Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Reacting to the Morgue

July 10th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 37 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

This year I became a med student. Therefore, with anatomy lessons I go to the morgue. It’s a great way to learn, however, I can’t help but feel rather uncomfortable.

That got me thinking – Is it an appropriate way to learn?

God bless you.

With kind regards,

Julie

Dear Julie,

First of all, congratulations on getting into medical school. That is quite an accomplishment.

As you go through school and residency and embark on a medical career, you are going to be called upon to do many things that will make you uncomfortable. Not only will you dissect cadavers but, among other things, you will be cutting into living people and be exposed to intimate and hidden parts of people’s bodies. You will be surrounded by people in deep emotional trauma. You will sometimes make mistakes that have the most serious consequences as well as blessedly do just the right thing at the right time with amazing results.

In order to be effective, it can be helpful to remember that you are in the process of fulfilling your God-given mission to heal.  “…I am the Lord your Healer” (Exodus 15:26)  Just as He heals us, so should we emulate Him and also become healers.  You know that you will need to learn to act professionally and overcome your feelings. That doesn’t mean to cauterize your feelings but it means to control them.  The danger is that you can do that so well that you end up slightly  dehumanizing  yourself in order to do what needs to be done.

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Is it wrong for us to ask for help?

July 3rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 8 comments

I heard your podcast recently regarding the United Nations and how damaging it is to give money to poor nations without them earning it.  My wife and I are currently in the adoption process, and started an online funding page.  The adoption is very costly, so we know we needed help.

However, after hearing the before mentioned podcast, was it wrong for us to ask for donations?  Should we focus on earning the money needed for the adoption, and not ask for donations or gifts from other people?

Vinny P. 

Dear Vinny,

How wonderful to hear that you and your wife want to open your hearts and home to a child. And thank you for listening to my (RDL) podcast.

There is a world of difference between individuals asking for and receiving help and government bodies distributing money gathered involuntarily from taxpayers.  The United Nations, in a way that would horrify its early supporters who placed such faith in the body, has become a gargantuan behemoth that today frequently provides money that enriches cruel despots rather than helping those for whom it is intended. It has also become a dung heap of corruption and high-living by its bureaucrats. 

If people choose, of their own volition, to help you and your wife, they will usually do so because they know, trust and like the two of you. They will want to join you and share in the opportunity to participate in this exciting and beautiful endeavor. If, through the incredible reach of the internet, people who do not know you find your page they will hopefully do due diligence and convince themselves that you are for real and that your home will be a blessing to some child. The point is that you are giving people an opportunity which they are free either to seize or ignore.

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Who gets the inheritance?

June 26th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

My Grandparents are doing their estate planning. They have two children, one of whom has two kids and the other four. They are having a hard time deciding if they should split assets evenly between the families or evenly between the individuals.

Evenly between the individuals would seem to favor one side of the family over another, evenly between the two families would favor the individuals of the smaller family and creates a disparity between their children. Is there any biblical guidance to help think through this situation?

Austen

Dear Austen,

You may have noticed that we often ask questions as part of our Ask the Rabbi answers. Here is our question for you: Have your grandparents asked for your input? If the answer is no, then we suggest that you read no further. Not much in life is as unwelcome as unsolicited advice.

However, if your grandparents had asked us this question, this is how we would have started our response.

  • Cain and Abel
  • Isaac and Ishmael
  • Jacob and Esau
  • Joseph and his brothers

Sadly, it is extremely common for inheritance issues to split families apart. No matter what the reasoning, in the emotional aftermath of losing parents money issues become inseparable from emotional ones. Dormant rivalries and hurt feelings that go back decades move front and center. So, we firmly advise that assets be split equally among children. The money one leaves is unimportant compared to the relationship between one’s children. (The Biblical mandate for the eldest to receive double is part of an entire structure of laws that pertain to very few people today.) Peace and love among their descendants are of utmost importance to your grandparents.

