The Non-Musing Musing

November 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 29 comments

Here are some of the things I considered writing about this week:

  • Venezuela and Zimbabwe
  • Why no one (not even women or the Democrat Party) is a winner in the Roy Moore matter
  • What Mitch McConnell did right—and what he did wrong
  • How quickly murder rampage stopped being front-page news

Here is why I am not writing about any of those things:

Even though I love writing, in the continual juggling act called life, cooking and baking won out this week over my Musings. Our grandson, Eliyahu, becomes a bar-mitzva this Shabbat. Despite the frequent misunderstanding that a Jewish boy turning thirteen is all about throwing a grand party, it actually is the age when the yoke of religious obligation descends on a pair of developing shoulders. The boy can shrug off the yoke, be crushed by it, or as we pray will be true in Eliyahu’s case, the yoke serves as a soul-building weight.

Since out-of-town friends and family will be coming to hear Eliyahu read from the Torah in synagogue as an initiation to being a responsible member of the community, my husband and I are hosting a dessert buffet after Shabbat to give everyone an additional chance to come together. 

The evening will give my husband and me the opportunity to toast our daughter and son-in-law who do an incredible job nurturing each of their children’s individual personalities. In Eliyahu’s case, this includes music and performing. We hope that he will express his talent for, and pleasure in, music by playing cello for our guests. 

I don’t expect Eliyahu to particularly appreciate having home-made cookies rather than bakery ones. I’m sure the guests would enjoy store-bought apple cider as much as my slowly simmered concoction (though our house wouldn’t have smelled as amazingly yesterday). But as each year seems to fly by more rapidly than the one before it, I decided to stop and cherish this special occasion. Professionally made food might be just as tasty and would be presented more beautifully. The extra ingredient of love, however, is one that only I can provide.  I love writing my weekly Susan’s Musings, but I love celebrating with family even more.

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As a single mom, should I be thinking about marriage?

November 15th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

What’s the biblical instruction for a single mother who met the Lord during pregnancy? I feel I’m not called to be single, but have not dated for over 11 years, as I was dedicated to mothering.

From a biblical perspective, should I seek marriage or seek singleness?

Thank you!

Mka

Dear Mka,

There’s a phrase, Kol HaKavod, used in Israel when someone has done something exceptional. It literally means “all the honor [to you],” and is a way of acknowledging actions that go above and beyond the norm. We say to you: Kol HaKavod.

Firstly, you changed the path of your life, and that of your child, by findng the Lord during your pregnancy. Since then, you devoted yourself to being a mother and, we assume, making a fulfilling life for yourself. By not dating, you focused on the relationship already in your life, with your child. When a single mother dates it frequently introduces emotional, psychological and often physical, instability into a child’s life.

In our view, the question you are asking, suggests that you are ready, not to date, but to court. The difference is that dating is an activity in itself while courting is purposeful. In your case, marriage means a commitment to both you and your child, and will strengthen the foundation you have already built. Since you are not looking for a spouse out of desperation, we feel you have every chance of meeting a man worthy of you.

Courting, and then marriage, will be a major upheaval in your lives. Upheaval is challenging, but it can also lead to a better future. Becoming a wife and providing your child with a father can make the coming years richer and healthier.

We couldn’t help noticing that you phrased your question in terms of ‘seeking’ singleness or marriage.  We don’t think that’s really the choice you face.  You are not at a crossroads at which, in order to proceed, you must now make a decision to choose A or B.   Your real choice is between doing nothing; just continuing down the road you’ve been on, and embarking on a major challenge—deliberately and purposefully seeking marriage.  The first choice would be the easier though the latter would be more fulfilling. But not easy.

We would recommend beginning the process by letting trusted friends and mentors know of your decision. Rather than going out with someone randomly, you should only meet those men who clearly share your faith, values and outlook.

A delicate balance is needed between being honest and open with your child and not burdening him or her with too much information. It might be helpful to talk to others who have preceded you on this path.

We have three resources on dating/courtship and marriage and hope they might prove helpful to you (Madam, I’m Adam; Hands Off: This May Be Love, and I Only Want to Get Married Once). You can see them here. Look in the Family, Friendship and Society section.

Wishing you a bright future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Blind as a….Cardiologist?

November 14th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 22 comments

My earliest recollection of seeing a man knowledgeable in one specialty making foolish pronouncements in another area was South African heart-transplant pioneer, Dr. Christiaan Barnard.  It was March, 1969, and his successful transplant of a healthy heart into middle-aged South African grocer, Louis Washkansky, 15 months earlier had transformed Barnard into an international celebrity.

