Pebbles and Panoramas

May 20th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

My children constantly fascinate me when we hike in breathtakingly beautiful British Columbia during the summer. Some of them visibly thrill to the vast vistas and magnificent landscapes revealed as we crest a hill.  Others seem oblivious to the large scale spectacles but will stoop to pick up a pebble which can absorb their attention for twenty minutes.  Similarly, when boating, one child gazes endlessly at the wave pattern stretching to the horizon.  Meanwhile, her sister lies on her tummy on the edge of a dock peering down at a school of tiny fish darting around as if being signaled by an invisible choreographer. 

We learn much from the patterns of larger arrangements such as the earth’s upheavals that created the mountain ranges and the erosive forces that carved majestic canyons.  However it is just as important to understand the microscopic forces that help atoms to form molecules and the characteristics that shape those tiny molecules into complex substances.

Just as understanding both the macro of mountains and the micro of molecules helps us relate to physical reality, so understanding both the macro and the micro of the letters, words, and texts of the Bible helps us relate to spiritual reality.

Whenever we probe the inner meaning conveyed by a word or letter in the Lord’s language as we often do here in Thought Tools, we are exploring the micro.  However, when we examine patterns that reoccur in different parts of Scripture we are allowing the macro to reveal its secrets.

Let’s wrap our souls around four famous parallels linking God’s Garden of Eden with the desert Tabernacle and its successor, the Jerusalem Temple, both constructed by humans.

1.   God walks in both the Garden of Eden and the Tabernacle.

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden…
(Genesis 3:8)

And I will set my tabernacle among you…And I will walk among you…
(Leviticus 26:11-12)

======================

2.  Water flowed out of the Garden of Eden and also out of the Temple.

And a river went out from Eden…
(Genesis 2:10)

…and a fountain shall issue from the house of the Lord…
(Joel 4:18)

==============================

3.   Cherubs appear in both places to guard and protect.

…and he placed cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden…to guard the way to the tree of life.(Genesis 3:24)

And the cherubs shall stretch out their wings on high to cover the covering with their wings…(Exodus 25:20)

==============================

4.  Special garments [ketonet] are required in both places

For Adam and for his wife the Lord God made leather coats [ketonet]…
(Genesis 3:21)

And these are the garments which they shall make…an embroidered coat [ketonet]  
(Exodus 28:4)

Recounting the four parallels, we see:

1   God walks in His garden and in the places we create.

2   Water flows out of His garden and out of the places we create.

3   Spiritual forces protect the way to the Tree of Life and to the Tablets of the Covenant.

4   God made clothing for humans in His garden; we emulate Him in our holy places.

Today, in our current conditions, we are obviously unable to locate the Garden of Eden let alone enter it.  However, God did provide us with blueprints to create our own substitute.  Moses and the Israelites used them to build the Tabernacle and later Solomon used them to create the Temple. 

As long as we recognize that both the Tabernacle and the Temple were human replicas of the Garden of Eden, we too become capable of erecting our very own Garden of Eden substitutes right in our own homes.  We merely need note the four parallels.

One, our homes must be places where God walks and we walk with Him.  We don’t sit with Him or stand with Him, we walk with Him.  Meaning we and our families are on the move; we are never in exactly the same (spiritual) place. 

Second, water, (associated with spiritual sustenance in Torah nomenclature) must flow out of our homes.  Regularly inviting guests to share our meals and participate in uplifting conversation allows our ideas to flow and spread.

Third, we must ensure that spiritual forces are in place to protect our most cherished attributes, namely our faith and our families.  With the same enthusiasm that we invite the right people to enter, enjoy and contribute to the atmosphere of our homes, we must also keep out those people and influences that could harm it.

Fourth, and finally we must always, even in the privacy of our home, clothe ourselves in the garments of human dignity. Clothing is holy because God bestowed it upon His children as a way of distinguishing us from the animal kingdom.  Almost all of us look better clothed than naked and for all of us, being clothed protects our sense of self.  This is why the first thing Nazi concentration camps did to Jews upon their arrival was strip them naked.

