How do you make the important decisions of your life, such as what to study or where to invest your money? Is there a mathematical strategy to thinking clearly? On this week’s Goldstein on Gelt show, Professor Michael Starbird, professor of mathematics and author of “The Five Elements of Effective Thinking,” talks about how we make decisions and how to think clearly.
Posts Tagged ‘study’
My husband and I have been married for eight years. I am very expressive and outgoing and he is the silent type. Even among close friends, he is never the life of the party. We have three children, and although he loves them very much he hardly spends time with them. He leaves all the dealing with the children to me.
I accepted the situation all of these years because in his own quiet way we did communicate and I love him very much. However, for the last six months my husband has been even more closed than usual. He comes home, greets us briefly, then closets himself in his study and works until late.
When I ask him if something is wrong, he ignores me. I am at my wit’s end. How do you talk to someone who refuses to talk? I asked him if he is happy at work and he said he is. I told him that I can’t go on like this and that I and the children need him and he needs to spend some time with us.
I practically begged him for us to go out for our anniversary, and we did. We went to a restaurant and when I tried to talk about us, he asked me if I brought him out to spoil everything.
On Rosh Hashanah I prayed very hard for sholom bayis and to feel warmth and love from my husband, but I don’t know what more I can do. I am certain that there is no one else in his life, because he is home when he is not working and does not have late nights at work, and he is never away on weekends.
Shabbos after shul we eat and then he goes to sleep; Sundays he spends at home in his study.
Do you suggest that I just continue to live like this? Should I threaten divorce even though I don’t want to leave? Should I go for marriage counseling alone? I asked him if he would come with me to a therapist and of course he said he doesn’t believe in it and he never heard of it helping anyone.
I have not discussed this with my mother or my sisters because I thought that would make things worse, and that leaves me feeling very alone.
Any advice you can give me would be immensely appreciated.
Dear Lonely Heart,
We have to marvel at how truly amazing it is that two people – usually complete strangers to one another and raised separately – join together with the expectation of living harmoniously under one roof, sharing meals, ideas and the same bedroom, and are committed to love one another above everyone else for the rest of their lives. Whew!
Granted, a concerted effort to establish some commonality and compatibility is made beforehand, but in reality it is a deference to, and mutual respect for, one another and each other’s differences that keeps the relationship on track.
In just the second line of your letter you inform us of the distinction between the two of you; you are the “expressive and outgoing” kind while your husband is the “silent type.” In other words, you are saying that he is this way by nature and has been since the time you got to know him.
You also say you love him, that “in his own quiet way” you communicate, and that you have no interest in divorcing him. While you’ve let him know that you need more than he offers you and that you lack emotional fulfillment, at the same time you are comforted by the fact that he spends all of his non-working hours and weekends home. (Incidentally, you are wise to keep your private life private, but this needn’t prevent you from seeking professional guidance on your own.)
The sketchy details in your letter paints a picture of a man who comes home and escapes to his study — to avoid being confronted by his dissatisfied and fault-finding wife, perhaps? Not very conducive to drawing him out of his shell, if so…
In my humble opinion, the best chance you have of encouraging your husband to be more communicative is by being yourself, by showing him that you are at ease and comfortable in your environment and genuinely eager to share your day and the latest happenings with the person whom you consider to be your best friend.
Tests conducted on olive trees on Jerusalem’s historic Mount of Olives are the oldest known trees in the world, according to a study released on Friday conducted by the National Research Council of Italy Trees and Timber Institute.
Trees from the Garden of Gethsemane, in an area taken over by a triumvirate of Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches, were dated back to the years 1092, 1166, and 1198, according to the study which was done with the participation of 5 Italian universities.
Chief Researcher Professor Antonio Cimato said at a presentation of the results in Rome that there are no plants of greater age cited in scientific literature.
Analysis of DNA from the trees indicated that they came from the same parent plant.
The study was publicized – seemingly unintentionally – at the same time as Jewish people around the world studied and read the weekly Torah portion which corresponded this week to Parshat Noah, in which the story of the flooding of the world, and its redemption through the biblical figure Noah is told. In the story, Noah released a dove to bring back signs of life after the flood. The dove returned with an olive branch in its beak – which Jewish tradition teaches was plucked from a tree on the Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives is the location of the world’s largest and most ancient Jewish cemetery. It sits just above the site of King David’s capital city, and was a location of significance for work pertaining to service in the Holy Temples. According to biblical prophecy in the Book of Zechariah, the Messiah will arrive on the Mount of Olives, before descending to redeem Jerusalem.
