Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hero Talk

In memory of Liviu Librescu, the Holocaust survivor whose heroic life came to a horrible yet heroic end at Virginia Tech.

If someone offered you $315 million, would you take it?

This week’s events brought to mind Ben Franklin’s quip that the only certain thing in life is death and taxes.

Heroism is certainly not certain. Even if you’ve read about Prof. Librescu already, you may find this short article worth your time:

To those who are looking for answers, bemoaning the violence in the popular media, I would point out that most of what we consider “great literature” is full of death and destruction. The Torah has its fair share, to say the least. And great pacifists have grown up reading this stuff. So I’m not sure that the exposure itself is the issue.

From what we read of Prof. Librescu’s life, he was a kind soul, a loving husband and father, an enthusiastic teacher – a mensch, in fact. He put other people’s needs before his own – he had rachmanus. Was his a just fate?

Let’s look at another recent news item about fate, fortune and values:

2002 Powerball winner Jack Whittaker wishes he had never won.

The irony of his regret is that he did not use the jackpot to indulge himself. He only wanted to give to others. But the fortune and fame destroyed his family.

“I wish I'd torn that ticket up,” he told ABC News.

You can read why here (warning – it’s not a pleasant story).

Question for your table: If someone offered you $315 million (before taxes) - no strings attached - would you take it?

What if, in order to get the money, you had to do one single act of embarrassing another person in public?

OK, let’s keep the no-strings attached. I assume the answer would be yes... But before we give you the money, we’d like you to make one more choice: Would you rather keep the $315 million or trade it for a once-in-your-lifetime chance to save one person’s life (if you pass this up, you’ll never have another similar opportunity)?

May the families and friends be comforted, along with all other mourners.

Shabbat Shalom.

My upcoming speaking schedule (For details, send an email.):
April 20-21 – Shabbat in L.A. with Rebbetzin Jungreis (LAX Westin)
May 14 – New York and New Jersey
June 12-13 – 2 San Francisco salons
June 15-16 – Art of Amazement Shabbat in San Francisco

Yiddish of the week:
rachmanos — mercy

Yiddish review
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person

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