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May 31, 2016 / 23 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘answer’

The Age Of Disrespect

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

And Lavan and Betuel answered and said, “It is from Hashem that this has come forth. We can speak neither for nor against it.” – Bereishis 24:50

Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, went to find a wife for Yitzchak. He approached the city of Charan, waited at the well, and asked Hashem for a sign. “Let it be that the girl who not only gives me water when I ask for it, but says, ‘Not only will I give you to drink, but I will give your camels as well.’ She should be the one that is right for Yitzchak.”

No sooner did he finish speaking than Rivka, the daughter of Betuel, came upon the scene and fulfilled his request exactly as he specified. Eliezer knew that he had found the right one.

He then asked Rivka to take him to her father. As they neared the house, Rivka’s brother Lavan saw the camels laden with treasure and ran out to greet the new guest and usher him in. Eliezer described the miracles that happened and then asked for approval of the marriage. Lavan and Betuel exclaimed, “It is from Hashem! How can we stop it?”

Rashi comments that from here we see Lavan’s wickedness. Why did the Torah mention his name first? To teach us that he spoke before his father. This shows us that he was a rasha.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

The answer to this can best be understood from a historical vantage point.

A yeshiva student learning in Israel found himself on a bus, sitting near two secular American Jews. Noticing that one was a bit older than the other, he was surprised to hear them calling each other by their first names. “Bob, did you notice that?” said one. “Hey, Joe, what do you think?” said the other. His surprise deepened when in the course of conversation it became clear that the two were father and son. Dad explained, “I don’t want barriers between us, so we call each other by our first names.”

That isn’t the way that it used to be. Not all that long ago in America, a teenager wouldn’t dream of calling an adult by his first name, let alone his father. And certainly a child wouldn’t dare open his mouth when his father spoke. It didn’t matter how foul-mouthed the child was, and it didn’t matter how unpolished the father was. Children knew their place, and the idea of a child speaking back to an adult was unheard of.

Things have changed. The countercultural revolution of the 1960s brought new attitudes and ideas. And while much of the hysteria of those times has passed, one of the relics is that respect is no longer part of the culture. Gone is respect for leaders. Gone is respect for the clergy. Gone is respect for elders. In its place is the cynicism of a new age – an egalitarian age – where we are all equals.

We no longer need to treat institutions with reverence, and we no longer need to treat authority with deference. And so we argue with our doctors. We argue with our lawyers. And we argue with our parents, who don’t really know that much anyway. Welcome to the Age of Disrespect.

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. In the times of Lavan, society was still relatively normal. Workers respected bosses. Students respected teachers. Younger people respected older people. As such, there were things that were done and things that were not done. In that world, for a child to answer in his father’s presence was outrageous. It simply didn’t happen. The only time such a thing could occur was when the child had veered way off course – had become deviant. And so Rashi tells us that Lavan’s response shows just how wicked he was.

This is especially illustrative because Lavan wasn’t known as a paradigm of virtue. He died trying to poison Eliezer in order to steal his money. Yet even in his home, for a child to answer before his father did was so out of the norm that it could only happen if that child was wicked.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Over Here, my Rain Is Happy!

Monday, November 12th, 2012

“I’m singing in the rain, I’m singing in the rain, what a wonderful feeling, I’m happy again!”

Before Shabbat, the Heavens opened with a symphony of thunder and lightning, and the great blessing of rain washed over the Land of Israel in answer to our prayers. Like I do every year with the very first rain, I hurried outside and danced in joy, laughing happily as the raindrops splashed on my face.

“Raindrops keep falling on my head… da da da da da da da da da da da… nothings worrying me!”

Back in the house, I opened the door to the terrace so I could hear the splattering of rain on the aluminum roof. What a wonderful sound! “What a glorious feeling! I’m happy again!” The clatter of raindrops sounded like the clinging of coins in a beggar’s cup. “Rain, rain, don’t go away – stay with us another day!”

When lightening lit up the sky and thunder shook the heavens, I recited their special blessings with exuberant joy. What a privilege to be in the Holy Land when it rains! It’s like every drop is a kiss from Hashem, assuring us that He loves us.

Yesterday, driving to Tel Aviv, it was pouring. I sang all the way! What a blessing to be stuck in a long traffic jam in Israel because of the rain! For nearly 2000 years, we’ve prayed to come home to Israel, and now that Hashem, in His infinite kindness, has allowed us to rebuild our Land, what a joy that we have long traffic jams! It’s a sign that the country is booming!  Would Moshe Rabanu have complained to sit in a traffic jam in Israel? Would Rashi have grumbled? No way!