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Am I reading too much?

June 20th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

Hello Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,

I am wondering if it is possible to gain “too much” knowledge. We know that Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden because of their disobedience, eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when instructed not to. However, as I have grown to understand it, their transgression was more in trying to “…be like God” and have His knowledge.

I love learning. I learn any way I can. I have a book in my hand (electronic or printed) almost all the time when I’m not occupied at work or with family. Am I potentially being sinful in my pursuit of knowledge?

Thank you.

Dennis J.

Dear Dennis,

What an interesting question! Before we move on to our answer we just want to say that ancient Jewish wisdom emphasizes (as you correctly wrote) that Adam and Eve ate, not from the Tree of Knowledge which might have suggested that knowledge itself was part of the problem, but from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

Till that fateful bite, we humans had the ability to instantly and reliably know whether a particular action was good or evil.  That ancient surrender to tasty temptation forever confused us.  Now, in virtually every wrong and prohibited action, it is tragically possible to identify good, and in every good action it is sadly possible to see bad.

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What is ancient Jewish wisdom?

June 12th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 16 comments

I read your books and listen to many of your on-line teachings very often. My question is: What is “Ancient Jewish Wisdom”?  Is it something like common sense for a Jew or a way of thinking  based on discussions among Jewish teachers or is it actual books that you are referencing. The reason for my question is to explain your teachings to others in my circle. How do I reference this source, if my main tool is the Bible.

Shami M.

Dear Shami,

We mention ancient Jewish wisdom so often that our first instinct was to go to the FAQ (frequently asked question) section on our website and then direct you there. We were a bit shocked to find that we don’t have an answer posted. You can be sure that most of this letter will find its way to that location.

We coined the term ancient Jewish wisdom to describe the oral tradition that has accompanied the written Bible since the time of Moses. God dictated the Bible to Moses during the daylight hours on Mount Sinai and during the nights he drilled the great teacher of Israel on the hidden meanings and multi-layers found in every letter and word.  Throughout the Bible there are “hooks” that remind us to look to the oral tradition. These include words that seem to be misspelled, contradictions, unusually shaped letters and unusual words, numerical values of words and so much more.

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Is my aunt using me?

June 6th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 33 comments

I have a very wealthy aunt who is in the top 1% of the top 1%. I see her every couple of weeks, when she invites me down to accompany her out to dinner or perform work around the house for her. Long story short, I’m an entrepreneur launching a very exciting and possibly *extremely* profitable business online.

In this process my biggest problem is more cash for expansion. I honestly work very, very hard and am dedicated 110%, but so much advancement could be made overnight had I been blessed with the cash to do so.

Anyway, one day I was driving my aunt to the airport (I am basically her personal assistant when she summons me to be), and she told me how nice money is to have because you therefore never have to worry about it. Without thinking, she blurted out that she donates about $150,000 a year to various and always changing organizations. Upon saying this, I saw her face immediately switch to a bright red “WHOOPS” expression.

Now I know I have absolutely zero claim to her money at all, but am I wrong to feel somewhat unloved by her now that I realize she’s pumping mind-blowing amounts of money into a multitude of other directions and rejecting mine – all the while acting like my best friend, biggest ally, and cheerleader?

Also let me just mention that when I do work around her house she will throw me $20 – $40 bucks or so, but when I subtract the gasoline I spend traveling 40 minutes each way to her house, is not as great as it first appears.

I don’t want to seem selfish or entitled – I’ve been maintaining being a good nephew and just smiling and helping her in every way she asks – but at the same time I can’t help but realize that a very minuscule percent of the money/lifeblood she is constantly spreading elsewhere, to complete strangers, would vastly advance my business, and ultimately the quality of my entire life in exponential proportions.

