Do the First Time Right!

July 15th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 3 comments

Do it right the first time!  How many times have you heard those words?  How many times have you uttered that phrase?  You’ve heard it from your parents, from your educators and from your boss at work.  You’ve said it to your children, to anyone you’ve been responsible for training, and to your employees. 

Why should I do it right the first time?  We all know the standard answer: because it will take more time and money to redo it than it would have taken to do it right the first time.

Whether it is Boeing, Airbus or any other manufacturer, it takes about 100,000 man-years to design, test, and build a commercial airliner. Typically that means a team of perhaps 10,000 engineers working for ten years or 20,000 professionals working for five years.  This helps us understand why total development costs for a brand-new plane can run as high as ten billion dollars.

In 2010 it became clear to Boeing that they needed to offer their airline customers an aircraft powered by a new type of jet engine which was larger, more powerful, and more fuel efficient.  Apparently, they spent a few months trying to decide whether to commit to a multi-year new airplane development program or whether to find a way to fit the new engines onto the wings of the venerable 737.

In the summer of 2011, Boeing’s biggest customer, American Airlines, announced that they were purchasing over 400 new planes. Since they wanted the new, efficient engines, they planned on buying hundreds of planes from Boeing’s competitor, Airbus, which had already placed an airliner powered by the new engines on the market.  This forced Boeing’s hand and they decided to retool the 737 to accept the new engines.

Boeing’s earliest test flights revealed that the extra power of the new engines could force the nose of the 737MAX upwards under certain conditions.  This was because the fifty-year-old airplane was designed for smaller engines.  The famed airplane company decided on a software fix which they called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System).  The flight computers were programed to adjust the flight attitude of the airplane whenever the nose tended to pitch upwards. Without even notifying the pilot, the computers would momentarily push the airplane’s nose down towards the ground.  A better solution would have been aerodynamic changes to the ancient airframe, but they would have taken much longer and cost far more. 

Two planes crashed (October 2018 and March 2019) and 346 lives were lost. Regulatory agencies around the world grounded the 737MAX last March.  Optimistic voices at Boeing predicted the plane would regain its airworthiness certification no later than April 2019.  At this time, it is all but certain that the plane will not fly before 2020.

The reason I told you this long sad story is because, though it is hard to be precise and Boeing is not talking, it is certain that the entire financial cost to Boeing of the 737MAX calamity is fast approaching the 10 billion dollars that it would have cost the company to develop a brand new plane in the first place.  That is not counting the cost of the damage to Boeing’s brand reputation or  the harder to quantify yet more important  cost of the human tragedy.  Yes, indeed, do it right the first time because it will be harder/more expensive/take longer to fix.

Here comes a great big but.  But that isn’t always true.  There are some things just not important enough to take the extra time to do right if doing it quickly and cheaply will work 80% of the time.  The lad mows the lawn but omits the challenging bits near flower beds and tree trunks.  His father might notice or he might not.  If he does, he might ask his son to fix it or he might not. And if he asks his son to fix it, it won’t take that much longer than doing it earlier.   In this case, in his own interests, the young man made the logical choice. 

For years already software companies have put out products far from ready for the market.  They certainly did not do it right the first time.  On the contrary, they counted upon early users to be unpaid fault finders. Astute consumers quickly learned never to purchase the first release of a new software product.  Obviously, their “Do NOT do it right the first time” policy paid off because the practice persisted. 

Doing it right the first time is often but not always the best strategy.  But doing the first time right is always the right thing to do.  (Reading those sentences aloud will help you see the difference.)

Let me explain.  Of his own volition, Joshua prohibited Israel from taking spoils when they conquered the city of  Jericho. (Joshua 6:18)  However, Israel was allowed to plunder the next city they conquered, Ai.

You shall treat Ai… as you treated Jericho…
however, you may take the spoil and the cattle as booty for yourselves…
(Joshua 8:2)

It puzzles us why Joshua considered it important not to seize booty from Jericho. God even went along with Joshua’s prohibition including bringing major disaster upon all of Israel because one man, Achan, helped himself to a few items from Jericho.  As a result, their attack on the second target city, Ai, turned into a catastrophe. 

