Posts in Ask the Rabbi

My girlfriend’s earning potential is greater than mine.

November 13th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

I have listened to a few of your podcasts that talk about the perils of income disparity between spouses, where the wife earns more than the husband. I’m a guy, and frankly the topic terrifies me because I’d rather drive nails through my feet than face the prospect of divorce because of this kind of thing. 

I’m dating someone who does not earn more than me but she has high potential to do so later.Am I heading for disaster?

Justin

Dear Justin,

I (RDL) often speak about the connection between money and marriage on my podcast and I (Susan) frequently cover variations on the same theme in my Musings. In this forum you get the two of us together! 

A few years ago, we did a multi-day conference in Dallas on the topic and we are working on a book as well. Some of what we write below comes out of that manuscript. So, you have touched a hot-button subject for us and one in which, not surprisingly, much of what we have to say contradicts popular culture.

One of the sentences in your letter concerns us.  We hope we’re wrong but you sound passively resigned to being terrified.  Why isn’t that fear fueling your financial climb to a new level at which that fear would evaporate?  Part of being a male is developing and feeling ambition.

Here is the bottom line: There is no question that both men and women can provide financially for their families. However, doing so fills a spiritual need in a man that it doesn’t for a woman. In addition, failing to provide financially erodes the essence of masculinity for most men but it leaves the core of a woman’s identity intact.

When a man loses his job or cannot obtain one, it strikes a blow at the heart of his masculinity.  For this reason his body often reacts with sexual impotence.  This problem, with its capacity to damage the marriage, can intensify, rather than diminish, if his wife capably and expansively assumes the burden of supporting the family.

Your question relates to this concept. We wouldn’t phrase it as “heading for disaster,” but we do think that you are wise to think about this now.

Here are some of the questions we feel you ought to both be examining now.  Is your girlfriend’s work a ‘calling,’ or a job? Is she doing something that she feels defines her identity, or she is simply good at what she does?  Do you ever get the feeling that her job is the priority in her life?  If one of you was offered a career opportunity that required moving, meaning the other spouse would need to leave his or her current position, would your decision be based solely on who earns more? Do either or both of you see a commuter marriage where you only live together a few days a month as a viable option? What would inform that decision? Do you both mean the same thing when you use the words “marriage” and “family”?

When you and your girlfriend talk about raising a family, who do you see having primary responsibility for caring for children? Do you both understand why 50/50 is an unrealistic answer?

Additionally we think that there are some really important questions for you to ask yourself. Why are you, at what we presume is a relatively young age, deciding that your own earning potential is so limited? Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to carry the primary burden of providing for a wife and family or are you counting on your wife to share that burden equally? If you were married and your wife decided, after the arrival of her first baby, that she wanted to be a stay-at-home mother and wife, would that delight you or terrify you? Have you expressed your preference to her in this area?

If you have listened to our audio program, Madam, I’m Adam, you know that ancient Jewish wisdom places primary responsibility for marriage failure on the husband. Earning more than your wife doesn’t guarantee a successful marriage even though the opposite scenario is likely to pose problems. We encourage you to seek role models of enduring good marriages and openly ask for guidance from the husbands. Awareness of divorce is necessary in the world today, but if fear of divorce plays an outsized part in your thinking, we suggest that perhaps you need to develop your thinking and feelings before making a commitment to marriage.

Humming, “Here Comes the Groom,”

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Combatting Small-Town Gossip

November 6th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

How do you appropriately defend against a false witness? Recently I have come across a situation where someone was falsely blamed in a situation. I did not witness the supposed misdeed but I know the nature of the person blamed and know them to be far removed from the type of behavior indicated from the “blamer”. I also know the nature of the finger pointers and what they have to gain from such false witness. Popularity and position.

It is not a criminal or illegal occurrence but it has tainted the individual in question to a degree within a small rural assembly. I feel like my hands are tied. Do you have any advice for this situation other than continued show of support?

