Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Sharing downloads – is that ok?

September 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments


 I recently downloaded Tower of Power from your website. Is it ok to share this with people inside my organization or should we purchase a separate copy for everyone? 

 Thank you, 


Dear Mike,

Before answering your question, we want to compliment you on asking it in the first place. The question shows a sensitivity that suggests that you run your business on ethical grounds and that you don’t box ‘religious behavior’ into only some parts of your life while you isolate it from others.

We are delighted for you to share our teachings in the same manner as you would share a physical book. You are welcome to assemble a group and listen to the download together just as you might read aloud from a copy of a book that you own. You can also pass on a book you own to one person at a time and as such could pass on your download to one person at a time.

What is not permissible, according to both Scripture and United States copyright law, is to xerox a book in place of buying many copies. You will find a note of this prohibition in the front of most books.

This works for ebooks and audio downloads as well. When a library buys a downloadable copy of a book from an author, they purchase each copy they will be making available. If all the copies are “out” you will be put on a waiting list for the ebook. The library cannot lend out limitless copies. Similarly, we do request that you not copy the download of Tower of Power and distribute it.

As our society becomes more virtual and less physical, it is so important  to ask questions just as you are doing, to make sure that we don’t inadvertently overstep boundaries. While no one reading this would dream of snatching a book from a bookstore while the clerk’s attention is elsewhere, our minds don’t automatically transfer our ethics to new and different situations.

Back in the 1980s when the idea of purchasing software was in its youth, many people copied software for their friends. It took a while for the industry to mature and for people to realized that intellectual property was much like any other property and that the ancient Mosaic law that has been responsible for so much of the development of civilization—thou shall not steal—applies equally.

May your organization prosper,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Is genealogical research a waste of time?

September 12th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

Dear Rabbi & Mrs. Lapin,

Please let me first tell you that I have learned much from your writings. I appreciate your knowledge, willingness, and even courage to boldly share truth with those who have ears to hear.

My question:  Is it wise and worthwhile to spend time and money investigating one’s genealogy?  What do you think of the DNA tests to discover where your ancestors lived?

I was adopted and have discovered my biological family through DNA testing.  I am over 60. My bio and adoptive parents are all deceased. I continue to think of my adoptive side as my “real parents and family”. However, the treasure hunt for older blood ancestors and lineage has been quite interesting.

One concern I have, which I’d like you to address, is whether I spend too much time in research. It can take hours and hours of looking at records to find and confirm even one person. I would say though that some of those ‘finds’ has yielded some very interesting and fulfilling data.

This experience has led me to better understand and appreciate the hand of God in my life. I’ve spent about 3 years now in this process and I wonder if it really matters who my 4th great grandfather was and whether he was born in Scotland or Sweden? Should I discontinue my research, if I am the only one in my family who finds this fascinating?  I have adult children who are not the least bit interested.

I do not spend time or money researching at the expense of my family’s needs. What do you think of this new craze to have your  ‘DNA done’?There are many passages in the bible about genealogy, so how does Ancient Jewish Wisdom apply to my situation? Thank you!


Dear Shawn,

Working backwards through your letter, we have to say that we know very little about the companies in business to test your DNA. We tend to be wary of fads and would recommend researching the reliability of any of these companies and the usefulness of the results well before parting with your money or your DNA. For the most part, all they tell you is about the presence of ethnic and geographic markers with limited accuracy.  Information about particular ancestors would be more interesting but that information is available only through the research that you are enjoying.

Having said that, you are correct that God’s system places great importance on genealogy. While each of us is an individual, we are also links in a chain. Much of today’s pathologies are the result of devaluing family and pretending that caring who one’s parents are, in particular fathers, is irrelevant and unimportant. Many men who saw an easy income stream in becoming sperm donors while in college found, to their shock, that the offspring they put out of mind were eager to find them.

Physical and spiritual adoption are also a part of the Bible. Mordechai raised Esther after the deaths of her parents and Joshua, rather than his own sons, became Moses’ spiritual heir. While you cherish your adopted family, it is not surprising at all that you are curious about your physical antecedents.

We’re not sure why this hobby is any different from golf or collecting duck calls.  While it would be nice if you and your children shared this interest, as long as this isn’t interfering with your family’s welfare, why shouldn’t you continue? It is very possible that as your children get older, they will find that they are, indeed, grateful to know more about their background.

You sound very aware of the limitations of time. If you spend hours researching a relative, those hours are not available for other pursuits. If you are not minimizing more important areas of your life, but this is your “free time” relaxation, then not only do we see it as a benign activity, but one that is clearly filling an emotional need of yours. That sounds like a good deal.

Happy hunting,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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I can’t seem to break away from bad ways.

September 6th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

Please, what can someone do to break away stubborn yokes of many years, that has defied fasting and prayers?

Kamaldeen R.

Dear Kamaldeen,

First of all, accept our admiration for being the rare person who evaluates himself morally and works upon himself for improvement in the eyes of our Heavenly judge.  The timing of your question is fortuitous. In just about two weeks millions of Jews around the world will  observe Yom Kippur, known in English as the Day of Atonement.  Yom Kippur  is celebrated with a 25 hour fast and the day is spent in prayer. Ten days of moral introspection lead up to  the climax of Yom Kippur, the day upon which we lock in our resolve to make meaningful changes in our life.

It is not a sad day, although some Jews, who have minimal knowledge of their faith, think that it is. It is a festive day. As you recognize, little makes one happier than being able to put bad traits and habits behind and move forward in a more positive direction.

However, the fasting and praying are not, in and of themselves, the whole picture. Yom Kippur is one day out of the year. The rest of the year, and especially in preparation for Yom Kippur, action is called for. (Prayer is admittedly one action that should be frequently utilized, but not an exclusive one.)

In Exodus 14:15, when the children of Israel call out in fear as they are trapped at the Red Sea, God tells Moses to tell them to get moving and directs Moses to be active. “What are you doing calling out to me?” He says. This isn’t the time for prayer, it is the time for action.

So it is for all of us. Breaking bad habits and replacing them with good ones requires us to take practical, physical steps. We certainly can and should request God’s help, but He isn’t going to do the heavy lifting for us. That would impede our growth.

Whatever you are struggling with, make a concrete plan for tackling it. Often, the help of others is needed to make sure you are being realistic and to hold you accountable. Depending on what type of “stubborn yoke” you are battling, there may be those who will be needed to provide necessary advice and guidance.

We think you might find some support in our audio CD, Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity. (We have placed it on sale) However, the bottom line is that prayer and fasting need to be buttressed with determination, action and a commitment to work hard and not be greatly discouraged by failure. You need to get moving!

We have faith that you can build a better future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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I’m resenting always being the designated driver.

August 28th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

As a person who abstains from drinking (for reasons of self-discipline), I am often expected (usually by assumption or without asking) to be the driver for most events and parties with my family and friends.

Does my personal decision not to drink bring with it the responsibility of serving others around me in this manner? Logically, why should others not enjoy themselves at a party (remain sober to drive) if I have already decided not to drink? I sometimes feel “used,” though, because of my personal decision.

Dear Involuntary Designated Driver,

We love how the questions that come into our Ask the Rabbi mailbox make us think. Your question certainly did that.

We would like to expand your question. In many ways it is the same one as the at-home mother whose work-in-an-office neighbor asks her to sign for her packages or let the plumber into her house. We could brainstorm and think of a dozen similar situations. Basically, people are assuming that they are asking another person for something that is no big deal.

That isn’t true, of course. Driving people home means that you get home later and puts extra wear and tear on your car. Committing to answering the doorbell for the delivery man means interrupting whatever you’re doing at an unexpected time and not being able to spontaneously go for a walk. The person asking may say to himself, “He’s driving anyway,” or “She’s at home anyway,” but he is making a mistake. When asking a favor of someone we should never minimize what we are asking. At the very least, we should never assume that help is available and we should show gratitude.  If it is more than a one-time occurrence, we should take care to show our thanks with a card, gift or other gesture of appreciation.

So important is gratitude that God made Aaron bring the curse of blood upon the River Nile rather than Moses because Moses had been a beneficiary of the river, as it were, when he floated upon it as an infant.

On the flip side, you (and our hypothetical neighbor) have an opportunity to show kindness to other people. It seems from what you wrote that the difficulty is in your attitude to driving people home rather than the technical details. You feel taken for granted, which leaves a bad taste in your mouth. If you saw it differently, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem.

Can you examine your own life to see if you are ever on the other side of the equation. Is there one co-worker who frequently heads out for coffee and either offers to pick a cup up for you or you call out, “While you’re there could you get me…?” Do you assume that your spouse will do certain things and neglect to thank her each and every time? Do you ever say to yourself, “It’s no big deal” when you ask a friend for what seems to you a small favor?

Your question is an opportunity for all of us to remind ourselves that anything someone does for us is a big deal. We should be on the lookout for those “small” kindnesses that make our lives easier and happier. We should make a point of expressing (and feeling) grateful for things others do for us even – or perhaps especially – if they are done routinely. And above all we should never have an expectation that others will do us favors. A sense of entitlement is repugnant while gratitude is Godly.

In your case, because you feel people are taking your help for granted we would suggest a two-fold track. First, do some honest introspection to see where you can improve yourself in this area.  Look for occasions to express appreciation to family members and co-workers. You will be doing the right thing and maybe your actions will even influence them to do the same.

