Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Second chance marriage

April 21st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

I’ve been listening to your videos on YouTube and I’m so grateful for the valuable information you share.

I am a religious Jewish woman and very family-oriented. I got married at 23 which was over 2 years ago. There has been too much unsureness & insecurity & we recently got divorced.

I don’t even believe in divorce – not that it’s a religion – but basically I think there’s always something that can be done or worked on. I’d never believe that I’d go through it, & with our 1 & 1/2-year-old, but I realized so much negativity can be too much.

I’d like to be with the right person G-d willing, but aside from having a good time dating & good company how can one ensure that the person is of high value & will be lovingly there for them in the long run?

Thanks a million.

Yvonne     (name changed for privacy)

Dear Yvonne,

How can one “ensure that the person is of high value & will be lovingly there for them in the long run?”  One can’t. However, we can up the odds of entering into a positive and long-lasting marriage.

The two separate components of doing so are first, finding the best person and then second, making the union work. In God’s Biblical blueprint, neither Adam nor Eve were given choices.  God didn’t parade a choice of women before Adam like an early MIss Eden contest.  Neither did He allow Eve the option of looking at Adam and saying, “Hmm….really? That’s it?  Could You maybe show me another one?”  The emphasis in the elemental model of marriage was on what happened after the wedding rather than on the process of choosing.

Nowadays, it is not so simple; partially because to some extent, we are all greatly influenced by a deteriorated culture around us, and indeed, some of us are damaged.  For that and other reasons, choosing wisely is now an increasingly important part of the process of building a lifelong marriage.

(more…)

Where did the money go?

April 14th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

With the current stock market losses can you explain where the loss in value goes?

Brad

Great question, Brad, 

May we try to put it into concrete terms?   Suppose you owned a stock in the Weem, Acheit & Sellate Widget Company for which you had paid $10.  Now you want to sell it but you can only get $6 for it.  You’re asking, where is the other $4?  The buyer who purchased your share for $6 doesn’t have your $4.  The broker you might have used to facilitate the transaction doesn’t have it and W.A. & S. Widget Company doesn’t have it.  So where did it go?  That’s what you’re asking, right?

This question reminds us of a helpful old riddle. Three men had lunch together and the total bill came to $25.  Each man handed the waiter a $10 bill. On his way back to the table with five $1 bills in change, the waiter had an idea. $5 change is hard to divide among the three diners, so the waiter pocketed $2 and gave each man $1.

With each man having handed over a $10 and got back $1 in change, each man ended up paying $9. Multiply by 3 as there were 3 men, so that comes to $27. Now remember the $2 in the waiter’s pocket and $27 + $2 = $29.  Where is the missing $1?  Did we start with $30, not $29?  Who has the missing $1?

(more…)

How does isolation fit in a Biblical worldview?

April 7th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I live in California. The governor just ordered a shelter in place because of the coronavirus. What does ancient Jewish wisdom say about what to do about sick people in society?

John M.

Dear John,

While this is not the right venue for us to answer your question comprehensively, we thought that you and others might find  this Biblical thought on illness interesting and perhaps useful

A great deal of the book of Leviticus speaks of illnesses that are often poorly translated into English as leprosy or some other contagion. The repair for these problems involves removing oneself from the camp and being isolated. Many of us can relate more to those verses today than we could just a few weeks ago.

These illnesses were not of a physical, but of a spiritual variety. In the days where the relationship between God and His people was on a heightened level, spiritual flaws drew quick physical responses.

(more…)

My Job Makes Me Unpopular

April 1st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

Sir, I’m reading one of your books, “Business Secrets from the Bible.” You talk about making your customers happy.

The nature of my work now is to catch energy theft and fine/sanction them and at the end some are not happy with me.

I’m confused, please still explain more for me.

Thank you

Jide

Dear Jide,

In the spirit of full disclosure, we must tell you that we get pretty annoyed at letters that we regularly receive from our energy provider telling us that we use more energy than our neighbors.  The tone of voice they use suggests that they caught us stealing.  As if morality were about how little energy you use.  Absurd!   If they were to send a person to our house to fine us, we would not be pleased. But we do know that this is not what your job is.  You are employed to find those who are actually stealing electricity with surreptitious and unofficial wiring to the grid.

