The Daggers are Unsheathed

September 20th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 45 comments

On November, 29, 1981, my husband and I were sleeping on our sailboat, anchored  in Avalon Bay on Catalina Island. On that night, as we slumbered, we were just a few hundred yards from where Natalie Wood drowned under suspicious circumstances. The next morning, when we emerged on deck with our coffee, the tranquility of the bay was disturbed by a small fleet of police vessels.

About a year earlier on December 8, 1980, we were dining with friends at a restaurant in Manhattan when word arrived that only a few blocks away, John Lennon had been murdered. In other words, I was close to the scenes of at least one and possibly two crimes at opposite ends of the country, in surroundings starkly different from each other. If that isn’t suspicious, what is?

The above facts are bad enough, but I am sorry to tell you that as a third-grader, I participated in teasing an unpopular schoolmate. A few years later, I cheated on a test when a teacher let me take it home, trusting me to take it honorably.  While I am ashamed of both those things, there are other actions I have done or not done that to an even greater extent I wouldn’t want to see on the nightly news.

I’m telling you these things so that you will understand why I will have to turn down any Supreme Court nominations that come my way as well as refrain from running for public office. When it comes to anyone with conservative principles, no ludicrous associations or past sins are ever too small to mention, too unsubstantiated to rely upon, or happened too long ago to be irrelevant. Too many on the Left have long stopped debating ideas, preferring instead to destroy people.

We Jews have just finished a period of the year known as the Ten Days of Repentance. They begin with Rosh Hashanah and conclude with Yom Kippur. During that time, Jews (at least those of us who try live according to Jewish ways) examine our deeds from the past year, ask forgiveness from people we have hurt and pray that God pardons us for our transgressions against Him.

That part about asking forgiveness from people we have harmed is a tough one. Sometimes the person is no longer around; sometimes it would hurt them to share what we did. In the latter case, the more proper thing to do is to live with our guilt. Other times, we ourselves are blithely unaware of or have forgotten an action or statement that wounded another person. Too often, we can think of a dozen reasons that asking forgiveness is unnecessary or impossible. And sometimes, people who claim we harmed them are unstable, lying, malicious, missing the whole picture or motivated by things that reflect on them, not on us.

We are given a lifeline. You see, in our complex lives, all of us have many chances to be the offender and the injured party. Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that God will treat us as we treat others. If we graciously forgive, magnanimously gloss over hurts rather than stewing in them, and assume misunderstanding rather than malice when we think someone wronged us (which may or may not be based in reality), God will look at our transgressions with a similarly benevolent eye. We need to believe in our own dignity and the dignity of others, doing our best

Like anything meant for mature adults, the ideas of forgiveness are tangled, detailed and complex. There are times when restitution must precede asking forgiveness and times when taking the seemingly hard line is the more compassionate and correct way to go. We don’t have to, and sometimes are forbidden to, automatically accept responsibility for things that never happened or were horribly misconstrued, though sometimes we do just that in the name of peace.  For serious Jews, this period of the year is a marathon, not a stroll.

Only God can dispense perfect justice. Down here in the world of mortals, we can aim for lofty goals and strive to make a society that comes close to achieving them. At the same time we must recognize that encouraging a society where we endlessly attack, accuse and believe the worst about each other ends in a dangerous and doomed path.

I don’t personally know either Paul Manafort or Brett Kavanaugh. I I don’t know Brendan Eich who was forced out of Mozilla in 2014  or Lawrence H. Summers who was forced out of the presidency of Harvard University in 2006. (The last two names now seem like canaries in the coal mine.)  I don’t know dozens, perhaps hundreds or thousands of other prominent and not-well-known people who have lost their jobs, missed out on promotions, been ostracized or worse for being conservative, saying something that might be construed as conservative or, the worst sin of all, having anything to do with Donald Trump.

Some of these people are far from role models, others are highly admirable. That is irrelevant to the message that is being sent. It is a mistake to judge these cases on individual merit or deal with them one at a time. We need to recognize that, while some accusations may be valid and others may actually be powered by sincerity, right now there is an overarching attack on democracy, free speech, freedom of thought and religion and other mainstays of the American system. By not responding to these cases with determination, firmness and strength we are acquiescing in the message that anyone who doesn’t support, or at least kowtow to, the increasingly fascistic, socialist and hate-filled liberal Left will be destroyed.

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Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom

September 20th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

It is no secret that I love homeschooling. That doesn’t, however, make me opposed to traditional schools. One of my major concerns during sixteen years teaching at home was, “Am I causing my children to miss out on Mrs. Richman?”

Mrs. Richman was my fifth-grade teacher. Our class full of easily bored and, hence, mischievous kids adored her. We worked harder in her class than for any other teacher. She introduced us to Shakespeare, setting us passages to memorize that I still remember. We honed our writing skills and in eighth grade I submitted a composition I had written for my fifth-grade class, and received an ‘A’ on it. She loved Greek mythology which, years later, led me to take classes in Greek and Roman classics in college.

I wish I could remember her teaching methods; all I know is that I looked forward to school every day and I credit Mrs. Richman with instilling in me a love of learning.  Our class and she partnered so well together that the next year she moved up a grade with us. Since as sixth-graders we now worked under a departmental system, she was only our English language teacher, but that subject remained a favorite.

I have no idea what Mrs. Richman’s politics were, if there was a  Mr. Richman and if they had children. I knew little personal data about her. She must have been old because as a fledgling teacher she had taught my father. She was a smoker, something we knew from seeing her on the street as we left the school building. She was a New York Mets’ fan, taking our class to a game one day and making us into diehard Mets’ fans for two years. Other than that, with the self-centeredness of youth, as far as we were concerned her life revolved around us. Mrs. Richman died shortly after school closed the summer after sixth grade, leaving a legacy of stimulated students behind her. 

What if, by teaching my own kids at home, I was depriving them of their own Mrs. Richman? I was fortunate to attend a wonderful school for both elementary and high school, and I had many good and very good teachers. There were one or two poor ones, but they were few and far between. As a teaching mother, I felt that I could equal them (sometimes doing the job very well, well or poorly) but not Mrs. Richman.

Over the years I resolved that concern. How I did so remains for another Practical Parenting post.

Sharing downloads – is that ok?

September 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments


 I recently downloaded Tower of Power from your website. Is it ok to share this with people inside my organization or should we purchase a separate copy for everyone? 

 Thank you, 


Dear Mike,

Before answering your question, we want to compliment you on asking it in the first place. The question shows a sensitivity that suggests that you run your business on ethical grounds and that you don’t box ‘religious behavior’ into only some parts of your life while you isolate it from others.

We are delighted for you to share our teachings in the same manner as you would share a physical book. You are welcome to assemble a group and listen to the download together just as you might read aloud from a copy of a book that you own. You can also pass on a book you own to one person at a time and as such could pass on your download to one person at a time.

What is not permissible, according to both Scripture and United States copyright law, is to xerox a book in place of buying many copies. You will find a note of this prohibition in the front of most books.

This works for ebooks and audio downloads as well. When a library buys a downloadable copy of a book from an author, they purchase each copy they will be making available. If all the copies are “out” you will be put on a waiting list for the ebook. The library cannot lend out limitless copies. Similarly, we do request that you not copy the download of Tower of Power and distribute it.

As our society becomes more virtual and less physical, it is so important  to ask questions just as you are doing, to make sure that we don’t inadvertently overstep boundaries. While no one reading this would dream of snatching a book from a bookstore while the clerk’s attention is elsewhere, our minds don’t automatically transfer our ethics to new and different situations.

Back in the 1980s when the idea of purchasing software was in its youth, many people copied software for their friends. It took a while for the industry to mature and for people to realized that intellectual property was much like any other property and that the ancient Mosaic law that has been responsible for so much of the development of civilization—thou shall not steal—applies equally.