From the remarkable beis midrash in the town of Brodi came forth a dazzling number of Talmudic chachamim, many of whom went forth to greatness. The most famous was the great Nodah B’Yehuda, Rav Yechezkel Landau, who was the rav of the Diaspora during his lifetime. But there were other towering scholars who were members of the famous beis midrash. One of them, a giant in his time, was Rav Chaim Tzanzer.
Rav Chaim (not to be confused with Rav Chaim Halberstam of Sanz, author of Divrei Chaim) had two occupations. One was the study of Torah and the other was the doing of good deeds and charity. As to the first, not only his days, but his nights, too, were devoted to study. His candle never went out and it was his custom to sit before a table that had on it two glasses of water. As he learned, one hand would be immersed in one of the glasses. If he ever began to doze off the glass would overturn and the sound would awaken him. He would then wash both his hands in the other glass and resume his learning.
He would often ask, “Why is it that all the tractates of the Talmud begin with page two and not page one?
“The answer is that although a Jew sits day and night in the study of Torah, he should not become arrogant in his knowledge. For he should always remember that in reality he has never even learned page one and he still must start at the beginning.”
A Snowy Night
One evening, Rav Chaim, as was his custom, sat before his Talmud while outside the cold wind blew and the snow came down in fearsome fashion. It was a night when only the foolhardy would be out. Yet, as Rav Chaim sat in study, he was startled to hear a loud pounding on his door and someone frantically calling, “Open, for the sake of heaven, please open the door!”
Rav Chaim went swiftly to the door and opened it to find a half-frozen man covered with snow and shivering from head to toe. He hurriedly sat him down by the blazing fire and got him some strong wine to warm his trembling body. Then, Rav Chaim brought him supper and prepared a bed for his guest.
“A thousand pardons, Rebbe, for my interrupting you from your studies,” the man said, “but as I was on my business travels the storm caught up with me and I saw no light burning in the entire town except for yours. I was nearly frozen to death and was forced to knock on your door.
“Now, you are doing too much for me, even preparing a bed.”
“There is no need to say anything,” interrupted Rav Chaim. “If it will make you feel better, you should know that I am not preparing the bed for you, but for myself – in the World to Come.”
Hope For Him?
The Jew understood what Rav Chaim meant and he asked, “Rebbe, and what about me? Is there any hope for me in the World to Come? Behold, in this world I have no pleasure at all. I work like a horse, wandering from town to town and never knowing peace. Will I at least know it in the next world?”
Rav Chaim looked at him and sighed, “You ask a good question and you must consider it carefully. If in this world, where you put in so much time and effort, you still are unable to find enjoyment and peace, how can anyone who does not bother at all to prepare for the World to Come hope to find pleasure there?”
Help For One Who Fell
It was in the doing of good deeds and the collection of charity for those in need that Rav Chaim especially excelled. He would not only give liberally of his own money, but he would go to the homes of the wealthy to get money for the poor who were ever-present guests in his house. He was, of course, always careful on these collections to adhere to the admonition of the Talmud (Baba Bathra 8b) that charity should always be collected by two people and not one. Therefore, he was always accompanied by one of the heads of the community or the officials of the town.
I recently read a disturbing news article about a social phenomenon that is tragic beyond words.
The article stated that more people were losing their lives by committing suicide than by car crashes. This conclusion was based on a recent study by the American Journal of Public Health based on data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics from the years 2000-2009.
The study found that vehicular fatalities during this period had declined by 25%, but deaths from suicides rose 15%. Experts, however, believe that the number is actually closer to 20%, and that many deaths listed as accidental were not. There is a cultural and religious stigma in regards to killing oneself, so some suicides were orchestrated to look unintentional.
Conversely, despite it seeming as if there are more drivers on the road – we are all to often frustrated by traffic congestion that turns highways into parking lots – and the increase in distracted drivers, the decrease in car accidents was attributed to various safety features like front and side air bags, seat belts and stricter penalties for speeding and drinking.