It is all too easy to figuratively ‘let ourselves go’ when we’re at home.  It is so tempting to slide into poor behavior, abysmal manners, inadequate clothing and other unwholesome self-indulgences when we’re in our own homes.  In reality, in order to build our own Garden of Eden we need to resist these allures.

It is never too late to turn our own home into a Garden of Eden, a Tabernacle, or a Temple.  The rewards are incalculable and more than worth the effort it takes.  Keep both the mountain and the molecule in mind.  The former is the larger vision for the kind of home you’d like to live in while the latter are the details that keep you on that road.

On of humanity’s first moves away from Eden was the Tower of Babel. Only nine verses in Scripture, but the ideas behind them reappear in the pattern of history over and over again. They are in ascendancy once again in our days. Understand what is happening, how it affects you and how to oppose it with our 2 audio CD, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel. On sale this week, it will give you a wondrous glimpse into Scripture as well as today’s headlines.

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This Thought Tool was first published in October, 2014.

Book Review: A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

May 19th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

At the time a new movie about Marie Antoinette was released, our high-school age daughter made a comment to a friend about the Queen’s youth at the time of her dramatic encounter with the guillotine. Her friend was quite peeved at how our daughter had ruined the movie by giving away the ending.

Ignorance of history portends unhappiness for a civilization. If citizens are able to internalize the concept that, “There is nothing new under the sun,” by recognizing repeated trends and ideas, they are less vulnerable to the “newest and greatest idea” that falsely promises to provide universal freedom, peace and prosperity.

This is one reason that boring history tomes are a menace. History that is dry and lifeless makes no impression. Good historical fiction that creates imaginary characters while faithfully presenting events is a valuable resource. The minute that anyone, whether Marie Antoinette or the family that grew the wheat used in the royal kitchen, catches one’s imagination, the important occurrences of their lives and the applicable dates and locations become unforgettable.

With this in mind, I’d like to recommend a book for pre-teens and up entitled, A Night Divided. The story starts in 1961, on the night that the Berlin Wall dividing East and West Germany was erected. Eight-year-old Gerta, her fourteen-year-old brother and mother are trapped in their home in the East while another brother and their father are on the other side, aware that returning home is no longer an option due to their political leanings. The bulk of the book takes place four years down the road as Gerta and her brother begin plotting to escape to the West and reunite their family.

Read as an adventure story, the book is gripping. Adding some historical context gives it great value. It is a good sign that even in our times, this book received positive reviews from various newspapers and organizations that prefer not to focus on the evils of Communism.  I would recommend either reading A Night Divided aloud or at least discussing it with children after they have finished it, making sure they understand that the depiction of control and fear exerted by the East German Communists, as well as the dreariness of life under their rule, was real. 

The great author and playwright, Herman Wouk, today returned to the Lord, aged 104

May 17th, 2019 Posted by AAJC Happenings, On Our Mind 2 comments

Herman Wouk spent time with Susan and me in our home in Los Angeles while his classic books, Winds of War and War and Remembrance were in television production.

His book that I tend to recommend more than any other is his depiction of Judaism entitled This Is My God.  It is named for the Bible verse   This is my God and I will beautify Him (Exodus 15:2) and I don’t think it has ever been improved on.  In that book Herman Wouk described what Shabbat meant to him.  This is part of what he wrote:

 

The Shabbat has cut most sharply athwart my own life when one of my plays has been in rehearsal or in tryout.

The crisis atmosphere of an attempt at Broadway is a legend of our time, and a true one; I have felt under less pressure going into battle at sea. Friday afternoon, during these rehearsals, inevitably seems to come when the project is tottering on the edge of ruin. I have sometimes felt guilty of treason, holding to the Shabbat in such a desperate situation. But then, experience has taught me that a theater enterprise almost always is in such a case. Sometimes it does totter to ruin, and sometimes it totters to great prosperity, but tottering is its normal gait, and cries of anguish are its normal tone of voice.

