Posts in Ask the Rabbi

Should I quit my job?

June 7th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

I have been listening to you for several months now and I have greatly appreciated the wisdom you share. However, I am currently struggling to apply some of it to my profession because I work at a public school.

Yes, I teach high school music in a GIC and thus am paid by the tax payers of my school district. As such, I do not have a ‘customer’ whom I serve in any direct manner. Additionally, my salary advancement is dependent upon taking more graduate and continuing education courses rather than my job performance.

That said, I try very hard to be conscientious in my work and diligent to serve my students and the community which is paying my salary. However, even I have found it difficult to be motivated at times to do my best work when I know it will make no difference in my paycheck.

I should note that I am a Christian who really believes God called me into this position five years ago, but I am not certain I should stay long term. Based on ancient Jewish wisdom, what would you recommend to someone in my situation? Should I stay in the teaching profession and attempt to counteract the ‘government indoctrination’ of which you speak? Or is my young family best served by me pursuing a different line of work?

Thank you for taking the time to consider my question!

David V.

Dear David,

We’re delighted that you have been finding value in the weekly podcast. You may have heard me (RDL) say that my job is not to massage listeners with warm butter but to tell them the truth. Since you asked this question about your professional life, we are going to show you respect by answering it honestly and directly without any sugarcoating.

You are most likely filling an important function at the GIC (Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools) where you teach. Not only are you exposing your students to music but you are also, we are confident, exposing them to an excellent example of a Christian man.

However, while you are doing your students some good, as the years go by you will probably not be doing the same for yourself or your family. There are a number of reasons why this is so and you have articulated one of them. (We are going to be incredibly non-politically-correct now and note that we are writing this answer for you as a man, husband and father. We would give a different answer to a woman, wife and mother.) When increasing your salary has nothing to do with how you perform your job, you will be very susceptible to gradual and incremental loss of self respect. As an honorable man you will strive to give your best at your job, but already you are beginning to feel the lack of motivation. As your family responsibilities grow along with your economic needs, you can already see the writing on the wall that will relegate your teaching to what energy you have left over. After all, your paycheck won’t change.

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Didn’t the Levites retire? Why can’t I?

June 4th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 22 comments

In your teaching on ancient Jewish wisdom you say two words that are not in the bible but which are commonly used are retirement and coincidence. While coincidence implies God is not in control yet all things are clearly designed by Him, when I came across the age limit in priesthood I thought that is retirement. Please explain the 50 years limit of a priest. What does it say in Hebrew?

Simon M.

Dear Simon

If we can rephrase your question a bit for those who haven’t heard the teaching, we explain an ancient Jewish wisdom principle that that if a word doesn’t exist in Hebrew then the concept doesn’t exist. We are not speaking of “things” —obviously a telephone isn’t found in Biblical Hebrew—but of universal concepts. So there are words for the idea of communication but a telephone is just one example of a method of communicating.

One chapter in our book, Thou Shall Prosper, is entitled “Never Retire.” In it, we make the point that the word retirement is not Biblical, hence the concept is incorrect. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to elaborate on the seeming contradiction you noted in Numbers 8: 24-25.

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My church is emphasizing ‘social justice.’ Is that Biblical?

May 29th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

What are your thoughts on the word ‘mishphat’ (social justice)?

My church is currently undergoing a ‘replant’ with a new emphasis on community growth and ‘social justice’. However, Glenn Beck said to be wary when you hear ‘social justice’ in the church.

I know that ‘social justice’ is a term created by the far left in the 1800s(?). However, the term is now found in the Bible and is now considered mainstream and embraced by churches.

In addition, I recently came back from a trip to Israel with an Old Testament scholar. He said the real meaning of ‘mishphat’ is ‘a shared experience’.

Can you clarify?

Judy C.

Dear Judy,

We’d like to let two famous authors start off our answer to your question. In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott said, “I like good strong words that mean something…,” while Roald Dahl said in The BFG, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words.” Our thoughts exactly!

We generally distrust any terms that insert the word social in front. For instance, studies are good, but social studies?  Media we get but social media? Justice is good, but social justice?  What does that even mean?  In general, the word social in front means that the thing is undefined.  One thing is for sure and that is that ‘social justice’ is not the meaning of the Hebrew word mishpat.

Today in England, if you suggest tabling a motion it means bringing it up for discussion or vote. In the United States, those same words mean putting the motion aside and postponing discussion. Words that meant one thing in the 1800s may mean something very different today. Unless you are attending an academic convocation on the evolution of language, it is rather irrelevant what the phrase ‘social justice’ meant in the 18th or 19th century. It is very relevant to ask exactly, in precise and detailed language, it means to the elders of your church.

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My colleague crossed the ‘acceptable behavior’ line at a company party.

