liability.  That’s true for being a man as well.

So, what do we do about the fact that people judge men and women differently and that can be unfair to individuals? Here is my suggestion: Live with it and deal with it. I know that the letters we receive come from affection for both my husband and me and wanting the best for us. By the grace of God, we live in a vibrant world filled with contrast and variety. We can each make an effort to respect all individuals and to be aware of our biases, but a world where we pretend that differences between the sexes don’t exist and any manifestations of those variations should be erased would indeed be a bland, colorless and miserable one.

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Savings vs. Tithing

January 15th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

I finished my medical training in 2016, this on top of my training as a pharmacist. I have a plan in place to pay off my student loans in 5 more years. My wife is an engineer but is currently staying at home with our three children. She is planning on going back to school to get a teaching certificate when our children start school so that we can get a nice tuition discount at our parish school.

We live below our means, I contribute the max to our 401k and and we drive inexpensive cars. I have read your book (Thou Shall Prosper-loved it) and I tithe around 10% of our net income to our church and various charities.

It has come to my attention that we need to contribute around 11,000.00 a year more to “retirement” accounts than we are currently doing. I would like to contribute to a backdoor Roth IRA account automatically from my paycheck every pay period , which means my net income would go down, and I would tithe less.

So I am struggling with whether or not it is ok to tithe less but contribute to retirement more, or if I should forgo investing more in retirement until I make more money.

Thank you so much,


Dear DoctorSquared,

We were ready to take a nap by the time we had finished reading of all your personal and professional accomplishments! You and your wife sound like thoughtful, caring and disciplined people.

Please allow us to try and rephrase the question you are asking. We think it is one that applies in many different situations. Are we under any obligation  to manage our finances in order to maximize tithing?

We have been asked similar questions from people inquiring whether they should tithe on pre or post-tax income. As always, we encourage people to ask someone in their own faith family, but we can only say that from the perspective of ancient Jewish wisdom, you tithe on the money you actually receive and that is available for your needs and desires. If taxes reduce what you get to take home, then you do not tithe on the amount that went to the government and that you never received.

In a not entirely different parallel, if someone is held up on his way home from picking up his weekly pay envelope and all his money is confiscated, he naturally does not pay a tithe on the money that was stolen.

If poor people glean and gather wheat from the edges of your field before you harvest, you wouldn’t pay a tithe on that wheat which you never harvested. (Leviticus 23:22)

In your case, the same reasoning applies, but with a twist. If prudence dictates that you put money away for the future, then you are not getting that money and don’t need to tithe on it. You certainly don’t have to ignore what you understand to be the best for you and your family in order to have more to tithe. However, down the road, whenever you do access that money you will then need to tithe on it. In other words, when it is yours to use, you owe tithe.

We should iterate 10% is a minimum and one can always choose to give more to charity. While ancient Jewish wisdom doesn’t suggest giving too much no one needs to meticulously take care not to go an iota over 10%.

We’re delighted that you benefitted from Thou Shall Prosper and wish you continued family and financial success.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

P.S. With three young ones, be sure to send your wife over to my (Susan’s) Practical Parenting page.

*  *  *  *  

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Don’t Build a House; Build a Boat

January 15th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 27 comments

I’ve noticed that when someone in a group casually says, “Oh, I live on my boat down in the harbor” everyone hearing him perks up with interest.  Eager questions quickly follow.  But when someone says, “I live in my car behind the supermarket,” people go quiet and someone changes the subject.

There are, of course, many differences between living in a car and on a boat, but I enjoy this observation by an author, Arthur Ransome, who plays a big role in my family’s reading.  “The desire to build a house is the tired wish of a man content thenceforward with a single anchorage.  The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final resting place.” 

Someone living in his car is, well, living in his car.  (Living in a fully-equipped RV is quite different.) But someone living on a boat is on a journey. At any point he could cast off the mooring lines and head to Haifa, Honolulu, or Hong Kong.

Feeling settled is very seductive but feeling unsettled is more productive.  To their parents’ dismay, God arranged things so that when approaching those teenage years, children start feeling unsettled.  Other than when with their friends undergoing the same stage, young people approaching adulthood often feel they don’t really belong anywhere.  The last time they felt comfortably ‘at-home’ was as children cocooned in the security of parents and family.  The next time they are going to feel ‘at-home’ will be once they’re in their own homes. 

Without that God-given incentive, young people would likely want to remain as children in their parents’ homes forever.  That symptom of teenagerhood, the vague indefinable anxiety of not belonging anywhere, eventually helps trigger the quest to find a home by building one’s own. 