So I have reluctantly taken leave of my colleagues on Friday afternoon, and rejoined them on Saturday night. The play has never collapsed in the meantime. When I return I find it tottering as before, and the anguished cries as normally despairing as ever. My plays have encountered in the end both success and failure, but I cannot honestly ascribe either result to my observing the Shabbat.

Leaving the gloomy theater, the littered coffee cups, the jumbled scarred-up scripts, the haggard actors, the knuckle-gnawing producer, the clattering typewriter, and the dense, tobacco smoke has been a startling change, very like a brief return from the wars.

My wife and my boys, whose existence I have almost forgotten in the anxious shoring up of the tottering ruin, are waiting for me, dressed in holiday clothes, and looking to me marvelously attractive. We have sat down to a splendid dinner, at a table graced with flowers and the old Shabbat symbols: the burning candles, the twisted challah loaves, the stuffed fish, and my grandfather’s silver goblet brimming with wine. I have blessed my boys with the ancient blessings; we have sung the pleasantly syncopated Shabbat table hymns.

The talk has little to do with tottering ruins. My wife and I have caught up with our week’s conversation. The boys, knowing that Shabbat is the occasion for asking questions, have asked them. We talk of Judaism. For me it is a retreat into restorative magic.

Shabbat has passed much in the same manner. The boys are at home in the synagogue, and they like it. They like even more the assured presence of their parents. In the weekday press of schooling, household chores, and work — and especially in play producing time — it often happens that they see little of us. On Shabbat we are always there and they know it. They know too that I am not working and that my wife is at her ease. It is their day.

It is my day, too. The telephone is silent. I can think, read, study, walk or do nothing. It is an oasis of quiet. My producer one Saturday night said to me, “I don’t envy you your religion, but I envy you your Shabbat.”

For Your Own Good

May 16th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

I appreciate warnings. When I’m a guest at a meal and my hostess tells us that one of the dips is super spicy, I appreciate knowing that before setting my mouth on fire. When a friend suggests that I skip reading a popular book because it is filled with profanity, I appreciate taking it off my reading list. When my phone alerts me about an accident up ahead and re-routes me, I appreciate saving the time I would have sat motionless on the freeway.

But what happens if I find out that the dip wasn’t actually spicy at all. There simply wasn’t enough to go around and my hostess wanted to save it for her other guests. Or my friend knew that I would love the book which was actually unobjectionable, but wanted to write about it on her blog before I wrote about it on mine. What if the developers of my traffic app only wanted to route me so that I would pass a certain coffee shop that was giving them a kickback on each beverage sold?

I no longer appreciate the warnings. Instead I feel manipulated.

This is exactly what is happening on Facebook and other social media sites today. I was aware that years ago already, Google and YouTube restricted videos from Prager University warning that they were “inappropriate” for young audiences. If you have seen these videos you will understand that the translation of “inappropriate” is worry that young people might be exposed to conservative ideas and the fear that they may be intrigued to learn more about them.

Recently, however, I’m seeing more of this type of slanting of information masquerading as concern for viewers. Not by silencing  entities like Prager University, which at least has other avenues in which to disseminate its ideas, but by playing liberal extremist nanny to the interactions between individuals. This week, Facebook masked a photo that was posted by a contact of mine. Facebook feigned concern that the post might offend me, so that they wrote, “We covered this photo so you can decide if you want to see it.” There was an additional warning: “This photo may show violent or graphic comment.” Now, there are a lot of inappropriate picture that I wish I did not have to see. Many of them are on the covers of newspapers or magazines that are hard to avoid as you walk through an airport or check out from a supermarket. However, although, I don’t personally know this contact, I do know that she has never posted anything I would consider inappropriate. I proceeded to click on the “uncover this photo” tab.

