Posts in Ask the Rabbi

My Wife is Amazing – We’re Getting a Divorce

November 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I enjoy the wisdom that you show us, your happy warriors, through your many avenues of teaching. I’ll keep my question brief. Why is it, that when a celebrity couple decides they no longer wish to honor their matrimonial vows, they always praise the other person for being such a wonderful person and say they have the highest respect for him or her? If they have that respect and stated emotions, why not stay together? I won’t belabor the point. I’ll merely include a link to the story that prompted my thoughts.

I would love to hear your thoughts, even if it is merely to say that many of these marriages are based on “feelings” and not true love.

Eric B.

Dear Eric,

If you’ll excuse us, before answering your question we would like to explain the phrase you used, ‘happy warriors’.  This is how  I, (RDL) envision the listeners to my popular  podcast. One of those happy warriors, Andrew, started a growing Facebook page where listeners discussed the latest podcast. A short while ago, he agreed to morph that page into a new group, Friends of Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin, in order to broaden the conversation to those who may watch our TV show, read our books and columns or know us in other ways. It is fun to watch the group grow and to see our “friends” meeting each other. In this way the ‘happy warriors’ phrase has expanded beyond its original meaning.

Back to your question. Honestly, we had never heard of the couple featured in the magazine, but we did look at the link you sent. In a post on Instagram, the husband wrote, among other things, “With our hectic work schedules we could not be busier, and over the last few years have grown apart,” and spoke of his soon-to-be-ex-wife as, “one of the most incredible women I have ever met and the best mom to our kids.”

Your question seems to be that if that is how he feels about her, why are they getting divorced, especially as he says that their main focus is their two daughters. For loving parents, the logical solution to “growing apart” might be spending more time together.

Without taking refuge in frivolity, we do want to say that while there is much we do undertake to explain, mostly in the area of ancient Jewish wisdom, the behavior of celebrities truly does lie outside our field of expertise.  Nonetheless, under the general heading of how the world REALLY works, we ought, at least to try and explain why someone who speaks so marvelously and admiringly about his wife proceeds to divorce her.

Our answer has two distinct parts,  Eric.  First, there is a world of difference between Hollywood and real life. Being in the public eye, especially today when everyone has access to everyone via social media, is not easy. We may think that we know what goes on in famous people’s private lives but that is an illusion. There is no reason for thinking that, ‘the public,’ is entitled to know the details about celebrity divorces. Those whose public comments are respectful of their ex-spouses should be commended for refusing to participate in mud-slinging and titillating gossip that might capture more eye-balls but will end up harming their children. Maybe what he writes is the whole story and maybe this husband is saying, “This is none of your business. Go elsewhere for your gossip.”

In the second part of our discussion, however, we  want to comment on the pendulum swing that has made divorce not only socially acceptable but very common. We have moved from those times when a woman (usually) who was dealing with physical abuse, serious emotional abuse and/or a philandering husband was often stuck in the marriage partially because of the shame of being divorced.  We have now reached a point where the word commitment seems not to be related to marriage at all. Especially when there are children, this is a great tragedy.

We would posit that “true love” is a feeling and while it is wonderful to strive and aim for as much positive feeling as possible, marriage isn’t based on feeling. It is a covenant, or a promise undertaken with God as a third party. Particularly when children are involved, the happiness, fulfillment and growth of parents should get much less weight than it frequently does today. We know that sounds harsh, but so is divorce.

Interestingly, ancient Jewish wisdom discusses the idea of friendship between divorced ex-spouses. While ex-couples need to be respectful of each other and not gossip or bad-mouth one another the idea of staying housemates or socializing together is discouraged. We think this is in line with what you are saying that divorce should be such an extreme act that if you are able to be friends, you should have stayed married and worked within the boundaries of the marriage to find fulfillment and happiness.

We are aware that this is very counter-cultural today and we, like many others, know couples who are very happily remarried. We know people whose children are charming and successful adults even though their parents were divorced. Nonetheless, on a societal level, it would be better for children and the family if the pendulum on the topic of divorce would swing healthily back again. If that was the point you were making, we are on the same page.

Not big readers of Hollywood gossip magazines,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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I Have So Many Interests – How Do I Monetize Them?

November 13th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

This is Omar E. – born in Rome from Egyptian muslim father and Italian catholic mum.

