Odds and Ends

letter-447577_1280

1) When Mishpacha published last week’s post “On Making Money” they wisely decided to edit out most of the lawyer jokes. I considered doing the same, and unwisely decided that given that I am a member of the club — three years of law school, two years of major firm practice — readers would cut me a little bit of slack. As I thought I made clear, had I not decided to move to Israel and spend my days irritating readers of Cross-Currents, I would probably have lived out my days practicing law as well.

In any event, I appreciate all those who wrote to let me know that not all lawyers are shysters and that many professionals are very generous. I’m grateful as well to those who clued me in on the fact that there are dishonest businessmen, and that there are many good reasons why a frum Jew might prefer the professions to business. I never knew any of those things.

Generalizations when used to make judgments about individuals are odious. But that does not mean that general comparisons have no place. Not all smokers die young; nor do all non-smokers live to a ripe old age. But it is useful to know the average differential between the two groups. In point of fact, the different levels of charitable (not necessarily tzedakah) giving between businessmen and professionals is well known. The growing professionalization of the Jewish community is but one of the many trends that keeps Federation professionals up at night, and there is an extensive literature on this subject.

I do believe that those who have been obviously blessed from birth tend to treat their gifts and the fruits of their gifts with a certain sense of entitlement. They have to work on appreciating that what one is born with is a gift, and that gift is unearned. For instance, I read this morning that entrepreneurs give far more than those who inherit their wealth. My guess is that most highly successful professionals did well (though perhaps not brilliantly) in school from an early age, and that they tend to view whatever gene they possess that made academic success easier as “just the way things are.” (I’m often struck by how frequently contributors to the Yale Law School Magazine resort to “stupid” as the preferred taunt of anyone who does not share their public policy prescriptions.) Can this tendency to take one’s natural gifts for granted, and to view the material rewards that those gifts facilitate as “wholly earned,” be overcome? Of course it can. That’s what mussar is about. (Oh yes, I’m also aware that genes alone do not guarantee success, and that successful professionals have usually had to work very hard as well.)

After rereading the thread, I have decided to forego a future column examining whether there is also a humor deficit among professionals.

2) CVMay (Answering (some) critics — Part II) quotes Rebbetzin Esther Farbstein, the leading Holocaust researcher in the chareidi world and a brilliant scholar, to suggest that the failures of the Yad Vashem exhibition hall can be largely attributed to failure of the chareidi population to work with Yad Vashem when the museum was first established. I have been in frequent contact with Rebbetzin Farbstein in recent years on this and related issues, and I can assure CVMay that nothing could be further from her opinion. Not that I question the accuracy of his quote. But for years — long before the opening of the new exhibit — she has been in dialogue with the museum about what materials are missing, where they can be found, etc. The ongoing absence of those materials cannot be attributed to the fact that no one has raised the issue.

Moreover, the regnant “narrative” of Eastern European Jewry going like “sheep to the slaughter” and the contrast to the brave, militaristic “new Jew” in Israel that dominated at the time Yad Vashem was founded certainly had a much bigger impact on the form of the original exhibit than the participation, or lact of it, of the chareidi community.

3) My landsman Harry Maryles takes issue somewhere or other (comment 7, I believe) with the implication that Professor Binyamin Ish-Shalom advocates something less than traditional halachic conversions. I disagree — strongly. First, the joint conversion institute that he heads is based on the students in the conversion course hearing lectures from teachers from all “streams” of Judaism (charedim, presumably, excepted). In other words, many, if not most of the teachers do not themselves accept the yoke of mitzvos as binding upon them. Only someone who views giyur as solely a technical ceremony — milah and tevilah in front of three gentlemen who possess semichah from an Orthodox institution or who call themselves Orthodox — without any concern with an acceptance of the yoke of mitzvos could possibly find anything to commend in such an institute.

As part of his criticism of the Chief Rabbinate for being too strict, Dr. Ish-Shalom cites a survey that 70% of the non-Jewish immigrants would “consider” conversion if it did not require them to become religious. Of what possible relevance would that statistic be to someone who believes that giyur requires kabolos ol mitzvos.