May your organization prosper,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Storm Shelter

September 17th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

I am spoiled. When I contemplate boating, I picture vacationing with my family among the magnificent islands of the Pacific Northwest. But except for a blessed few people and times, boarding a ship has not meant leisure, but instead was a risky way for crossing oceans.

Traveling by ship was dangerous and frightening in the days before exotic cruising. Ships served as the precarious means of transportation to start a new life, for trade or as a means of livelihood like the potentially deadly 19th century whaling ships and, indeed, today’s commercial fishing boats.

The book of Jonah opens with a different type of boating:

And Jonah arose to flee… from before God…
and he found a ship going to Tarshish…
(Jonah 1:3)

And God sent a big wind over the ocean and there was a great storm
upon the ocean and the ship appeared likely to shatter.
(Jonah 1:4)

And the sailors were terrified … and they threw all the articles
on the ship into the ocean to make it lighter
and Jonah went down
to the bilges of the ship, lay down and fell asleep.
(Jonah 1:5)

The word ship appears four times in these three consecutive verses. Only by looking at the Hebrew text can you see that the word in the first three instances differs from the fourth. The first three use the the Hebrew word ONiYaH. The final instance of ship uses the word SeFiNaH.

א נ י – ה                       ם פ י נ ה    

ship: SeFiNaH                  ship: ONiYaH

How can Scripture suggest that the ship Jonah slept in is different from the ship described earlier? One clue is that this is the only place in Scripture where a sailing vessel is called a SeFiNaH.

Take a look at two more Biblical vessels. In the days leading up to the great flood, God instructed Noah to make an ark:

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood…
(Genesis 6:14)

Later, Moses’ mother floats her son down the Nile:

And when she could hide him no longer
she took for him an ark of bulrushes…
(Exodus 2:3)

Although English translations sometimes call Moses’ craft a basket, the Hebrew labels both a TeiVaH.

ת ב ה

Ark:  TeiVaH

The different words for floating conveyance reflect different purposes. Neither Noah nor Moses had a destination. Their arks were not designed to be sailed or even controlled. Their boats were merely refuges from peril.

The ship Jonah boards is a commercial one. Her crew chooses to face constant struggle. There might be too much wind or too little. There are shoals and reefs to avoid. The challenging trip is undertaken in order to accomplish a goal.

When Jonah goes to sleep at the end of verse 5, he is using the ship for a uniquely different purpose. He is avoiding reality. The ship is a hiding place for him, not a means to a destination. It isn’t even a refuge; he is indifferent to its fate as well as his own.

We get an added clue to the function of a SeFiNaH from the Hebrew word itself. One magic of Hebrew is that certain letters share a relationship. When you exchange one of these letters for the other, the two words that result share a connection. Among these related letters is the first letter of the root word for Jonah’s boat when he goes to sleep and the first letter of the word for “hidden”. (Remember that Hebrew reads from right to left)

  צפן      ספן

        Boat      Hidden

On extremely rare occasions one needs to board an ark. Buffeted by external forces, be they physical, social or economic, there is no further action one can take to influence one’s life. At that point finding refuge, as in a TeiVaH and surrendering all to God’s mercy is the only option.

But most of the time, one wants an ONiYaH, a purposefully sailed ship whose course need to be constantly adjusted and controlled. The ship to avoid at all costs is Jonah’s SeFiNaH, the equivalent of burrowing under the blankets and giving up.

In ancient Jewish wisdom, a sailing ship sometimes serves as a metaphor for a self-contained existence. When you leave the dock you must carry everything you need with you. Acquiring anything additional is uncertain; it depends on weather and wind, both of which are out of your control. Preparation is a prerequisite for a successful passage. Part of the preparation is making sure you board the correct ship.

