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A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table

Samsa was a travelling salesman.

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It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur

boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff.

A Child’s Guide to Impeachment

While I do try to keep up on politics, I have not followed any of the House impeachment hearings. Obviously, I haven’t written about them either.  At home I have a shelf of classic children’s stories that explains my nonchalance.

The Little Engine That Could tells the story of a train loaded with fruits and vegetables, toys and books that cannot make it up a steep mountain incline. Forced to stop, it pleads with other locomotives passing by for help so that the children on the other side of the mountain will have what they need. Along comes an arrogant train, a down-in-the-mouth train and others who refuse the small train’s supplications. Finally, a small engine comes along and is moved by the plight of the toy clowns and stuffed dolls. Repeating the mantra, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” the engine’s dedication and devotion to the task at hand allow it, despite its small stature, to pull the  train over the mountain.

As praiseworthy as the train might be, and as much as I may have read the story countless  times in the hopes of teaching the importance of persistence to my children, people can be dedicated and devoted to wrong causes as well. Since election night 2016, many Democrats have remained single-minded in their resolution to get rid of  President Trump by means other than electoral. The facts, the truth, precedents  and reality have little to do with their constant impeachment mantra, “We think we can, we think we can, we think we can.”

This leads to another favorite read-aloud, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Here, the king and his courtiers and eventually the entire town are duped by two charlatans pretending to weave and sew magnificent royal garments. In fact, they are pocketing the riches they have been  paid and that were  intended for luxurious fabric and precious jewels. To avoid detection, these frauds explain that only high-quality people can see the clothes; they are invisible to others. Finally, as the king parades his “new garments” before the town while actually wearing only his underwear, a small child shouts out, “The Emperor is naked!”  The courtiers at major media outlets have been genuflecting before Democrat Party shills since Mrs. Clinton lost. They may see this as proof of their brilliance, but the rest of us know that, in order to do, so they are rejecting all standards of reporting that used to make them worth reading. They are naked.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf would have been a wise choice for their reading lists. The shepherd boy,  Peter, repeatedly yells “Wolf!” when no actual threat to his flock exists. After the townspeople repeatedly come to his aid, only to discover that he has been mocking them all along, they learn their lesson. In his case, when the menacing wolf eventually does appear, no one pays attention to his cries. President Trump’s activities vis vis the Ukraine may or may not be critically  problematic. I highly doubt it, but I have no inside information. However, at this point, I have stopped listening to the media’s cries. They have no integrity left with which to command my attention.

Dedicated and devoted individuals and groups can, indeed, cause much damage. They need to be guarded against and opposed. However, I don’t need to treat their arguments as worthy of analysis.  If I am interested in fairy tales, the brothers Grimm are less scary than Adam Schiff – and far more entertaining.

The Bible isn’t very good literature.
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My Wife is Amazing – We’re Getting a Divorce

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I enjoy the wisdom that you show us, your happy warriors, through your many avenues of teaching. I’ll keep my question brief. Why is it, that when a celebrity couple decides they no longer wish to honor their matrimonial vows, they always praise the other person for being such a wonderful person and say they have the highest respect for him or her? If they have that respect and stated emotions, why not stay together? I won’t belabor the point. I’ll merely include a link to the story that prompted my thoughts.

I would love to hear your thoughts, even if it is merely to say that many of these marriages are based on “feelings” and not true love.

Eric B.

Dear Eric,

If you’ll excuse us, before answering your question we would like to explain the phrase you used, ‘happy warriors’.  This is how  I, (RDL) envision the listeners to my popular  podcast. One of those happy warriors, Andrew, started a growing Facebook page where listeners discussed the latest podcast. A short while ago, he agreed to morph that page into a new group, Friends of Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin, in order to broaden the conversation to those who may watch our TV show, read our books and columns or know us in other ways. It is fun to watch the group grow and to see our “friends” meeting each other. In this way the ‘happy warriors’ phrase has expanded beyond its original meaning.

Back to your question. Honestly, we had never heard of the couple featured in the magazine, but we did look at the link you sent. In a post on Instagram, the husband wrote, among other things, “With our hectic work schedules we could not be busier, and over the last few years have grown apart,” and spoke of his soon-to-be-ex-wife as, “one of the most incredible women I have ever met and the best mom to our kids.”

Your question seems to be that if that is how he feels about her, why are they getting divorced, especially as he says that their main focus is their two daughters. For loving parents, the logical solution to “growing apart” might be spending more time together.

Without taking refuge in frivolity, we do want to say that while there is much we do undertake to explain, mostly in the area of ancient Jewish wisdom, the behavior of celebrities truly does lie outside our field of expertise.  Nonetheless, under the general heading of how the world REALLY works, we ought, at least to try and explain why someone who speaks so marvelously and admiringly about his wife proceeds to divorce her.

Our answer has two distinct parts,  Eric.  First, there is a world of difference between Hollywood and real life. Being in the public eye, especially today when everyone has access to everyone via social media, is not easy. We may think that we know what goes on in famous people’s private lives but that is an illusion. There is no reason for thinking that, ‘the public,’ is entitled to know the details about celebrity divorces. Those whose public comments are respectful of their ex-spouses should be commended for refusing to participate in mud-slinging and titillating gossip that might capture more eye-balls but will end up harming their children. Maybe what he writes is the whole story and maybe this husband is saying, “This is none of your business. Go elsewhere for your gossip.”

In the second part of our discussion, however, we  want to comment on the pendulum swing that has made divorce not only socially acceptable but very common. We have moved from those times when a woman (usually) who was dealing with physical abuse, serious emotional abuse and/or a philandering husband was often stuck in the marriage partially because of the shame of being divorced.  We have now reached a point where the word commitment seems not to be related to marriage at all. Especially when there are children, this is a great tragedy.

We would posit that “true love” is a feeling and while it is wonderful to strive and aim for as much positive feeling as possible, marriage isn’t based on feeling. It is a covenant, or a promise undertaken with God as a third party. Particularly when children are involved, the happiness, fulfillment and growth of parents should get much less weight than it frequently does today. We know that sounds harsh, but so is divorce.

Interestingly, ancient Jewish wisdom discusses the idea of friendship between divorced ex-spouses. While ex-couples need to be respectful of each other and not gossip or bad-mouth one another the idea of staying housemates or socializing together is discouraged. We think this is in line with what you are saying that divorce should be such an extreme act that if you are able to be friends, you should have stayed married and worked within the boundaries of the marriage to find fulfillment and happiness.

We are aware that this is very counter-cultural today and we, like many others, know couples who are very happily remarried. We know people whose children are charming and successful adults even though their parents were divorced. Nonetheless, on a societal level, it would be better for children and the family if the pendulum on the topic of divorce would swing healthily back again. If that was the point you were making, we are on the same page.

Not big readers of Hollywood gossip magazines,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Land Ho!

Quiz time.  Can you name seven countries that grant their citizens rights to own real property and that protect those rights thus empowering their citizens to sell, mortgage or rent their property for their own benefit?

No? Let me help. Here are a few in the top twelve:  Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Holland, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Here, in contrast, are seven in the bottom twelve: Yemen, Haiti, Nigeria, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan.

You might note that hungry hordes are desperately trying to leave all countries in the second list in order to immigrate, legally or not, to any country in the first list.  You might attribute that to a coincidence, but if you’re a long-time happy warrior, you will already have heard from me many times that the Lord’s language, Hebrew, lacks a word for coincidence.  Not only are people urgently fleeing countries with low regard for property rights, but all the countries to which they wish to go are societies founded with regard for a majestic book of mysterious origins that we call the Bible.  And that too is no coincidence.

Owning land is of course unnatural.  Nothing in nature owns land.  It goes without saying that the territorial instinct displayed by your Rottweiler or by the weaver birds in your garden has nothing to do with property ownership.  The former is merely an instinct exerted against others of its species.  For instance, the weaver bird becomes agitated only when what it perceives as its territory is invaded by another weaver.  However, if a duck or a robin enter its space, it remains oblivious. The Rottweiler won’t tolerate invasion by another dog but barely notices the cow wandering into its zone.  By contrast, human ownership comes with various rights and obligations and was originally adopted chiefly by cultures in contact with the Bible.

It was the Bible that asserted God’s approval of people owning land.  Genesis 23 details Abraham’s rejection of the Hittite offer to  bury Sarah wherever he wishes.  He meticulously educated them on the idea of property ownership and thereafter accedes to the ridiculously high price they demanded for the land he desired. From this point onwards, one of the biggest differences between primitive cultures and those building a superior civilization was everyone able to own his own land.

The second governor of the Plymouth colony, William Bradford, described in his history of Plymouth how the colony only began to thrive three years after its founding. At that point,  by common consent, they abandoned the community ownership model foisted upon them by English investors and allowed each man to farm his own land.

Other than the Bible there was no model of land ownership.  In nature, no animal owned land and no primitive culture ever came up with such a revolutionary idea.  Animals don’t put fences around the land they occupy, why should humans?  For this reason, early in Genesis, the Bible emphasizes the difference between people and animals.

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth…
(Genesis 2:7)

And the Lord God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky…
(Genesis 2:19)

According to the English translation I used, it does appear as if God made humans and animals in exactly the same way. Even the same verb, formed, is employed.  God formed man out of the dust of the earth. God formed animals out of the earth. And that word ‘formed’ seems to imply that whatever process God used for man was replicated when he created animals, which seems to be contrary to what I’m asserting which is that there is an enormous  difference between humans and animals.

