Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Where Should My Tithe Go?

December 11th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

Is tithing still relevant today?  Is it solely giving to the church that we attend every week or we can give to other needs (needy relatives, needy pastors from poor countries…) If we apportion the 10% to our church + needy relative + needy pastors, are we sinning against God?

My husband gives to our parents instead of giving tithing because he feels that taking care of parents is a type of giving too. A relative has just lost her job and we thought of giving a part of the tithe to help tide her over.

I feel guilty if I don’t give my full 10% to God by giving only to my home church but my church is a mega church and it receives a lot of tithing and offerings.

Thanks for teaching us the real meaning of tithing based on your understanding of Hebrew and ancient Jewish wisdom.

Sincerely,

Julie

Dear Julie,

The idea of being charitable is so common in both religious Jewish and Christian circles that we may not appreciate how amazing that is.  Many Americans chuckled at a series of PSAs – Public Service Announcements – that ran a few years ago, encouraing people to give 5% of their income to charity.  Millions of ordinary people routinely and without second thought, tithe – giving away a tenth of their earnings based on Biblical principles.  In fact, they don’t even see it as their money. The way we sometimes put it, is that we are glad to work for a Boss who gives us a 90% commission.

With that introduction, different religious groups encourage slightly different methods of giving. We cannot tell you what to do. Each person should affiliate with one spiritual approach and act accordingly. We can only describe what happens in Jewish circles.

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Is Airbnb anti-Semitic?

December 5th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

I’m currently an AirBnB host to earn extra money (I don’t need the extra income).  Recently AirBnB came out with a new policy not allowing Jews in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria to rent out their homes. 

To me this seems like anti-Semitism and would like your advice on what to do?  I’m debating about canceling all future reservations, so AirBnB doesn’t receive any income from my property.

Thanks,

Justin L.

Dear Justin,

We feel so privileged to have people like you reading our columns. You hold yourself to a high ethical standard and are willing to back up your convictions with action.

We’re not crazy about the term anti-Semitism because we don’t know how to define it, any more than we can define racism, misogynism or most other “isms.” Try defining these terms for yourself.  You’ll see, it is not easy.  It is far too easy to hurl labels and take refuge by claiming that you recognize it when you see it, as Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography in the 1964 Supreme Court Case. We are not fans of terms that change depending on the speaker, the day and whims and fancy.

However, what we can define is when one group is treated completely differently from all or most other groups. This is the standard that Airbnb (as well as the BDS movement, the United Nations and many others) meets. Israel is penalized for behavior that is excused, ignored or even lauded in others.

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Does the Bible have advice for losing weight?

November 27th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

I’m trying to find areas in the Bible that deal with overeating and weight gain.  I have had this struggle, like countless other women I’ve known, for my entire life, especially now after having our first son, and I’m wondering where I can find more information from God on this so that I can have more success in this area.

Thanks so much!

Melissa M.

Dear Melissa,

What an understatement it is when you say that this is a struggle many women have. While the Bible and ancient Jewish wisdom have a great deal to say on eating, it isn’t explicitly focused on overeating or weight gain. 

For instance, here is the first occurrence in Scripture of God issuing a commandment to man:

And the Lord God commanded the Adam saying,
“Of every tree of the garden eat you must eat
.
(Genesis 2:16) 

 Many English translations get it wrong by translating, “…of every tree of the garden you shall surely eat”

The original Hebrew does not say “surely”.  Instead it repeats the commandment to eat.  Here is what the Hebrew would look like if accurately translated:

“…of every tree in the Garden you must eat, you must eat.”

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Am I doing wrong by taking government money?

November 20th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Is it wrong to receive EBT and cash aid? Am I being selfish by not working?

I’ve considered your topics on serving others and receiving money for it, would this be making money without serving others?

I would appreciate your general thoughts on this subject, but I want to describe what my personal situation is like currently.  Maybe you can address both?

For my personal situation… I am 20 years old.  I am single with no children or dependents.   I am not in any way disabled or unable to work.  I am working to get financial licenses and become self-employed (100% commission or even become business owner/broker in the future.  In the meantime, I have accepted EBT and Cash Aid in order to pay bills if I fall short on my income goals rather than (in my eyes) restrict my time to hourly paid position, leaving me less time to pursue something I feel I am more qualified for and can do-  I also have accepted EBT and Cash Aid because I felt an hourly job would/could my distract my mental focus or take energy away from the project I really want to pursue.

I really appreciate any thoughts you can share even if it simply points me in the right direction!

Thank you, (Rabbi) Daniel, Susan, and team!