Here’s why Joshua prohibited plunder at Jericho.  That ancient walled city was the first objective in what would be Israel’s long battle for their country.  Joshua wanted the enterprise of capturing Jericho to contain no moral imperfection.  The army of Israel was to attack the city with no personal considerations but, rather, only in response to God’s directions.  No soldier should be thinking of what he might plunder. 

Achieving moral perfection in that first capture would set the tone for future military campaigns.  Doing it right the first time is often important but doing the first time right is always important.  It builds morale for the future.

One’s entire career can gain a boost from the way we treat our very first job.  It can be viewed as a special opportunity to do it right, thereby creating an internal sense of professional dedication which can become a lasting part of one’s personality. Many who later fail treated their first job with disdain. 

One’s first act of physical intimacy with another human being of the opposite gender can be done right.  It can be performed within the holy covenant of marriage thereby conferring a unique incandescence upon that marriage.  There is no shortage of published (but unpopular) information on the advantages enjoyed by marriages entered into by two virgins.  Yes, doing the first time right always makes a real difference. 

Whether establishing a new relationship,  starting one’s first business, or experiencing any other undertaking for the first time, doing it right sets up the future for success.

Some of us may be past most of life’s firsts, but there are younger people in our orbits whom we are capable of influencing.  They have heard the oft-repeated aphorism of do it right the first time.  But doing the first time right will be a new and novel lesson for them to hear and for you to impart. 

We are doing something for the first time and we certainly hope we are doing it right. With the advances in technology we are stepping into the realm of MP4 downloads – in other words, video downloads. You can now access all three volumes of our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show (4 shows per volume) by downloading in either standard or high definition format. Take advantage of our introductory sale pricing on this great new addition to our store.

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Join Us in Prayer

July 15th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind 6 comments

Most of the time in formal Jewish life, men and women are referred to as, “So and so, the son/daughter of (insert father’s first name). So, on a marriage contract or when a man is called up to the Torah that is the nomenclature that is used. The exception is when we are beseeching God to restore good health to someone who is ill. Then we say “So and so, the son/daughter of (insert mother’s first name). 

In Hebrew, the word for mercy shares a root with the word for womb. When we want to invoke the deepest mercy, we make a connection to a person’s mother, “reminding” God of the love that allowed a mother to share her very body with her child. 

Our very dear friend, Pastor Tiz Huch of New Beginnings Church in Dallas is undergoing serious surgery this coming Wednesday. We ask you to join us in praying to God to provide a complete healing for Tiz, daughter of Gwendolyn.

 

When Our Kids “Hate” Us

July 14th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

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

I think all mothers should read the story of Korach’s rebellion (Number 16).  Can anyone at all relate on some small level to Moses?  Moses, who never even used a donkey that belonged to anyone else (verse 15) but, on the contrary, devoted his life to doing for the Jewish people, teaching them , praying for them, and leading them as they developed from slaves into a free and spiritual nation is attacked.  Korach, his group and 250 others rebelled against Moses’s leadership. 

Nachmanides, a transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, explains why Korach picked this particular time to rebel. The issue he was upset about, the appointment of Elitzafan, happened much earlier.  Nachmanides’ words are poignant to me; he says Korach didn’t rebel when Eltizafan’s appointment was made because life was good for the Jewish people then.  After the terrible sin of the Golden Calf, Moses saved the nation with his 40 days and nights of prayer, and, “They loved Moses like themselves and listened to him.” If any man had rebelled against Moses at that time the nation would have stoned him.  So Korach bided his time and waited until things weren’t going as well and the nation just heard the decree that they wouldn’t enter Israel but would finish their lives in the desert.

Now Korach knew the time was ripe to rebel as the people’s mood was beginning to turn against Moses’ leadership. Nothing had changed in Moses’ attitude or behavior to the Jewish people but when they began to feel disgruntled, upset, and disillusioned, who are they ready to turn against?  Their leader, Moses.