I am sure that many of the energy thieves whom you apprehend are, as you say, not happy with you.  A mistake you are making is thinking that those people are your customers.  They are not.  Your customer is your employer.  Allow us to explain.

(more…)

How can (the world and) I cope with so much stress?

March 26th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Hi Rabbi Lapin and Susan,

I remember that you’ve talked about dealing with anxiety and stress in previous ‘Ask the Rabbi’ columns, but I’m wondering if you have any more advice for what we are going through in today’s COVID-19 crisis?

Thanks,

Pamela T.

Dear Pamela,

You are right that we have written about stress and anxiety previously and you are also correct that there are special circumstances now. 

A crisis grips the globe and reverberates in our own homes and in the homes of everyone else.  Our own work and that of others have been curtailed and the resulting financial stress casts its own pall.  People we know and love are suffering from health complications and health workers are stressed.  There is more than enough to keep us awake at night.

Ancient Jewish wisdom gifts us with three timeless truths for troubling times.

(more…)

How Do I Stop My Customers from Hoarding?

March 18th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 30 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan,

I run the general store in our small town and the coronavirus has impacted supplies of many things that people want. I recently got in a load of bathroom tissue from my wholesaler and three of my customers came in and between them cleaned me out. They bought it all. I know they are just hoarding it in their basements; it is far more than they usually purchase. I tried to argue with them and I explained that they please should not buy more than they need. When I said that I would limit it to one package per customer, one of them laughed in my face and said he’d just come back with all his cousins. (He has a huge family) This crisis is turning my neighbors into people I can barely recognize. And it’s not only toilet paper. 

Here’s my question. Can I raise prices to encourage people to buy only what they actually need and to stop hoarding? I’m frightened they’ll slander me as a price gouger. My supplier doesn’t know when my next shipment will arrive, and even worse, my supplier says that they don’t yet know what my price will be. So at the moment, I am selling merchandise for possibly less than I will need to pay to replace my inventory. 

Can I raise my prices?

Yours sincerely,

Joe F.

Dear Joe,

We sympathize with your predicament. There is little question that right now, greater suffering is being inflicted by fear, panic, and hysteria than by the virus itself. We do want to point out that while you have unfortunately seen some bad behavior, that is not universal. Our synagogue, along with many other groups in America, has organized phone trees to make sure that the elderly and those who live alone receive daily phone calls and have people shopping for and helping them. Even in supermarkets, we have seen examples of people helping each other. Unnerving times like this tend to exaggerate character traits and serve as a litmus test for all of us.

Let us examine your question through the lens of God’s word alone and try to ignore the cultural implications. There are harsh words in English that have been used for centuries to hurl slurs against business professionals. These include price gouger, slumlord, and profiteer. Occasionally they are legitimate charges leveled at people who are practicing business in styles not intended by God in His plan for human economic interaction. Other times they are used by sickly envious people imbued with socialistic thinking who flail about their own lack of industry by using these words to attack the more successful whom they envy.

The Biblical origin of our sense of morality when it comes to pricing goods is this verse: 

(more…)

Teenage Depression

March 10th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

I have been a regular listener of your podcast for quite some time now.  I first found the podcast after returning from Israel, where I had the pleasure of staying with Jewish friends and getting to know a little more of their faith and culture.  When I came home I started searching for ways to continue learning from that worldview because I greatly admire the Jewish perspective. 

Not long ago you did an episode where you  spoke of depression and you said something that resonated with me then, and continues to stay on my mind.  To paraphrase, you said, “Happiness is not the opposite of depression, the opposite of depression is purpose.” 

I have a teenage daughter who struggles with depression; she has every symptom.  We have her seeing a counselor who was the first to mention to us that she is very likely clinically depressed.  This brings me to my twofold question; I hope you can provide information that will help us.

How does a depressed person find purpose, and how does a parent guide a depressed teen toward their purpose?

Thank you for any wisdom you have to share.

Regards,

Matthew M.

Dear Matthew,

Thank you for your kind words;  we are terribly sorry to hear of your daughter’s struggles. You are clearly a loving father and doing whatever you can including working with a counselor. We are sure you understand that anything we say is intended as general advice since we neither know your daughter’s specific situation nor do we have special expertise with teenage girls (other than having raised quite a few of our own) or with clinical depression.

Before we touch on your question about purpose, we would like to suggest that you become familiar with two resources. The first is Dr. Leonard Saks’ book, Girls on the Edge, which Susan recommended in her Practical Parenting column. Dr. Saks, a pediatrician, shares fascinating research on teenage girls. From our perspective, one of the most interesting is his conclusion as to the importance of faith in keeping girls emotionally healthy, but his book will give you much insight. We also recommend becoming familiar with the folks who made Screenagers, a movie that focuses on the effects of technology on our teens. They note that social media seems to be affecting girls, in particular, in an emotionally harmful way.

(more…)

Is Right right and is Left wrong?

March 4th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

Could you please explain Ecclesiastes 10, especially verse 2?  (The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.)

As you have taught me, this can’t be a coincidence to today’s political description of the two parties.  What is the Biblical explanation for left and right in this context? 

Thanks in advance.

Brad

Dear Brad,

Your question gives us an opportunity to point out how much influence Biblical language has had throughout centuries and throughout the world.

So many of the words for left such as sinister in Latin and gauche in French have negative connotations. In contrast, droit means right in French. You don’t want to be called maladroit or ‘not right’ as that suggests clumsiness. Right carries the implication of correct while left has overtones of left out, left behind and leftovers.

(more…)

Is a bribe always a bribe?

February 26th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

My question is on Bribe and the Biblical application. It is a problem especially here in African countries. For example, I submit my Visa Application, and I’m all qualified and I give the official a gift. The immigration official did not do anything other than what his job prescribed; he just approved the visa faster than he might have otherwise done.

What does ancient Jewish wisdom say about this and how can we escape such in our day to day business?

Michael M.

What a fascinating question you ask, Michael. The Biblical prohibition on a judge accepting a bribe is extremely serious.  A judge is a person upon whom the entire system of justice depends; he strikes a fatal blow against his society and its vital institutions by accepting bribes.  The Bible is very clear on this. 

However, you describe not a judge but a public official.  Furthermore, your encounter might just as easily have occurred with a non-governmental official, say a loan officer at a bank or the representative of a building contractor.  In any of these interactions, a ‘gift’ might have been solicited in order to lubricate the process that the vendor is already being paid to facilitate.  The Bible does not prohibit you from giving any of these kinds of ‘gifts’ however it certainly does condemn the dishonesty of the employee who by soliciting and accepting your ‘gift’ just in order to do his job, is harming his employer.

(more…)

Immoral Advertising Tactics?

February 19th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

Hello Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin.

You’ve often spoken of the moral benefit of business and “ethical capitalism.” I’m an ardent capitalist and believe wholeheartedly in the good that business has done and will continue to do. I’ve spent my entire life in business, whether it be as a paperboy, dishwasher, or as a computer network engineer, and love it.

I did want to get your thoughts about something that troubles me. Do you believe there is danger, or even immorality in some of the tactics used in advertising these days? For example, are marketers being deceitful when they push the “magic buttons” of our subconscious that make us want to buy, or at the very least stimulate our interest? Does the issue stop with advertising? Can salespeople also be walking this line?

Dennis

Dear Dennis,

How wonderful it would be if more young people saw how the trajectory from paperboy to dishwasher to computer network engineer works. One of the reasons we believe that laws raising the minimum permissible wage are immoral is because they interfere with the freedom of two people to negotiate their own financial relationship, an important part of God’s plan for human economic interaction.  One of the reasons we believe that minimum wage laws are stupid is that they remove entry-level opportunities and keep young people or those without necessary skills from getting on the ladder to success. In the real world, employers hire people who can help them make a profit. If an employee causes them to lose money because his value is less than his salary, then the company will replace him with machinery or hire only employees who have more to offer.

(more…)

Search Questions

Yes! I would like to receive FREE weekly teachings

Sign Up Now!

Do you love reading our Ask the Rabbi column? Now, get 101 favorite questions and answers in one delightful book.

Dear Rabbi and Susan: 101 Real Life ‘Ask the Rabbi’ Questions

Learn More | Add to Cart

X