Rabbi Mordechai Becher, originally from Australia, is a Senior Lecturer for the Gateways Organization. He was a Senior Lecturer at Ohr Somayach, Neve Yerushalayim and Darchei Binah in Jerusalem for 15 years, was a chaplain in the Israel Defence Forces and taught in a number of Rabbinic training programs. Rabbi Becher is the co-author of After the Return, and has answered thousands of questions on the Ask-the-Rabbi website. His latest book, Gateway to Judaism, was recently published by Shaar Press. Rabbi Becher received his ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He has lectured for the UJA, Jewish Federations, the Zionist Organization of America, Hillel and is on the speakers bureau of the Israeli Consulate in New York. He has taught in Canada, the United States, England, Israel, South Africa, Australia and Russia. He resides with his wife and 6 children in Passaic, NJ.
I keep reading statistics about Jewish achievement in business, science, etc. For such a small people, the percentage of Nobel Prize winners is staggering. The theory I’ve heard to explain this is the Jewish focus on education. Is this correct?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Jewish education is surely a big part of it. The Talmud describes the greatness of Rebbe Yehoshua. The Talmud asks: How did he get to be such a big tzaddik? The Talmud answers: When Rebbe Yehoshua was born, his mother set his baby carriage outside the Yeshiva. This little baby was exposed to lots of Torah scholarship from a very young age.
Yet how did this contribute to Rebbe Yehoshua's greatness? After all, he was only a baby; did he absorb the material through osmosis or something?! The answer is that as much as the influence of being around the yeshiva made Rebbe Yehoshua great, it was also the influence of having a mother who was willing to sacrifice herself to bring him there every day, who showed him the importance of being Jewish, of having the right values, of being in a positive Jewish environment.
Jewish education is not just the technicalities of learning the alphabet and the multiplication tables. It’s about having a commitment to the values that have driven the Jewish people for all these millennia: the recognition that God runs the world; that we each have a soul that needs to be nurtured even more than our physical body; and that we have a responsibility to make the world a better place.
I believe that this, more than anything, is the secret to Jewish success.
Focus on Education:
Today in Jewish History
Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz (1902-1979), dean of the famous Mir Yeshiva for more than 40 years, who was known for his boundless love of God and humanity. When World War II broke out, Rabbi Shmulevitz and his students miraculously obtained transit visas, issued at great risk by Mr. and Mrs. Sugihara of the Japanese Consulate. They travelled out of war-torn Lithuania, via the trans-Siberian railroad, to a safe haven in Shanghai, China. After the war, Rabbi Shmulevitz reestablished the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which has since grown to a student body of 5,000. His ethical discourses, many of which have been published in English, are considered classics.
Today's Daily Lift
Greet Everyone with a Smile
"The Torah ideal is to greet each and every person with a pleasant facial expression." (Tomar Devorah, ch.2)
When you greet someone in a friendly way, you never know what a positive effect you will have. A certain individual who greeted everyone with a smile and kind words was approached by someone and told, "You saved my life." The person went on to tell how he'd suffered a number of serious setbacks and was contemplating suicide. He felt totally alone and depressed and felt that no one cared about him. Then this fellow greeted him with a sincere smile and a cheerful voice. This immediately lifted up his spirits and he was resolved to continue living.
Experiment just for today. Greet everyone you encounter with a smile. If you need to, visualize yourself greeting others in a cheerful and friendly way. Note how they react. A smile is contagious and can potentially transform the mood of thousands!
Today in Growing Each Day
Rage deprives one of one's senses (Pesikta Zuta Va'eira 6:9).
Anger can be a constructive emotion (e.g. if we see an injustice and our anger helps bring us to correct it). We can compare it to an electric generator, which we constructively harness. Rage, however, has no use. It is like an erupting volcano, which benefits no one and only causes widespread destruction.
Unlike a volcanic eruption, rage is controllable. However, the time to act is before the outburst begins, because once it is in motion, we lack the good judgment necessary for control.
Preventive action consists of training ourselves to react with restraint when a provocative event occurs, even if we feel we are right. We can practice restraint by responding in a soft voice, by keeping silent, or by walking away from the situation and allowing for a "cooling off" period.
Rage feeds upon itself, and if we can stifle rage at its very onset, when it is still controllable, it is akin to smothering a small fire by depriving it of oxygen. Failure to do so may result in a destructive, unmanageable conflagration, and so it is with rage.
Today I shall...
try to practice restraint in responding to all provocations.
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