I’m not sure why I find this particular Nachmanides so moving.  Maybe it’s because on some small level I can relate.  Within a family, there are times that everything is going well and smoothly, and everyone is happy.  And at those times, just like Nachmanides says, the children love their parents as themselves and listen to them.  Lovely!  But when troubles arise, even difficulties that children bring upon themselves, do you know who they take it out on? Isn’t it often Mommy?  The truth is that when a child is distressed, the safest person to attack is the person he or she know loves them despite all. So  they snap out at you and me.  And it doesn’t feel good.  No one likes to feel like the bad guy, especially when we’re exhausted from caring so much, loving so much, and doing so much good for the very people who are striking at us.  But this is the way the world works.  It happened to Moses and it happens to you and me.

What can we do in times like this?  I’d like to make two suggestions. The first sounds simple but takes a lot of work. 

Don’t take it personally. 

I know it feels very personal when your child makes a snide comment, rolls his eyes, or rebels in any which way, but we have to work on ourselves not to take it personally.  This is something I’ve worked on for a very long time and still have to work on again and again.  I can’t say it enough: sometimes our children hurt and they lash out against the person who loves them the most, similar to the children of Israel and Moses. We can’t let it be about us.

The second suggestion I am taking is from Moses’ reaction to Korach’s initial complaint.  The verse says, “and Moses heard and he fell on his face.”  One transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom adds this word, l’tfilah—for prayer.  At those times of attack and complaints, let’s try to take a moment to whisper a small prayer, maybe one asking for help remaining calm, maybe a prayer to help us not take it personally, maybe a prayer for God to help this child who is in so much pain and doesn’t want our help right at this moment.  We can take a parenting challenge and turn it over to God who has the ultimate power and ultimate love to help both us and our children grow through the hard times together.

Memories and Unanswered Questions

July 11th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 32 comments

This has been an unsettling week for me. A number of years ago, my mother’s sister passed away, the last of the five siblings. This month, her children sold my aunt’s house and one of my cousins had the unenviable job of cleaning it out. In the garage she found a few boxes that had been moved there from our grandparents’ apartment over forty years ago when my grandmother died. It became a running joke that each summer my mother, her sister and sisters-in-law would say they were going to sort through things, and as each summer ended, the boxes remained untouched.

Untouched they are no longer. My cousin sent some of the contents to me including postcards exchanged when my grandparents were courting, photos that span decades and a meticulously kept address book.

All these things have thrown me for a loop. I was very close to my grandparents; to this day I can instantaneously recall their phone number. My grandmother died shortly after I graduated college and my grandfather a few years later, so they were an important and loving presence through my growing up years. Now, decades later, I am seeing them in ways I never did before.

In my mind’s eye my grandmother, in particular, had one occupation— waiting for me to come visit. I never thought of what she did when I wasn’t with her, unless it was to cook my favorite foods so that they would be on hand when needed.  In fact, I found it irritating that some of my cousins had the ridiculous idea that she loved them as much as she loved me. In the self-absorption of youth (that may have only ended this week) I didn’t really see a need for her to have an identity separate from me.

Both my maternal grandparents came to the United States from Europe before World War I. While my grandfather was escaping the draft of an army that despised Jews, my grandmother told me that she came on a trip and was trapped here by the war. (Surely, I now think, there was a lot more to that story. Religious Jewish girls did not generally cross the ocean by themselves on a lark.) By the time the conflict ended, they were married and building a life in their new country. Neither ever spoke (to me at least) about the families and lives they left behind.

I never thought of what it was like for them to marry without the presence of parents or siblings, or, a few decades later, what it meant to lose almost every family member in the Holocaust. The exception was one brother each that they managed to bring over as Hitler’s evil spread. I knew that I was named for a murdered sister, but only this week have I begun to think of the depth of pain that kept my grandmother from ever talking about the parents and six siblings, their spouses and children, that she never saw again or how my grandfather felt knowing he had left his parents and sister behind.

