Posts in Ask the Rabbi

How much of a priority is paternity leave?

January 21st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

The closing pitcher for tonight’s baseball playoff game is taking 3 days of paternity leave because of the birth of his daughter this morning. He will miss 2 games as a result.

Given that his wife had no medical issues with the birth, shouldn’t he be out there doing his job the next two nights?

Thomas P.

Dear Thomas,

We’re sorry to only get to your question now, although you submitted it closer to  October 2019, when Washington National player, Daniel Hudson, took paternity leave at the time of the National League Championship Series. However, the issue has cropped up before and since. This is not surprising when you consider that baseball teams are made up of men, many of an age when they are establishing families. In fact, baseball adopted an official paternity leave policy in 2011. Many players and officials made comments expressing the sentiment that baseball is important but family is more important.

That sounds warm and cuddly but it camouflages reality. These men are able to play professional baseball, not because it is important but because enough people enjoy watching them do so and are willing to pay for that privilege. As you suggested, this is a job.  Your local dry cleaner might close for a few days when his wife gives birth but he wouldn’t say, “Dry cleaning is important but family is more important.” The main reason he goes off to work each day is to support his family. If he has concerns that his livelihood might be imperiled if his store closes, then he will not take paternity leave but will stay open. If it came down to being with his wife and new baby for a few days or being able to provide them with a roof over their head and food on the table, there isn’t really a choice as to where his obligation lies. If baseball fans stopped attending games because their team, let’s say, loses the World Series because the star pitcher is off on paternity leave, the players will find themselves out of very lucrative jobs. That calculation should be an internal and unforced decision for the individual store owner or a baseball League to make. 

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Is it time to go into debt?

January 14th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 10 comments

My wife and I are out of debt except for our mortgage which we are trying to quickly payoff. My business has some opportunity to expand but I am unsure if getting a business loan goes against Biblical or ancient Jewish wisdom.

Thank you for your time.

Bob F.

Dear Bob,

We’re certain that you and your wife have practiced admirable discipline and restraint over the years to have achieved the enviable position of being debt-free other than your mortgage. Congratulations!

Now, on the threshold of expanding your business, you are naturally concerned about perhaps having to take out a business development loan.  This can feel like a step backward into debt especially after all your hard work ridding yourself of loans. 

Let’s try and understand God’s intentions with respect to money.  The very first time that God registers displeasure in the Bible is, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  (Genesis 2:18)  Because of His desire for us to connect with one another, God established two ways for strangers to become closely involved with one another and to care for one another’s welfare.  The first of these is marriage by means of which a man and woman who may not even have known one another a year or two ago now care deeply for each other and their families are interconnected as well.  

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Cheating thoughts vs. cheating actions

January 8th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

Is cheating in thoughts as bad as bad as cheating in reality? And how does one drive away those sinful thoughts?

Kind regards,

Julia

Dear Julia,

A piece of useful parenting information is to avoid phrases such as, “You’re such a good girl.” Obviously, it is a terrible mistake to tell a child that she is a bad girl even if she has just used your favorite lipstick to draw a mural on the wall. She did something naughty, but it does not touch the essence of who she is.  But what is wrong with the reverse?

Let’s imagine that you just watched a toddler snatch a toy from your five-year-old son. Your son gets another toy, distracts the baby with it and reclaims his prized possession. Why wouldn’t you admiringly tell him that he’s a good boy? (No, Julia, this is not mistakenly a Practical Parenting column. It is all relevant to your question.)

Your son did a good thing, maybe even a great thing. He withheld anger and did some effective problem-solving. However, inside he may have felt angry with a strong urge to punch the toddler. Telling your son that he is good contradicts his feelings and confuses him. Complimenting his action (and maybe even rewarding him) is a better idea. Our ultimate goal for him down the road is for him not to even feel angry, but acting correctly is a vital first step.

Back to adults. God does instruct us to control our thoughts. Here are two examples: Leviticus 19:17 tells us not to hate our brother in our hearts and the Tenth Statement (Commandment) tells us not to covet in both Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21. Clearly God expects us to control our thoughts and feelings.  My (RDL) mother, one time, reacted with a long, forceful and unforgettable lesson when as a child, I retorted to one of her admonitions with, “Well, I can’t help how I feel!”   I have never uttered that phrase since. 

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I want to be smart in my charitable giving. Can you help?

January 1st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I have a question for you and I hope you can guide me through with ancient wisdom.

Let’s say that  I have decided to donate  a certain portion of my income to charitable causes… So one day while standing in the pharmacy I see a person in need to get medicines for $50. Would I be a better human being if I decide to use my 50 dollars helping one individual that I come across in person or by sending my 50 dollars to an overseas region where I could potentially help 50 people to get something like sandals or penicillin?