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Ben Bayit
8 years 1 month ago

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/business/15gilded.html?hp

The new finacial titans are mostly professionals, not necessarily entrepeneurs.

What’s keeping the Federations up at night is the fact that the children and grand-children of their uber-donors are no longer involved Jewishly (or not even Jewish) – not that they are successful lawyers, doctors and managers – who as can be seen in teh NY Times article also know how to make oodles and oodles of money – instead of business people.

No, I’m sorry Jonathan Rosenbloom – you’re piece was an attempt to put forth the official party line against higher education and against technology which you did by putting forth claims that have no basis in reality. If anything what seriously damaged the fundraising of traditional community run yeshivas such as Torah Vodaas was that the newer administration aliented their professional and educated alumni by refusing to allow their children to attend the same institutions and – like their parents – train for professional skills in the evening. This necessitated a shift towards fund-rasing away from successful professional alumni and towards fundraising from hockers and hondlers. You joined up with the charedim as this was happening so you see it as a given – but it wasn’t always this way.

Moishe Potemkin
8 years 1 month ago

“Actually, I am what you would call a ‘professional’, and I was simply amazed at the gross overreaction that the article engendered. And I also think that the sarcasm was well placed. Just my two cents.”

That’s fine – you are certainly entitled to your opinion. Given the “gross over-reaction,” though, many people clearly disagreed with you.

Myself, I’m not sure that offenses need to be universal to be wrong.

David
8 years 1 month ago

‘So, snicker at the professionals’ sensitivity if you must, but perhaps, just perhaps, there is cause to reconsider. Your blog, your choice.

Comment by Moishe Potemkin — July 11, 2007 @ 2:25 pm ‘

Actually, I am what you would call a ‘professional’, and I was simply amazed at the gross overreaction that the article engendered. And I also think that the sarcasm was well placed. Just my two cents.

Tal Benschar
8 years 1 month ago

“Kaballas ‘Ol Mitzvos” is not at all an “elastic concept.” The word ‘Ol means a yoke, and in this case is a metaphor for the obligation to keep the entire Torah. While it is true that a ger does not have to be informed about every mitzvah and every detail in Shulkhan Arukh (as though that were possible), the ger does have to accept the obligation of keeping the Torah in toto. If he has reservations about even one mitsvah, the geirus is invalid.

One can analogize the concept to becoming a citizen of another country. When new citizens of the U.S., for example, are sworn, they pledge allegiance to the United States and accept to uphold its Constitution and laws. Now there is no way a new citizen can know every detail of every law on the books. But we expect the new citizen to accept the law of his new country in its totality. If the new citizen were to say, “I accept to live by the Constitution and laws of my new country, except for ________” fill in the blank with your favorite exception (e.g. except for income tax laws, except for laws against marijuana use, except for laws against slavery) then the person really has not accepted the laws of this new country.

We would do well to remember what geirus really is. The gemara in Kerisus brings down a derasha “Kachem Kager” — just as you entered the covenant with circumcision, immersion and sacrifices, so too the convert. The essence of geirus is entering the covenant of Torah that Bnei Yisrael entered at Har Sinai. The same process used then (circumcision, immersion and sacrifices) is used in future generations for converts. At that time, Bnei Yisrael accepted the Torah in toto — whatever it said, they accepted, although they were as yet ignorant of many details. That is what “kabbalas ‘ol mitzvos” means.

Ori Pomerantz
8 years 1 month ago

Jonathan Rosenblum: In point of fact, the different levels of charitable (not necessarily tzedakah) giving between businessmen and professionals is well known. The growing professionalization of the Jewish community is but one of the many trends that keeps Federation professionals up at night, and there is an extensive literature on this subject.

Ori: I wonder if the statistics are biased because business people’s stock in trade is money, and professionals’ is time. Would the statistics include the time doctors spend treating poor patients without medical insurance knowing they’ll never be paid for it, or cases lawyers take pro bono?