web analytics
July 13, 2014 / 15 Tammuz, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim's Restaurant in Tiberias Restaurant in Tiberias Enriches Holocaust Survivors’ Wellbeing

The generosity of Mrs. Lee Steinberg of New York helped establish the Meir Panim Free Restaurant in Tiberias.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Clear And Present Danger


Anyone wanting to walk in the shoes of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff was in luck, as thousands of belongings from his New York penthouse, including pairs of designer shoes, recently went on the auction block, and often sold for far more than the pre-bid estimates.

Madoff loved footwear. He owned about 250 pairs of designer shoes, mostly European imports. Ten pairs of Madoff’s used designer shoes sold at this auction for the steep price of $900, well exceeding the $250 minimum.

Madoff was also fond Italian house slippers and possessed numerous embroidered sets. The slippers, bundled with a shirt and some other items, went for $6,000, against a pre-sale value of $110. The purchaser said he would never be able to wear the slippers because his shoe size is 13, far larger than Madoff’s 8.

Other noteworthy items for sale included a 10.5-carat diamond engagement ring that belonged to Madoff’s wife, Ruth. The winning price was for $550,000. Bernie’s vintage steel Rolex watches sold for $67,500.

Madoff was arrested two years ago for running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme in which he used billions of dollars in cash from new investors to pay old ones, cheating charities, celebrities and institutional investors, many of whom were Jewish. The disgraced 72-year-old is behind bars for life in prison; his wife was unceremoniously ordered to leave their homes. Advertisement

I am fascinated by the continued enthrallment with Madoff and so I sought to identify basic motivating factors that likely played a central role in the frenzied, top dollar purchasing of his belongings.

On the simplest level, the auction gave people the opportunity to establish a connection with the rich and famous, to enter a realm (albeit vicariously) that is seldom experienced by even some of the world’s most affluent individuals. Despite the fact that many items comparable to those that were auctioned could have been purchased for less elsewhere, the idea that they once comprised a segment of the once-glamorous Madoff estate motivated buyers to pay top dollar for a piece of someone else’s past glory.

Others, such as John Rodger, were motivated by their chance to be part of history. Rodger, an 81-year-old Long Island real estate executive, purchased a 1917 Steinway grand piano at the auction for $42,000. “I’ve got loads of pianos, but this one has history,” he said. “It’ll make an interesting conversation piece.”

Still, I suspect that at least some of the bidders were attracted by a desire to connect with the fantastic, debased nature of the Madoff scandal.

We are all aware that each person is born with a capacity for good and the ability to stray down the path of evil. For the most part, we stay somewhere within a normative range of behavior and thought, and choose to conduct a life that is either generally righteous or moderately sinful.

In every generation, however, there also exist individuals who achieve lives of notable piety, or, conversely, descend to the depths of extreme decadence. Such people garner our attention due to their unique status on the moral continuum, and typically either earn our collective adulation for their noble character and deeds or are the source of our shared disdain for their sinful, wicked conduct.

Yet sometimes the exact opposite occurs. Instead of admiring the righteous for their goodness, we allow the evil side within us to overtake our intellectual awareness and belittle their pious achievements. Conversely, there are times when we are confronted with evil and instead of reacting to the murderer or swindler with abject disgust and anger, an unexplainable sense of admiration creeps in, suggesting an element of regret that we were unable to achieve that same degree of vice ourselves.

Our sages (Sifri 32) inform us that when we are instructed to love Hashem “with all [of our] heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5), it means we must “love Him with [our] two inclinations [the good and the evil].” Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests that this obligation places a tremendous moral obligation on every Jew, one that forces us to be in complete control of all our impulses.

To “love God with all your heart,” with both yetzer tov and yetzer hara, means to consecrate all of our thinking, together with all of our tendencies and impulses, all of our potentialities and endeavors without reservation to the fulfillment of God’s will, and to control and use them in His service in such a manner that will bring us nearer and nearer to Him. [Hirsch Siddur, Feldheim, pg. 116]

Certainly this can be a great challenge, especially as we witness those who have lived sinful lives and repeatedly tasted the sweet benefits of their illicit labors. In fact, American society routinely glamorizes such individuals, despite the tragic turns that their lives often take, such as life imprisonment and seizure of their many possessions.