Regardless of how bad they may be, current circumstances possess inertia that is reflected in idioms like “Better the devil you know…”. A Jewish woman whose children live nearby us survived several years in Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen concentration camps.  She bore the number A-8603 tattooed on her arm.  She used to say, “Being in the camps was gehenom (hell) but emerging from the camps after liberation in 1945 was almost as bad!”  While the concentration camps and slave labor were absolutely horrific, and life was always in jeopardy, at least there was an infrastructure. Freedom was frightening; there was no structure at all.

Whether you are a single person vaguely contemplating matrimony, a harried mother wishing she could get her household under control, or a business professional struggling to build a profitable enterprise, just continuing to do the familiar exerts a powerful appeal, even when the familiar is unpleasant and unsatisfying.

Desiring tranquility is chasing an illusion.  It contradicts the reality of life which is not meant to be a relaxing snooze on a sunny beach.  Wanting to be settled in that way is a little like someone feeling so secure that he unlocks his door, turns off his intruder alarm, and goes to sleep.  Nobody is surprised to hear that uninvited nocturnal visitors inflicted losses upon him.  Ancient Jewish wisdom is quite specific about the negative effects of seeking tranquility. 

Jacob settled in the land where his father had sojourned…
(Genesis 37:1)

The Hebrew word for “settled” is VaYeSHeV and it hints at seeking tranquility.  Ancient Jewish wisdom points out that after Jacob ‘settled down’ the disagreements between his sons, between Joseph and his brothers, escalated to tragedy.  In other words, turning off and tuning out (as the Hippies used to say) is not an option for live people living life passionately.  If you decide to withdraw from the ever-fresh opportunities and challenges of life, God sends something your way in order to get your attention.

Let’s see another instance of where Scripture uses that word ‘settled’,  VaYeSHeV: י-ש-ב

And Israel settled in Shittim whereupon the people began to [behave immorally]
with the daughters of Moab.
(Numbers 25:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that on their lengthy journey through the desert, Israel usually ‘encamped’.  They didn’t usually settle.  Encamped suggests an awareness of the temporary nature of one’s condition and a heightened state of alertness.  By contrast, settling hints at complacency which can invite problems.  Sure enough, settling in Shittim brought Israel a whole heap of problems.

The opening verse of the Book of Psalms:

Happy is the man who didn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked and didn’t stand in the ways
of sinners and didn’t settle in the company of scoffers.
(Psalms 1:1)

Ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes that if life forces you into proximity with less than ideal people, keep on walking.  If you have no choice but to talk with them, don’t sit down, remain standing in order to remind yourself that you’re not joining them. Finally, whatever you do, never settle down with those people.  Of course, the Hebrew word for settle is again that same word we’ve seen before; the word that suggests throwing in the towel and giving up the fight.

It goes without saying that we all need our anchors in life.  As I repeatedly remind listeners to my podcast, the more that things change, the more we must depend upon those things that never change.  It is only by knowing exactly what anchors in our lives never change that we are liberated to embrace change.  It is what allows us to escape the tyranny of our current condition.  Having those anchors allow us to cast off the mooring lines that tie us to yesterday and thrill to the fight and challenge that is tomorrow’s journey.


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The Tuttle Twins – book recommendation

January 14th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

When the Bible and Vladimir Lenin agree, it’s time to pay attention. One of Scripture’s recurring themes is teaching and shaping the next generation’s views and beliefs. As for Lenin, he said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

If you are shocked by the way college students are embracing socialism, you haven’t been paying attention for a few decades. Of course, this is a result of many factors, but one that is less frequently discussed is that few of us focus on economic education even when taking responsibility for our own children’s education. After all, when was the last time you discussed inflation with your seven-year-old? Talked about competition and market regulation with your pre-teen?

Fortunately, the Tuttle twins have stepped into this void.  A series of entertaining books featuring the fictional twins present complex ideas with clarity and simplicity. Whether the twins are running a lemonade stand, enjoying themselves at camp or hanging out with neighbors and classmates, basic societal and economic principles intertwine with their lives.

I have frequently undertaken the job of warning you to beware of books that might undermine your family values. Often, the agenda in the books is hidden. If you don’t pre-read them, you will probably never know about the message on p. 63. In contrast, these books openly have an agenda: a defense of what my husband calls ethical capitalism. The author, Connor Boyack and illustrator, Elijah Stanfield, take concepts from thinkers, economists and authors such as Henry Hazlitt, Ayn Rand and Frederic Bastiat, and turn them into appealing and informative stories.