At a charity event in Johannesburg one evening, I watched the handsome superstar beguile a bevy of socialites hovering around him.  I edged closer hoping to hear more about his historic medical procedure.  Instead, what I heard was Dr. Barnard explaining why the Americans’ race to land a man on the moon was doomed.  Then, in response to a question from a pretty young thing, he launched into a lesson on how to maintain a long and happy marriage.  His audience hung on his every word and as a young guy with very limited life experience, I can’t claim that I felt any particular skepticism.

Only a few months later, two events taught me caution about pontificating outside your area of expertise.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon and Christiaan Barnard and Aletta, his wife of 20 years, divorced. I decided that although his medical expertise was epic, his knowledge of space travel and marriage left much to be desired. This idea was reinforced when Dr. Barnard’s second and third marriages each lasted 12 years.

It is easy for even remarkable human beings possessing enormous, but specialized knowledge, to be blind in other areas.

This truism returned to me the other day while reading that one of the founders of Paypal and the force behind the remarkable Tesla automobile, Elon Musk, had made a completely ridiculous announcement.  During a speech to the nation’s governors, he insisted that the biggest threat facing civilization is artificial intelligence.  Really?  Furthermore, he assured the roomful of politicians that the only way to cope was by vastly increased government regulation.  The way government regulation has improved medicine, education, and Amtrak?

Spiritual blindness is more prevalent and far more dangerous than ophthalmic blindness.

God expects us to make use of existing medical knowledge to heal our physical bodies, so when Scripture discusses maladies, they are usually spiritually based.  For instance, let’s glance at the three instances of blindness in the Bible.

The prophet Eli had sons who were behaving abominably:

Now, Eli had become very old, and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and that they would lie with the women who congregated at the entrance
of the tent of meeting.

(I Samuel 2:22)

Not surprisingly, it was emotionally untenable for him to accept that his sons and heirs were such failures.  Consequently, he is soon described as ‘blind’.

And it was on that day, that Eli was lying in his place, and his eyes had begun to grow dim; he could not see. 
(I Samuel 3:2)

Another example is Isaac.  His older son, Esau, is a bitter disappointment.  He denigrates the family’s spiritual birthright and marries women who do the same.

And Jacob said, Sell me this day your birthright.  And Esau said….
what use is this birthright to me?
(Genesis 25:31-32)

And Esau was forty years old when he married Judith.the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bosmath the daughter of Elon the Hittite;
and they made life bitter for Isaac and for Rebekah.

(Genesis 26:34-35)

Not surprisingly, it is emotionally painful for him to acknowledge the truth about his son so he too is described as blind.

And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old,
his eyes became dim so he could not see…

(Genesis 27:1)

The only other instance of “natural” Biblical blindness needs a little help from ancient Jewish wisdom.  You’ll remember that after Cain murdered Abel, God imposed punishments.  One strange part of God’s retribution for his crime was to assure Cain:

…the killer of Cain will arise in the 7th generation…
(Genesis 4:15)

I am of course aware that the conventional translation, based on the King James version, reads “…Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold…”   Not only is this not exactly what the Hebrew original says, but as we all know, there is no record of anyone being punished ‘sevenfold’ for killing Cain.

Now, let’s see who is the seventh generation from Cain?  Turns out his name was Tuval-Cain and he was responsible for casting formidable weapons from iron.  (Genesis 4: 17-22).  In a strange verse, his father, Lemech, makes a confession to his two wives.  He admits to having killed a man and a boy and adds a mysterious allusion to Cain dying.  (Genesis 4:23)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains what happened.  Weapon-obsessed son Tuval-Cain, took his blind father, Lemech, out hunting.  Thinking he’d spotted a wild animal in the bush, he placed a powerful crossbow he had built into his father’s hands and pointed him towards the target.  Lemech fired and with his son guiding him they raced to see their victim.  To Tuval-Cain’s shock, he saw that the ‘prey’ was his legendary ancestor Cain. When Lemech realized what happened, he lashed out in horror and dismay and accidentally killed his son.

Once again, we find blindness linked to a father resisting seeing and acknowledging the truth about his son’s failings.  In this case, a fresh and developing world did not exactly need a weapons-maker.  Like Eli and Isaac, Lemech was blind to Tuval-Cain’s shortcomings.

We can all be quite blind in certain areas particularly if there is any emotion involved.  The emotion can be ego, either a result of our pride in our accomplishments or on account of our emotional involvement with the topic on which we pontificate.