About the Author: Rabbi Naphtali Hoff is an executive and educational coach and consultant and president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting (ImpactfulCoaching.com). He can be reached at info@impactfulcoaching.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Clear And Present Danger”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
An IDF tank along Gaza's border.
IDF Warning Gaza Citizens to Evacuate
Latest Indepth Stories
Lewis-071114-Main

A woman who knows that her family is financially stable is a happy, relaxed mother.

An Iron Dome Missile Battery near Tel Aviv on the first day of Operation Protective Edge, July 8, 2014.

We hit their missiles in mid-air with computer-guided projectiles invented and built by Jews’ between rounds of rigorous scientific education or yeshiva study.

Jonathan S. Tobin is Senior Online Editor of Commentary magazine.

How will all this end? Hamas seems to think it will be Netanyahu who will blink first.

Gilad Shaar (L), Naftali Frenkel (C) and Eyal Yifrach (R) are the three Israeli teenagers whom Arab terrorists kidnapped on June 12, 2014.

There is a major moral distinction that needs to be taken into account when one considers the murders of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frankel and the murder of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir. The difference is that the Palestinian Authority has embraced such mass murderers as heroes and Israel punishes all […]

“a groundbreaking shift toward equitable and efficient treatment of our most vulnerable children”

“After all, we must remember that God isn’t our ‘employee.’ He doesn’t always do as we wish.”

Israelis dodge bullets to become leaders in nearly all fields. Palestinians use aid money to build rocket launchers.

Water: a fluid with life-giving force, a thin liquid even a trickle of which can assure survival. Crops, fields, land, people – we all need water. We need water for growth, for purity, for beauty, for subsistence. What do we do when water sources are depleted? We have learned not to behave like the young […]

Jerusalem: The historic and spiritual capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

Immediately end the occupation and declare Israeli sovereignty over the entire Jewish Homeland.

On which planet is Obama living on when making ridiculous pronouncements on the Middle East?

This Is for the Zionists. for a people exiled from their land Time after time after time their crime was their ethnicity and so their history as a people has been filled with blood   With blood and with tyranny, as nations and invading armies uprooted them, looted their homes, took away the songs of […]

Like all patriotic Americans, I cheered implementation of the Bush Doctrine to preemptively protect American lives from the perceived threat of WMD.

In fact, the two suspects were arrested by Israeli authorities – not, as the Times tried artfully to suggest, by Mr. Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

Formerly an attorney at the prestigious law firm Proskauer Rose for 40 years – six of those years as its chairman – Fagin holds degrees from both Columbia and Harvard Universities. He retired in 2013 to devote more time to the Jewish community.

More Articles from Rabbi Naphtali Hoff
Front-Page-060614

As a guide to others and a foremost member of the Great Assembly, Ezra provided strong leadership and a moral conscience to a people that had lost its way.

Hoff-050914

For our children, technology is not just another activity that is forbidden on Shabbos.

I can testify from experience, however, that despite such experience and/or training, top-tier leaders often begin their tasks unprepared for the rigors of their new position, particularly when the experience and training focused on instructional leadership (such as classroom observation and curriculum) rather than organizational stewardship and management.

Humility is perhaps the least understood quality a person may possess. Often it is perceived as a form of meekness, a reticence that stems from a lack of self-confidence or an unwillingness to stand up and assert oneself. But that is far from what true humility is.

Throughout the past week we have thanked Hashem for the improbable defeat of the powerful Seleucid forces by a small, untrained band of Jewish fighters. We also celebrated the story’s one open miracle, when the menorah’s lights burned for eight consecutive days following the Temple’s rededication.

The exchange was brief and simple in its content, yet profound in its implications.

One morning this past summer, I davened at a shul in Passaic, New Jersey. Passaic was our new home as of mid-July, following nearly a decade of school leadership in other communities. After tefillah, I opened a conversation with someone who had also just concluded his tenure as a principal out of state. He informed me he had left the field of education entirely and had moved to the tri-state area to go into business with a relative. In the course of our talk, he mentioned that another colleague, also young by comparative standards, was not returning to the school he had helped found out west.

Throughout our nation’s long history we have resided in countless countries and lived under numerous governmental regimes. For the most part, our existence in the diaspora has been difficult at best, intolerable at worst.

Earlier this month the London Games were all the rage. Tens of thousands descended upon Great Britain’s crown jewel to witness the Olympics and cheer for their respective countrymen.

    Latest Poll

    Israel's Iron Dome Anti-Missile System:





    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/clear-and-present-danger/2010/12/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: