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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Wealth Management 101

By Rabbi Avi Shafran






It's not very often the New York Times proves a Talmudic principle correct


JewishWorldReview.com | A fantastic recent essay in the New York Times brought to mind a fantastic Talmudic narrative.

The latter [in Tamid 32b] describes the would-be world-conqueror Alexander the Great approaching the gates of the Garden of Eden. When denied entry (insufficient righteousness the grounds), he asks for, at least, a souvenir and is given an eyeball (or, perhaps, a skull's eye-socket).

Seeking to somehow gauge the odd gift, he places it on one pan of a scale, with gold and silver in the other pan. The precious metal pan rises. And it continues to do so, no matter how much gold and silver he adds.

Asking the rabbis accompanying him what is happening, they explain that the eye represents the impetus for human desire; it is that which sees and wants, and is never satisfied. He is skeptical but the rabbis then prove their point by placing some dirt, a reminder of the reality of mortality, atop the eye. Its pan then rises high, outweighed by, unconcerned with, oblivious to, all the precious metal.

All of us have likely desired to possess something we don't. But I have always been confounded by the spectacle of very wealthy people consumed with the relentless pursuit of greater wealth. It just wasn't anything I could relate to, or understand. And so the opening words of the New York Times piece grabbed me and wouldn't let me go.

"In my last year on Wall Street," the author, Sam Polk, writes, "my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn't big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted."

To wealth, that is, and the power he saw it as conferring.

Mr. Polk goes on to recount subsequent years in his life, how he became a "bond and credit default swap trader," a job description he might as well have offered in Swahili for all it means to me — "one of the more lucrative roles in the business." And how making a million or two wasn't enough.

"Ever see what a drug addict is like when he's used up his junk?" Mr. Polk asks his readers, and tells them: "He'll do anything — walk 20 miles in the snow, rob a grandma — to get a fix. Wall Street was like that."



"When the guy next to you makes $10 million," he explains, "$1 million or $2 million doesn't look so sweet." Frankly, I wouldn't know, but I do trust Mr. Polk. And the Midrash, which informs us that "He who has one hundred wants two hundred" and that "no man dies with half his desires in hand."

The eye-opening article helped me understand that greed isn't necessarily a sign of depravity. It can be a type of simple irrationality, what Mr. Polk calls an "addiction."

Or what the Talmud calls "ta'avos" — irrational lusts — things even those of us unfamiliar with heroin or cocaine can relate to.

For smokers or alcoholics, the concept is an easy one to understand. But even if our daily desires are limited to junk food or other things that we know are unhealthy for our bodies or our souls, and that we struggle to control, the idea of a ta'avah is certainly recognizable. If we're not obsessed with wealth, well, that's just because, blessedly, we fortunately lack that particular lust. But we might try to be a bit more understanding of those who do suffer such obsessions, no less than we pity an alcoholic.

Eventually, though, Mr. Polk "cashed out," so to speak. His turning point came when he realized that his immensely more wealthy boss was "afraid of losing money, despite all that he had."


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To his credit, he found a new life, marrying, speaking in jails and juvenile detention centers about the benefits of sobriety, teaching and starting a nonprofit to help poor families struggling with obesity and food addiction. "I am," he confides, "much happier."

He seems to have discovered something else the Talmud teaches, that our worth is measured by how we live, not by what we have. And proven himself a "strong" man, as per the sage Ben Zoma's teaching that "Who is strong? He who subdues his inclination."

And as having absorbed another of Ben Zoma's teachings, too: "Who is wealthy? He who is happy with his lot."

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Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.



© 2014, Rabbi Avi Shafran

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