Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Scarcity or Abundance?

November 24th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

This is going to be a “different” Thanksgiving where our immediate family replaces our usual extended family group. I know we can still focus on the things for which we must be grateful, but it seems to me that we are in a period of less rather than abundance. There are fewer opportunities to work on relationships as we huddle apart from each other, fewer small businesses are staying afloat, there is less freedom as the government flexes its heavy hand, and seemingly a less grand future for most people.

How do I use the principles of The Holistic You to move upward and forward?

Jerry

Dear Jerry,

Even before answering your question, we’re going to challenge some of the assumptions, if that’s okay with you, Jerry.  You fear the end of abundance.   We checked up on the bushel per acre wheat production figures for 2020 around the United States.  Absolutely nobody needs to anticipate going without their bread or even cake. Looking at dairy production, everyone can even add butter to their toast and it won’t chip into our dairy excess. The same for fish and beef this year as well as a few other vital commodities. We can assure you, abundance is still the operative word.

Fewer opportunities to develop relationships?  Yes, I suppose if you cower and huddle alone, but are you really doing that, Jerry?  Somehow I doubt it. Yes, we have to put in more effort than we used to in order to stay in contact with friends or to meet new neighbors, but if we make the effort we can do so.   What is more, I know we’re not alone in meeting new people through Zoom and other new technologies. You see,  many smaller organizations that would never have thought of bringing us in for speeches and teaching, now think nothing of setting up a Zoom or other audio-video link.  We’ve actually met and made many new friends not in spite of, but because of heavy-handed government regulation.

As you say, many businesses are finding it impossible to remain afloat. A tragedy that afflicts people every bit as seriously as does a virus; perhaps even more so.  But, there are many new businesses that have found a foothold and are growing in industry sectors that barely existed in 2019. In addition to online communication, there are many new companies competing in the food delivery sector, and so on.

We don’t dispute your point that we are living in challenging times right now, but we implore you to reconsider your overall view of unrequited pessimism.  We confess that we harbor a sneaking suspicion that you might have arrived at your gloomy feelings from overconsumption of mainstream and social media.  Please ease up on obtaining your sense of how things really are out there from those sources.  Even in bad times, some people thrive and they do so by deploying the principles of what we describe in our free ebook, The Holistic You.  Now to your question:

This is a particularly appropriate question for us to answer right now with the festival of Chanukah coming soon.

Chanukah celebrates going above the natural. While in the natural world, we live a 24/7 existence, Chanukah sends the message that we can do better than that. It is the only Jewish holiday to fall on the 25th of the (Jewish) month and to last for eight days, hence the title of our audio CD on the subject, Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence into a 25/8 Life. On this holiday, a small band of scholars triumphed over the might of the Greek army and a vial with only enough oil for one day lasted for eight. In the natural order of things, neither of these events should have been possible; yet they happened.

The key thing is, as Winston Churchill once told an audience of schoolboys, “Never, never, never, never give up!”  As long as you keep the flame burning, unexpected salvation can arrive.  About 400 years after the Maccabees conquered the Greek Army in Israel the Roman army under Marcus Aurelius was being besieged by Germanic savages. After weeks of blazing heat without water, they still held out knowing that all was doomed. Unexpectedly, the heavens opened and with the welcome downpour, the Romans rallied.  There were unexpected and, same said, miraculous events experienced in many wars including by the Allied forces in World War 2 and by Israel in both 1967 and 1973.

What is more, unexpected salvation can come not just to nations and armies but also to individuals.  It does demand never ever giving up, prayer, and of course action.

That is why we want you to understand that, as with all Jewish festivals, we miss the point if we only commemorate historical occurrences. Each holiday has a current message that is helpful in improving all aspects of our lives. Chanukah reminds us not to focus on limitations and scarcity but rather that by partnering with God and taking advantage of His gifts, we can break through boundaries and exceed our wildest dreams.

You might be interested to know that Chanukah features two calls to action. One is to praise God and the other is to thank Him. To our ears, that sounds very much like the original Thanksgiving.

You are right that we are facing challenges right now, among them realistic health concerns but also an overbearing political overreaction that sows fear and failure. Fortunately, we do not have to succumb to despair. Take the opportunity provided by Thanksgiving to feel and express gratitude and then come out determined that with hard work and ingenuity, and with God’s blessing, you can thrive and triumph.

Once you know and believe that can be done, you are on the road to achieving it.

Keep the flame burning,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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PDAs – what about in front of our children?

November 17th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

Our question is about modesty of parents. How private should the affection be between parents? For instance, is it acceptable for a wife to greet her husband with a hug and a kiss on the cheek in front of their children when he returns home from work?

With warmth,

Renat & Vaida

Dear Renat and Vaida,

Our guess is that some readers are scratching their heads saying, “Why is this even a question?” We agree with you that the topic does deserve thought, but we’d like to start by explaining why we believe that to be so.