In those old albums and ancient address book now on my dining room table, I see names and faces I do not know. Who are these people who cared enough to send photos to my grandparents and about whom my grandparents cared enough  to label and preserve their pictures? I have had trouble concentrating this week as I Google names, look up the history of towns whose Jews were overwhelmingly massacred and try to picture a young couple on their own, learning a new language, building a life and maintaining a deep connection with their faith.  They became the grandparents I knew, whose bottomless love for God, for me, for the rest of their family and for the United States was the bedrock of my childhood.

There is nothing new under the sun – the only choice we have is to respond similarly or differently than those before us.

The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah

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Marriage Disagreement about Interracial Marriage

July 10th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

Greetings: My question is what does scripture say about interracial marriage?  My husband and I have recently had occasion to discuss this and I am asking for wisdom to respond to some of his concerns.  We both were raised in rural WV where our culture frowns on this.  I used to agree with the reasons we were taught growing up.  1. Ham & descendant of Canaan were cursed 2. God told the Israelites not to marry from other groups 3. God separated the continents during Peleg’s time to divide nationalities. 4. Moses couldn’t enter the promised land because he married a Cushite from Ethiopia.

But as I’ve matured as a believer, I’ve read the scriptures they drew from and didn’t find God mentions this but that it was more likely [people] read how they wanted it to speak. The only separation I found was from pagan nations, or unbelievers.

I’m not searching merely to have a topic to discuss or argue but my husband is truly upset that have changed my mindset. While I would  prefer my grandchildren not marry interracial it’s more due to the reality of the family division it would bring.  I will however advise their potential mate be a believer. He however is frustrated because my change of heart challenges his prejudice. He is beginning to blame my church for teaching me this and while I have been believing he will come to have a relationship with Jesus and come with me, this seems to be a backwards route. I’m sure I’m not alone in this culture/religion shift.

Deborah L.

Dear Deborah,

Having just returned from speaking at many churches in Ghana (RDL),  I had the opportunity to see a number of outstanding marriages  between people with black skin and people with white.  We have noticed this also at many churches we admire here in the United States.  However, and this is huge, these marriages are between two believing Christians.  We also know several interracial couples in Israel and of course both spouses are deeply committed Orthodox Jews.  Shared belief is what matters. We would like to discuss  this question from a few more  angles, starting with correcting some Biblical misinformation.

Taking your points in the opposite order:

1.        We have no idea where you are getting this idea from. Tzipora made Moses a wonderful wife, even assuming the responsibility of circumcising her sons when Moses delayed. (Exodus 4:24-25)  Scripture is very clear  that Moses did not enter the land because he struck the rock rather than speaking to it according to God’s command. (Numbers 20)

2.        We discuss the spreading out of nations as spoken about in Genesis 11:8 in our audio CD Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel.  Dividing people into nations in no way ruled against marriage between groups.

3.        You are correct that the Israelites should only marry other Israelites. It is equally true that Christians would be well advised to marry other Christians. This is a spiritual mandate, not a racial one. Even descendants of our arch-enemy, Amalek can convert to Judaism at which point that individual becomes a full Israelite. There are two nations, Moab and Ammon which were descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot, from which male converts were not accepted due to deep cultural flaws. (In today’s day and age we have absolutely no idea who comes from these lines.) There is absolutely no suggestion of this being connected to skin color  and as Abraham’s relatives, they came from the same family as he did.

4.        Ham’s 4th son, Ham, was indeed cursed by his grandfather, Noah, to serve his brothers. (Note, he was not cursed by God.) However, Ham had many other descendants as well. We know that this verse was misused historically in support of  enslaving Africans, but that isn’t textually  supportable. Biblical verses have often been perverted in the past and we know many today who continue to misquote and take things out of context on all sorts of issues.

None of this matters in your disagreement with your husband. It sounds to us as if your involvement with church is leading you to grow in ways that are making your husband uncomfortable. We are sure this is not the the only issue to crop up between the two of you.

As we see it, the question is how to maintain a loving and respectful marriage as you mature in certain ways. Of course,  in all successful marriages on all sorts of issues, both husbands and wives focus on their spouses good points rather than weaknesses. We urge you not to allow religion to become a wedge between you. Demanding that your husband grow spiritually at the same pace and time as you is unrealistic.

