Tag Archive: economy

Elul, Exodus, and the Economy

So here we are.  It is once again the month of Elul in which we begin to blow the Shofar on a daily basis and prepare for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. To many people across the country, a new year that offers new change and hope is a good thing! From the economic doldrums that we continue to face globally and the health care debate that seem to continue to roar across the USA, times appear to only get worse and worse with each passing day. We can only hope that our elected leadership pull us through and out of this vortex that seems to be shoving more and more people into the Great Recession.

And yet, just several months ago, millions of Americans converged upon Washington D.C. to partake in the swearing in ceremony of our nation’s 44th President. Indeed, years from now your children and grandchildren may ask, “Where were you when the 44th President of the United States of America was sworn in?” All politics aside, when America elected President Barack H. Obama barriers of prejudice and race where forever torn down.  However, Mr. Obama did not travel upon a simple road to success and power. History suggests that he revolutionized the campaign process by promoting his presidency on the internet and starting his campaign practically two years prior to the election. However, at one point in time, the greatest obstacle that would have stood in his path towards the White House was the color of his skin. Nonetheless, the issue of race began to change with the leadership and efforts of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln—who is largely credited for the advancement of African Americans in our country and overall society.

To that end, we all are familiar with the expression, “hindsight is twenty-twenty.” This idiom suggests that every human being—and certainly world leaders, presidents and persons of power—need to look into the past to learn the mistakes and successes of how previous generations navigated through wars, recessions, politics, race, and various other timeless issues of interest. In light of the above, as we find ourselves on the cusp of the High Holidays, it would be prudent of us to observe a group of leaders who lived during the period of the Exodus, a time in which Hashem showed the world that he is the Creator and we are his people.

Truth be told, when you think of the leaders of the Exodus, the first names that probably come to your mind are that of Moses and his brother Aaron. And yet, the Talmud (Sotah 11b) relates: “In the merit of the righteous women of that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt!” In other words , the driving force towards God performing the plethora of miracles and splitting the Red Sea were none other than the Jewish women and the feminine leadership of the time.

How did they inspire change and forever impact the generation of the Exodus, and Jewish history for that matter?

Let us turn to the first model of feminine leadership found in the story of the Jewish midwives Shifrah and Puah. The Torah records that Pharaoh instructed them to systematically kill Jewish babies at their birth.

What do they do?

They do not argue with his orders.

Instead they practice insubordination by ignoring his immoral decree. Let’s be honest. That took some real guts to do back then. If they were ever caught by the Egyptian authorities invariably their heads would roll! How did they act so calm, cool and collected in front of Pharaoh, and yet have the courage to do what was right?

The Mai Hashiloach, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica (1801-1854) teaches a powerful concept that rings true to this very day, and answers our question. He is of the opinion that when a person is afraid of people, and thinks that people solely run the world, then one can feel consumed by varying emotions of anxiety and stress—and under pressure and duress, loose his or her composure. However, if one realizes that Hashem is ultimately in control, even in turbulent times—such a person possesses a great sense of calm. It was this sense of emunah, of faith in Hashem, that Shifrah and Puah had and by extension, allowed them to act with defiance towards the edict of Pharaoh.

What’s more, the courage and feminine leadership did not stop with this one instance. In fact, if you think we, who are entrenched in a deep recession had it bad, try envisioning living through the tough times the Jewish people endured while in slavery.  Honestly, if I was around back then I could see myself very much giving up hope. After all, the Jews were enslaved for a couple centuries under the rule of the wicked Pharaoh. Indeed, Jewish tradition relates that this is exactly what happened. The men of the period—even great men such as Moses’s father—separated from their wives so as not to bring any future Jewish children into such miserable slavery. And yet, the Jewish women once again did not give up hope and faith in the Almighty. Instead, they preserved, remained steadfast in their belief in Hashem and encouraged their husbands to procreate and further establish the Jewish nation.

Finally, after God miraculously saved the Jewish people by splitting the Red Sea and drowning their Egyptian pursuers in it, the Jewish men sang a beautiful song to Hashem. The Jewish women, however, lead by the prophetess Miriam, seemingly outperformed the men by accompanying their song with music and dancing. Rashi explains that the Jewish women in Egypt were convinced that they would merit further miracles. And so, they packed instruments to play while singing praises to Hashem. In spite of the centuries of oppression and suffering in Egypt, they remained very optimistic that they would see a period of change, in which they would be able to celebrate the taste of freedom and the dawn of a new era.

And so, while it appears that the economy seems to only get worse with each day, we too must never give up on the notions of “hope” and “change” for a better tomorrow. We must remember that  all along we are in good hands—the hands of Hashem. May we merit that this upcoming year is a sweet one for all of Klal Yisrael, and that we finally see the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash speedily in our days.

Random Links of Interest

  • SrullyW While there are different minhagim regarding listening to music during the Sefirat HaOmer period that we find ourselves in, I found it both interesting and courageous nevertheless of Srully Williger to market his orchestra by saying that we could satisfy your needs…even in the recession. See his site or the picture to your right.
  • I grew up sharing a room with my two brothers. As such, while this “room divider” may appear chic, the fact of the matter is that we set  this trend a long time ago!
  • On a totally different note, Bnos Chana Seminary was kind enough to post on their website this image of the wedding picture of HaRav and Rebbetzin Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg  shlita. Talk about seeing a special Gedolim picture!
  • Once Sacred Now Their Showcase

Timely Pesach Related Links of Interest!

