Posts tagged " money "

Is Jewish financial success unrelated to Judaism?

October 6th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 9 comments

I have recently become a passionate audience of your ancient Jewish wisdom show on tct.tv. I do gain a lot of understandings of why Jewish people are so successful, especially in the business world. Many of the teachings I have learnt so far are related to the faith.

But that doesn’t seem to explain why so many secular Jewish people are also very successful in their trades. 

Could it be that the blessing of God to the chosen people regardless of their faith?

Thanks,

Howard L.

Dear Howard,

We are delighted that you are watching our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show on TCT. Our shows, just like our ministry, revolve around applying ancient Jewish wisdom to the areas of family, finances, faith, friendship and fitness. In other words, everything in our lives that we really care about.

If you have had the chance to look at any of our financial resources, whether books, audio or video, we hope you have begun to find the answers to your question.

We all grow up in certain environments that lead us to take many ideas for granted. Only when we are exposed to a different way of life do we realize that our way is not universal or automatic. We can see this in so many different areas. For instance, there are many American citizens who grow up with loyalty to one of the two political parties because that is the party that their grandparents and parents and neighbors supported over the course of decades. Sometimes, they discover a new friend or a piece of information that leads them to actually explore what differentiates the parties and then they discover that their natural affinity lies elsewhere. But many, many people just blindly follow in their parents’ footsteps.

Similarly, if you grew up in a home awash with books, with parents who read aloud to you and supper discussions that revolved around articles and books, you might be blown away to eat at a friend’s house and find that watching TV is the main activity at mealtime. Until you joined that table as a guest, you simply did not know that not everyone reads avidly or that members of a family could sit at a meal with eyes focused on a monitor instead of sharing time and conversation together.

In this same way, there are attitudes towards work and money that pass down through generations of Jewish families even when the original source of those ideas, the Torah, has been banished as a main guidepost for life. The original impetus is no longer known, but the fumes of that fuel, those specific ideas, remain in the gas tank. In our resources, we share these ideas so that they are available to everyone, though we explain why being a person of faith makes them more accessible.

Having said that, we all realize that time will erode everything if there is no upkeep as surely as your car will stop traveling once it runs out of gas. The fumes of Torah wisdom will propel people forward for quite some time even after the tank is empty, but it will not last forever.

Wishing you financial success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Where did the money go?

April 14th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

With the current stock market losses can you explain where the loss in value goes?

Brad

Great question, Brad, 

May we try to put it into concrete terms?   Suppose you owned a stock in the Weem, Acheit & Sellate Widget Company for which you had paid $10.  Now you want to sell it but you can only get $6 for it.  You’re asking, where is the other $4?  The buyer who purchased your share for $6 doesn’t have your $4.  The broker you might have used to facilitate the transaction doesn’t have it and W.A. & S. Widget Company doesn’t have it.  So where did it go?  That’s what you’re asking, right?

This question reminds us of a helpful old riddle. Three men had lunch together and the total bill came to $25.  Each man handed the waiter a $10 bill. On his way back to the table with five $1 bills in change, the waiter had an idea. $5 change is hard to divide among the three diners, so the waiter pocketed $2 and gave each man $1.

With each man having handed over a $10 and got back $1 in change, each man ended up paying $9. Multiply by 3 as there were 3 men, so that comes to $27. Now remember the $2 in the waiter’s pocket and $27 + $2 = $29.  Where is the missing $1?  Did we start with $30, not $29?  Who has the missing $1?

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Holy Money

August 27th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 31 comments

Dan Ariely is an Israeli-American teacher at Duke University in North Carolina.  I think he’s smart and very well educated.  Based on his weekly column in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal he is often insightful and entertaining.  However, his recent answer to the question of whether people’s salaries accurately reflect the value they provide to society, lacked wisdom. 

He lamented the fact that many people create a lot of value and don’t get paid much, citing teachers as the best example.  I am going to leave aside the obvious fact that most rabbis probably feel that rabbis are underpaid and a liberal arts graduate with a bad choice of majors probably feels intuitively that specialists in Byzantine frescoes are underpaid.  I am leaving those aside as I leave aside the fact that Dan is a teacher because I am not that interested in the feelings of rabbis, liberal arts graduates or teachers.  I am much more interested in their thoughts than I am in their feelings.

It was Dan’s closing sentence that revealed a lack of wisdom.  Here it is:

“Maybe one day we will evolve as a society and base people’s salaries on their actual contribution to the common good.”

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My girlfriend’s earning potential is greater than mine.

November 13th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 5 comments

I have listened to a few of your podcasts that talk about the perils of income disparity between spouses, where the wife earns more than the husband. I’m a guy, and frankly the topic terrifies me because I’d rather drive nails through my feet than face the prospect of divorce because of this kind of thing. 

I’m dating someone who does not earn more than me but she has high potential to do so later.Am I heading for disaster?

Justin

Dear Justin,

I (RDL) often speak about the connection between money and marriage on my podcast and I (Susan) frequently cover variations on the same theme in my Musings. In this forum you get the two of us together! 

A few years ago, we did a multi-day conference in Dallas on the topic and we are working on a book as well. Some of what we write below comes out of that manuscript. So, you have touched a hot-button subject for us and one in which, not surprisingly, much of what we have to say contradicts popular culture.

One of the sentences in your letter concerns us.  We hope we’re wrong but you sound passively resigned to being terrified.  Why isn’t that fear fueling your financial climb to a new level at which that fear would evaporate?  Part of being a male is developing and feeling ambition.

