Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Can pork ever be kosher?

March 12th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Jews can’t eat pig because it’s a scavenger and eats the dead therefore unclean. If the pig is farm raised it doesn’t eat the dead so would it be clean to eat?

Miguel

Dear Miguel,

We are choosing to answer your question because you are in not alone in your misconception about kosher food. The mistake you make is quite common, but it is based on a completely incorrect basic premise.

Not eating pig has nothing to do with it being a scavenger. The prohibition is based on Leviticus 11:7 where God specifically forbids it with no reason given. That animal is singled out and mentioned by name because it has one of the two signs that mark an animal as kosher.  Pigs have split hooves but do not chew the cud.

This prohibition is, for example, different from the injunction not to harvest the produce of the land of Israel during the Shmittah cycle every seven years (Exodus 23:11). In that case, Israel has developed a healthy industry in hydroponics growing crops in glass houses and in large trays of water. Carrots, as one example, aren’t the problem; the problem is only carrots grown in the earth during that special seventh year. Not so with the pig —regardless of how it is raised, the animal is forbidden, end of discussion.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explores the difference between God’s laws that a rational society might eventually understand on its own and those laws that human beings would never intuit. Laws against stealing or murder seem to make sense to us, while committees could meet for years and not come up with not mixing wool and flax (Leviticus 19:19). The important thing to understand is that, whether or not we understand or can think of benefits of these laws, we follow them because they are God’s laws.

We find it interesting that today there is even controversy over those laws that civilized people once upon a time accepted.  As our society moves further from the Biblical vision we find much discord about abortion, euthanasia,  capital punishment and increasingly vocally about redistributing property.  We don’t all intuitively know and agree on the correct paths.

The bottom line is that we try, to the best of our abilities and to the extent that we can control our weaknesses, to follow God’s word. Part of that word tells us that no matter how healthy, clean, tasty or economical pork is, it is not going to be part of our diet.

Hoping that, like us, you get to enjoy all the wonderful and tasty food permitted,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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How can I best ace a job interview?

March 5th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Hi Rabbi Lapin and Susan Lapin,

I am a great follower of TCT ancient Jewish wisdom. It is a great show and most importantly inspiring for life. I have a quick question.

I have graduated with my MS in mechanical engineering, but still I am facing difficulties in  finding a job. Could you please give some useful tips on how to sell.

All the best for your works. God bless your family,

A. J.

Dear A. J.,

Congratulations on earning your MS in engineering.  Unlike a degree in gender discrimination in Russian literature, your degree is a real accomplishment. But, and it’s a big but, a company is not hiring your degree, it is hiring a complete person who possesses a degree.

Potential employers want to know much more than merely that you can solve differential equations.  They want to know about your integrity, your intelligence, your persistence and grit, your resilience and optimism, and they want to know your loyalty.  A piece of paper proves your degree but these other equally important characteristics can only be sensed by an interview.  Therein lies the importance of the interview and in being really thoroughly prepared for that interview.  It is in the hope of discovering these qualities that your interviewer will ask you many questions that seem to be quite disconnected from engineering.  It is your total demeanor that will offer the interviewer clues to your entire personality.

So we agree, indeed you do have a quick question; unfortunately, we don’t have a quick answer. But we will try to guide you towards a path to the answer.

We aren’t clear whether you are talking of learning how to sell yourself in job interviews or whether you are thinking of entering the profession of sales. Many of the same tips apply to both areas.

Whether you are selling yourself and your skills or a service or product there is one important concept that you need to keep in mind. While obviously, you need and expect the salary, fee or commission to be paid to you, your focus during the interaction needs to be on how you are benefiting the other person. How will this company be better off if they hire you? In what way will your customer’s life improve if they purchase this item from you? Why is it in the person’s best interests to form a relationship with you?

Once you believe in what you are selling you want to set yourself up for success. A vital feature of sales (and job-seeking is a sales job as well) is resilience. You have to be able to bounce back from rejection. After every job you don’t get or sale you don’t make, you should analyze what you could have done better, but then you pick yourself up and make another effort. It is worth doing mock interviews/exchanges with a trusted mentor who will give you feedback on ways you can improve.

Whether you are interviewing for a job or whether you are in a sales meeting with a potential customer, your most important tool is your mouth.  Are you projecting your voice confidently?  Are you articulating your words clearly?  Are you using the best vocabulary?  Do a mock interview with a good friend and video tape your performance. Carefully study it and identify areas needing work.  Our book Thou Shall Prosper addresses the details of how to increase the effectiveness of your communication. 

We urge you to invest sufficient time and energy in research.  So many applicants squander job interviews by failing to know enough about the company with which they are interviewing. Similarly, knowing as much as possible about the sales prospect with whom you’re meeting can spell the difference between success and failure. 

No matter if it is your engineering skills or a kitchen appliance, people are more likely to do business with you if they know you, like you and trust you—or know someone else who does. When we moved to a new city, we didn’t open the yellow pages to look for a doctor —we asked our friends. We do the same thing when we’re in the market for a new refrigerator and, yes, for a new employee.

Be a part of your community and of as many lives as you can.  Don’t forget that most jobs are filled via personal introduction not advertisements.  Most companies prefer to hire friends of existing employees and often reward those employees for suggesting candidates.  Ask trusted relatives and friends how you come across in social interactions and listen non-defensively to their responses. We do have an audio CD that we recommend to you: Prosperity Power: Connect for Success. It is on sale this week and is chock full of recommendations for ways that even introverted and shy people can expand their circle of connection.

Wishing you the best in whatever you pursue,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Must I stay in touch with my siblings?

February 27th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 31 comments

Should we avoid associating with Godless people? I’m the only religious child with 3 brothers and two sisters and I’m frequently torn between seeing them and avoiding the negative effect they can have on me. I find they do drag me down when I’m in their presence.

Do I owe anything to them because they are family?

Thanks,

Tom P.

Dear Tom,

The short answer is, “yes,” but that doesn’t answer the question, “What do you owe them?”  God placed a moral obligation upon siblings towards one another.  But the borders are not black and white.  Many children gravitate towards rules, be they in games or classrooms, and get upset when a rule is unclear. As we grow, we learn about nuances and exceptions to the rules, but we are constantly tested by needing to straddle lines such as between justice and mercy or discipline and compassion. We human beings often find it easier to live in a world of black and white rather than in the real world that God placed us which has many shades of grey in most of the real-life decisions we face every day.

You are in such a situation with your family, though you haven’t given us any examples of why they drag you down. At one extreme, you have no obligation, shall we say, to join your siblings at a movie that doesn’t meet your moral criteria, but in most cases, while you might not enjoy meeting occasionally for coffee or a family party, we would recommend that you do so. There should be a way to retain some contact while simultaneously limiting and shaping it.

If the negative is blatant, then creative thinking might be helpful here. A friend of ours found it difficult to speak to one of his uncles because the uncle’s conversation leaned heavily towards (harmful) gossip about people they knew in common. He finally hit upon the strategy of preparing questions in his head about a subject that interested this relative and constantly guides the conversation in that direction. He found that in this way he could call once a month or so, keep the conversation relatively short but feel that he wasn’t abandoning a rather lonely uncle. A student of ours realized that she and her sister both enjoyed music and so they attend concerts together, giving them a joint activity that minimizes the interaction between them.

It might be worth recalling King David’s advice for when you have to interact with people who are truly a negative influence on you.

Happy is the man who has not walked by the counsel of the wicked, or stood in the path of sinners, or sat down in the company of the insolent.  (Psalms 1:1)

Notice that he lists three specific verbs: walk, stand, sit, in that sequence.  Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals the deeper meaning.  Sometimes, circumstances force us to have dealings (either family or business) with wicked people, sinners, or insolent people. The trick is to minimize it in a state of full personal awareness.  If you must, walk with them although the best is not to do even that. However, if you have to walk with them, at least avoid stopping with them.  As long as you’re walking and moving, you’re not fully associating as you would when you stop and stand with them for a long chat on the street corner.  Finally, if you must stand with them at least avoid pulling up a chair, sitting down and joining the club. For your situation, this teaching from the opening of Psalms, advises you to grade your interactions and engage only to the extent necessary. Keep walking, standing and sitting in your mind as metaphors for levels of involvement.

We suggest you ask yourself what about your siblings drags you down and strategize accordingly. Do what you can to make seeing them, if not more pleasant, then less unpleasant. Remember too that, in their eyes,  you are a representative of religion and belief. That puts a responsibility on your  shoulders to avoid giving them the impression that those who love God don’t care about people.