I just recently discovered your material and I quickly became addicted to it. I would like to ask you something – what’ s your views on destiny? And more in detail – are some people destined to be failures?

I am 36 years old and I have always been a passionate learner. Throughout my life I have been involved in various different fields – I have a Jazz drums degree, been cooking in some of the most prestigious kitchen in the world, got a Sommelier certification, I have been trading stocks for 4 years while studying various types of technical analysis (TPO, Market Profile, Point and Figure, Fundamentals and more).

While I am very proud of all the things I have learnt, I have never been able to monetize as much as I wanted. Once I felt I started to master a certain profession – I quickly began to lose interest and my attention and focus went somewhere else… But now I am struggling to provide money for my family, and this is very frustrating. It seems to me that for some folks success just come easy, while all my efforts for some reason don’t produce the wanted outcome.

I have a great wife and daughter – and I am very grateful for that – but now I am just wondering whether I should just accept that I am a great fast-learning person, but making money is not in my destiny.

Hope to hear from you, thanks for your time.

Faithfully,

Omar E.

Dear Omar,

We are intrigued by your unusual background and are so happy you wrote to us.  Your letter spoke to our hearts , especially since your decisions greatly impact the lives of two other people, your wife and daughter. However, we did say to ourselves, “Surely we’ve discussed this before?”

Our quick search of Ask the Rabbi questions and answers over the past ten years revealed a number of people who wrote with similar questions (a sample of which we will link to at the bottom). But here’s our not-surprising conclusion: each individual faces his or her own background, challenges, rationalization of behavior and life-path. As such, we hope that each time we answer a similar question, we hope that we can add something additional to whatever we said before.

Here is one paragraph we previously wrote that you will find that in general summarizes our responses:

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

Here is the new information we would like to add.

There are many myths that abound in society. If you and your wife have been married for any length of time, you know that the words with which so many fairy-tales close, “and they lived happily ever after,” are misleading. More accurate phrases would be, “and they worked on themselves and their marriage to live happily ever after,” or, “and they faced challenges but were committed to facing them together and overcoming them, leading to living happily ever after.”

Now let’s examine your situation as you’ve described it.  (And we admire your self-awareness and honesty.  It bodes well for the changes you must make.)  Here are about 30 words from a book called East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Do they remind you of you? 

“Alf was a jack-of-all-trades, carpenter, tinsmith, blacksmith, electrician, plasterer, scissors grinder, and cobbler.  Alf could do anything, and as a result he was a financial failure although he worked all the time.”

You see, Omar, God built a world in which He wants His children to connect with one another and need one another.  We can most help other people when we become supremely competent specialists in some chosen field rather than being a little good at a lot of things.

Omar, how would you answer someone who wrote to us saying, “Successful marriage seems to elude me. Each time I’m happy with someone, I begin to lose interest and focus and my attention moves on to someone else. Am I just destined to have bad marriages?”  You get the point, we are certain.

Financial prosperity operates under the same rules. One of the enduring economic myths  is the idea of “striking it rich.” That implies a rapid change in circumstance. The odds of that happening are incredibly low. In general, financial stability and wealth result from  building  a reputation and acquiring skills by accumulating experience and connections in the specific field in which you’ve chosen to labor. For this reason, any professional  who works five to six long days a week for a number of years will usually earn considerably more per hour than another who dabbles at the same profession, choosing to work only three days a week.

You have yourself accurately identified  the very probable cause of your lack of prosperity. You seem to be confusing your love of eclectic learning with the work you do to serve others. By all means, keep growing and learning. Develop and maintain hobbies and interests.  But direct a large portion of your effort  to one field so that you build a continuous trajectory of accomplishment and service.  You will undoubtedly need to work through difficult times at work. Those challenges are no excuses to quit  and start over at entry level  doing something entirely different. .

Do we think there is such a thing as being destined to be poor? God is in ultimate control of our lives, but He most often leads us on the path in which we set out. Your self-chosen path is a tragic path to poverty and we want to see you dramatically changing   your own direction. We feel sure you can.

Here are two previous Ask the Rabbi columns you might find applicable:

https://rabbidaniellapin.com/am-i-being-stopped-from-fulfilling-my-potential/

https://rabbidaniellapin.com/help-i-dont-have-a-work-ethic/

We are happy to welcome you to our teachings, and we look forward to hearing from you again with happy accounts of great success and prosperity,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Changing a Lifetime of Behavior

November 6th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

I am a 61 yr. old Christian male. I was brought up in a strict home, children should be seen but not heard. My Father was a stickler about everything; lights, water, doors and was constantly correcting me. I too have become a nit picker.

I pray for Go d to grant me patience and understanding, but it is so hard for me. What can I do in addition?  Is there a passage in the Torah/Bible which will give me guidance and help me to grow and become a better husband, grandfather etc.?

I don’t want people, my wife in particular, to become bitter and resentful towards me. G d willing you can give me an answer.

Oh by the way, my wife and I are regular watchers of your program on TCT. G d Bless you, your wife and family for you are a ray of hope in a dark world.

Kurt G.

Dear Kurt,

Wow. That is our reaction to your letter. Being willing to assess things afresh and to embrace the hard work involved in uprooting decades of bad habits makes you a rare individual.  We feel proud to have you among the audience of  our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show

While we greatly value prayer and Bible study, our answer is not going to be to read a few verses of Scripture or an exhortation to pray harder. We have something far more challenging for you to undertake.  But it will work.  We believe that when it comes to working on our character traits, only actions count.   You should certainly pray for His assistance and there are many verses that can speak to your heart, but you need to take action.

One of the great flashes of Biblical insight that we can all use effectively to transform our lives for the better is this: It’s not our thoughts that change our actions as much as it is our actions that change our thoughts.  Act now the way you would act if you already felt the way you wish you felt and your feelings will eventually fall into compliance with your actions.  Please reread that last sentence again.  Then you will understand why there is no more ardent advocate for the anti-smoking position than the former smoker who took the profound action of quitting. 

Rather than trying to acquire patience and understanding as emotional abstracts in the hope that they that will then change your actions, realize that changing your actions (even if, at first,  it feels false to you) will result in greater patience and understanding. The trick is consistency and expecting a long race, not a sprint.

Therefore for right now, focus on the specific few actions you most wish to start doing and upon those you most wish to obliterate from your repertoire

Having watched yourself follow in some of your father’s damaging footsteps, you are well aware of the negative consequences of your behavior. We would like to offer four concrete ideas with which to start your journey. 

  1. Pick one or two very specific things to work on that are within your reach. Trying to do too much almost inevitably will lead to giving up. Perhaps you can make one positive and one negative resolution. For example, commit yourself to one hour a day—maybe in the morning or at dinner time— when you will say nothing negative to or about anyone!  At the same time, commit yourself to noticing and articulating something once a day that your wife does for which you are grateful or something you appreciate about her. If you are critical outside that hour or fail to thank her properly for everything she does, don’t beat yourself up. Once this hour of the day and this one positive statement have become routine and easy, add another incremental step. You might extend the time to two hours. 
  2. Start your day by writing down in a private notebook three things for which you are grateful.
  3. Each night before going to bed/sleep, maintain a written daily journal of your successes and failures that day in the specific area on which you are working. This keeps you accountable to yourself and to God. If you have a male friend in your life to whom you can report once a week, that will be a great help. He should be someone who can provide strength and support as you fight this battle.
  4. Let your wife know how much you care for her and how you are working to be more worthy of her. Ask her to have patience with you as you strive to improve. You and she must both know that you will sometimes fail. Greatness comes from trying again and again.

Based on our experience with many other wonderful warriors fighting the war of personal development, we can confidently say that using these four tactics, we expect you will achieve encouraging results by the end of the first thirty days. Then on to the next stage!

The American folk-artist known as Grandma Moses began painting seriously at the age of 78. The original Moses began his career in leadership at the age of 80. Harland David Sanders was older than you are now when, after a lengthy string of business failures, he got the idea of franchising his chicken recipe, creating Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Ignore any voices inside of you telling you that you are too old or entrenched in your ways to change. As ancient Jewish wisdom states, “According to the effort is the reward.” It also says, “Who is strong? He who can overcome his bad habits.”

May your efforts bear fruit and bring happiness to your family,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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I (Don’t) Wanna Shake Your Hand?

October 30th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 36 comments

Lately, almost whenever I meet salespeople and also socially, people extend their hand to shake. As a woman I do not want to shake strangers’ hands.

Recently a car salesman approached my husband and then me. I kept my hands behind my back and smiled at the salesman. He asked, “Do you not want to shake my hand?” I said I was in covenant with my husband and do not shake hands.

However, I do NOT want to hurt people’s feelings. Do you have a polite, kind way of avoiding the handshake without going into detail? I would appreciate a ‘tool’ for this new lunging intrusion.

Thank You,

Catherine

Dear Catherine,

We are fascinated by your question. When I (RDL) was growing up under the flag of the British Empire, there were definite protocols accepted by the entire society. It was a woman’s prerogative to choose whether to extend her hand to a man or not. For a gentleman to put his hand out first, reflected gaucheness and bad manners.

To this day, men about to be introduced to Queen Elizabeth II of England are warned not to extend their hands until and unless the Queen does so first.

Like you, I see that this is clearly not the case today, at least in America. And from a Jewish perspective, it is awkward for me when a woman puts out her hand to me to be shaken just as it is awkward for my wife when a man does the same.  We believe it best to refrain from all physical contact with the opposite sex (outside the immediate family), including shaking hands.

If we have an ongoing relationship with that person, we describe our position and how we reserve physical contact for immediate family members. Sometimes we relate how as our children reached adolescence, having absolute standards about members of the opposite sex not touching each other in any way helped them to have healthier lives. That is something most people can understand.

We have always been treated respectfully once we clarify our position. We can’t tell from your writing if the salesman you encountered was being confrontational or if he was giving you an opening to affirm your choice.

However handshaking, and even a social hug, are so prevalent in society today that even when we have explained our position, acquaintances we only see sporadically often forget. In addition, we frequently meet large groups of people who have the warmest intentions when they extend their hands, so we often find ourselves in the same situation as you.

Like you, we are torn between two conflicting standards, both of which are important to us. The strong desire not to embarrass anyone exists side by side with discomfort and a religious difficulty with such physical contact. We wish we had a magic tool but we don’t. Perhaps if enough people speak about this issue, awareness will spread so that more people will pick up on cues such as someone giving a friendly smile while keeping hands firmly at his or her side.

Here’s waving at you,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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My Mother-in-Law is Impossible

October 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

Do you have some wisdom for me?  My mother-in-law has been a constant strain on our marriage.  To give an example:  This last weekend we made a special trip to an amusement park where we joined up with my in-laws.  While we were there,  my mother-in-law did everything she could to keep my husband from riding rides with my children or being around me. 

It went so far, that my mother-in-law spun the old story: about how she used to carry my husband around everywhere and she made him promise that he would one day carry her around.   After this retelling of the story,  she got him to carry her around like a bride crossing a threshold for 5 minutes.   🙁  In the amusement park.  🙁  In front of everyone.   🙁

I don’t know what to do. I have so many in-law stories it is ridiculous.   I keep making myself choose JOY because it is a choice.  At the same time however,  I would love to hear some teaching for me or me and my husband, on the topic of unhealthy in-laws and healthy in-laws.  This way maybe I  can be a good mother-in-law someday, and my husband and I can traverse this choppy ever recurring water. 

Signed,

Your friend

Dear Friend,

We absolutely love the way you are using a problem in your life as a springboard for training yourself for the future. The Bible repeatedly tells the children of Israel to be kind to the stranger “because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”  Obviously, the Hebrews had little choice and didn’t want to be strangers in the land of Egypt but people still  can choose how to react when they are treated badly. Tragically, some take the attitude of “payback time,” looking to mistreat others as they were mistreated. You have cleverly and bravely adopted the Biblical response of using your own mistreatment to make you more sensitive to others.

Nonetheless, you and your husband do have a problem. However, it may not be the one you are thinking of. Let’s  focus on the phrase you used, “…she got him to carry her around…” As an adult, your husband made the decision to carry his mother around. Your mother-in-law may be difficult; she may be very difficult, but she probably did not whip out a pistol and force her son to do so. The problem is not your mother-in-law.  The problem is that you and your husband haven’t yet got onto the same page dealing with this problem as you most likely have for so many other issues in your married life.