Until and unless this becomes a practical issue for your family, we would suggest that you not discuss it. Why focus on an area of disagreement? Hopefully, your husband will see you becoming a better and happier person through your church involvement. At the right time, this may encourage him get more involved as well. This will not happen if your church involvement leads you to condemn and provoke him.

We are not familiar with rural West Virginia culture but no matter how you and your husband were raised, the fact is that the coming generations are likely to think differently about race. As long as your husband treats all people with respect and kindness, what he thinks about different races marrying is truly not terribly important.

Sometimes, the other way is the best way to look,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Who are those  three boys from whom all the nations spread? Find out in
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Won’t Ya Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise?

July 9th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 25 comments

Old man rhythm is in my shoes
It’s no use to sittin’ and a-singin’ the blues
So be my guest, you got nothin’ to lose
Won’t ya let me take you on a sea cruise?

Johnny Rivers 1974

We go on a wonderfully relaxing cruise every week.  It’s only a 25-hour cruise but it makes us leave our regular worries and cares far behind us.   Yes, the Shabbat is a really big deal for the Lapin family.  As the sun drops towards the western horizon on Friday afternoon, the frantic turbulence that swirls through our lives starts slowing down.  Along with her Sous-Chefs and her assistants, all of whom are closely related to her, Susan puts the finishing touches to the three meals she will serve during the next 25 hours.  I get the garbage out, make sure the cars are properly parked for the weekend, and wrap up the remaining tasks of my week.  Finally, as the last rays of the sun turn red, I turn off my computer, telephone, fax machine, and tablet.  Then comes the last action of the week when Susan lights the Sabbath candles that sit upon the dining room table.  As their dancing incandescence casts highlights upon the white table cloth, we know Shabbat has arrived.  We’ve cast the mooring lines off down to the dock and we’re off on our sea cruise.

One of the moments that seems most moving to the guests at our Shabbat meal is when Susan and I bless our children. 

To the girls we say:

God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

To the boys we echo the words of Jacob to his grandchildren and we say:

God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.

Of all the many impressive Scriptural characters, why do we choose exactly these two rather obscure boys to bring blessing on our sons?  The answer is that in so doing, we are merely obeying the directives of Father Jacob.  Listen to the entire verse from which I just quoted a few words.

So he [Jacob] blessed them [Ephraim and Manasseh] that day, saying, “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh,”
thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
(Genesis 48:20)

Let’s jump back a few verses to see how Father Jacob named the younger Ephraim before the older Manasseh.

Joseph brought his two sons to his father, Jacob/Israel for a blessing:

Joseph took the two of them, Ephraim with his right hand—to Israel’s left—and Manasseh with his left hand—to Israel’s right—and brought them close to him.
(Genesis 48:13)

Then Father Jacob startled his eleventh son:

But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head—thus crossing his hands—although Manasseh was the first-born.
(Genesis 48:14)

When Joseph saw that his father was placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head, he thought it wrong; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s.  “Not so, Father,” Joseph said to his father, “for the other is the first-born; place your right hand on his head.”
(Genesis 48:17-18)

Father Jacob then rather curtly told his son, Joseph, that he knew exactly what he was doing.

What led Joseph to exhibit such lamentable chutzpah as to correct his revered father in front of Manasseh and Ephraim? 

Joseph was super-sensitive to the family problems that can arise when birth order is not followed.  He knew of the terrible tension between his father Jacob and his uncle Esau, the older son, whom his father had supplanted many years earlier.  Jacob had also loved the younger Rachel more than her older sister Leah which set off tensions between the two sisters. And worst of all, Jacob had caused his sons to sell their young brother Joseph into slavery because Jacob seemed to favor Joseph.  Now Joseph watched his father continuing the terrible tradition of family tension into the next generation by placing his younger grandson beneath his right hand.

But Jacob knew exactly what he was doing.  Earlier I asked why we bring blessing on our sons by means of these two brothers and I explained that Jacob instructed us to do so.  However, that merely postpones the question: Why did Jacob direct us to bless our sons by invoking the names of Manasseh and Ephraim?

