Posts tagged " family "

Faith Creates the Future

October 26th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 6 comments

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

I have a beautiful idea to share with you today.  We know that Noach spent 120 years building the Ark in preparation for the Flood, but when the time came to actually enter the ark, he delayed.  Genesis 7:7 says:

“And Noach went in, and his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him,
into the Ark, because of the waters of the Flood.”

He waited to enter the Ark until the floodwaters forced him to delay no longer.  Ancient Jewish wisdom says here that Noach was, “miktanei emunah” – “among the small believers,” because he only entered at the very last moment when the flood had already started.  How can it be that Noach didn’t have full faith?  He spent 120 years preparing for the flood; surely he believed that it was coming?

Rabbi Shimon Schwab, a great 20th century Torah teacher, teaches here a magnificent lesson about Faith.  Faith isn’t just believing in God’s promises, but Faith is itself a creative force that has the power to actualize promises and bring potential into reality.  Rabbi Schwab points out that the root of the Hebrew word for faith is O-M-N, caring for a child, like the words in the Scroll of Esther, “Vayehi OMeiN es Hadasa” “and he [Mordechai] raised Hadassah (Esther 2:7).  An OMeiN is someone who raises a child, one who works to bring out a child’s full potential.  An OMeiN doesn’t just have faith in the future reality of a child, he works actively to actualize the promise.

Faith, it seems, isn’t only believing that something will happen, but the nature of faith is that by having faith, we actually help fulfill that future.  Faith is an active, creative force, not a passive, ‘sit back and wait to see what will happen’.  Having true faith in a future contributes to that future arriving.  When ancient Jewish wisdom says that Noach was among the small believers, it is telling us that Noach didn’t want to be part of bringing the flood to the world.  He didn’t want to be active in bringing forth the destruction.  He hoped that if he didn’t intensify his faith, perhaps he could delay or prevent the Flood.  He withheld his faith power so as not to engage it as a creative force.  And it turns out, that was the wrong thing to do.  His job, like all of ours, was to do what God commanded him to do with full energy and vigor, and let God take care of His department, so to speak.

As we’ve discussed before, faith and motherhood are deeply intertwined.  Raising a child is an act of faith, but today’s message is that having faith is also part of raising a child.  Our faith in our children’s wonderful futures helps those futures become reality.  When we look past today’s challenges and have a clear vision of our child as a successful adult, when we refuse to get bogged down in today’s messes because we have faith that our child will grow out of this stage and into maturity, we are actively influencing that future. A child who has a mother who sees him, now, not as a  Terrible Two, or a cranky teenager, or today’s ordeal, but sees him clearly as a future source of delight and joy, is fortunate.  That very faith contributes to its actualization.

This is a powerful message both in how we see and raise our children and in our own lives.  Too often we accept our limited reality instead of opening ourselves up to an expansive Faith.  Rabbi Schwab’s point to us is just as true in our own lives as in our children.  Let’s have faith—a clear vision of hope—because that faith doesn’t just expect the future, it also brings it closer.

Should I go back to work?

September 9th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 2 comments

Hi Rabbi and Susan,

My husband and I have just finished the audiobook of Business Secrets from the Bible. We are Christians and your teaching has just expanded our minds so much we are so grateful – and my husband who is in management had already seen great “fruit” from applying your biblical teachings in just the past week.

My question surrounds women returning to the workforce after children. I have an honours degree but have been primarily a stay home mother for nearly 8 years. Can I please have your wisdom on what point I should consider returning to work—would you recommend full time /part-time. I have 2 boys 6 and 8 years old. I want to serve my family but I also want to make some money!

I have had my own business in the past but understand it requires much attention. I really don’t want to outsource parenting but want to work. I do understand your teaching around 6 days work (which my husband does – and I do too (within the home) but not for money!

Your wisdom would be greatly appreciated

Kindest regards,

Christie (Australia)

Dear Christie,

We are truly delighted your family has been blessed by Business Secrets from the Bible.  Delighted, but not really surprised, Christie, because whether in Australia or in Chile, whether in 2020 or in 1720, the Manufacturer’s Roadmap to reality always applies and is always effective.  A pat on the back to your husband for effectively following the principles in Business Secrets from the Bible.