We   suggest that you and your husband get on the same page. You both can choose joy, which is a valid choice because the joy comes from observing the Fifth Commandment and you both also need to decide where to draw the line. You don’t mention if you get together with your in-laws once a year, once a week or somewhere in between. You also don’t mention what your father-in-law’s reaction is to his wife’s behavior. These all should be taken into account. Is it possible that over the years your husband has learned an unhealthy tolerance of your mother-in-law’s antics from his father?  Have the two men in her life, her husband and her son, enabled her disturbing eccentricities?  Another possibility is that you have told your husband that you can handle this type of behavior – and maybe you even thought you could – but that is no longer true?  Whatever the case, the necessary solution must spring from you and your husband talking about this honestly and arriving at a joint decision which, since she is his mother, he will have to summon up the determination to act upon. 

However often you see her, you know in advance that your mother-in-law will most likely make an irrational demand or do something to cause friction between you and your husband (examples we didn’t print showed this angle). The two of you must decide what types of demands you will agree to and at what point your husband (not you) has to intervene or refuse. Being firm when necessary and declining a request does not constitute violating the Fifth Commandment. 

As for proper behavior of in-laws, the most basic one is knowing that your child’s first loyalty should be to his or her spouse and family rather than to you. Respecting parents has very specific meaning. It is not a broad and undefinable sentiment. We personally do not agree with the oft-repeated statement of, “Close your lips and open your pocketbook,” but we do agree that thinking three and four times before saying something that could be seen as interfering in a married child’s life is a good idea. So is doing whatever you can to form a loving relationship with the new member of your family.

We think you are well on your way to being a great mother-in-law,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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She’s offering me security. Is that enough?

October 16th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 34 comments

I am in my late 30s and not doing so well financially (but that’s absolutely about to change having come in contact with your teachings).

I am currently with a lady who is 5 years older than myself and doing pretty well for herself. Should I for financial security settle down with her even though I am not totally confident when I am with her in  public, or leave her and take my chances?

Francis H.

Dear Francis,

While we take great pride in our books, CDs and DVDs and our many other resources and we are elated about the many thousands whom they have benefitted, we’re afraid that we have to question your assumption that they will help you. We are not sure you are ready for them.

We say this because your letter reveals a very unmasculine passivity. One can be in his late 30s and go bald without having done anything to have caused that to happen. You can be in your late 30s and be less agile than you were at 18 even if you eat healthily and exercise. You don’t get close to 40 “not doing so well financially” without having taken some wrong steps in the past and having failed to take some very necessary right ones. Our resources, we feel, are superb but they are not magical elixirs— in order to be effective, and they can be stunningly effective, they need commitment, hard work and willingness to significantly change. Are you ready for that? Think seriously; are you really ready for that?

If you are even thinking of marrying a woman in the hope of her providing you with financial security then we ask you to consider that perhaps there has been a little role reversal going on in this relationship?    We ask you to consider whether, at this point,  you have  the backbone for really hard work. Marriages between younger men and older women are, of course, not automatically doomed, but five years is quite a difference and we detect a desire on your part to be taken care of rather than to be her provider and protector. How can you expect her to respect you when you confess to a lack of confidence when you are with her?  What exactly are you offering her? What do you bring to the table?  That is both a legitimate and an important question.

While it flies in the face of today’s dreadfully defective cultural norms, we would like to remind you that a woman brings herself to a relationship.  And her grateful  man, in turn,  brings his performance, his power, and his productivity.  She gives herself to her man. He gives her the world. Every dating website survey confirms ancient Jewish wisdom that women seek ambitious doers. They are right to do so.  While the whiny boys of our culture decry women as ‘gold-diggers’ and worse, real men recognize that women galvanize their drive.  This is why other than in a few outlying cases, married men vastly outperform their single brethren. 

You ask whether we think you should leave her and take your chances.  Those words you used strongly suggest that you view her as your lifeline to security.  Not good.  We certainly don’t suggest leaving her and “taking your chances.” What we do  suggest is breaking off the relationship and allowing her to find a man with something to offer her.  We suggest that you throw yourself into rebuilding yourself from the ground up physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. The very good news is that you wrote to us, indicating that you are well aware  that something in your life is off.  Reaching out for help is a wonderful first step You know that you are at a turning point and that you really  can have many productive and successful years ahead of you. We  suggest you avoid thinking of involving a woman in your life until you see concrete proof that you are on your way to being a new man. You can do this—go ahead and seize the opportunity.

Give it your all,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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How do you keep current events from getting you down?