As an aside, and without knowing your specific situation, we discourage gratuitous labeling of people. We know many who never set foot in a synagogue or church but who nonetheless have a deep spiritual connection with their Creator. Sadly, there are others who identify strongly with a church or synagogue but whose behavior doesn’t align with what we would consider to be Godly instruction.

We don’t know your story and so this point isn’t necessarily directed at you, but there is a fine line between having standards and being excessively judgmental in a way that could be seen as obnoxious. Are you looking for the good in your siblings? Does your brother coach Little League or your sister volunteer at a soup kitchen? Are they faithful spouses, involved parents and responsible employees? Is it possible to find something positive in your siblings’ lives that you can admire and even praise?

While you, and many of us, might have chosen different relatives if we had been given the opportunity to do so,  God placed these specific people in your life and you are inextricably connected to them. Find the area of compromise that allows you to retain some level of obligation with the least chance of damage to your own personal growth.

Wishing you success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

P.S. Catch our interview with author Judy Gruen on the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show. Then check out her book  The Skeptic and the Rabbi (guess who the starring Rabbi is?).

 

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Should we emigrate or stay put?

February 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Shalom,

 Firstly I would like to sincerely thank you for every podcast, thought tool, answer to every question with so much thought and wisdom.  It’s been life changing listening and reading everything you and your wife share.  

We live in Namibia, a country bordering South Africa and linked to the South African Rand.  We are going through a huge recession and as the saying goes here – if South Africa has a cold, Namibia has Pneumonia. Everything that happens in SA has a huge impact on us.  

We are seriously contemplating if we should emigrate. Why?  The main reason – to create a better future for our children.  There is little to no future for them in Namibia.  As the economy worsens, corruption and violence increases.

 Moving to another country like New Zealand means we can create a new life with new possibilities together.  They can go on and study at numerous universities.  They can get married and we can see our grandchildren grow up together…

 …or we can stay and they will most probably move away themselves somewhere in the future, and with our weak currency visiting them anywhere in the world will be next to impossible…

We don’t know the future of our country but for now the future does not look great. We are by no means doom and gloom people and as mentioned earlier we are still safe but when does one get to the point where one actually takes a step toward something like what you call “the American dream”? When does your children’s future take preference before your own comfortable life(or seemingly comfortable life)?

Do we have a lot to give up? TONS!!! Both our families are all here.  We are a very close knit family.  We live on a stunning plot outside town with lots wide open spaces, My daughter (age 11) has her own quarter horse, the boys (ages 13 and almost 4) can climb trees and hunt birds. They love the animals and freedom. Here everyone knows who you are. You’ve already made your name. Basically our whole life- 14 years of marriage.  Everything we worked for… we will have to leave that behind and look to the future, for our children…or stay and pray it gets better…

When is considering to emigrate a good option?

We have done a lot of research. We’ve made our lists of pros and cons. My head says go, my heart says no.

 Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you so much,

The B. family

Dear B. Family,

Thank you for writing and thank you for your kind words regarding our teachings.  We derive great joy from hearing that our work benefits people’s lives. 

While we shortened your letter a bit for this column, we hope we haven’t removed the emotional impact. As with so many other important life decisions, twenty years from now you will know what was the best thing to do, but by then you will be living the consequences of whichever decision you make.  The good news is that by far and away, most decisions are not matters of life/death.

In all probability, twenty years down the road people will still be living, for better or for worse, in both Namibia and New Zealand.  Occasionally the wrong decision places people in the heart of terrible war zones.  Think of Jewish families who fled frightening rural parts of Poland in 1938 and settled in Warsaw only months before the Nazis invaded.  Or the people who wanted to get away from it all and relocated to the Falkland Islands just before the war of 1982.

In the spring of 1960, there was a terrible event in which about 70 people were shot dead by South African policemen in Sharpeville.  This was followed by a mass exodus of many South Africans who had opportunities elsewhere in the world.  The conventional wisdom was that this was the right time for people, particularly those with white skins, to leave the country.  Many did just that.  Yet in the fifty years since then, South Africa has had some of its best times. 

Today, however, with disturbing socio-political trends in Southern Africa including Zimbabwe and Namibia, I think that for people in the right circumstances, it could be a good time to start a new life elsewhere.  That said, I have advised a number of South Africans over the past year or two to remain and help bring stability. Everything depends upon circumstances.