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You + You = YOU

July 2nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

Money, money, money…” sang Abba in 1976.  What is it?  It is funny how challenging it is to define.    Is it those metallic discs clinking in your pocket? How about those strips of colored paper in your wallet?  How about when you write a check? Is that money?  What if you write on a napkin, “I’ll give you $10 on Friday.” Is that money? How about if we shake hands and I simply say, “I’ll give you $10 on Friday.” Is that money?  Or is money the magnetic orientation of iron oxide molecules on that brown strip back of your credit card?  Is it a stream of ones and zeroes on the hard drive of your financial institution’s computer?  What is money?

Whether you consult economists or financiers, business school deans or directors of the International Monetary Fund, you’ll always get much the same answer.  It will be something like this: money is a government authorized circulating medium of exchange that allows us to count and store value. 

While that definition is basically true, it hardly tells the entire story.  For a far more useful depiction, we should turn to the 10th chapter of William James’ The Principles of Psychology published in 1890. While William James, who in my opinion had a much more correct understanding of the human soul than Sigmund Freud, is not trying to define money, he is helping us understand the breadth of its impact upon our lives.

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Matzoh, Money and Marriage

March 27th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Here’s an unusual thought experiment: Imagine meeting a twenty-year-old man who is suffering from near total amnesia. He explains to you that he knows how to read and write, drive a car and live healthily, but has no idea at all of what he ought to be doing to prepare for successfully living the rest of his life.  What are you going to tell him?

Upon some reflection, I think I’d say to him, “There are two really important things that are vital for happy living and neither is intuitive, so I am delighted that you asked me.”

The two are money and marriage.  Nothing at all is taught about either one at GIC’s (Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools.)  Not surprisingly, the result is a huge number of twenty-year-old men who have never given a realistic moment’s thought to earning a living.  Public education’s indifference to marriage has also resulted in a significantly diminishing percentage of young men marrying.  If nobody teaches young males how money works and why marriage is important, how could they possibly know? 

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What do you think of bitcoin?

January 23rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 27 comments

What is your opinion of bitcoin? It would seem that it does not exist in the true sense and does not serve other human beings. Investments only have value when other people place a value on them.

Jeff N.

Dear Jeff,

We’re getting a strong urge to start this answer by saying that nothing in our Ask the Rabbi column should be taken as investment advice and that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can answer your question.

The point we would like to make is that bitcoin’s value, as you say, is based on people’s willingness to honor it. That is true for many things we call money. For example, United States savings bonds are “backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government.” If the government falls or become dishonorable, the bonds quickly become worthless. The service any form of monetary exchange provides is allowing people to function economically in a more sophisticated manner than basic bartering. But any government behaving immorally by inflating its currency in order to surreptitiously tax its citizens will quickly find its currency valueless.

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Do as I Do, Not as I Say

December 20th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 26 comments

Years ago, the little yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois, had a pathetic basketball team.  Just a bunch of slightly nerdy kids stumbling around the court.  Their star forward  dribbled like a drunk trying to stomp a cockroach.  They were so low in the Jewish schools’ league that they usually fell off the bottom of the page.

One day—wonders of wonders—the Chicago Bulls offered to coach them to basketball excellence.  This was going to be The Dirty Dozen all over again.  There is something deeply moving about watching hopeless losers rising to stardom.  King David’s words would resonate throughout Jewish Chicago, “The stone the builders despised has become the cornerstone.” (Psalms 118:22)

What a generous act of magnanimity.  Living legends of basketball like Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman unstintingly giving of themselves.  Through their concern, a motley collection of kids who had never known what it was to hear fans roaring approval, would ultimately achieve success in sports.

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Does God Determine How Much You Earn?

October 5th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

The Jewish “New Year”, Rosh Hashana,  has just ended.  I have been privileged to be teaching in Jerusalem where several people have asked me the same question.  If God judges every human on this holyday, and furthermore He determines the fate of everyone including their financial fortunes, why bother working?  Everything is up to God and He will find a way to get into my bank account whatever He has deemed that I should have.  It so happens that I was fully prepared for this question since I asked it of one of my teachers many years ago.  I will confess there was a spirit of mischievousness in my inquiry that was utterly absent from the sincere and intelligent questioners who confronted me.  The answer is that God does not declare actual dollar amounts.  However, what He does do is establish the ‘cosmic exponents’ that will convert your efforts into actual dollar amounts.  For one person, X amount of effort will produce Y amount of return, for another it might be Z amount of return.  Obviously when X is zero, meaning no work and no effort, regardless of whether you square it, cube it or multiply it by ten thousand, the result will always be zero.  No effort generally = no return.  God put is in the Garden to work it; to exert our energy towards combating the entropy He built into the system for our benefit. This is why we know that closing our store on this website on Sabbath and Holydays is what God expects of us. While there may often be what appear to be temporary exceptions, we are always judged and God’s response is ultimately in accordance with our effort.

Do I Have to Stop Making Money?

July 21st, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

This is a complex ethical question, at least for me. An acquaintance introduced me to an internet marketing business which offered ad-sharing that returned $5 for every share purchased once the share retired. When I bought a lot of packs and received 2% per day ($10,000 investment) it adds up and I reinvested every day which made my shares grow. I checked it out and it is not a Ponzi scheme. Since I do not have a business to promote, the traffic that I am buying with my shares are sent randomly to all the other businesses who are promoting their sites on this traffic exchange – Traffic Monsoon by name. I have to view 10 ads personally every day to be a part of the revenue share.

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