Posts in Ask the Rabbi

I hope you’re wrong about population growth!

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

I enjoyed reading your book and continue to get value from your excellent podcast(s). Recently you discussed the biblical case for never-ending population growth, and that it requires over 3 new people to care for one older person.

Do you consider this an absolute that cannot be addressed through human ingenuity and technological advances? It would seem that never-ending exponential population growth would eventually become either unsustainable, or at least undesirable.

What would be wrong with a stable birth (replacement) rate and why couldn’t civilization sustain itself with a stable birthrate?

Signed,

Doesn’t Like Crowds 🙂

Dear D.L.C.,

Where to begin? Perhaps with appreciation for your kind words about our books and podcasts.  You already know that the motto we regularly use is, “How the world really works.” What we mean by this is that many ideas sound quite wonderful and many public policies sound like “any normal person” would want them implemented immediately if not sooner.  These include free health care for all, minimum wage laws and graduated taxation.   History (remember when they used to teach that at Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools?) reminds us that in spite of being revived every few decades and in spite of them being imposed in different countries, they never work quite as intended. Yet, so strong is the emotional commitment that many feel towards these ideas that even when people acknowledge that they failed before, they are confident that this time will be different.

Population control is one of those ideas. You mention that you don’t like crowds, a sentiment that you probably share with many others. Though it is interesting, isn’t it, that solitary confinement is not a reward for harried mothers or a benefit granted to overworked employees, it is actually a torture!  We venture to say that if you were forced to choose between living in populous Hong Kong or on Pitcairn Island (settled by the HMS Bounty mutineers in 1790) with its 56 individuals averaging only about 25 people per square mile, even you might choose Hong Kong with its density of about 20,000 for every square mile.

We realize of course that one can’t effectively argue something by pointing at the extremes.  Just because neither Pitcairn nor Hong Kong is ideal doesn’t argue against population control, so let’s see what the issues really are.

Just one little correction to something you said as we head into our answer:  What I said was that it takes at least three children to care for two parents.  Now we’re analyzing how the world really works. 

Some couples will say, “Hey, we aren’t going to have children and we don’t need to be supported by our children because we have retirement plans and investment portfolios.”  Again, it sounds good, but the theory collapses under economic scrutiny.  You see, whether your children support you directly as happens in less developed parts of the world or whether they support you indirectly, the numbers stay the same.  What is indirect support?  When grown children purchase the goods and services sold by the companies whose stock is held in the parents’ retirement plans and investment portfolios, they are making it possible for those stocks to pay the dividends upon which those parents depend.  There is just no getting away from this basic economic reality—you need more people in the coming generation in order for those in the previous generation to survive.

For everyone currently in their earning years to make a living, there must be a larger population of children coming up.  Whether you run a shoe store or whether you’re a plumber, teacher or dentist, this is an inescapable truth.  This is why almost without exception, every country with a shrinking population, depicted by an unstable upside-down pyramid, shows declining economic outlook.  By contrast, countries whose population figures resemble right-way-up pyramids tend to have vibrant and optimistic economies. 

The United States in 2018 had a population 16% bigger than it had in 2000 while Japan’s population shrunk by almost the same percentage in that period.  Not surprisingly, in spite of almost no unemployment, Japan’s Gross Domestic Product continues to diminish year by year.  They are being done in by demographics.  The same is true for Italy and several other developed countries.

Countries like France and Germany who, watching their declining population, saw the economic writing on the wall and recklessly decided to solve the problem by bringing in millions of immigrants have not fared well.  This is because the future is secured, not merely by a growing head-count but by an increasing population comprising like-minded individuals who share a common culture. 

While certainly not pointing a finger at any particular real-life couple, one could argue that those who choose to remain childless will have their lives subsidized by those who made the tough decision to have and raise children.

In 1968 Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich advised Americans to stop having children in his best-selling book, The Population Bomb which confidently predicted that before 2000, millions of Americans would be dying from starvation.  This did not happen.  Of course, the most common American food-related problem is obesity.  Nonetheless, Paul Ehrlich is still educating the children of those who didn’t take his advice and who feel such wisdom is worth $60K a year tuition. 