Judging by my test panel’s response, ranging in age from eight to fourteen, children will enjoy reading these books, which would be a worthwhile result in itself.  Even better would be if parents and older children read them as well, sparking an opportunity for family conversation and for more advanced reading for the older group. As parents, we ideally have more than four years to inoculate our children against the harmful ideas and mistaken beliefs that will bombard them. I heartily recommend that you add this series to your tool kit.

The Tuttle Twins

Free Will and my Children

January 11th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter.

An age-old question asks how God can punish Pharaoh with further plagues when God is the one hardening his heart so as not to let the Jewish people go? How can he be punished when he had no choice?  This is a classic question and we’ve all heard various answers.  I’d like to consider one basic answer Maimonides teaches us and its ramifications for mothers.

Maimonides says that in the beginning, of course Pharaoh had free will. In fact, during the first five plagues the Torah doesn’t say Hashem hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  Pharaoh hardened his own heart.  It’s only after multiple hardening of his own heart that he moved far enough into evil that God took over the job and began hardening his heart for him.  Pharaoh began with free will, but through his actions evolved into someone who lost his power of choice.

How is this relevant to us? 

Well, on a much smaller scale than Pharaoh, I know that there are actions I  take, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, that can lead me into situations where I have less control over the way I act.  For example, after a sleepless night, after skipping a healthy meal, I sometimes don’t have the wherewithal to respond to tough situations the way I would ideally choose to do so.

If that is how I feel sometimes, how much closer are my children to that state of no free will.  Sometimes when I go to the store late at night and see mothers dragging a screaming toddler around at 10:30 PM, I feel pity for the child who truly has no control over her behavior at that time.  It’s just too late and she’s too tired. She’s lost her free will. 

With some thought we can identify for each of our children what are the factors that lead up to them losing their free will.  I don’t think it’s the same for each person, and certainly some children get to that point of loss of control much more easily than others.  Once we’ve identified what stressors contribute to our children reaching the point of no self-control, we can try to limit those and when they’re unavoidable, build in ways for our child to rest or recoup as early as possible.

One last point that I have found helpful to remember: when a child has lost control, you cannot reason with them, consequences or punishments will often have no effect, and no parenting can effectively take place at that time.  What we can do is provide stability, unwavering love, support, and calmness, while we try to give them time and space to get back in control of themselves.

Heartbreak – an Unintended Consequence

January 10th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 26 comments

When I was nine or ten, my friend’s mother delivered a stillborn child. I remember the shock and the discomfort of not being sure what to say. Over the next decade, as the risks of smoking during pregnancy received a lot of attention, I wondered what this woman, who often had a cigarette in hand, felt as she read those articles.

On a larger scale, part of growing up is accepting the idea that adults, rather than being all-knowing, make mistakes and have to live with the consequences. Since adults are parents, leaders, politicians and teachers, the victims of those mistakes are often the next generation. That is a harsh reality of life that inevitably affects all human beings in their personal lives. At its best it leads us to mature reflection on the importance of our actions and ideas. When, however, we rush instead to embrace revolutionary societal change, the tragic results can overwhelm us.

Journalist Abigail Shrier wrote a heart-rending piece about politically progressive mothers struggling as their daughters identify as ROGD – rapid onset gender dysphoria. These mothers, who actively embraced societal change on social issues like homosexuality and raised their children to reject rigid ideas of traditional right and wrong, suddenly find themselves heartbroken as their daughters, seemingly overnight, decide that they are actually male. These daughters are often anxious, unhappy and desperate to relieve emotional pain. While, as a society, we might well ask why our teens and young adults seem to be struggling so much, even a few years ago this would have been recognized as a cry for help. Not so today.

Our liberated society, rather than suggesting counseling (how judgmental!) or even slow and steady deliberation (We want change. When do we want it? NOW) rapidly offers these girls hormones and even surgery.  And these mothers stand helplessly by as they watch their daughters take irreversible steps that will shape the rest of their lives, cheered on by an adoring group of psychologists, professors and social scientists. In fact, in the eyes of the Left, if these mothers even question their daughters’ actions, they suddenly morph from being cutting-edge, progressive activists into being part of the deplorable nation. Ms. Shrier writes of how alone they feel, unable to share their anguish with others.