October 7th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Hello Rabbi Lapin and Susan,

I am generally an optimistic person, and the Jewish faith we share teaches us to be optimistic, even in difficult times. However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to feel optimistic about our country’s future, given the vitriolic, hateful language and actions employed on a daily basis against President Trump and conservative values in general.

This, combined with the lightning speed with which the PC forces are seeming to “have their way,” forcing us into either silence or acquiescence with things we are against morally and ethically, has given me the blues.

Do you see hopeful signs, and if so, where? Thank you.

Your friend and student,

Judy G.

Dear Judy,

We think you are speaking for many when you say that there are times that you find it hard to be optimistic about the future of the United States. As you also say, Judaism fundamentally teaches optimism, but it is not a “sit back and do nothing” optimism. The Torah demands action aimed at propelling things in the right direction.

If we may say, your own story, which you tell so eloquently (and humorously) in you wonderful book, The Skeptic and the Rabbi, is a large part of our answer. Could you ever have imagined writing the letter you just wrote us back when you were a devotedly liberal woman? People and their ideas are capable of change. 

Much of the reason you were liberal was because of a caring nature and because of your belief in core values, among them independent thinking, intellectual exploration and compassion. Back then you thought that those values belonged to the Left.  Today, however, it is clear that genuine liberalism is scorned by leaders of the  Democrat Party, colleges and media.

That very same media drives a great deal of the pessimism to which we  too easily succumb. They do not cover stories of Americans, young, old, male, female and of all religions and races who are horrified by the vituperation, hatred and lock-step thinking you describe. Many of them have a voter registration card with a “D” on it, but they are paying attention. It is incumbent on each of us to keep making connections and forming relationships, not in order to convert others to our politics, but to defy the fracturing of society that the extreme Left is promoting.

America has a tradition of religious Great Awakenings. The first played a pivotal role in the break from England while a later one was critical in leading up to the moral battle of the Civil War. We anticipate and pray for America’s third great religious awakening.  We do believe that returning to God must be part of any path to survival, and in America’s case that means a revitalized Christianity. And it is important to note that today, unlike in medieval times, a revitalized American Christianity is crucial for Jewish welfare. The threat against Jews today is not fervent, philo-Semitic, Israel-loving Christians, but America’s sinister slide into socialism advocated by the extreme Left.

Central to socialists in the Democratic Party is the idea of carving out special zones of immunity from the law and from Judeo-Christian values for selected groups. The resulting chaos of group violence, public filth and depravity and continued family breakdown imperils the survival of Jews and all other law-abiding Americans.  We are certain that only the revitalized faith of fervent Bible-believing Christians and Jews can slow down and stop this terrifying juggernaut of destructive secular socialism tearing down upon us.

This won’t be easy but a cornerstone of faith is the courage to stand up for what is right despite threats and bullying. We know that you and your family do exactly that and we believe that if enough of us do so, this nation will turn back to its founding promise. The American Alliance of Jews and Christians which we are privileged to serve, was founded to allow Jews and Christians to bravely work together to support those values on which this country was built.

Forming friendships and alliances with likeminded people is something important that each of us can do.  The Left focuses on fracturing a people into many separate groups in order to require ever larger central government and to ease its trajectory into tyranny.  Thus our antidote must surely be building community and connection.  Your uplifting book is helping to do that and we through our AAJC are dedicated to doing the same. 

The very ‘lightning speed,’ lack of tolerance and lack of restraint of the Left today, may well be the trigger that wakes enough up in order to start the process of restoring sanity. Like the proverbial frog who will allow itself to be boiled to death if the heat under the pot in which he sits is gradually raised while he will jump to safety if a blast of heat is applied, we have faith in American’s “jumping out” of the road to destruction as long as Americans are aware of it and courageous enough to stand for the truth.

Wishing you, your family, America and the world a blessed 5780,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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We’re Moving Towards God, but Come from Different Faiths

October 2nd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Thank you so much for your podcast and your books, your work is tremendously enlightening and has enriched my life immeasurably.

I grew up as an atheist and discovered God as an adult. I am struggling finding the right path for me to learn about God and follow his teachings.

My own family background is Jewish on my mother’s side, but my husband comes from a Christian background (but secular). We have started attending church because he is now also yearning to follow God’s word. I enjoy church and Bible study but feel somewhat uncomfortable there due to my Jewish background. However, I want to support my husband and show a united spiritual front to our children, and I want my children to grow up in a Bible-believing community, instead of around the toxic secular values that my husband and I grew up with in school and society.

