web analytics
August 26, 2016 / 22 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘influence’

Guard Your Influence (Conclusion)

Friday, May 6th, 2016

The third suggestion to alter behavior and put oneself in the driver’s seat – no matter how detrimental the surrounding influences – is to, as Stephen Covey liked to call it, “Begin with the End in Mind.” It is quite a mind-shift to look at your life from the future. This entails thinking about your greatest legacy, how will one be remembered?

The plan is based on the principle that all things are created twice: there is the mental, or first creation; and then there is the actual, or second creation in reality. A simple analogy would be the construction of a home, whereby detailed plans are drawn up before earth is broken. If the plumbing, electricity and engineering are not finely-tuned in the blue prints, there will be expensive rectifications during the actual construction.

Likewise a business venture. Beginning with “the end in mind” will largely determine if the enterprise is successful. If there isn’t a thought-out, properly-researched and reality-synced business plan, failure is almost guaranteed. As the aphorism goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

The same is often true with parenting. I stress “often” for we all know parents who do everything possible to mess up their children who ultimately come out great. While some parents try so hard and are not successful. There are many factors in raising a child, not the least of which is siyaata d’shmaya (Heavenly assistance). We have already detailed the impact of environment and influences.

But undeniably, if you wish to raise responsible, self-disciplined yorei Shomayim (God-fearing offspring), the end must constantly be kept in mind. A parent who erodes a child’s self-esteem or self-discipline has, among other things, not borne the end in mind. And this becomes even more complicated when children turn into teenagers and parents must quickly shift out of “management” and move into “sales.”

I once bought a book (that I wish I would not have lent out…) from a Pulitzer winning author describing his writing technique. He proposed that a successful author should write the ending of the story first, this way you always know in which direction you are heading. Based on this technique (and other incentives, like a negative bank balance) we managed to write three books bs”D in 11 months.

This is a discipline that works, what the Mishna calls, hefsed mitzva k’negged s’chara (contemplating what one forfeits by not fulfilling a mitzvah as opposed to the reward that could be earned) and being ro’eh es hanolad (foreseeing the consequences). We know that if a person could properly stay focused on the consequences of their actions and plan the first creation so that the second one is congruent, they have used their bechira properly and will conduct an enviably, honorable life.

The reason that Alfred Nobel, the father of dynamite, created the Nobel Peace Prize is well known. His brother died while visiting France and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred’s obituary. It condemned him for his invention of dynamite and even said, “Le marchand de la mort est mort – The merchant of death is dead.” The obituary also did not fail to mention, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.”

This was about all Alfred Nobel had to read to decide to improve his ultimate legacy.

When rumors of the death of the famous rabbinic giant, The Ohr Somyach (Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk 1843-1926), reached Jerusalem, the city was engulfed in sorrow. Pubic eulogies were conducted and tributes were printed in religious newspapers. When a copy was delivered to the live-and-well Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, Latvia, he said that for the rest of his life he would no longer need to open a Messilas Yesharim.

Other than such exceptional circumstances, it is unusual for one to look at life from the future. Think again. Yom Kippur, as Joseph Telushkin points out, is Judaism’s annual confrontation with death. During this 24-hour period, Jews are expected to lead a largely aphysical existence, regarding food, drink and pleasure. Many wear a kittel which is a burial shroud. The goal of this confrontation is to make us all feel those “deathbed regrets” while there is still time to do something about them, and act with the end in mind.

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Guard Your Influence (V)

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Having already focused on the detrimental influence of a bad environment, and the efforts parents must make to shield their children from a negative milieu, let’s not forget that God has blessed man with free choice, and no matter how much an environment may sway one, ultimately man alone bears the responsibility for his deeds.

Here are three thoughts to bear in mind which may assist in favoring the right decision (which often is not the convenient one). Value the importance and significance of every single act. The Rambam, based on the Talmud, stresses how useful it is to view oneself as equally balanced between good and evil, and likewise the world. Just one single deed has the power to tip the scale for oneself and the entire world in the direction of good or the contrary.

When the stakes are so significant, there is ample incentive to follow the right path. If someone comes to you seeking assistance, it would be beneficial to imagine that you are the only one who could assist this individual. If you rise to the challenge this person will have what they need. If you are derelict, no one else will assist, and the person will remain deprived.

