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December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘growth’

Vayelech: Giving Thanks

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

We live in an age of conveniences – and dangers. Our affluence presents dangers to our quest for spiritual perfection, which the Torah cautions against and which Rabbi Avigdor Miller elaborates on in Parshas Vayelech.

“And he shall eat and become satiated and shall become fat…” (31:20). This warning is already stated before: “And you shall eat and be satiated. Beware for yourselves lest your heart be deceived and you shall turn aside” (11:15; also 8:14). And it is reiterated: “And Yeshurun grew fat and he kicked” (32:15). This aspect of the perils of prosperity emphasizes the selfishness and arrogance that are engendered by being overfed.

Thus, even the blessed communities of the loyally observant must be constantly on guard, especially today when the comforts and luxuries have increased beyond the experience of previous generations. No previous era has ever witnessed as much satiation and opportunities for happiness as we have today, and therefore the admonition “Beware for yourselves” is now more appropriate than ever.

Today’s conveniences and abundance impose a responsibility beyond that of all previous generations. Man’s chief function in life is to recognize Hashem’s kindliness: “It is good to give thanks to Hashem and to sing to Your name, O Most High” (Tehillim 92:2), meaning: What is the highest good? To give thanks to Hashem. How much must we give thanks and sing? “To narrate Your kindliness in the morning, and Your steadfastness in the nights” (ibid. 92:3), which actually means to begin in the morning to declare Hashem’s kindliness and His steadfastness, and to continue throughout the day into the night.

This fundamental duty is incumbent not only upon the blessed people of Hashem, but also upon all of Mankind. “For thus is the obligation of all the created: to give thanks, to acclaim, to adore, to glorify, to exalt, to honor, to make supreme and to praise” (Shabbos-morning prayers). “Praise Hashem, all you nations” (Tehillim 117:1); but Israel is even more obliged: “For His kindness upon us is greater” (ibid. 117:2).

Therefore even the loyal observant Jew must constantly exert himself to fulfill his function of always being mindful of Hashem’s constant kindliness. But especially today, and even more when dwelling in lands of abundance and total liberty, how great becomes the necessity to busy ourselves with the study of Hashem’s countless benefactions and with endless praise both in thought and in words, and also in increased performance of Hashem’s Torah obligations.

This presents a very real challenge. Thus: “Beware for yourselves lest your heart be deceived” to fail to understand this obligation.

* * * * *

“Take this book of the Torah and you shall put it at the side of the ark of the covenant of Hashem your G-d, and it shall be a witness against you” (31:26). This is an important function of the Book of the Torah (in addition to its function as the authentic model for all future copies): that the nation of the Torah must never attribute any of its misfortunes to any reason other than a retribution for transgressing the words of the Torah. Instead of merely blaming our persecutors and saying “We do not understand Hashem’s secrets,” this testimony stands forever as the sole and true explanation of all that transpires.

Thus the catastrophe which came upon European Jews must impel us to “search out our ways and investigate” and understand that never before had European Jews become estranged from Torah loyalty as in the last 80 years. And the travails experienced by Jews in the Holy Land must open their eyes to recognize how far the State of Israel has travelled away from the Torah. This is precisely that which this verse declares (Fortunate Nation).

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Are the American voters idiots?

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Are the American voters idiots? What do you think, readers?

I still say no, even after 2008, when it took very little effort to find out everything you needed to know about Barack Obama. Steeped in ‘60s-era radicalism, a “community organizer,” and a close associate of everyone in the political-guilt shakedown industry in Chicago. This guy was everything my leftist college professors thought of as a hero.

His associates, political thugs, pried open sealed divorce and child-custody records to embarrass his opponents in the 2006 Senate race. Yet his own records – e.g., college transcripts – have remained firmly sealed. His political record, other than his years in community organizing, was of a hard-left voting pattern (coupled with a lot of “present” votes), and a recorded interview in which he decried the U.S. Constitution’s marvelous provisions to keep government from doing things to the people.