With Pesach soon approaching, I’m assuming that I won’t have time to write my thoughts on individual topics. As such, I’ve compiled a short list of Timely Pesach Related Links of Interest. I’m certain you will enjoy!

  • For all those who are also cleaning for Pesach, whether you are male or female, I urge you to check out this video and this article written by Jewish women that reveals a practical and spiritual side to Passover cleaning.
  • We live in an era in which people will use the following expression, “just Google it!” In fact, nowadays you’d be looked at as the funny one if you didn’t know what that weird sounding word that starts with a ‘g’ means. Accordingly, being that we live in the “Google Era” this video insight is a quick but relevant thought in terms of the eternal relevancy of Torah, which we ultimately merited to receive only after crossing the Red Sea.
  • Speaking of Google, this image of the Jewish people crossing the sea is inspired by Google Earth and is well worth viewing (see here for a couple more fascinating images using Google Earth. For another contemporary image of the Exodus see here) in that it will help you fulfill the obligation of visualizing that you too are crossing the Red Sea.
  • Various studies all come to one conclusion: Across the various denominations of Jewry, Passover is the most celebrated Jewish event. To that end, this recent study is worth paying attention to in that it sheds light on the future of the Jewish people. Remember it is on Passover that we officially became a Nation.
  • Finally, check out this relevant article that discusses Passover & four questions for a financial crisis.

Funny Flying Trends

As a person who travels frequently on airplanes throughout the year, I make it a habit to read up on the current travel trends, advice and tricks of the trade. Accordingly, when I saw the latest news out of First Class, I just cracked up! After reading this article I asked myself, “if people really have that kinda money to spend, are we really in a recession?”

I hope that you’ll click on over here and enjoy the laugh as much as I did!

Likewise, in case you thought flying from Israel to North America could get any more uncomfortable, you’ve got to check out this design, that even after giving it a couple looks up and down, still seems to resemble fashionable handcuffs more then anything else!

How to Still Have a Fun Passover Vacation on a Budget!

With the economy in the doldrums, many families won’t be able to afford amusement parks or attend a big concert over Chol HaMoed. To that end, without some suggestions of how to still have fun this Pesach, I’m near certain that there will be a good amount of Jewish kids spending their time in front of a computer screen, playing PlayStation, or hanging out on social networking sites. Frankly, as this and this article indicates, that’s not something that I, as a Rabbi, would encourage spending hours and hours of time on!

As such, I’ve compiled a list of  5 economically friendly but fun activities that will allow you to have a great time over Pesach vacation.

  • If you’ve got little kids, they will most probably love this economically friendly but creative Portable Art Studio. It will certainly keep the kids occupied while cleaning for Pesach!
  • As a kid, I enjoyed watching private planes or small commercial airliners land and arrive at Santa Monica Airport. In fact, because there’s less of a crowd, President Clinton used to land there when coming into the LA area. Indeed, I even got to meet the President, shake his hand and see what a real Presidential entourage looks like up close and person. Even today in a post 9/11 world, you and your children can go to one of the local but smaller airports around your area and watch for the flying planes in the sky!
  • As far as snack food, purchasing Kosher for Passover products can add up to one pricey bill! Indeed, growing up as a kid, something that we always looked forward to on Pesach was my Mom’s homemade potato chips or homemade ice cream.  As Passover became more of a commercialized event, and as the Jewish community rapidly grew in Los Angeles, one could easily purchase Kosher for Passover Potato Chips, ice cream and so on and so forth. Nowadays however, people may not want/be in the position to shell out hundreds of dollars on just eight days of Passover. To that end, if you are looking to have a great snack, such as potato chips, check out this recipe.
  • During Pesach vacation, instead of going to commercial venues, Why not try the outdoors? Consider a family hike. Go fishing, cherry picking, pick-nicking on a beach, or bike riding together as a family. You may walk away from this even surprised to find that you had more fun doing an activity such as this, as opposed to going to Six Flags!
  • If your family is like most, you may have just a couple people who may enjoy a great sporting event and cheering on the local team. That said, with the ever-growing price of tickets, taking your family to a MLB, NBA, or the like event can make a major dent in your wallet. As such, in addition to checking for promotional days or nights to lower the cost somewhat, why not try the minor leagues or become a fan of your local college teams. In general, tickets are usually less expensive, the games are more festive and you can sit closer to the action for a lot cheaper!

The Economy and Sharks

For many years, my family lived roughly four blocks from the Pacific Ocean. Skateboards and bike riding were a requirement for anyone who lived within a mile radius of the beach. To that end, we where always on the look out for a shark. Truth be told, we never saw a shark on any of the times that we played by the shore, but we sure wanted to see one and proclaim to others that we saw a shark.

As such, as an adult who now lives many miles away from the Pacific Ocean, I found this article interesting. It states that researchers have suggested that due to the recession, there are fewer people hitting beaches on vacation, and by extension, fewer incidents of shark bites. At least the economy is not taking a bit into everything thes days!

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