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AThe Three Traits for Financial Success

A new book naming Jews as one of the eight most successful cultural groups in America has already caused waves among readers and critics, the Huffington Post reported.

The book, called The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, was written by Yale Law professor Amy Chua. Chua gained notoriety after publishing the memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother about her tough parenting methods.

The Triple Package, co-written with her husband and fellow Yale Law professor Jed Rubenfeld, makes the case for why eight minority populations in the US are inherently more likely to "do better than others." The groups examined are: Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles, and Mormons.

Chua has been criticized widely for promoting certain races as "superior" to others, yet the three elements she says are behind their success are fascinating and are deserving of analyzing. A superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control.

Superiority complex - We know that we are the chosen people, chosen by God to be his ambassadors or role models to the rest of the world. This may sound great but it is a tremendous challenge and responsibility and has over time caused an almost universal backlash.

Insecurity -what does Israel want? Safety and security. After close to two thousand of wandering around this planet being persecuted and exiled from nearly every country it's no wonder we feel insecure and feel the need to keep proving ourselves.

Impulse control - something most people never understand about Judaism. Why all the 'do's and don'ts'?

Answer: All the 'do's and don'ts' set up a person for success by instilling self-control at an early age. This is the beauty of the Torah way of life and the six hundred and thirteen commandments - we cannot do whatever we want whenever we want with whoever or whatever we want - in return we earn self-discipline - what a gift.

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The Seven Aspects of ONE God in History.

 The God of Creation. The beginning of the Torah (Bible) starts off with the account of how God created the entire universe.

2.     The God of Individual Relationships. Our forefathers and mothers received direct communication from God and were able to communicate back through meditation and prophecy.

3.     The God of Redemption and Master of Nature. The ten plagues and the escape from Egypt followed by the crossing of the Red (Reed) Sea and the receiving of manna and water in miraculous ways show God’s mastery of every facet of existence.

4.     The God of Mass Revelation. At Mount Sinai every single Israelite received direct communication from God of the first two of the Ten Commandments. This was the only time in history that an entire nation received communication from the Divine and according to Rambam (Maimonides) this event serves as the basis of the Jewish knowledge (belief) in One God and veracity of the Bible.

5.     The God of Society. All the commandments that relate to laws between humans that govern the entire gamut of human relationships and societal obligations.

6.     The God of National Relationship. The obligation to build a sanctuary that serves as a continuous reminder of God’s presence and involvement with the Israelite nation.

7.     The God of International (Universal Relationships). The Messianic Era will usher in a new epoch of international cooperation and peace together with a universal acknowledgment of the Unity of God, and all will experience directly some kind of revelation and relationship with God.

THE IMPORTANT GUEST

If the King or Queen or President or other important personage or head of state is staying over at your house I guarantee that you will ensure that everything is spick and span and ready for the important guest. Since God Almighty dwells in our minds it is important to clean out our minds from all the dust of thoughts of transgression and from all thoughts of vanity. Just like you would wash the floors of the house in honor of your important guest, so too a person’s tears should wash the rooms of their minds to befit the abode of God Almighty. “And they will make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell in you” Exodus 25:8. The verse does not state “… and I will dwell in it” it states: “…and I will dwell in you.” In other words God will dwell within us (our hearts and minds) and we need to make the necessary preparations to host Him. (Based on Sefer Charedim)

CHANUKAH TODAY

There are three major questions regarding the observance of Chanukah today. 

a. Why do we celebrate a great military victory with tiny flames?  After all, a flame is fragile. With one flick of a finger it can be extinguished. Victories, especially military ones are celebrated with great pomp, parades and brass bands.

b. Why did the miracle of Chanukah happen after the fact -- after the battles had been won, and after the temple had been re-captured and re-dedicated?

c. What was the message that Hashem intended us to receive by making the lights of the menorah last for eight days? 

Chanukah is a victory celebration in which the emphasis is not on the struggle against tyranny, land liberated or the military victory, although there certainly was one. It is the celebration of a spiritual struggle and a spiritual victory. This is why there is no halachic ordinance of making meals and giving gifts as on Purim, but only saying Hallel and lighting candles. 

The Jewish people refused to surrender to the tidal wave of the dominant Greek culture that proclaimed that only it alone was civilized and relevant. Stubbornly insisting on maintaining their own religious values and spiritual way of life, the Jews of that time not only survived but also revived Judaism for the future. The Greek challenge was more insidious than the pagan one, which only offered immorality and barbarism. The Greeks offered aesthetics and philosophy: the perfect mind in a perfect body in a beautiful environment, the Olympics and genius.

The Greeks had no desire to destroy the Jewish land or to spill Jewish blood. Their purpose was to unify their empire by forming one culture by imposing their values and their religion. They did not set out to destroy the Temple or the Menorah. They were satisfied to allow Temple life to function as long as it marched to a Greek tune.

A candle flame is the physical manifestation of the spiritual "Ner Hashem Nishmat Adam" says King Solomon in Mishle (20:27). The verse in Proverbs (6:23) likens a mitzvah to a lamp, and Torah to its light. Just as a lamp requires a wick and oil, which then must be lit, so is man the wick onto which Hashem pours wisdom (oil), so that the soul may become incandescent with holiness, spreading the light of holiness. As is true with a human spirit, a flame can die or soar. It can be extinguished easily or it can light up the world. The essence of the Jew is his spirit. 

The number eight has always reminded us of being above nature, of the miraculous. The eight-day miracle of the oil was a miraculous reflection of the resurrection of the will of the Jewish people to resist efforts of the Greeks to destroy the Torah way of life and the final success of their efforts. 

The miracle happened right at the end, after the wars were won and the Temple was recaptured and cleansed. Many times a person tries their best to serve Hashem, sometimes there are gray areas and doubts creep in. A person asks himself "Did I do the right thing?" If only we could get a sign from Hashem, like the Maccabees did, that our efforts were correct and approved. Nobody, after witnessing the miracle, could deny the validity of the aims and methods of the Maccabees. 

Let us this Chanukah do as our forebears did before us: rededicate ourselves to Hashem and the Torah. 

Reaching God Through the Torah

It is important to learn history for the lessons contained within it, not just history for its own sake. The first Rashi on the Bible emphasizes this point by asking why we need the first book of the Torah - Genesis (Bereishit). His question and answer implies that the Torah is not a history book but a moral and ethical work that reveals God’s will to us. 

There is a famous debate between Rashi and Ramban  as to whether or not the historical details of the Torah are in chronological order. Rashi takes the view that the message is more important than the form. According to him  the chronological order is not as important as the message the Torah is relating. Sometimes the Torah puts certain incidents together to emphasize a message, not because the two incidents are chronologically in order.  In contrast, Ramban holds to a literal view. He insists that the Torah is both a historically valid document that is chronologically accurate, and a moral code. 

What they both agree on is that the Torah is a moral and ethical Divinely-inspired code for living life to the fullest potential. The mysteries of the past are important if  they help us to live more moral, ethical and fulfilling lives.

The Torah is a moral guide that teaches us how real men and women grappled with life’s difficulties, and how God wants us to act. The goal of the Torah is not to teach us history for the sake of cold scholarly research into past civilizations, but to grant us insight into how to conduct our lives and deal with the problems and issues that we face daily. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BLESSINGS ON FOOD AND DRINK


The earth's abundance fills us with awe: ripe grapes bursting forth from the vine, crisp apples, golden wheat, and fragrant spices. To partake of this goodness without at least a brief word of acknowledgment to the Creator of all things would be tantamount to sealing, for it is written: "The Earth is the Lord's and all its fullness: (Psalms 24).

How do we take possession of the food we eat and other necessities? By making a berachah. A berachah is a short prayer said before and after partaking of food of all kinds. It invariably begins with the words, Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, or it can be translated more correctly as You our Lord are the source of all blessing and ends with a reference to the category of food eaten.

Our ancestor, Abraham, the first Jew, was also the first to spread and encourage the practice of thanking G-d for the food we eat. For Abraham's tent in the wilderness was open to all and together with Sarah his wife, Abraham was host to innumerable desert travelers. He would serve each one personally. When the guest began to thank him for his hospitality, Abraham would tell him that gratitude was due not to him but to God the Provider of all sustenance.

In reciting these blessings with the proper intention we acknowledge the purposeful and intricate pattern God has set up in the world and also help break down the tempting delusion that we live and prosper only through our own efforts. The feeling of gratitude thus nurtured is one which begins at an early age, as the Jewish child begins to say his or her first berachot, and which permeates each day's activities.

One aspect of the Jew's mission in this world is to elevate physical matter in the service of God. This is done by using physical objects (or by refraining from using them if they are not permitted) in the performance of G-d's commandments. When we make a berachah over the food we eat, the food becomes sanctified and its function is elevated to this service of God. We further elevate and sanctify the food we eat when it becomes part of our bodies. We serve our Creator with every fiber of our bodies, the hand gives charity, the lips pray, the heart loves. In being incorporated into the substance of the body instead of returning to earth, the plant or animal eaten as food has the opportunity to rise further to Godliness. Of course only permitted, kosher food is thus elevated, and only when a berachah is recited.

Eating, then, to the Jew, becomes a sacred and cherished means of serving God. By eating kosher food and saying berachot, we help carry out our aim of making this physical world "a dwelling place for God, may His name be blessed


Prioritizing and Balancing Ones Deeper Propensities


We all know that The Torah (Bible) can be understood on different planes and we all know that Noach had three sons: Shem, Ham and Yefet. What we may not know and appreciate is the underlying, message to us that their names convey.
One of our great scholars and philosophers Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch in his Biblical commentary sheds tremendous insight into these names and thus an insight into why Noach is called a Tzaddick (righteous individual) and into how the ideal personality should develop.
Shem – means name – conception of objects and discernment into the use of different things and into ones own self-identity and place in the universe. Shem is also the root of the word Neshama or soul – or spirituality - the inner ability to find G-d in the universe.
Cham – means hot – the glowing excitement of emotion and sensuality.
Yafet – beauty or aesthetics.
These three factors: Spirituality, Sensuality and appreciation of Beauty, comprise the whole life of our minds
In an unhealthy life the love of beauty and passion subdue the spirit and lower the person into a passionate, hedonistic, materialistic and sensual being.
In a healthy life the soul directs the emotions and the love of aesthetics to higher, lofty spiritual goals. This should be our aspiration. Noach had this balance of priorities right and was thus call a tzaddick (righteous individual).