May 21st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

Last weekend I went for my company’s trip. As part of the agenda, there were dinner, dance and drinks. So a colleague of mine (we are not close, just working level) who is of an opposite sex started dancing with me on the dance floor and then pulled me aside and danced solo with me. Once he pulled me to one side, he started confessing to say that he has been “checking me out without me knowing”; he treasured the one time lunch we went out together (it was a working lunch discussion) 2 years ago and he always finds me pretty. Immediately felt very uncomfortable and I pulled him back to rejoin the group for dancing.

Not long after, the function hall started turning off the lights and shutting down the AV. So a group of us adjourned to a nearby bar to join our other colleagues who were there earlier. Upon arrival at the bar, he started holding my shoulders and hands and once we reached the table where our other colleagues were, he tried holding my butt. I was so shocked I don’t know how to react  and didn’t want to make a scene, my immediate reaction was to flight. So I immediately left the scene and hid in the toilet of the bar. My friend noticed my disappearance and called me to ask where I was. I said I am in the toilet and will come shortly. We left the scene right after I came out from the toilet.

My question is, should I report this sexual harassment to the the company through the appropriate channel? My intention is not to humiliate/embarrass him,  but I don’t want other to fall as victim.

I didn’t tell anyone in the company yet because I don’t want this to spread as a mere gossip. At the same time, I felt obligated to report this incident and  share this other girls who closely work with him.  Help, I need wisdom. Thank you in advance.

Serene

Dear Serene,

It is a little jarring that the incident you describe is in opposition to your lovely namethat certainly wasn’t a serene encounter you underwent. What an unpleasant experience that must have been.

We need to preface our answer by saying that we are neither lawyers nor human resource experts. We did run our answer by someone who heads H.R. for a large company, but the words you are reading are ours, not hers. We are quite sure that you would get a very different answer if you asked this same question in a different venue.  And while we are not going to blame you for the incident, we would like to empower you in the future. Let’s start there.

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How Far Does Faith Go?

May 14th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

I was raised as a preacher’s daughter with strict Christian values and believing in faith and that God answers prayer.

I raised my daughter the same way.  I just wasn’t as strict as my father. 

My daughter wants to start her own Ice Cream/Bakery business. She has prepared her business plan and she even took a position in the same business learning everything she needed to know so when she is in place she has all the tools.

“We have a situation”…. she believes GOD is going to miraculously bring her the money she needs to open her business she has a lot of faith…and she is just praying and waiting for God to come and bring her everything she needs because right now she does not have it. All she has is faith…. What do I say to her when I raised her to believe God can do anything … and God answers prayers. 

Thank you,

Alley J.

Dear Alley J.,

It’s not quite clear to us if you are asking a business question, a parenting question or a faith question. It sounds like your daughter is taking steps to prepare herself for starting a business by working on a business plan and getting an “inside look” at a similar enterprise. It does not sound like she is putting herself in debt or behaving irresponsibly in the belief that God will guarantee her success. That is all to the good.

From what you said we are guessing that your daughter is a teenager or young adult. You seem concerned that she is not looking for investors or perhaps seeking an SBA loan but merely sitting tight, confident in getting Divine help in securing funds. It seems you may be fretting as to what will happen to her faith if those funds don’t appear.

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My wife isn’t content with her life

May 7th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

In reading a recent “Ask the Rabbi” you responded to a comment including the following statement “Sometimes, the wife wants to work out of the home not because the family needs the money but because she has been conditioned to believe that only such a job affirms her self-worth.”

Can you point me to information that will help me to better affirm my wife’s worth to the family regardless of her working/bringing in money. (We do well financially and our family does not want for anything.)

She stopped working shortly after we had our first child (Dec 2017) and has since mentioned in many tense discussions/arguments that she doesn’t feel to have “her own identity” since she no longer works. I feel that the conditioning, mentioned above, is the cause for her to believe she needs to work or that household responsibilities are somehow demeaning/waste of time.

I did search the “Ask the Rabbi” for similar questions but found it difficult to know keywords to search so I hope this is not a waste of your time. I really appreciate your words of wisdom on the podcast you do as well as the information you and Susan post here.

Thank you,

Nate M.

Dear Nate,

Thank you for picking up on the statement we made and giving us the opportunity to elaborate on it. We think that the question you are asking is an important one. As always in our answers to questions like these, we will try to give you and your wife a few avenues to explore. Since we don’t personally know you, we hope that at least one or two will resonate. (We are assuming that your wife is not one of those rare women who have a calling that is the equivalent of oxygen. In other words, almost everything else in life is secondary to that calling. Few men have a calling like that either.)

Just as one’s career should not completely subsume one, neither should the career of marriage and family. What are your wife’s interests and passions? Encourage her to take an art class one evening a week while you’re home with your son, attend a Bible study, volunteer with a literacy group, sign up for an adult-ed class in her area of expertise or interest—she should have the opportunity to cultivate her personality and talents for a few hours a week. She also can develop skills to use in the future or ones that can support and enhance your business.