A big pat on the back to you too for having been in the forward trenches of the home-front-lines these past 8 years and being able to focus on being a wife and mom.  Though I don’t underestimate the importance of our book in your husband’s success, it takes second place to your being present as his wife.  That usually contributes far more to the husband’s fiscal achievements than most couples realize. Wise and perceptive husbands know, acknowledge, and appreciate their wives’ contribution to their own economic performance.

Which leads naturally to the question you ask and the question we ask you in return.  Looking only at hard dollar numbers, how would you react to this set of equations:  (H -husband, W – wife, F – family)

NOW:    H100 + W0  =  F100

THEN:   H85  + W30  =  F115

Now, in the present,  your husband makes, shall we say $100 while, with you, the wife,  at home, although you contribute greatly to his fiscal effectiveness, you add $0 for a total family income of $100.

Then,  let’s imagine that with you away at work, your husband’s income were to drop to $85 (not uncommon) but you were to earn $30, for a total family income of $115.

What would you say?  For a 15% increase in family revenue, would you still go to work?  This is an important though hypothetical question because how you answer it to yourself will tell you the answer to another question.  Namely, is your motivation primarily monetary or are you looking for other things such as challenge, accomplishment and adult interaction?

We admire you for holding an honours degree, Christie, but you don’t tell us in what subject. Not to be frivolous, but if your degree is in 12th Century Byzantine Frescoes it has zero economic value to you right now, whereas if it is in actuarial science, working even part-time, you’d do rather well.

From your words, “but I also want to make some money!” rather than, “Our family could use some additional money,” we assume that while extra income would be helpful, your family is managing with what your husband earns. That gives you and your husband the luxury of choice, both in whether you return to paid work as well as what you do.

But make it a joint husband/wife decision.  As any Bible enthusiast knows, in this world, for every positive there is a corresponding negative.  Have a sober discussion about the marriage and family costs of a working wife and mom.  The two of you should discuss what would be best and for how long it should be lived before a reevaluation is scheduled.   The discussion will help lead you on the right path.

Is it possible that you are ready to branch out, but that this can occur without joining the paid workforce? We don’t know what your skills are, but you do mention having had your own business. Are you able to think of family and business as one unit rather than as competing entities? There is tremendous value in children growing up with a front-row seat in economics and real life. We assume that they are in school, but they (especially the eight-year-old) are not too young to pack boxes, answer phones professionally, check inventory, sweep up and do myriad other chores that running a small home business involves. Not only does it contribute valuable understanding about the real world of commerce, but it is tremendously valuable for every member of the family to recognize that he is part of a team and a greater enterprise.

On one hand, being an entrepreneur can consume many more hours than having a job, but it does leave you more in control of your time. Freelancing is another option that carries the negative of uncertainty but lets you scale back when needed. Today, with digital technology so prevalent and so accepted, there are hundreds of ways of serving other people from your home. We encourage you to explore these options. As you well know, family life can run smoothly but it can also dash up against rocky shores. Being able to adjust and step up with your sons when needed is terribly important.

Since we haven’t (yet) visited your wonderful country, we can’t speak about schools in Australia, but we do know that parents in the United States are quite wrong when they assume that their own values are being transmitted by the teachers who are spending most of every day with their children. This is, sadly, often true for private and religious schools as well as Government Indoctrination Camps. Technology, social media and other facets of our time also mean that this generation of children is in desperate need of parental attention. While your children don’t physically need you as they did when they were younger, they still greatly need for your husband and you to have a fantastic marriage (still one of the greatest gifts parents can bequeath their children) as well as a firm finger on the pulse of their lives.

We hope this gives both you and your husband some ideas to explore,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Am I Having a Mid-life Crisis?

June 16th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 6 comments

I am a 35-year-old male who is sole supporter for a household of 7 and I feel like I am at or near a mid-life crisis. I admit this probably isn’t the middle of my life, but from what I read and others tell me all indications suggest this is what I am experiencing.

Are ‘mid-life’ crises normal and if so what are some strategies for managing through them? Or are they a sign that I am not living right?

