I recently returned home from a one week speaking tour to Taiwan. The stimulating audiences I was privileged to address in Taipei ranged from intimate gatherings of sixty or seventy influential CEOs to over a thousand readers of Taiwan’s premier business weekly, Smart! Magazine.
When not on stage or in meetings, my gracious hosts shared many of the wonders of Taiwan with me. I saw a few of the priceless early dynasty artifacts in the National Palace Museum. I travelled faster than I have ever done outside of an airplane, during a one hundred and twenty mile smooth and silent ride on Taiwan’s high-speed train. I ascended to the top of the technologically remarkable Taipei 101, a skyscraper that for six years enjoyed tallest-building-in-the-world status until it was eclipsed by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in 2010. I was even taken boating on the South China Sea by the owner of one of Taiwan’s premier yacht builders.
But perhaps the highlights for me were when I was welcomed as a family friend into the homes of some of the Taiwanese people with whom I became close. I felt a natural and authentic warmth from them and I hope they felt the same from me. How we, from such different backgrounds, transcended our ethnic and linguistic barriers and felt such friendship intrigued me.
Like most of Taiwan’s business elite, the people I got to know are Bible-believing Christians. With a common reverence for the Word of God, they from a Christian perspective and I from a Jewish one, we shared much. Their commitment to family, faith, and finance felt comfortably Jewish to me. Additionally, most of them had studied in the United States and were providing their children with the benefits of an American education. Not surprisingly we hit it off and I look forward to returning.
While I obviously got to know far too few Taiwanese for a truly representative sample, I was struck by their very small families. Many of the older generation of Chinese grew up as one of six or seven siblings, but their children typically seem to have one or two children, and often none.
I wondered if the grandparents yearned for more offspring.
In the Book of Ruth, Naomi advises her widowed daughter-in-law to get to know a local nobleman by the name of Boaz with an eye to marriage.
…get dressed and go down to the threshing floor…when he lies down…you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down…
Now I must explain that one of the marvelous methods encrypted into Scripture for decoding ancient Jewish wisdom is what, in Hebrew, is known as k’ree and k’tiv. These two terms mean ‘the way the word is pronounced’ and ‘the way the word is spelled” respectively. K’ree and k’tiv words appear throughout the Bible and our job is to merge the two meanings thereby exposed in the text.
One of the most famous examples of k’ree and k’tiv is found in the above verses from Ruth.
In the k’ree version, the verse reads simply as I translated it. However, as the words are actually spelled in the original Hebrew text, in the k’tiv version, Naomi indicates that she would really be the one getting dressed and going down to meet Boaz at the threshing floor rather than Ruth.
How can this be? Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that although Naomi was advising Ruth how to bring about a union, she herself would also be there in spirit, in order to assist the process that would bring her progeny.
In a Torah framework, having children is not only a personal decision for a couple to make, but it also serves the family and community, linking the past to the future. The more mature Naomi understood the blessing of children, and so she yearned for a child far more than the younger Ruth did. Indeed, it was through this adventure that Naomi attained immortality, becoming a grandmother and ancestor to King David.