Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Is what I read about abortion and Judaism correct?

September 10th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Hello!

Please comment on a USA Today article claiming the Jewish faith teaches that abortion is permitted.  The article was published on July 27, 2019. 

Are they accurately quoting the teachings of the faith?

From:

Carole P.

Dear Carole,

Thank you for bringing this shameful,  painful and misleading article to our attention. The short answer is, no, they are not accurately conveying the teachings of the Jewish faith as expressed in our Constitution, the Torah. You can either build your worldview  around your religion or build your religion around your existing worldview. The latter is what most people quoted in the article are doing. Either religion means something or it doesn’t. You can’t just call on it and define it as you like.

The sad fact which we have to set before you is that about 70% of all self-identified American Jews have values that are not shaped by God’s vision as revealed in the Bible.  As has happened many times in history, they don’t merely wish to scuttle the Bible-based values of Judaism, they wish to change Judaism.   Among the many Jewish values that they have eviscerated is the value of life.  You can take it as a given that the more an American of Jewish ancestry supports today’s radical abortion views, the less he has to do with the faith of Moses and Aaron. That faith, while it does emphasize mercy and compassion, is nonetheless based on laws. When God’s laws are abandoned and only emotions are left, after a long and winding road, what started as compassionate concern for a desperate pregnant woman can step-by-step slide into support for infanticide, though no one back at the time of Roe v. Wade in 1973 would have believed that possible.

There is certainly room for a theological and worldview discussion in Judaism as to whether abortion is a category of  murder or whether it falls under a different prohibition.  Regardless, the positions of the Torah and those of today’s Democrat Party could hardly be further apart.   In Judaism,  if a woman’s life is in danger due to the baby she is carrying,  a valid reason for inducing premature labor exists even if the baby is not viable. For this reason, Jews who live by the Torah  are sometimes cynically  manipulated  by pro-abortion groups depicting a woman being forced to die during pregnancy or childbirth rather than having her life prioritized. As you know, American law is nowhere close to this extreme and an extraordinarily small number of  pregnancies today present such a dilemma. 

The dreadful article you cite quotes  one view by an authoritative Orthodox rabbi of the past few decades trying  to “prove” the acceptability of abortion in Jewish law. This is misleading for a few reasons. Firstly, because there is no Pope in Judaism, which is to say that we have no hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority. Within the ranks of those trying to be true to God’s Torah, there will be different opinions and discussions in trying to reach the truth. Each Jew is meant to choose which Rabbinical authority he follows. You can’t go “shopping” for someone whose views you like on a specific issue. We can guarantee you that the people in the article who approve the views of this rabbi do not follow his ritual rulings in other areas.

Secondly, while this rabbi’s position might have been more liberal (for example, to include extreme psychological distress under the heading of ‘danger to life’) in counseling women who personally consulted him thus allowing early labor  to be induced more than other authorities might condone, we can assure you that he would be horrified at being used as the poster boy for Planned Parenthood. The mockery of life that the modern abortion movement celebrates has no basis whatsoever in Torah-true Judaism.

Abortion is not a recent phenomenon.  The drive to completely sever the connection between sex and  reproduction goes back to the earliest pages of the Bible and the times of Noah.  Since then abortion has always been associated with the struggle against God’s authority on earth.  Jews have been among the world’s most ardent defenders of that Divine authority but  those of Jewish descent have also been most active in the timeless battle to defeat the Divine.  Combating this misapplication of Judaism is why the American Alliance of Jews and Christians was established and why we support its work.

One does not “accept” Judaism at some moving moment in life. It is conferred by birth. So  Judaism is almost unique in that you can hear of what sounds like an oxymoron—an atheistic Jew.  You can  hate God; you can disparage  everything He asks of us and yet still consider yourself Jewish. Only a small percentage  of Jews in America fall into the category of those whose daily behavior revolves around following Jewish law. They are not featured in this article.

It is an embarrassment.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention even though it made us squirm with discomfort,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Should schools be co-educational or single gender?

September 3rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

Co-education mean girls and boys taught together in one school. This subject is relative and it depends on societies, but in general it is useful educationally. It creates more devotion to studying as boys will be more serious because girls in general like to be serious which inspires the boys. Also  it helps more cooperation and understanding among the girls and boys. Is this narrative correct?

Vinjay C.

Dear Vinjay,

We thought it appropriate to answer your question on a day when many schools are beginning their  new year. You posit two reasons why co-education is a good idea, though if we were making a list of pros and cons, each column would have many more items than just those  you mentioned. If either co-education or single-gender education produced only positive or only negative results, the decision would, of course, be easy. 

