Thursday, June 13, 2019

Will we Dump The Liberty Bell? By Dennis Prager

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works  with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement

Query Calm People

Would you like to become an expert on how to be calm in all sorts of challenging situations? Do not just rely on your own ingenuity. Keep asking people who appear to be calm, "Would you mind if I ask you how you are able to be so calm?" Most people will happily share their thoughts on the subject with you.

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Will we Dump The Liberty Bell? By Dennis Prager

When most Americans think of Philadelphia – although probably fewer today than ever before, given the low level of history education in American schools – they probably think of the founding of the United States, the Liberty Bell, and the city's nickname, the City of Brotherly Love.

Having been to Philadelphia at least 20 times, I am among the many Americans who have warm feelings toward America's founding city. My daily radio show has a large and enthusiastic listener base there, and I have a son who lives nearby.


So, it is with no joy that I write about the transformation of Philadelphia into something far removed from the principles of the country it helped birth. Philadelphia's leading institutions – such as the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Flyers – provide depressing evidence.

We'll begin with the Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania, one of the country's Ivy League colleges. When Harvard Professor Steven Pinker, a liberal and an atheist, recently described American universities as a "laughingstock," he could have been referring specifically to the University of Pennsylvania, which, among other Philadelphia institutions, is committed to dismantling American and Western civilization.

For decades, a portrait of William Shakespeare, the greatest English-language playwright who ever lived and the most widely read playwright in the world, hung over the main staircase of Fisher-Bennett Hall, home to Penn's English department.

Given Shakespeare's stature as an English-language writer, what other writer would an English department so honor? But that question only makes sense to those who believe that excellence should dictate what writer's portrait should hang in a university English department. The idea that excellence is all that matters in assessing artists is fundamental to Western civilization and is a primary reason for its ascent. It took a long time for humanity to transcend ethnic, racial, tribal, and economic criteria for assessing art.

But the English department at the University of Pennsylvania, dominated as it is by those who equate Western civilization with "white supremacy" (aka leftists), voted to remove the Shakespeare portrait. As reported in The Daily Pennsylvanian, the university's student newspaper:

"The English Department voted to relocate and replace the portrait…in order to represent a more diverse range of writers, according to an emailed statement from (Department Chair Jed) Esty, who declined to be interviewed."

A few years later, in December 2016, students took down the portrait. In its place they put up a portrait of Audre Lorde, a black feminist lesbian poet who died in 1992.

Equally nihilistic is a story out of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. On Aug. 9, 2017, tenured Penn Law professor Amy Wax and University of San Diego School of Law professor Larry Alexander co-authored an opinion piece titled "Paying the price for breakdown of the country's bourgeois culture."

Its thesis was that the rejection of American bourgeois middle-class culture is the primary reason for most social ills in America today:

"[American] culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime."

Within a few weeks, a petition was signed by 4,000 people calling for Wax's dismissal, and the dean of Penn Law, Ted Ruger, wrote an op-ed in The Daily Pennsylvanian, ostensibly about Charlottesville but really about Wax, in which he implied that her views were "divisive, even noxious."

Most significantly, he wrote, "It is important that I state my own personal view that as a scholar and educator I reject emphatically any claim that a single cultural tradition is better than all others" (referring to Wax's position that those bourgeois values are superior values).

After hundreds of her colleagues demanded Wax be fired, Ruger forbade her from teaching any first-year required courses at Penn Law.

Now to the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the world's greatest. The orchestra recently received more than 500 applications for the position of assistant conductor. According to my Philly sources, the four finalists included only one male (a black male, for the record) despite the fact that males make up the overwhelming majority of orchestra conductors in the world and therefore the overwhelming majority of the applicants for the Philadelphia Orchestra position.

There is little reason to believe that, as talented as they may be, the four were chosen on the basis of artistic excellence alone. The orchestra's gifted conductor, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, has declared this the year of the woman conductor and the year of the woman composer.