Deep down I feel like she might simply be using me to be her little helper when needed, and doesn’t actually want to see me succeed because then she’d lose me as such – and that’s why she doesn’t actually help financially. This is the only reason I can find for her decision not to donate to my business because she gives so much away to others. Could she be putting up a front that she is “rooting for me” and “wants to see me succeed” but really just wants to keep me where I am and benefit from my younger ignorance and desire to be a good nephew? Am I playing the fool right into her hands and advantage? Could I be experiencing a form of “all talk and no walk” by her? I really hope you answer this Rabbi and Susan as this has been a mind ripping situation for me. I sure could use your wisdom!

Drew

Dear Drew,

We found your question quite intriguing, partially because you show great maturity by recognizing that you are not entitled to your aunt’s wealth but that, since she is an older member of the family, you actually have a responsibility towards her.

At the same time, you are struggling to build a business and see how effortlessly she could solve what you see as your greatest problem. That makes you suspect that she actually doesn’t want you to succeed and leaves you with hurt feelings. You now see her as “throwing” money at you when you help her, but we’re willing to bet that she politely hands it to you and the word throw reflects your incipient resentment rather than her actions. 

We, of course, do not know your aunt nor do we know you.  However, we did pick up certain clues in your letter (which we needed to shorten but we retained both the meaning and the flavor). It seems to us that you have not yet developed a full understanding of business. This is imperative in order for you to succeed.

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What is my son’s father’s role?

May 30th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 21 comments

I trust you are well, I am a South African single mother.

My son is 10 years old and is starting to get difficult to deal with. The other day he lied for two weeks about his ear phones that he lost and said they were at school in his locker.  I called his dad to assist in disciplining him and he was very dismissive and said he must just go look for the earphones. For me it was not about the earphones but about the fact that he lied.  How do you think I should have handled this? Should have I done the disciplining just by myself or was I right by including his dad? I grew up in a household that had both parents present and when disciplining happened it was done by both my parents.

I am actually so confused and afraid I will not raise a good boy without involving his dad therefore I always see the need to include his dad even though he is not that useful. It may be because he was raised by his grandmother and mother.

I hope you can assist me and point me to scriptures I can get encouragement, guidance and strength from.

Kind regards

Bulelwa M.

Dear Bulelwa,

Our hearts go out to you.  You are bravely facing the reality that raising a son to be a good man is vitally important but not an easy task. Doing so in a home without a father is certainly more difficult.

One of our hardest life lessons is learning to deal with our reality. It is so tempting to say, “If only” and think that if we were richer, prettier, wealthier, smarter, healthier, had different parents or were born in a different place our lives would be so much better. Yet, we all have to deal with what is truly in front of us.

It sounds like you had parents who acted as a devoted team. “If only” you could provide your son with the same. You cannot. Once you accept this truth, you will be better able to face the normal challenges that come with an adolescent boy. You will have to shoulder that responsibility yourself.

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Wife vs. Friend

May 24th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 13 comments

I’ve been married for 18 years and we have 3 beautiful kids.

I think we have a problem. My husband is helping a friend by letting him borrow his truck a for little more than 2 months now. Every Thursday my husband drives the 2 youngest ones to school in our two passenger van. I asked him to ask his friend to return our truck so he could drive the kids to school safely, but he said that he is helping the friend and can’t ask him that yet.

Help me understand if I’m being selfish when my concern is the safety of the kids? On top of that his friend has been using the truck for more than two months. I think this has been enough time to get on his way, since his is getting paid regularly.  I assume he’s doing okay because I heard that the friend even loaned money to someone.

Do you think I’m being mean to my husband and his friend? I also laid out my views and concerns for my husband, on the first day he let the friend use the truck. I was even concerned that we may be holding his friend back from moving forward and  getting the better things in life for himself. 

Thank you so much for everything that you and Susan do. I watch your show every day on TCT and I’m now reading one of your books. I have a much better idea of things now because of you.

Love,

Gina S.

Dear Gina,

We’re delighted that you find our shows and books helpful. That encourages us to keep taping and writing.