Stephanie

Dear Stephanie,

The fact that you are asking these questions tells us that you want to live a life of principle and morality, for which we salute you. We would like to answer on two levels, one of objective morality, but also that of your own personal good.

On one hand, you are not lying to the government in order to get these benefits. In fact, the government tells you that you are entitled to them. Nonetheless, as a moral person, we think that in your head and heart you feel uncomfortable. In this case, your feelings are correct. The fact that the government allows or even encourages something makes it neither moral nor prudent.

We would suggest that you randomly pick a name out of the phone book and say out loud to that fellow citizen, “Gretchen Johnson, I thank you for paying high taxes to support me, and I appreciate your putting off getting your daughter a winter coat so that I can have some of your money without having to work.” “Mr. Henderson, please thank your wife for understanding that you couldn’t celebrate your anniversary with dinner out, because your taxes were raised to allow me not to work.”  We think that because of the person you are, saying those words out loud will make you feel uncomfortable.

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My girlfriend’s earning potential is greater than mine.

November 13th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

I have listened to a few of your podcasts that talk about the perils of income disparity between spouses, where the wife earns more than the husband. I’m a guy, and frankly the topic terrifies me because I’d rather drive nails through my feet than face the prospect of divorce because of this kind of thing. 

I’m dating someone who does not earn more than me but she has high potential to do so later.Am I heading for disaster?

Justin

Dear Justin,

I (RDL) often speak about the connection between money and marriage on my podcast and I (Susan) frequently cover variations on the same theme in my Musings. In this forum you get the two of us together! 

A few years ago, we did a multi-day conference in Dallas on the topic and we are working on a book as well. Some of what we write below comes out of that manuscript. So, you have touched a hot-button subject for us and one in which, not surprisingly, much of what we have to say contradicts popular culture.

One of the sentences in your letter concerns us.  We hope we’re wrong but you sound passively resigned to being terrified.  Why isn’t that fear fueling your financial climb to a new level at which that fear would evaporate?  Part of being a male is developing and feeling ambition.

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Combatting Small-Town Gossip

November 6th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

How do you appropriately defend against a false witness? Recently I have come across a situation where someone was falsely blamed in a situation. I did not witness the supposed misdeed but I know the nature of the person blamed and know them to be far removed from the type of behavior indicated from the “blamer”. I also know the nature of the finger pointers and what they have to gain from such false witness. Popularity and position.

It is not a criminal or illegal occurrence but it has tainted the individual in question to a degree within a small rural assembly. I feel like my hands are tied. Do you have any advice for this situation other than continued show of support?

I realize this may seem vague but I do not wish to create any more drama in an already ridiculous situation.  I do feel that this is a repetitive situation in small town communities. The circumstances change but the story is sadly the same. Many times over.

Karma M.

Dear Karma,

The problem you pose and the question you are raising is not confined in any way to small towns. Our society is awash in false accusations and the politics of personal destruction.

We are often in a bind. Years ago, in a more moral age, it was easier to believe the adage, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Now, it is meaningless.  The news media have become practiced experts at producing smoke with no fire; without even a naked flame.  Ancient Jewish wisdom is always uncompromising about not spreading or listening to slander or gossip.

However – and in our day and age this is a huge “however” –  an exception  can sometimes be made if there is possibility for harm by not sharing some potentially true negative information. For example, imagine being a new resident in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors are uncomfortable with their children sleeping  over at one family’s house.  They can’t substantiate their concerns, but there is general discomfort. Should they fill you in or not?

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Choosing Childlessness

October 30th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I am 32 and married 3 years ago. My husband and I do not like children and thus we choose to be childless. Is that okay?

Jia Mun

Dear Jia Mun,

We aren’t sure what ‘okay’ means and we know almost nothing about you and your husband. From the fact that you wrote asking us, we assume that you aren’t completely confident with your decision. Perhaps we can suggest some avenues to explore.

We come from a Biblical perspective that says that God’s preferred architecture of life is for people to marry and raise families.  Getting married and becoming a parent are ideally both steps that discourage self-absorption and teach us the great human thrill of bringing good to others. God wants us to connect to others and countless modern studies show that being connected to family and friends is not only a formula for happiness but also one for health.  Like so many other improvement projects, connection works best from the inside out. In other words, the most effective way to set about developing a love for humanity is to start off exercising our love on our own children.  After that, upon the children of our loved ones and then moving on outward from there.

You say that you and your husband don’t like children. We confess to feeling a bit perplexed.  What exactly do you mean by that?  We do understand that having a child makes a massive difference in one’s life and we understand that this can be terrifying.  But for you both not to like children sounds a little hard to understand.

