Archive for July, 2010

Lessons from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch & Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki, the legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of AllTop.com, recently wrote, “As a follow-up to the beating heart, researchers at the University of Minnesota have used a similar technique to create breathing lungs in the lab. Lead researcher Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, associate professor of pediatrics and pulmonary medicine, believes the ‘possibilities are endless’ for using the approach to increase the number of lungs needed for transplant into people with lung cancer and irreversible lung diseases.”

Now, when I see things of this sort or watch these “Lungs” function, the first thing that comes to my head along with the word “awesome” are the words of Tehillim 104:24: “Mah Rabu Masecha Hashem!” I also recall the famous story involving Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l (for more on his real name see here) and how Rav Hirsch towards the end of his life, made it a point to visit the beautiful French Alps. When asked why he had done so, Rav Hirsch reportedly responded, “after 120 years, when I appear before the Creator of the World and  He asks, ‘Samson have you seen the magnificent French Alps?’ I want  to be able to answer in the affirmative!” This also goes in line with the words of Rabbi Yitzchak Menachem Mendel Danziger, who in his sefer, Yismach Yisrael (Chanukah #2) relays to us that the Almighty is so gracious that he designed the world in such a matter that from the dust of the Earth or other aspects of nature, we can acquire high levels of Yiras Shomayim and fulfill the words of Mishlie 22:4!

In light of the above, it is only fitting to share that Rav Hirsch did not translate the words, “Mah Rabu Masecha Hashem, Kulam Bechochma Asisa, Malah Ha’aretz Kinyanecha,” in its typical fashion of:  How manifold are Your creations, Hashem, You’ve made them all with wisdom, the earth is filled with Your creations.

Instead, he places a comma between Haaretz and Kinyanecha and translate kinyanecha in the imperative. Hence, the verse of Tehillim will read:

How manifold are Your creations, Hashem, You’ve made them all with wisdom, the earth is filled with them, (you/man) acquire it! In other words, that one should increase his awe of Hashem and his appreciation for His world by taking the time to observe and appreciate nature and the way in which every detail is designed.

While I have never visited the Alps, nor do I know when I will have such a chance, I believe that we can still fulfill this insight of Rav Hirsch through viewing Video clips such as this one and appreciate the fact that we have breathing lungs created for us not for use strictly in the lab, but for life! Thank you Hashem!

Chachma from LeBron James & Coach John Wooden

Just last week, the nation turned in to hear where, the self proclaimed, “King James,” a.k.a. LeBron James would decide to play the game of basketball! Indeed, people are still wrapped up in all the hoopla of LeBron James leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, and joing the Miami Heat! However, I’d rather focus on a man who recently passed away, just a few months ago, on June 4th, at the age of 99: Coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden, was someone who in my opinion fulfilled the words of our Sages who teach, “yesh chachma bagoyim” there is wisdom among the nations! Indeed, Rashi also contends that he who truly values wisdom will seek it wherever it can be found. In fact, our Sages even institute a special blessing to be said upon meeting a great non-Jewish scholar. In short, Coach Wooden is the polar opposite of “King James.” For instance, despite receiving other offers throughout the years, he never left his beloved UCLA Basketball Team. Moreover, he was a man of great ethics and principals. However, as related in this Rick Reily ESPN.com Video below, his greatest love was not the game of basketball. Instead, it is and remained, even after she died – his wife. For years on end, he would still write her poetry and cry over his lose of his beloved life companion.

Additionally, being that we believe that Secular knowledge is not inherently negative (see here), I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that although his UCLA Bruins won a record 10 NCAA national championships and their 88-game winning streak is the longest in major collegiate basketball history, his favorite part of coaching was leading the practice sessions in which he taught the fundamentals that were the foundation of his success. He would teach his players everything from the proper way to put on their socks to lacing their shoes! After all, he used to say, “It’s the little things that make the big things happen.”

All in all, Coach Wooden was more than a basketball coach, he was arguably the first Life Coach and always more pleased by his players’ success in life than on the basketball court. There’s much we can learn from him. Here are some of his quotes that can relate to us in our daily lives:

  • “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
  • “Never mistake activity for achievement.”
  • “Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”
  • “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”
  • “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”
  • “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”
  • “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
  • It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.”
  • “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
  • “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
  • “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

In the midst of the era of athletes and sports figures becoming so ego-centric that it’s news when an athlete makes a subtle quiet announcement (see here in regards to Keven Durant)  I hope Coach Wooden’s words will be an inspiration and remind us to keep our eyes on the real prize of life!

