Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Savings vs. Tithing

January 15th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

I finished my medical training in 2016, this on top of my training as a pharmacist. I have a plan in place to pay off my student loans in 5 more years. My wife is an engineer but is currently staying at home with our three children. She is planning on going back to school to get a teaching certificate when our children start school so that we can get a nice tuition discount at our parish school.

We live below our means, I contribute the max to our 401k and and we drive inexpensive cars. I have read your book (Thou Shall Prosper-loved it) and I tithe around 10% of our net income to our church and various charities.

It has come to my attention that we need to contribute around 11,000.00 a year more to “retirement” accounts than we are currently doing. I would like to contribute to a backdoor Roth IRA account automatically from my paycheck every pay period , which means my net income would go down, and I would tithe less.

So I am struggling with whether or not it is ok to tithe less but contribute to retirement more, or if I should forgo investing more in retirement until I make more money.

Thank you so much,

DoctorSquared

Dear DoctorSquared,

We were ready to take a nap by the time we had finished reading of all your personal and professional accomplishments! You and your wife sound like thoughtful, caring and disciplined people.

Please allow us to try and rephrase the question you are asking. We think it is one that applies in many different situations. Are we under any obligation  to manage our finances in order to maximize tithing?

We have been asked similar questions from people inquiring whether they should tithe on pre or post-tax income. As always, we encourage people to ask someone in their own faith family, but we can only say that from the perspective of ancient Jewish wisdom, you tithe on the money you actually receive and that is available for your needs and desires. If taxes reduce what you get to take home, then you do not tithe on the amount that went to the government and that you never received.

In a not entirely different parallel, if someone is held up on his way home from picking up his weekly pay envelope and all his money is confiscated, he naturally does not pay a tithe on the money that was stolen.

If poor people glean and gather wheat from the edges of your field before you harvest, you wouldn’t pay a tithe on that wheat which you never harvested. (Leviticus 23:22)

In your case, the same reasoning applies, but with a twist. If prudence dictates that you put money away for the future, then you are not getting that money and don’t need to tithe on it. You certainly don’t have to ignore what you understand to be the best for you and your family in order to have more to tithe. However, down the road, whenever you do access that money you will then need to tithe on it. In other words, when it is yours to use, you owe tithe.

We should iterate 10% is a minimum and one can always choose to give more to charity. While ancient Jewish wisdom doesn’t suggest giving too much no one needs to meticulously take care not to go an iota over 10%.

We’re delighted that you benefitted from Thou Shall Prosper and wish you continued family and financial success.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

P.S. With three young ones, be sure to send your wife over to my (Susan’s) Practical Parenting page.

*  *  *  *  

Are you ready to increase your income in 2019?
Check out these resources
ON SALE NOW

Business Secrets audio Thou Shall Prosper
Business Secrets from the Bible audio MP3-CD Business Secrets from the Bible  Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money

Should I apologize to my ex-wife?

January 8th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 43 comments

I got divorced 10 years ago and remarried 8 years ago. I find myself still grieving about my first marriage and it interferes with my current marriage emotionally.

Should I write a letter of apology to my ex-wife? I find myself living with a lot of regret to the point that I want to leave my current marriage, not to remarry my ex but I feel remorseful about my lack of love for her when we were married.

Steve K.

Dear Steve,

We are not prophets, but that doesn’t mean that in certain scenarios we don’t see the future very clearly. Here is our prediction about exactly what will happen if you continue living by doing what your heart is tugging you towards (which we sincerely hope you do not do). Our prediction is that you will end up writing a similar letter to your second wife and being filled with similar recriminations about ruining your second marriage after it, too, ends in divorce.

Since you took the trouble to write to us, we’re assuming you want the terrible truth rather than a warm butter massage. We will pay you the respect of telling you this truth. 

What can you do to change the disastrous direction of your life? There is no alternative.You must perform a major reset. We’re sorry to speak harshly, but you are not behaving like a man. You have been allowing your emotions to run your life. Your heart has been in charge instead of your head. You have been treating your feelings as if they are the captain of the ship of your life. With considerable confidence, we’d guess that your feelings-driven life path contributed to the demise of your first marriage.

It’s reset time. From now onwards, your head is in charge and if your thoughtful purposeful constructive decisions clash with your feelings (as they will for the first few months of the new you) just banish your feelings. That’s right. Get rid of them. We’re not interested in your feelings. It is true that for in the normal course of things, feelings should play a role. However, you have been so far over to the feeling end of the spectrum that you need a few months of head-only training to resume normality.

Start doing whatever is necessary to invest fully in your current marriage. The feelings driving you to write a letter to your ex-wife is only about making you feel better. You’re not even asking yourself what might be the insalubrious effect of such a letter on her. Again, this is all about your feelings. Please stop it!

You need to focus less on what you feel and more on how you speak and act. You must consistently and constantly show your current wife that you treasure her and love her – even if your emotions are not yet fully on board. Make opportunities to express to your wife your unwavering commitment to her. It is important that your ears hear your mouth making these declarations.