There were so many reasons to know in advance that Obama would be a poor president. Yet many of the voters were taken in by the media hype surrounding Obama. The president’s associations and recorded statements were played down. The record was there for a number of investigative authors to find, from Michelle Malkin to Stanley Kurtz and Aaron Klein. But the mainstream media presented a very selective picture of the Democratic candidate.

The MSM, in fact, has embarrassed itself to a near-fatal degree with its remarkable coverage of the Obama administration, whether it is amplifying the cries of “racism!” that erupt whenever there is criticism of the president, or credulously reporting whatever the administration puts out, word for word, as if there is no previous record or any set of facts to be counter-checked. (The latter pattern is especially strong when it comes to reporting about defense and national security. Reporters have regularly retailed administration talking points about the unprecedented “shows of strength” the Obama administration is making, when a little research would reveal that the US had already been doing whatever the “unprecedented” thing is, for 5, 20, or even – in the case of North and South Korea – 60 years.)

There has been a tremendous growth in vague, elliptical, and/or tendentious narration of what’s going on in the nation and the world. The people can be pardoned for being tired and confused.

But the inability to distinguish fantasy-news and talking points from reality is a product of the American education system. That system has taken millions of people with plenty of native smarts and indoctrinated them with a set of ideological trigger-concepts, all while declining to teach them to think critically. Developing judgment through critical thinking is one of the hallmarks of adulthood, and the U.S. education system has been making that harder for Americans, rather than fostering their abilities.

But has this actually made Americans stupid? I don’t think so. One reason is that my experience with sailors in the last 10 years of my active-duty time was that an awful lot of them were coming in “stupid” – a noticeable difference from previous years – but most of them quickly learned discipline, responsibility, and the acquisition of knowledge, once they were challenged to. Lazy, whining kids who had never before been required to actually meet a challenge found it invigorating and rewarding to do so. (New sailors who came in from disciplined backgrounds like sports or music had an advantage, even though their store of knowledge was lacking, because they had already been challenged to perform to a standard along the way.)

Indeed, throughout my life, people’s hunger for challenge, and their adaptability when they are given opportunities to learn and improve themselves, have been in strong evidence. People aren’t happy as dependent creatures, supervised and fed but never rising to challenge or opportunity. People aren’t happy in any of the pathologies so prevalent today, whether in welfare dependency, “job” dependency – having to wait for someone else to create a job, with the government’s say-so, so you can have rewarding work – or drug use or sexual excess, or constant obsession with ideas of victimization and despair.

Only the most foolish of the young can think that these things make you happy and fulfilled. Americans used to know better, and I believe we want to again. It doesn’t make anyone happy to live in a network of these pathologies – not even the politicians and advocacy professionals who make their living from exploiting them

Israel’s Continuing Success

Monday, August 27th, 2012

While Israel’s economy is increasingly impacted by the global economic meltdown – which has decreased tax income, increasing budget deficit, requiring substantial cuts in government expenditures - Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics revealed some fascinating statistics.

Israel’s economic growth during the 2nd quarter of 2012 was 3.2%, surpassing the 2.5% expectation, compared with a 2.8% growth during the 1st quarter. Growth per capita increased 1.4%, reaching almost $30,000. Exports of goods and services –40% of Israel’s economic activity - surged 10%, following a decline during the previous three quarters. Private consumption rose by 5.4%.  Investment in fixed assets, which constitute a key growth engine, fell by 1.1%.  Imports declined 9.3%. Inflation assessment is within the 2%-3% target, but recent and expected price increase raise concerns (Globes Business Daily, Aug. 17).

Beyond economics, Israel is excelling in other fields. According to an August 2012 Bloomberg global health survey of 145 countries, Israel ranked 6th in the quality of healthcare it offers its population, along with their general health status. The report was based on information by the World Bank, the UN the World Health Organization, and studied life expectancy, mortality rate, and obesity levels among other factors.  Israel followed Singapore, Italy, Australia, Switzerland and Japan, ahead of the Holland, France, Canada, Britain and the USA. While Israel’s hospitals are crowded, and there is a shortage of doctors and medical staff, medical care in Israel is funded by the government for all citizens, regardless of their financial means. Israelis’ life expectancy is among the highest in the world.