The answer is that after being kidnapped, enslaved, and rising to power, Joseph had to create a new life for himself in a far away land with its alien culture.  His two sons became his partners in this enterprise and he named them for the two most important tools needed by any of us trying to build a life.

He named Manasseh for material prosperity and financial success.  He named Ephraim for connection with God and the spiritual grounding and identity that brings.

Like most new immigrants, when Joseph arrived in Egypt he was a stranger in a strange land.  He naturally had no choice but to focus on the basics of life so he named his first son, Manasseh accordingly.  This is not to say he forgot his heritage or neglected his spiritual identityhe didn’t.  But he made sure of the basics of life’s necessities.  After he was established he was able to make his religious identity as a Hebrew his priority.  Now, when he had his second son, he named him Ephraim.

But later, for all his descendants, Father Jacob corrected the order by putting Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.  If you get your spiritual priorities right, the material prosperity follows, but the reverse hardly ever happens.

That’s why the spiritual priority of observing the Sabbath takes first place when the sun sets on Friday even though there is always more work we would otherwise think that we need to do.

Little is more important than passing on our values to our children. Somehow, Noah and Mrs. Noah raised three sons who were worthy of entering the ark. Discover the story behind the story of how they managed that along with other fascinating events that led up to the Flood in our 2 CD audio set, The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah. It remains on sale through the end of this week.

 

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Peer Pressure -and Press Your Peers

July 9th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance No Comment yet

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

In the car one day this week, one of my daughters told me a story that resonates with a lesson we learn from Numbers 13. Last summer she had been in day camp for a few weeks, and one day she had been on a bus with the camp going to some fun destination.  She thought it was funny that in the parking lot the girls all began filing off the bus silently or talking to each other, but not thanking the bus driver.  When she got to the front of the bus, she said thank you to the driver and then heard the girl behind her say thank you and the one behind her and the one behind her until the bus driver didn’t stop repeating “You’re welcome” over and over.   

What does this have to do with the twelve spies sent to see the land of Canaan?

Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that when Moses sent the men to spy out the land of Israel he prayed for Joshua, “May God save you from the advice of the spies.”  Moses saw his primary student Joshua had learned from Moses’s outstanding quality of humility and was himself a most modest and humble person.  The problem Moses recognized was that sometimes modesty and humility can lead a person to stay quiet about his own views, instead adopting the majority viewpoint of those around him. 

Joshua’s humility and modesty put him at risk of  ceding to the majority opinion of the spies instead of holding fast to his own views, and so Moses prayed that God should give Joshua strength to resist the viewpoint of the majority.

Even without Joshua’s humility, we, and especially children, can be easily swayed by peer pressure or the behavior of the majority of those around us.  The girls on the first half of the bus weren’t intending to be rude or inconsiderate. Each one was simply doing what the girl ahead of her did, following her peer as she silently walked out of the bus.  The girls in the back half of the bus were fortunate that each one heard the girl ahead of her thank the bus driver. They too were affected by those around them and followed their peers in thanking the driver.  I believe this is a lesson for us to be aware of and to teach to our children. 

When we are in groups of people it is very easy to just do what everyone around us is doing instead of stepping out of line to do what is right.  The pressure of the majority is real and often leads to a lowered standard of behavior.  Have you ever noticed that kids in groups tend to behave differently than any one of those children would alone?  I see it all the time and I discuss it with my kids.  I want them to be on guard that even when they are among friends, they should be careful to do what they know to be right and best, regardless of what the norm is in the group.  This is a powerful lesson.  Even Joshua, the great student of Moses, needed Divine help to stand apart from majority opinion.  Surely, we can learn from this to talk to our children about the subtle realities of peer pressure and maintaining their individual sense of right and wrong even when in groups.