I can’t help comparing our great joy in Israel over the rain to the recent devastating rains in New York. There it was a disaster. You want to know why? Look at this, from the Torah giant, the “Ohr Somayach,” Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen from Dvinsk, from his famous commentary on the Torah, the “Meshech Chochmah,”

“If a Jew thinks that Berlin (New York) is Jerusalem, then a raging storm-wind will uproot him by his trunk – a hurricane will arise and spread its roaring waves, and it will swallow and destroy, and flood forth without pity” (Meshech Chochmah, Pg. 171).

In the same light, the Torah giant, Rabbi Yaacov Emden, writes in the Introduction to his famous siddur, “The Beit Yaacov,”

“When it seems to us, in our present peaceful existence outside of the Land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, this is to me the deepest, most obvious, most outstanding, and direct cause of all of the awesome, frightening, monstrous, unimaginable destructions that we have experienced in the Diaspora.”

In the meantime, I’m yours truly, just singing and dancing in the rain.

Tzvi Fishman

Kosher or Not, the Internet Cannot be Stopped

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

In yet another tour-de-force, Mrs. Judy Brown does an excellent job in evaluating the impact of the internet on Orthodox Jewry. I think she has put her finger on exactly what the greatest danger is. It isn’t porn. It is knowledge. Knowledge not generated by the Torah but knowledge generated by the entire world. She calls them gentiles. And characterizes the internet as “Gentiles at the Gates.” But there are plenty of Jews who contribute non Torah – even anti Torah  knowledge to the world wide web.

Mrs. Brown tells the story of one Lakewood family where a daughter was given permission to use the internet for a homework assignment  Long story short, the information she inadvertently encountered eventually led her go “Off The Derech.”

That devastated the family. They threw out their computer after the fact no doubt regretting ever having it. They also cut off all ties to that daughter – who has since left home – fearing the negative influences she would have on her siblings. Obviously the wrong move, but not the subject of this post.

In essence Mrs. Brown seems to be capitulating to Charedi rabbinic leaders desire to rid the community of all internet access. Here is how she puts it:

Technology can trample on this way of life, claim some souls here and there, but the well-shackled mind is ultimately stronger than any knowledge thrown at it. Sacred ignorance has survived the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, democracy, world-changing scientific discoveries and women’s liberation. It has endured two millennia of knowledge and change. It will survive this, too.

The idea of a well-shackled mind being in a superior position to battle going OTD is certainly understandable. But in practice, the mind can no longer stay well-shackled. The internet is not only here to stay. Its ubiquity is increasing by leaps and bounds via the smart phone. No ban in the world has the power to stop it. It is like spitting in the wind.

Nor do I concede that ignorance is in any way sacred.

Surely being ignorant of all the questions and challenges to our faith would serve to keep us devout. But ignorance is being increasingly replaced by the ability to gain instant answers to difficult questions. No longer will a child be scolded for asking a tough question and retreat in shame for even thinking to ask it. If it is unanswered – or worse derided by a parent, Rebbe, or teacher, the internet is right there for the asking with answers galore. Answers that are anything but devout.

So even if ignorance is bliss (or sacred) it is disappearing from the masses like no other time in history. Bright and curious people are going to have these questions and seek answers to them somewhere.

This is nothing like withstanding the winds of enlightenment a couple of centuries ago. Those winds were responsible for many a devout Jew to going off the Derech. The stories of some of the great young minds of the great Yeshivos in Europe becoming heretics are legendary.

But that took diligence. A student had to go out of his way, to a library or to attend a University and buy into the convincing arguments of heretical thought being taught in books and universities there. Being unprepared hashkafically for the challenges encountered, they bought into the arguments and became heretics.

But today, all that is brought into the home in an instant. There is no point in trying to legislate it out of the home. Saying the internet is Assur is more futile than saying college is Assur. All the haranguing in the world will not impact all but the few.

All the bible thumping… all the scare tactics about saving the soul will just not work on vast numbers of Jews. That should be obvious by the fact that internet Asifa  scare tactics haven’t really changed things all that much.

Even if we accept the numbers quoted by Mrs. Brown one in four families inBoroPark- one of the largest enclaves of Charedi Jews in the world – has internet access. Even with filters, it’s virtually impossible to filter out all the information that would lead a child – or even an adult in many cases – into going OTD! Filtering out smut is one thing. Filtering out information that is not strictly Torah based is another. I don’t think it is even possible.

Harry Maryles

Ask Any Eight-Year Old

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Give this week’s Torah portion, “Lech Lecha,” to an eight-year old to read, ask him where God wants the Jewish People to live and he will answer “the Land of Israel” right away. Give it to a gentile to read and ask him the same question. “The Land of Israel” he will answer without batting an eye. Give it to a Jew in the Diaspora and ask him the same question, and you’ll get a dozen different answers:

“Well, it depends….”