We don’t, and more importantly ancient Jewish wisdom, doesn’t, minimize the impact of leaving one’s homeland and family. In Genesis 12:2, after telling Abraham to leave his land, birthplace and family, God promised him three blessings to compensate for the typical costs of major relocation—family, finances, and reputation.  These are exactly the same concerns mitigating against you leaving Namibia today.

We point out a few ideas to ponder. Taking as a given that we cannot guarantee security, looking to the future and taking into account what is going on in southern Africa, it does seem that you are wise to anticipate worsening conditions.  It goes without saying that what we recommend to you with your young family is quite different from what we might say to a semi-retired couple who have lived in Southern Africa with their families for over fifty years.

In addition to the points you made about New Zealand offering your children more educational and economic opportunity, we’d like to add an idea. In Jeremiah 35:7-11  we meet Yonadav the son of Rechav, whose descendants survived a war by relocating because they did not feel tied to land.  Now Yonadav’s prescription to avoid owning real estate is a bit extreme as a practical policy. But the point is to feel sensitive to the subtle signals that it’s time to move without being overwhelmed by the emotional impact of all the immovable property one owns. 

You can carry your family heritage and your beliefs with you and establish a home wherever you are. While parting from close family will be wrenching and you and your children will lose out by being ‘strangers in a strange land’, is it possible that you should be establishing a foothold in a new country?  Maybe your destiny is to provide a landing site if things do deteriorate rapidly.  Perhaps one day you will be able to offer your extended family a haven and refuge.  This was very often the thinking behind the grueling emigration that brought many Jews to America and South Africa in the late 19th century.  In the end they did make it possible for many of their friends and family later to escape the Nazi death machine. 

We do not know if you have the ability to land in a new country with a nest egg to launch your new life or whether you would be starting entirely from scratch.  (Ancient Jewish wisdom does recommend keeping a third of your assets in easily movable form—hence the Jewish fondness for the diamond business.  A nice pouch of high quality jewels greatly eases immigration!  I’ve often contemplated the question of whether crypto-currency could serve this purpose but at this point I do not trust it as possessing real value.)  Either way, as more years go by, and some of the flexibility and adaptability of youth fades, starting over does become more difficult.

In a way, dear B’s, your final sentence pretty much provides the answer.  You wrote that after weighing it all up, it is coming down to a head vs. heart analysis.   It is always very clarifying when a difficult decision resolves itself into a head/heart conflict.  We think you know what we would say.  Nearly always, head trumps heart.  That doesn’t mean there is no pain.  It just means that ultimately there is more gain. 

Do whatever you can to minimize the heartbreak and pain of leaving, plan for success as much as you can, but in the final analysis, if you have the strength to do so, follow your head. (And make sure that your pro and con lists are complete.)

With blessing for peace, prosperity and success wherever you are,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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How Do I Encourage My Wife to Dress Better?

February 12th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 20 comments

Hi Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

I need some advice and assistance regarding my wife and her appearance.

When we first dated and were married, she cared much more about looking nice around me. In the past few years or so, she seems to care little about her appearance. She many times hasn’t showered in the morning, doesn’t fix her hair, and wears clothes that are too big, too old, or clashing prints, frumpy, etc.

However, when she has an appointment, church, work (part-time), or we go out to eat, she will take more care for her appearance. It is night and day. I usually look presentable and my clothes fit and coordinate.  I take care of myself, exercise, and strive to keep attractive to her.

The other day she mentioned that she would like if I would compliment her more on her appearance, or tell her she’s beautiful, and inside I was perplexed – it appears she doesn’t want to do the work and just wants to look, well, literally like a slob or college roommate.

I sense she also may have features of depression. I feel like she doesn’t like her own self, and is not driven to improve herself. We are both in our 40’s and have a child in elementary school.

This is challenging for me, as I do love her, but I definitely notice other women while at work, running errands, out to eat, at church, etc. – and I long for my own wife to care about herself (and me) to, well, look more feminine and attractive, to care about it.

I have casually mentioned / hinted at improving her appearance in the past, but it was met with denial, attack, criticism, etc.

All that to basically ask,

1) how do I communicate this to her, that perhaps when I am home can she look nice/care about her appearance for me (which would fan the flames of love and passion), and

2) I was thinking of asking her to find a ‘feminine life coach’, perhaps one or two neighbor women, to help her with her style, appearance, mannerisms, self-care, etc.

