In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

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 August 4, 2008 / 3 Menachem-Av 5768

Am I taking advantage of another's psychological quirk?

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: My neighbors have an annoying way of trying to match or outdo us materially. I'm thinking of borrowing something or pretending to have it, just to goad him into wasting his money on this annoying habit.

A: The urge to keep up with the Joneses (or to surpass them) is hardly new. The phenomenon is described many times in the words of our sages - almost always in the context of a discussion how to mitigate this harmful phenomenon.

Here is a selection from a long passage discussing this phenomenon:

The rabbis taught: At first when people would bring portions to a house of mourning, the rich would bring in trays of silver and gold, and the poor in baskets of woven reeds. Then the poor were ashamed, so they decreed that all would bring in baskets of woven reeds, in deference to the poor.

The rabbis taught: at first they would pour drinks in the house of mourning, the rich in white glass, and the poor in [the less expensive] colored glass, and the poor were ashamed. They decreed that all would pour in colored glass, out of deference to the poor. . .

At first the [excessive expense of the] funeral of a dead person was harder on the family than his death, so much so that the relatives would just abandon the body and flee. Until Rabban Gamliel came and made light of his own status neglected his own status and went out [at his own funeral] in [simple] flax garments; and then all the people become accustomed afterwards to go out [to be buried] in flax garments. (1)

Here are two other stories, this time from the Mishna:

At first anyone who knew how to read would read [the declaration on the first fruits], and anyone who did not know how to read, they would read it to him. Then some refrained from coming [because they were ashamed to show that they couldn't read]; they decreed that they would read aloud [alike] to those who know how to read and those who don't. (2)

[A fascinating historic lesson in this Mishna is that even two thousand years ago, when literacy among other nations was limited to the few, any Jewish farmer would be embarrassed to be illiterate.]

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: There were never such happy days for Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur, when the girls of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed white garments, so as not to embarrass one who has none. (3)

In each case, the sages noted the problem of envy, the desire to match one's neighbor at any cost and the shame incurred when one is unable to do so. In each case, the sages made a special effort to lower the bar, to prevent destructive competition and envy. Whenever "keeping up with the Joneses" appeared divisive, they instituted a regime of "keeping down with the Joneses". This included a strong element of personal example, as when Rabban Gamliel, who was the leader of Jewry and a wealthy man, ordered that he himself should be buried in simple shrouds, in order to set a good example for others.

So instead of goading your neighbor, I would recommend the opposite course of action: go out of your way to adopt modest habits that will not tend to incite competition. Obviously you do not have to adopt an ascetic lifestyle, but given the competitive tendencies of your neighbors, erring on the side of simplicity will make life more pleasant for you and your neighbors alike.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Moed Katan 27a-b (2) Mishnah, Bikkurin 3:7. (3) Misnah, Taanis 4:8


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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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