So why are so many people killing themselves, or attempting to, since some try but fail? I can only imagine that they are looking for a way out of lives saturated with abject misery; they feel trapped in a cage of never-ending unhappiness.
Many wake up wishing they hadn’t. Each day is emotionally traumatic and they do not even entertain the possibility of their lives getting better; they have no iota of hope that the situation they find themselves in will ever improve.
In trying to understand the mindset of a suicidal person, I imagine that it is like having your finger stuck in a flame. No matter how hard you try to pull the finger out of the fire, you cannot. You are in such torturous pain, and so desperate for the agony to stop, that you want to kill yourself to get blessed relief. You see no other option.
But their excruciating pain is not physical – it is emotional.
They are enveloped in the flames of relentless despair and hopelessness; some try to dull the pain through alcohol, drugs or unsavory distractions and behaviors. But all they manage to achieve is a temporary respite. Their finger is still in the fire and they face endless years of torment. I believe the fuel feeding this flame is a deep sense of worthlessness, an overwhelming belief that they are perpetual losers; thus they see no point in even trying to strive for success, be it socially, financially or spiritually.
They have given up, believing they have failed and will continue to do so. They feel like caged gerbils on an exercise wheel, running and running and running to no avail – as hard as they try, they get nowhere.
Sadly, the “oxygen” that feeds this extreme sense of inadequacy is often supplied by those who should have been building their egos and fortifying their sense of self, planting and nurturing the seeds of confidence and self-like that would bloom into a happy, optimistic, and emotionally healthy human being. These include mothers and fathers, siblings, spouses, teachers, neighbors, friends, colleagues, employers – even strangers.
Constant, unrelenting criticism, denigration, and belittling – whether unintentional (in a misguided attempt to motivate you to do better academically, improve your job performance, or your looks,) or deliberate – bullies trying to shore up their own low self-esteem by mocking, teasing, and even physically hurting someone they perceive to be a bigger “loser” than themselves – whittles away a person’s belief that he is worthful (as opposed to worthless) and deserving of respect.
Individually, every put down or jab is just a single straw, but thousands of these straws piling up over the years can crush the strongest back and break the sturdiest spirit.
(I remember when I was little and would walk down the street, an elderly neighbor who often sat on his porch, would call out to me, “Hey fatty!” I was a bit chubby, but what did he gain by denigrating me? I was too much of a tomboy to care how I looked, but it was a negative straw nonetheless.)
Schools waste kids’ time by teaching them the wrong math.
Since half of Americans die with less than $10,000 in savings, it appears that maybe they’re not too good at handling money. The educational system seems to be failing in teaching practical financial skills to students. Kids aren’t learning math and money skills that they can apply to everyday life.
Schools seem to favor theoretical math over basic “practical math.” If useful math and money skills were taught in middle school and high school, students would enter the real world equipped to earn and manage their own money. Instead, the education system focuses on esoteric topics that help make future mathematicians and scientists. But how many children grow up and use calculus on a regular basis, compared to those who must balance a checkbook?
Which helps you more in life: knowing how to solve a quadratic equation or understanding how actuaries calculate your pension payments?
My high school math classes included in-depth study of calculus, trigonometry, geometry, and such. As a 20-year veteran on Wall Street, I will admit that other than helping my kids with their homework, I haven’t used any of those disciplines in handling my clients’ money.
Those in favor of keeping the current math curriculum argue that learning complex mathematics helps develop the skills of critical thinking. I agree. But there are plenty of demanding math techniques that also have practical applications. Why not teach those first?
For example, teach the kids ratios, standard deviation, statistics and probability, sampling and estimation, correlation analysis and regression, technical and fundamental analysis of businesses. Wouldn’t studying these before studying the more obscure number topics also help develop the skills of “critical thinking?”
Math has practical applications
Imagine if children learned math that helped them when they went to work. Since about 100% of high-school graduates will eventually hold a job compared to the 1% or so who will use calculus in their careers, shouldn’t schools teach practical topics? Wouldn’t it be helpful to learn the math and concepts behind market forces of supply and demand, gross national product, interest rates, business cycles, inflation, cash flows, and, of course, investments?