What is your insight into this?

Juan Manuel M.

Dear Juan Manuel,

We love this question for so many reasons. First of all, we think highly of our readers/listeners and your question provides a wonderful example of why we are correct to do so. Not only do you want to be charitable, which is a good thing in and of itself, but you want to do so in the smartest way. Rather than simply trusting your emotions or giving just in order to feel virtuous, you want to ensure that you are actually helping the most you can.

Let’s make a case for each of your choices. There is something wonderful about a person-to-person connection.  Seeing someone in need and helping them directly and immediately is tremendous. The individual feels the concern of another human being and the knowledge that you made an impact on someone’s life has a positive effect on you, most likely making you more prone to give again. In the example you gave, you even know that the money is not going to support a drug habit or to buy liquor. You are providing someone with needed medicine. Furthermore, you are not burdening your gift with the administrative overhead which is an inevitable part of organizational charity.

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Should women be preaching?

December 25th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 39 comments

My question is very frequently asked in Christian circles and the answer is split. I must know what your response would be. 

The question is very simple. Are women allowed to pastor and preach? Yes or No? Please explain in detail and reference from verses. I appreciate all of your work. I look forward to your response!

Anthony

Dear Anthony,

We hope you enjoyed anticipating our response because we are pretty sure you are not going to enjoy our answer. 

If you have followed our teachings for a while, you will know that while we treasure Scripture, we find simplistically seeking substantiating verses to be rather meaningless. Partially this is because one can easily find many seemingly incompatible verses that appear to contradict one another. That is why we peruse and base our answers upon the ancient Jewish wisdom on the Bible that has been handed down for thousands of years rather than doing no more than simply reading the words themselves. So, as to your last demand, we can probably find verses making the case both for and against women pastoring and preaching, but they wouldn’t be so helpful.  

We also cannot answer with a clear-cut yes or no. How simple life would be if we could tackle life’s challenges in that way! We can answer only very few questions with no more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and none of life’s most challenging and most important questions fall into that category. 

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How do we explain to our son why circumcision matters?

December 18th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 29 comments

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

Could you help me out? We are reading a Torah Sidra [portion] every Saturday evening as a family.  We happened to read the Sidra that included Genesis 17.  I have three children and the oldest is a boy of 9. I am sure you can guess where this is going.  He had many questions about circumcision. 

  Circumcision is very important to me. My father, brother, husband and son are all circumcised.  My brother’s wife and my brother changed their mind and chose not to circumcise their two boys when they were born. 🙁

I would love my son to be just as proud as we are that he his circumcised, not that he isn’t. But, I am sure someday when he may have awkward conversations with his cousins camping or sports friends.

I just want to make sure that we, as parents, have done everything that we should explaining this very Holy covenant to my children boys and girls.  I would be heartbroken if twenty years down the road my grandchildren were not circumcised just because I didn’t convey things to my children properly while they were in my care.

Thank you so much,

Gina

Dear Gina,

Your question is a very apt one for this time of year as Chanukah starts this coming Sunday evening. Among the Jewish observances that the Greek-Syrians outlawed, was circumcision.  They also made the studying and teaching of Torah prohibited on penalty of death.   These acts of religious oppression led to the rebellion of Chanukah.

So extreme was the Greek aversion to circumcision that the historian Josephus tells us that Hellenist physicians performed plastic surgery operations ‘restoring’ the foreskin. In a culture that extolled the gymnasium and athletic games one needed to “look the part” in order to fit in. This, of course, is the crux of the episode of Chanukah—it was most of all a battle between those Jews eager to shed their connection to God and Judaism and those Jews who remained faithful to their heritage.

Chanukah is the only festival in the Jewish calendar that lasts eight days. Notably, circumcision takes place on the eighth day of a Jewish boy’s life. In ancient Jewish wisdom, the number seven is associated with nature: 7 days of the week; 7 colors of the rainbow; 7 notes in a western musical scale. The number 8 is associated with partnering with God to transcend nature. Circumcision is a statement, both to the young boy and to the community, that the incredible power of sexuality is part of his connection to God and the ability to create life is holy.  We are commanded to overcome the animalistic impulse to act as if sex is solely physical.  This rejection of secularism is central to both circumcision and Chanukah. 

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I want to support everyone’s rights – should I support BDS?

December 11th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I’m not sure if you’ve heard what’s going on in Ireland, and I’m trying to figure it out. [In Ireland and in many other places, attempts are made—often under the banner of the Palestinian led BDS  (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement to isolate Israel, especially when it comes to products made in the disputed territories.]