However, you aren’t asking us for our opinion but rather what the Biblical prescription for education is, so we must answer from that perspective. . The Biblical command is, “And you shall teach your children…” (Deuteronomy 11:19). Each parent is obligated to teach his and her own offspring and, as we see from Jacob’s blessings to his sons, to be aware of each individual’s particular talents, abilities, weaknesses and needs. Furthermore, Proverbs 22:6 famously advises “Teach each youngster in the way most suitable for him.”  This is enormously challenging because all parents have a tendency to favor their own styles and to employ these styles on every one of their children regardless. Turning down their own instincts in favor of generating just what their children most need from them is surely one of parents’ most exciting and demanding challenges. Parents are required to provide a religious education as well as whatever is needed for a full life, including workplace and home skills. 

At a certain point in history, schools did come into being.  Today, most schools in the Western world educate boys and girls together while others separate the genders.  As we all know, almost anything carried too far becomes toxic and the rampant concupiscence and premature sexualization that has become characteristic of American public education is obviously something no responsible parents would want for their children. At the other extreme, some parochial schools insulate boys and girls from one another to an undesirable degree. As with so many instances in life, the golden center is so much harder to maintain than the appealing and simple extremes.  

In general, Biblical direction tends towards separating boys and girls, men and women to a much greater extent than our society does today.  This applies to educational, religious and general social activities. From the time of, “male and female He created them,” until today, while each and every person is an individual, there are still tendencies that most males share and those that most females share, making different methods of teaching and learning more suitable to one or the other gender.

There are possible pitfalls in separating the sexes, including as you say losing out on positive influences from each other and failing to learn how to cooperate with the opposite sex. There is only one solution and that is to make sure that in your family, your home must be far more influential in shaping the moral attitudes of your children than their schools.  If education is outsourced, as it is for most people today, then the family must remain the mainstay for making sure to counterbalance those negatives.

One part of achieving this is for both the father and mother to play equal and complementary roles in the child’s upbringing.  Nothing that children see or hear at school about male/female relationships should influence them nearly as much as how they see their own father and mother interact.

Keep on learning,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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How much work is too much work?

August 21st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments

First off, I must thank you for all of your insights that have made my life – and the life of others whom I have stewardship over better. Thank you.

I think I’m losing balance in my life and I want to see what your (and the Bible’s) views are on the situation. My conflict comes from my employer who requires me to travel 1-3 times a month on weekends and I also work full time during the week (6 am to 4pm). I know my employers are my customers and I want to make them as happy as I can. 

Recently they approached me and requested I ‘think and pray’ about working more hours during the week. They want me to take 1-2 more days to work in the evening. They told me I can just ‘come in later,’ which is fine, but it takes time away from my family.

My family isn’t awake at 4 am when I work now, but they are when I get home at 4. If I was to wake up at 8 and get to work at 9, my family is still asleep – and it just takes 3 hours a day away from them.

When can I say no? Can I say no? If I was to adopt this schedule I would only see my kids for around 4-6 hours a week – especially on the weeks I travel. 

To complicate matters, 2 years ago I wanted to increase my value to my customers so I started a company that supplies my employers with half of their clients. (My side business funnels business to my employers) So finding another job will cut into my income substantially. The only reason I’m in business is because I’m employed by them.

Essentially I’m asking: Should I do everything my employers ask to make them (my customers) happy? 

What’s the line if there is one?

Thank you,

Ben

Dear Ben,

As always, to give you specific advice we would have to be in a position of holding many hours of conversation with you and your wife to understand what you do, what your options are, how financially healthy your bank account is, your children’s ages and a slew of other pertinent factors. (This is exactly what we do in our personal coaching program.) All we can do is raise issues that you should consider.

When we were actively serving the synagogue we founded in Los Angeles, we also started an associated elementary school. Since our synagogue initially was composed mostly of singles, the school drew its students from  other sources, for example Jewish families in the neighborhood who were not affiliated with any synagogue. As part of the admission process, parents agreed to attend a number of “parent educational evenings” which I (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) led. 

The question you ask is similar to one that I posed to these parents early on. I asked each mother and father to write the answer to the following question on a piece of paper:

How many days am I willing to be  away from home each month or agree to my spouse being away from home on business travel per month, in order to double our family income?

There wasn’t a correct answer. What interested us was how few married couples agreed on an answer.  Almost always the husband wrote down a higher number of days than the wife. None of the couples in our small groups had ever discussed this question though work travel was a feature for most of them. We do notice that nowhere in your question, Ben, do you mention your wife’s reaction and input. The very first thing we recommend you do is talk this through with your wife,  comprehensively and over a few days. 

We also noticed that you mention your employers asking you to pray over this matter. If your employers are religious, we would hope that your family concerns matter greatly to them. In a preliminary conversation before giving an answer can you explain why the evening hours are more valuable to you in a way that coming in late in the morning is not? If they want you to change hours, maybe they can compensate with less travel or in some other way? 

Your letter suggests that you have an entrepreneurial spirit although at the moment you have tied your side business into your main job. What other ideas can you brainstorm that would make you less dependent on this particular job? 

Without knowing much more about you, we cannot help you come to a definitive answer. The question is certainly a proper one. The income you bring in is only one of the valuable ways you contribute to your family. At a certain point the cost of making a better living can become too high a price to pay. You are correct in your understanding that although work is an important part of your life, there still must be balance between all the elements.

We encourage you not only to share your thought processes with your wife but also to network with men in your church and social group who can provide valuable input. Quiet time spent in prayer is also valuable. It seems to us that at the moment you are only seeing two options, to either accept or reject the offer. We see room for creativity and flexibility. Perhaps with your wife’s help the morning routine and breakfast can become more valuable family time, perhaps you exchange later hours for less travel, maybe you can accept for a limited length of time as you develop a new side business? Don’t limit your options only to those that you can think of on your own. 

Let us know what decision you and your wife make,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Our daughter is dating an old man!

August 21st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 44 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan, my wife and I have enjoyed watching your show on TCT for several years.  We have also appreciated reading several of your books and listening to your podcasts.

 A little background: we are a blended family; I am Jewish, and my wife is a non-denominational Christian. Neither of us have been regular attendees of any church or synagogue. We have one daughter, 41 years old, who lives a few hundred miles away; and who we see 4-5 times per year.  Sadly, we did not introduce her to either Judaism or Christianity during her upbringing, and she is now an agnostic. We love her dearly, and respect that she has made herself a self-supporting and independent woman.

 Our problem: our daughter has recently told us that she is “exclusively” dating a 62 year old man. She has apparently known him for about two months, and the exclusivity began about one month ago.  We do not believe they are living together. He has been married, and has children and grandchildren.

 Our daughter has never been married, but once had a 5-year live-in relationship; and she is childless. She recently stepped up her on-line dating, because she said she realized that the pool of eligible bachelors was getting smaller as she grew older.  This was how she met this man.

 We have not yet met her “boyfriend”, and are quite reluctant to do so until after we have first had an opportunity to visit with her alone and face-to-face.  We told her that a few days ago when she called to arrange a visit from the both of them.

 We are both having great difficulty with accepting the idea of her having an intimate relationship with a man easily old enough to be her father.  Frankly, from a photo we’ve seen, we think it’s likely he’s actually older than the 62 years he claims to be (which we understand is common with on-line dating).  My wife and I are in our early 70s, and he doesn’t look any younger than us.

 When we next visit with our dear daughter, we plan to discuss the difficulties we see, should she continue this relationship; not the least of which being the statistically-likely steep decline in health he will suffer over the next ten years.  We will try to use our best logic to overcome her apparent emotional attachment to the man. In the meantime, I’m looking at public sources to try to find out more about him.

 We are really baffled by her choice. Regardless of whatever good qualities he might possess, his age is the real issue for us.  Are we wrong to feel this way? We certainly don’t want to alienate our only daughter, who we love deeply. But we do believe we should try to discourage the relationship.

 Please give us your advice.

B.W.

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Political Correctness in the Workplace Part II

August 13th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 27 comments

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

Well, last week’s answer to the Ask the Rabbi question about an employee being directed to use a co-worker’s pronoun of choice caused more controversy than just about any previous answer. That isn’t surprising because it touched a nerve.

Any alert Bible-believer is aware that currently there is a strong attempt to marginalize, condemn and, dare we say, destroy traditional faith and its adherents in the United States. As such, people are aware that if a similar dilemma hasn’t accosted them at work yet, down the road it most likely will.

Can we respond to some of the points raised and elaborate on our answer?

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Dear Ask the Rabbi readers,

First of all, we must thank you for sharing your views and interacting with us and your fellow readers in the comments section. We disappointed some of you and pleased others and a few of you accused us of not being clear enough. 

We plead guilty to the last charge. As always, we know no more than our Ask the Rabbi questioner tells us. We do not contact the writer personally and conduct a lengthy interview. So, we are always in the dark as to many important aspects of the person’s life. In this case, we have no idea what William’s field of work is, what his position is and what family or other responsibilities he has. We have no idea if he has other work options or not. When you accept employment you surrender a certain independence in return for a pay check. While each of us can make decisions to act on principle no matter the cost, we did feel it would be irresponsible for us to tell William to behave in a way that had a good probability of causing him to lose his job. We can think of questions where that might be our duty—but the point we wanted to get across is that we do not see this as one of those cases.

What might be a harder question? If a doctor or nurse was told that their job was on the line if they did not perform an abortion or participate in an operation mutilating someone who wants to get rid of body parts that identify his or her sex, he or she would have a very serious moral and religious question to ask. If one of William’s female co-workers is told to go on a business trip and share a room with the person who now calls himself a woman despite his DNA showing him to be a man, she would have a very serious moral and religious question to ask. If a teacher is told that he or she needs to teach immoral and anti-Biblical ideas to students, he or she has a serious question to ask. Even in those extreme cases we are phrasing our answer somewhat ambiguously and we’d like to tell you why.

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Taking a non-politically correct stand at the workplace

August 7th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 71 comments

At my place of employment, I was recently taken aside and told that I needed to address a man in our shop that is currently “transitioning” into a “woman”, by the “proper pronouns”. I believe if you were born a man, you are a man, no matter what you have cut off or added.

 The question is, is there a Biblical reason I should not use their chosen pronouns? I don’t believe I should, but also am not sure how to back it up with Scripture. Thank you for your time, and I enjoy your responses.

William M. 

 Dear William,

The workplace for many has rapidly become  a hornet’s nest where having the “wrong” ideas is punished. What constitutes  “wrong” ideas is proliferating at a tremendous rate and we have no doubt that productivity, pleasant relationships and profit will all fall prey to this frenzy of political correctness.

 We are not fans of “Scriptural proof” because, as we have often noted, picking isolated phrases or verses from the Bible allows one to support the insupportable and oppose what is right. However, we can speak in terms of what we understand to be a “Biblical worldview.”

 Treating others with respect based on the fact that they too are created in the image of God, is a fundamental of faith. Opposing ideas that diminish God’s presence in the world is also fundamental. Figuring out how to reconcile  those two, sometimes conflicting ideas, is a great, personal challenge.

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Work Injuries and Workers’ Compensation

July 30th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

I was a craftsman for 38 years until I was injured at work. I’ve had 3 shoulder surgeries and am having both wrists fused this year.

Am I immoral to receive unearned money from workmen’s compensation? I am referring to the Bible that a man that doesn’t work should not eat. I try to help my wife as much as I can to try to keep some form of value. I just don’t feel like I earned my existence even though I receive a good amount of money. I worked about 60 hours a week before.

James

Dear James,

Sounds like you are going through a difficult physical challenge with altogether expected spiritual challenges too. We wish you easy surgeries, a swift recovery, and a restoration of your sense of personal value.

The  verse to which you refer is not found  in the Hebrew  Scriptures, which is all we are competent to discuss. While working is an essential part of God’s plan for humans, the idea of abandoning the elderly or ill is definitely not part of His vision.

To our knowledge, workmen’s compensation is something that you earned through your years of work. As part of your employment agreement, premiums were paid to the insuring entity on your behalf.  It was, in effect, a mandatory savings/insurance plan that you are now drawing on. There is nothing immoral about benefiting from advance planning or any similar arrangement of this kind.

At the same time, we do think that, for your own psychic health, you definitely do need to know that you are productive. It is too easy to slip into acceptance of one’s limitations and just stagnating where you are now.  Helping your wife is something we hope you did for all the years of your marriage. Maybe you have more time to do so now, but that is not going to feed your spirit.

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Should I realistially hope to find a quality man?

July 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I read your books on love and marriage and listened to the audio CD. I hear a common theme on your show and with various pastors saying that a woman should respect her husband or husband to be, and marriage is the ideal situation. My question is what should one make of the marriage statistics of black women versus others (I don’t have the exact numbers- but I hope you are familiar) considering the high incarceration rates of black males.

I would genuinely like to know if your advice applies to black women. Is it possible for most accomplished black women to find a mate they can look up to, respect, and marry?

Finally, I heard you say on your show that any studies ending in the word studies is not worth studying… (such as any cultural studies). My question then is, is it a waste of time to do personal study on Judaic studies or receive a degree in Biblical Studies?

Thank you very much! I value your perspective, and am anxiously awaiting a response. God Bless!

Jessica

Dear Jessica,

We usually discourage those using our “Ask the Rabbi” feature from sneaking in two questions in one letter, but  in your case, we’re happy to make an exception!

Your second question is quicker to answer than your first. In general, we do not recommend Judaic studies or Biblical studies. Instead, we do recommend studying Jewish history, the Bible, and especially, the Bible through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom. Sometimes the label ‘studies’ is  being used innocuously  or as a marketing ploy, but we start out suspicious and would want to make sure we know who is doing the teaching and what their qualifications are. The word, ‘Studies’ often suggests that there is an agenda that is not conducive to an honest learning environment. 

Now, on to your  harder question.  We are indeed knowledgeable of the sad statistics to which you refer. At the same time, we are not locked into the notion that people must marry spouses of similar skin color.  Similar values are crucial and indeed we have known and been friendly with many so-called interracial (not a term we like) couples that we have met through the many churches at which we have appeared. 

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Socialism and atheism – why do they go together?

July 16th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

Could you further explain the following passage from your book Business Secrets from the Bible?

“One would have expected the political left to excuse what it calls the “greed” of capitalism and to recognize it as nothing other than Darwinian law applied to the life of modern man. Yet, this is not possible; something as truly spiritual as commerce simply cannot coexist with socialism. The atheist himself recognizes that, to be true to his credo, he must reject the free market because of its godliness.”

Why can’t socialism exist with commerce when socialism also helps those that are less fortunate?

Why would you assume an atheist would reject a free market because of its spirituality when his basis for understanding spirituality is different from yours and he may himself benefit from capitalism if it allows him to benefit himself?

I am trying to test my previous ways of thinking and understand ideas and thought processes that I have never considered before.

Alo

Dear Alo,

We are delighted that you are reading Business Secrets from the Bible so carefully and actually thinking through each point.

We disagree with you that socialism helps those who are less fortunate. Its proponents gain control by promising to do so, but the reality has never matched the promise. As Winston Churchill said in the House of Commons on October 22, 1945,

‘The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.’

The only ones who do not share in the miseries of socialism are those in power. Somehow, they manage to live quite well, even opulently, as those who foolishly bought into their promises suffer, some of them even starving to death. We encourage everyone to learn history from fair and honest sources. Sadly, the information taught in schools and universities today is often neither. Unfortunately, you needn’t restrict yourself to history. Search out information about what is happening in Venezuela and other socialist paradises today.

Now, to get to your main point. We must acknowledge that when we write words such as, “the atheist,” we do not mean to say “each and every atheist.” Individuals do not fall 100% into categories. The atheist philosophy rejects the idea that humans are uniquely  touched by the finger of God. We insist that this spiritual distinctiveness is precisely what allows humans to make individual decisions on thousands of large and small subjects. No lion decides to be a vegetarian and no kangaroo chooses to carry her babies on her back rather than in a pouch. People, however, can live not only with great variation but even with inconsistency. By “the atheist” we mean a philosophical idea rather than a specific person.

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Marriage Disagreement about Interracial Marriage

July 10th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

Greetings: My question is what does scripture say about interracial marriage?  My husband and I have recently had occasion to discuss this and I am asking for wisdom to respond to some of his concerns.  We both were raised in rural WV where our culture frowns on this.  I used to agree with the reasons we were taught growing up.  1. Ham & descendant of Canaan were cursed 2. God told the Israelites not to marry from other groups 3. God separated the continents during Peleg’s time to divide nationalities. 4. Moses couldn’t enter the promised land because he married a Cushite from Ethiopia.

But as I’ve matured as a believer, I’ve read the scriptures they drew from and didn’t find God mentions this but that it was more likely [people] read how they wanted it to speak. The only separation I found was from pagan nations, or unbelievers.

I’m not searching merely to have a topic to discuss or argue but my husband is truly upset that have changed my mindset. While I would  prefer my grandchildren not marry interracial it’s more due to the reality of the family division it would bring.  I will however advise their potential mate be a believer. He however is frustrated because my change of heart challenges his prejudice. He is beginning to blame my church for teaching me this and while I have been believing he will come to have a relationship with Jesus and come with me, this seems to be a backwards route. I’m sure I’m not alone in this culture/religion shift.

Deborah L.

Dear Deborah,

Having just returned from speaking at many churches in Ghana (RDL),  I had the opportunity to see a number of outstanding marriages  between people with black skin and people with white.  We have noticed this also at many churches we admire here in the United States.  However, and this is huge, these marriages are between two believing Christians.  We also know several interracial couples in Israel and of course both spouses are deeply committed Orthodox Jews.  Shared belief is what matters. We would like to discuss  this question from a few more  angles, starting with correcting some Biblical misinformation.

Taking your points in the opposite order:

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