What is the right path for me?

Sincerely,

Anita

Dear Anita,

Thank you for your warm and encouraging words.  We really appreciate hearing that we are adding value to your life.  We think that you are a wise and courageous woman. We say this without knowing you because you understand the importance of presenting a united front with your husband and of giving your children a spiritual reality and a safe community.

Little did you or your husband think that it would matter that two people, both of whom came from families with a secular mindset, had different religious backgrounds. Yet, like most couples who have blithely ventured down these perilous pathways only to discover eventually that it does matter, you too have seen the same. It sounds like you are both on a growth trajectory and that takes honesty, courage and strength.

We encourage you to allow the process to play out. While there are huge theological differences between Torah observant  Judaism and Christianity which we’d never try to blur, the truth is that when contrasted with an atheistic or secular worldview, they have much in common.

We discourage trying to raise your family as both Jewish and Christian.  Sometimes house-bound people try to look at the beautiful garden outside from the windows in two separate rooms. Unfortunately they spend so much  time darting from room to room that they actually spend very little time gazing at the garden. Far better to remain in one room and derive all the benefit possible through the windows right there in front of you.

Nonetheless, this might be  an opportunity for you and your husband to become more familiar with both religions. We don’t know where you live, the ages of your children or what church you have found but many churches we know appreciate the Jewish origins  of their faith. You can supplement church and Bible study with some Jewish sources (perhaps online) and begin to get knowledgeable about Jewish holidays and practices. Maybe there is a local synagogue you and your husband could occasionally visit as well. As with churches, you need to be careful to choose your guidance carefully—there is a great deal of nonsense available out there and there are both churches and synagogues that sadly have little to do with the Bible and God’s dominion over the world.

The important thing is finding a faith family with which you can affiliate as a family and in which each of you finds individual fulfillment as well as that warm surge of deep inexpressible happiness when engaged in something meaningful together with your family.

Initially, simply accepting the idea that there is a Higher Authority and rules for living is a major step. Recognizing that those rules for how the world REALLY works are formulated in God’s message to mankind which he presented to Moses on Mt. Sinai is next.  You and your husband ought to engage in a weekly Bible study together and into which you can include children as they reach appropriate maturity.  Way down the road, it is entirely possible that members of your family might choose different paths and you will need to figure out how to make that work, but right now you are at the very beginning of your explorations.

Meanwhile, we applaud the steps you are taking and your commitment to your family and its exciting spiritual odyssey all together down one spiritual path.

May you thrive in your journey,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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I Can’t Sleep, but I Don’t Want Medication

September 25th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

I have been having trouble sleeping lately. I know I should go talk to my doctor about it but I don’t want to be put on medication. I have been having these anxiety attack for over 4 months now.

I find comfort and instant relief when I read the bible. Do you have any other suggestions for me?

Thank you.  I look forward to your answer

Enid

Dear Enid,

We “coincidentally” saw your question as we were having a discussion about the increase in anxiety in society today. It is hard to avoid the word, whether you are talking to educators, medical professionals, reading ads touting medication or simply keeping one’s ears open.

This should not surprise us. At one and the same time our society has been increasing the voices sounding doom and gloom while removing those constants that anchored us. For years now, schoolchildren have been used as pawns to attend rallies and write politicians and newspapers in order to preempt terrible consequences. It didn’t matter if the feared enemy was loggers (presented as a menacing threat when our children were growing up in the Pacific Northwest), corporations, or political positions and candidates. Something or someone was/is always threatening their world. More than one generation of adults has now not only failed to protect the innocence of the children with whose care they were entrusted, but has actively hurt them. The first generation of those children are now grown and, not surprisingly, increasing numbers of adults find the world a scary place.

We are bombarded by news reports delivered in anxious voices. A constant barrage of negativity assaults us. That is what grabs our attention and sells the products paying for the sites delivering the news.

