Self-Made Women

July 20th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 15 comments

The cover story headline on Forbes magazine, America’s Richest Self-Made Women caught my attention. Surely, the stories of the sixty women listed would shine a light on women and money. It did, though I’m not sure that what I saw will make social engineers happy.

Here are some sentences from the top four bios:

#1) Ilitch and her husband, Mike…cofounded Little Caesars pizza… (Marian Ilitch)

#2) The Wisconsin native cofounded the business with her late husband, Ken… ( Diane Hendricks)

#3) She and her husband, Tom, first leased a gas station… (Judy Love)

#4) Fisher and her husband, Don (d. 2009), opened their fashion retailer, Gap… (Doris Fisher)

Do you see a pattern here? #5, Oprah Winfrey, as well as #6, Judy Faulkner, have no men in sight while #7 reverts to the previous model. I am curious enough to plan to read the rest of the biographical snippets, and a sociologist might draw up an interesting chart referencing age and location, but to me the message was not surprising. In the world in which I live, husbands and wives are partners, whether or not both names are on incorporation papers or both spouses are active in all of the same activities. Together the couple accomplishes what only one person couldn’t, both in the financial and family realm.

On a list of America’s sixty richest self-made men, I would expect the majority to be in lasting marriages as well. Their wives are fully their co-partners, even if the wife isn’t directly involved in the profitable business. Rather than encouraging men and women to “go it alone,” there probably would be more wealth all around if we provided resources and cheering squads to facilitate successful marriage. Instead the thought makers and idea generators of society do all they can to pit men and women against each other, turning them into adversaries.

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Are Pets Animals Too?

July 19th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

It says in the Bible that a good man cares for his “beast.” ‘Does this just mean animals that are “useful” such as cows that give meat and milk or does it mean all pets, such as dogs and cats.  

P.S. Like your show very much. We watch it every day when possible. There is so much knowledge and practical advice.

Titus R. 

 

Dear Titus,

There are certain topics that are almost guaranteed to lead to controversy, including vaccinations, the 2016 election results, and abortion. We have tackled all of those in various settings. But if you really want to get people’s emotions roiled, talk about their pets!

You don’t mention what Bible verse you are referencing, but there are many Scriptural references to treating animals well, among them Deuteronomy 25:4 with its prohibition on muzzling an ox while it is treading grain and verses that include animals in the Sabbath day of rest.

The prohibition against causing unnecessary pain to animals is included in the seven Noahide Laws. According to ancient Jewish wisdom these laws obligate all humanity regardless of religious or cultural background. They are the core of what could be called civilization. While we can debate what constitutes “unnecessary” pain, there is no question that the idea of gratuitously harming any animal is wrong.

We can safely say that pets do serve a useful purpose, be it a barn cat catching mice or an English Bulldog offering companionship. We will tiptoe towards controversy by saying that some people develop an unhealthy relationship with pets so that the animals replace friends, spouses and children, but we cannot envision any Biblical idea that would allow someone to mistreat an animal, even should the animal cease to serve a practical purpose.

There’s even something Biblical about those sanctuaries where retired circus and zoo animals safely live out their lives.  The ever present moral danger is starting to identify more strongly with animals than people.  For instance, the radical animal rights organization, PETA’s actions sometimes elevate animal lives above human ones.

Thank you for being such a faithful member of our TV audience at www.TCT.TV  We appreciate it.

Remember to feed your pet before you yourself eat,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Is the same Hebrew word used for the creation of animals and man? (Yes and no)
Why did Adam name the animals before Eve was created?
Are humans closer to angels or apes?

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A Tale of Two Bees

July 18th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

There are many secrets to success in life, but here’s a good one:  Empower your wife and other vital women in your life to bring out the best in you.

This lesson emerges from a mystery posed by three verses, Genesis 24:58-60.

Verse A:

They called Rebecca and said to her, 

“Will you go with this man?”  And she said, “I will go.”

Verse B:

They blessed Rebecca and they said to her, “Our sister, may you become…

Verse C:

And they sent away their sister, Rebecca, and her nurse…

There’s nothing particularly odd about these three verses, is there?

