Posts tagged " Genesis 12 "

What’s the Question?

November 23rd, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

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

There are two fascinating parallel stories about Abraham, one in Genesis 12 and one in Genesis 20.  In each of them, Abraham travels to a foreign land for a temporary stay, once in Egypt and once in Grar.  In each of them, Abraham says that Sarah is his sister instead of his wife. In both stories the king takes Sarah and God intervenes to let both Pharaoh of Egypt and Avimelech of Grar know that Sarah is really Abraham’s wife.  However, there is an interesting difference.

In Chapter 12, Pharaoh calls Abraham and he says:

“What have you done to me?  Why did you not tell me that she is your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ even when I took her as my wife?  Well, here is your wife. Take her and go.”

Abraham says nothing in response—he doesn’t answer Pharaoh’s question; he just gets up and leaves the country.

In Genesis 20 Avimelech asks Abraham, “What did you see that you did this thing?”

This time, Abraham responds with a full, complete answer—it actually is 3 verses long.

Why the difference?  Both kings ask him for an explanation of his behavior, but Abraham ignores Pharaoh’s question and answers Avimelech.  Why?

Rabbeinu Bachye, a transmitter of ancient Jewish wisdom, notes that Pharaoh’s question wasn’t a real question.  It was a rant. The proof is that his final line is “take her and go.” Pharaoh was letting off steam with all his questioning but he wasn’t truly interested in a dialogue.  He just wanted the situation over.  And so, the polite, respectful thing for Abraham to do was to get up and leave quickly and quietly.

Avimelech on the other hand asked a meaningful question and waited for an answer, which Abraham respectfully gave him.  Isn’t that a beautiful distinction?

This balance of knowing when a question should be answered and when the situation should just be remedied without discussion is one that all mothers work on. There are many times that our children ask us something and they truly want to hear our perspective. There are other times when they ask us something but they are only letting off steam.  They don’t want our explanations; what they really want is the situation to change.  We have to work at knowing the difference, knowing when to answer a question right away, when to defer an answer until a later time when the child will be more receptive, and knowing when to not answer at all.

It also goes the other way when we question our children.  There are times we ask questions just to let off steam, “Who left the door wide open?”  or, “Why did you do that?”  Most of the time when those words come to my mouth, it isn’t because it really matters to me who or why, I’m just expressing that I’m upset.  And I work on trying to bite my tongue because I don’t want to ask my children questions that aren’t really questions.  I also don’t want to ask my children questions that they are incapable of answering such as,  “Why did you do that?”  Most kids and adults aren’t self-aware enough to answer that one without a lot of reflection.  Why ask something that they can’t answer?  We want to show our kids that when we ask them something, we are honestly engaging in dialogue. We want to hear from them, like Avimelech and unlike Pharaoh.

May God bless us with the wisdom and self-control to know when to answer our kids and when to be quiet, when and how to ask our children true questions and when to refrain.

Burnt Out at Work and Still Single

October 27th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

How do I conduct myself properly at work while I’m single and waiting to get married someday? I’ve learned great work morals from my home, such as being dutiful and hard-working, etc. But, I work in the social and healthcare field and I’ve become quite cynical about trying to fix other people’s problems and overly care for them while they continue to live destructively, which seems to be the government-imposed mentality in every workplace of that field.

My skills and personal qualities such as conscientiousness and empathy would be valuable in raising a family but exhausting when I try to make a living out of them. I’m struggling daily not to quit my job because it feels so futile when I should and want to be raising a family with a husband. The strength of this desire scares me because I don’t want to become an irresponsible and impulsive person. Please, lend me some of your ancient Jewish wisdom on this matter.


Dear Maria,

We would like to separate two parts of your dilemma. We are hearing more and more from people in the healthcare field who are burning out. They entered the profession wanting to help people and too often are feeling used, abused and drained. This answer isn’t the place to list the flaws in the system, but everyone should be concerned when an increasing number of dedicated and hard-working doctors, nurses, and other medical and social-service providers are looking to get out of medicine. Many of these individuals spent numerous years training for their fields and instead of finding satisfaction in their work, they, like you, are becoming cynical and disheartened. (Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone, but it is a growing reality.)

At the same time, you are hoping to move forward in your personal life and establish a family with a good, loving man. It is quite frustrating, especially for goal-oriented, hard-working people, not to be able to control this area of life. We trust that God has your match in place and, while you do need to make your efforts, there is a limit to what you can do.

These two problems intersect as the more distrustful of people you become and the more your heart hardens, the less you have to offer the right man. You do not feel that your work is accomplishing anything, leaving you without energy and vigor. Your work is not nourishing your soul.

We are sure, Maria, that you have a great deal to offer. We are also sure that there are people who need and would be grateful for your skills. We would like to encourage you to look for a new job. There are so many areas of healthcare and social work and we are sure you can find one that fits you better. It is amazing how God made us each different. Some of us thrive in helping children, others in dealing with geriatric patients. Treating those with addictions is where some therapists flourish while others do best working with those with chronic illnesses. We know oncology nurses who wouldn’t want to work in any other specialty and social workers who blossom working in prisons. Others with similar training can’t imagine doing that type of work.