Woman Up – and BTW Here’s a Hug

July 7th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Recently, one of our daughters sent my husband and me a link to a podcast that she thought we would find interesting. We did. We each independently listened and then we each responded to the podcast’s creator, Kate Hendricks. I asked if I could share the link to her podcast with my Practical Parenting and Musings audiences and she graciously assented. Here is the link and then the two, rather different, reactions from my husband and me.

https://soundcloud.com/user-933750849/permission-to-speak-freely-i

Here is my husband’s note to Kate:

Just listened to your “Women Can’t Have It All” podcast on the advice of my wonderful daughter #6, a recently married executive in NYC.  You sound so wonderfully genuine; I felt I was being granted a glimpse into your soul.  I travel a lot on business and the most heartrending sight I see on almost every trip (perhaps I am especially alert to it) is women with anguished expressions talking on their phones in the Admiral’s Club or the Red Carpet Club wishing their kids goodnight or trying to assure them of how soon they will be home.  It’s sometimes more than I can bear.  The women whose letters you read filled me with sadness especially since I am often asked to talk to husbands who are cajoling their wives back to work soon after a baby.  Just wanted to thank you.

Here is my letter to Kate:

Dear Kate,

My daughter forwarded me your podcast and quite frankly as I listened to it I had two conflicting emotions. At the same time I wanted to hug you and pat you on the back as well as bark at you like a Marine Sergeant and tell you to “Woman Up!”

The podcast I heard is titled, “I Don’t Think Women Can Have It All.” I would ask where you possibly got the impression that any human being can have it all except that I think this is a lie that society has been peddling for too many years. Do you honestly think that men can have it all? If nothing else, the rising male suicide rate should make you question that assertion.

The myth of “having it all” is exacerbated by social media. The ease with which we can share our emotions with others and share the emotions that thousands of people choose to share with us is the proverbial blessing and curse. On the positive side we can forge relationships with those we might never otherwise meet and we can feel less alone when facing a difficulty that those in our immediate vicinity are not facing.

On the negative side, it has encouraged us to feel like failures no matter what we do.  In the olden days, we had to cope once a year with getting Christmas cards from friends extolling the accomplishments and achievements of their children. Or maybe we received a few pictures in the mail from a friend whose professional performance allowed her to travel to an exotic locale when we are strategizing simply to make it to the drugstore to buy a new lipstick. Now, the accomplishments and achievements of strangers continually assault us.

On the flip side, we are also too easily tuned in to the frustrations and disappointments of others. When we were young mothers, a friend and I would sometimes telephone each other with a “poor baby” call. Maybe three kids had the stomach flu, maybe someone spilled cereal over the floor one too many times, maybe we just couldn’t handle constantly being on call. Not to mention having to make supper again and again and again. We would call, identify the call as a “poor baby” and get a few seconds of sympathy. We did not then call dozens of more friends and replay our self-pity party over and over. The expectation that life should be a breeze along with the ability to get positive feedback for complaining has turned us into a bunch of dissatisfied whiners.

Here are some truths. Life is full of challenges. There are challenges to working full-time, there are challenges to not working; there are challenges to being married, there are challenges to being single; there are challenges to being female, there are challenges to being male; there are challenges to having children and there are challenges to being childless. This is true whether one had a choice of didn’t have a choice in any of these things. As recent studies on grit have shown, there are even challenges to not having enough challenges. Welcome to the real world.

My dear Kate, I have so much more to say to you. Actually, I say a lot more regularly on my blog and I am currently writing a book that says much more on the topic. My bottom line in response to your podcast and to the women who wrote you is that in life there is no choice we make that doesn’t have trade-offs. We can spend the majority of our time choosing to be grateful for what we have or we can live in a constant state of disappointment. We can accept the difficult aspects of our lives as normal, shed a few tears and do whatever is necessary to pick ourselves up or we can keep reaching for “having it all” and fail over and over again.

If you are interested, here is a blog post I wrote in response to a card from one of my six daughters (we have one boy as well and no, he isn’t our youngest) expressing her thanks for the sacrifices I made as a mother. I appreciated her gratitude and rejected her premise. I title it: Having It All. https://rabbidaniellapin.com/having-it-all/

Hugs from one mom to another,

Susan Lapin

Fourth of July

July 4th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Wishing everyone a wonderful Fourth of July with time to reflect with gratitude and love on the founding of the United States.