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My vegan relative really gets to me!

April 30th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 23 comments

How do I convince my relative that she is wrong to be so concerned with animal rights & veganism?  She is a good person but its seems that she is more concerned w/animal welfare than people welfare.  Where did this attitude come from?

Bernadette

Dear Bernadette,

We have a two-word answer for you: You don’t. In general, it is usually ineffective and often destructive to try to persuade anyone to abandon their convictions and sign on to our own beliefs.  Trying to change the religious, political or social beliefs of others generally achieves nothing but damaged relationships.

Arguing about facts is fine because the answer can easily be discovered.  We could insist that Mount Rainier is 14,400 feet high and thus some 2,000 feet higher than Japan’s Mount Fuji, to anyone who claimed the opposite.  But arguing about beliefs is quite different. We would nod smilingly at the person who expressed the view that Mount Fuji is the most beautiful mountain visible from a major city.  We believe that this distinction belongs to Mount Rainier near Seattle but why would we argue?  We have different beliefs.

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What do you eat at a Passover feast?

April 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 8 comments

As a chef, I have a question pertaining to the traditional Passover meal. The traditional Seder dinner typically includes gefilte fish, matzo ball soup, brisket or roast chicken, potato kugel and carrot and prune tzimmes. Now, we know that none of these foods originated in ancient Israel – they’re from a later period in Jewish history during the diaspora and after the destruction of the Temple.

But my question is, what would have been a traditional Passover meal in ancient Israel? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living at the time of King Solomon or the Prophet Isaiah? What would have been the traditional Passover meal for people living in the time of Herod’s Temple?

Thank you,

Joshua F.

Dear Joshua,

Are you trying to start an international incident? A religious war? The foods you cite—gefilte fish, potato kugel, carrot and prune tzimmes and the other foods you mention are traditional foods only for Jews whose ancestors lived in eastern Europe. But, we Jews have been around for a long time and we have lived everywhere from China to Morocco, from Johannesburg to Gibraltar. Some of these communities lasted for a short time, others for thousands of years. Jews were expelled from Egypt, Libya and other Islamic countries during the second half of the twentieth century but a few still live in Iran and many other countries that would surprise you. A traditional Syrian or Yemenite Passover meal would have none of the foods you mentioned.

Even the ceremonial foods that are required as part of the Passover Seder will look different in different communities. For example, a vegetable from the ground is needed, but our own family uses potatoes while other families use leeks. The matzah itself, the centerpiece of the meal, looks quite different if baked by those from Arab countries vs. European ones.

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My daughter has ‘come out’!

April 16th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 31 comments

My 47 year old daughter now says she’s lesbian. She has always been heterosexual. Please use your wisdom and experience to help me. I’ve never known anything like this close to me.

I pray for you and Susan, Rabbi. Please pray for me just once – I know your busy life.

Thank you.

Shocked Mom

Dear Shocked Mom,

Your poignant letter reached out and touched our hearts. We certainly pray for you and for all parents who are blind-sided when a grown child shocks them.

First of all, and we don’t mean this at all in a frivolous way—stop and take a few deep breaths. When news slaps us in the face, we need to give ourselves time to assimilate it. Ask God to support and guide you and be on the lookout for small ‘hugs’ from Him.

Second, and our reaction here may surprise you, we would like to encourage you not to overreact.  You don’t tell us anything about your relationship with your daughter, but separating her and the interaction between the two of you from her behavior is terribly important. Is this one more grenade she is hurling at you or have you always been close and she is worried that you are going to reject her? Are a husband and/or grandchildren involved? Whatever the answer to those questions, she is your daughter and that is not a relationship you want to sever.

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What steps can I take towards marriage?

April 9th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 31 comments

I am a 38 year old young woman who has never been married and does not have any children. I was raised in a Christian home in NC. I’ve obtained a graduate degree and made a good amount of money in previous jobs. However, I can’t help feeling like a failure in the area of marriage and children.

I value marriage and leaving a legacy but it seems the men in my generation don’t appreciate my traditional values. Lots of men are meeting women using online dating and are perfectly content not choosing from the thousands of women available to them via their phone.  In addition, it’s creating more men who don’t know how to have a conversation unless they can “text” you.

I’ve started devaluing my career and education as I get older because a family of my own is what my heart desires. What advice does the Bible have for me and lots of other women in my situation?

Thanks,

Danielle A.

Dear Danielle,

What a painful period in your life this must be. We would like to offer four suggestions that we hope will be helpful, but before we do so we want to make a few comments about your letter.

Like a doctor telling his patient that he has put on too much weight and instructing him to lay off the French fries and ice cream, those able to help us occasionally have to tell us things we may prefer not to hear.  So, know that we write to you only with a deep desire to hear back from you soon with news of your happy marriage.

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