At the same time, faith in God, in family and in country is eroding. While believing in God does not mean that bad things don’t tragically happen, it does mean that there is an ultimate plan and that the plan is good. It means that we are not dependent on weak and changeable people to decide how we should act and what we should believe. Strong families mean that we don’t have to face trouble on our own.  The Bible tells us that it is not good for any people to be alone (Genesis 2:18) yet today more people are living alone than in any earlier period of American history.  One of the best antidotes to anxiety is being together with other bright and upbeat people.  The nation’s psychic health was one of the benefits of the ancient pilgrimage to Jerusalem undertaken by most citizens three times a year. Imagine what a boost those visits must have been.  Finally, taking pride in our country empowers us to strive to keep it strong. If we have to face the world alone there is, indeed, much about which to be anxious.

Enid, we aren’t surprised that turning to the Bible helps you. We would encourage you to be proactive in other ways as well. Some ideas include  limiting your exposure to the news, building relationships so that your troubles are shared, and seeking out as friends those who express gratitude and joy rather than fear, anger and resentment. Find time each day to  make  others happy, even if it is something as small as complimenting the scarf a checker at the supermarket is wearing. Make sure your days include physical activity, ideally with some time outdoors. In other words, Enid, we can’t rule out a problem that a doctor might uncover, but living with calm is a revolutionary activity today and needs to be actively pursued.

Sweet dreams,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Why Don’t Men Get It?

September 18th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

Hello Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

Thank you for all your useful teachings, which I enjoy on a daily basis.

I have another marriage question for you. It is interesting to me that while many women are, rightly or wrongly, the main breadwinners in their homes, they still continue to do more household tasks than their husbands do.

Why do you think men seem to be so unaware of the professional and domestic burdens their wives are assuming?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

We’re delighted that you find our writings valuable and regret that we cannot answer your question just as you asked it. In order to do so, we would have to agree to be constrained by the corner in which you are painting  us.

You are making several  assumptions in the way you phrase  your question. We, too, have read surveys that show that women do more household chores than men. We have read other surveys that show an increasing number of families where wives out-earn their husbands. We’re not sure we have seen any accurate studies showing the overlap between these two sub-groups of families and that drill down into relevant details of these families. There may well be some studies like that, but our first instinct when we see studies on just about any politically hot-potato topic is to ascertain how objective and statistically accurate they are. Very few meet this reasonable standard.

You then make a huge leap into assuming that in those families where wives do out-earn husbands and in which they also assume the greater domestic burden, this uneven distribution is a result of a lack of awareness on the part of husbands. That is one assumption too many for us.

However, we aren’t going to leave you empty-handed. We often use the phrase, “how the world REALLY works.” That is a phrase that makes social engineers extremely uncomfortable. For example, how the world REALLY works is that the overwhelming majority of marriages come about when a man asks a woman to marry him. Surely, that should be a thing of the past? In today’s day and age, after more than half a century of gender egalitarianism,  why aren’t proposals 50% of the time instigated by men and 50% of the time by women? You might attribute this obvious imbalance  to men not realizing   that they can just as easily be on the receiving  side of a proposal as on the active proposing side, but that would be misleading.. You’d be ignoring  the fact that God built a world where men pursue women and both men and women (in general) prefer it that way.  Deuteronomy 22:13, “When a man marries a wife,” is where God informed us that it is seldom a case of, ‘when a man and woman marry’ or, “when a woman marries a man.” 

Every individual is a unique creation and every marriage is unique. Of course, today many people avoid marriage altogether so when we talk about married couples we are already dealing with a self-selecting  group. (Incidentally, many sociological and political studies and many media outlets, on policy, do not distinguish  between live-in lovers and spouses, referring to everyone who shares a home as married. This muddies the data water terribly.)

The questions we would rather ask—and we are working on a book that discusses this idea—is, “Do men and women relate differently to the process of earning money?” “Do men and women relate differently to their homes and families?” Our short answer is yes, which means that we reject your question as you ask it. Instead we would suggest that only people who do not understand how the world REALLY works think that earning money and taking care of home and family can or should be divided 50/50 among husbands and wives. Only people who do not understand how the world REALLY works would expect traditional roles to be reversed in a seamless and painless fashion.

Obviously, every couple can and should make its own decisions. However, we do think doing so without acknowledging the laws that God built into the world and by which most people will thrive is akin to taking up smoking a few cigars a day on the basis that George Burns did so and he lived a long and healthy life. Maybe you are an exception to a general rule, but more than likely you are not.

Hope you don’t find this non-answer  too disappointing ,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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