Most musicians are on the left, but Nezet-Seguin makes it more obvious than most. In a recent concert, the Philadelphia Orchestra featured the premiere of Philadelphia Voices, "a political rant put to musical garbage," as some Philadelphians associated with the orchestra described it to me. In the fifth movement, named "My House Is Full of Black People," the black teen narrator chants: "The county is full of black people/ All wanting to be heard/ While old white men draw lines on maps/ To shut all of them up."

And this year, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team removed the statue of American singer Kate Smith that the team had erected in 1987. Her rendition of "God Bless America" was played at every Flyers home game since 9/11, and she herself sang it for the Flyers in the 1970s.

But last month, the team learned that Smith had sung a song with racist lyrics – "That's Why Darkies Were Born" – in 1931. That Paul Robeson, the great black singer – and enthusiastic supporter of Josef Stalin – also recorded the song doesn't matter. To the Flyers (and New York Yankees), Smith's whiteness undid all the good she did for America.

Will Philadelphia next remove the

liberty bell

After all, it was commissioned by slave owners and inscribed with a verse from the Bible.

Fix the Leak!

Q: My ceiling and walls suffered water damage, so I called a professional to identify the source of the problem. He found that my upstairs neighbor's drainpipe was leaking, causing water to spill onto my ceiling and seep into my walls. After he fixed the pipe, I approached my neighbor and asked him to reimburse me for the cost of the repair. My neighbor claims that according to Halachah, he is not required to pay for the repair. Is he correct?

A: Although a simple perusal of the Halachah in the Gemara and Poskim might lead one to believe that your neighbor is correct, in reality he is required to pay for the repair.

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 117a) rules according to Rabi Yosi, who maintains that the general rules of dealing with neighbors requires each neighbor to ensure that his possessions will not be damaged by his counterpart, except in cases in which the mazik is inflicting damage with his own body, in which case we obligate the mazik to stop causing that damage.

Accordingly, if an upstairs neighbor pours water directly onto his downstairs neighbor's property, he is liable for the damage, because he has inflicted the damage directly. If, however, he pours water onto his own floor and the water seeps through the floor and then into his neighbor's house, his direct action ended when he stopped pouring the water. Since the seeping water is not his direct action he is permitted to pour water onto his floor, and the downstairs neighbor must take measures to protect his property from damage, even though it is obvious that the mazik's actions are indirectly causing the damage (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 155:4).

It would seem, then, that since your neighbor is not directly causing the damage – rather, his faulty pipe is leaking slowly into your house – it would be your responsibility to repair the pipe in order to protect your property.

But there are several reasons why your neighbor is responsible for the repair.

  1. The Poskim limit the obligation to protect one's property to cases in which it would be impossible for the upstairs neighbor to prevent the damage unless he didn't use water altogether, and the downstairs neighbor can easily prevent the damage by installing a concrete ceiling that would absorb the water. (In earlier times, people used much less water in their homes, so a cement ceiling between the two properties would have been enough to prevent water damage to the downstairs property.)

If the downstairs neighbor cannot prevent the damage through a minimal investment, but would have to incur a large expense to prevent the leak, and the upstairs neighbor can easily repair the problem, the upstairs neighbor would be responsible to prevent the damage (see Nesivos 155:3, based on Shulchan Aruch 155:20). If that is true in the case of the installation of a ceiling between the two floors, which benefits the downstairs neighbor as well, then it is certainly true in your case, in which your upstairs neighbor is the one who truly benefits from the repair to the broken pipe (see Mishpetei Hachoshen p.185).


  1. The reason we generally require a person to protect his own property from damage is that we cannot limit his neighbor from standard use of his property. In earlier times it was considered an ordinary practice to wash one's hands directly onto the floor, where it was eventually absorbed. Halachah therefore placed the burden on the downstairs neighbor to prevent that ordinary water usage from damaging his property.

Nowadays, norms have changed; we pour water only onto surfaces or receptacles that have a drainage system, not directly onto the floor to be absorbed (see Chazon Ish, Bava Basra 14:13). We therefore expect an upstairs neighbor to ensure that his water is not leaking into his neighbor's house. Furthermore, when someone uses a lot of water, as is the practice nowadays, we expect him to repair a faulty pipe (see Rema 155:4 and Aruch Hashulchan 6).

