Friday, August 17, 2007

It's the economy, Stupid!

Dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Kermani of Los Angeles, great friends of the Jewish People.

Question for your table:

When I eased into the back of the taxicab Wednesday morning, I was looking forward to a half-hour of rest. It’s hard for me to get enough sleep the night before a trip.

But this time I wasn’t blessed with a soft-spoken immigrant driver. I had Bob, a native Bal-i-morian (that’s the native way of saying it) who immediately started preaching to his captive audience:

“America is doomed. It’s over. In 2009, when China comes to collect 40 trillion dollars in debt, it’s over. The country is shutting down! You have a car? Enjoy it while you can, because in two years, you won’t be drivin’!”

Of course, Bob had worked out a plan to avoid the foreclosure of America, if only he were elected president:

“First, I’d shut the borders, no one and nothing in or out. Then I’d declare bankruptcy and cancel all our debts....”

Fast-forward: Now I’m in California. A businessman tells me during a charity meeting, “You know, I’ve started to notice that every time I neglect giving tzedaka, my business slows down.” A few hours later he reports, “Just like I told you – immediately after our meeting, we got a flood of new business.”

Karma? Or random coincidence?

So I’ve developed a one-question quiz to determine your spiritual IQ. Please get pencil and paper and let’s begin:

1. What gives you more pleasure:

A) Getting gifts
B) Giving gifts
C) All of the above
D) None of the above

If you answered (A) or (D), and you are single, please don’t get married just yet! Your selfishness will make both of you miserable.

What’s the connection between giving and marriage?

Let’s say for the sake of discussion that there is some kind of infinite being that created the world and that everything was created for a purpose.

(It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree. The point is to understand the implications of the philosophy.)

According to this philosophy, what is the purpose for women and men to be created so different? Why is it so often true that “opposites attract”?

One Jewish approach to chew on is that being so different from each other maximizes our potential to give. It’s really hard to give to someone so different from me! And giving is what it’s all about, for by giving from the heart, we transcend our own egos and become more God-like. There’s your elusive definition of “soul-mates” - two people who most enable each other to give. That’s your true bashert.

One last question for your table: When does receiving = giving?

In this month leading to Rosh Hashana, I will suggest one tool per week to prepare your mind for a transformative holiday.

This week’s tool: Make a list of 3-5 ways in which you could and should become a better giver. Tape the list to the bathroom mirror.

Shabbat Shalom.

Speaking schedule:

August 27-28 – Baltimore (Etz Chaim)
September 12-14 - Rosh Hashana - Baltimore (Etz Chaim)
September 21-22 – Yom Kippur - Los Angeles (Helkeinu)

(For details, send an email)

Yiddish of the week:
bashert – meant to be, pre-destined, as in, “He’s my bashert” or “It was bashert that...”

Yiddish review – how many do you remember?
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
rachmanus — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — How wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That's how it goes!
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of cessation; weekly Sabbatical experience.
("Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience")
neshoma — Soul
meshugass — insanity
meshuganeh — insane
kyna hara — no evil eye
shvitz - sweat
shanda – shame
L’chayim! - Cheers!
Pinteleh Yid - the Jewish feeling in the heart of every Jew
Zreezus – zeal
m’kohm – place (pl. mkohmas)
mamalashen – mother tongue
kvetch – complaint
kvell – burst with pride

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