Please help, we are Christians, and we do love each other, it is just sort of flat in our relationship and I hardly notice her. I feel at some level that each of us is responsible to care for ourself and to do what we can to attract our mate. Thank you and God bless you, your family and ministry.

Thomas

Dear Thomas,

Thank you for asking your excruciating question with such candor.  An exquisite balance must exist in all marriages between continually courting one’s spouse on one hand and feeling at home, relaxed and comfortable with that spouse on the other. As you note, we’re all going to encounter those of the opposite sex who are dressed up and put together when they appear in public. It is important always to remember that, out there in public, we don’t see the exhausted, complaining, unprofessional, very human side of those very people.  Even 1950s television wife Donna Reed wasn’t always in pearls, makeup, and heels. 

We want to address one jarring note in your letter: You write that you think your wife might be depressed.  While not fans of amateur diagnoses especially in the mental health area, we urge you to encourage her to go for a complete physical.  Maybe this is something you both could/should do together.  Being run down or off-kilter physically can deplete the energy needed to care for oneself. A good physician should detect signs of depression as well. If there is any underlying spiritual/mental/emotional dimension to your wife’s behavior, you both need to know that.

Assuming that everything is okay and there is no serious complication, it certainly sounds like your wife is unhappy and doesn’t feel attractive.  She asked you to tell her she is beautiful, which sounds like she tried to open up a conversation but you kept your response internal instead of taking the opportunity to discuss the state of your marriage. That, along with hinting that she should improve her appearance was probably quite crushing to her.

As you can tell, we believe that the problem you describe has underlying causes.  It is clearly not that she just doesn’t know how to dress or that she forgot how to do her hair and makeup.  If the underlying cause is not medical, then it is likely the marriage.

You sound like a good guy, but we wonder if you are looking from too narrow a perspective.  How often do you and your wife share a fun activity? Do you laugh together frequently? Do you surprise her with little gifts or notes that let her know you think of her? Do you compliment her when she is dressed to go out? Do you let her know when she is wearing a hairstyle or outfit that you find particularly attractive? Or are your eyes too focused on only one negative area?

I (Susan) would be mortified if my husband recruited other women to talk to me about my appearance. Please drop that idea although making sure that your wife has the time to participate in a weekly activity with a healthy group of women is a great idea. You mention part-time work and a child. Does your wife know that you want her to have time to pursue her own interests and the financial means to purchase makeup and clothes?

I (Rabbi Daniel) query whether you are bearing the bulk of the income earning burden for the family?  Has your moral leadership of your family been compromised in any way?  Is your wife’s conduct a silent way of reproaching you for what she perceives as past or current pain? 

Could there be anything in either of your histories prior to your marriage that could be relevant to the challenges you’re now living through?  These are a few of the talking points that should arise if you and your wife went out for coffee and for what the diplomats call, “full and frank discussions.” Casually dropping hints isn’t what is needed. Thoughtful, loving, respectful and serious conversation is.

Women’s bodies change after having children and as they age. Your wife may have a whole scenario in her mind that brands her as unattractive to you. For example, maybe you went through a period where you were distracted at work and she interpreted it as a rejection of her. It sounds like she knows that you,“…hardly notice her,” and this pains her. She does dress up to go out. Oversized, frumpy clothing can be a defense mechanism against your disregard. This reinforces our sense that there is probably an underlying marriage and relationship issue.

Thomas, we want to make clear that we think it terribly important that husbands and wives make an effort to be attractive to each other. This includes hygiene and dress, basic courtesy, putting down electronics during conversation and meals, sharing enjoyable activities and many other details. We aren’t belittling your pain at your wife’s neglect of her appearance. However, we think it stems from a deeper source and that you and she need to recover the relationship you used to have. This will result in her dressing more carefully rather than mistakenly thinking that if only she would dress more carefully you would recover the relationship. The goal isn’t to “change her,” but rather to understand what you both need to do to recapture romance and affection.

Perhaps a weekend marriage seminar would be a good place to start.

Marriage is worth working for,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Are Sanctuary Cities the new Cities of Refuge?

February 5th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

During Biblical times there were cities of refuge. In America today there are sanctuary cities which have been based on the cities of refuge.

What were the ancient cities of refuge and what type of criminals were allowed to live there? Is our current system of sanctuary cities anything like those mentioned in the Bible?

Some cities and states favor sanctuary cities and others don’t, thus bringing division in America. What do you think about this?

Lynda M. 

Dear Lynda,

Basing today’s sanctuary cities in the United States on the Biblical cities of refuge is a bit like suggesting that the American and French revolutions in the 1700s were alike. It is a far and not very supportable stretch.

The Biblical cities of refuge (Deut. 4: 41-43) were not havens for criminals. They were specifically meant for the innocent person who had accidentally and unintentionally taken a life. The classic example given is a man chopping a tree when his axe-head flies off and hits another man a few feet away. He did not intend to murder his fellow worker, he wasn’t intentionally careless in fashioning his axe, but nonetheless, the result is a dead human being.

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Does God use art to reveal spiritual lessons?

January 28th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Hi. I’ve just seen your TV show about music complementing scripture and how it is used to help understand God’s intent in his words.

What about art being used in this way? (a picture says a thousand words)

Are there examples in scripture where God uses art to help people in their understanding?

Thanks,

John

Dear John,

We think you’re referring to one of our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV shows where we discussed that, when read correctly in synagogue, the Five Books of Moses are chanted in very specific ways handed down from Sinai. In addition, the service of the Levites in the Temple featured music and instruments. Music adds to the understanding of the Bible’s words and verses and touches our souls in ways that can bring us closer to God.

Visual arts, too, are part of God’s revelation. You have surely noticed how much detail is provided about the construction of each piece of the Tabernacle. The materials used, the dimensions and every other detail of construction is specified. This obviously isn’t in order to get featured in an article in House Beautiful magazine. Rather, each detail carries a spiritual message. For one example, see this Thought Tool: Vision – Mission – Vision.

An over all take-away for us is that God has gifted us with a wondrous world. We are constantly balancing the spiritual and the physical to best live in that world. Those of us with a connection to God try to be aware of the overwhelming consumerism and misplaced focus on materialism in developed countries today. However, condemning materialism too strenuously can lead to wrongly rejecting the physical part of life entirely.

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How much help is too much help?

January 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

Huge fan here – Thou Shall Prosper has changed my life, and I continue to be inspired by Ask the Rabbi and Susan’s Musings.

My question is, as a follower of God, am I a hypocrite for not wanting to help someone in need? I’ve recently become acquainted with a woman who has severe emotional problems related to anxiety and trauma. She refuses to get professional help but simultaneously expects other people to take care of her many needs.

The lady she is staying with has a weekly prayer meeting at her home on Sundays, and she is afraid to be in the house during that time because of her fear of crowds and people. Last Sunday I took her with me to a part-time job, but this week I really felt I needed my Sunday free as it is my only day off. The homeowner told me she is putting the woman up in a hotel since I’m not available to take her.

How much help is too much? Having been treated for anxiety myself, I understand that someone can be extremely fearful of everyday circumstances, but if she can’t ride the bus to a coffee shop for a few hours or take a walk in the park while the prayer meeting is going on, how much can another person do for her? Should I be expected to give up my one day off every week to babysit a grown woman, and should my friend be expected to use her own money to put her in a hotel?

I’m torn between feeling anger and judgment toward this lady as well as feeling like a hypocrite both because I know what it is like to suffer from anxiety and because people also opened their homes up to me through house sitting jobs when I was first new in town. I can’t help thinking that but for the grace of God, I could be in her shoes, so I feel incredibly guilty for thinking she needs to “woman up” and take care of herself.

Feeling hypocritical and very un-Christlike,

Cindy

Dear Cindy,

We shortened your letter because of space restrictions, but you gave a number of examples of how difficult this woman is and how no matter what you or others do for her it is never enough. The problem you are facing is one that, we believe, most good people run into during their lives. As good, God-fearing people, how can we turn away from those in need?

Truly, only you can answer that question for yourself, perhaps with guidance from a religious leader or wise mentor, but we can make a few comments.

Have you ever worked with pie or pizza dough? You need to roll it or stretch it into shape, but if you yank too hard, you will make holes rather than produce a smooth, satiny surface. Gently tugging at different areas gives the desired result; forcing the dough doesn’t work.

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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.

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Should I apologize to my ex-wife?

January 8th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 44 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.

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