Through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom, the Bible emphasizes the difference between humans and all other creatures on the planet.  The first two chapters of Genesis help to make this distinction clear.  One difference is that animals operate on instinct; let’s call it their operating system.  They are not making judgment calls with respect to the spiritual consequences of their action.  For humans, even the fundamental act of eating carries with it moral consequences that resonate down through the ages.

We discover the Bible using modest and refined terms when it comes to all physical activities that we share with animals.  Furthermore, it emphasizes how we distinguish ourselves from animals when we eat, excrete waste, and reproduce.

Above all, there is modesty involved.  Even in today’s diminished culture the concept still exists, though it is usually called manners.  We are taught to chew with our mouths closed in order to lessen our resemblance to animals. We are taught to relieve ourselves in private, unlike animals.  Likewise, we are taught to be reticent about acts of intimacy.

We are, of course,  each born into a certain time and place. When Prince William married, his wife Kate was widely admired for dressing in a classy and conservative style. Move Kate’s outfits to 16th century England, and she probably would have been arrested for indecent exposure. A woman’s exposed ankles do not cause men to blush today, but there was a time they did.

Similarly, today we are surrounded by public displays of affection.  So common is this that it has its own readily understood acronym: PDA. Couples, some of whom only met a few minutes earlier, embrace in public in a way that would have not been viewed as appropriate for women sending their husbands off to battle a century ago.

Your question is whether something that is extremely common in the 21st century, shows of physical affection between spouses in front of their children, is a trend that should be encouraged or not. What timeless Biblical wisdom sheds light on this matter?

God created physical contact between a man and a woman as a powerful force. There is non-sexual contact between close family members (mother and son or father and daughter for example) However, there is also a strong sexual urge that powerfully strikes men and women in slightly different ways and at somewhat different ages. The unique relationship called marriage combines both non-sexual and sexual aspects. We should relate with physical desire to our spouse and we must also relate with respect and affection that is not dependent on sexuality.

The sexual relationship between parents is an intimate one that belongs to them.  Many parents wisely keep their bedroom off-limits to the children.  A few years ago we published a Thought Tools in which we confessed our discomfort when friends, eager to display their new home, proudly walked us through the entire house including the master bedroom.  Battered as our children are with unhealthy relationship messages and with premature exposure to sexuality —even if it is not in the house but on a billboard or in a store—we prefer to let them see the sweetness of innocent affection between their moms and dads. Whether it is a welcome home kiss, holding hands while walking, or a tender brush of the cheek, in our day we think that it is important to be an advertisement for marriage in a way that wasn’t necessary a few decades ago. It’s been quite a few years since the Beatles song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was flirtatious and, while holding fast to ideas of privacy and modesty, we do have to live in the world in which we find ourselves. There are so many harmful messages out there that modeling loving and innocent touch to our children becomes necessary.

Wishing you a loving marriage and wonderful children,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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My Wife Objects to My Charitable Giving

November 10th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Thanks for the opportunity you give for questions, I have long been reading and studying the Jewish wisdom from you and it’s quite interesting. My question is that for many years I have lived a life of having human sympathy when it comes to charitable contributions. As I write to you now, with my less income I have an orphan in school and a widow I care for.

I have been challenged by my wife to stop bringing financial burden on the family, but that is the only source of Joy I derive in life.

How can I take this vision to the next level?

Jonathan A.

Dear Jonathan,

We have just published an ebook called, The Holistic You: Integrating Your Family, Finances, Faith, Friendships & Fitness. (Go HERE to get your free copy.) We thank you because your question is a perfect example of why these five areas need to be seen together, rather than separately.

You mention that the charity you give is an expression of your human sympathy.  What is more, you write that the giving you do brings you your only joy.

Let’s look at both those statements. If you are a person of faith, then charity is actually an obligation, not an expression of an emotion. Whether or not we feel like giving some of what we earn to others is irrelevant. Most of us do feel happy when we do something for other people, but our responsibility to do so is independent of how it makes us feel. Our emotions don’t decide what we do; even if giving makes us feel deprived, we still must give. God lets us take a 90% commission on what we make, but the remaining 10% does not belong to us. Feeling sympathy for others is a fine trait, but how one acts on that sympathy is what defines us.

It seems that you are pitting faith, finances, and family against each other, rather than letting them work together. If you can say that the only source of joy in your life has nothing to do with marriage and family, then you really need to work on your marriage and family. Instead of charity being a shared activity with your wife as you together choose where your donations should go, you are demeaning your wife by making your “joy”  compete with her reality.  (Susan here: If I heard my husband say that his “only joy” was in something external to our marriage and family, I would be crushed.) We have no way of knowing if your family is actually suffering because you are giving away more than you should or whether your wife only feels that way, but in either case, you need to step back and change what you are doing. It sounds to us like you might have been neglecting your role as a husband.