However, in the original Hebrew text, the two verbs show a crucial difference.  The word translated as ‘formed’ in Hebrew is VaYitzer. In verse 19 it looks like this:   וַיִּצֶר֩  However, when used to describe God forming mankind, the word sounds the same but looks like this:  וַיִּיצֶר

Now I recognize you might not read Hebrew yet and that’s just fine because I’m going to show you that man and animal were not created in the same way. In verse 7 the word is Vayitzer:  “and He formed,”  made up of five letters.  The second and the third letters —we read Hebrew from right to left—are these tiny little letters. In fact, they are  the 10th letter of the alphabet and the smallest one — named Yud. This word meaning ‘and He formed’ contains two Yuds.  Verse 19 also uses the word Vayitzer and it also means “and He (God)  formed”. But notice what happened. There’s only one Yud in this case.  Now the King James translators of the Bible never made this distinction. They didn’t say, “Oh, wait a second, there is an important difference in these  words. They look the same, they sound the same, but they aren’t the same.”

Every single letter counts in the Hebrew text of the Tanakh [Scripture]. And the letter Yud, using the least ink, is the most spiritual of the letters. It’s the main letter that identifies the name of God himself.

So it’s not surprising at all that when we look at the Hebrew word describing the formation of human beings there are two Yuds implying an extra spirituality. However, verse 19, discussing the forming of animals, contains only one letter Yud. We can all relate to that, even if, like me, you are very fond of animals. Nonetheless, we can recognize that the level of spiritual sensitivity, the level of spiritual awareness that an animal has is completely different from that possessed by a human being.

Animals do not own land. People should. God created people with a deep and valid desire to own land.  Not surprisingly, the Manufacturer’s Instruction Manual informs us of the social and economic systems that work best for people, among them ownership of land.  It is not at all surprising that Germany outperforms Bangladesh or that Holland works better than Zimbabwe.  The more you follow the Manufacturer’s directions, including allowing people to own their land,  the more successful your society will be.

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Job Description: Willing to Be Unpopular

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Today, I’d like to take a look at the first unpopular stand a Jewish mother took. In Genesis 21, Sarah tells Abraham to banish Yishmael and Hagar from their home.  We tend to think of this as a straightforward decision but the verse tells us that Abraham was deeply pained by Sarah’s stand.  “And the matter was very bad in the eyes of Abraham…” (Gen. 21:11). He didn’t want to send his son Yishmael away.  God stepped in and told Abraham that Sarah was right, but initially at least, Sarah’s decision was made despite the fact that it would cause pain and be uncomfortable.  We aren’t told what young Isaac’s reaction was to losing his older half-brother, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that he may also have been disappointed and not enthusiastically happy the day Yishmael left!

Clearly though, Sarah was right.  Banishing Hagar and Yishmael was necessary for Isaac’s growth and destiny.  The lesson I’d like to look at today is simply that sometimes our job as mothers is to make unpopular decisions.  I just read a fascinating book by Dr. Leonard Sax called The Collapse of Parenting.  [Editor’s note: Yes, this is the same book that I previously recommended. Rebecca and I often share books and appreciate hearing each other’s input.] Over the last three decades as a family physician he witnessed the change in parents’ self-perceived job description.  Parents used to see their role as training children to participate in and contribute to their culture and society.  Now parents’ often stated goal is to make their children happy.  This is a disturbing trend and I think it would be short-sighted to claim that this is only true in the general society, and not in Bible-centric homes.   I think this shift is a reality today that we need to face.

Our job really isn’t to make our children happy.  On the contrary, we need to know and accept that part and parcel of our job is making decisions that make our children unhappy.  Sometimes, we see with our greater life experience and insight that something a child greatly desires is not best or that something painful is beneficial.  Good parents do this all the time from enforcing bedtimes to limiting desserts, playtime, or technology.

What I’d like to point out today is that the benefits to our children when we say no and enforce limits is even greater than they may appear at first.  In addition to the obvious value of getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy food, or whatever the other immediate benefit may be, is the emotional health that only comes from children coming to accept a parent’s decision that goes against their desires.  Developmental psychologists understand the process of children being disappointed and coming to accept situations where they don’t get what they want as necessary and integral for emotional growth and development.  A child who doesn’t experience sadness or doesn’t run up against a wall of parental futility can’t emotionally mature into a healthy adult.

For today, perhaps the lesson we can think about is a message from Sarah first difficult decision.  Sometimes mothers are unpopular.  If we are clear on our goals and values as parents we will know when and how to enforce limits, knowing that parenting is not a popularity contest, and that our children’s maturity and health depend on our ability to say no.

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