I realize this may seem vague but I do not wish to create any more drama in an already ridiculous situation.  I do feel that this is a repetitive situation in small town communities. The circumstances change but the story is sadly the same. Many times over.

Karma M.

Dear Karma,

The problem you pose and the question you are raising is not confined in any way to small towns. Our society is awash in false accusations and the politics of personal destruction.

We are often in a bind. Years ago, in a more moral age, it was easier to believe the adage, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Now, it is meaningless.  The news media have become practiced experts at producing smoke with no fire; without even a naked flame.  Ancient Jewish wisdom is always uncompromising about not spreading or listening to slander or gossip.

However – and in our day and age this is a huge “however” –  an exception  can sometimes be made if there is possibility for harm by not sharing some potentially true negative information. For example, imagine being a new resident in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors are uncomfortable with their children sleeping  over at one family’s house.  They can’t substantiate their concerns, but there is general discomfort. Should they fill you in or not?

From your perspective, as a parent, you would probably appreciate the warning. At the same time, you would have no way of knowing if it was based on valid concerns or maybe the ‘accused’ neighbor simply votes, dresses, worships or looks different from everyone else.

In the situation you are describing, standing with the person accused based on his character as you know it, is the correct thing to do. We think that you should not underestimate the importance of doing so. In a small town, it is possible that you will be shunned and face difficulties for not following the crowd. Going out of your way to show that you do not believe the charges is actually an act of courage. You can make extra efforts to connect with that person and support him socially and, if he has a local business, economically.

We don’t see that you can do much more than publicly making clear that you don’t accept the charges. There is One who knows the truth and while that doesn’t necessarily make our day to day lives seem easier, it is, in the final analysis, all that matters.

Keep being a good neighbor,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

We grew up hearing, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me.”
Scripture says, “Life and death are in the hands of the tongue.”

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Choosing Childlessness

October 30th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I am 32 and married 3 years ago. My husband and I do not like children and thus we choose to be childless. Is that okay?

Jia Mun

Dear Jia Mun,

We aren’t sure what ‘okay’ means and we know almost nothing about you and your husband. From the fact that you wrote asking us, we assume that you aren’t completely confident with your decision. Perhaps we can suggest some avenues to explore.

We come from a Biblical perspective that says that God’s preferred architecture of life is for people to marry and raise families.  Getting married and becoming a parent are ideally both steps that discourage self-absorption and teach us the great human thrill of bringing good to others. God wants us to connect to others and countless modern studies show that being connected to family and friends is not only a formula for happiness but also one for health.  Like so many other improvement projects, connection works best from the inside out. In other words, the most effective way to set about developing a love for humanity is to start off exercising our love on our own children.  After that, upon the children of our loved ones and then moving on outward from there.

You say that you and your husband don’t like children. We confess to feeling a bit perplexed.  What exactly do you mean by that?  We do understand that having a child makes a massive difference in one’s life and we understand that this can be terrifying.  But for you both not to like children sounds a little hard to understand.

Do either or both of you come from abusive and/or unhappy homes and you are worried about failing your children the way your parents failed you?  Do you have any close relationships with unpleasant or spoiled children of friends or relatives?  Or is your aversion to children a reaction to screaming babies on airplanes and seeing toddlers throw tantrums in restaurants?

Are you possibly concerned about whether you can become pregnant and your decision not to like children is a way of saving yourself from disappointment?

Are you perhaps both extraordinarily accomplished individuals and the idea of being inexperienced and incompetent in this childcare area of life scares you? Do you not like the idea of children because it will impinge on your careers or upon your free time?  We’re just guessing here but taking the time to explore your own real reason for your statement will reveal a great deal.

You are in your thirties now, but plan on making a decision that will impact your life decades down the road. One of life’s challenges is that we must make many decisions that affect our future without a crystal ball that reveals that future.

You might want to search out blog posts written by those in their sixties, seventies and eighties who, earlier in life, chose not to have children. (Posts by younger people that merely echo your views are useless in this regard.) Some people look back and extol their earlier decision to have no children, while others have deep regrets. Don’t look just to confirm your views – read with open minds and hearts.

Most of us do not sit down and deliberately think about our purpose in life unless through illness or old age we become strikingly aware that our time on earth is limited. How will you and your husband answer the question of how the world was a better place for your being here? Children extend our time on earth by forming a continuation of our lives, providing one natural answer to that question.

Humans are created with a need to be givers and not only takers.  Just as we need oxygen, water and food, we also have the spiritual need to give.  One very fulfilling way of exercising that instinct is by having children.  Little children will happily take everything you give.  Only when they mature can you inculcate in them the principle that becoming givers enhances their life too. 

We know couples who, despite their deep desires, were not blessed with children. The happiest couples that we know of in this situation made deliberate and continuous decisions to be involved in other people’s lives, becoming real givers. They were teachers and mentors, dedicated neighbors and relatives. What are your plans for expanding your hearts beyond the two of you?

Today, choosing not to have children is possible and socially acceptable. This was not true for much of history. God’s opening words to humanity concerned having and raising children and for centuries societies assumed that their citizens had a moral obligation to do so. The last few decades have upended millennia of thinking. It isn’t hard to find sources applauding the decision to be childless, but none of those sources will have to live with the consequence of your choice as you will.

Every child should be welcomed as a blessing. It is tragic that too many are not. We would not encourage procreation as a desirable activity in and of itself. But we do firmly believe that if God grants the possibility of children, then for most people rejecting that opportunity for love and growth is a mistake.

Whatever lies ahead, be happy and blessed.

Wishing you expanding hearts,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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I need new skills for my job

October 23rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I thank you for all the sound advice you give. I enjoy your teachings because of all of the insights. It helps me to see why I sometimes make the wrong decisions and how to make improvements.

I need your advice because I am about to make changes in my lifestyle. I have to make improvements to my writing and how I speak. My last job I did not deal with people of high quality and as a result I began to neglect how I communicated. Now I am planning on coming into contact with people who are educated and I feel that I need to improve in the area of communication and how I express myself.

I would love to hear your advice on how to best prepare myself on how to communicate and to express myself to a much better educated group of people. I know that my writing has to be improved as well.

Thank you very much for your answer.

Francisco D.P.

Dear Francisco,

Congratulations on embarking on a program of self-improvement. That is a lifetime quest, but we all emphasize different things at different times and you now want to focus on communication.

Before giving advice, we would like to quibble a bit on the equation of high-quality people with educated people. We have known many high-quality people who did not even graduate high school and very low-quality people who have multiple Masters degrees. Nonetheless, speaking and writing correctly is something to which we should all aspire.

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I feel like a stranger in my own home.

October 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 27 comments

My husband (second marriage for both of us)  and I live in a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house. Our 24-year-old nephew is living in the house with us for the purpose of learning my husband’s trade and going to college part time. I am feeling uncomfortable with this arrangement as he is not my blood relative and he has asked me if I am “trying to give him hints” which I don’t think I really answered at the time due to being caught off guard.

Later I explained to him I am not his friend, I am his aunt. I see my role during this time as helping him to get up and out on his own. I told him he needs to go out and make friends of his own age. He moved from another state and has not made much of an effort that I know of to be social.

I never explicitly talked about the “hints” comment with him, but mentioned it to my husband who said we don’t really know what he meant by that but if it ever comes up again they will have to have a man to man talk.  I tried to not worry about it, but am as careful as I can to always dress very modestly, and try not to be alone with him.

He is doing well in his work but I feel profoundly uncomfortable with this arrangement. I told my husband I would like to be able to shower in our camper in our yard and I even said I would be ok with living in the camper until we are able to find another way to work things out. My husband is not in favor of me living out there but is ok with me showering out there, however he has not had time to set it up for showering yet.

I sometimes shower in the middle of the night when not too tired or wait until the weekend to shower, when our nephew goes to stay with his birth mom, step dad and half siblings about an hour away. He is supposed to be with us a year.

Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Susan, please share your thoughts with me on this.

