I disagree with what you said

(We received this comment in response to a recent Thought Tool, Egypt Made Me Do It, discussing the Biblical message not to focus on past evils. We felt that it was a worthy question for this format.)

I respectfully do not at all understand your belief that Jews do not focus on the past problems but focus on the future.

I love Jewish people and study the Bible through your perspective but it seems Jewish people and suffering go together like a dog and his bone.

I see many movies and TV shows, there are holy days reminding us of your suffering, and it seems one cannot talk about Jewish issues without bringing up the Holocaust. 

I’m not criticizing this observation and I do not feel it’s wrong, but to say Jews look toward to the future and do not think of the horrors of the past is just not so. Anyway that’s my take. Love your instruction and guidance as you have opened my eyes to truth and understanding. 

Lee S.

Dear Lee,

We appreciate your response and imagine that it is shared by many who may be less willing than you to pose challenging questions to us. We based that Thought Tool, as we do all our teachings, on God’s wisdom. Sadly, we human beings, and certainly Jews, often fail to follow His wisdom.

Imagine a future archeologist reports that 60% of American Jews of the early 21st century were registered Democrats. Does this mean that being a Democrat is a Jewish value? Of course not. Just because many Jews do something means it is average but not normal or necessarily correct. Most of the Jews chose not to leave Egypt with Moses but it was the wrong decision.

Many Jews have bought into the current corruption of politics by trying to profit from victimology. Many Jewish organizations have done the same. None of this means that this reprehensible behavior is a Jewish value.

We do want to correct a misconception you have. You wrote that there are holy days reminding us of Jewish suffering. The overwhelming majority of special days in the Jewish calendar (including the weekly Sabbath) are days of joy and gratitude. Even when a holiday includes mention of suffering, such as Passover, the focus is on celebrating redemption, not on the painful years. In fact, many religious Jews opposed the creation of a Holocaust Memorial day (which is a secular, not religious day), because there is one specified and limited period in the year (of three weeks duration that builds in intensity) when God’s directive is for us to focus on painful events. This is when we review the destruction of both Temples, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, pogroms and massacres.  Even there, we don’t concentrate on revenge or victimhood. The three weeks are a time for mourning but even more importantly, for examining ourselves and recognizing that we ourselves are often the root cause of our suffering.

We also did not say that Jews do not focus on the past but more on the future. The Torah is constantly drawing a line from past through the present and to the future. We said that God advises us not to focus on the suffering of the past as the cause of problems we are having. We are not to spend our time blaming difficulties we are having on those who persecuted us or concentrating on only the bad done to us. Rather we must learn an attitude of gratitude for whatever good there might have been.

The Holocaust was devastating to the Jewish nation and to countless Jewish families. We certainly aren’t suggesting at all that one should forget about past horrors. This has nothing to do with making movies or building museums. It certainly has nothing to do with getting into an “I’m a bigger victim than you,” race. There is a tipping point where that becomes the focus and when, rather than being positive, it becomes a trap. Many years ago, secular Judaism confused both the Holocaust and the State of Israel with Jewish identity. Not surprisingly, these were not enough reason for their children to love Judaism. Many of those children or their children reject not only God and Judaism but also Israel.

Most seriously committed Jews raise their children not with the endless sad tales of past oppressions of Jews but with the joys of building a relationship with the Creator. We feel sad that so much of the popular depiction of Jews does indeed revolve around past injustices and find it harmful to the Jewish nation. Obsession with anti-Semitism is a distortion of Judaism. God’s message in Deuteronomy 23:8 still applies today.

May we share a bright future,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

32 thoughts on “I disagree with what you said”

  1. I don’t have anything new to add, but like others I have been noticing a spirit of revenge in our society the last few years. It has prompted me to consider the slavery in Egypt, the wanderings, the exile, the persecution, and most recently the holocaust, of Jewish people, and it strikes me that they, as a culture, are not revenge seekers of past horrors and injustices – “whining,” to quote a comment, is one thing, but harboring bitterness and revenge is entirely another. It may be a bit oversimplified but, if we all adopted this forgive-and-forget attitude, with a healthy dose of love mixed in, America’s racial wounds and strife would all but disappear, would they not?