You asked for some ancient Jewish wisdom and here it comes: A change of location often brings other welcome changes as well. Abraham’s life didn’t really launch until he relocatedGenesis 12*. Jacob, likewise, found his mission and his family once he relocated – Genesis 28:10*.  Each of these relocations starts a new section in an accurate Hebrew Bible.  If you should be fortunate enough to find a good job in which you could be more fulfilled, the serenity you will radiate there would be highly attractive to a potential partner.

It goes without saying that if economic circumstances are such that switching jobs is potentially harmful, then clearly now is not the time to do so.

In the meantime, keep a journal noting the patients (even if they are not the majority of those you meet), whom you felt privileged to help. Know that even when you are not aware, your smile and caring may mean a huge deal to someone. You may never know the value of any act you do at work. Cultivate areas outside of work so that you grow spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Perhaps try and find a worship environment that seems to attract happily married young couples. Associate there and befriend a few couples.  They know single friends and will help you immerse yourself into a new life filled with potential.  Just remember you are interested in meeting only men, not boys.

Wishing you a beautiful future home,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

*References in our recommended Hebrew/English Bible

Genesis 12-  p. 30, nine lines from the bottom
Genesis 28:10 – p. 82, five lines from the top

Does it matter if husbands and wives vote alike?
If you vote based on principles, it does.
What are the two sides dividing America (and the world)?

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Inherit the Land

April 13th, 2020 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

Thought Tools are meant as practical, real-world application of specific principles in Ancient Jewish wisdom.  Before submitting them for publication we ask ourselves whether they would have made sense to our grandparents and if they will make sense to our grandchildren. In other words, are they ‘evergreen’?  Little gets stale more quickly than political columns, while God’s Biblical blueprint is always current.

Occasionally we make an exception and when we do, it’s because politics is nothing more than the practical application of someone’s deeply held moral beliefs.  The World Health Organization (WHO) began in 1948 because of some people’s belief that it would be good for this United Nations agency to exist.  Advocating for universal health care as one of its mandates was someone’s idea of morality. It isn’t mine, but it was someone’s. 

WHO issues a list of the countries with the best healthcare systems. The United States ranks at number 37.  France and Italy occupy positions 1 and 2 respectively. The list of 36 countries with supposedly superior health care than the United States includes Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Cypress, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Dominica. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that it would be better to need urgent medical care in Columbia or Cypress or even France than in Wichita, KS.  WHO’s chief criterion for ‘best’ healthcare is actually ‘most equal’ healthcare. Poor or even appalling healthcare delivered equally to all puts you up high on the WHO list.


Should we emigrate or stay put?

February 19th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments


 Firstly I would like to sincerely thank you for every podcast, thought tool, answer to every question with so much thought and wisdom.  It’s been life changing listening and reading everything you and your wife share.  

We live in Namibia, a country bordering South Africa and linked to the South African Rand.  We are going through a huge recession and as the saying goes here – if South Africa has a cold, Namibia has Pneumonia. Everything that happens in SA has a huge impact on us.  

We are seriously contemplating if we should emigrate. Why?  The main reason – to create a better future for our children.  There is little to no future for them in Namibia.  As the economy worsens, corruption and violence increases.

 Moving to another country like New Zealand means we can create a new life with new possibilities together.  They can go on and study at numerous universities.  They can get married and we can see our grandchildren grow up together…

 …or we can stay and they will most probably move away themselves somewhere in the future, and with our weak currency visiting them anywhere in the world will be next to impossible…

We don’t know the future of our country but for now the future does not look great. We are by no means doom and gloom people and as mentioned earlier we are still safe but when does one get to the point where one actually takes a step toward something like what you call “the American dream”? When does your children’s future take preference before your own comfortable life(or seemingly comfortable life)?

Do we have a lot to give up? TONS!!! Both our families are all here.  We are a very close knit family.  We live on a stunning plot outside town with lots wide open spaces, My daughter (age 11) has her own quarter horse, the boys (ages 13 and almost 4) can climb trees and hunt birds. They love the animals and freedom. Here everyone knows who you are. You’ve already made your name. Basically our whole life- 14 years of marriage.  Everything we worked for… we will have to leave that behind and look to the future, for our children…or stay and pray it gets better…

When is considering to emigrate a good option?

We have done a lot of research. We’ve made our lists of pros and cons. My head says go, my heart says no.

 Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you so much,

The B. family

Dear B. Family,

Thank you for writing and thank you for your kind words regarding our teachings.  We derive great joy from hearing that our work benefits people’s lives. 

While we shortened your letter a bit for this column, we hope we haven’t removed the emotional impact. As with so many other important life decisions, twenty years from now you will know what was the best thing to do, but by then you will be living the consequences of whichever decision you make.  The good news is that by far and away, most decisions are not matters of life/death.

In all probability, twenty years down the road people will still be living, for better or for worse, in both Namibia and New Zealand.  Occasionally the wrong decision places people in the heart of terrible war zones.  Think of Jewish families who fled frightening rural parts of Poland in 1938 and settled in Warsaw only months before the Nazis invaded.  Or the people who wanted to get away from it all and relocated to the Falkland Islands just before the war of 1982.


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