“It’s not the same for us today….”

“What was true for Avraham isn’t a general rule….”

“In Brooklyn, New York….”

“In Australia….”

“Until the Moshiach comes, a Jew can live anywhere he wants….”

But the fact is that God starts off His relationship with the Jewish People by telling our first forefather, Avraham, “Get thee forth to the Land that I will show you.” God doesn’t tell him to keep Shabbat. He doesn’t tell Avraham to keep kosher. He tells him to live in Israel. This is where a Jew belongs. This is the only place where a Jew can truly serve God. This is the only place where the Kingdom of God can be established, and where Torah will go forth to all the nations. The Holy People are to live in the Holy Land. This is God’s plan for the world and for the Jewish People. This is the very first lesson that God teaches Avraham and his children who will follow after him. “Get thee forth to the Land.” Ask any eight-year old. Ask any gentile. If a monkey could read, he would reach the same conclusion. Living in the Land of Israel is the foundation of the Jewish Nation. #1 on the list.

To live in the Land of Israel, we need to keep the Torah, yes. But the first, basic understanding that God wants us to know is that just as every nation needs a land, the special holy Nation of Israel needs a special Holy Land. The Land of Israel is a part of our national identity. It is a part of our spiritual being. It is not something extra to Judaism. It is not just another extra mitzvah, or a nice place to visit. It is not something external like a new car or a summer vacation. It is a part of who we are. We cannot be the NATION of Israel without the Land of Israel. We can be scattered individuals, in scattered Jewish communities around the world. We can be advisers to gentile presidents and assimilated novelists and famous pop singers, but we can’t be a NATION with our own land unless we are congregated in the Land of our forefathers, the Land of the Jews. For a Jew to be true to himself, and to God, he has to be in the Land of Israel.

This is the very first lesson of the Torah: “Get thee forth to the Land.” It’s a part of our genetic make-up as the children of Avraham.  Just as Avraham left his birthplace to start a new life in Israel, we can too. It’s in our blood. It is a part of our psycho-historic heritage. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, it is difficult. But as the children of Avraham Avinu, we have what it takes.

During the 2000 year exile from the Land of Israel, we didn’t have a choice. So the Torah became our principle connection to God. But now that G-d has re-opened the gates to our Homeland, now that He has brought back millions of Jews to Israel, and given us a Jewish airline, and thriving Jewish communities, and a re-built Jerusalem, and more yeshivot than anywhere else in the world, it is time to remember the very first lesson He taught us: “Get thee forth to the Land.”

If you don’t believe me, ask any eight-year old.

Tzvi Fishman

Why Obama is Likely to Blow Debate No. 2

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

The short answer is: because he’s got nothing.  There is no record to run on, no argument to make for four more years.  The ideology that drives him is outdated and bankrupt.  He has, in fact, implemented his policies – Republicans have had little means of stopping him – and those policies are the problem.

But there’s a slightly longer answer too.  Obama’s advisors will read the mainstream media assessment of the vice-presidential debate – they actually think a debate that turned women across America off of Biden was a draw, or a Biden win – and conclude that what the president needs to do is find his inner Joe Biden.  Appeal to his base by going on the attack, perhaps interrupting, being visibly annoyed at the trend of Romney’s statements, and vigorously asserting untruths in the interest of racking up effective soundbites.

Petulant attack-doggery isn’t Obama’s style, so I don’t predict that he will simply adopt the Biden posture for this week’s debate.  What I do think is that Obama and his handlers will be looking to enhance the president’s trademark pace and balance in public speaking (which does descend rather often into a sonorous drone) with more Biden-like spice.  This won’t come naturally to Obama, any more than his occasionally put-on “black accent” sounds natural.  It’s not who he is, and he won’t be good at it.

Of course, the townhall format this week can be worked to Obama’s advantage, and no doubt will be.   Obama need not be thrown softballs, but he will get questions framed to suit the answers he is likely to have – and he probably won’t be troubled much with questions framed in a confrontational manner.

Romney probably will be.  He will have to think more quickly on his feet, turning hostile questions into jumping-off points for getting his message across, while conveying a sense of goodwill and avoiding red herrings.  If there is a “silly question” for the debaters – say, “If you were an Oscar-winning movie, which one would you be?” – it may well be barbed with false implications about conservatism, Republicans, or even Romney himself.

Romney will have more choices to make in his approach and substance.  There are a lot of things he could say; what will be the most effective?  We can reasonably suppose he will perform again as well as he did in Debate 1.