What I’m trying to understand is if there is any truth to this or if it’s a new form of ant-Semitism. But I also respect everyone’s right to disagree and to speak out when it comes to their beliefs even when I have a hard time with it.

I believe in standing for everyone’s freedoms and rights. I want to see no one hurt or rights suppressed. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on if that makes sense. Is this good or bad; is this a new form of anti-Semitism?

Thank you!

Helen

Dear Helen,

In general, we are not fans of accusations of “isms”. By that, we mean sexism, anti-Semitism, racism and the like. We dislike these accusations because the terms are often undefined and used as cudgels with which to bludgeon and destroy people. Too often, there is absolutely no way in which to defend oneself against an “ism” allegation.

Having said that, we are also not fans of the double standard. When a double standard exists, two entities are treated differently based on a factor that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. If a professor demanded a 90% on a multiple-choice exam from all students in order to earn an A but demanded that those of a certain color, religion or nationality earn 95% to earn the same A, that would be an example of a double standard.

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When is the time to stop grieving?

December 3rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 21 comments

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin,

My church has been under grief for over a year, due to a lady in the church losing her baby girl just before she was born.The woman had to give birth to the baby even though the baby was going to be dead on arrival due to a blood clot that stopped the baby’s heart. 

Last night I attended a women’s meeting where the women of the church old and young got up and declared that grief is always a part of us, there is no expiration date, and we just need to grieve forever, allowing grief to be apart of us.And saying things like no one knows anything about grief unless they have experienced the same thing themselves.Talking about the physical debilitation it can do to your body and so on. 

Then after all this they had the woman who lost her baby get up and answer questions about her grief talking about it for 30 minutes or more. She proceeded to make angry remarks about people whose babies had been healed and how praying and putting your grief down to live a victorious life was all more harmful than good, because a life of faith is a hard life with no advantages except for the afterlife.

Needless to say I don’t feel like this is biblical at all.Yes, we have time to grieve,but it shouldn’t be for ever and one eventually needs to pick up the pieces and move on.

Please help! Thanks ever so much for your time.

Gina

Dear Gina,

As a student of our teachings, you have most likely heard us often explain that, as important as our emotions are, we must be in control of them rather than allowing them to control us. You have successfully worked on yourself to “think Biblically”  and what you have learned is guiding you. We want to validate that your instincts in this case are entirely correct.

As you say, ‘it shouldn’t be forever’ because if it is, added to other deaths in the church community, all of them also observed forever, eventually the church becomes overwhelmed by an incessant tsunami of grief in the midst of which no celebration of anything is ever possible.

The Bible does impose a time limit on (public) grief “and when the days of his grief were over” (Genesis 50:4) and “The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.” (Deuteronomy 34:8)  Privately, one observes an annual commemoration on the anniversary of death however, imposing one’s grief upon the entire community forever is wrong.

We do want to warn you that we don’t think that there is anything that you can say or do that will change the minds of the women in your church. They seem to be following today’s general culture that elevates feelings above all else.

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Did you contradict yourselves, Rabbi and Susan?

November 27th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I would like to say thank you very much Rabbi Lapin, your book Business Secrets From The Bible is a game changer. Changed my life. I do have one question though in regard to something you wrote in Secret #18. 

You make mention that students evaluating teachers is a backwards practice. I think I see your angle with this line of thought, but I also see that the students are the customers of the teacher, or at least one of the customers. If teachers don’t receive reviews from them sometimes, how will they know how to better improve the product that they are giving the students? 

I understand that under a certain age, students’ cognitive abilities are not developed enough to perform such reviews. However, for older students, especially those in university who are paying for the product the teacher is delivering, why is it a bad thing for the product the teacher delivers to get reviewed? Looking forward to your answer.

Kind Regards,

Emanuel E.

Dear Emanuel,

You are asking a wonderful question. We always appreciate being forced to question our own assertions. One of the problems with today’s society is how often people only read things that align with their beliefs. We rarely hear true debates of the old-fashioned variety where ideas, not people, are dissected and where honest questions rather than vicious attack is practiced.

You are pointing out that we often extol the idea of a free and ethical market where the usefulness of a business is recognized by the fact that it has customers. We seem to be suggesting that the same is not true for colleges. You are saying that surely, a teacher who receives good reviews and whose classes are oversubscribed is delivering proof that he or she is successful.

In a classical and honest college experience where education was paid for and delivered as a resource, this would be true. You yourself recognize that if students are not paying for their own education, their views lack credibility. They are, in fact, not the customer. The government and their fellow citizens are. 

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My Wife is Amazing – We’re Getting a Divorce

November 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 4 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.

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