Reading the news it isn’t hard to think that the world is going to pieces around us. Like with Jonah, sinking into despair is tempting, yet wrong. Forming a deep relationship with God is the best way to arm and motivate oneself to take action. One way of achieving that is by delving deeply into His word. Today’s Thought Tool is a reprint from 2009 and perhaps even more timely than it was then. You can have it to read and reread in the book Thought Tools Volume 2. That book, along with over 20 other ancient Jewish wisdom resources,  is available in our Complete Library Pack and Complete Library Pack PLUS. As we prepare to close our store for Yom Kippur both of these, filled with timeless tools for life,  are on sale during this period of time when Jews read the book of Jonah aloud as God is sealing the fate of individuals and nations for the coming year.

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Let’s Hear It for Gender Quotas

September 13th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 26 comments

California is moving towards requiring her publicly traded companies to enforce gender quotas on their boards. I am against quotas in general and find that, as with most social manipulation, the results are rarely those that are promised by their promoters. While I think there is every chance that this legislation will move forward, I worry that the biggest outcome will be more California businesses relocating to Texas. Unfortunately, the relocated management will then probably retain its destructive voting habits and continue to support the types of politicians and policies that made California uninhabitable. However, despite my usual wariness of quotas, and my concern that Elizabeth Warren is pushing for this on a national level, I am wondering whether my own family needs to use strong-arm techniques to get more equitable representation on our family What’s App chat. 

My mind is thinking back to an incident that occurred a few months ago. It was a regular work day. Actually, it was more pressured than usual given that a number of us had extra activities over the coming week. Yet, our family What’s App group was active, as it almost always is. Considering that there are many of us, including children who at that time lived in Israel and a son who frequently works the night shift, What’s App is a great way for my husband and me and all our children and their spouses to stay in touch. Some of us monitor it almost all the time while others resolutely only check in at day’s end.  The problem is that more than one son-in-law—and we know who you are—thinks that we are way too chatty. Showing a complete lack of appreciation for the fine wit and sophisticated banter on the group, a few of the boys have unsubscribed. With six sons-in-law and only one daughter-in-law, that makes our chat weigh heavily to the feminine.

There we were on that day, with more than enough on our plates, when one culprit posted a clever logic puzzle. By the time I saw it, there were thirteen—THIRTEEN!—replies parsing the problem and building on each other’s comments to move towards the solution. All the responses were from the male side of the family, although two females interjected comments along the lines of, “Doesn’t anyone other than me work?” and “You have way too much time on your hands.”

For a moment, I cheered the hardworking, distaff side. Then I realized that had a cute niece/nephew/grandchild video been posted, we would have been just as easily distracted. (Though experience has shown that the men would jump into that exchange as well.) A request for a recipe would get an equally strong feminine response no matter how busy a day the women in the family were having.

The strange thing is that many of the females in our family, including me, enjoy logic problems. We just don’t find them intriguing enough to distract us from priorities. We do them for relaxation, but have no problem putting them aside. For the men, it seems that not solving the problem was the equivalent of having one’s masculinity challenged. This wasn’t an amusing lark; it was a test of virility.

The logic puzzle was resolved and everyone went back to work. Yet, in the intervening months no more problems of that sort have been posted. Considering the male/female ratio of the participants in the chat, that isn’t surprising. Things would change if we could force more sons-in-law to be involved. So, I am keeping a close eye on California because nothing screams fairness and progress like coercion.

P.S. If you are in the DFW area, please join my husband Sunday morning at 11 a.m. at New Beginnings Church in Bedford, TX. (Services start at 10:30.)

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Is genealogical research a waste of time?

September 12th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

Dear Rabbi & Mrs. Lapin,

Please let me first tell you that I have learned much from your writings. I appreciate your knowledge, willingness, and even courage to boldly share truth with those who have ears to hear.

My question:  Is it wise and worthwhile to spend time and money investigating one’s genealogy?  What do you think of the DNA tests to discover where your ancestors lived?