You ask whether this absolute necessity of a growing population can’t be addressed by technological advance.  This is a bit like asking, can humans’ need for food be solved by human ingenuity?  The answer is that our need for food and water cannot and will never be changed. All that technology can do is make it easier to obtain food and water.  Likewise, people who want to eat must live in a society with more population each generation.  All that technology can do is make more variety available but since human dreams and desires expand with availability, every two people are still going to need a minimum of three people beneath them. However, they will live in greater comfort and health than their grandparents who also needed three people below them for their own more limited lives. 

You correctly observe that eventually, exponential population growth must become unsustainable.  True; if world population grew to the extent that each person had, say, only a few square feet, the apocalypse would be near.  However, just as tackling a problem too late is a very bad idea, so is tackling a problem too early.  For instance, burning coal in London’s hearths did cause health problems in the 19th and 20th century.  But banning coal in the 17th century would have been premature and tragic.  Similarly, right now, were we to place every single American in a four-person household, and were we to give each such household its own detached home on a nice quarter-acre property, all of America’s population could be comfortably housed only in that part of California between Los Angeles and the Mexican border.  Thus, whether the world will or won’t reach unsustainable population levels is unknown but what we do know is that worrying about that now is unhealthily premature. 

You concluded your interesting and important question by expressing your distaste for crowds.  Ancient Jewish wisdom describes that although most of Israel’s population would mount a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year, there was never a shortage of space for everyone.  The explanation for this ‘miracle’ is that when you’re surrounded by selfish, noisy, pushy people, even three of them is an intolerable crowd.  But when you’re surrounded by people all of whom share high values, even a hundred thousand can be pleasant.  I (RDL) have been among fifty thousand British football hooligans and it was one of the most frightening and unpleasant experiences of my life.  I have also been among fifty thousand Christian men at a Promise Keepers convention.  It was a memorably pleasant and inspiring occasion. 

When a medical team responds to a life-threatening code, even if the patient was conscious, we don’t imagine him requesting a smaller team. Each medical professional there has a vital role in helping him. If we all live with the view that our presence is to enhance others’ lives, we would not be surrounded by crowds but by support teams.

No machine is ever going to be able to replace one human heart relating to another human heart.  We believe that God’s instruction to have children and to raise them properly (the ancient Jewish wisdom understanding of ‘be fruitful and multiply’) is what is best for the world. Rather than limiting the number of blessings we would prefer to work on ensuring that we raise them to honor God and their fellow inhabitants on Earth.

Sincerely and signed–

A.D.L.C.

(Also Don’t Like Crowds, but love large groups of like-minded people with good values)

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Supporting others includes not polluting their environment!
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Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak

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Can success be too much of a good thing?

March 27th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

I truly believe that God wants all of us to succeed in what we do in life. But people I know (some family and friends) that succeeded in their professions seem to get more greedy. All they really talk about is how much money they made.

Deep down I feel I don’t know these people anymore. Can success be too much of good thing?

Greg

Dear Greg,

It can be extremely upsetting to grow apart from people with whom we used to feel close. We do hope you can find a way to retain these relationships.

Before we move on to the essence of your question, we want to raise a thought that may be completely off the wall or might possibly just be worth considering.

1. Is there any chance that the envy bug has affected you so that you are being hyper-sensitive and a bit self-righteous?

In different times and places society becomes prejudiced against the poor; at other times the prejudice targets the wealthy. Today, resentment, jealousy and disdain against those who have achieved some financial success is rampant. Frankly, it is hard not to be affected by the surrounding culture. Both halves of the equation in Leviticus 19:15 are meant to apply: “Do not make an unfair judgment: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly.”

Now that we have asked you to peer carefully into your heart, let’s move on to the issue of balance.

We often stress the timeless truth that we human beings are neither angels nor apes.  We are physical beings with a yearning for God.  As such, we are finely tuned to blend the spiritual and physical. So, for example, abandoning human interaction and focusing only on prolonged, isolated meditation and prayer is just as much of a problem as is neglecting our relationship with God and being obsessed with our gym routine or social media.

Deuteronomy 31:15 speaks of the children of Israel ‘becoming fat’ and ‘kicking’ at God. It is describing the natural temptations and risks that arise when things are going well in our individual and/or national lives. Rather than being filled with gratitude and appreciation, after an amazingly short time, we ‘kick’ at the source of our blessings. This is true in our relationship to the ultimate Source, God, but it can also be true for the foundations of our country or our family.