If “blindness” can happen to Lemech, Isaac, and Eli the prophet, and if it can happen to super-achievers like Barnard and Musk, it can also afflict you and me.  Arrogance at our own achievements can bring on blindness as can emotional involvement.  It is hard to keep blindness at bay when people we love (or are infatuated with) are concerned.

It is not hard for an adored celebrity to start believing that he knows everything about everything.  It is not hard for a super-successful entrepreneur with no failures on his resume to think that his mechanical inventions have the power to take over the world.

The Eternal Guide Book assures us that artificial intelligence will impact the world just as the internal combustion engine did when it replaced horses, and just as radio and the Internet did when they arrived.  But a threat to civilization?  Don’t be ridiculous. The best source for everything from marriage secrets to societal threats is not from an oft-married celebrity or an entrepreneur, but from the Manufacturer’s Instruction Manual.  Studying Scripture doesn’t just bring knowledge.  It brings something far more valuable—wisdom.

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Womanly Virtue???

November 9th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 62 comments

 

Have you ever heard people (usually female) say that if only women ran the world there would be fewer wars and less aggression? That argument never resonated with me, but an emerging trend is revealing serious flaws in the concept.

The trend is towards the commission of violent crime by women. On Halloween, a woman in an upscale neighborhood of Baltimore was randomly attacked by a pack of 10-15 juveniles. I use the word pack deliberately, as the behavior resembled feral animals more than humans. The newspaper report reads,

“I had a red down-like vest on, so they grabbed the back of my vest and then held me, and then out in front of them came six young women with wood pieces that were like maybe an inch thick and about three feet long…” 

“They started hitting me with the wood, in the knees, a lot in my face…”

A number of other citizens were similarly attacked on the same evening.

Earlier in the year, in Chicago, two males and two females, aged 18-24, were charged with hate crimes after viciously torturing a mentally disabled teen. Once again, the attackers completely submerged their humanity.

Women have always been capable of physical viciousness. Accounts exist of Indian women doing unimaginable things to captives. There were female Kapos in Nazi concentration camps and individual mothers have tragically abused children. But are we seeing an increase in callous behavior among groups of supposedly mentally sane females at a time when there is no communal or governmental structure providing the patina of approval? I fear we are.

There are a few commonly advanced reasons for the general deterioration of civilized behavior. Among them are the increasing number of children being raised in single-parent (usually female) homes; the explosion  of anger promoted by technology that allows anonymity and discourages real discourse and relationships; the dismal failure of a government school system with politicians seemingly focused on everything except providing decent education;  and a public disdain for religion and traditional values.

I would like to make one more suggestion. This thought is coming from my mind and heart. I know that many will refute it and, indeed find it offensive. I have seen no studies to support it nor have I conducted interviews to test my thesis. Yet, it may very well be valid and I do think it is worth putting on the table.

Since the “Murphy Brown” days, we have seen that wealthy, upper-class, and well-connected woman can indeed manage lives as single mothers. The children may lack fathers, but their mothers can afford to purchase the backup support they need and to provide for their children’s needs. However, as the idea of single-parenthood was promoted, women without the same financial and cultural advantages mimicked the behavior even though they were completely incapable of mimicking the positive outcomes. (And no, I am not saying that no non-wealthy mother can successfully raise a family. That is patently untrue. I am speaking in broad terms on a societal, not an individual, level.) Government misguidedly set policies in place to further discourage the concept of reserving parenthood for married couples.

In a similar way, I would like to advance the idea that abortion has had a different effect on the elites who advocate for it and the general populace who falls victim to that elitist vision. People may pontificate that abortion is a minor medical procedure with no emotional element, but in the real world ending a potential life does not equate with removing a benign fibroid.

Not only is the “clump of cells” you are destroying capable of developing a heartbeat, lungs, liver and fingernails, assuming it hasn’t already acquired those features, it is capable of developing a personality. In the future, for many women cooing over a winsome infant or delighting in a toddler’s lisp must bring a reminder of what might have been. In addition, that fetus is a miniature version of you. Destroying something that carries your own chromosomes and genes might very well have a conscious or subconscious psychological effect.

Emotionally secure girls, with access to physical and psychological support may process an abortion without being shattered. Perhaps they can put the memory in a box, separate from the rest of their lives. What about girls who don’t live in similarly healthy environments? Even if some aren’t affected by having an abortion, can we posit that almost no one is?