Dear Acea,

We know exactly what we want to tell your husband, but unfortunately he isn’t asking for our advice. Will he pay attention to our words? If not, you need to find someone to whom he will listen. If there is no one (or no one who will give the correct advice) then this is one of those times where you must stand up for yourself with strength and determination.

The short answer is that this is unacceptable. It isn’t just a minor issue.  It is absolutely and completely not ok. Your husband has an obligation to provide you with a home in which you feel comfortable. For you to need to shower in the middle of the night and feel nervous and on edge in your home means that he is failing in his duties.

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Is it too late to flourish?

October 9th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

At age 65 and as a divorced man, is it too late to be the man God originally intended me to be?

I had a pretty successful career financially but never fulfilled the passion and purpose you speak about that men must have.  I think after 32 years my wife decided she had better strike out on her own because she didn’t feel I was the man who would provide and protect in the long haul. Together we had built what I thought was a good life and good family.  Sadly, I see where I fell short.  

I have just finished taking care of my ailing mom for two years prior to her recent death at 93. The challenge is now that my assignment is over, and having put my career on hold for 2 years, I am now 65 with the corporate world asking where have you been and why don’t you just retire?  I know retire is not in the bible and I still have full energy, capacity and drive to make a difference.

My question is at 65 is it too late to be a real man, and fulfill the destiny God has created me for?

Regards,

Rick E.

Dear Rick,

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you! If you bring energy, capacity and drive to your work, then you can accomplish a great deal. My (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) own teacher and uncle, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian, embarked on his most famed and productive work when he was in his seventies. 

We hope you already know that Colonel David Sanders built up the Kentucky Fried Chicken company between his seventieth birthday and the time he passed on, aged 90.  Samuel Walton didn’t get the Walmart company going until he was nearly 50 years old. Raymond Kroc only conceived of the McDonalds vision when he was well into his fifties.  And these are just a few of the more prominent examples of people who found their economic niche late in life.  There are millions of others who built up successful, if lesser known enterprises after a late, late start.

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Marrying again – Will the third time be the charm?

October 3rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

Hello,

I am a truck driver and just started watching you and your wife on TCT. First, thank you for your ministry.

I have been married twice and was cheated on both times. I am thinking of getting married after being with my girlfriend for 5 years. Would I be wrong in God’s eyes to get married again?

Michael R.

Dear Michael,

We often drive fair distances to and from speaking appearances because we much prefer the road to flying.  We’ve had so many opportunities to admire the professionalism of most truck drivers.  Where possible we favor truck routes because we feel professional drivers are, on average, more predictable.

That said, we think you might just be behaving a bit predictably here too. 

There is no Biblical limit to the number of marriages one can contract as long as the previous marriages ended properly. However, you didn’t really think we would leave it there, did you? After all, if that’s all you wanted to ask us, you wouldn’t have included information on how your previous marriages ended and about how long you’ve been dating.

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Am I cheating people?

September 26th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

I love your services and have been reading your book, Business Secrets from the Bible

I am with a developer who sells overpriced  property. He tells me to go and see the people in the home and get them to like you first, then sell the property.

Whenever I say anything about it (I have mentioned it many times), the answer back I get is that I don’t believe in the product.

Three months later and only two properties sold from 34.

I’m struggling to know what is right as far as morally goes to my fellow man and right to my boss who unfortunately is my older brother.

Your advice would be much appreciated.

Dino

Dear Dino,

Your question reminded us of a story our good friend, Zig Ziglar, used to tell. He was overseeing a group of salesmen who were selling a rather expensive set of kitchen cookware. Despite having an explanation as to why the pots were a worthwhile investment and merited the high price, the salesmen were notoriously unsuccessful.

One day, Zig asked which of them owned the pots they were selling. When no one raised a hand, he told them that evidently they did not believe what they were telling their potential customers. If they thought that the pots were truly an important and justified purchase, they would have bought a set themselves.

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Sharing downloads – is that ok?

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

Hello, 

 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, 

Mike 

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.

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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!

Shawn

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.

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