It is easier to be aware of the struggles involved while we are going through tough times. We sometimes ignore the struggles involved when blessing pour down upon us. Hopefully, your family and friends will adjust to their new financial realities and remind themselves of the other important areas in their lives. And, we hope as well, that you are able to retain a loving heart to those who are doing well financially as well as to those who aren’t.

Use your blessings wisely,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Am I Destined to Be a Domestic Drudge?

March 20th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 35 comments

Dear Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

I’ve been married for 9  years to a pretty great guy.   We have two boys and a girl, also a dog.  I have a full time job and I also take care of most of the inside-the-house chores and organize all the activities for the kids and family. 

My husband and I have had several discussions and sometimes arguments about sharing the household workload. We make new agreements about duties that my husband can take on, but within a week these agreements have fizzled out. When I ask him to take on tasks with our children, such as bedtime or supervising homework, it generally devolves into screaming matches between him and the kids.

My resentment is starting to affect my sexual desire for him. I feel less like he’s my partner and more like he’s another child.  I go all day from the time I wake up at 5:45 a.m. until I collapse into bed at 10 p.m.

Is this simply the reality of being a working mother? Do I have to abandon my  dreams of sharing the child care and household duties?

Do I accept that my husband is doing his best and perhaps is limited by his parenting and organizational skills? Do I swallow my anger, do I fight for more or do I just walk away?

Domestic Drudge

Dear D.D.,

We got lost between the, “I’ve been married for 9 years to a pretty great guy,” and the rest of your letter. If, as you say, your husband is a great guy, something is off-kilter. Exhaustion, resentment and anger are pretty awful things to drag around in a marriage so we do think this is urgent to deal with. It isn’t surprising that with so much negativity, the sexual and companionship side of your marriage is suffering.

If we told 1000 people that we received a letter that began with “I’ve been married for nine years to a pretty great guy” and concluded with “Do I swallow my anger, do I fight for more or do I just walk away?” we doubt that even one would guess the content of the intervening eleven sentences. 

There’s another sentence in your letter that is setting off our alarm bells.  You asked, “Do I have to abandon my dreams of sharing the child care and household duties?”

Here’s how we would have expected that question to read: Do I have to abandon my dreams of a tranquil and loving home in which  my husband and I work together to build a joyous family?

Instead, your wording strongly suggests that you are trying to implement a social psychology professor’s view of egalitarian marriage; one in which all duties and responsibilities are shared equally and identically between both spouses. (We hope we’re wrong – as we said, we can only work with the information and vibes we get from your letter.) 

In other words, is your concern that those things get done or that it has to be your husband doing them?

We have ten more questions to ask.  Some of them may hit home and be useful while others may be way off the mark.

  1. Is your husband limited by poor parenting and organizational skills?
  2. Do the two of you agree on the answer to question #1?

If you both agree that your husband doesn’t know how to help the children with homework or put them to bed, then there is no point in making an agreement for him to do so. There are lots of books, videos and workshops that provide practical advice for working with children. Rather than ask him to do something at which he feels incompetent, we would suggest working through a program together and deciding on techniques that you can both apply.

We think it possible, however, that your husband doesn’t deal with the children the way you think he should and that you criticize him when he does help out. Do the children know that if they make a fuss, you will step in and take over? While screaming at kids is notoriously ineffective and setting a bad example to boot, is there anything in your behavior that sets up an antagonistic relationship between your husband and the kids? Does he disapprove of some of your methods? For example, if you allow the kids to have screen time before bed and he is opposed to that, the two of you need to get on the same page before you can take turns at bedtime.

3) Are you on the same page in terms of your work? Are you bringing in income that you both agree is needed? Would your husband prefer you work fewer hours but were able to deal with the home front with less exhaustion and more patience? Would you prefer that?

4) Do your jobs contribute financially equally or does one job bring in substantially more than the other? Does your economic plan need a shake-up?

5) Have you discussed the idea of hiring household help? Is your need truly for help or, as we queried above, are you more focused on the idea that specifically your husband must help? 

6)  Is your husband working long hours or doing other things that benefit the family or is he on the couch channel surfing while you are taking care of the kids and home? The answer to this question is terribly important.