Is it possible, that by training young women to view abortion as benign, we are creating a group of women who are learning to close themselves off to their emotions? Are we creating hardened, masculine girls? When I was in junior high school, we were assigned a project having to do with the Holocaust. I don’t even remember what a few of my friends and I worked on, but, in a memory that brings me shame, I know that we reached a point of cracking “Holocaust jokes”. I think that we simply weren’t able to handle the research we did, the constant reading about unimaginable atrocities. Yes, children our age and younger underwent those atrocities, but we blessedly were spared them. It might have been better for us not to read so many graphic details until we were more mature. Is it so absurd to think that a generation immersed in an abortion culture learns to deaden their feelings?

I have no information on the specific girls involved in the recent heinous crimes. Their personal stories are somewhat irrelevant. The culture around them disrespects human life.

Can this be a factor in the scary and disturbing increase of violent behavior of young girls? I don’t know, but neither do I think that it should be automatically dismissed.

  *    *   *

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What’s up with women not helping each other?

November 8th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan, 

I enjoy your podcast discussions about relationships between men and women. I wonder if you have any thoughts you may like to share regarding women who discriminate against other women? Sadly, I don’t feel women are very supportive of other women and wonder why this is? 

Thanks and God bless you.

Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

Your question has vast implications.  These include political, social, business, and family as well as others.  Though we are working on a book about the interface of money and male-female relationships, we’ll try and respond to your question a lot more briefly.

The Bible describes several examples of difficult relationships between women including: Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 16), Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29) and Penina and Hannah (I Samuel: 1).

Now here is an observation that is not only politically incorrect, but also very true:  In all these cases, the rivalry between the women is related to the man in their lives. It’s probably fair to say that men are still the direct or indirect cause of much tension between women today. That occurs even when it is a case of who the boss appreciates more—and that holds true even when there is a female boss, though we really don’t have room to explain that incendiary statement here.  (See our upcoming book!)

At the same time, Rachel and Leah also represent women who protected and supported each other (Ancient Jewish wisdom on Genesis 29). Another example of that can be found in Ruth and Naomi throughout the book of Ruth.

When men in Scripture quarrel, it tends to take a more physical expression: Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37), Saul and David (1 Samuel 19).

But, of course, we also see Judah protecting Benjamin (Genesis 44), Moses and Aaron working together (Exodus) and Jonathan and David’s friendship (1 Samuel 20).

Our human inclination, left alone, just as we are born, is towards selfishness, jealousy and self-protection. Moral training is necessary for most of us to access empathy and care for others. In general, women were created to seek affection and security within the smaller family unit, while men were created to need a larger playing field to fulfill their wants. When these desires and requirements are threatened, both men and women turn on each other if they have not trained themselves otherwise.

From personal experience we see many women supporting each other, whether by lending a listening ear or providing help during difficult times. Similarly, we know of men who risk their lives for each other in the military and who bolster their friends with financial and other types of help.

If you are in situations where the women around you are not supportive of each other, it’s worth analyzing what’s going on. Is this in your family, community or workplace? You can actively look for women who work on improving character traits. if you can’t attach yourself to a more pleasant group of women, possibly initiate a series of classes that present the concepts you desire to see.

This is a matter of education and moral improvement, not a fixed trait like height or eye color.

Finally, we want to address the last point you raise, namely that you don’t feel that, “women are very supportive of other women.”  Here, dear Elizabeth, you may be falling into what we like to call ‘The Hillary Trap’.  By this we mean a certain politician’s view that gender transcends everything.  This is not true.  Let’s imagine that your husband is being tormented by a terrible supervisor at work; one who happens to be female.  Surely you wouldn’t take her side just because she’s a woman?  Many of a certain politician’s supporters evidently believed that women should feel that nothing about a candidate is more important than her genitals. I (Susan) personally found that rather insulting.

There is no more reason to suppose that women should automatically support other women than there is to suppose that men should automatically support other men or that folks with red hair should automatically support others similarly endowed.

With this in mind, we might have been able to be a bit more helpful had we known what women weren’t being supportive towards you.  Your sisters?  Women at your workplace?  Female players on your women’s baseball league?  In all these examples and others, the answer to your question would probably have had more to do with those relationships than with your gender.

Wishing you good friends and supportive sisters,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Fight or Fall

November 7th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

For how long must you leave a beautiful garden abandoned before it reverts to jungle?  One summer will show the deterioration well under way and within five years it will be hard to discern that any manicured garden was ever tended there.