    1. Gregg, I’m not sure that forgive and forget is necessarily the the right idea. Perhaps more of “the best revenge is to triumph.” On a personal or national level, bitterness poisons the person or group feeling the emotion. “I’ll (or we’ll) show them” by living productive, moral and successful lives works better.

  2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    Dear Rebecca
    …and once you allow whining either in yourself or those for whom you’re responsible, there’s no end to the matter because nobody’s life is without problems.

    1. Dear Rabbi, That is so very true. We can have a little cheese with our whine, then move on. Dear Rabbi, I forgot to ask , where do I find ( I’m studying in the N.I.V.) old testament,about where all the Jews didn’t leave Egypt. Thank you, and I thank our Father in Heaven for giving you and Susan insight to share with us. God Bless you

  3. Dear Rabbi and Susan, I love to watch your program when I can. You two always send out positive and uplifting messages. I would like to add a comment here. I agree with both of your comments. I don’t personally know any Jewish people, but there are a few whiners among everyone I do know. So my thoughts are that whiners exist everywhere, but most people aren’t. When I was a youngster, and I whined for no good reason, my mother quickly resolved the issue by putting a broom, mop, or dish towel in my hand. God Bless you and your family, and I love the Jewish people, including the few whiners among you. Thank you for all you do to teach us.

  4. Rabbi,

    I really appreciate the weekly thought tools, which are a great source of wisdom. It seems a number of readers have reacted to your post based on a “we Jews” theme of not looking at past problems. As you have clarified, what is really being said is “we God fearing, Torah abiding Jews” do not dwell on past problems and sufferings. Observations of individual Jews not following their faith does not define Jewish values or God’s expectations, as you skillfully share. The media, controlled by the wealthy and powerful, can provoke resentment among non-Jews as they raise the Holocaust above all other sufferings, against the will of common Jews that do not care for such attention. Jews are not defined by how the media protrays them and Jewish values are not defined by how Jews behave. Christians suffer in the same way as their faith is criticized based on the misconduct of other Christians.

    I do see a general trend of Christians and Jews abandoning their faith. They believe living a full life means shrugging off all restrictions to chase every pleasure available. The source of our freedom comes from our Creator, with an obligation to place our Creator first in our lives. When we push him away, he steps aside and lets man lord over us, at our peril. History shows how evil migrates towards positions of power and prevents dictatorships from ever being a great way to organize society. Democracy is not an experiment, but rather a well crafted way to prevent an evil minority from spreading suffering over everyone else. The will of the majority is good and protects everyone when in charge. This is eroding as our government serves itself more than the citizens who pay them. Consequently, our freedoms continue to erode, even to the point of a mayor deciding the size of our soft drink. This is not the fault of politicians or anyone else, but rather the fault of us “we the people” who have abandoned our faith. It doesn’t matter who we have in the White House or any other branch of government until Christians and Jews return to their faith, asking God to lord over them again. It is only then, that the overwhelming power of the wealthy can be marginalized by the will of our Creator and restore the “will of the people” to its rightful position of authority. How wonderful it would be to witness a juxtaposition of a godless Europe and a God fearing USA to reveal the true virtue of Biblical wisdom.

  5. Continued: Rabbi heavy hearted with guilt, he & other teens built the crematory at Dakau, where his parents, sister had been murdered. I told him G-D still loved him, He accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, and had total peace for the first time since age 17-80. Gave him Book of Hebrews to read, he gave me Book of Jeremiah. Rabbi passed I believe Spring of 2008-9. For me, I learned a lot about my Jewish roots, and all Holocaust details. He was born in Poland, the 12 Rabbi in his own family of Rabbi’s. An awesome Rabbi, and an awesome Man. Blessings…Shalom!