Obama doesn’t have those choices, because he’s trying to stay in office – to tend cronies and inflict ideological constraints on the people – using arguments that don’t accurately represent what he’s been doing for nearly four years.  He has no intention of changing course, regardless of what the current course is inflicting on the American people.  Yet he can’t argue in the campaign for his current course – at least not to anyone but his base – because it is so ridden with failure and the scent of corruption.  Americans continue to turn against his signature legislation, ObamaCare, and even the New York Times is beginning to doubt the effectiveness of his foreign policy.

So we can expect to hear more about Romney giving a “$5 trillion tax break” to the richest Americans, along with the other canards about Romney-Ryan policy (e.g., tossing Grandma off the cliff) being trotted out over and over by the Obama campaign.  These mendacious soundbites have lost their impact, but what else does Obama have?  Personal attacks on Romney?

If the president makes a decision on retaliating in Libya before Tuesday night, he may be able to speak at the debate from a perspective of putative decisiveness, the commander-in-chief moving forces around.  A new line of tactical operations would blunt Romney’s justifiable criticism of how the White House has handled the whole matter.  I don’t foresee this dynamic winning the debate for Obama – a belated military response has little hope of trumping the public’s nearer-to-home concern about the U.S. economy, the national debt, and constitutional freedoms – but if it comes off, it will probably be gratifying for his Amen corner in the MSM.

Gratifying them is not enough, however.  Whether he plays to his base or the MSM, Obama will not be playing to the constituency that matters: the majority of likely voters.  His appeal to that constituency in 2008 depended on his being an unknown quantity, and that’s what he no longer is.  Obama doesn’t have any more tricks in his bag.  This is it.

J. E. Dyer

Are Your Investment Decisions Rational?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

As a financial planner, I often ask new clients why a particular investment is included in their portfolio. One answer that I find somewhat worrying is: “I don’t really know how to explain it, but I just had a gut feeling that this stock was going to be a winner!”

Often the stock in question is anything but a winner, but that isn’t the point. If you were to fit a new kitchen, would you simply walk into a builder’s showroom and say that you wanted the kitchen cabinets that are in the storefront window because you had a “gut feeling” about them as soon as you saw them, or would you first visit several showrooms, research the types of materials used and other factors that are important to your decision? Of course you wouldn’t order home renovations based on gut feelings, because thousands of dollars are at stake, as well as the fact that you will have to live with the results of your decision for a very long time.  Just like investing.

Yet very often, investors base their financial decisions on irrational reasoning.

The way that emotions affect investing has become a science and much research is conducted into various phenomena such as loss aversion, mental accounting, and herding. Emotions influence investors’ decisions in many more ways than you would expect. Sometimes fear drives an investor to sell a stock because a sudden dip in the market makes him afraid he’ll lose everything. And, at the other end of the spectrum, is the person who did well with a certain small investment, and figures that because he did well once, he’s bound to do even better if he does it again. He continues to invest in something that might not be appropriate at increased levels, just because he wants to duplicate his previous “win.”

On my radio show, Goldstein on Gelt, I interviewed several researchers who study behavioral investing, including Professor Terrance Odean of Berkeley University, Nobel Prize Winner Professor Daniel Kahneman, and best-selling author Professor Dan Ariely (click on their names to watch videos of these interviews). Watch the videos and let me know if the research on behavioral finance jives with your investment decisions.

Doug Goldstein, CFP®

A Sweet New Year

Friday, September 14th, 2012

At the Ramat Gan Safari, near Tel Aviv, the animals were treated to sweet fruits and honey in celebration of the approaching of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year).

I went looking online for an answer to a troubling question: is honey good for bears? I mean, those beasts are heavy enough as it is, do they really need all that added sugar?

But I couldn’t find a single serious source on this issue. Some suggested the bears are really after the bee larvae inside the hive, but others said unflinchingly that bears have a sweet tooth and that’s it.

Except, with so much sugar, will they get to keep their teeth?

The bear in the picture was offered a lovely assortment of fruits and vegetables, which he is examining, but not yet devouring as of the snapping of this shot.

Do bears really subsist on fruits and vegetables? That’s so monkey…

Couldn’t they give him a nice, juicy salmon for Rosh Hashanah?

We’re celebrating our first new year in our old-new land. This, from now on, will be our only two-day Jewish holiday of the tear.

According to the sages, Rosh Hashanah is actually one long day stretched over 48 hours.

It’s a legal fiction.

When our Israeli guests ask what to bring for the holiday dinner, we say strange fruit. For the second night of Rosh Hashanah, so we can make a blessing over them and circumvent a halachic dilemma created by the concept of a 48-hour “long day.”

Our sages made up more legal fiction than Agatha Christie.

And I salvaged this one OK joke from an awful website full of bad polar bear jokes:

Q: What are polar bears called when they get caught in the rain? A: Drizzly bears.

Shabbat Shalom and a happy new year.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/a-sweet-new-year-2/2012/09/14/

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