For how long must you leave a bustling city abandoned before it becomes overgrown ruins?  The Scientific American calculated that within four hundred years the buildings and bridges will fall, the tunnels and subways will collapse and from the air it will be virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding jungle.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that we need to be waging a constant battle in order to maintain standards.  Consider these two Biblical discussions regarding the soldier.

In one place we read a sad account of a soldier, after the battle is over, desiring a woman from the enemy camp.  And God says, “Well, I kind of understand you want her, so here’s how you should proceed”.

When you go forth in war against your enemies, and the Lord your God has delivered them into your hands, and you have taken them captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her, that you would have her as your wife; then you shall bring her home to your house….
(Deuteronomy 21:10-12)
 

We also read a second account describing the elevated and lofty principles demanded from the soldier.

When you go out to make war against your enemies, then keep yourself from every wicked thing.  If there is among you any man, who is not clean…then shall he go out of the camp…You shall have a place also outside the camp, where you shall go out to it [to relieve yourself]  And you shall have a spade among your weapons; and it shall be, when you will relieve yourself outside, you shall dig with it, and shall turn back and cover your excrement; for the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to save you, and to give your enemies before you; therefore shall your camp be holy; that he should see no unclean thing in you, and turn away from you.
(Deuteronomy 23:10-15)

This focus on hygiene sends a message that even being in the midst of battle doesn’t grant permission to behave in an animal-like fashion for even the most physical of activities.

How can God demand that men remember that they are not animals even while at war but then accept, after the battle is over, they won’t be able to ignore the pull of a beautiful captive?

While the battle is still raging, maintaining a high level of conduct is part of that struggle. When the battle is over and one ceases the fight, demoralization sets in.  In other words, there is a metaphorical level to this discussion.  Not only are we being taught about actual, real-life military combat, but we are also learning how we human beings work.  As long as we expend effort and demand ever more of ourselves, we thrive.  When we quit the fight and tell ourselves that it is time to relax, we often find ourselves in moral peril.

Military leaders know that their troops are most vulnerable to a decline in morale once the battle or the rigorous training is over.  Many of us have experienced behaving in a way on vacation that we would not condone while in the middle of our regular lives where we fight for family and livelihood on a daily basis.

The idea is best captured by King Solomon when he wrote:

To the wise the way of life leads upward, that he may depart from doom below.
(Proverbs 15:24)

In other words, the wise always keeps climbing upwards. That is the only way to avoid the alternative, which is decline and deterioration.

Whether we have a garden, a city, a family or a business project, we are either improving it or it is deteriorating.  If we stop gardening, the garden doesn’t retain its splendor.  Instead it begins its decline toward jungle the very moment we cease the struggle.  That is how the world REALLY works.

The descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael have very different views of life, battle and death. This Biblical contrast still exists today, with Scriptural prophecy linking the brothers to events that took place in Germany during the Nazi period, in America on 9/11 and others yet to come. Delve into the verses that reveal the core of the conflict in our audio CD set Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam. Both the MP3 and physical versions are on sale right now.

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Self-made Men?

November 2nd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 comments

The November 14th issue of Forbes magazine includes the 35th edition of the annual feature, “The 400 Richest People in America.” I don’t know if the scorecard I noticed this year is new or just one that I never paid attention to previously, but as part of each billionaire’s biography there is a “self-made” rating.

Each individual is given a score on a scale of 1-10 as to whether his or her wealth was inherited or self-made. Although I looked, I couldn’t find a reference guide anywhere that defined what earned one a score of 4, let’s say, versus 5, leaving me to guess for myself. The top four entries, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg are all rated as 8s, while 10s are doled out sparingly. Not surprisingly, some descendants of great entrepreneurs rank as 1s and 2s.

These rankings irked me. While I abhor the notion of “white privilege,” “male privilege” or any other kind of privilege terminology employed as a form of extolling and perpetuating victimhood, these rankings seemed to ignore reality.

Perhaps the ranking is completely financially based. If you inherited a company or money with which to begin your career, your ranking depends on how much you increased the amount. To use small numbers, if you started with nothing and now have $10, you rank a 10. If you started with $10 and now have $12 or even $8, your rank will be low.

However, that completely materialistic way of looking at things makes no sense to me. Furthermore, it makes little sense in the real world.