Israeli companies are still attracting foreign interest. Qualcomm, the $105 billion San Diego-based digital wireless telecommunications giant, has acquired Israel’s DesignArt for $130 million, leveraging Israel’s innovative manpower. Qualcomm operates an Israeli R&D center, employing 260 persons (Globes Business Daily, Aug. 23).  Europe’s $5 billion STMircoElectronics acquired Israel’s bTendo for $9 Million, which will be the core of ST’s R&D center in Israel (Globes Business Daily, Aug. 6).

The NYC-based OrbiMed Healthcare Fund Management led a $20 million  round of private placement by Israel’s Ornim, joined by General Electric. This is OrbiMed’s third investment in Israeli companies (Globes Business Daily, Aug. 22).  William Murphy, the CTO of the NYC-based Blackstone Group announced the first Israeli investment by the world’s largest private equity fund – the data security start-up WatchDox Ltd. (Globes Business Daily, Aug. 14).

Israel is also making its mark in the sporting arena. 35 years ago, the Soviet basketball champion boycotted Israel during the European Championship. During the 2012 London Olympics, David Blatt the Israeli coach of the Russian national team – a former Princeton basketball star, who is also the coach of Israel’s champion Maccabee Tel Aviv – was credited by his players for winning the bronze medal.

Originally published at http://www.theettingerreport.com/Overseas-Investments/Qualcomm%E2%80%99s-Confidence-in-Israel%E2%80%99s-Economy.aspx

Once A Cheater, Always A Cheater?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Cheating on a spouse is a terrible betrayal. Yes, sadly, it is quite common, but that doesn’t erase the devastation and pain it causes. The discovery of cheating almost always comes on the heels of extreme lying. The big question always is, how can the one cheated on ever trust again? It is logical and practical to think that once a spouse has cheated, there is no reason to assume it would not occur time and again.

It’s worth being concerned about. In my study of cheating men, 46% had cheated with multiple women. Although the rest only cheated with one woman, some did return to the woman after promising not to.

After helping thousands of couples heal after cheating, here are the sure signs of whether or not your spouse will cheat again:

Remorse. If your spouse is cavalier about cheating and is less than profusely apologetic, you’re in trouble. While genuine remorse in and of itself does not protect you from future cheating, it is an absolute prerequisite for the possibility of future fidelity. If phrases like, “everyone cheats” and “how long is this going to bother you” are bandied about, that is a sign that the cheater is not doing the work necessary to protect the marriage.

Daily behavioral changes. The cheater must now show you that he or she has made serious changes which will greatly reduce the odds of it ever happening again. This would include distancing from friends who encouraged or in any way played a part in the cheating. For example, in my research, 77% of cheating men had best friends who cheated as compared to less than half of faithful men. There’s likely a need to be changes in the manner in which the cheater deals with the opposite sex as well.

Transparency. The cheater must allow accessibility in all areas – including passwords to emails, phones and computers. In essence, the cheater has to be okay with living on a short leash for some time. This is never comfortable because it is a constant reminder of tragic mistakes, but it is a necessary component for the victim of the cheating. Everyone knows that if someone wants to cheat, no surveillance will be enough. But it is the cheater’s willingness to be open and responsive to any concerns that helps the hurt spouse begin to move forward. I have gone to such lengths as to send certain cheaters for lie detector tests at the start of, and then a year into, therapy as a way to prove honesty in the future. This is an example of how much the cheater must be willing to help the spouse gain trust again.

Complete honesty about the past. The spouse who was cheated on needs clear answers to questions like: are you still involved in any capacity with any others, what were the circumstances of how the cheating happened, how often and when, etc.

However, I caution you not to ask graphic questions that are only going to help you form an image. Sure, the one who was cheated on deserves any answer but not every answer will lead to a healthy future. It’s a good sign when the cheater is willing to give answers. This shows that he or she recognizes how painful this has been to the spouse. However, if the cheater still seems more sensitive to the other person than to his/her spouse, that’s a recipe for future cheating.