  1. Since the generally accepted practice in shared-living structures is that the owner of a faulty pipe is responsible for fixing it (unless it is a shared pipe, in which case the cost is split between all the residents), the residents are considered to have agreed at the outset that the upstairs neighbor would fix the pipe if it broke. Even if they do not have an official contract stating as such, they agreed to live in the structure according to local custom.

In summation, although your neighbor was correct that Halachah would ostensibly exempt him from paying for the repairs, in reality he is responsible for the repair to the leaky pipe.

Can I Lend Out My Credit Card to Earn Points according to Torah Law? By Yehuda Shurpin

There are indeed potential halachic issues with borrowing or lending a credit card since it is forbidden to charge interest from your fellow Jew.

To help clarify things, let's give a simple and common scenario: You went shopping with a friend, who either left her wallet at home or is a bit cash-strapped at the moment. Being a good friend, you offer to let her use your credit card, figuring that it will be a win-win for both of you. Your friend gets to make her purchase and you get to rack up some points on your credit card toward a well-deserved vacation.


Before you reach for your wallet, the following must be clarified. According to halachah, when you let someone use your credit card, you are borrowing the money from the credit card issuer and in turn lending the money to your friend. In other words, there are really two transactions taking place, one between you and the bank, and another between you and your friend.1

Now, according to Jewish law, although a Jew is permitted to borrow money and pay interest (ribit) on a loan from a non-Jew, a Jew is forbidden to be party to any transaction that involves charging another Jew interest.2

Practically, this means that if your friend is cash-strapped and plans on paying you back in installments, compensating you for any interest or late fees3 you may incur, even if your friend is more than happy and willing, she is not allowed to pay even a penny more than the original charge. This applies even if it is arranged that she pay the money directly to your credit card issuer.4

The above is not meant to discourage you from lending money to one in need. On the contrary, lending money to someone in need is considered a very special mitzvah and one of the greatest forms of charity.5 However, when giving your credit card to use, you need to be very aware that you are actually lending your own personal money, not the bank's.

Therefore, if your friend isn't able to pay you back the full amount by the due date, you either need to take upon yourself to pay any interest or late fees that are incurred with your own money, or just pay off the full amount on the credit card bill from your own personal money, and your friend will pay you back the loan amount over time.

Points, Miles and Cash Back

We can now turn to the original question about points, miles or cash back off someone else's use of your credit card.

As we explained, there are essentially two transactions taking place. When the bank or credit card issuer gives you a "reward" for using their card, it is a gift from them, not your friend, and therefore permitted. This is akin to the rule that one person may reward another person to lend a third person money (provided that the borrower didn't direct the gift-giver to do so).6

It should be stressed, however, that just because something may be halachically permissible, does not necessarily mean that it is financially wise or legal to do so. Lending one's credit card just to earn points is usually a bad idea, and people may lose thousands of dollars when the borrower is unable to pay them back in a timely manner.

At the same time, giving an interest-free loan (in an above-board and responsible manner) is one of the greatest mitzvahs. The Torah associates being careful about the mitzvah of ribit (interest) with G‑d's taking the Jews of Egypt.7 The mystics tell us that when we are careful with the mitzvah of ribit and give interest-free loans, G‑d becomes a partner in our endeavors, ensuring that they be successful and full of blessings, and we merit that he takes us out of our "personal Egypt" and ultimately out of this final exile.8 May it be speedily in our days!

Footnotes 1.

See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 168:17.


See Exodus 22:24; Leviticus 25:35–38; Deuteronomy 23:20.


It should be noted that there are certain situations that one is permitted to charge a one-time late penalty. This, however, applies to debts that were incurred due to purchases or rentals, not actual monetary loans. See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Yoreh Deiah, Laws of Interest, 47.


Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 160:13.


Mishneh Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:7.


See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 160:13.


See for example Leviticus 25:37-38


See Likkutei Sichot, vol. 3, p. 1011.

By Yehuda Shurpin

See you tomorrow-bli neder

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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