A Child’s Coat; a Mother’s Love

February 21st, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A Your Mother’s Guidance post by Rebecca Masinter

Exodus 28 details the clothing that the Priests and High Priest wore while doing the service in the Tabernacle and Temple.  The Torah describes them as “Bigdei Kodesh” “holy clothing”  because of their function of being worn in holy service. I’d like to share with you another instance in Scripture of holy clothing and this one came about through a mother’s love!

I learned this many years ago from Rabbi Meir Prengler, currently of Los Angeles, and it was so powerful and beautiful that it stuck with me. 

When Hannah brought Samuel to serve in the Tabernacle under the priest, Eli, she was giving up her beloved son obtained miraculously after years of childlessness.  Out of her great love for her son, Samuel,  she made him a special coat – a meil, so he would have something of hers with him even when they were apart (I Samuel 2:19). 

With each stitch she sewed, she imbued the coat with her love, and a mother’s love is eternal.  This explains why the coat grew with Samuel as he grew, and even remained his after his death.  Later,  after Samuel died, King Saul needed to talk to him from beyond the grave and how did Saul identify Samuel?  The man with the coat (I Samuel 28:14).

Rabbi Prengler told us that the great love that Chana instilled in this coat made it an item of holiness, so spiritual that it even surpassed death.  We can’t begin to comprehend the power of our actions or the effect that our love has and will continue to have on our children. The truth is that a mother’s love is powerful beyond belief.

Eleanor’s Eleven Keys to a More Fulfilling Life

February 21st, 2019 Posted by Reading Recommendations, Susan's Musings 20 comments

Have you noticed how many books have a number in the title, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?  Or how many articles are enticingly entitled “The Top 5 Reasons We Fall Out of Love”?  We human beings love lists. Who wouldn’t be smitten with the idea that if I only do these seven or ten or fifteen things, my life will be better, my marriage will be stronger and my career will flourish? Of course, it is easier to read the ideas than to put in the hard work of executing them. And, of course, no list—even the most marvelous one—hits every area every time.

I recently read a book from decades ago, with a subtitle that still resonates today. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, one of America’s most admired women, wrote You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life only a few years before her death (decades after her husband’s presidency). The advice she gives holds up rather well, though I think she would be shocked to discover that by today’s standards she might very well be considered a hard-core conservative rather than an icon of the Democrat Party.

As so often happens when reading a book from a previous era (the book was published in 1960), one is reminded that assumptions we make and things we take for granted aren’t necessarily writ in stone. In last week’s Your Mother’s Guidance column, Rebecca Masinter wrote about a Scriptural lesson on the importance of each individual feeling needed. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote on the same topic, in a way that I think sounds surprising to the modern ear.

Mrs. Roosevelt writes,

“One reason why we sometimes find less delinquency proportionately among the poor (my emphasis) is that the children have a greater sense of being needed in the family. They have a sense of belonging, of shared responsibility, of being an essential—and necessary—part of a component whole.”

In our day, we are strongly propagandized that crime is an inevitable consequence of poverty. Yet, it seems that this is not a given.

I find it fascinating that the Public Works Administration was a keystone of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to the lack of available work during the Depression. The concept reflects the truth that money earned uplifts workers, but money given too freely corrodes the recipients. Yet, its policy grandchildren of today are a proliferation of public assistance programs that actually discourage working. Programs since the 1960s have had the  unintended consequence (or some will argue, the very much intended consequence) of penalizing those who marry and work while struggling financially. Children not only don’t feel needed in order to help the family survive, but these programs undermine the idea of family itself. Reliance on government programs rather than family members treats husbands and fathers as unnecessary. The birth of children, in and of itself rather than the efforts and help of those children, triggers the flow of so-called government money.

Our children used to joke that homeschooling was another name for child labor as their many hours at home gave them plenty of time to wash dishes, put away groceries, cook and clean. The line between schooling and home was difficult to delineate as we doubled fractions in recipes, compared prices per ounce in the market and recited poems while sweeping. There was plenty of time for everything. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that our children are amazed that their father and I actually function without them since they have grown up and established homes of their own. I think that Eleanor Roosevelt would have understood.

Here’s another important number.
$5 off any of our sets and packages – use as many times as you like!
Just enter promo code WINTER at check-out.

Complete Library Pack PLUS

Books, audio CDs and DVDs

All sets and packages $5 off
when you enter the promo code WINTER at checkout. 

Should we emigrate or stay put?

February 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 21 comments

Shalom,

 Firstly I would like to sincerely thank you for every podcast, thought tool, answer to every question with so much thought and wisdom.  It’s been life changing listening and reading everything you and your wife share.  

We live in Namibia, a country bordering South Africa and linked to the South African Rand.  We are going through a huge recession and as the saying goes here – if South Africa has a cold, Namibia has Pneumonia. Everything that happens in SA has a huge impact on us.  

We are seriously contemplating if we should emigrate. Why?  The main reason – to create a better future for our children.  There is little to no future for them in Namibia.  As the economy worsens, corruption and violence increases.

 Moving to another country like New Zealand means we can create a new life with new possibilities together.  They can go on and study at numerous universities.  They can get married and we can see our grandchildren grow up together…

 …or we can stay and they will most probably move away themselves somewhere in the future, and with our weak currency visiting them anywhere in the world will be next to impossible…

We don’t know the future of our country but for now the future does not look great. We are by no means doom and gloom people and as mentioned earlier we are still safe but when does one get to the point where one actually takes a step toward something like what you call “the American dream”? When does your children’s future take preference before your own comfortable life(or seemingly comfortable life)?

Do we have a lot to give up? TONS!!! Both our families are all here.  We are a very close knit family.  We live on a stunning plot outside town with lots wide open spaces, My daughter (age 11) has her own quarter horse, the boys (ages 13 and almost 4) can climb trees and hunt birds. They love the animals and freedom. Here everyone knows who you are. You’ve already made your name. Basically our whole life- 14 years of marriage.  Everything we worked for… we will have to leave that behind and look to the future, for our children…or stay and pray it gets better…

When is considering to emigrate a good option?

We have done a lot of research. We’ve made our lists of pros and cons. My head says go, my heart says no.

 Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you so much,

The B. family

Dear B. Family,

Thank you for writing and thank you for your kind words regarding our teachings.  We derive great joy from hearing that our work benefits people’s lives. 

While we shortened your letter a bit for this column, we hope we haven’t removed the emotional impact. As with so many other important life decisions, twenty years from now you will know what was the best thing to do, but by then you will be living the consequences of whichever decision you make.  The good news is that by far and away, most decisions are not matters of life/death.

In all probability, twenty years down the road people will still be living, for better or for worse, in both Namibia and New Zealand.  Occasionally the wrong decision places people in the heart of terrible war zones.  Think of Jewish families who fled frightening rural parts of Poland in 1938 and settled in Warsaw only months before the Nazis invaded.  Or the people who wanted to get away from it all and relocated to the Falkland Islands just before the war of 1982.

In the spring of 1960, there was a terrible event in which about 70 people were shot dead by South African policemen in Sharpeville.  This was followed by a mass exodus of many South Africans who had opportunities elsewhere in the world.  The conventional wisdom was that this was the right time for people, particularly those with white skins, to leave the country.  Many did just that.  Yet in the fifty years since then, South Africa has had some of its best times. 

Today, however, with disturbing socio-political trends in Southern Africa including Zimbabwe and Namibia, I think that for people in the right circumstances, it could be a good time to start a new life elsewhere.  That said, I have advised a number of South Africans over the past year or two to remain and help bring stability. Everything depends upon circumstances.

We don’t, and more importantly ancient Jewish wisdom, doesn’t, minimize the impact of leaving one’s homeland and family. In Genesis 12:2, after telling Abraham to leave his land, birthplace and family, God promised him three blessings to compensate for the typical costs of major relocation—family, finances, and reputation.  These are exactly the same concerns mitigating against you leaving Namibia today.

We point out a few ideas to ponder. Taking as a given that we cannot guarantee security, looking to the future and taking into account what is going on in southern Africa, it does seem that you are wise to anticipate worsening conditions.  It goes without saying that what we recommend to you with your young family is quite different from what we might say to a semi-retired couple who have lived in Southern Africa with their families for over fifty years.

In addition to the points you made about New Zealand offering your children more educational and economic opportunity, we’d like to add an idea. In Jeremiah 35:7-11  we meet Yonadav the son of Rechav, whose descendants survived a war by relocating because they did not feel tied to land.  Now Yonadav’s prescription to avoid owning real estate is a bit extreme as a practical policy. But the point is to feel sensitive to the subtle signals that it’s time to move without being overwhelmed by the emotional impact of all the immovable property one owns. 

You can carry your family heritage and your beliefs with you and establish a home wherever you are. While parting from close family will be wrenching and you and your children will lose out by being ‘strangers in a strange land’, is it possible that you should be establishing a foothold in a new country?  Maybe your destiny is to provide a landing site if things do deteriorate rapidly.  Perhaps one day you will be able to offer your extended family a haven and refuge.  This was very often the thinking behind the grueling emigration that brought many Jews to America and South Africa in the late 19th century.  In the end they did make it possible for many of their friends and family later to escape the Nazi death machine. 

We do not know if you have the ability to land in a new country with a nest egg to launch your new life or whether you would be starting entirely from scratch.  (Ancient Jewish wisdom does recommend keeping a third of your assets in easily movable form—hence the Jewish fondness for the diamond business.  A nice pouch of high quality jewels greatly eases immigration!  I’ve often contemplated the question of whether crypto-currency could serve this purpose but at this point I do not trust it as possessing real value.)  Either way, as more years go by, and some of the flexibility and adaptability of youth fades, starting over does become more difficult.

In a way, dear B’s, your final sentence pretty much provides the answer.  You wrote that after weighing it all up, it is coming down to a head vs. heart analysis.   It is always very clarifying when a difficult decision resolves itself into a head/heart conflict.  We think you know what we would say.  Nearly always, head trumps heart.  That doesn’t mean there is no pain.  It just means that ultimately there is more gain. 

Do whatever you can to minimize the heartbreak and pain of leaving, plan for success as much as you can, but in the final analysis, if you have the strength to do so, follow your head. (And make sure that your pro and con lists are complete.)

With blessing for peace, prosperity and success wherever you are,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

 A Positive Side of Winter!
Use promo code WINTER at check out and get $5 off each of our packages and/or sets. 

Use promo code WINTER at checkout 
and get $5 off each package or set that you purchase!

Stock up on Genesis Journeys, Biblical Blueprints, Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV shows, the Income Abundance Set and more…

Friends Forever?

February 18th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 11 comments

Go ahead; list the ten most important relationships in your life.  Some will be family and others will be business and work relationships.  There will probably be a few friends on the list too.  Family relationships are fairly well defined.  The obligations and expectations of those relationships are, for the most part, known quantities. Business relationships are also clear, governed as most are by contracts.  But what about friends?  What are the obligations of friendship? What are reasonable expectations of friendship?

While the Five Books of Moses are packed with rules and rituals that shape both family and business relationships, it is notably light on mention of friendships.  We know just what employees owe their employers and vice versa, and we know what parents owe children and what children owe their parents, but if we ask people what they owe their friends, the answer could be, “It depends on the friend.”

Everyone knows the answer to the question, “For how long will your parent be your parent?”  If asked for how long a marriage is intended to last, the correct answer is, ‘This is forever.’  But if one is asked for how long one’s friend will be one’s friend, the prudent answer is, “I don’t know.”  The true answer might be, “For as long as we both want to be friends.”

The fine Irish poet, William Butler Yeats whose wonderful poem, Sailing to Byzantium, donated its opening line “That is no country for old men” to the title of a Coen Brothers 2007 crime movie, also penned an even better known line:

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” 

The line hints at an uncomfortable truth, namely that the line between friends and strangers can be a bit blurry.

Which presents us with a puzzling problem: how do we build lasting frameworks for friendships?  Ancient Jewish wisdom provides a pathway by noting the parallels between the first two commandments of the Torah and the last two.

#1:  Have children

Be fertile and increase…
(Genesis 1:28)

#2:   Circumcision

You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin.
This shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.
(Genesis 17:11)

#612:   Annual gathering, a sort of State of the Union Address

Gather all the people—men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities…
(Deuteronomy 31:12)

#613:   All must have their own copy of the Torah

Therefore, write down this prose…
(Deuteronomy 31:19)

The first two commandments link the individual to both the past and the future.  God wants me to reproduce which links me to the future. Furthermore, I’m directed to circumcise my sons. This is an immensely powerful, emotional ceremony which locks me to the past.

The last two commandments link the nation to the past and to the future.  We’re told to hold an annual gathering at which we all listen to the Torah and relive our history.  Then the Torah’s final instruction directs each member of the nation to write our own copy of the Torah; an arduous undertaking that only makes sense if the resulting book is going to serve as our roadmap to the future. 

Thus we see that the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish people, is bookended by a pair of rules that give the individual his or her life context, and another pair of rules that give the people its life context.  As an individual, I am not an alienated orphan dropped into a cold lonely life.  I am linked to a future by my children and I am linked to a past by the timeless covenant of Abraham.  The nation, in turn is also linked to its destiny in the future and its origins in the past. 

Many Americans fear greatly for the future of their country because new citizens, whether by birth or immigration, are no longer taught to value the country’s origins.  Even more concerning to many is that current citizens no longer share any sense of a purposeful national future based on shared American ideals. 

When past and future are shared with others, friendships often result. Each stranger can truly be a friend, “you haven’t yet met.” When people’s ideas excite them today, but have no bedrock in the past nor sustainable hope in the future, strangers can walk together temporarily, but true friendship is unlikely. For friendships to thrive our lives need to be firmly rooted in the past and foreseeable in the future.

We like to think of our resources as providing direction for the important areas in our lives, the four Fs: Family, Friendship, Faith and Finances. This week, expand your practical wisdom in all four zones by using the promo code WINTER at check-out to save $5 off all our already low-priced sets and bundles.

Complete Library Pack PLUS Use promo code WINTER at checkout
and get $5 off any of our low-priced sets!

Frustrate Your Child Today

February 18th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

The above words may not sound as nice as, “Do a random act of kindness today,” but they may be just as important. Stick with me as I make a case for following them. First, let me give you a few suggestions how to go about accomplishing this aim:

  1. Make clear that the newest, greatest, best birthday present they ever received will not be available for use until a hand-written thank-you card is ready for mailing.
  2. Respond to the words, “I’m bored,” with a grateful smile and a broom or mop.
  3. Meticulously follow through on carefully thought out statements such as, “Any clothing/shoes/toys/stuff left lying around the living room after bedtime will be quarantined for seven days.
  4. Present an age-appropriate poem to each child (and adult) and pick a date where only those who recite their poems will be invited to a family ice-cream social. Be flexible here and allow everyone to pick his or her poem as long as it meets approval. (The poem Fleas: Adam had ‘em should not be admissible for anyone over two-years-old.)
  5. Have a policy that unless there are the type of extenuating circumstances that occur no more than once a year,  whining never turns a no into a yes, a yes into a no, or a whining child into a quiet one watching a video or playing a game on your phone.
  6. Refuse to complain to your child’s teacher because the work is too hard unless your grandmother would have complained to your mother’s teacher over similar work. (In other words, the 8X table does need to be memorized.)

I think you get the idea.

Life frustrates babies and toddlers. They cannot communicate as well as they would like to and learning to walk automatically includes a great deal of falling and bumped heads. Generally, babies aren’t able to control their lives very much. The good news is that we can’t fix their deficiencies. We can certainly smooth the way by understand their abilities, clearing obstacles from their path, and setting routines in place that help them thrive, but we cannot yell at the pediatrician because our six-month-old isn’t walking or expressing himself in full sentences. If we saw a mother who never let her child try to crawl or walk out of fear of the child falling, we wouldn’t applaud her but hope that she found a mothering mentor. And when, after lots of failed attempts, an upright little one navigates his way across the room or builds a tower of blocks that stands, his beaming face tells us that the reward is a function of the effort.

As our children get older, their frustrations come less from the tremendous physical and physiological growth they are undergoing and more from character, intellectual and self-discipline development. Yet—and this is true for adults as well—without hitting limitations, being frustrated and overcoming those hurdles, they and we do not grow.

A thirteen-month-old crying in frustration raises our sympathies or, at least, our understanding. For the most part, we can deal with him. We can distract him or hold him or put him in his crib to fall asleep. Assuming a healthy child in a healthy atmosphere we can be pretty sure that today’s challenge will disappear over the next few weeks.

An older child yelling in frustration often scares or angers us. She may blame us for her unhappiness or demand that we fix things. After all, no one else’s parents demand written thank-you notes rather than a quick text, the other teachers let their students use calculators and everyone else her age is allowed to own a smart phone. We are the problem.

Responding in kind by yelling back and threatening punishment or, alternatively, complaining to her coach or teacher may provide temporary relief, but long-term damage. Clearing the roadblock by letting her drop a class or even by arranging prematurely for a tutor, teaches that she cannot help herself and find her own solutions. It sets her up for a life of passivity and failure rather than the joy of accomplishment.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that frustrating your child should be the sole guiding path in your parenting. But in a milieu of love and support, staying out of the way and letting our children fall down, bump their heads and get up and try again can be one of the kindest actions we take.

Honoring a Brave Man

February 14th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

On February 6, I, like many others, was shaken to hear of the death of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. I am honored to have been asked to eulogize him for one of the most important Jewish newspapers.

You can read excerpts from my words on our American Alliance of Jews and Christians page here.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein 1952-2019

February 14th, 2019 Posted by AAJC Happenings 1 comment

On February 6, 2019, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews passed away suddenly from a heart attack.  Rabbi Daniel Lapin was asked to write a eulogy for The Jewish Press, which describes itself as, “America’s Largest Independent Jewish Weekly.” Here are some excerpts from that eulogy.

It is neither pleasant nor easy to say goodbye to an old friend. My world became a lot lonelier last Wednesday afternoon when Yechiel Eckstein departed this world for his heavenly reward. Reflecting on the loss is most of what I have been doing since then.

…Do you know how cyclists achieve speed records? They ride behind a high-speed truck fitted with a huge wind deflector. Using the full power of its thundering engine, the truck speeds just ahead of the bicycle. Shielded from the wind and fury, the rider pedals away in a tranquil wind shadow.

Yechiel was my wind shield. We Jews, like other people, often succumb to the seduction of driving with our eyes glued to the rear-view mirror. We diligently dodge the dangers of yesterday while blithely ignoring the threats of tomorrow. It’s true that Christian theology spilled much Jewish blood over many centuries. But today Jewish blood is being spilled by murderous Muslims encouraged by a radical secularism that is hostile to people of faith and the State of Israel. Today, Christians are the victims, not the oppressors. Yechiel saw all this over 30 years ago.

Unaware that Yechiel had preceded me by eight years, I formed an alliance of Jews and Christians in 1991. Contradicting centuries of conventional wisdom that insisted Christians were our implacable foes, my work was not without controversy. However, as painful as the assaults I endured from my fellow Jews were, they were as sprinklings of confetti compared to what was inflicted upon Yechiel…

He absorbed much of the fire and fury aimed by those who were determined to see Christians as the enemy. By the time I came along and insisted that the problem we Jews faced was not Christians but, in fact, a secularism that was seducing our youth and emboldening radical Islam, I was able to operate in a relative wind shadow. Yechiel was my wind shield…

He conducted himself with love and concern toward all he came into contact with. Jew and Christian, employee, associate, donor, or beneficiary – all felt that Yechiel was genuinely interested in them and really cared about them…

Yechiel was a courageous man. The default condition for human beings is cowardice, not courage. That’s why Moses, Joshua and Solomon were adjured to be courageous. It doesn’t come naturally. Friendship towards evangelical Christians was not a popular posture in the Jewish community prior to 9/11. Despite possessing the intellect as well as the cultural adroitness to speak out of both sides of his mouth, he never did. Eckstein never ducked the issues. He was exactly who he was with no apologies and was always willing to engage in discussion or debate.

He was devoted to truth and suffered real pain at the skullduggery practiced by many he considered friends. I don’t think he ever understood how people were able to turn their backs on years of friendship for the sake of political expediency. He was a courageous man so he never could understand cowards.

History has long proved Yechiel Eckstein correct. That Jews and the State of Israel have mortal enemies is without doubt. That for the most part, Christians are philo-Semitic and stand with Israel is equally certain. It is indisputable that the warmth felt towards Jews and Israel by millions of gentle Christians – for the first time in two millennia – owes much to Yechiel Eckstein.

Insensitive or Unforgivable?

February 14th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 58 comments

Starting in 1965 and continuing through 1971, Hogan’s Heroes was a popular TV comedy. Actor Bob Crane played Colonel Hogan, the highest ranking American prisoner of war interned in a German POW camp. Unlike the actual Nazis, the Germans in the show were invariably rather benign and clumsy oafs, continually being outwitted by their prisoners.

If Nazis and captured American military men don’t sound terribly funny to you, I agree. As a child, I was enough offended by the show that when an adult in my orbit enjoyed it, it seriously reduced my respect for that individual.

Now, decades later, I am rethinking my views. Increasingly, accusations are being hurled at people for actions they took decades earlier. Imagine if there had been a TV show that portrayed a Southern plantation in the 1850s where the Black slaves actually ran the show because the White masters were incompetent? Would one of the show’s actors or anyone accused of liking the show be electable today? I doubt it.

I still think that Hogan’s Heroes was juvenile and in poor taste. But, maturity has provided me with the ability to see that disagreeing with me is not automatically contemptible. One of the stars of the show was a man named Robert Clary. As a Jewish teenager, he spent a few nightmarish years in Nazi concentration camps. After his release from Buchenwald, he discovered that his parents and many other family members had been murdered in Auschwitz. Robert Clary did not think that the Nazis were amusing clowns.

Werner Klemperer, who played the German Colonel Wilhelm Klink in the show also had a Jewish father.  If his family had not left Germany in 1935, he too would have met Nazi standards for extermination.

John (originally Johann) Banner, who played the bumbling German Master Sergeant, Schultz, was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria. They emigrated in 1938 to the United States, avoiding the fate of many of their family members who were murdered. Mr. Banner served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and told TV Guide, “Schultz is not a Nazi. I see Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in any generation.”

These are only three of Hogan’s Heroes actors whose lives intersected with the Holocaust and World War II. If you are shaking your head not understanding how they could participate in a comedy about the era, so am I. Despite reading their explanations for appearing in the show, I still don’t get it. I also don’t get how anyone found the show anything other than offensive.

However, I have no choice but to recognize that decent people disagreed with me. Pretending that those who watched the show were all anti-Semites is foolish. Jews and ex-GIs were not only among the actors but also among the audience. It is sophomoric and dangerous to suggest that it was o.k. for Jews and ex-GIs to appear in the show or find it funny but that anyone who had anything to do with the show who is not in one of those categories is a hateful human being.

I doubt that a show like Hogan’s Heroes would run on national TV today. Neither would a movie that featured blackface get made today. But, as much as I would like to see Democrat VA Governor Ralph Northam out of office, I fear that the forces urging him to resign care less about all Americans respecting each other as they do about political calculation; and it is a calculation that promotes hatred, resentment and victimhood. (It looks now like the press has decided to allow Governor Northam to tough it out—my point still stands.)

Here is a paradox. Until a few years ago, anti-Semitism and racism were declining. One of the factors in both their revivals has been that they have been turned into cudgels. Accusing someone of either “ism” became a weapon with which to destroy careers and lives. Because of the “isms” is has become impossible to have honest conversations about issues that affect and harm America and her citizens.

Today, the press and the expanding far-Left influence are out for blood rather than trying to create a nation of individuals who can live peaceably together.  By insisting that people identify by their nationality, bloodlines and genes (unless it has to do with specific approved gender issues, of course) we set ourselves up for loathing the other. We are all losers when we shut down free speech even of the juvenile, insensitive and offensive type. We imperil our society when we turn every single American into someone whose less than finest hours dangle over him or her like the sword of Damocles. 

Hogan’s Heroes isn’t going to be revived today, but we now have elected officials in Congress who speak positively about real-life, not fictional, people who want to wipe out the Jewish people. Today, we are judging people by their gender, racial and ethnic groups more than we did a few decades ago.