Emotions will follow actions; life turns calamitous when we allow our actions to follow our emotions.

What do you think happens in the military when a recruit decides he doesn’t feel like getting up in the morning or making his bed or going for a run? Too bad. He has to do it anyway. You signed up for a marriage and you had better start fulfilling the terms of the covenant to which you agreed.

There is a bonus to behaving properly. As we have explained, your feelings will begin to conform to your actions. At the same time, make yourself shut down all thoughts of your past marriage. We can’t always control what pops into our heads, but we don’t have to let those thoughts remain in residence. Exerting control over yourself is the best way for dealing with destructive instincts. Some pessimistically always expect the worst, others gravitate to pornography, while yet others have a short fuse and regularly lose their tempers. No matter. We are not animals who must follow instinct. We are human beings who can exert control. And must do so.

Steve, this is not an instant process nor an easy one but you must start on this immediately if not sooner! From our careful reading of your letter, we have faith that you can master this.

Good times in your marriage forever.

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

SALE
Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden

Rabbi Lapin Download
Madam, I’m Adam:
Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden MP3
Madam, I’m Adam:
Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden CD

Help! I Don’t Have a Work Ethic.

January 1st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

I am struggling with my work ethic. I have trouble keeping jobs as I easily give up when work becomes challenging or tedious, eventually leading to quitting or getting fired.

Pop culture is telling me that I haven’t found my passion, but that advice seems dubious. I’m sure I can trace this to my upbringing, but I’m more interested in what I can do today to break this cycle and instill a work ethic in myself.

Or do I just need to find work that is more “interesting” to me?

Thanks.

David

Dear David,

We must congratulate you on being honest with yourself. Many people would direct their energies towards complaining about unfair bosses or miserable work conditions. You show great character by recognizing that your repeated employment failures are attributable to a flaw in you.

We’re also impressed by your skepticism about the message you’ve been receiving from the culture around you.

Furthermore, you have made a clever decision to focus on breaking this cycle rather than spending time and energy tracing it back to your childhood. You recognize that waiting to discover your passion isn’t a feasible plan, in effect answering your own question.

Leaving aside luck, acts of God and genetics, 90% of everything that happens in your life is the result of things you have done or not done.  This is particularly true in our business and financial lives.  Now is a really good time to stop doing the wrong things and start doing the right ones.

(more…)

What is part of Scripture and what isn’t?

December 26th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

I heard you quote something (on the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show) from The Complete Works of Josephus but then it seemed like you were saying he was a rebel or something like that. So are his writing creditable?

And one last things that bugs me…the Catholic Bible includes the Apocrypha books (like The First Book of Esdras for example). Are these books part of the Jewish Holy scripture or not?

Kathy H.

Dear Kathy,

We think your question and confusion is shared by many. First, to clear up your question about Josephus. During the early years of the common era, Josephus headed the Jewish forces in their revolt against the Romans, who were led in northern Israel by general Vespasian. Josephus then betrayed his people and went to the Roman side. After Vespasian became emperor in 69 CD, Josephus was granted Roman citizenship.

(more…)

Kicking the Snooze Bar Habit

December 19th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 8 comments

Upon stumbling on your teachings and podcast, I caught a comment you said about how a man should never hit the snooze button (along those lines).  I, however, hit my snooze button all the time!

It’s really bad, and the reason why this is important to me is because for the past 4 years I have been trying to reach a goal of waking up at a certain time every morning so I have personal time to do things that I can’t find time to do later in the day. But my bad habit of snoozing is very difficult to combat.

Any wisdom and insight would be highly appreciated, thank you!

Alex G.

Dear Alex,

We had no need to ask you to type in a string of numbers and letters to prove you aren’t a robot, since you are all too clearly human. As are we. Whether it is hitting the snooze button or succumbing to any other bad habit, wanting to change is only the beginning of actually changing.

If you have been working on this for four years, then we imagine that you have tried putting your alarm clock out of reach – and making sure that it is horribly irritating. We assume that you go to bed early enough to log enough hours of sleep and have possibly even medically checked that you are, in fact, having a restful sleep. You have probably tried incentives and rewarding yourself for successes.

(more…)

Where Should My Tithe Go?

December 11th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Is tithing still relevant today?  Is it solely giving to the church that we attend every week or we can give to other needs (needy relatives, needy pastors from poor countries…) If we apportion the 10% to our church + needy relative + needy pastors, are we sinning against God?

My husband gives to our parents instead of giving tithing because he feels that taking care of parents is a type of giving too. A relative has just lost her job and we thought of giving a part of the tithe to help tide her over.

I feel guilty if I don’t give my full 10% to God by giving only to my home church but my church is a mega church and it receives a lot of tithing and offerings.

Thanks for teaching us the real meaning of tithing based on your understanding of Hebrew and ancient Jewish wisdom.

Sincerely,

Julie

Dear Julie,

The idea of being charitable is so common in both religious Jewish and Christian circles that we may not appreciate how amazing that is.  Many Americans chuckled at a series of PSAs – Public Service Announcements – that ran a few years ago, encouraing people to give 5% of their income to charity.  Millions of ordinary people routinely and without second thought, tithe – giving away a tenth of their earnings based on Biblical principles.  In fact, they don’t even see it as their money. The way we sometimes put it, is that we are glad to work for a Boss who gives us a 90% commission.

With that introduction, different religious groups encourage slightly different methods of giving. We cannot tell you what to do. Each person should affiliate with one spiritual approach and act accordingly. We can only describe what happens in Jewish circles.

(more…)

Is Airbnb anti-Semitic?

December 5th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

I’m currently an AirBnB host to earn extra money (I don’t need the extra income).  Recently AirBnB came out with a new policy not allowing Jews in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria to rent out their homes. 

To me this seems like anti-Semitism and would like your advice on what to do?  I’m debating about canceling all future reservations, so AirBnB doesn’t receive any income from my property.

Thanks,

Justin L.

Dear Justin,

We feel so privileged to have people like you reading our columns. You hold yourself to a high ethical standard and are willing to back up your convictions with action.

We’re not crazy about the term anti-Semitism because we don’t know how to define it, any more than we can define racism, misogynism or most other “isms.” Try defining these terms for yourself.  You’ll see, it is not easy.  It is far too easy to hurl labels and take refuge by claiming that you recognize it when you see it, as Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography in the 1964 Supreme Court Case. We are not fans of terms that change depending on the speaker, the day and whims and fancy.

However, what we can define is when one group is treated completely differently from all or most other groups. This is the standard that Airbnb (as well as the BDS movement, the United Nations and many others) meets. Israel is penalized for behavior that is excused, ignored or even lauded in others.

(more…)

Does the Bible have advice for losing weight?

November 27th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

I’m trying to find areas in the Bible that deal with overeating and weight gain.  I have had this struggle, like countless other women I’ve known, for my entire life, especially now after having our first son, and I’m wondering where I can find more information from God on this so that I can have more success in this area.

Thanks so much!

Melissa M.

Dear Melissa,

What an understatement it is when you say that this is a struggle many women have. While the Bible and ancient Jewish wisdom have a great deal to say on eating, it isn’t explicitly focused on overeating or weight gain. 

For instance, here is the first occurrence in Scripture of God issuing a commandment to man:

And the Lord God commanded the Adam saying,
“Of every tree of the garden eat you must eat
.
(Genesis 2:16) 

 Many English translations get it wrong by translating, “…of every tree of the garden you shall surely eat”

The original Hebrew does not say “surely”.  Instead it repeats the commandment to eat.  Here is what the Hebrew would look like if accurately translated:

“…of every tree in the Garden you must eat, you must eat.”

(more…)

Am I doing wrong by taking government money?

November 20th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Is it wrong to receive EBT and cash aid? Am I being selfish by not working?

I’ve considered your topics on serving others and receiving money for it, would this be making money without serving others?

I would appreciate your general thoughts on this subject, but I want to describe what my personal situation is like currently.  Maybe you can address both?

For my personal situation… I am 20 years old.  I am single with no children or dependents.   I am not in any way disabled or unable to work.  I am working to get financial licenses and become self-employed (100% commission or even become business owner/broker in the future.  In the meantime, I have accepted EBT and Cash Aid in order to pay bills if I fall short on my income goals rather than (in my eyes) restrict my time to hourly paid position, leaving me less time to pursue something I feel I am more qualified for and can do-  I also have accepted EBT and Cash Aid because I felt an hourly job would/could my distract my mental focus or take energy away from the project I really want to pursue.

I really appreciate any thoughts you can share even if it simply points me in the right direction!

Thank you, (Rabbi) Daniel, Susan, and team!

Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

The fact that you are asking these questions tells us that you want to live a life of principle and morality, for which we salute you. We would like to answer on two levels, one of objective morality, but also that of your own personal good.

On one hand, you are not lying to the government in order to get these benefits. In fact, the government tells you that you are entitled to them. Nonetheless, as a moral person, we think that in your head and heart you feel uncomfortable. In this case, your feelings are correct. The fact that the government allows or even encourages something makes it neither moral nor prudent.

We would suggest that you randomly pick a name out of the phone book and say out loud to that fellow citizen, “Gretchen Johnson, I thank you for paying high taxes to support me, and I appreciate your putting off getting your daughter a winter coat so that I can have some of your money without having to work.” “Mr. Henderson, please thank your wife for understanding that you couldn’t celebrate your anniversary with dinner out, because your taxes were raised to allow me not to work.”  We think that because of the person you are, saying those words out loud will make you feel uncomfortable.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Search Questions

Yes! I would like to receive FREE weekly teachings

Sign Up Now!

Do you love reading our Ask the Rabbi column? Now, get 101 favorite questions and answers in one delightful book.

Dear Rabbi and Susan: 101 Real Life ‘Ask the Rabbi’ Questions

Learn More | Add to Cart

X