W.

Dear W.,

We, too, hope that thirty-five isn’t the middle of your life, but your question stands, and we would like to approach this from four different angles.

Labels are both potentially useful and potentially harmful.  We knew someone who used to go through a full-fledged “mid-life-crisis” every two or three years of his life.   Recognizing that two-year-olds have abilities and desires that babies did not, allows parents to change the way they speak to and act towards newly independent toddlers. However, if parents chalk up every problem to “terrible twos” or, even worse, dread that period, the label will make those years less fun and more difficult. (We, personally, loved that age and if we generalized at all it was by calling it the “terrific twos.”)

Similarly, there are constantly things to be aware of as we move year-by-year through life. Many of us ignore yearly check-ups when we are young and feel invulnerable, but it is always a good idea to discover if there might be a physical cause behind emotional difficulties. Barring any physical reason, being able to label feelings as a mid-life crisis can lead to finding resources and ideas that help, but it is far more likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most people today have little patience for going through a plateau or even a darkish period.  Experiencing a down few days or even weeks is perfectly natural and perfectly normal.  It really doesn’t need a label; just know that, “This too shall pass.”

Secondly, while what we wrote to you above is true, that is not to suggest that you ignore the real obligation to probe into yourself for some explanations for how you feel.  You termed yourself as the sole supporter of your family. Unless you are a single father or your wife is completely incapacitated, your perception is false. Even if you are the sole “bringing in income from an outside source” partner, you are not the sole financial support, let alone the sole physical and emotional support. You and your wife are one team and should be seeing yourselves that way.

The team does many wonderful things; it brings in income, raises a family, nurtures a marriage and runs a home. If you and your wife see yourselves more as independent contractors in a joint venture, then both of you will get less fulfillment from what you are doing. For instance, you need to internalize the reality that the income you earn is actually as much your wife’s achievement as yours. Getting nutritious and appealing meals on the table is your accomplishment as well, even if your wife does the shopping and cooking. If either of you fails to appreciate the contributions of the other, life is less rewarding. Your feelings could well be alerting you that your marriage needs more attention.

Likewise, if you view yourself as an outsider to the decidedly noisy and hectic activities of a house full of children, then you will not derive the pride, pleasure, and satisfaction you should from that family. If you only see your children as mouths to feed, then you certainly need to reassess your family goals, structure,  practices and above all, values.

Thirdly, human beings who are not growing do not stay at the same level, they deteriorate and they stagnate. Sometimes, we grow at a tremendous rate in one area of our life, but stagnate in others. Medical and law students are notorious for sometimes being rather boring. They are so focused on the one area of their challenging studies that other areas stagnate. For this reason, we talk of regularly needing to assess the five Fs in your life: Faith, Family, Fitness, Fortune and Friendships. A “mid-life crisis” whether one is 25, 35 or 65 might alert you to an imbalance.

As our fourth suggestion, we strongly recommend that you try this experiment. Obtain for yourself a notebook (or use the journal we have prepared) and each evening before you retire for the night, seclude yourself for ten minutes and discipline yourself to write down at least 3 things for which you’re grateful. It might be something that happened at work, something you realized for the first time, the smile one of your children gave you, how well your car runs, or your wife’s calm demeanor at the children’s bedtime. Don’t do this on a computer or other digital device. The full benefit of this activity is derived best by doing this on paper because it stimulates different cognitive processes.

We feel confident that these four points and your reactions to them will help you and perhaps also give you other ideas to consider. Bouncing these ideas off a carefully gathered group of male friends and mentors can yield much support as well.

Wishing you many fulfilling years ahead,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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A Mother Gives Life

March 4th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

I would like to share a story with you from a friend (with her permission), a mother in Jerusalem. I have added translations for Hebrew terms and some other clarifying information in brackets. 

On the other side of my wall, there is a shiva [week of mourning] taking place for my 84-year-old neighbor, Yosef, [Josef] who passed away last week.

When we moved into our home 4 years ago, Yosef’s wife of almost 60 years was already very ill, and within a few months she had passed away. She died from a foot infection, a common and often fatal complication of diabetes.