I highly recommend: Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks For a Better Life.

I highly recommend: LeBronathon: How to Hype Up Your Life, by Rabbi Boruch Leff.


What Twitter Can Teach Us about Tisha B’Av!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been taught to be careful with my words and how they can have long lasting ramifications. That said, being that we are all human, this is a very difficult topic to grasp, as our words are often just spoken and never really carefully and tactfully communicated. To that end, Judaism stresses the importance of not participating in slander, gossip, and so on and so forth. Indeed, seemingly every Tish B’Av,  thousands across the globe gather to view the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Tisha B’Av Video. This Video features different Rabbis who remind us of the Torah’s wisdom on human relations and personal development, and by extension, inspires the public to be aware of the far reaching effects that just even a few words can have.

Indeed, our Sages relate that the episode that led to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash is recorded in the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. Unfortunately, the public undressing that Bar Kamtza received from the few powerful yet hurtful words of baseless hatred that was displayed towards him, led Bar Kamtza to walk right out the door and create a devious plan that would cause the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

In contemporary times, when you mention the ability to communicate in just a few words, many of us will think of Twitter. Twitter is a social networking tool that lets you easily follow other people and receive “Tweets” from this person. However there’s a catch!  Tweets are short messages that must be under 140 characters. Hence, you’ll have President Barack Obama making political statements on this platform or we’ll hear news directly from NBA All-Star Keven Dorant (see here) in which he announced his contract extension on Twitter. Both the politician and the athlete are limited to positioning their message in under 140 characters! And yet, Twitter has shown the world that even with just a few words, one has a powerful platform and can influence millions around the globe. Indeed, for making the wrong comments on Twitter, people have been fired from their position (see here)! Hence, if we ever needed a reminder of the power of just a few simple words, other than once a year on Tisha B’Av, this tool, used by millions on a daily basis, is a great way to keep this message on our “Spiritual Radar!”

Moreover, there are companies that are beginning to reveal to the general public that our words, yes even written, or in this case Tweeted, are in fact being watched from above, by not just the Almighty – but by corporate America as well! You see, PepsiCo’s Gatorade, Nabisco’s Wheat Thins or even Delta Airlines, realize what our Sages have known for years: that the collective words, comments, Tweets, or Facebook “Likes” can have a lasting positive or negative influence on society, or in this case, their brand. And so, as reported here:

“Gatorade is taking its social media strategy very seriously indeed – so much so that it has built a mission control center replete with screens beaming out brightly-coloured visualisations of what people are saying about it on the likes of Twitter…the room, in the center of Gatorade’s marketing department, contains six big monitors depicting real-time events in the social media ether. One screen is a representation of the tweets relevant to Gatorade, be they about the brand, its athletes, its competitors, or sports nutrition-related subjects. Another tracks and measures conversations across the blogosphere and allows Gatorade to conduct ’sentiment’ analysis around key topics and on product and campaign launches.”

Also see this Video:

Likewise, Wheat Thins “Crunch Control” monitored the Tweet of Tabitha Hancock and surprised her with enough Wheat Thins to feed an army! For more on the story see here and here.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the fact that Delta Airlines recently created a @DeltaAssist Twitter account to only further their Online Ears and show people that they’re listening to feedback, kvetches, and what not. Indeed, I’ve been traveling for several years and have heard other frequent fliers remark that they get quicker/better service through Tweeting their issue that they are having at GATE X or Y or Z, then if they’d have to call the airline or wait for a Gate Agent. Truth be told, this matter got national attention when Filmmaker Kevin Smith sent a series of exasperated Tweets claiming that he’d been kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for being “too fat”. Proving, perhaps, the speed at which Twitter can spread messages about your brand, his Tweets have been picked up by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ABC and other major outlets (see here).

All in all, while these businesses realize that every word, every character, can hurt or hinder their brand and image, it is incumbent upon us, especially during The 9 Days leading up to Tisha B’Av to realize that every word or character that we say can build or destroy the Beis HaMikdash! In so doing, may we merit to no longer celebrate Tisha B’Av as a day of mourning, but rather as a day of joy!

If you are on Twitter, feel free to help bring the Geula by keeping the message of Tisha B’Av on our collective screens! Use in your Tweets this hashtag – #mtjbrd = May the Temple in Jerusalem be Rebuilt in our Days.


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