Monday, May 21, 2012

The top 10 non-Jews influencing Jewish Future and Sacks on the Free economy

Calm Your Mind

"Calm your mind." Practicing this skill is a major stepping stone to mastery of serenity. We have a constant stream of thoughts that surface automatically. Some of these may be beneficial. For many, however, their stream of consciousness is the source of distress and unresourceful emotional states. Calming your mind enables you to experience serenity.

An easy to apply tool to help you calm your mind is to soothingly repeat the word, "Serenity" over and over again. By focusing your attention on this calming word, your mind is free from thoughts that are not conducive to serenity.

Love  Rabbi Yehuda Lave

 Rabbi Johnathan Sacks on the Free Market System and the Bible

Despite the sheer antiquity of these laws, time and again they have inspired those wrestling with issues of liberty, equity and justice. The verse about the Jubilee Year, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Lev. 25:10) is inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The international movement that began in the late 1990s and involved more than 40 nations, campaigning for cancellation of Third World debt was called Jubilee 2000 and was directly inspired by our parsha.

The approach of the Torah to economic policy is unusual. Clearly we can make no direct inference from laws given more than three thousand years ago, in an agricultural age and to a society consciously under the sovereignty of God, to the circumstances of the twenty-first century with its global economy and international corporations. Between ancient texts and contemporary application comes the whole careful process of tradition and interpretation (Torah shebe'al peh).

Nonetheless, there do seem to be some important parameters. Work - making a living, earning your daily bread - has dignity. A Psalm (128:2) states: "When you eat of the labour of your hands, you are happy and it shall be well with you." We say this every Saturday night at the start of the working week. Unlike aristocratic cultures such as that of ancient Greece, Judaism was never dismissive of work or the productive economy. It did not favor the creation of a leisured class. "Torah study without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin" (Avot 2:2).

Next, unless there are compelling reasons otherwise, one has a right to the fruits of one's labors. Judaism distrusts large government as an infringement of liberty. That is the core of the prophet Samuel's warning about monarchy: A king, he says, "will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants ... He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves" (1 Sam. 8).

Judaism is the religion of a people born in slavery and longing for redemption; and the great assault of slavery against human dignity is that it deprives me of the ownership of the wealth I create. At the heart of the Hebrew Bible is the God who seeks the free worship of free human beings, and one of the most powerful deference of freedom is private property as the basis of economic independence. The ideal society envisaged by the prophets is one in which each person is able to sit "underneath his own vine and fig tree" (Micah 4:4).

The free economy uses the fuel of competition to sustain the fire of invention. Long before Adam Smith, Judaism had accepted the proposition that the greatest advances are often brought about through quite nonspiritual drives. "I saw," says the author of Ecclesiastes, "that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor". Or as the Talmudic sages put it, "Were it not for the evil inclination, no one would build a house, marry a wife, have children, or engage in business." The rabbis even favored the free market in their own sphere of Jewish education. An established teacher, they said, could not object to a rival setting up in competition. The reason they gave was, simply: "Jealousy among scholars increases wisdom."

The market economy is the best system we know for alleviating poverty through economic growth. In a single generation in recent years it has lifted 100 million Indians and 400 million Chinese from poverty, and the sages saw poverty as an assault on human dignity. Poverty is not a blessed or divinely ordained condition. It is, the rabbis said, 'a kind of death' and 'worse than fifty plagues'. They said, 'Nothing is harder to bear than poverty, because he who is crushed by poverty is like one to whom all the troubles of the world cling and upon whom all the curses of Deuteronomy have descended. If all other troubles were placed one side and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all.'

However, the market economy is better at producing wealth than at distributing it equitably. The concentration of wealth in a few hands gives disproportion power to some at the cost of others. Today in Britain it is not unusual for top CEOs to earn at least 400 times as much as their employees. This has not produced economic growth or financial stability but the opposite. As I write these words, one of Margaret Thatcher's advisers, Ferdinand Mount, has just published a critique of the financial deregulation she introduced: The New Few. Equally impressive is the recent book by the South Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things they don't tell you about Capitalism. This is not a critique of market economics, which he believes is still the best system there is. But, in his words, "it needs careful regulation and steering."