Changes in your marriage. You, the one cheated on, may not like to hear it, but most cheaters (88% in my study of male cheaters) were experiencing great distress in their marriages in advance of the cheating. This doesn’t mean it was in any way your fault; but it does mean that both spouses have to seriously figure out what their marital needs are and how to start to fulfill them.

Counseling. There must be some form of counseling. It cannot be brief and if the cheater is unwilling to attend or continue, bad news. In my study, only 17% of couples went to counseling and only 1% went for more than 10 sessions. Counseling gives the couple an open forum to discuss matters that are difficult to resolve when discussed alone. There also needs to be an agreement that if you ever want to reenter marital therapy in the future, the cheater will go without any struggle. Counseling should include many individual sessions for the cheater in order for him/her to discover deeper issues that have led to such behavior.

Is a Palestinian State Today Economically Viable?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Over the last year Palestinian authorities have spent a great deal of time calling for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state while refusing to resume peace negotiations with Israel. Although they garnered political support for this in the UN General Assembly in September 2011, a new report from the World Bank, from April 2012, and made public in July 2012, indicates that the efforts of the Palestinians and their supporters would have been more usefully employed in thinking about the economic viability of such a future state.

The conclusion of this sobering report, which contradicts the more optimistic picture of the Palestinian economy presented by the IMF in 2011, is that although the Palestinian Authority [PA], the official representative group established in 1994, has made steady progress in many areas towards establishing the institutions required by a future state, the economy is currently not strong enough to support such a country. The report is a bitter commentary on the the Palestinian economy — especially compared to the economies of Israel and even Jordan — currently in a self-inflicted decline induced by the violence it brought on itself by launching the Second Intifada in September 2000.

The crucial problem according to the report is that the Palestinian economy has become increasingly dependent on foreign aid to drive its growth, a means of generating income that is insufficient for economic sustainability. Foreign aid has given the Palestinians billions of dollars — by 2008 about 56% of GDP. This led to a GDP growth of 7.7% between 2007 and 2011; in some years its growth even reached 9% a year.

But that growth is artificial and is not sustainable for three reasons. Foreign donations have funded government expenditures and been largely in the area of government services, real estate, and other non-tradable sectors. The productive sectors have declined in importance: there has been a decrease in manufacturing, down from 13% to 10%, and in agriculture from 9% to 6%.

The inflow of foreign aid in 2007 led to some improvement in GDP in the West Bank. Gaza experienced growth because of the foreign aid and the expansion of trade through tunnels from Egypt. However, the Palestinians now face a crisis because important donor countries have so far not sent aid or have sent less aid in 2012. The PA now has a deficit of $1.5 billion in its budget of about $4 billion, and a cash shortfall of $500 million. It has been promised $100 million from Saudi Arabia which is insufficient to end the crisis.

Those who admired the second Intifada, heralded by Yasser Arafat but which generated violence for over two years and halted progress to peace negotiations, will now realize that it was a disaster, a severe blow to the Palestinian economy. The violence only resulted in the West Bank and Gaza suffering a severe economic contraction. Between 1999 and 2002, real GDP fell by 27%. In 2007 real per capita GDP was 23% below the 1999 level. Industry, agriculture, tourism, and some other services declined. Public administration, defense, and public services such as health and education grew from 20% of GDP to more than 27%.

The report argues that the PA must increase private sector growth, must improve its trade infrastructure to lower costs and increase efficiency, must improve the investment climate and must improve the quality of the workforce. Sustained economic growth entails a strong dynamic private sector that can generate jobs both to employ a rapidly growing population and to provide resources for government to provide services.

This necessary dynamism is lacking. The Palestinian private sector is overwhelmingly dominated by small family-owned businesses. The high cost of doing business lowers competitiveness. The Palestinian businesses mostly focus on the local market. In addition, relatively high wages, compared to other countries such as Turkey and India, high transportation costs, and low level of innovation also reduce competitiveness.

Yet, even with significant growth, it is unlikely that the PA can support an administration of its current size. It must reduce costs, raise revenues, and move to fiscal sustainability. Politically, the report recognizes that investment would be increased if a peace agreement were reached between the Palestinians and Israel.

The Palestinian economy over the last decade has been characterized by high levels of unemployment and underemployment, some of the highest rates in the world. These have varied between 20% and 30%. Those rates are accompanied by low levels of labor force participation, about 41%. Even more troubling has been the decline in youth employment and economic participation, and the extremely low level of female labor participation. In 2010 youth unemployment in general was about 34%, and 53% in Gaza. During the last decade, the rate for women participating in the labor force was below 16%. The result of this high unemployment and the decline in private sector wages relative to government wages, has led to high levels of poverty: in 2009 it was 22% in the West Bank and 33% in Gaza.

Which Mutual Fund Should You Buy?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Unsurprisingly, as a financial adviser, one of the questions that I hear the most frequently with regard to mutual funds is, “Which one?” This is because there are so many mutual funds, from foreign funds to socially responsible funds. Therefore, any investor who wants to buy a mutual fund may be paralyzed by the variety of choices available.

Let’s take a look at some of them:

1. Growth funds – These tend to focus on stocks that may not pay a regular dividend but have the potential to generate large capital gains.

2. Income funds – As their name may suggest, these funds hold stocks that pay out a regular dividend.

3. Index funds – These follow the progress of a particular market index, such as Dow Jones or the S&P 500, and are invested in all or some of the companies that are on that particular index.

4. Sector funds – These specialize in a certain segment of an industry, and therefore these funds are invested in companies belonging to that specific sector.

So which of these is the best for you? Obviously, that is a very individual question as every investor is different. Before you make your decision, you need to take a look at your current circumstances as well as your life goals. What is your level of risk tolerance? How close are you to retirement? How much money do you have to invest? Also, be wary if you own more than one mutual fund that the contents of your mutual funds don’t overlap. If they do, owning the same stock(s) in several funds may negate your aim of diversification.

The best funds for you are the ones that are the most appropriate to your personal needs and conditions. To learn more about how to effectively use mutual funds in your portfolio, go to www.learnaboutinvestments.com.

Risks You Need to Know Before Buying Dividend-Paying Stocks

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

In my last blog, “Three Reasons to Buy Dividend-Paying Stocks,” I described the benefits of buying dividend-paying stocks and why people may think that they are a worthwhile investment. But before you rush to buy dividend-paying stocks for your portfolio, take a few minutes to read about some of the pitfalls involved with this kind of stock.

1. Sometimes, a company will either reduce or suspend its dividend payments. If this happens, it may be prudent to reconsider staying invested in the company, as most companies will only cut dividends as a final resort. The cut/elimination of dividends may be a wake-up call to a company’s demise. Shareholders won’t generally rejoice at getting smaller than anticipated payments, so why would the company risk their negative reactions, unless it is in some sort of trouble?

2. Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” and this definitely applies to dividend-paying stocks. With dividend-paying stocks, you are going to be hit for taxes twice. First of all, the IRS levies the usual corporation taxes from the company itself on its profits, before shareholders are even compensated. Then, the company transfers whatever profits are left to the shareholders (i.e., you), and you have to pay another tax on the dividends that you receive! (If you have dual citizenship or are living in Israel, the Israeli government may also levy a tax on dividends. Check with your accountant to confirm that you won’t be double-taxed.)

3. Although it’s great that companies may reward their shareholders by paying dividends to them, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Consider the possibility that the reason why the company is paying its investors (as opposed to reinvesting in its own growth and development), is because it can’t find any better investment options right now. Indeed, many large companies tend to pay out dividends when their growth has started to slow. Perhaps this is not what you want, as you would prefer to invest your money into something that is a little more dynamic.

Are you still thinking about buying dividend-paying stocks? If so, I suggest that you reread my last blog, “Three Reasons to Buying Dividend-Paying Stocks,” and then read this article again as well. If you have the full picture, it will be easier for you to see if dividend-paying stocks are really for you.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/goldstein-on-gelt/risks-you-need-to-know-before-buying-dividend-paying-stocks/2012/07/22/

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