Posts tagged " Balaam "

Bury the Blame

July 10th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 31 comments

With immigrants in the news, let me tell you about fifteen-year-old David Sarnoff whose father died shortly after his family immigrated to America.  To support his mother and siblings, David got a $5/week job as office boy at the Commercial Cable Company in New York.  (Government funded welfare programs weren’t to arrive for another 30 years.)  On his own time he taught himself to use the telegraph key making himself more useful to the company’s telegram business.  On Monday morning September 17, 1906, he explained to his supervisor that he’d be unable to come to work on Thursday and Friday on account of the Jewish holyday of Rosh HaShana.  He was promptly fired. 

Ten days later, on Saturday, September 29, 1906 he observed the holyday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and on Sunday morning he began working for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America.  Two months later Guglielmo Marconi, himself, visited the New York office.  Young David brashly introduced himself to the great Italian inventor who took a liking to his young employee.  While off duty, David took correspondence courses in mathematics.

At work on the night of April 14, 1912, David Sarnoff received the distress signals being telegraphed from the doomed Titanic. He passed the tragic information to William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers.  This turned the new-fangled radio into a household term. Meanwhile, despite his fascination with the technical side of radio, David Sarnoff moved to the financial side of the business saying, “…the place to make money is where the money is coming in…”


Banish Stinking Thinking

January 22nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 33 comments

Nobody I know ever warned more effectively against “Stinking Thinking” than my unforgettable friend, the late Zig Ziglar.  His son, Tom, carries his father’s legacy forward, doing his bit to help banish the scourge of Stinking Thinking.

What is Stinking Thinking? It’s the business professional saying to him or herself, “I’ve called enough customers for one day; it’s time for a break.” It’s the harried homemaker thinking, “I can’t carry on; nobody appreciates me.” It’s the employee avoiding making the case for requesting a raise by saying, “I’m probably not worth any more than I’m being paid.” It’s the overwhelmed mom doubting her ability to cope with one more toddler temper tantrum or the dad coming home and sitting down in front of the TV instead of spending time with his children and wife as deep down he knows he ought. It’s the writer thinking that he or she can’t sit in front of the keyboard for another minute and it’s you and me explaining to ourselves why we shouldn’t exercise more than we do.

Stinking Thinking can’t be overcome by arguing with ourselves; our lower self has far better debating talents than our higher selves. Stinking Thinking can best be defeated by utterly obliterating the idea that is discouraging our progress upwards.


My friend is a snoop!

June 3rd, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


While I was asleep, a friend of mine had the nerve to look at all the texts on my phone. Now, that friend is confronting me about some of what he read, stuff that he would not even know if he had not invaded my privacy by looking at the text messages. I am quite upset and don’t feel I owe him any explanation about what is, frankly, none of his business.
Please advise me of your wise opinion on this matter.
Please respond as soon as possible!

∼ Leah S.


Dear Leah,

Our tagline is ‘ancient wisdom for modern problems,’ so we’d like to give you an answer that dates back about 1,000 years. At that time, a leader of the generation in Germany, Rabbi Gershom (960-1040), decreed that reading other people’s mail was illegal.

How can this be? Are we to understand that up until his time people routinely read one another’s mail?  Considering that ancient Jewish wisdom on Numbers 24:5 explains that the enemy, Balaam praised the Jewish people for taking care to respect each other’s privacy while in the desert, was prohibiting the reading of other people’s mail truly a necessary step forward?

The answer is that this was not an advanced, breakthrough ruling. Rather, it was an acknowledgment that the Jews in Germany were losing a sensitivity that their ancestors had possessed. Having to put such an idea into law meant that what was always understood as proper behavior was being ignored.

Privacy in our day has almost disappeared. Even the most circumspect of us, willingly or not, share personal details with the government, retailers and random strangers. Many people choose to broadcast the most awful parts of their lives in popular entertainment and public forums.

Your friend was entirely in the wrong. The question is not whether you owe him an explanation, it is whether your  friendship can survive. He cannot forget what he saw although he was wrong to look. You may need to recognize that by talking about certain things on What’sApp or by text,  you also did not assign proper respect and confidentiality to your own life. Either of these facts may destroy the relationship. Both together probably will at the very least change your relationship.

If you both want it to survive, you will need to have a frank discussion of what values you see as belonging in a friendship. You may also want to read some of our previous Ask the Rabbi questions on friendships between men and women.

Wishing you privacy,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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