Friday, October 06, 2006

The Jewish Dream

Dedicated in loving memory of Michael Roskin, who pursued the Jewish dream with zeal and a sense of humor.

Everyone dreams the American dream:

+ An awesome house
+ An awesome car
+ An awesome spouse
+ Lots of cash
+ To be in charge of something really big and important

Is there anything on this list that is not part of your American dream?

Is there anything missing?

Let’s focus on the house. You can ask this at your table:

Can you describe your dream home?


Try doing this before you read on.

How many people, especially children, focus on the physical appearance and comforts of the home?

How many would include people being nice to each other?

How many would include “a spirit of wisdom”?

What would you rather have:

A collection of mansions on several continents with well-paid support staffs, maximum security technology and total financial security, where family members are well-informed and deal with problems and disagreements by yelling at each other, slamming doors, and much worrying....


A single, modest home in an average American town where you’re a little cramped and you don’t subscribe to the New York Times, but everyone reacts to problems and disagreements with lovingkindness and a spirit of a shared pursuit of wisdom?

Good character is like the roots and trunk of a tree; knowledge is like the branches.
Someone who pursues the latter without the former can be blown down in the wind.
Someone who develops the former can’t be budged even by “all the winds in the world.” (Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Talmud)

+ + + +

A recent article in the Atlantic described a new industry to serve the needs of the wealthy (defined as someone with disposable assets of a mere $30 million or more; there are 30,000 in the USA). According to the interviewees, one of the primary concerns of the wealthy is the maintenance of one or more homesteads.

When I was reading that I thought, “that doesn’t sound much different from me!”

Worry is not a class-based emotion. George Foreman, worth hundreds of millions, said that he envies the longshoreman because even though he makes a lot less money, he has this satisfied look in his eye. “I have lots of money, you know what I mean? But I haven’t found confidence like that longshoreman I told you about. I will never feel secure again. I’ve got to earn, earn, earn, earn.”

The coming world crisis is going to pit two kinds of people against each other: those who put their stake and hope in the quality of roof over their heads and those who recognize that no material roof is any guarantee of anything, that true security comes from within rather than from without.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Sukkot (the anti-roof festival).

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