As a financial adviser, I talk with thousands of people about their money and through my online school, I teach the basics of investing. It’s surprising to me when folks have credit card debt, yet cannot calculate the interest that they will owe on it. Or, I’ll talk to them about a price/earnings ratio, which is the first number that people look at when checking out a stock, but the clients don’t get the concept of how a ratio works and I have to explain it.
Shouldn’t the next generation of children enter the workforce knowing how to read their brokerage statements and understand them?
I am a big believer in math. I studied many complex topics in college, and I think others should, too. But first teach kids practical math in school, and then if they decide to study further, only then start with the abstruse topics.
Today, we are going to examine the relationship between Torah and T’shuva. First, we must understand that Torah is not external, factual knowledge like the knowledge of science, mathematics, or linguistics. Torah is an inwardly-directed knowledge which has the power to influence and change a person, to refine a person’s sensitivities and to connect him to the holy, spiritual foundations of life.
The study of Torah is not a quantitative amassing of information and theories like other knowledges. It is a qualitative experience demanding both moral and intellectual involvement, and a desire to make Torah ideals an essential part of one’s character. When a person learns Torah and discovers the exalted harmony and goodness of Creation, his will is affected, stimulating a yearning for God. Because his will for goodness is enhanced, his desire for t’shuva is strengthened as well.
The Talmud teaches that God created the evil inclination and the Torah as its cure (Kiddushin 30B). Rabbi Kook explains this as meaning that a person’s will cannot be perfected except through the purifying influence of the Torah. The Torah strengthens the will and directs it towards holiness and goodness.
The more an individual learns Torah, especially the deeper wisdom of Torah, the more knowledgeable he becomes about his true spiritual nature and about the nature of his will. He comes to recognize that the entire world is Divinely inspired to attain a purer connection to God. This higher contemplation brings him to a higher level of t’shuva. Rabbi Kook writes:
“True, complete t’shuva demands lofty horizons of perception, in order to be raised to the resplendent world which abounds in holiness and truth. This can only be done by being immersed in the secrets of life found in Divine wisdom and the depths of the Torah. This necessitates physical cleansing and the purification of one’s traits as aids, so that the clouds of lust will not darken the intellect’s clarity. But the study of Torah must precede everything else, especially the study of the higher, supernal Torah, for it alone can shatter all of the iron barriers which separate the individual and the Nation from God” (Orot HaT’shuva, 10:1).
T’shuva and Torah go hand-in-hand. Like bees and honey, you can’t have one without the other. The more a person studies Torah, the more inspired he is to do t’shuva. Similarly, to the extent that a person purifies himself through t’shuva, his study of Torah is blessed and made more clear.
A person who is satisfied with a routine performance of the Torah’s commandments can get by with a minimum of t’shuva, but to enter into the deep, secret wellsprings of Torah, a person must be pure of all unholy influences. To reach this state of cleanliness, a great deal of t’shuva is required. The depth of a person’s t’shuva enables him to understand greater degrees of Torah, for the ability to understand Torah does not solely depend on one’s intellectual skills in clinically analyzing a passage of Talmud — the essence of Torah is when the person has internalized its profound moral concepts into his being, so much so that he yearns for them with all of his might. Only when a person has reached this level, when his will is so refined that it longs only for goodness, can he properly understand the deep secrets of Torah.
For this reason, people who profess to learn Kabbalah without doing t’shuva are not really learning at all. They study the formulas of mysticism, but the import of the teachings does not enter their hearts, for God only unravels the secrets of Torah to one who has prepared his soul to receive them. Rabbi Kook writes:
“It is obvious that it is impossible to learn the secrets of Torah without t’shuva. For in these great matters, the will and the intellect are united. When one understands these subjects with a mighty will for the good, one yearns for them and devises many general and specific strategies to obtain them. However, when sins form a barrier, the will is damaged, and since one cannot rise to the highest, innermost level of the will…wisdom cannot grow in him, and the channels of understanding the secrets of Torah are blocked” (Ibid, 10:8).
Simply put, if you want to understand the inner workings of existence, you have to clean up your act. Just like you cannot purify yourself in a ritual bath while holding a dead mouse in your hand, you cannot learn the secrets of Torah while you are living in sin.