If you have your smelling salts at hand along with a teddy bear to cuddle if your blood pressure begins to climb, here is the message I uncovered.

Welcome

You came here from there because you didn’t like there, and now you want to change here to be like there. We are not racist, phobic or anti whatever-you-are, we simply like here the way it is and most of us actually came here because it is not like there, wherever there was. You are welcome here, but please stop trying to make here like there. If you want here to be like there you should not have left there to come here, and you are invited to leave here and go back there at your earliest convenience.

I do hope you have survived this graphic encounter with words that are so out-of-bounds that social media know-it-alls will shield you from them. My first thought was that this should be sent to all those white, wealthy, liberal individuals leaving states like California and moving to states like Texas.

May I humbly suggest that you be careful whose invitations you accept, whose book reviews you respect and whose driving directions you follow. Most importantly, treat concern for your well-being from any politician, academic or media outlet as a clarion call to research more and make up your own mind. 

Nine verses that explain terrible ideas becoming popular once again.

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Young and Foolish, Old and Grumpy?

May 15th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

With apologies to all senior citizens, (a civilized sobriquet if there ever was one) I am going to ask you a question:

What is the one word in English literature that occurs more frequently than any other directly after the words “crotchety,” “curmudgeonly,” or “cranky”?  If you answered “old” you are quite correct.  You’ll nearly always read “the crotchety old woman” or “that curmudgeonly old man”.  I am certainly not suggesting that all senior citizens are crabby or cantankerous but apparently enough are to have earned the connection.

Apart from being a warning to us all to avoid acquiring those unpleasing characteristics as we age, it also raises a question.  What in heaven’s name was in God’s mind with this verse:

You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old;
you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:32)

Other than managing to survive for six (seven, eight, nine? Fill in the number of your choice) decades or more, what exactly has an ill-tempered old man done to deserve such respect?  Therein lies an important insight from ancient Jewish wisdom.  An old person might indeed be a bit grumpy and grouchy but he or she has seen a bit of life.  If nothing else, the elderly have experienced more of life than people in their twenties.  Why does that qualify them for such a level of respect?

Through His love for each and every person, God wants us to live happy and fulfilling lives.  What makes that so hard is that we all have our own ideas of what constitutes a happy and fulfilling life.  If we make bad choices, the appalling results of those bad choices usually only become evident when it is already too late for a do-over.  In other words, if we all lived for a thousand years, by the time we reached middle age and had experienced life for five or six hundred years, we’d be quite wise.  Unfortunately, our life span is considerably shorter.  What is more, most of us make critical life decisions long before we’ve even lived three decades.  What chance to we have?  The odds aren’t good.

Not surprisingly, many men make bad educational and career decisions based on deceptive data.  Many women dissipate crucial years confident that if and when they might possibly desire marriage and children, the necessary matrimonially-minded men will magically appear.  Many men and women debase their marriages and disparage their spouses until divorce seems a welcome respite.  Many mothers and fathers without a clue about how to acculturate the next generation provide no guidance to the children they bring into the world. 

Obviously, few of these disasters would occur if people were able to carefully observe others making their mistakes for a few hundred years.  Since that is impossible, in His goodness, God provided us with the next best thing: a Book which teaches the wisdom of the ages.  By studying this book, we can find out what works and what doesn’t without having to laboriously gain that knowledge through hundreds of years of life-destroying mistakes.

For I am mindful of the plans I have made concerning you—declares the Lord—plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a hopeful future.
(Jeremiah 29:11)

This advice on picking a career isn’t intended to make God happy—it is to make us happy.  Ancient Jewish wisdom expounds some of the nuances and details for successful living.

He who finds a wife finds that which is good and receives favor from God.
(Proverbs 18:22)

This is one of several Biblical sources that when understood and absorbed would save young people years of unnecessary sadness in the challenging task of finding a mate.