That is what the legislation contained in the bible section called  Behar represents. It tells us that an economic system must exist within a moral framework. It need not aim at economic equality but it must respect human dignity. No one should become permanently imprisoned in the chains of debt. No one should be deprived of a stake in the commonwealth, which in biblical times meant a share in the land. No one should be a slave to his or her employer. Everyone has the right - one day in seven, one year in seven - to respite from the endless pressures of work. None of this means dismantling the market economy, but it may involve periodic redistribution.

At the heart of these laws is a profoundly humane vision of society. "No man is an island." We are responsible for one another and implicated in one another's fate. Those who are blessed by G-d with more than they need should share some of that surfeit with those who have less than they need. This, in Judaism, is not a matter of charity but of justice - that is what the word tzedakah means. We need some of this spirit in advanced economies today if we are not to see human misery and social unrest.

No one said it better than Isaiah in the first chapter of the book that bears his name:

Seek justice, encourage the oppressed,
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
Plead the case of the widow ...

Mankind was not created to serve markets. Markets were made to serve the image of God that is mankind.


 Disabled Israeli Rower sings Hatikavah



An eye-filling concert by André Rieu:


Capital of Israel: Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?

Yesterday marked the 45th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem. Israel designated Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, yet most countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv due to ongoing political debate with the Palestinians. This has given rise to an unprecedented situation whereby a sovereign state – Israel – is denied the diplomatic right to choose the location of its capital city.

The U.S. Congress sought to reverse this travesty with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, passed by overwhelming bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate. The act states that "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999."

Since then, a parade of U.S. presidents have promised to uphold this pledge. But since the congressional act allows the President to implement a waiver at six-month intervals, that's exactly what has happened every six months since 1995.

This has created a situation whereby politicians, the media, and the world at large routinely ignore the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Last month, the Washington Post printed this ditty:

Obama's more aggressive message this year reflects the increasing concern in Washington, Tel Aviv and other capitals about Iran's enrichment program, which Israel believes will be used to produce a nuclear weapon.

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal has referred to Israel's capital as Tel Aviv, noting the "strains between Washington and Tel Aviv" ("U.S., Israel Spar in Public, But Defense Ties are Strong," May 4, 2010), while CNN referred to "an explosion in the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv" ("Blast in Israeli Capital," January 22, 2006).

I'm not sure what can be done about all this, but one young man has taken the fight to court, and just last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that American citizens born in Jerusalem can list their birthplace as "Israel."

Even Republican candidate Ron Paul, long known as a critic of Israel, made this recent statement:

"If Israel wants their capital to be Jerusalem, then the United States should honor that. How would we like it if some other nation said, 'We decided to recognize New York City as your capital instead, so we will build our embassy there'?"

In the meantime, with or without "international approval," the city that King David designated as the capital of Israel and the Jewish people is 45 years unified, 3,000-plus years Jewish, and still going strong.




Top 10 Non-Jews Positively Influencing Jewish Future

Dovid Efune

Dir. Algemeiner Journal


After seeing a list of the world's richest Jews (in JPost, gave rise to much controversy on why the list was made at all, ed.), I was inspired to create a list of my own -- not of Jews, but of non-Jews, specifically those that are having the most positive influence in shaping the Jewish future.

A year later, much has changed, new figures have emerged, others have faded and some have remained. But the importance of bringing attention to this group is constant. For this reason I have sought to make this a regular endeavor, as such I present the second-annual list.

Similar to the criteria used by other list makers, I chose my candidates from around the world and from all walks of life. The list includes, politicians, activists, business giants and more, all of whom have made a significant constructive impact on Israel and the Jewish world. Last year I only listed the top six, but wanted to make the list slightly more comprehensive, so it is now expanded to include the top 10. They are in ascending order.