I am a mother. I feel no sense of schadenfreude when I read of these women suffering. I do wonder if they connect the dots. Do they realize that this tragedy is a natural next step of believing that traditional ideas are, by definition, archaic; that medical science should be subjective and politically influenced; and that social barriers must be shattered without ever expecting there to be unintended consequences? Do they celebrate as an increasing number of cities and states allow parents to register their newborns as gender-neutral or do they recognize that while they would have applauded this five years ago, maybe they would have been wrong to do so? Do they look in the children’s section of the library and feel queasy knowing that the ideas they avidly supported for decades will bequeath trauma on the young children being propagandized at every turn? Or do they protect themselves by thinking that everything they supported was correct; it is only now that things have moved too far?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do pray that these women find the strength to “come out.” Our culture is in desperate need of change. These mothers’ suffering can serve a purpose if they have the courage to follow in the footsteps of John Newton and declare, “I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.”

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Introducing: Your Mother’s Guidance (Proverbs 1:8) by Rebecca Masinter

January 9th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

I have exciting news to share. My husband and I have been blessed with seven wonderful children. They have further enriched our lives through their marriages and families. Our eldest, Rebecca, started her teaching career at about two years of age when she lined up her dolls and stuffed animals and instructed them. Over the next few years,  her younger siblings joined the class.

Eventually, Rebecca became a beloved middle-school teacher while studying for her BA in biology. After marriage, as her family grew, she focused inward running a science ACT prep business from her house while homeschooling her own children, the youngest of whom just turned four.

Rebecca invests a great deal of energy, commitment, time and study into being a mother and a teacher.  She is constantly looking to improve. Over the years, she has become a resource for many parents in her city and fields calls from around the country as well. I am delighted that she recently began to podcast very short messages, where she shares mothering lessons from the Bible. Because this podcast assumes Hebrew proficiency as well as an advanced Jewish studies’ background, it isn’t accessible to all.  However, Rebecca is allowing me to tweak these teachings so that I can share the transcripts with you.  I look forward to start  doing so under the heading Your Mother’s Guidance (Proverbs 1:8)


Should I apologize to my ex-wife?

January 8th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 43 comments

I got divorced 10 years ago and remarried 8 years ago. I find myself still grieving about my first marriage and it interferes with my current marriage emotionally.

Should I write a letter of apology to my ex-wife? I find myself living with a lot of regret to the point that I want to leave my current marriage, not to remarry my ex but I feel remorseful about my lack of love for her when we were married.

Steve K.

Dear Steve,

We are not prophets, but that doesn’t mean that in certain scenarios we don’t see the future very clearly. Here is our prediction about exactly what will happen if you continue living by doing what your heart is tugging you towards (which we sincerely hope you do not do). Our prediction is that you will end up writing a similar letter to your second wife and being filled with similar recriminations about ruining your second marriage after it, too, ends in divorce.

Since you took the trouble to write to us, we’re assuming you want the terrible truth rather than a warm butter massage. We will pay you the respect of telling you this truth. 

What can you do to change the disastrous direction of your life? There is no alternative.You must perform a major reset. We’re sorry to speak harshly, but you are not behaving like a man. You have been allowing your emotions to run your life. Your heart has been in charge instead of your head. You have been treating your feelings as if they are the captain of the ship of your life. With considerable confidence, we’d guess that your feelings-driven life path contributed to the demise of your first marriage.

It’s reset time. From now onwards, your head is in charge and if your thoughtful purposeful constructive decisions clash with your feelings (as they will for the first few months of the new you) just banish your feelings. That’s right. Get rid of them. We’re not interested in your feelings. It is true that for in the normal course of things, feelings should play a role. However, you have been so far over to the feeling end of the spectrum that you need a few months of head-only training to resume normality.

Start doing whatever is necessary to invest fully in your current marriage. The feelings driving you to write a letter to your ex-wife is only about making you feel better. You’re not even asking yourself what might be the insalubrious effect of such a letter on her. Again, this is all about your feelings. Please stop it!

You need to focus less on what you feel and more on how you speak and act. You must consistently and constantly show your current wife that you treasure her and love her – even if your emotions are not yet fully on board. Make opportunities to express to your wife your unwavering commitment to her. It is important that your ears hear your mouth making these declarations.

Emotions will follow actions; life turns calamitous when we allow our actions to follow our emotions.

What do you think happens in the military when a recruit decides he doesn’t feel like getting up in the morning or making his bed or going for a run? Too bad. He has to do it anyway. You signed up for a marriage and you had better start fulfilling the terms of the covenant to which you agreed.