Whatever charity you give must be given by you and your wife as a couple. Any money you earn belongs to the two of you. If you are giving more than you can afford because it brings you joy, then although it may be more socially acceptable than breaking your budget and causing your family to suffer because you get joy from buying designer clothes or fancy cars,  it does share a similar self-centeredness.

All we have to work with, Jonathan,  is what you wrote. It seems that your income has diminished and you, independently of your wife, decided how to function within your lessened means. You put something “off the table” rather than working together to cope with your new circumstances.

In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for ‘charity’ explicitly suggests obligation rather than an emotional response. The Bible is clear on to whom to give, how to give, and indeed how much to give. Neither too little nor too much.

Perhaps we are being harsh. We encourage you to direct your finely tuned sense of compassion and empathy first to your wife and family and only then extend the circle of sympathy outwards to others.

May you find joy from your marriage,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Burnt Out at Work and Still Single

October 27th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

How do I conduct myself properly at work while I’m single and waiting to get married someday? I’ve learned great work morals from my home, such as being dutiful and hard-working, etc. But, I work in the social and healthcare field and I’ve become quite cynical about trying to fix other people’s problems and overly care for them while they continue to live destructively, which seems to be the government-imposed mentality in every workplace of that field.

My skills and personal qualities such as conscientiousness and empathy would be valuable in raising a family but exhausting when I try to make a living out of them. I’m struggling daily not to quit my job because it feels so futile when I should and want to be raising a family with a husband. The strength of this desire scares me because I don’t want to become an irresponsible and impulsive person. Please, lend me some of your ancient Jewish wisdom on this matter.

Maria

Dear Maria,

We would like to separate two parts of your dilemma. We are hearing more and more from people in the healthcare field who are burning out. They entered the profession wanting to help people and too often are feeling used, abused and drained. This answer isn’t the place to list the flaws in the system, but everyone should be concerned when an increasing number of dedicated and hard-working doctors, nurses, and other medical and social-service providers are looking to get out of medicine. Many of these individuals spent numerous years training for their fields and instead of finding satisfaction in their work, they, like you, are becoming cynical and disheartened. (Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone, but it is a growing reality.)

At the same time, you are hoping to move forward in your personal life and establish a family with a good, loving man. It is quite frustrating, especially for goal-oriented, hard-working people, not to be able to control this area of life. We trust that God has your match in place and, while you do need to make your efforts, there is a limit to what you can do.

These two problems intersect as the more distrustful of people you become and the more your heart hardens, the less you have to offer the right man. You do not feel that your work is accomplishing anything, leaving you without energy and vigor. Your work is not nourishing your soul.

We are sure, Maria, that you have a great deal to offer. We are also sure that there are people who need and would be grateful for your skills. We would like to encourage you to look for a new job. There are so many areas of healthcare and social work and we are sure you can find one that fits you better. It is amazing how God made us each different. Some of us thrive in helping children, others in dealing with geriatric patients. Treating those with addictions is where some therapists flourish while others do best working with those with chronic illnesses. We know oncology nurses who wouldn’t want to work in any other specialty and social workers who blossom working in prisons. Others with similar training can’t imagine doing that type of work.

You asked for some ancient Jewish wisdom and here it comes: A change of location often brings other welcome changes as well. Abraham’s life didn’t really launch until he relocatedGenesis 12*. Jacob, likewise, found his mission and his family once he relocated – Genesis 28:10*.  Each of these relocations starts a new section in an accurate Hebrew Bible.  If you should be fortunate enough to find a good job in which you could be more fulfilled, the serenity you will radiate there would be highly attractive to a potential partner.

It goes without saying that if economic circumstances are such that switching jobs is potentially harmful, then clearly now is not the time to do so.

In the meantime, keep a journal noting the patients (even if they are not the majority of those you meet), whom you felt privileged to help. Know that even when you are not aware, your smile and caring may mean a huge deal to someone. You may never know the value of any act you do at work. Cultivate areas outside of work so that you grow spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Perhaps try and find a worship environment that seems to attract happily married young couples. Associate there and befriend a few couples.  They know single friends and will help you immerse yourself into a new life filled with potential.  Just remember you are interested in meeting only men, not boys.

Wishing you a beautiful future home,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

*References in our recommended Hebrew/English Bible

Genesis 12-  p. 30, nine lines from the bottom
Genesis 28:10 – p. 82, five lines from the top

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My Mother + COVID = Super Stress

October 14th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

First, let me briefly state that I admire your work and it has helped me throughout my life to make important decisions while understanding why. It is so refreshing to know there are people like me who think similarly. Sometimes you can feel otherwise when living in a secular and materialistic world. 

My situation could be more common than I think, but I’m struggling with finding the right solution on how to handle it.

Ever since the pandemic, my mother has been completely paranoid. The hysteria has taken over and she is unable (or unwilling) to have any rational talk. My mother has viewed the government as a savior. Admittedly, my mother is stirring up conflicts with strangers to enforce the “safety guidelines” when she can.