  6. The common thread of Jews and Christians is (as I see it) – the Everlasting Hope that comes from God and having a relationship with Him; His promises to us (found in His Word and His abiding Presence with us

    He will never leave us nor forsake us ( Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8; Joshua 1:5; 1Kings 8:57; Hebrews 13:5)

    1. Thank you Karen, from another reader!

      True, great, unifying statement, and that relationship with God/that promise of an ever-increasing relationship with Him, is what drives us to BE forward thinking and have hope, regardless of whether your past experiences have been smooth sailing or painful persecutions. And the Jewish people were certainly among the very 1st recorded who had that special covenant relationship with the God of the Universe (and received more than their fair share of attacks and resistances because of it). Thankfully, this God desires have that same relationship with every member of humanity, and offers it out to us freely, unconditionally, full of forgiveness and merciful compassion, but also full of standards of holiness and consecration that HE will enable us to walk in with joy! And knowing Him is exactly the thrust that it takes to cause ANYONE to even be able to look and move forward. And truly we will all find out one day, that any moving forward that we did to know HIM more, was actually our response to HIM drawing us towards Himself, because He first loved us. And that is all the hope that anyone would need to help them overcome every sorrow of the past, which even if valid, can lock you in a jail of harmful self-pity, when God is wanting to release you from that prison and stands there holding the keys. That doesn’t mean people won’t have scars, from which they learn and which help to mold them. Remember Jacob walked with a limp.

      Yay Karen for your unifying and forward-thrusting post!

  7. Wow! Yes another excellent commentary which speaks to the human condition and is applicable in every way to us all, Jew and gentile alike. I’m glad that Lee had the nerve to bring up his concerns so that you were able to expand on your recent Thought Tool teachings. I’m sure there were others that may have shared thoughts similar to Lee’s.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Yes, Mark,
      Susan Lapin and I are also pleased Lee felt comfortable bringing up something that worried him rather than escaping into the dubious refuge of political correctness

  8. Hello.

    First of all, it is a joy to see civil discourse in action on the internet.

    Secondly, I was under the same impression as Lee that the majority of Jewish holy times were very somber in nature.

    Thank you

  9. I too have this problem with Jewish people. It seems they seldom acknowledge all the other people who also suffered in the holocost. They seldom give credit to all the good people who sacrificed money and lives to save them.

    It is also true that every family, Jewish or not, has a history of suffering. Read a little history, there are holocosts all over the place as well as some going on now……such as the people of North Korea. I don’t hear Jewish people grieving over the holocosts of others. It is rare. Perhaps we just need to know history better and current events too.

    I enjoy reading your thinking. In fact I love it. It is rare that I disagree. I am Christian.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Becky-
      Thanks for writing.
      I have written extensively on precisely your point–namely that whether we look at what the Tutsis suffered at the hands of the Hutus, or what Pol Pot inflicted on his people and what the Moslems did when they tried to wipe out the Armenians in the opening years of the 20th Century, we Jews have no monopoly on suffering.
      I have come in for considerable attack by numerous Jewish organizations for not buying into the Nazi holocaust as the defining event of all of Jewish history.
      Sadly, but cordially

      1. I do want to add, Becky, that Israel tends to be among first responders to mass casualty events (hurricanes, earthquakes etc.) like in Haiti a few years ago. Some places refuse their help and the world newspapers don’t like reporting about the help that is accepted. I too think that the politicization of the Holocaust and its turning into a bit of an industry is not good for the Jewish people or the world.

  10. Daniel,

    I generally love what you put out there, but your 3 page diatribe in response to her one sentence statement about you jews going on and on about your tales of woe just goes to show how wrong you are.

    I’ve never heard a jew speak about the future without first whining incessantly about their past.

    I was just surfing south of the pier here in Santa Monica, CA. And guess who was boo hooing?

    I had to paddle down to Venice Beach to get away from how the world is always against them.