Train a lad in the way he ought to go;
He will not swerve from it even in old age.
(Proverbs 22:6)
 

Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals the permanent principles of child rearing by expanding on this and other related verses.  If every child born was raised in accordance with these principles by parents who followed them too, we’d be living in a paradise.  Instead, a frightening percentage of children are born not knowing their fathers and being raised by a flickering screen.  Not surprisingly, we are not living in a paradise.

For happy and fulfilling lives as well as for a peaceful and productive society, this Book provides the principles.  This is why on the threshold of the launching of the nation of Israel in their own land, God warns Joshua thus:

Let not this Book of the Teaching cease from your lips, but recite it day and night, so that you may observe faithfully all that is written in it. Only then will you prosper in your undertakings and only then will you be successful.
(Joshua 1:8)

Of course there is always the alternative—live for a thousand years and you’ll pick up pretty much every principle presented in the Book.  Well, of course that is not possible, but the closer one gets to it, the better off one can be.  This is to say that someone who has reached old age has a far greater chance of knowing more about the permanent principles of how God ordered the world than someone who has lived for only twenty or thirty years. In a world filled with billions of people, there are certainly some curmudgeonly old fools, but young and foolish is a more likely pairing.

For that reason alone, the elderly deserve deference.

Speaking of young and foolish the adoration of socialism among the young is rather scary. Nine verses in Genesis uncover the appeal and dangers of socialism as well as the antidote. You will be amazed as you go beneath the surface using Hebrew and ancient Jewish wisdom to give you an insight into one of today’s challenges that is as old as life itself. On sale right now, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel will astound, entertain and enlighten you.

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How Far Does Faith Go?

May 14th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

I was raised as a preacher’s daughter with strict Christian values and believing in faith and that God answers prayer.

I raised my daughter the same way.  I just wasn’t as strict as my father. 

My daughter wants to start her own Ice Cream/Bakery business. She has prepared her business plan and she even took a position in the same business learning everything she needed to know so when she is in place she has all the tools.

“We have a situation”…. she believes GOD is going to miraculously bring her the money she needs to open her business she has a lot of faith…and she is just praying and waiting for God to come and bring her everything she needs because right now she does not have it. All she has is faith…. What do I say to her when I raised her to believe God can do anything … and God answers prayers. 

Thank you,

Alley J.

Dear Alley J.,

It’s not quite clear to us if you are asking a business question, a parenting question or a faith question. It sounds like your daughter is taking steps to prepare herself for starting a business by working on a business plan and getting an “inside look” at a similar enterprise. It does not sound like she is putting herself in debt or behaving irresponsibly in the belief that God will guarantee her success. That is all to the good.

From what you said we are guessing that your daughter is a teenager or young adult. You seem concerned that she is not looking for investors or perhaps seeking an SBA loan but merely sitting tight, confident in getting Divine help in securing funds. It seems you may be fretting as to what will happen to her faith if those funds don’t appear.

We certainly believe that God answers prayers. We also know that God’s answers do not always align with our hopes. Part of faith, in our eyes, is accepting that God knows better than we do and that His rulings are just and best even when we don’t understand or like them. This is true for all situations, not just economic ones. Anyone who has lived for a while knows that pious people are not exempt from tragedy. Not all sick people recuperate and the world is, sadly, full of tragic victims of crimes and accidents.

It sounds to us like this may be a natural opportunity for your daughter—and perhaps for you—to develop a more mature picture of faith. Your job as a parent isn’t to undermine her faith, but rather to support her in knowing that disappointment and obstacles should not sever her faith in God. Furthermore, while we cannot succeed without His help, our own efforts do not show a lack of faith but rather a shouldering of responsibility that is part of His plan for human success.

We have done a lot of teaching on our television show, Ancient Jewish Wisdom, and in our Thought Tools, of how God brings His miracles in response to our taking the first step. We’ve addressed how the Red Sea didn’t split until Israel first walked into the water. We’ve shown how the prophet Elisha helped the widow but only after she searched and came up with the seeds of her own redemption, a tiny bottle of oil. Similarly, your daughter will see that prayer in addition to effort is far more effective than sitting around doing little except prayer.

You can certainly encourage her to continue gaining a greater understanding of business and economics in general and her own interests in particular.

Signed by two fans of both bakeries and ice-cream,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Are you amazed that socialism is popular again? 
Follow its path from the beginning to know what it is truly about. 

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Timing Matters

May 13th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 1 comment

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

According to the ancient Jewish divisions, chapter 16:1 begins a new portion in the book of Leviticus.  The verse begins, “And God spoke to Moses after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they approached before God and they died.”  Ancient Jewish wisdom asks why the Torah tells us that the instruction that will follow was given after Aharon’s sons died. It answers with an allegory about a patient receiving detailed instructions from a doctor. The patient might be tempted to ignore them. However, if the patient is told, “These are your instructions, follow them or else you will die just like Mr. Ploni died,” he will feel the warning more viscerally and is more likely to obey orders. 

The day after the death of Aharon’s sons was the right time to communicate relevant laws to future priests.  There are right times and wrong times to try and instruct or correct people.  It’s interesting that one of the sins of Nadav and Avihu was their inability to wait for life to unfold in the right time.  These sons of Aharon used to say to each other, “When will these old men, Moses and Aharon, die so we can be the leaders of the nation?”  That time would have come eventually, but they were unable to appreciate that there are wrong times and right times and to wait until the time was right.

I’d also like to point out that the lesson God instructs the priests right at this time, adjacent to the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, is one of timing, “…he should not come at all times into the Sanctuary.” Rather, there is a specific time on the specific day of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) when it is the right time.

What can we mothers learn from this?  Timing matters.  Sometimes we want to tell our child something, to correct them or direct them, and we feel the urge to say it now because we want the relief of unloading our pent up emotions.  But that is often not the right time to speak.  Rather, we should have patience and wait for the time to be right before we correct or direct. We need to do it at the right time for our child when they can listen and learn in the best way.

I will end with the reminder of what we already know; connection precedes direction.  Almost always, if not always, the best time to teach our children is when they feel connected to us, in a state of closeness and love.  When we tap into our loving relationship with our children, when our children feel close to us, that is the best time to teach.  I don’t know if this is the Torah’s message here, but I will note that the context of this discussion is the Yom Kippur service, the day that we are closest and can come closest, into the Holy of Holies, to God.

For today, let’s try to find the right times and try to create the right times of loving connection before we direct or correct our children.

Listener feedback: Gratitude

May 8th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

We wanted to share this lovely letter that came to our:

Dear Rabbi,

I recently came across your video on making money where you recommended starting a day with writing down five things that you are truly grateful for.

I got your message and now its 30 days since i began doing it.  Let me attest to it that my life has greatly changed and my perception about things has drastically changed from looking for negatives to positives.

One day our garden boy was slashing the grass outside and a stone hit the window of the car on the driver’s seat and it broke.  When I was called to see what had happened, I naturally wanted to storm out wanting to question him why he couldn’t wait until I moved the car for him to slash, but inside me came a smile and saw that the window on the driver’s seat was much easier to replace than the front windshield screen which was also vulnerable at the time the stone was flying towards the car.  I then couldn’t get angry at him but instead I said thank God it didn’t hit the front screen! In my small journal which I have entitled ”My Thank you Note to God” I wrote ”Thank you Lord that you spared the windshield””

Rabbi, this thing works! Today, I have found that the number of things that I am grateful about are way more than the things that are likely to bring worry.  The sound of the birds singing in the morning, the morning breeze, the flowers in the gardens, the beautiful artistic drawings of the skies that keep changing like themes. etc.

When you develop the spirit of gratitude, you can never run out of what to thank God for.

Thank you for your message Rabbi

Yours sincerely,

Mathews S.

P.S. I am 33 years aged Zambian, Married with 1 child.

Dis-Connecting in the Caribbean

May 8th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

It is time for re-entry to reality. I have been off-line for over a week and only now do I realize how “connected” I usually am.

For many years, during our summer boating trips, we were out of touch in a way that today’s youth can’t imagine. When we sailed from California to Hawaii one of our friends and crew was a ham radio operator. Every few days he would hail some radio pal, who then, as a courtesy, phoned our parents to tell them that we were fine. Aside from that sporadic crackly contact we spent twenty-two days isolated from the world on our sailing boat in a small world of our own.

Even during our trips along the British Columbia coast, we were often incredibly isolated. My husband vividly remembers taking the dinghy ashore to call his parents from the phone booth on a dock on Quadra Island, BC. When his father asked him what he thought of the war, his response was, “What war?” (The first Iraq War had broken out a few days earlier.)

That is no longer the case. When we nowadays boat in British Columbia as we love to do, we have cell phones that are almost always within reach of a signal.   We often also enjoy WiFi availability courtesy of a harbor (harbour) at which we are docked. By using a hot spot, we can even be online while at anchor. This is a gift for us, as being able to work for a few hours a day allows us to get away more often. However, until this past week, I hadn’t realized how much information is continually bombarding us.

Even though I turn off for 25 hours each week for Shabbat and occasional holy days can add another 48 hours to that tally a few times a year, the expectation of hearing things almost instantaneously has become my norm. This past week, sailing the Caribbean in a small boat as guests of our son and daughter-in-law was a throwback to earlier years. I had no WiFi connection, though the magic of What’s App allowed me to stay in touch with our family chat.

We sailed. We swam. We snorkeled. We enjoyed the magnificent beauty of God’s creation. We read. I completed more embroidery than I usually manage to do in a few months at home.

We had time for deep, meaningful conversations.

Person 1: Does anyone know what day it is?

Person 2: I think it’s Monday.

Person 3: I’m pretty sure it’s Tuesday.

It is time to jump back into real life. Our wonderful team kept our ministry running smoothly, but I look forward to finding out what is going on. I’m eager to read comments on the past weeks’ Ask the Rabbi and Musing. (Now you know why I didn’t reply.) And, while I was perfectly content being unaware of what world leaders, politicians and pundits were doing and saying, too much ignorance isn’t healthy. Yet, it is good to know that the world managed without my input and I have to think that my mental health flourished without input from the world. Perhaps, for a short while at least, I can remember that just because I can access the latest news at the touch of my fingertips doesn’t mean that I should always do so.

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My wife isn’t content with her life

May 7th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

In reading a recent “Ask the Rabbi” you responded to a comment including the following statement “Sometimes, the wife wants to work out of the home not because the family needs the money but because she has been conditioned to believe that only such a job affirms her self-worth.”

Can you point me to information that will help me to better affirm my wife’s worth to the family regardless of her working/bringing in money. (We do well financially and our family does not want for anything.)

She stopped working shortly after we had our first child (Dec 2017) and has since mentioned in many tense discussions/arguments that she doesn’t feel to have “her own identity” since she no longer works. I feel that the conditioning, mentioned above, is the cause for her to believe she needs to work or that household responsibilities are somehow demeaning/waste of time.

I did search the “Ask the Rabbi” for similar questions but found it difficult to know keywords to search so I hope this is not a waste of your time. I really appreciate your words of wisdom on the podcast you do as well as the information you and Susan post here.

Thank you,

Nate M.

Dear Nate,

Thank you for picking up on the statement we made and giving us the opportunity to elaborate on it. We think that the question you are asking is an important one. As always in our answers to questions like these, we will try to give you and your wife a few avenues to explore. Since we don’t personally know you, we hope that at least one or two will resonate. (We are assuming that your wife is not one of those rare women who have a calling that is the equivalent of oxygen. In other words, almost everything else in life is secondary to that calling. Few men have a calling like that either.)

Just as one’s career should not completely subsume one, neither should the career of marriage and family. What are your wife’s interests and passions? Encourage her to take an art class one evening a week while you’re home with your son, attend a Bible study, volunteer with a literacy group, sign up for an adult-ed class in her area of expertise or interest—she should have the opportunity to cultivate her personality and talents for a few hours a week. She also can develop skills to use in the future or ones that can support and enhance your business.

Hopefully, the two of you have some back-up in the form of relatives or babysitters so that you are also spending time focused on growing your marriage separate from your role as parents. 

You don’t mention if your wife had a professional life before your son was born but there is a world of difference between making a conscious choice to stay home and subconsciously feeling like you had nothing else worthwhile to contribute. At this point, your son should be sleeping through the night and it is important that your wife is growing intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.  Do the two of you discuss current events, share what you read with each other, learn Bible together and stay stimulated in other ways? There are thousands of online classes today that will allow her to pursue areas of interest. Most importantly, there is so much garbage out there about raising physically, spiritually and emotionally healthy children (and marriages) that she should tap into some authentic wisdom on those topics and develop a sense of a “business plan” for your family. Being the CEO of a family today requires active study, assessment, decision making and preparation.

Does your wife feel that she is an intrinsic part of your business? Do you seek and value her input? Do the two of you honestly feel that your income is being earned by you as a couple? Here is an example of how that works in the financial area. You need to work out a plan that makes clear that the income you earn is the result of both of you. In effect, as a team you are earning money and building a home. Your son is not your wife’s son whom she shares with you and your salary is not your salary that you share with her. You are dividing responsibilities so that you can run a thriving enterprise known as your life.

Financial decisions, including individual spending money, charity allotments and budgeting should be considered by both of you in partnership as should major parenting and home decisions. While each of you has your area of expertise, think of yourself as two department heads with overlapping interests. You focus on one area and she focuses on another one, but neither of you can work unilaterally and simply inform the other of your decisions as they always affect the bigger project. Make sure that you sincerely express your appreciation  of her contribution to your life, both privately and publicly.

Here is possibly the most important thing we have to say. It is very hard to be out of step with your peer group. God created us as social animals and while there are times we simply have to resist the norms around us, for example, when the activity is immoral or illegal, it is never an easy thing to do so. How much more difficult it is when the trend is neither immoral or illegal, but simply out of style.

When one of our daughters was home full time with her first-born, she found it easy to be demoralized. If she took his stroller to the park, she was surrounded by babysitters and nannies, not other mothers. When she hosted a Friday night get-together for the young women in her building (she was new in town and took the initiative to meet her neighbors) they went around the room introducing themselves and each woman identified herself by her career. At that first gathering our daughter found herself embarrassed as she said, “I stay home with my son.”

Then a funny thing happened. As she got to know the other women better, many of them individually told her how many times they cried as they walked out every morning leaving  their babies and toddlers in the care of others. They told her of the pain they felt when a paid caregiver heard the baby’s first giggle and saw those first steps. They, in fact, had conflicting emotions. Yes, they were proud of their careers, but they were also jealous of her ability to be there for her son. The grass was not greener on the other side.

All this is to say that it makes a world of difference if your wife has friends who are making the same choice as she. This may mean cultivating a new group of friends. You can help her do so by trying a different church that has more families with compatible at-home moms and scanning local papers and the internet to find activities catering to these families. There are online sites where women support each other. At sixteen months, your son may be adorable, but he is not able to provide adult conversation and interaction, both of which would nurture your wife. You can help her not to draw her circle too narrowly and to recognize the absolute need for female companionship that applauds and values her choice.

Not being pulled in two directions (home and career) can be a tremendous gift. It allows one to cater not only to one’s family but to the neighborhood and community as well. Your wife’s life should be busy and overflowing. The trick is to overflow it with positive things that keep priorities straight. Society today rewards and recognizes the malcontent. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude for what we have rather than always assuming that something else is better is actually counter-cultural. Make sure that feeling permeates both your lives.

We hope at least some of these ideas hit the spot,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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