Rachel, a woman from a large, distinguished, very scholarly family in Jerusalem was on a bus with her children to her nephew’s bar mitzvah. The bus was fire-bombed by Arab terrorists and in Rachel’s attempts to save her children, lost her own life.

The family sat shiva in the Shaarei Chessed neighborhood of Jerusalem and one day during the shiva was Election Day. A very noted poseik from that neighborhood (a story that I have been unable to verify) ruled that privately and modestly, this family may perform their civic duty. And indeed an extra, crucial mandate was won for the religious party by a mere 17 votes.

This is a family that had every right to remain home in their grief and not trouble themselves to wait in line. A rationale employed by untold millions without extenuating circumstances. And this is also a family that truly understood the value of every act and how it could change the world.

When confronted with a situation where there is a fork in the road and the direction to pursue is not clear, what should one do? Perhaps the greatest Rx is to ask yourself, “What is my true motivation? Is it the good or the evil inclination?”

Just answering this one question, as Joseph Telushkin points out, will usually determine the appropriate course of action.

Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, zt”l, far better known as the Ponevizher Rav, was once offered to deliver a shiur (a Torah class) and he was perplexed if accepting this offer was the correct decision. On the one hand it was an opportunity to teach Torah. On the other hand, it would mean time actually depleted from Torah study in the preparation and delivering of the shiur. Perhaps he should wait until he was more advanced in years, and then there would be so much more wisdom within him to share with others.

Alternatively, the question was: “What is more important – to achieve one’s personal maximum, or to facilitate the growth of talmidim at the expense of one’s own personal growth?”

Who could answer such a question? Who could ever know if learning with talmidim was preferable to self-growth and perfection?

Who, but the Chofetz Chaim? The sage explained that the route to be followed is whatever will result in a greater amount of kavod Shomayim (honor for Heaven). These few words provided Yosef Shlomo with a signpost that would guide him for the rest of his life.

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month.

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Guard Your Influence (IV)

Friday, March 11th, 2016

After Gunn’s cleanup was well underway, William Bratton, also a disciple of The Broken Window Theory, was hired to head the NYC Transit Police. Like Gunn before him, with serious felonies plaguing the subway system Bratton decided to crackdown on the seemingly far less significant issue of fare-beating. To Bratton, fare-beating was the “broken window” that signaled disorder and invited more serious crimes.

It was estimated that nearly 200,000 people a day entered the transit system without paying. If the perpetrators were not arrested it would only snowball, and those that would otherwise not consider evading the law would slide down the slope, reasoning, “If others don’t pay, why should I?”

Bratton, with all of his resourcefulness, was hard-pressed to rally the support of police officers. The cost of the subway fare was only $1.25. For a cop to arrest a fare-beater for this piddling misdemeanor it would mean a trip to the station, filling out the necessary forms, and waiting for them to be processed, while far more felonious crimes were being perpetrated in the subway stations and trains to the tune of over 250 a week! To invest an entire day over a crime that never merited more than a slap on the wrist seemed like an egregious hemorrhage of time.

Bratton saw it otherwise. He would assign as many as ten plainclothesmen to guard the turnstiles. They would bust a fare-beater, cuff him to the grate, and leave him standing, to reflect in a humiliating, ever-increasing daisy chain of criminals for everyone else to observe until they had a “full catch.” The arrestees were then ceremoniously marched outside to a city bus that had been retrofitted into a police station-on-wheels, where they were booked, finger-printed, and placed into a holding pen. All of this just yards from the subway station, freeing up the cops to return to the station and bust the next batch.

Bratton further saw to it that all of those arrested for fare-beating underwent a background check and body search, yielding a bonanza! One out of seven had an outstanding warrant for a previous crime, and one out of 20 was carrying a weapon. The message got through and the subway was cleaned up.

Upon being elected mayor, Rudy Giuliani hired Bratton as his police commissioner; both were adherents to The Broken Windows Theory. In his first inaugural address, Mayor Guiliani famously embarked on a crusade against the “squeegee men,” who would surround a car stopped in traffic or at a signal light. They would then, unsolicited, proceed to wash the stopped car’s windshield, before demanding remuneration.