I was adopted and have discovered my biological family through DNA testing.  I am over 60. My bio and adoptive parents are all deceased. I continue to think of my adoptive side as my “real parents and family”. However, the treasure hunt for older blood ancestors and lineage has been quite interesting.

One concern I have, which I’d like you to address, is whether I spend too much time in research. It can take hours and hours of looking at records to find and confirm even one person. I would say though that some of those ‘finds’ has yielded some very interesting and fulfilling data.

This experience has led me to better understand and appreciate the hand of God in my life. I’ve spent about 3 years now in this process and I wonder if it really matters who my 4th great grandfather was and whether he was born in Scotland or Sweden? Should I discontinue my research, if I am the only one in my family who finds this fascinating?  I have adult children who are not the least bit interested.

I do not spend time or money researching at the expense of my family’s needs. What do you think of this new craze to have your  ‘DNA done’?There are many passages in the bible about genealogy, so how does Ancient Jewish Wisdom apply to my situation? Thank you!


Dear Shawn,

Working backwards through your letter, we have to say that we know very little about the companies in business to test your DNA. We tend to be wary of fads and would recommend researching the reliability of any of these companies and the usefulness of the results well before parting with your money or your DNA. For the most part, all they tell you is about the presence of ethnic and geographic markers with limited accuracy.  Information about particular ancestors would be more interesting but that information is available only through the research that you are enjoying.

Having said that, you are correct that God’s system places great importance on genealogy. While each of us is an individual, we are also links in a chain. Much of today’s pathologies are the result of devaluing family and pretending that caring who one’s parents are, in particular fathers, is irrelevant and unimportant. Many men who saw an easy income stream in becoming sperm donors while in college found, to their shock, that the offspring they put out of mind were eager to find them.

Physical and spiritual adoption are also a part of the Bible. Mordechai raised Esther after the deaths of her parents and Joshua, rather than his own sons, became Moses’ spiritual heir. While you cherish your adopted family, it is not surprising at all that you are curious about your physical antecedents.

We’re not sure why this hobby is any different from golf or collecting duck calls.  While it would be nice if you and your children shared this interest, as long as this isn’t interfering with your family’s welfare, why shouldn’t you continue? It is very possible that as your children get older, they will find that they are, indeed, grateful to know more about their background.

You sound very aware of the limitations of time. If you spend hours researching a relative, those hours are not available for other pursuits. If you are not minimizing more important areas of your life, but this is your “free time” relaxation, then not only do we see it as a benign activity, but one that is clearly filling an emotional need of yours. That sounds like a good deal.

Happy hunting,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Take Two: Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent

September 12th, 2018 Posted by Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 9 comments

When I wrote about Cyrus, the Unsinkable Sea Serpent by Bill Peet, I thought that I had pretty much covered what I wanted to say. Then, one of my daughters made a point that I thought was worth sharing. Shortly after that, I read the synopsis of the book on Amazon and realized that I had another point to make as well. If this keeps up, my commentary on the book will be longer than the book itself.

My daughter noted that, like many older books, Cyrus uses language that is not familiar to most young children. While books like those of Dr. Seuss are easy for beginning readers as well as fun, their vocabulary is limited. The Cat in the Hat was certainly an improvement over scintillating school texts that used sentences like, “See Dick run,” but it doesn’t exactly utilize the richness of the English language.   

There is value in books that do just that. When that same daughter was three-years-old, I took her, along with her younger sisters, to visit my parents. Since our family was living on the other side of the country from where I grew up, many local aunts, uncles, cousins and friends came to see us. At one point my three-year-old walked into a living room filled with people and conversation and exclaimed in a clear and piercing voice, “What a pandemonium!” Not surprisingly, the pandemonium only grew.

Despite the fact that educational and linguistic experts would probably not put pandemonium on a word list for her age group, she had heard me read it over and over in a Mr. Happy book, understood it and used it in its correct context. While I only read a few of Roger Hargreaves’ “Mr.” and “Little Miss” books, they were popular with my children as well as expanding their vocabulary.