7) Why are you working from 5:45 a.m. until 10 p.m. at night? Do you and your husband agree on what it takes to run the home? Is one of you insisting on home-cooked meals and a spotless house while the other would be fine with getting a pizza once a week and using disposable dishes?

8)  Is having a dog really what a tense family and a troubled marriage needs, or is it the straw that breaks the camel’s back?  (And I really like dogs—RDL)

9) Have you taken a moment to think of any things that you automatically expect your husband to do. This might include bill paying, lawn work, taking out the garbage, picking up the dry cleaning, driving the kids to sports or lots of other items. Is it at all possible that that you take for granted some of that which he reliably does do?

10) Are you possibly being influenced by friends’ posting on social media, by harmful articles in magazines or by other input that leads you to count your grievances rather than your blessings?  Perhaps it is time to review the social contacts that shape each of your lives as individuals as well as a couple.

It sounds to us like the two of you skipped a stage of sitting down and sharing a vision of what your home should look like. What worked in the early years of marriage and certainly before children doesn’t keep working as life happens. Before tackling the nitty-gritty of how and what each of you should be doing, we feel that you would benefit immensely from a rejuvenating weekend away at a marriage seminar which will facilitate communication between you. It will also provide enjoyable time together that you seem to badly need. It’s possible that one or both of  your views of marriage have substantially changed during the past decade.  If things you agreed upon when you got married are no longer part of your marriage road map, considerable conversation is necessary.

Something is broken in your relationship and you are not only suffering yourself but you are also harming your children. They deserve a mother who doesn’t carry herself like a martyr and a responsible and loving father. They need to see affection and respect between the two of you rather than the resentment they now see you beaming at their father.  We know you are far too smart not to know that they are seeing this. We’re not seeing your facial expressions or body language but feel resentment oozing from you just from the label ‘domestic drudge.”

We’d throw out all three of your suggested choices—swallowing anger, fighting for more or walking away.  None of them sounds like someone who appreciates the great guy she’s been married to for nine years. 

Swallowing anger doesn’t work. Fighting for more? Fighting? Really?  This is a marriage not an adversarial corporate merger. Fighting will only intensify the antagonism.  And finally, your “Do I just walk away?”  From whom? That great guy you’ve been married to for nine years?  In order to get the extra time and tranquility that divorced single moms are so envied for?   

We would recommend reminding yourself of your husband’s great qualities, analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses and finding a way to remind both of you that you are on the same team. Make the effort to improve what you have with this pretty great guy and see it as your priority.

Finally, you ask if you must accept your husband’s limitations.  We don’t doubt that like all human beings he has his limitations.  But we advise you, in the quiet of nighttime solitude, to look deeply into your own limitations and the efforts you might make to transcend them. You and your husband can certainly both grow and learn to function better as a team. But thinking of  changing anyone is usually unproductive. You’d be amazed, though, at how changing yourself will lead others to change themselves too.

Establishing a loving marriage and providing a loving home for children is a battle worth fighting.  We look forward to hearing that soon you both feel enormous gratitude for the gift of your spouse. 

Each with our own loving limitations,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

What  has played out in the lands of Israel, Persia, Germany
and is on the move in the rest of the world ?

Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam

You’ll be amazed at what jumps out of Biblical verses through the lens of ancient Jewish wisdom.

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Can pork ever be kosher?

March 12th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

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

Miguel

Dear Miguel,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam

What is the connection between Queen Esther and World War II? 
How about Islam and Nazism? 
Are there hints to current events in Scripture?

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How can I best ace a job interview?

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

Hi Rabbi Lapin and Susan Lapin,

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

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

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

A. J.

Dear A. J.,

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

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

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

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Must I stay in touch with my siblings?

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

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

Do I owe anything to them because they are family?

Thanks,

Tom P.

Dear Tom,

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

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

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Should we emigrate or stay put?

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

Shalom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When is considering to emigrate a good option?

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

 Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you so much,

The B. family

Dear B. Family,

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

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

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

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How Do I Encourage My Wife to Dress Better?

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

Hi Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All that to basically ask,

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

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

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

Thomas

Dear Thomas,

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

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

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

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Are Sanctuary Cities the new Cities of Refuge?

February 5th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

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

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

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

Lynda M. 

Dear Lynda,

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

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

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Does God use art to reveal spiritual lessons?

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

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

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

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

Thanks,

John

Dear John,

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

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

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

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