Is this progress?

Is getting and staying married harder than it has ever been?
Get help (and save money) with:

THE LASTING LOVE SET

Everyone Needs to Give

February 12th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

In the Sinai desert, the Tabernacle was the place where human beings could get closest to God.  Building it was a project for everyone—no exceptions.  Everyone in the nation contributed to it.

In our homes, we often have different people with different strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to make.  Just as the Tabernacle needed to come from men and women, leaders and laymen, our homes are also built when everyone has a role and can contribute and be a giver in his or her own way. 

Here’s the kicker: it’s not that the Tabernacle needed to come from everyone as much as that everyone needed to build the Tabernacle.  The Israelites were fresh from generations of slavery and poverty and needed to see themselves as people with great resources and skills.  By having all the Jews contribute to the Tabernacle, God was showing them their abilities, wealth, and talents.  Through being givers of such magnitude, they could recognize their worthiness and value.

There are two ways we can ask for help in our homes.  One is focused on our need,

“I need help.  I’m overwhelmed.  Can you do x, y, or z?” 

That is not bad or wrong and is certainly sometimes the reality.  But think for a moment of the same help being contributed but with a whole different attitude.  What if it’s not about me, it’s about my kids? It’s important for our children to know they have worth, resources, skills, and talents that contribute to our families.  What if I ask my child for help not because I desperately need it, but because my child needs to give? 

When we need help in the moment we tend to ask the one who is most capable or easily available, but in truth, it’s a good idea for us to think proactively about what each child can contribute and how we can make that happen in the best times in the best way.  Here’s a simple example: for many years I have kept a lightweight battery operated vacuum cleaner in the kitchen.  This vacuum can easily be operated by a 3 year old and it is a real help to have my kitchen floor cleaned!  I also store dishes in bottom cupboards to allow younger children to unload dishwashers and set the table. 

My older kids also need me to think through how I can facilitate their contributing.  The older they get the less frequently they’re home!  But even my high school son who’s rarely home knows that he is a huge contributor to our family; we need him and count on him.

Finally, it may not be easy or obvious to figure out how a particularly challenging kid can be a meaningful contributor to the family.  This child needs it even more than the others!  We have to see and believe in his strengths and give him the responsibility to contribute positively to our family, so that he can begin to believe in himself and his abilities too.  The lessons from the Tabernacle are so profound! No one is exempt.  Everyone needs to be a giver, and everyone has what to contribute. By giving, we all, in actuality, receive far, far more.

How Do I Encourage My Wife to Dress Better?

February 12th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 20 comments

Hi Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

I need some advice and assistance regarding my wife and her appearance.

When we first dated and were married, she cared much more about looking nice around me. In the past few years or so, she seems to care little about her appearance. She many times hasn’t showered in the morning, doesn’t fix her hair, and wears clothes that are too big, too old, or clashing prints, frumpy, etc.

However, when she has an appointment, church, work (part-time), or we go out to eat, she will take more care for her appearance. It is night and day. I usually look presentable and my clothes fit and coordinate.  I take care of myself, exercise, and strive to keep attractive to her.

The other day she mentioned that she would like if I would compliment her more on her appearance, or tell her she’s beautiful, and inside I was perplexed – it appears she doesn’t want to do the work and just wants to look, well, literally like a slob or college roommate.

I sense she also may have features of depression. I feel like she doesn’t like her own self, and is not driven to improve herself. We are both in our 40’s and have a child in elementary school.

This is challenging for me, as I do love her, but I definitely notice other women while at work, running errands, out to eat, at church, etc. – and I long for my own wife to care about herself (and me) to, well, look more feminine and attractive, to care about it.

I have casually mentioned / hinted at improving her appearance in the past, but it was met with denial, attack, criticism, etc.

All that to basically ask,

1) how do I communicate this to her, that perhaps when I am home can she look nice/care about her appearance for me (which would fan the flames of love and passion), and

2) I was thinking of asking her to find a ‘feminine life coach’, perhaps one or two neighbor women, to help her with her style, appearance, mannerisms, self-care, etc.

Please help, we are Christians, and we do love each other, it is just sort of flat in our relationship and I hardly notice her. I feel at some level that each of us is responsible to care for ourself and to do what we can to attract our mate. Thank you and God bless you, your family and ministry.

Thomas

Dear Thomas,

Thank you for asking your excruciating question with such candor.  An exquisite balance must exist in all marriages between continually courting one’s spouse on one hand and feeling at home, relaxed and comfortable with that spouse on the other. As you note, we’re all going to encounter those of the opposite sex who are dressed up and put together when they appear in public. It is important always to remember that, out there in public, we don’t see the exhausted, complaining, unprofessional, very human side of those very people.  Even 1950s television wife Donna Reed wasn’t always in pearls, makeup, and heels. 

We want to address one jarring note in your letter: You write that you think your wife might be depressed.  While not fans of amateur diagnoses especially in the mental health area, we urge you to encourage her to go for a complete physical.  Maybe this is something you both could/should do together.  Being run down or off-kilter physically can deplete the energy needed to care for oneself. A good physician should detect signs of depression as well. If there is any underlying spiritual/mental/emotional dimension to your wife’s behavior, you both need to know that.

Assuming that everything is okay and there is no serious complication, it certainly sounds like your wife is unhappy and doesn’t feel attractive.  She asked you to tell her she is beautiful, which sounds like she tried to open up a conversation but you kept your response internal instead of taking the opportunity to discuss the state of your marriage. That, along with hinting that she should improve her appearance was probably quite crushing to her.

As you can tell, we believe that the problem you describe has underlying causes.  It is clearly not that she just doesn’t know how to dress or that she forgot how to do her hair and makeup.  If the underlying cause is not medical, then it is likely the marriage.

You sound like a good guy, but we wonder if you are looking from too narrow a perspective.  How often do you and your wife share a fun activity? Do you laugh together frequently? Do you surprise her with little gifts or notes that let her know you think of her? Do you compliment her when she is dressed to go out? Do you let her know when she is wearing a hairstyle or outfit that you find particularly attractive? Or are your eyes too focused on only one negative area?

I (Susan) would be mortified if my husband recruited other women to talk to me about my appearance. Please drop that idea although making sure that your wife has the time to participate in a weekly activity with a healthy group of women is a great idea. You mention part-time work and a child. Does your wife know that you want her to have time to pursue her own interests and the financial means to purchase makeup and clothes?

I (Rabbi Daniel) query whether you are bearing the bulk of the income earning burden for the family?  Has your moral leadership of your family been compromised in any way?  Is your wife’s conduct a silent way of reproaching you for what she perceives as past or current pain? 

Could there be anything in either of your histories prior to your marriage that could be relevant to the challenges you’re now living through?  These are a few of the talking points that should arise if you and your wife went out for coffee and for what the diplomats call, “full and frank discussions.” Casually dropping hints isn’t what is needed. Thoughtful, loving, respectful and serious conversation is.

Women’s bodies change after having children and as they age. Your wife may have a whole scenario in her mind that brands her as unattractive to you. For example, maybe you went through a period where you were distracted at work and she interpreted it as a rejection of her. It sounds like she knows that you,“…hardly notice her,” and this pains her. She does dress up to go out. Oversized, frumpy clothing can be a defense mechanism against your disregard. This reinforces our sense that there is probably an underlying marriage and relationship issue.

Thomas, we want to make clear that we think it terribly important that husbands and wives make an effort to be attractive to each other. This includes hygiene and dress, basic courtesy, putting down electronics during conversation and meals, sharing enjoyable activities and many other details. We aren’t belittling your pain at your wife’s neglect of her appearance. However, we think it stems from a deeper source and that you and she need to recover the relationship you used to have. This will result in her dressing more carefully rather than mistakenly thinking that if only she would dress more carefully you would recover the relationship. The goal isn’t to “change her,” but rather to understand what you both need to do to recapture romance and affection.

Perhaps a weekend marriage seminar would be a good place to start.

Marriage is worth working for,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

3 Resources for Dating and Marriage
in 1 Money-saving Package

Sign up to receive our AAJC newsletter and our free weekly teachings!

Sign Up Now!

Follow AAJC on its new Facebook Page!
X