Then, the next time there’s an event where you assume you will be expected to drive, think carefully. If you truly can’t do it without feeling resentful, then let it be known in advance that you have plans after the event (and subsequently do something, even if it is going out for a cup of coffee) and, unfortunately, won’t be able to drive. Don’t sound apologetic or feel the need to say what your plans are. Ultimately, you need to decide if this is too big a thing for you to do or just one of the ways you can help out.

Safe driving,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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My father is having an affair!

August 21st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

On a day in March, 2018, I found out that my father was having an affair. The identity of the woman at the time was unknown to myself, although I did suspect it was my aunt. It took me several months of fighting myself on what to do with the information, as I did not want to harm my mother emotionally with it. But after much thought I did disclose my findings to her. However, I did not tell her I suspected the woman was her own sister. My mother had her doubts about the whole thing and I know she was in denial in order to protect herself from the hurt.

Today my sister and I after some further investigation found out that the woman is indeed my mother’s own sister. I am in anguish and torment because of the findings and do not know what to do.

This goes against every teaching we were brought up with. I’m disappointed and feel pain and sorrow. Should we keep this secret to ourselves or should we tell my mom? I thought about speaking to my father about it, but he gets aggressive and tells me to stay out of his marriage because he doesn’t involve himself in mine. Please help!


Dear Kayla,

You and your sister are in tremendous pain. The structure on which your lives were built, including values and trust in your parents has been shaken. You are angry, hurt, disappointed, betrayed, confused and if we may say so, probably a little vengeful. That is all natural. But natural is not necessarily right.


What does the Bible say about moms working outside the home?

August 14th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 29 comments

What does Ancient Jewish wisdom aka the Bible say about moms? I am naturally a hard working professional however I am also a relatively new mom.

My husband provides, I stay home with my 1 and 3 year olds. If I did work we could make some upgrades.

This topic wasn’t mentioned in Business Secrets from the Bible. What do you say about it?

Amber T.

Dear Amber,

What does the Bible say? The assumption underlying the Bible’s prescription for life is that if each person fulfills his or her obligations, the society will prosper. The basic component of the society is the family, not the individual (though of course there are provisions for those who are alone). Together, a man and a woman make a unit where each of them and any associated children can physically, emotionally and economically thrive. The unit suffers if both husband and wife do exactly the same things, just as a business partnership where each partner does exactly the same as the other would make no sense.

To this end, in the Torah, women are not obligated with most of the positive, time-bound commandments. What does this mean? Women, like men, may not murder, steal or gossip. These are negative commandments. The Torah  obligates women to observe the Sabbath and eat kosher. But commandments that require one to be somewhere or do things in a time-limited manner, such as appearing at the Temple in Jerusalem (or today in synagogue) or even being forced to testify in a court case, are not incumbent upon women. The idea is that a woman is not asked to do anything that would conflict with her ability to care for her household and children. That is her primary responsibility.


Is it time to demand a raise?

August 7th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I am trying to decide if I am wrestling with a sense of entitlement, or have I truly experienced an injustice in my workplace.  My situation is this:  I have been given many additional responsibilities at my work due to an acquisition of my company.

My workload has increased greatly, but I have not received a meaningful raise to reflect this. The painful part is that other employees who used to do these tasks are still making the same salary.  In other words, they are paid the same to do less work and I am paid the same to perform  much more work.  Another by product of this arrangement is that my opportunities for advancement have been diminished. 

Should I complain, or demand a raise?  Or, should I just be grateful to have a job?

Chris T.

Dear Chris,

We appreciate that you are trying to look at your work situation from a number of different perspectives.  However, our answer to both the choice you present in your first sentence and your question to us in your last paragraph is: none of the above.

You don’t say how long ago your company’s acquisition took place, but there is an adjustment period when any big changes take place in a work environment. An injustice, albeit one about which you can do very little, is when the boss’ nephew gets double the salary for half the work. A sense of entitlement is when the boss’ nephew expects to get double the salary for half the work. During an adjustment period, it may take time for new management to get the whole picture, but they aren’t being unjust. Neither are you showing a sense of entitlement for wanting to be compensated properly.

Thinking in either of those terms, “injustice” or “entitlement” suggests an emotional analysis rather than a businesslike approach. We heartily recommend that you remove emotion from the equation.


What do I tell my daughters?

July 31st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 32 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

After Adam and Eve eat and are questioned about the forbidden fruit, we read [in Genesis 3:16]:

Unto the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’

What is the real meaning of “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”?

I’m looking for an explanation I can share with my wife and six daughters, especially given the current Western world trend of promoting the empowerment and independence of women.

Thanks for your all your great teaching and your work creating the AAJC.