Yosef grieved terribly after his wife died. But he was still sharp as a tack. Whenever I’d run into him I would ask which of his four awe-inspiringly dedicated children he would be spending (or, depending on the day of the week, had spent) Shabbat with. And whenever he told me that he was going to his daughter,  I would say, “In Maaleh Adumim?” And Yosef, who had spent most of his life teaching grammar, would correct me: “Maaleh EDumim! EDumim, not ADumim!” [Think – you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to, but where only one is correct. It’s a grammatical rather than an accent thing.]

Within a year after his wife died, Yosef’s condition had visibly declined. He stopped correcting my Hebrew grammar, but not because my Hebrew was suddenly grammatically correct. One day, on my way out to run errands, I saw Yosef waiting by the sidewalk. His son was coming to pick him up, he told me. But when I got back home an hour later, Yosef was still waiting there. It turned out Yosef had gotten the day wrong.

Two years ago, on the way out to the light rail, I thought I heard a soft voice. I looked around and saw Yosef sitting on the ground by his house. Yosef told me that he had been on his way to the corner store, but had fallen and hadn’t been able to get up. He had been calling out for help for a long time, he said, but nobody had heard him. Yosef’s voice, which for decades had commanded a class of 35 Israeli high-school students, had become so weak that it was nearly inaudible.

People who knew Yosef when his wife was healthy told me how things had once been. What a lovely, lively person she had been, always ready to lend a helping hand when a neighbor or family member was in need. But now, Yosef’s wife was gone. And, in a way, Yosef was too.

Around a year and a half ago, a caretaker moved in to take care of Yosef. Yosef could no longer walk or remember much about his life.

Last week, Yosef and his children marked his late wife’s 4th yahrzeit [anniversary of death], and two days later Yosef passed away as well. From a diabetic foot infection, just like his wife had.

Before I left for my trip last week [the author – and mother of a large family – went to visit one of her daughters in India], I made a detailed schedule so that everything and everyone would be taken care of. And, more or less (or maybe less or more) things functioned as usual while I was away.

But the day after I came home, and took [my son] to gan [kindergarten] for the first time, his teacher told me, “Good you are back! [He] just wasn’t the same when you were away!”

When a mother is in the home, I was reminded, she doesn’t just provide food, clean clothing, and reminders about tomorrow’s swimming class and zippering up coats. A mother, more than anything or anybody else, has the ability to transform a 4-walled structure from a house into a home. She doesn’t just nurture her family, the shiva [mourning] next door has reminded me, she gives life.

Bye, Bye Baby

August 20th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Just over a week ago, Susan and I were blessed by the arrival of a new granddaughter. Along with her parents, we, her siblings and cousins are excited to welcome her. At the same time, we know many couples of ‘grandparent-age’  who have no grandchildren and, at the moment, see none on the horizon. 

Many of these folks chose to delay marriage and limit the size of their own families wanting to be able to nurture their careers, provide their children with “extras” and save for future college expenses. They encouraged their own children, both sons and daughters, to establish their careers, sample a variety of romantic relationships and enjoy the early years of adulthood before getting married and starting a family. Quite a few of them are still waiting for their now thirties-something children to begin thinking of marriage and children. Some of them have been informed that building a family   isn’t part of their children’s vision and even marriage may or may not happen.  

What seemed like a prudent and good idea for how to organize a family is now causing disappointment and pain. They are facing a yearning for grandchildren, or in some cases great-grandchildren, whom they assumed would naturally come along. They failed to recognize that building a legacy of generations is not an automatic  default condition. 

In the Book of Ruth, Naomi advises her widowed daughter-in-law to get to know a local nobleman by the name of Boaz with an eye to marriage. 

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Twinkling Talent

March 14th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

Please don’t tell the budding musicians in my family but, while I go to their first concerts out of love for them, the music isn’t all that great. Hot Cross Buns and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star grow old rather quickly, especially when played by novice violinists and violists.

This past Sunday, I went to a cello concert, once again motivated by love. This time, the performers, who only a few years ago debuted with the songs mentioned above, provided the audience with a rewarding musical experience. We heard the music of JS Bach and Saint-Saens, Bruch (my grandson’s piece) and Paganini. While not yet quite concert-level performers, these young teenagers’ playing revealed the hours of disciplined practice they have invested. It was a delightful ninety minutes.