The press questioned as to why a city plagued by unemployment, traffic nightmares, homicides, inadequate housing, parking impossibilities, mass transit financial unviability, race tensions, and public school management crises (to name a but a few of Gotham’s major problems) should make its first priority such a minor nuisance?

Giuliani clarified and set policy that the near-ubiquitous presence of the squeegee men created an environment of disorder that encouraged more serious crime to flourish. Broken windows of every form would not be tolerated. A bad influence can corrupt a neighborhood and decay a city. The squeegee men went and with them went the appallingly high level of crime in New York City.

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Guard Your Influence (III)

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

On a societal level, unscrupulous behavior will also outweigh positive influences. Recognition of this phenomenon has finally escaped the walls of the beis midrash and has become a recognized theory in crime prevention. The Broken Windows Theory is the name applied by two criminologists in the 1980s to the premise that a bad influence that is not reigned in, will disproportionately deteriorate.

James Q. Wilson and George Kelling wrote that if a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the adjacent street, sending a signal that anything goes. Basically, broken windows that are not repaired are a signal that disorder and crime are tolerated, accepted or ignored.

The permissive atmosphere this broadcast will lead to further and more serious crimes that will threaten the safety of a city. Graffiti, public disorder, and panhandling are the equivalent of broken windows which are in turn invitations to more serious crimes. The presumed logic of the thief is that if a neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying passersby, it is even less likely to call the police to prevent a potential mugging.

Fixing broken windows and erasing graffiti, however, heralds vigilance regarding lawful behavior. The Broken Window Theory has profoundly influenced police work and is attributed with the decrease of urban crime in the 1990s.

In the year 2000, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a study of the social epidemic that became a national bestseller. Tipping Point, interestingly subtitled, “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” argues that crime can be as contagious as a fashion trend and spread to an entire community.

If there ever was a crime epidemic, it would be New York City in the 1980s, when Gotham’s transit system became the most dangerous in the world and ridership plummeted to below 1917 levels. Crack cocaine and heroin infested New York City, increasing street crime, child and spousal abuse. Homicides skyrocketed while industrial decline, economic stagnation, and white flight led to an unprecedented downturn.

The New York Transit Authority, which was on the verge of collapse, hired a new director for the subway system who was an adherent of the Broken Window Theory.

David Gunn was logically advised to stay focused on the larger issues of crime and subway reliability, but the man was obsessed with graffiti and would not allow a graffiti infected train to travel the tracks of the MTA. “We were religious about it,” Gunn asserted. “So that if a train came in with graffiti it had to be cleaned or it was removed from service; this way sending an unambiguous message to the vandals.

“We had a yard up in Harlem on 135th Street where the trains would lay up overnight. The kids would come the first night and paint the side of the train white. Then they would come the next night, after it was dry and draw the outline. Then they would come the third night and color it in. It was a three-day job. We knew that the kids would be working on one of the dirty trains, and what we would do is wait for them to finish their mural. Then we’d walk over with rollers and paint it over. The kids would be in tears, but we’d just be going up and down, up and down. It was a message to them. If you want to spend three nights of your time vandalizing a train, fine. But it’s never going to see the light of day.”

Chodesh Tov – have a pleasant month!

Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Guardian’s Cartoon of Powerful Jews Manipulating Western Leaders

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Last November we posted about a political cartoon at the Guardian by Steve Bell depicting British foreign minister William Hague and Tony Blair as puppets being controlled by Binyamin Netanyahu, in the context of expressions of support by these leaders during the war in Gaza.  Bell’s image evoked the canard of powerful Jews controlling western politicians for their own nefarious purposes and was hauntingly similar to more explicitly antisemitic cartoons routinely found in Arab and Islamist world.

The Guardian’s readers’ editor, Chris Elliott, addressed the row a couple of weeks later, and actually rebuked Bell for ‘unintentionally’ using the visual language of antisemitic stereotypes.

While such cartoons often have more of an immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than lengthy essays, the damage done by such toxic ideas regarding ‘Jewish control’, in any form, should be taken seriously.  The Guardian narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, in news reports and commentaries, often includes passages with the unmistakable  suggestion that Israel (and the pro-Israeli lobby) wields enormous power over ineffectual Western leaders – a theme present in a report by Harriet Sherwood and Julian Borger titled ‘Iran nuclear programme deal in danger of unravelling’, Nov. 11.  The story centered on nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) which ultimately unraveled largely due to concerns that the agreement would have eased sanctions on Iran without requiring that it cease enriching uranium.