There is a bonus to behaving properly. As we have explained, your feelings will begin to conform to your actions. At the same time, make yourself shut down all thoughts of your past marriage. We can’t always control what pops into our heads, but we don’t have to let those thoughts remain in residence. Exerting control over yourself is the best way for dealing with destructive instincts. Some pessimistically always expect the worst, others gravitate to pornography, while yet others have a short fuse and regularly lose their tempers. No matter. We are not animals who must follow instinct. We are human beings who can exert control. And must do so.

Steve, this is not an instant process nor an easy one but you must start on this immediately if not sooner! From our careful reading of your letter, we have faith that you can master this.

Good times in your marriage forever.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Get Ready for Mother’s Day

January 8th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 5 comments

Mother’s Day is sacrosanct. It is almost a law of nature. Nobody dare disparage the purchase of those boxes of chocolate and the saccharine-flavored greeting cards that accompany them. Few would discourage dragging mom out to a crowded restaurant for that obligatory Mother’s Day meal. Were I to  question its value as a revered date on our calendar closer to its date in May, I would be excoriated for blasphemy. This week however, my Thought Tool can be welcomed as, oh say, research.

You see, here is what bothers me about it: Most would agree that the Ten Commandments lie at the core of Western civilization. Well, the Fifth Commandment doesn’t instruct us only to honor our fathers and mothers on two special days each year, does it? No, the Commandment is valid for 365 days each year and 366 in leap years.

My wife and I have always suspected that observance of an annual Mother’s Day or Father’s Day actually diminishes observance of the Fifth Commandment. Not wanting to run the risk of that happening, we just declared from our children’s infancy that in our home, every day would be Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

To my relief, our children accepted this, but on growing a little older, they inquired about another verse found early in the 19th chapter of Leviticus.

Everyone should fear his mother and father.  
(Leviticus 19:3)

Contrasting this with that Fifth Commandment which did so much for our family’s lifestyle, they asked, “Why reverse the order of father and mother?” In the Ten Commandments, “Honor your father and mother” but in Leviticus, “Fear your mother and father”.  Does the Bible instruct us to honor our fathers more than our mothers but to fear our mothers more than our fathers?

Of course not! The Bible never asks us to do the easy and the natural. In fact, its very greatness is how it introduces us to the revolutionary idea that makes Western civilization possible. Namely that it is not only possible, but vital that we overcome nature, particularly our own. Behaving naturally is not the goal, dominating our nature is.

Toilet training a young child is an early time this lesson is administered. Don’t relieve yourself when it would be natural to do so, just as animals do. Be unnatural. Hold it in until an appropriate time and until you’re in an appropriate place. Behaving naturally is not the goal; dominating our nature is.

Although many in America consider it uncivilized to eat without first saying a blessing of gratitude for the food, it would be hard to find instructions about grace before meals in the Bible.  However, in the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy we are clearly instructed to give thanks after eating.

And you shall eat, be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God. 
(Deuteronomy 8:10)

Ancient Jewish wisdom assures us that most of us feel considerably more spiritual and holy when hungry. (This dictum must be related closely to the one about no atheists in foxholes!) Fasting is necessary to observe the Day of Atonement because it puts us in the mood to atone. Since hunger induces piety, it is completely natural for all normal, sensitive humans to say grace prior to satisfying their hunger. Thus, we can be counted on to do so without instruction. What is unnatural is for the satiated diner with bulging belly, to pause prior to staggering away from the table in order to express profound gratitude to the Creator. That is an amazingly unnatural feat and it is precisely what is demanded of us.

Similarly, most of us feel a natural respect toward our mothers while we feel a natural fear of our fathers. I know that as a child, I much preferred my frequent mischief to be discovered first by my mother. Thus the Fifth Commandment teaches us the unnatural. Honor your father as much as you would naturally honor your mother. Then, in Leviticus, fear your mother just as much as you naturally fear your father. In other words, always strive to be far better than nature dictates. Behaving naturally is not the goal, dominating our nature is.

Mother’s Day may be part of nature, but it is unnatural and far more desirable to make today and tomorrow, and yes, everyday, just as much a Mother’s Day as will be May 12th.  If you do this really well, perhaps good, old Mom will let you off that dreadful Mother’s Day lunch.

Another question on which the Bible gives us guidance is which relationship gets priority:  our spouse or child. Early in Genesis, we find advice that differs for men and women. We discuss this and many other tips for marriage in our audio CD, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden. Right now, both the physical and download versions are on sale.

Rabbi Lapin Download





Madam, I’m Adam
Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden MP3
Madam, I’m Adam:
Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden CD


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