Although by no means an exact science, my aim in this compilation, is to provide some insight into the playing field of this unique yet modest group. Additionally I aim to provide a glimpse at their often courageous, sometimes unacknowledged activities on behalf ofIsrael and the Jewish people.

10. Julie Burchill

Columnist and Novelist

Currently a columnist for The Independent, she has written for newspapers such as The Sunday Times and The Guardian. The Jewish Chronicle described her in 2008 as " Israel 's staunchest supporter in the UK media."

9. Jon Voight


Supporter of Jewish causes, most notably Chabad, Voight is also a prolific spokesman for Israel . A rarity in Hollywood circles, he has advocated for Jewish values, consistently reaching an often indifferent audience.

8. Patrick Debois

Founder, Yahad-In Unum

A Roman Catholic priest, Debois is head of the Commission for Relations with Judaism of the French Bishops' Conference and Consultant to the Vatican . He is the co-founder and president of Yahad-In Unum, an organization whose mission is to document the murder of the 1.5 million Jews of Ukraine , shot dead by the Nazis and buried throughout the country. This work is vital in ensuring that the memory of these victims will not fade with the death of the last witnesses.

7. John Hagee

Founder, Christians United for Israel

Hagee's Christians United for Israel continues to experience rapid growth, now boasting upwards of 600,000 members. The group makes significant contributions to Jewish causes, and has become a potent political force in support of Israel . Author of " JerusalemCountdown" and "In Defense of Israel ," the pastor from San Antonio has met with every Israeli prime minister since Menachem Begin and his ministries have given more than $8.5 million to bring Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel .

6. Warren Buffet


The famed investor has been a strong supporter of Israeli innovation, and has bought into it significantly. Last year, while visiting the country, he famously said that " Israel has shown that it has a disproportionate amount of brains and energy." Buffet's strong statement of confidence has gone a long way in encouraging significant foreign investment in the Jewish State.

5. Jose Maria Aznar

Former Prime Minister of Spain

In 2010, Aznar founded the Friends of Israel Initiative, with the stated goal to "counter the attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders." Referring to the ill-fated takeover of the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos, Aznar said in 2010 that the world must support Israel because "if it goes down, we all go down." His unique organization provides a strong voice of reason in circles where it might otherwise not be heard.

4. Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of India

The largest customer of Israeli military equipment and Israel 's second-largest economic partner, Indian ties with Israel are now stronger than ever and advanced negotiations for an extensive bilateral trade pact are well under way. Singh is largely responsible for cultivating and developing this crucial alliance that is vital to Israel 's economic stability and continued growth.

3. John Boehner

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Among the many friends of the Jewish community in the U.S. Congress, Boehner's recent actions have made him stand out. Centrally involved in the recent invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress, Boehner provided the platform for the Jewish narrative to be conveyed to a pivotal audience at an important time.

2. Rupert Murdoch

CEO of News Corporation

At an American Jewish Committee dinner honoring Murdoch he opened his acceptance speech by saying, "over the years, some of my wildest critics seem to have assumed I am Jewish. At the same time, some of my closest friends wish I were. So tonight, let me set the record straight: I live inNew York . I have a wife who craves Chinese food. And people I trust tell me I practically invented the word chutzpah."

As CEO of News Corporation, Murdoch has continued to ensure that the outlets under his direction, including The London Times, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, are fair and honest in their coverage of matters relating to Jews and Israel.

1. Stephen Harper

Prime Minister of Canada

Recently winning a majority government for his conservative party, Harper has been a great friend to Canada's Jewish community as well as an outspoken supporter of Israeli positions in the international political arena, saying last year, "When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand."

His recent blocking of a G8 resolution in support of President Obama's Middle East policy speech that would mention the call for a Palestinian State based on the 1967 lines, while not incorporating other elements of the speech, earns him the top spot this year.

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