Just as an aside, you may like to know that your father, Rabbi A. H. Lapin married my parents in Johannesburg in 1956.

Dear David,

Your closing sentence was heartwarming for us as my late dad was a distinguished rabbi for many years in Johannesburg.  You reminded us of the time we were once chatting with a woman in a park. After hearing our name, she said, “Oh, your father married me.” At that point our six year-old daughter, Ruth, who was playing nearby, pulled herself up to her full 40 inches and said, “He did not. He married my grandmother.”

A direct answer to your specific question would entail sitting for many hours and studying those verses with your wife and daughters. However, there is a prerequisite to doing that learning. The Torah is a package deal. It doesn’t work well when verses are lifted out of context. That is why both sides of an issue whether it be slavery in America in the 1800s or immigration today can easily find “proofs” for their ideas by isolating a few words or phrases from Scripture.


Why don’t you live in Israel?

July 25th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I’m always wondering why your family never moved to Israel?


Susan and I did something unusual last week. While we always work on the Ask the Rabbi column together, our answers to this question diverge somewhat because of the different way each of us was raised. Susan answered this question in her Susan’s Musing and I am going to initially answer here, although Susan will join in at some point – you will see us switch from singular to plural.

As Susan said in her response, the commandment to live in Israel is one among many. While she was raised in a religious Zionist atmosphere that does encourage Jews from around the world to move to Israel, I was not. In the worldview of my family and my teachers,  the political State of Israel, founded largely by atheistic socialists in the early years of the 20th century, certainly did make it easier to live in Israel.  However,  from a religious point of view, the obligation for a Jew to live in the holy land had been no less stringent earlier while the land was under Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman or British rule. In other words, the mass return of Jews to the land after the State’s founding in 1948 was not really the equivalent to the return under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah around 400 BC. 

Not only was the State of Israel merely a political entity, in its early years there was a great deal of hostility towards religion. My great-uncle and teacher, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian, relocated to the land of Israel late in his life and opened a Yeshiva (Bible school). My parents sent me as a 12 year-old to live and study with him for a few years.  I clearly remember the taunts and provocations that came my way from anti-religious Israelis. On our part, we loved the land as Jews have for millennia, but the founding of the sovereign State of Israel in 1948 didn’t really change much.  That was how I was raised.  Needless to say, both the State of Israel and my views have changed over the years.


Meeting my girlfriend’s children

July 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

I first became aware of your work after having seen a talk that you gave on a program with Pastor John Hagee.  I subsequently purchased Thou Shall Prosper, and I think that it’s a fantastic book, and one that I often return to, not merely because of how eloquently it’s written.  

Recently, I fell in love with my friend’s wife. When we first met twelve years ago, I developed feelings of infatuation for her.  But in wanting to do the right thing, I talked myself out of them.  At the time, I thought to myself that it wasn’t appropriate for me to think such things about the woman of another man.  

Many years passed, and gradually I lost touch with my friend as our relationship began to dissipate.  I found that I remained in touch with her every now and then and would sometimes help her with assignments for her work. She eventually informed me that she hadn’t been close to her husband for a number of years, and I was shocked to hear such news.

Suffice it to say, our feelings grew for one another, and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about her.  We’re together now as a couple, and I feel like destiny has made it so.  I have felt moments of guilt for this, despite her having reassured me that they no longer loved one another.  It nevertheless is a difficult predicament to find oneself in. 

We have been talking recently about how we should introduce me to her children.  She has two beautiful children from her previous marriage, ages 10 and 5.  She has stated that she would prefer to introduce me to the children gradually and as a friend, so as to not cause trauma to them, after having been through so much with the divorce.  I do respect this, and in my heart I want so much to have a good relationship with them, and for them to like me very much.  As much as I want to respect her wishes and make her happy, I feel that it would be more honest in the long run to be open with the children and tell them about our relationship, as it would engender trust. 

Instinctively I feel that I am right about this somehow, but I feel in our current society time-honoured wisdom is eschewed in favour of theories and new models for parenting.  I would be so grateful if you have any insights that you might be able to share that relate to our situation.  

Kind regards,


 P.S – I really admire the work that you do that goes towards creating understanding between Jews and Christians, I derive a great deal personally from such works, and have found that I’ve learned about Judaism in the process.

Dear Karl,

We appreciate your kind words about our work, though we suspect that you may not be as happy with how we respond to your question here. You were absolutely correct years ago when you recognized that it is completely inappropriate to fantasize about someone else’s wife. That is even a prohibition that ranks as the tenth of the Ten Commandments!

After acknowledging that you behaved correctly many years ago, we must say that we noticed too much focus on feelings in your letter. We think that it is important anytime one must make important life decisions,  for the brain, mind and objective morality to dominate feelings.


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