There is, if you realize that I’ve switched their order around.

In reality, A is followed by C, and finally B.  How strange!  How could they send Rebecca away and only thereafter speak to her and bless her?

The answer hinges on Rebecca’s nurse.

We meet her again when she dies many years later while accompanying Rebecca’s son, Jacob, and his family back to his birthplace:

And Devorah, Rebecca’s nurse, died and she was buried below Bethel,
beneath the tree and he named it Alon Bachut.
(Genesis 35:8)

What is Devorah (in English, Deborah) doing with Jacob and his family on their way returning to the home from which Jacob fled so many years earlier?  Why isn’t she with her beloved Rebecca?

The answer is clear.  As she had promised thirty-five years earlier, Rebecca sent her to inform Jacob that it was now safe for him to return to the home he had fled due to his brother Esau’s wrath.

Until your brother’s anger turns away from you…
and I will send [someone] and bring you back from there…
(Genesis 27:45)

Having discharged her final duty, the faithful retainer, Devorah, died.

Who is this woman, that her name and actions merit so much mention in Scripture?

Ancient Jewish wisdom directs our attention to another Devorah.

And Devorah the wife of Lapidot was a prophetess who judged Israel at that time. And she sat under the palm tree of Devorah between Ramah and Bethel…
 (Judges 4:4-5)

Judge Devorah held court, under Nurse Devorah’s tree. We are meant to link the two!

In Hebrew, Devorah means a bee.  What is a bee’s uniqueness? Bees convert unfulfilled potential (nectar) into its ultimate destiny—honey, sweet tasting and energy providing.

Sure enough, Prophetess Devorah converts Barak from a timid man into a brave leader capable of defeating the evil Sisera, Israel’s oppressor of twenty years. (Judges 4:6-9)

Nurse Devorah is instrumental in transforming the wicked family of Rebecca into people capable of seeing the future and blessing a young woman destined to become a mother of the Jewish people. (Genesis 24:60) This is the message of her awkward appearance in the narrative (Genesis 24:59) before the blessing is uttered.

Similarly, on her mission from Rebecca to Jacob, her death is mentioned as Jacob abandons the alien influences his household had accumulated from their interactions with Shechem (Genesis 35:2-5).  Devorah’s presence strengthens Jacob, reinforcing his upbringing and preparing him to receive God’s blessing. (Genesis 35:9-12).

Devorah represents those women in our lives who bring out the best in us. A good mother or wife has the ability to transform a man’s potential into reality. Of course, a misguided woman can act as a destroyer.  While we men have no ability to choose our mothers (though we can adopt mentors to fill that role), the choice of wife and the conduct of our marriage is in our hands.

The Bible names many fewer women than men. The two Devorah’s send us two messages. The first serves to remind us that, unlike our present day infatuation with publicity, what happens behind the scenes is critical to and equally responsible for success. The second reminds us that when men fail in acting courageously and wisely, women will act in their stead. Why we should lament rather than celebrate when that circumstance arises, needs  a much longer discussion.

The first three chapters of Genesis are vital for obtaining basic insight into the differences between and the potential greatness of men and women.  Much is revealed  through the original Hebrew text and ancient Jewish wisdom. We explore these in our audio CD, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden, available for a few more days at a special discounted price.

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Forget Father’s Day & Dismiss Mother’s Day

July 17th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 6 comments

I know that neither of those two calendar highlights are close to us which makes this a good time to reconsider them in the cold light of clinical analysis.

Why does the culture make such a big deal about these two arbitrary days while nobody thinks of establishing a Husband’s Day and a Wife’s Day?

Reason 1: A culture fundamentally hostile to the traditional Biblical family model, is not keen on celebrating husbands and wives. Recognizing a mother or a father makes no comment about whether mom and dad were married when they conceived you or whether they invested years in raising you in the cocoon of their love and commitment.

Reason 2: Every one of us have or had a mother and a father so those two days are ‘inclusive’ a word that has become almost doctrinal in the theology of secular fundamentalism. But not everyone is or has been a husband or a wife. Celebrating these pillars of society might make some feel bad.