Listening with Someone Else’s Ears

July 4th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 37 comments

Do you have words that serve as a form of shorthand when used among your family and friends? Yet, heard by those not in-the-know, those words are easily misinterpreted.

As fans of Arthur Ransome’s charming book, Swallows and Amazons, our family adopted a sentence that appears early in the story. On summer holiday in the early days of the 20th century, Mrs. Walker is unsure whether to let her four children head out on a boating/camping trip in the nearby lakes. She sends a letter asking her deployed husband’s advice. The Royal Navy officer responds, “BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON’T DROWN.”

Never for an instant did we or our children think that the father didn’t care if his children drowned. He was conveying his confidence that they were capable and responsible. However, when our thirteen-year-old boat-owning son invited a young friend to accompany him on an overnight sailing trip on Lake Washington, my husband’s use of that sentence almost sabotaged the trip. When the friend’s father came over to discuss our son’s skills and the seaworthiness of his boat, my husband blithely said, “Better drowned than duffers; if not duffers won’t drown.” Having no inkling that this was a meaningful quote rather than a callous dismissal, the father retorted rather strongly that he did actually care if his son drowned. (The boys did go and had a wonderful—and safe—time.)

I thought of this story after reading an opinion piece by a college teacher that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Crispin Sartwell raised an interesting idea, that the inability to hear an opposing point of view and the demonization of anyone whose opinions don’t mirror one’s own is a result of the self-esteem movement. It is an idea worth discussing, but that isn’t the part of his article on which I want to focus.

In what I assume is an attempt to show balance, Mr. Sartwell opens his piece by mentioning how the knitting site Ravelry has banned anything, including knitting patterns, that suggests support for President Trump. He then cites how preacher Paula White spoke of breaking “every demonic network” working against the president in a prayer preceding the kick-off of President Trump’s re-election campaign. In other words, both those on the left and on the right believe that if you think differently than I do, you need to be silenced.

I’m going to speak very plainly  now. It is possible that you think that  I am way off base and, if so, I expect you to tell  me. Maybe I only have part of the story and you can fill in more. But, I do want to share my thoughts.

I have probably spent more time with various leaders and members of Evangelical churches than most non-Evangelicals. I include in this group not only Jews, but Catholics, the unaffiliated, atheists, members of other Protestant denominations and of other religions. My husband and I appear at dozens of Evangelical churches every year.  From my vantage point, I heard Paula White very differently from how Crispin Sartwell heard her. Let me explain.

I sometimes hear a rabbi whose views should parallel mine as we share a belief in the written and oral Torah.  Like my husband and me, he also restricts his diet to that which is kosher and like us he also  observes the Sabbath  and he conducts himself similarly to how we do in other important ways. Yet I hear him speak in a way that mortifies me. I consider his words to be a desecration of God’s name. I think his words or actions are so mistaken that they misrepresent the God I know and drive people away from wanting a relationship with Him. That is embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be shocking. No group is composed only of those who always make other members of the group proud or who reliably represent the correct path. The words may not even accurately represent the speaker’s views. 

Yet, there are other times when I agree with a Jewish religious leader’s words but cringe at his lack of awareness of how those words will sound to a crowd that has no background with which to make sense of what is being said. If he (or she) said those words to students or peers who will put them in context the words would be fine, but speaking in a format where his words will be public for even people with no background to hear is a different case.

When I read Paula White’s words, I understood her use of the words praying for the crushing of a  “demonic network” and “enemy” to refer, not to individuals who don’t support President Trump, but to evil  spiritual forces at work. I have heard words like that used when my Evangelical friends are praying for a relative who has cancer. There it is obvious that  the reference is not to an individual, but to a force with which they are grappling. If Pastor White was speaking in her church, everyone would understand the context. But she wasn’t. She was speaking at a political event.

I don’t believe that those of us who are religious should change our views or pander to those who don’t share our faith. But we should accord them respect. Retaining integrity in what one says while being aware that the crowd is diverse and of different faiths and backgrounds is a challenge that I think that we can, and must, meet.

If you haven’t looked at the Flood through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom,
you are missing much of its impact for today and for your life. 

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