    So, yes, when Archeologists come back a 1000 years from now and review your culture. They will see that 99.999% of you were a bunch of whiners.

    How will the archeologists deduce this fact, you may be asking.

    It’s because they will find the other 99.9999% With our ears plugged.

    My advice to you is; get out of your jewish bubble and see how your culture act out here in the real world.

    As respectfully as I can be.


    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Mark–
      I am not sure you caught my point. I tried, as clearly as possible, to explain that what individual Jews do does not define Jewish values. We judge Jews by how closely their values resemble Jewish values, we don’t measure Jewish values by whether individual Jews adhere to them. What Jewish surfers you met off Santa Monica or Venice beaches were saying is quite irrelevant to my point.
      What proves my point is, frankly, if you’ll allow me to respectfully observe, Jews for the most part devote themselves to, and achieve conspicuous success in finance, the professions, science and education, because of those same values I mention. Meanwhile, those obsessing on the past tend to become government dependents. You just won’t see too many Jews on the dole. This point was first made by Mark Twain over 100 years ago and is still true today. Obsessing on the past impedes success; this was my point. Evidently, Jews who obsess on the past see themselves as victims and probably are the ones you met on your surfboard. The Jews who manufactured that surfboard are looking forwards.
      Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Can’t please everyone, Akanna,
          see the next comment after yours!
          Thanks for writing,

      1. “The Jewish people who manufactured your surf boad.” Mr Rabbi if that is not condescending or racist, I don’t know what is.

        1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

          Hello Michael–
          Of course it was condescending. How long did it take you to figure that out? (That was also condescending. So what? )
          As to it being racist; stop being silly. (That was not condescending).

    2. Did George Soros pay you to come here and make this insensitively-delivered, and short-sighted, comment? And by the way his name is “Rabbi Lapin”. Not “Daniel”.

      Paddle on, my friend. Paddle on. Maybe that salt water can help clean out that waxy build-up in your ears that has accumulated from you feeling then need to incessantly plug them.

      1. (My comment was directed towards Surfing Mark, who was being as respectful as he possibly could be.)

      2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Hello Celesta–
        Thanks for writing. And thanks for your ‘defense’. It is true, I am not much of a ‘first-name’ kind of guy among people who are not long time personal friends or relatives. Still, I must confess to having been called far worse than “Daniel” over the years of making unpopular but true statements.

    3. Mark:

      Having grown up on the California coast myself, I could honestly say that mostly what I hear from surfers is whining. About access to beaches. About other surfers encroaching on ‘their’ beach and other similar complaints. See how that argument works? It really isn’t effective as it doesn’t reflect a true reality you suppose it does.

      I will say that perhaps you should be open to the idea you have met Jews that were not whining AND that you were unaware they were Jews.

      Surf’s up.

      Honestly and respectfully,


  11. I receive your “Thought Tools” via e-mail. I find the information that you and your wife provide helpful and informative. I am a Christian and I find that the wisdom you share is valuable.

    Thank you for providing your thoughts and understanding.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Margaret–
      about 75% of the groups I speak for each year are Christian because if America is to be restored, it will be on account of a wide spread Christian revival–a 3rd great reawakening if you like.
      Appreciate you writing,

  12. God’s blessings to you Rabbi and to Susan!
    I completely understood the first thought tool and find it sad that so many people have to become little lawyers and pick apart every jot and tittle.
    The evidence is right in front of our faces. The fact is as a whole the Jewish people do not focus on past oppressions and slavery. They remember it but there is a difference. The Jewish people as a whole are successful in life and that is not necessarily monetarily.
    The evidence is, the groups that are focused, consumed and obsessed with past wrongs, are at best, as a whole, very unsuccessful and at best mired in mediocrity.
    Heaven forbid we should observe and comment about what is right in front of our faces
    I think you and Susan for all you do!
    And for the record, I am not Jewish nor do I play one on TV!

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