Reason 3: It’s really easy to observe Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (provided you know who he is). After all, you merely had to have been born and then take Mom to lunch once a year. However, observing Husband’s Day implies you continue accepting the obligations of wifehood and observing Wife’s Day means you remain a committed and faithful husband.

No wonder a contaminated culture makes a big fuss about mothers and fathers but ignores marriage.

I’m Not Scary; Are You?

July 13th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 68 comments

There is a blog I regularly read because doing so makes me a better person. In it, a mother details with great honesty her emotions and experiences as she and her husband raise a son with serious disabilities and a, thankfully, healthy daughter.

She and I have never met, yet she is afraid of me and my family. Afraid of our support for repealing Obamacare, of our support for President Trump and of our conservative leanings.

I have two children in the medical profession. They talk of their emotions and experiences as they are hindered and frustrated by a bloated, bureaucratic and unsustainable system. They talk of their emotions and experiences as they try to help seriously ill patients and are instead forced to tend to those abusing the system, unnecessarily consuming tens of thousands of dollars and hours of human resources. They  talk of their emotions and experiences at caring for patients who act self-destructively, thus counteracting the help they have just been given, after monopolizing resources that, subsequently, were not available for others. My children have never met the woman whose blog I read. They are not afraid of her, but they see her voting patterns and liberal leanings as harmful to them and those for whom they care.

It is not a far-fetched scenario that one of my children might meet this woman’s son in an emergency room or intensive care unit. She and they would unite in doing their best for this boy with skill and compassion, maybe even with prayer.  Neither would know the politics of the other and each would be touched by the competency and kindness of the other as maternal love and medical professionalism worked together.

While this woman envisions cruel and greedy conservatives snatching away the social services that allow her family to better function, my family and I envision liberal policies leading to a world where a boy born with the disabilities and need for expensive medical care such as this woman’s son had at birth, being left to die. It is a fact of life that resources are limited and while a child with the name of Trump, Clinton or Obama will get helped, most everyday people’s children won’t.

My family and I worry about men like Peter Singer who as Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University is training the next generation of those who would make decisions in a single-payer health system. He describes himself as a ‘hedonistic utilitarian’ and is a believer in what is euphemistically called ‘abortion after birth’ for those born with severe handicaps. Surely my blog writer recoils from his philosophy. Does she get scared when she reads of the Charlie Gard case in England, where parents’ desires are being overruled by impersonal pencil-pushers? Yet, she is afraid of the votes of many of those who believe that human life is sacred.

Politics is a corrupting profession. There are many Democrats and Republicans in Congress who care more for their own power trips and fortune-building than they do for the citizens they purport to serve. Other politicians are well-meaning, but they quickly get isolated from the real world and live in an unreal bubble as they make choices that affect the very real world of the rest of us. Others who face the sad reality of a largely ignorant populace with a short attention span know that they will not get re-elected for doing what they believe to be the right thing. None, even if they possess a brilliant solution, have the power (unless they use illegal and unethical means) to force their colleagues to go along with their own ideas.

There is no neat and tidy answer to the health-care crisis in this country. There is no magic wand that will provide unlimited dollars and resources to those that need them and make all citizens upright and honest so only those truly in need apply for those dollars and resources. There is no fairy dust that will make every provider of medical help and government bureaucrat responsible and hard-working.

The less capable we are of facing hard facts, the reality of unintended consequences and the wide range of morality and ethics that govern a nation of disparate individuals, the more polarized and less problem-solving we become. We need to recognize that those who think differently than us may well be motivated by the same compassion that motivates us, yet their experiences lead them to see different solutions than we see. I learn so much from the blog posts I read, penned by a woman I have never met, but who I admire. I wish she didn’t see me as the threat to her family’s well-being that I truly am not.

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Thousands will Die

July 13th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

The pop-up on my computer suggests that  I contact my Congressmen to tell him not to tangle with Obamacare. Seemingly, the same Republicans who years ago wanted to push Grandma off a cliff in a wheelchair (I don’t even remember which election cycle that was from)  are now planning to kill thousands. Where is the pop-up asking me to contact my Congressmen to ask those who support Obamacare or think it didn’t go far enough in socializing medicine whether they look forward to an American Charlie Gard case, where bureaucrats will tell parents where, when and how their children will live or die?