Let’s look at one man (and the list is overwhelmingly male) who scored a 10—presumably the crème de la crème of ‘self-made-ness’. According to the magazine’s bio of Jan Koum, co-founder of What’sApp, as a sixteen-year-old the Ukrainian immigrated to America with his mother. Yet the bio lists one factor in his success that the algorithm creators clearly didn’t see as something that mitigates the idea of self-made. “His mom brought pens and Soviet-issued notebooks in her suitcase to avoid paying for school supplies for Koum…”

Doesn’t that seem as crucial to you as it does to me? My suspicion is that she wasn’t “avoiding” paying for school supplies as much as worried that she wouldn’t be able to afford them. As such, she used the minimal luggage space she had for crucial items—those things that would allow her son to buckle down and learn.  I’m not minimizing the difficulties Mr. Koum overcame including being an immigrant from a non-English speaking country. I would rank as another difficulty his being abandoned by his father, who, some further research shows, chose to stay in the Ukraine. Yet, surely, having a mother (and presumably the grandmother with whom Mr. Koum also immigrated) who cared about education and were willing to work hard belies the notion of self-made.

Who in the Forbes pantheon decided what gave or removed self-made credits? One could ask all sorts of questions. In today’s world is not attending college a benefit or a liability? How about not having a father in one’s life?  Should people like Mr. Koum lose self-made points for coming from a culture and family that extols achievement rather than one that encourages victimization?

I’m all in favor of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps, but suggesting that anyone is self-made rings false. Aside from any Divine gifts including intelligence, the support and proper values of family, mentors and community needs to be appreciated. Inheriting great wealth, which certainly supplies a financial launching pad, obviously precludes thinking of oneself as self-made. Yet the overwhelming majority of people who honestly attain great wealth without inheriting a penny also received priceless gifts that let them soar.

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I’m in an awful work situation

October 31st, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 comments

I work within a team in a government organization directly managing 8 people on a project. Within the immediate team there is a man who is accountable for the whole project.

I have recently noted that this man I speak about has  exhibited a lot of narcissistic traits—tells lies and denies it later, undermines my authority to the contractor, will not speak to me but decides to sends emails warranting a reaction (which I must confess I have fallen victim to). He has also frequently insulted me by questioning my competence and is now verbally abusing other team members.

I have raised this with senior management who have all taken a ‘sit-on-the-fence’ attitude because they don’t want to deal with the situation. I have asked to see HR. When I finally got a chance after this was arranged, HR did not even read the email copies I took as evidence. She said, “These are normal things that happen in a team”. I used to work for a major private company  and this behaviour from the man would not be tolerated and he would have been dismissed.

I work 12-hr shifts (mostly doing this man’s job as well as mine) whilst he sits there doing nothing. I really want to leave, just for my sanity. Yet people say God may be using this to train you and also since you are a Christian you may be the one to get him saved.

I don’t believe you can change a narcissist. What do I do?

Abena

Dear Abena,

It sounds like you’re in a terrible work situation. In our experience, government is much slower to remove ineffective employees than the private sector.

You aren’t asking us whether leaving is a good career move but rather whether you have an obligation to stay as a Christian in order to help your superior. If there is a theological dimension, we can’t comment on that, but here is our take.

Firstly, we think that, in general, it’s a good idea to leave psychological diagnoses to those trained in that area. It’s very easy to for all of us to find that annoying people in our orbits are narcissists, obsessive-compulsive, neurotic and bearers of a host of other syndromes. Whether this man has a personality disorder or not isn’t the issue. What matters is that you are miserable at work and putting in unreasonable hours. You tried working within the system and it didn’t work. Perhaps there are things you can do or maybe you’ve exhausted your options; that wasn’t your question to us.

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It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic

October 31st, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 1 comment

A passing look at the Drudge report showed the following juxtaposition of links, one after another. 1) Family brutally beaten by group of teens in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor 2) Rising crime in Asian community has residents arming themselves 3) Update: Young Americans flock to paganism.

 

Compassion Confusion

October 30th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Have you ever endured the ugliness of having to step cautiously past a comatose vagrant and his smelly bundles blocking the entry to a store you’re trying to patronize?  I know what you’re thinking. “Our rabbi lacks mercy for the homeless,” right?

Have you ever visited a home where the parents are meticulously raising monstrous little brats by bribing them for basic compliance?  Did you have to stop yourself from rolling your eyes as mom and dad yielded to a toddler’s terrible tantrum?  Are you thinking that your rabbi lacks kind feelings for children?

Many employers fail to demand adequate performance from certain classes of employees thereby imposing additional pressures on other employees who are not deemed worthy of special compassion.  Even in education, many grades and admissions are not bestowed impartially but on the basis of compassion.

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