You are actually asking three different questions:

  1. Is your husband driving your children in an objectively unsafe way?
  2.   Is your husband giving his friend help in a way that keeps his friend from taking responsibility for his own life?
  3. What say do you have in how your husband helps his friend?

It is possible that your husband thinks that doubling up on seating is perfectly safe but you don’t. However, we have a suspicion that your concerns do not stem entirely from the safety issue or you wouldn’t have let your husband drive the children even once in an unsafe manner.

You might be right that it would be good for the friend to become more independent, however you can’t know that for sure. It is possible that your husband’s friend has shared confidences with him that you don’t know about or that other factors are in play.

The third question is really the pivotal one in terms of your marriage. We feel that your question is far more of a state-of-marriage question than it is a child-safety question or your concerns about the friend’s own situation.

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My Parents are Separating

May 15th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

First off, thank you for all that you both do and the wisdom you dispense through your podcasts, books and teachings. I find them all tremendously valuable and you have impacted my life for the better.

I have a question regarding my parents. Their marriage has been on the rocks for the past five years and they are now choosing to separate, but not divorce, because of their beliefs. Their issue is not due to infidelity but seems to be a communication and pride problem. They have been married for over forty years and have raised five children together, of which I am the youngest.

My question is what should our response be as their adult children? My instinct is to not get involved or share my opinions because it could be seen as taking sides and it doesn’t seem respectful.

As for background: we all live near our parents, there are many grandchildren in the family, we are all Christians, and we see each other often. I am struggling to identify what my responsibility is in this situation while still honoring my parents. My wife and I disagree with them not choosing to work harder on their marriage but we don’t know if it is our place to confront them on it.

One of my siblings suggested talking to them as a group, what do you think?

Any insights you could provide would be most welcome. Thank you tremendously.

Blessings,

Sam

Dear Sam,

Your sad situation reflects an important truth. No matter how old one’s children are, divorce is going to affect them. Of course, it also affects more distant relatives, friends, social circles and work groups. We are very sorry that you and your siblings and children are facing this situation.

Having said that, your instincts are spot on. In our audio CD on the Ten Commandments we explain why the Fifth Commandment about honoring parents is related to the Tenth Commandment, “Do not covet.” In short, recognizing one’s specific place in relationship to others is something that leads to happier interactions. We also explain why the Fifth Commandment is placed on the first tablet that otherwise deals with the interaction between people and God, while the second tablet deals with interactions between people and people. Honoring parents seems to be in the wrong place. Correctly understanding why there were two tablets clears up this confusion but even on a basic level it is clear that one’s parents occupy a position that no other people do.

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Night and Day; Day and Night

May 9th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

In Genesis there is written this phrase: “so there was evening, and there was morning.”

I was brought up in a Western country and learned to think in the way of: you live, learn and work in the daytime and than you rest from your labor the following night. So the pattern is: day-night. But in the Creation story the pattern laid down by God seems to be night-day. Is this how it works?

If yes, what is the benefit to think in the pattern night-day instead of day-night? I can think of a few advantages but I hope you will help me in this.

In the same line of thinking is my related question: If Jewish people fast, do they fast from 18.00 hours till 18.00 hours or like Westerners from 24.00 hours till 24 hours?

Wouter

Dear Wouter,

You are correct that,  based on the beginning of Genesis, the Jewish day starts in the evening and goes through the following evening. There are two days in our calendar where a fast starts with sunset and last for about 25 hours, ending an hour after sunset on the next day.

You can see traces of this pattern in the Western world where Christmas Eve ushers in the holiday. In colonial days in America, Sunday observances frequently began on Saturday night. Even up until the mid-1800s stores in Hartford, Connecticut were closed on Saturday nights as part of Sabbath observance. 

Before we comment on the benefits about which you ask, we want to make clear that our day starts in the evening because that is how God established it since Adam and Eve. It isn’t a case of making a pro and con list and then deciding which we think makes the stronger case.

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