This response by her is predictable. However, it has skyrocketed and has become something increasingly more difficult to accept. She lives in New York. The constant state of fear and handling of this pandemic there has driven her nearly off the rails. She wouldn’t even kiss my brother when he visited, stood away from him and wouldn’t leave her home without permission from the state. (Yet she challenges me on everything!!) It almost feels as if this pandemic gave her a reason to live?

Now I live in another state with relaxed guidelines, and low cases. My husband and I decided to have 3 people over our house this weekend for our daughter’s 11th birthday.

My mother flipped. “Are your guest wearing masks Krystle? Will this birthday bash be outside? Temperature check?” I just wanted to scream into my pillow. This entire pandemic has already stolen part of my life. Now it is stealing my relationship with my mother.

After I speak with her, I always feel low of myself. This was always true due to her anxiety. Constant replay of the past (most that never occurred but it’s in her mind). Victimization. Then when I decide to distance myself– it isn’t helpful either. This newfound “life purpose” with Covid 19 she has, really tested me. I do love my mother.

How can I handle this more constructively?     

Thank you and God bless,

Krystle

Dear Krystle,

Thank you for your kind words. You mention how comforting it is to know that others feel like you and in this vein, we think many people will see themselves reflected in your question.

We think your question has two elements: One, behaving properly towards your mother in terms of the Fifth Commandment, and, two, managing your own emotions.

God expects us to honor our parents and to love Him, not the reverse. Honoring parents doesn’t mean keeping a vague warm feeling towards them in our minds. Among other things, it very specifically means not insulting them or being rude to them and it means not contradicting them.

The media-induced hysteria, along with politically expedient posturing, has caused rifts in families and friendships. It has certainly exacerbated difficulties that were already there, as seems to be in your case. You are caught between wanting to live a calm, joyous life and honoring your mother.

We suggest three strategies for you to deploy. When an issue arises, you can see which category fits best and then employ the appropriate response.

  1. Your mother refusing to hug and kiss your brother is what we would call a level 3 problem. Sympathize with your brother for a few minutes if he asks you to, but don’t play it over and over with him, increasing internal resentment for your mother in both his heart and yours. Certainly, don’t be drawn into a confrontation with your mother over this. Not only isn’t this your issue but in the scheme of things, it isn’t even a big deal. Dwelling on it invites unnecessary unrest into your mind and life. Let it go.
  2. Your mother’s reaction to your daughter’s birthday party might be a Level 2 incident. We don’t recommend not telling your mother about the party (though that is sometimes the best plan) because it puts your daughter in the position of having to hide an event in her life from her grandmother. We would recommend having a planned response, perhaps something like, “We are completely following health  guidelines.” Use this phrase, repeatedly if necessary, without expanding on your reply. Try to change the subject, but make those the only words you say on the subject, over and over if necessary.
  3. A Level 1 problem is one that affects you directly. You love your mother and you also recognize that, in your own life, you can improve on how she deals with difficulties in her life (victimization, constant replay, etc.). Your job isn’t to change your mother, but to be aware that all of us tend to repeat the patterns we saw growing up unless we make a deliberate effort to do differently. You react with some pain when you see your mother reacting in an extreme manner and being very credulous about media propaganda.   Is it possible that this is an area you can work on yourself to learn a different and calmer response? Your brother being upset doesn’t mean that you have to be upset. You can “dial back” your language. Instead of saying, “This entire pandemic has already stolen part of my life. Now it is stealing my relationship with my mother,” you might say, “This pandemic has been stressful and it has also caused added problems in my relationship with my mother.” Acquire the tools that will allow you to respond with a calmer attitude in all areas of your life.

Most of us have had our economic, social, and psychological lives affected by COVID-19. To the extent possible, let’s use this difficult period to hone our skills for dealing with whatever we may face in the future.

Enjoy your daughter’s birthday party and reread Proverbs 3:25, “Do not fear sudden dread…”

Wishing you physical and emotional health,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan

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Is Jewish financial success unrelated to Judaism?

October 6th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I have recently become a passionate audience of your ancient Jewish wisdom show on tct.tv. I do gain a lot of understandings of why Jewish people are so successful, especially in the business world. Many of the teachings I have learnt so far are related to the faith.

But that doesn’t seem to explain why so many secular Jewish people are also very successful in their trades. 

Could it be that the blessing of God to the chosen people regardless of their faith?

Thanks,

Howard L.

Dear Howard,

We are delighted that you are watching our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show on TCT. Our shows, just like our ministry, revolve around applying ancient Jewish wisdom to the areas of family, finances, faith, friendship and fitness. In other words, everything in our lives that we really care about.

If you have had the chance to look at any of our financial resources, whether books, audio or video, we hope you have begun to find the answers to your question.