The report by Sherwood and Borger included the following:

In a bid to contain the danger, the lead US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, flew straight from the talks in Geneva to Israel to reassure Binyamin Netanyahu’s government that the intended deal would not harm his country’s national interests.

The hastily arranged trip represented an acknowledgement of Netanyahu’s power to block a deal through his influence in the US Congress and in Europe. Egged on by the Israelis, the US Senate is poised to pass new sanctions that threaten to derail the talks before they get to their planned next round in 10 days’ time.

More immediately, Netanyahu demonstrated over the weekend that he could sway the Geneva talks from the inside through his relationship with Paris.

These passages of course strongly suggest that US congressional leaders take their marching orders from Jerusalem and that the French government’s position was not motivated by what it saw as its own national interests but, rather, as a result of the influence of the Israeli prime minister.

However, the deal was fatally flawed, according to many experts, due in part because it would have fallen short of the requirements in six resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council over the years which called on Iran to suspend ALL uranium enrichment – resolutions passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, rendering them binding under international law.

As Adam Chandler observed in an essay published at Tablet about the superficial analysis by Sherwood and Borger:

[Their argument] smacks of that paranoid, evergreen charge that all wars and international campaigns are waged on behalf of Israel, a claim that devolves from Israel into “the Jews” as it goes through portal after conspiratorial portal.

You don’t even need to believe that antisemitism is at play to nonetheless be contemptuous of the extraordinary myopia displayed in the Guardian report.  As Walter Russell Mead observed recently about the broader intellectual dynamic which unites antisemitism with anti-Zionism:

Weak minds…are easily seduced by attractive but empty generalizations. The comment attributed to August Bebel that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools can be extended to many other kinds of cheap and superficial errors that people make. The baffled, frustrated and the bewildered seek a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world.

Guardian “journalists” may fancy themselves sophisticated, erudite and worldly, but their frequent ‘Zionist root cause’ explanations betray both their ideological bias and the extraordinarily facile nature of their reasoning.

Visit CIFWatch.

Adam Levick

What the Syria Crisis Tells Us about the Israel Lobby

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Barely minutes after the news broke earlier this month that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was planning a major effort on Capitol Hill to garner support for the Obama administration’s plan for a limited military operation against the Syrian regime, the conspiracy theorists were having a field day.

As always, it’s instructive to note how the notion that American foreign policy is a prisoner of organizations like AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying group in America, is an idée fixe on both the far left and the extreme right. Juan Cole, a left-wing academic with a strong online following, grabbed the opportunity to argue that AIPAC, in advocating for what he described as “attacking Syria,” is out of touch with the opinions of most American Jews, who are not evil neoconservatives but solid progressives. The anti-Zionist Jewish blogger M.J. Rosenberg ranted about how “AIPAC and its cutouts are the only lobbying forces supporting the administration’s plans for war.”

Not to be outdone, Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan, wrote that in supporting military action, AIPAC was endangering the lives of Syrian Christians, whom he believes are better off under the Assad regime.

Such concern for the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East is touching, but also a tad disingenuous, as The American Conservative has never shown much sympathy for the fate of those Christian communities, from Nigeria to Pakistan, who suffer from Islamist atrocities. When you bring Israel into the equation, however, the magazine suddenly finds its voice.

The combined message here is clear: Syria is Iraq Redux, another “endless war” America is being pushed into by a shadowy Jewish cabal.

Critics of these conspiracy theories have rightly pointed out the anti-Semitic pedigree on display here. The idea that Jews are powerful enough to manipulate their governments from behind the scenes is a staple of modern anti-Semitism. Still, let’s for a moment take the Israel Lobby thesis on its own merits. Is the charge that the “Lobby” is the real authority when it comes to U.S. foreign policy empirically verifiable?

The answer to that question is a resounding no. In fact, what the latest developments on Syria demonstrate is that rather than the “Lobby” running the administration, it is the administration that runs the “Lobby.”