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I need new skills for my job

October 23rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

I thank you for all the sound advice you give. I enjoy your teachings because of all of the insights. It helps me to see why I sometimes make the wrong decisions and how to make improvements.

I need your advice because I am about to make changes in my lifestyle. I have to make improvements to my writing and how I speak. My last job I did not deal with people of high quality and as a result I began to neglect how I communicated. Now I am planning on coming into contact with people who are educated and I feel that I need to improve in the area of communication and how I express myself.

I would love to hear your advice on how to best prepare myself on how to communicate and to express myself to a much better educated group of people. I know that my writing has to be improved as well.

Thank you very much for your answer.

Francisco D.P.

Dear Francisco,

Congratulations on embarking on a program of self-improvement. That is a lifetime quest, but we all emphasize different things at different times and you now want to focus on communication.

Before giving advice, we would like to quibble a bit on the equation of high-quality people with educated people. We have known many high-quality people who did not even graduate high school and very low-quality people who have multiple Masters degrees. Nonetheless, speaking and writing correctly is something to which we should all aspire.

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I feel like a stranger in my own home.

October 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 27 comments

My husband (second marriage for both of us)  and I live in a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house. Our 24-year-old nephew is living in the house with us for the purpose of learning my husband’s trade and going to college part time. I am feeling uncomfortable with this arrangement as he is not my blood relative and he has asked me if I am “trying to give him hints” which I don’t think I really answered at the time due to being caught off guard.

Later I explained to him I am not his friend, I am his aunt. I see my role during this time as helping him to get up and out on his own. I told him he needs to go out and make friends of his own age. He moved from another state and has not made much of an effort that I know of to be social.

I never explicitly talked about the “hints” comment with him, but mentioned it to my husband who said we don’t really know what he meant by that but if it ever comes up again they will have to have a man to man talk.  I tried to not worry about it, but am as careful as I can to always dress very modestly, and try not to be alone with him.

He is doing well in his work but I feel profoundly uncomfortable with this arrangement. I told my husband I would like to be able to shower in our camper in our yard and I even said I would be ok with living in the camper until we are able to find another way to work things out. My husband is not in favor of me living out there but is ok with me showering out there, however he has not had time to set it up for showering yet.

I sometimes shower in the middle of the night when not too tired or wait until the weekend to shower, when our nephew goes to stay with his birth mom, step dad and half siblings about an hour away. He is supposed to be with us a year.

Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Susan, please share your thoughts with me on this.

Dear Acea,

We know exactly what we want to tell your husband, but unfortunately he isn’t asking for our advice. Will he pay attention to our words? If not, you need to find someone to whom he will listen. If there is no one (or no one who will give the correct advice) then this is one of those times where you must stand up for yourself with strength and determination.

The short answer is that this is unacceptable. It isn’t just a minor issue.  It is absolutely and completely not ok. Your husband has an obligation to provide you with a home in which you feel comfortable. For you to need to shower in the middle of the night and feel nervous and on edge in your home means that he is failing in his duties.

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Is it too late to flourish?

October 9th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

At age 65 and as a divorced man, is it too late to be the man God originally intended me to be?

I had a pretty successful career financially but never fulfilled the passion and purpose you speak about that men must have.  I think after 32 years my wife decided she had better strike out on her own because she didn’t feel I was the man who would provide and protect in the long haul. Together we had built what I thought was a good life and good family.  Sadly, I see where I fell short.  

I have just finished taking care of my ailing mom for two years prior to her recent death at 93. The challenge is now that my assignment is over, and having put my career on hold for 2 years, I am now 65 with the corporate world asking where have you been and why don’t you just retire?  I know retire is not in the bible and I still have full energy, capacity and drive to make a difference.

My question is at 65 is it too late to be a real man, and fulfill the destiny God has created me for?

Regards,

Rick E.

Dear Rick,

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you! If you bring energy, capacity and drive to your work, then you can accomplish a great deal. My (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) own teacher and uncle, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian, embarked on his most famed and productive work when he was in his seventies. 

We hope you already know that Colonel David Sanders built up the Kentucky Fried Chicken company between his seventieth birthday and the time he passed on, aged 90.  Samuel Walton didn’t get the Walmart company going until he was nearly 50 years old. Raymond Kroc only conceived of the McDonalds vision when he was well into his fifties.  And these are just a few of the more prominent examples of people who found their economic niche late in life.  There are millions of others who built up successful, if lesser known enterprises after a late, late start.

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