Politics from the Pulpit

July 12th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 21 comments

My question relates to something you used to say often and perhaps still do – that is, “politics are merely the implementation of sincerely held religious belief”. I have probably butchered your exact quote, but the notion to me (a faith-filled Christian) that among my peers and in discussions with my pastor and other spiritual mentors, I can talk about faith and spiritual growth, but if the topic approaches the political arena, in this increasingly polarized society, I shouldn’t rock the boat too much! 

I am seeing some deeper divisions ‘within the church’ between right and left political opinion, and feel that the only way to “right the ship” is if more Pastors spoke the truth boldly (but kindly) to their congregations, without fear of reprisals and controversy.

Perhaps you can encourage me (make me courageous) again, as you have done so often in the past.

James G.

 

Dear James,

Your memory of the quote is very accurate. The sentence we use is, “Politics is nothing more than the practical application of your most deeply held values.”

While for many years we served and led a synagogue in Southern California, we have both also attended many other synagogues. As part of our ministry, we have known many pastors and priests. Invariably, we prefer those who are courageous to those who are cowardly and those whose words change lives to those who prefer to have lofty theological discussions that make no difference in the beliefs or behaviors of those who listen.

We must point out that we do not necessarily agree with the conclusions of the leaders we like. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, they vote differently than we do. However, the values that are propelling all our votes are the same.

Here is an example. We might all share a value and religious belief that we need to help the poor. That leads us, personally, to oppose raising the minimum wage. After studying the topic, we think that the result is exactly the opposite; raising the minimum wage harms those who have the most difficulty taking that first step onto the employment ladder. In fact, we might arrive at the decision that government ought not to be coming between two people who arrive at an employment agreement. Someone else may, perfectly sincerely, come to a different conclusion. We can engage in an honest and respectful conversation sharing our sources and trying to come to an agreement on what should be done to help the poor.

A sincere Bible-based argument can be made that ‘society’ or government shouldn’t be doing anything at all to ‘help the poor’. Instead this is to be done only by willing individuals.  Of course this question has political overtones but surely it ought also to be discussed by Bible-believers not only by secular fundamentalists.

In our day and age, as the political parties increasingly split on fundamental values, it is hard to see how you can discuss any meaningful topic without touching politics. In 1864 a preacher could have given a sermon on how many angels dance on the head of a pin, but we wouldn’t have returned to hear his next sermon. If a religious leader wouldn’t talk about slavery and secession, then he was irrelevant.

We don’t mean to say that teaching Scripture should be replaced with political diatribes. It should not. But God has much to say on marriage and money, on gender, compassion and justice. Avoiding these subjects or teaching in a way that allows everyone to come to his or her own conclusions isn’t true teaching.

Sometimes the forces of evil try to dissuade pastors from discussing controversial issues from a Biblical perspective by crying out ‘Separation of church and state!’  Other times they threaten a church’s tax exempt status. However, a religious leader who shirks the hard duty of telling me what God would want me to do is of very limited use to me.

A great rabbi of the 18th century advised a young rabbi at the start of his career, “If everyone in your congregation likes you, you aren’t a rabbi; if no one likes you, you aren’t a man.”

Even one of the greatest Hebrew leaders of all time, Mordechai, was liked only by “most” of his brethren, but not by “all” of them.

For Mordecai the Jew was viceroy to King Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews and accepted by most of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all their seed. 
(Esther 10:3)

We encourage you to find churches headed by brave and principled leaders.

Be strong and of good courage,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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The Silent Sneer

July 11th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 21 comments

Have you ever been put down by a silent sneer? Have you ever sensed harsh criticism in nothing more than a raised eyebrow? Have you ever felt your value as a person, as a friend, or as a relative minimized by someone finding fault in you or dismissing an achievement of yours as insignificant?

We’ve all been hurt by insults and criticism. Now, how about the other way around? Do you find too much fault with others? Do your children fear telling you of their activities and their thoughts? Are you far more lavish with criticism than praise?

If so, though you may be unaware, your friends, family, and co-workers may subconsciously avoid spending more time with you than they absolutely must.

If so, you are dogged by invisible forces that impede your progress. These forces place barriers in your way and suck the joy out of your existence. When life is good, it is often because we are surrounded by individuals who like us and want things to go well for us. They place opportunities in our way, they introduce us to people, and they correct false impressions about us. All of this takes place outside our awareness.

However when the individuals who populate the broader reaches of our life view us as constantly critical, they may respect us, they may love us, but they feel less comfortable with us. Naturally, they do not go out of their way to help us.

Though they may not do anything actually to hurt us, merely the absence of their active support translates into hidden specters that obstruct much of what we seek in life. The good news is that we can change this.

Ancient Jewish wisdom offers this helpful gem. In every interaction, give the other person the benefit of the doubt, the support and the praise that we would want him to give us if the situation was reversed. Be as generous in judging the actions of others as we tend to be when judging our own actions.

Let me explain with the help of Scripture:

You shall do no evil in judgment in matters of length, weight, or volume.
You shall have just scales, just weights, a just measure for dry goods,
and a just measure for liquids…….
(Leviticus 19:35-36)

In other words, we may not use a fraudulently light weight when we sell and a heavier one when we buy. God wants us to do business with scrupulous honesty. That seems perfectly clear, doesn’t it? This seems to make the following verses redundant:

You may not have in your pocket two weights,
a larger one and a smaller one. You may not have in your house
two measures, 
a larger one and a smaller one.
Only one full and just weight shall you have and
only 
one full and just measure…..
(Deuteronomy 25:13-15)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the Deuteronomy verses go beyond commerce. These verses are talking of false weights, not in the market place, but in our pockets and homes. These verses teach us not to use one weight or measure by judging ourselves leniently and a different harsher weight or measure when judging someone else.

Of course, some of us have exactly the opposite problem. We judge others graciously and are brutal when looking at ourselves. We constantly beat ourselves up for human failings rather than granting ourselves forgiveness. Paradoxically, this makes it harder for us to correct our failings and improve our behavior.

When you find yourself about to put someone down with a silent sneer or a raised eyebrow, or whenever you are about to find fault with someone, remember to use only one set of weights and measures. You will astound your friends, please your family and delight those who share your workplace, including yourself.

Most of us sometimes forget to extend the same loving kindness to our spouses as we want them to extend to us. Every marriage, no matter how new or established needs constant fuel injections to keep things running smoothly. I encourage you to listen to our audio CD, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden to gain further insights from ancient Jewish wisdom’s teachings on Genesis that will help you understand and cherish your spouse. (On sale this week)

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Good Job – Not

July 6th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 82 comments

It is possible that I am simply being curmudgeonly and persnickety, and I’m sure you’ll tell me if that is so, but there are two popular phrases that I would like to rail against. Working with my husband on our Ask the Rabbi column regarding self-esteem vs. self-respect made me wonder if both these ubiquitous phrases are misguided results of the disastrous self-esteem movement.

The first one, “My bad,” has replaced the words “I’m sorry” or “I take responsibility” in many offices. Am I alone in thinking that those words trivialize careless mistakes and poor judgment?

(more…)

What’s wrong with self-esteem?

July 5th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

I heard you briefly refer to self esteem and the idea of promoting self-esteem versus self-respect on your weekly Podcast. 

I grew up in the era of self esteem, however, my parents always spoke of respect. Please go into detail on your thoughts as to why promoting self-esteem degrades oneself.

Thank you,

 Lane (father of five)

 

Dear Lane,

Quite a lot has been written about the self-esteem movement that, from its beginnings in 1969, had a huge, and mostly negative, effect on educational and cultural trends. We urge you to do some research on this topic. There are so many articles on the subject, many of which acknowledge the damage done by this movement.

No matter how flawed the movement is, it has pervaded modern culture. Unfortunately, the results can be seen all around us.

(more…)

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