AIPAC, along with mainstream Jewish advocacy organizations, had been largely silent on the atrocities taking place in Syria. In that sense, they were no different from the other influential groups and individuals who were either undecided on the issue of a limited military operation or firmly opposed to it. It’s no secret that Obama always faced a rough ride in Congress, especially as some of his traditional supporters, like the MoveOn.org PAC, actively opposed any intervention in Syria.

Similarly, the Jewish left is uncomfortable with the prospect of taking on the Assad regime; J Street, a group that once ludicrously claimed to be Obama’s “blocking back” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issue, has deserted the president over Syria.

Rather than pushing for war, then, AIPAC and similar groups were drafted in at the last minute to boost support for a president who was looking dangerously isolated. The irony of an administration that includes Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary who famously bemoaned AIPAC’s influence, running to groups like AIPAC to secure backing shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Even so, away from the political point scoring, what this shows is that the influence of pro-Israel groups is something this administration values. Equally – and this is key – these groups will wield that influence when the administration requests that they do so.

Importantly, this is not the first time the administration has turned to the “Lobby” for support on Middle East-related matters. Part of the reason Secretary of State John Kerry was able to galvanize support and publicity for his efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was that he turned to American Jews, whose principal organizations dutifully trumpeted his message. The fact that Kerry’s diplomacy has yielded few results isn’t really his fault, nor is it the fault of American Jews. The stasis on the Israeli-Palestinian front is the consequence, as it always has been, of rejectionism among the Palestinians, whose leaders remain distinctly queasy about doing anything that might smack of accepting Israel’s legitimacy.

Any worry about all of this on the part of American Jewish organizations should relate not to accusations of outsize influence but to association with failure. So far Israel has little to show for its decision, under pressure from the Americans, to release Palestinian terrorists ahead of the talks; meanwhile, the Syrian intervention proposal is mired in confusion because of widespread concern that an American-led operation will be too little, too late.

If the Obama administration can be confident of anything, it is that its American Jewish partners will never go so far as to openly criticize the president. Far from being the war-crazed cabal depicted in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, the “Israel Lobby” is in reality an oasis of calm reliability for a president who may just be on the cusp of his biggest foreign policy failure.

Ben Cohen

Bibi’s Choice

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

News item:

MEXICO CITY (AP) — U.S. law enforcement officials expressed outrage over the release from prison of Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero and vowed to continue efforts to bring to justice the man who ordered the killing of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

Caro Quintero was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the 1985 kidnapping and killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena but a Mexican federal court ordered his release this week saying he had been improperly tried in a federal court for state crimes. …

The Association of Former Federal Narcotics Agents in the United States said it was “outraged” by Caro Quintero’s early release and blamed corruption within Mexico’s justice system.

“The release of this violent butcher is but another example of how good faith efforts by the U.S. to work with the Mexican government can be frustrated by those powerful dark forces that work in the shadows of the Mexican ‘justice’ system,” the organization said in a statement.

So imagine how they would react if 104 “violent butcher(s)” were released from prison as a result of improper influence on the justice system, particularly if that influence came from a foreign power! This describes the prisoner release that Israel’s leaders have been coerced into accepting as the price for beginning talks with the PLO.

There isn’t justice in nature. Sometimes evil people do terrible things and escape punishment, even thrive. This brute fact has prompted countless pages of philosophical and theological discourse. But one thing that is not in doubt is that it is one of the functions of civilization to try to bring some order out of this moral chaos by imposing justice.

Hence one of the seven Noachide laws — one of the moral principles that Judaism recognizes as a requirement for any civilized nation, Jewish or not — is to establish courts of law. Subverting justice, then, is one of the worst crimes a person can commit.

PM Netanyahu fell into a trap set for him by Barack Obama, perhaps payback for the humiliation Obama suffered in May 2011, when Bibi dared to publicly instruct the ‘leader of the free world’ about “Middle East reality.”

Now Obama has handed him a “Sophie’s choice,” a moral dilemma in which both forks are horrible. Should he release the prisoners, cause immense pain to the families of their victims, damage Israel’s honor and deterrence, and subvert the legal system that condemned them (and by the way, destroy his own reputation and political career)? Or should he tell Obama to go to hell and expose Israel to whatever consequences were threatened?

Bibi has made his choice. History will judge him.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

Vic Rosenthal

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fresno-zionism/bibis-choice/2013/08/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: