At 10am on Sunday morning, August 18, 1991, Salomon Brothers received a terrifying phone call from the United States Treasury. The famous banking house was henceforth barred from bidding at Treasury auctions because of regulatory violations.
This was a death penalty. The news sped around the world drying up credit. Salomon Brothers summoned bankruptcy lawyers to begin terminating the eighty year old bank.
At 2:30pm, that afternoon, illustrious investor Warren Buffett announced that he had become interim chairman of Salomon Brothers. Immediately the Treasury rescinded most of their ban on the bank, credit began to flow again, and share prices stabilized. Salomon Brothers survived.
Had Salomon Brothers made me chairman instead of Warren Buffett on that fateful Sunday, Salomon would have ceased to exist by nightfall.
Salomon didn’t need just anyone that day. They needed a great financier of monumental accomplishments with a stellar reputation. Buffett was possibly the only man in the world who could have rescued Salomon.
If my cousin asked me to drive his blind neighbor to work tomorrow, in his place, I could easily do so. Furthermore, I would get the man to his destination as reliably as my cousin would have.
Imagine I firmly clamped a rifle to a test mount and aimed it at a watermelon fifty yards away. Whether a Navy SEAL pulls the trigger, or whether it is pulled by a beautician or a ballerina the watermelon is going to get pulverized.
In driving a car or firing the above gun, basic technical competence is more important than human distinctiveness. If the rifle’s trigger is pulled by John Wayne, the bullet won’t travel any further. However, a parent or a spouse is not interchangeable. Being someone special makes a difference to one’s effectiveness in those roles as it does in the rescue of a fatally wounded financial institution.
A blessing is more like Buffett than a bullet. It matters greatly who imparts the blessing. While a blessing from even a lesser person does have value, it doesn’t compare in efficaciousness to a blessing from a great human being.
Ancient Jewish wisdom shows how a blessing from a great source can be passed along.
An angel of God said to Abraham:
In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…
Sure enough, Abraham’s seed, Isaac, received God’s blessing as He had promised.
…after the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac…
Isaac then passed it to Jacob.
…Isaac summoned Jacob and blessed him…
The Torah hints at the continuity of the blessing as Jacob begins blessing all his sons by using the same Hebrew word, VaYiKRaH.
And Jacob summoned his sons…
This verse ends the blessings:
These are the twelve tribes of Israel and this is [VeZOT)
what their father spoke to them…
The verse contains the rare word VeZOT (and this is).
When Moses launched his final blessing to Israel he used the same word VeZOT (Deuteronomy 33:1) that had been used by Jacob.
Moses’ blessing concludes:
Happy [ASHREI] are you, Oh Israel…
When King David commenced his blessing to Israel (the Book of Psalms) he opened with:
Happy [ASHREI] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches how God’s original blessing was carried down from Abraham to David with each drawing on the spiritual power of his predecessor by means of repeating a key word.
We can all increase the effectiveness of our blessings by making ourselves greater. This means getting closer to God, increasing spiritual wisdom and vision and exercising enormous self-discipline. It means enlarging our scope for compassion while gaining courage to stand firm on principle.
A good starting point for this kind of personal growth is our Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak audio CD, which will help increase your effectiveness in all your verbal communication. A blessing given from a mouth that elevates speech is greater than one given from a mouth that sometimes degrades speech. The same is true for a business presentation or words of affection.
This week’s Susan’s Musings: As Simple as…Challah
I first baked challah (Shabbat bread) as a little girl helping my grandmother. She would give me a small piece of dough to knead, while she worked on the larger portion. Her mound would be shiny and smooth while mine was crumbly and dull looking. Grandma would send me on an errand to the living room and when I returned my piece of dough looked as good as hers. As my skills improved, the errands stopped.… READ MORE
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