We all grow up in certain environments that lead us to take many ideas for granted. Only when we are exposed to a different way of life do we realize that our way is not universal or automatic. We can see this in so many different areas. For instance, there are many American citizens who grow up with loyalty to one of the two political parties because that is the party that their grandparents and parents and neighbors supported over the course of decades. Sometimes, they discover a new friend or a piece of information that leads them to actually explore what differentiates the parties and then they discover that their natural affinity lies elsewhere. But many, many people just blindly follow in their parents’ footsteps.

Similarly, if you grew up in a home awash with books, with parents who read aloud to you and supper discussions that revolved around articles and books, you might be blown away to eat at a friend’s house and find that watching TV is the main activity at mealtime. Until you joined that table as a guest, you simply did not know that not everyone reads avidly or that members of a family could sit at a meal with eyes focused on a monitor instead of sharing time and conversation together.

In this same way, there are attitudes towards work and money that pass down through generations of Jewish families even when the original source of those ideas, the Torah, has been banished as a main guidepost for life. The original impetus is no longer known, but the fumes of that fuel, those specific ideas, remain in the gas tank. In our resources, we share these ideas so that they are available to everyone, though we explain why being a person of faith makes them more accessible.

Having said that, we all realize that time will erode everything if there is no upkeep as surely as your car will stop traveling once it runs out of gas. The fumes of Torah wisdom will propel people forward for quite some time even after the tank is empty, but it will not last forever.

Wishing you financial success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Why doesn’t “Do Not Kill” apply to war and law?

September 23rd, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

In the 10 commandments, it says, “Thou shalt not kill.”  So if a police officer shoots a burglar breaking into your home, is God happy or displeased?  What about the military whose job it is to kill people?  Is God happy or angry?  Does it make a difference which army you are in?  Is a German soldier in WW2 treated the same as a soldier in the Israeli army?

Peter H.

Dear Peter,

Your question is one that we have received from many people so we are delighted to answer. Actually, though, your question is based on a mistaken premise.  This is because the sixth commandment does not state, “Thou shall not kill.” It says in Hebrew, לא תרצח, for which ‘thou shall not kill’ is a poor translation.   

Every legal system differentiates between varied aspects of killing.   These different words for killing carry different connotations and, when appropriate, different legal penalties. There are major differences between execution, killing, murder, manslaughter, assassination, as well as degrees such as 2nd-degree manslaughter. In the Hebrew language and Biblical culture, there are also different ways in which a life can be taken.   

God’s law requires that we punish some transgressions with the death penalty handed down and carried out by a legally constituted court. The laws surrounding the court and such a verdict are extremely tightly drawn, but the idea that a person can forfeit his life through certain actions is an important one. War is also part of God’s picture and, once again, while a soldier’s behavior is tightly regulated, killing one’s enemy on the battlefield is a reality.

When it comes to war, there are extremely complex issues. Is your country asking you to do something in opposition to God’s will? This issue can come up, not only in war but in other ways as well. To our disgrace and dismay, it is not far-fetched to imagine these days that a nurse might be ordered to participate in killing a perfectly viable newborn baby, whether through an action or through neglect. The bottom line is, that while respect for country and civil law is a Biblical value, respect for God’s law trumps that. This isn’t a “do what you want” card; it is a serious commitment of faith for which one is willing to sacrifice one’s own life.

When it comes to war, once the war itself is moral, there is still behavior within that war that must be followed. However, killing is an inevitable part of war and while we have great admiration for communities like the Quakers who shun violence no matter the cost, ancient Jewish wisdom posits that refusal to use violence will cause more bloodshed and evil in the long term. War and killing are sometimes necessary.

Similarly, the Bible stresses the need for a safe and stable society and the establishment of law and justice. Police, judges and legislators have an authority that can extend to killing within the parameters of a just legal system. Questions may arise about how the system works but not on whether killing is ever allowed. On that, there is no question.

You ask about a police officer killing a burglar breaking into your home. It doesn’t have to be a police officer. If you have reason to believe that the burglar might use force against you or your family, you shouldn’t wait for law enforcement to arrive.  You should prevent the intruder from inflicting bodily harm by whatever means necessary, including killing him.

A better translation of the sixth commandment would be, “Thou shalt not murder.” (And that is the translation our recommended Bible uses*.) Even so, there is nothing simplistic about this sentence just as there is nothing simplistic about any law or command given in the Five Books of Moses.

We hope this gives you the beginning of a path to understanding,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

*In our recommended Bible:

Page 226, top line, middle two words: Thou Shalt Not Murder לא תרצח

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Languages of Love

September 16th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

My husband and I have a very good relationship with the exception of food.  I want to make dinner for him.  He says I am a good cook and he enjoys my cooking, he just doesn’t happen to be “in the mood” for whatever I happen to have prepared that day. 

I have begged him for menu suggestions, he says “Anything is fine,” so I give three or four suggestions none of which interest him.  I’ll ask him what he wants and stand there for an hour until he notices I’m still there and asks me if I’ve figured out dinner yet.  It has gotten to the point where he says, “Thoughts on dinner?” and I respond, “No.  I have no thoughts,” because I am so tired of being shot down. 

Last night I made a special soup that I haven’t made in a while.  He wanders into the kitchen and says, “That sounds really good, maybe with a sandwich.  Maybe a grilled cheese?”  I was excited that he actually made a suggestion, but then I discovered that the kids had finished off the bread so I brought him his soup and asked if a quesadilla would be an acceptable substitute for grilled cheese (I would have been happy to make the bread if I had discovered it was gone earlier).  He said, “I can’t eat soup without a sandwich.  Oh well, don’t worry about it,” and he went to bed without even tasting the soup.  He wasn’t mad or anything, just acted like it didn’t matter. 

I cried for an hour.  I don’t want to play this game anymore.  What do I do?

Andrea

Dear Andrea,

How awful you must feel as meal after meal is rejected. You are hurt and frustrated. If we are going to be of help to you, we encourage you to read our answer when you are alone, not pressed for time, and when you are in a calm and reflective mood. You see, we would like to suggest that you might be missing the forest for the trees and encourage you to reframe the situation. This will not be simple and for these reasons we urge you not to read further until our previously named conditions are met.

Welcome back! We are going to take you at your word that you and your husband have a very good relationship. If this wasn’t so, our answer would be coming from a different place.

But just to make sure we cover your question in its entirety, let us note that universally, men seek from their wives, both food and physical companionship.  In the Lord’s language, one root word, comprising the letters zayin-nun, allude to both food and physical intimacy.  Many men find food served by their beloved wife to be a completely more exhilarating experience than food served by the finest restaurant.  On dinner dates, I have learned that when the waiter departs after bringing a dish from which the diners are to help themselves, most men hope their female date will do the pouring or the serving. It just heightens the delightful tension.   Interestingly enough, in traditional Japanese culture,  the Geisha, a sort of idealized ultimate super-woman would be seen as exemplifying the ultimate in both food and feminine companionship although the intimate dimension was seldom emphasized or even spoken of as that would be crude.

Why do we even raise this? Because your question is so food-centric, and since ancient Hebrew wisdom tells of how both appetites tend to go together,  we would be remiss in not mentioning it.  We were a little struck by this sentence you used, “He said, “I can’t eat soup without a sandwich.  Oh well, don’t worry about it,” and he went to bed…”   You stayed behind crying. Needless to say, we’d have preferred to have read, “He said, “I can’t eat soup without a sandwich.  Oh well, don’t worry about it,” and WE went to bed…”  Are there many nights when HE goes to bed rather than WE do?  We do hope not. That would suggest we need a wider discussion of what may be going on

But if your marriage is indeed strong, your relationship is loving and respectful, and this is the issue that is causing a problem, then we are going to question some of your language.

You see, Andrea, you wrote that after the soup/quesadilla debacle your husband, “wasn’t mad or anything, just acted like it didn’t matter,” and went to bed. What if he wasn’t ‘acting like it didn’t matter,’ but it actually didn’t matter! For many of us food provides physical, spiritual, emotional and sensual pleasure. We get pleasure from different textures, colors and flavors. (Can you tell where most Lapins fall in this debate?) It is hard for us to believe that there are people in the world for whom food is…well, just food. They can take it or leave it.

My (Susan’s) father was one of these people. He would have been happy to have spaghetti with ketchup (no cheese, no fancy sauce, no side-dish) every other night and a plain brisket on the alternate evening. That too would be covered in ketchup at the table. Had my mother spent hours in the kitchen whipping up a delectable concoction, he would have pushed it around his plate and waited for plain spaghetti the next night. (Hmmm – note to daughter #1 whose teenage son’s eating habits are monotonousmaybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) My mother was a decent cook but not an inspired one, so she made somewhat varied suppers for herself, my sister and me, but happily regularly reheated spaghetti or brisket for my father.

My husband on the other hand (Susan here again) truly appreciates my cooking. No matter how delicious a Shabbat bakery challah is, he rejoices in my homemade ones. He notices and savors the food I cook. Our daughters and I love trying new recipes and experimenting with flavors and, fortunately, many of our sons-in-law tend to the “foodie” side as well.

Your husband just may be more like my father. In Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages (if you haven’t read it, you should*) he says that people have different ways of seeking love and giving love. Sometimes, we try to give our loved ones what we want rather than what they need. For example, imagine that you love receiving flowers. They brighten up your day with their color, aroma and beauty. So, when your friend’s husband asks you what he can do to bring joy to his wife, you tell him, “Bring her flowers!” But your friend, while appreciative of the gesture, really wants her husband to put down his electronics and go for an evening walk with her. Time he spends with her is what she values. If he gives her flowers, he is unconsciously telling her that  he doesn’t really know her and what she craves. Your advice would be misguided and possibly harmful.

You are demanding that your husband make food his ‘love language.’ You want to cook for him and watch him appreciate the results. But that isn’t his area of satisfaction. Stop and think what he truly lights up about in your ‘very good relationship.’ Would he rather you spend less time in the kitchen and more time discussing the events of the day? Would he prefer that you express appreciation for the ways he helps around the house? What would make him happy? Food may be fuel for his body but no more than that. He truly doesn’t care what you make and will eat or not eat depending on his level of hunger, not the particular meal.

By all means, cook for your own pleasure and enjoy a varied menu with your children. But don’t go to bed (alone) crying because you are imagining that the man you married is rejecting and spurning you when he truly isn’t.

Happy explorations,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Should I go back to work?

September 9th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments

Hi Rabbi and Susan,

My husband and I have just finished the audiobook of Business Secrets from the Bible. We are Christians and your teaching has just expanded our minds so much we are so grateful – and my husband who is in management had already seen great “fruit” from applying your biblical teachings in just the past week.

My question surrounds women returning to the workforce after children. I have an honours degree but have been primarily a stay home mother for nearly 8 years. Can I please have your wisdom on what point I should consider returning to work—would you recommend full time /part-time. I have 2 boys 6 and 8 years old. I want to serve my family but I also want to make some money!

I have had my own business in the past but understand it requires much attention. I really don’t want to outsource parenting but want to work. I do understand your teaching around 6 days work (which my husband does – and I do too (within the home) but not for money!

Your wisdom would be greatly appreciated

Kindest regards,

Christie (Australia)

Dear Christie,

We are truly delighted your family has been blessed by Business Secrets from the Bible.  Delighted, but not really surprised, Christie, because whether in Australia or in Chile, whether in 2020 or in 1720, the Manufacturer’s Roadmap to reality always applies and is always effective.  A pat on the back to your husband for effectively following the principles in Business Secrets from the Bible.

A big pat on the back to you too for having been in the forward trenches of the home-front-lines these past 8 years and being able to focus on being a wife and mom.  Though I don’t underestimate the importance of our book in your husband’s success, it takes second place to your being present as his wife.  That usually contributes far more to the husband’s fiscal achievements than most couples realize. Wise and perceptive husbands know, acknowledge, and appreciate their wives’ contribution to their own economic performance.

Which leads naturally to the question you ask and the question we ask you in return.  Looking only at hard dollar numbers, how would you react to this set of equations:  (H -husband, W – wife, F – family)

NOW:    H100 + W0  =  F100

THEN:   H85  + W30  =  F115

Now, in the present,  your husband makes, shall we say $100 while, with you, the wife,  at home, although you contribute greatly to his fiscal effectiveness, you add $0 for a total family income of $100.

Then,  let’s imagine that with you away at work, your husband’s income were to drop to $85 (not uncommon) but you were to earn $30, for a total family income of $115.

What would you say?  For a 15% increase in family revenue, would you still go to work?  This is an important though hypothetical question because how you answer it to yourself will tell you the answer to another question.  Namely, is your motivation primarily monetary or are you looking for other things such as challenge, accomplishment and adult interaction?

We admire you for holding an honours degree, Christie, but you don’t tell us in what subject. Not to be frivolous, but if your degree is in 12th Century Byzantine Frescoes it has zero economic value to you right now, whereas if it is in actuarial science, working even part-time, you’d do rather well.

From your words, “but I also want to make some money!” rather than, “Our family could use some additional money,” we assume that while extra income would be helpful, your family is managing with what your husband earns. That gives you and your husband the luxury of choice, both in whether you return to paid work as well as what you do.

But make it a joint husband/wife decision.  As any Bible enthusiast knows, in this world, for every positive there is a corresponding negative.  Have a sober discussion about the marriage and family costs of a working wife and mom.  The two of you should discuss what would be best and for how long it should be lived before a reevaluation is scheduled.   The discussion will help lead you on the right path.

Is it possible that you are ready to branch out, but that this can occur without joining the paid workforce? We don’t know what your skills are, but you do mention having had your own business. Are you able to think of family and business as one unit rather than as competing entities? There is tremendous value in children growing up with a front-row seat in economics and real life. We assume that they are in school, but they (especially the eight-year-old) are not too young to pack boxes, answer phones professionally, check inventory, sweep up and do myriad other chores that running a small home business involves. Not only does it contribute valuable understanding about the real world of commerce, but it is tremendously valuable for every member of the family to recognize that he is part of a team and a greater enterprise.

On one hand, being an entrepreneur can consume many more hours than having a job, but it does leave you more in control of your time. Freelancing is another option that carries the negative of uncertainty but lets you scale back when needed. Today, with digital technology so prevalent and so accepted, there are hundreds of ways of serving other people from your home. We encourage you to explore these options. As you well know, family life can run smoothly but it can also dash up against rocky shores. Being able to adjust and step up with your sons when needed is terribly important.

Since we haven’t (yet) visited your wonderful country, we can’t speak about schools in Australia, but we do know that parents in the United States are quite wrong when they assume that their own values are being transmitted by the teachers who are spending most of every day with their children. This is, sadly, often true for private and religious schools as well as Government Indoctrination Camps. Technology, social media and other facets of our time also mean that this generation of children is in desperate need of parental attention. While your children don’t physically need you as they did when they were younger, they still greatly need for your husband and you to have a fantastic marriage (still one of the greatest gifts parents can bequeath their children) as well as a firm finger on the pulse of their lives.

We hope this gives both you and your husband some ideas to explore,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Why Aren’t the books of the Apocrypha part of the Bible?

September 1st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments

Thank you Rabbi and Susan for your valuable information.  I am a born, raised and practicing Catholic. I find your Ancient Jewish Wisdom very helpful and insightful.

I thought you may be able to answer this question a bit better than the many Google searches I have done. The books (I believe there are seven) that are not included in the canonized Jewish teachings or Bible but are in the New Testament of the Bible that Catholics use, which I believe you may call the Apocrypha and Catholics call the Deuterocanonical books, are something I would like to learn more about from the Jewish aspect. From searches, I see that the Jewish Bible or teachings was canonized between 200 BC and or even up to 200 AD. Can you clarify when it was? Why were those seven books not canonized?

I have read several different reasons but would like to know what the Jewish teaching is. And before the canonization of Jewish teaching, were any of the works of those seven books taught or referred to when teaching the Jewish people? I read that the story inspiring Hanukkah is in one of those books, I believe Maccabees. Can you tell me if that is true and if so, why it is? I read many different things online and would love to know what Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches and find that you are a much more reliable source than Googling. Thank you so much!

Alicia

Dear Alicia,

We have to admit that we were not familiar with the term ‘Deuterocanonical books.’ However, while we cannot address the decisions of either the Catholic or Protestant church, we can explain the Jewish TaNaCH without resorting to any search engine.

Before endeavoring to answer your question, Alicia, it is our duty to inform you that we place little stock in Academia’s view of the Bible. We’d as soon take detailed marital guidance from a lifelong celibate as accept information on God’s Message—the Bible—from a secular or atheistic university “Professor of Bible”.

That said, Jewish Scripture is known by the acronym TaNaCH, תנ“ך. The three Hebrew letters, reading right to left have the sound of T, N and CH. The T stands for Torah, which technically refers only to the five books of Moses. The N stands for Nevi’im – the prophets. These include the books starting with Joshua and going through Malachi. The CH has the sound of K when it is at the beginning of a word and stands for Ketuvim – the writings. These range from Psalms to Chronicles and include the books of Esther, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.

The three sections correspond to the decreasing level of prophecy with which the respective books were written. Moses had direct conversation with God and as such the Torah is the transmission of God’s dictation. It is for this reason that we explore each and every letter to discover the oral tradition that accompanied the dictation – what we term ancient Jewish wisdom.

No one after Moses had the same closeness with God. The prophets—whose levels of prophecy were not necessarily identical—had visions and revelations, but the language of the books is largely their own. We scrutinize these as well for ancient Jewish wisdom, and there is much there, but not to the same extent.

The Writings, Ketuvim, were authored by King David, King Solomon, some of the prophets such as Samuel and others. In some cases, they are expansions of ancient Jewish wisdom on a piece of the Torah, in others, they are songs and odes, but they are all holy writings. Even the book of Chronicles is not a history but connected to the Divine. As such, there is oral transmission, ancient Jewish wisdom, on these as well.

In contrast, the book of Maccabees you mention (that is the only piece of the Apocrypha of which we have any knowledge) is a historical account of a period of history. There is no Divine component. It can be supported or questioned as historians wish. Hanukkah, on the other hand, is referenced in the Torah (our audio CD Festival of Lights shows where) and was a pre-ordained festival. The historical events of the time turned the major concepts of the festival into an observance and are interesting, but the reasons for the eight days of celebration themselves trace back to the beginning of Genesis.

In summary, the books of the TaNaCH have the purpose of capturing the entirety of God’s Message for mankind delivered through Moses at Sinai.  For instance, the details in the Hebrew account of Samson and Delilah in Judges 16 clarify important and useful information in Genesis 28.  Psalms 81 resolves an otherwise baffling mystery in Genesis 41 and so forth.

After many years of requests to recommend a Hebrew/English Bible, we have settled on a beautiful edition with many fine features. For one thing, it shows the correct Biblical paragraph breaks in a way that most printed Bibles do not. You might enjoy taking a look at it.

Wishing you enlightenment from Genesis through Chronicles,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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