My own addition to the Cyrus, the Unsinkable Sea Serpent conversation, stemmed from the following description of the book on Amazon: “A shark accuses Cyrus of cowardice because he won’t sink any ships. The kindly sea serpent almost succumbs to peer pressure, but learns at last to be himself.”

No! No! No! That is not what my summary would say nor is it a good moral message to draw from the book. It is true that Cyrus learns that he doesn’t want to be nasty despite being goaded to do so by the shark. But the lesson that follows is not, “To thine own self be true.” The message is that being kind and helpful is the right thing to do and that it can be as exciting and challenging as being cruel. As should happen in books for little children, the bad guys get punished and the good guys thrive. Without moralizing and being pedantic, I hope that the message that comes across to children is that helping others is fun and rewarding, not that if you are basically nasty, you should keep being nasty and if you are basically nice you should keep being nice. After all, the shark is also being himself.

I’m not trying to push Cyrus on anyone and I wouldn’t put it on a “must read” list, though it turned out to be a hit this summer. But I definitely would push the idea that putting a great deal of thought into what types of influences surround the children we love and what messages we are sending is one of the primary jobs of any parent or teacher.

Generational Joy

September 6th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 45 comments

Simcha is usually translated from Hebrew as happiness. I prefer to think of it as joy. I don’t know if an English scholar would agree, but in my mind, happiness is fleeting while joy, even when other events or the passage of time overtakes it, leaves a lasting impression. Eating ice cream makes me happy, but I can summon up the emotional atmosphere of eating ice cream with a good friend long after the treat has been consumed.

We have been blessed with a wonderfully busy summer. It began with the birth of a healthy baby grandson and ended with another similar gift. In between the two births, we celebrated the weddings of two of our children. While our basement flooding was not a highlight of the season, the tireless support of our son-in-law and grandsons in toting, carrying and sorting pounds of water-laden possessions certainly was.

A question mark hung over our annual week of Grandma Camp. Would I get it together in time to follow the tradition of it being a summer event or would we need to shoot for winter camp this year? Would the final baby of summer arrive on time and take priority or would he wait just a bit longer? He waited!

Eventually, it all came together. The five attendees looked much older and more mature than they appear in the photos of last year’s Grandma Camp.   I had a wonderful time spending the week with them. Since camp was at the end of the summer instead of its usual early July date, the fall holy days were just around the corner. I delighted in teaching the girls how to bake a traditional family recipe for Rosh HaShana.

I try to make mandlen (translated as soup nuts but bearing no relationship to items of that name in the supermarket) each year for the beginning of the new Jewish year. I inherited the recipe I use, and a bite transports me to my grandmother’s teensy Brooklyn kitchen where love was an ingredient in every morsel. When my mother-in-law shared her favorite recipes with me, the same recipe was in that treasure trove as well. Isn’t this photo where they are making mandlen wearing their personally designed aprons wonderful?

While one of my daughters, who as of yet has no children of her own, joked about child labor, seeing these little girls take their place in a chain of transmission of Torah, tradition, and, yes, food, brought great joy to me. May the coming year bring joy along with health, prosperity, peace, family and friendship to all of my treasured Musings readers.

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Is Evangelical Support Good for the Jews?

September 6th, 2018 Posted by AAJC Happenings, On Our Mind 4 comments

The following appeared in Jewish in Seattle magazine, the August/September 2018, edition. The question posed to Rabbi Daniel Lapin was, “Is Evangelical support good for the Jews?”

Forgive me for conforming to the rabbinic stereotype of answering a question with a question but when you ask “…good for the Jews?”  which Jews do you mean?  I often tell my audiences that if you gathered together, into a colossal stadium, every self-identifying American Jew, the only thing you could get us all to agree on is that Hitler was a very bad man.