There was much to admire. The teachers and parents’ dedication and the youths’ hard work and love for music all obviously deserve praise. But something else jumped out at me as well. The five young men and two young women who performed came from different ethnic, religious, economic and racial groups. In addition to their perseverance and talent, they shared something else in common, something that used to be taken for granted but no longer is. Looking around the audience of relatives and friends (and one woman I spoke to who came because she loves music), I saw mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles. And I realized that many teenagers today don’t have that extended family network to cheer them on.

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Family and Work or Work and Family?

March 12th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 6 comments

As so often happens in life, I had two starkly different experiences within close proximity of each other. Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a wonderful woman who passed away at 93 years young. I was fortunate to sit near her in synagogue and at a weekly Torah class for the past few years and sharing a greeting and a few comments with her always gave me a lift.

As he eulogized his mother, her son provided some context for those who, like me, knew his mother as a vital, active, loving senior but who hadn’t known her in her younger years. He spoke of his mother going to work as a secretary in order for his parents to afford a private Jewish education for him. When she was directed to post an ad for a regional sales manager, she told her boss that she could do the job. Although in those years a woman sales manager was highly unusual, he gave her the chance to prove herself, which she proceeded to do. Yet, as her son pointed out, while she certainly took satisfaction in her work, the goal of working was to build her family and its future. Family and faith were always the priority. Yesterday, about sixty of her descendants paid loving tribute to that choice. 

Today, wanting to get a feel for what the general culture is offering, I tuned into a podcast aimed at young mothers. The hosts of the show were interviewing a successful writer who has two children, an infant and a toddler. The guest made the point that it is vital to get as much help as one can during the fleeting years that one has small children, so that one can retain focus on one’s career. After all, she said, (and I’m paraphrasing), your career is going to be the entire rest of your life.

Being able to choose to hire childcare so that one can focus on work is, of course, a privileged woman’s option. Mothers who are working so that there will be food on the table and a roof over their family’s head do not have that choice. But, the bottom line is, that while working for money and family may need to co-exist for many mothers, there is a subtle and not-so-subtle difference in how one lives based on which is the priority. Do we take time off from work in order to have children or do we take time away from our children in order to work?

Must I stay in touch with my siblings?

February 27th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 31 comments

Should we avoid associating with Godless people? I’m the only religious child with 3 brothers and two sisters and I’m frequently torn between seeing them and avoiding the negative effect they can have on me. I find they do drag me down when I’m in their presence.

Do I owe anything to them because they are family?

Thanks,

Tom P.

Dear Tom,

The short answer is, “yes,” but that doesn’t answer the question, “What do you owe them?”  God placed a moral obligation upon siblings towards one another.  But the borders are not black and white.  Many children gravitate towards rules, be they in games or classrooms, and get upset when a rule is unclear. As we grow, we learn about nuances and exceptions to the rules, but we are constantly tested by needing to straddle lines such as between justice and mercy or discipline and compassion. We human beings often find it easier to live in a world of black and white rather than in the real world that God placed us which has many shades of grey in most of the real-life decisions we face every day.

You are in such a situation with your family, though you haven’t given us any examples of why they drag you down. At one extreme, you have no obligation, shall we say, to join your siblings at a movie that doesn’t meet your moral criteria, but in most cases, while you might not enjoy meeting occasionally for coffee or a family party, we would recommend that you do so. There should be a way to retain some contact while simultaneously limiting and shaping it.

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Fasts and Feasts

December 20th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 20 comments

This past Tuesday was a fast day in the Jewish calendar, a fact that probably never came across your radar screen. Truthfully, even most Jews were unaware of it, as only the relatively small percentage of Jews who observe their faith as their ancestors did make note of the day. 

While there are two major fast days during the year (Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av) on which food and drink are prohibited for 25 hours, there are also four other fast days on which eating and drinking are prohibited only from just before sunrise until soon after sunset.  While certain special prayers are added on these days, we otherwise function as normal; going to work for instance.

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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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