Evangelical support is good for those Jews who see modern day Israel as a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.  The nexus of American support for Israel is not Foggy Bottom. The State Department has long leaned Arab.  The United States was not the first country to recognize Israel in May 1948; the Soviet Union was.  But since 1948, Christian Evangelical strength in America has skyrocketed and paralleling it, so has American support for the Jewish state.  America’s Bible belt has become Israel’s safety belt.

For Jews who would rather see slightly less whole-hearted support for Israel and who would prefer a nuanced vision for the Middle East in which Jew and Arab are seen as equivalent partners with congruent understandings of peace, well, Evangelical support is not so good.

Should we criticize Evangelical support for being self-serving?  Though most Evangelicals dispute this, undoubtedly some Christians support Israel to accelerate messianic days.  Jewish law mandates that we owe a debt of gratitude even to someone wishing us harm but who unintentionally does us good.  At the very least we ought to gratefully welcome the support of those who wish us only good.

In today’s post-Christian Europe, Jewish men can no longer walk the streets of Paris, Manchester, Cologne, or Stockholm while wearing a kippah on their heads.  Evangelical philo-Semitism indirectly helps protect kippah-wearing men in America.  I for one, welcome their support and express a heartfelt thank you.

I can’t seem to break away from bad ways.

September 6th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

Please, what can someone do to break away stubborn yokes of many years, that has defied fasting and prayers?

Kamaldeen R.

Dear Kamaldeen,

First of all, accept our admiration for being the rare person who evaluates himself morally and works upon himself for improvement in the eyes of our Heavenly judge.  The timing of your question is fortuitous. In just about two weeks millions of Jews around the world will  observe Yom Kippur, known in English as the Day of Atonement.  Yom Kippur  is celebrated with a 25 hour fast and the day is spent in prayer. Ten days of moral introspection lead up to  the climax of Yom Kippur, the day upon which we lock in our resolve to make meaningful changes in our life.

It is not a sad day, although some Jews, who have minimal knowledge of their faith, think that it is. It is a festive day. As you recognize, little makes one happier than being able to put bad traits and habits behind and move forward in a more positive direction.

However, the fasting and praying are not, in and of themselves, the whole picture. Yom Kippur is one day out of the year. The rest of the year, and especially in preparation for Yom Kippur, action is called for. (Prayer is admittedly one action that should be frequently utilized, but not an exclusive one.)

In Exodus 14:15, when the children of Israel call out in fear as they are trapped at the Red Sea, God tells Moses to tell them to get moving and directs Moses to be active. “What are you doing calling out to me?” He says. This isn’t the time for prayer, it is the time for action.

So it is for all of us. Breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones requires us to take practical, physical steps. We certainly can and should request God’s help, but He isn’t going to do the heavy lifting for us. That would impede our growth.

Whatever you are struggling with, make a concrete plan for tackling it. Often, the help of others is needed to make sure you are being realistic and to hold you accountable. Depending on what type of “stubborn yoke” you are battling, there may be those who will be needed to provide necessary advice and guidance.

We think you might find some support in our audio CD, Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity. (We have placed it on sale) However, the bottom line is that prayer and fasting need to be buttressed with determination, action and a commitment to work hard and not be greatly discouraged by failure. You need to get moving!

We have faith that you can build a better future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

It’s that time of year! Starting this coming Sunday night, we are entering a month filled with holy days. Our store and office will close in honor of these days. The first closure is from the evening of September 9 to the evening of September 11.

To show our appreciation for your patience with our erratic schedule, we are offering our annual High Holy Days Sale on our value-packed
Complete Library Pack and Complete Library Pack PLUS.

Rabbi Lapin Audio Download Complete Library Package Complete Library Package PLUS
Day for Atonements:
Heavenly Gift of Spiritual
Serenity ON SALE NOW
Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity ON SALE NOW Complete Library Package: Save $20 Complete Library Package PLUS: Save $30
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