The Torah – Just a Broken Telephone Conversation?

28 years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe set into motion a cycle of learning – to join all the Jewish people together – in the learning of Jewish law. Learning to be done would include working through the Rambam’s – Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1135-1204) Mishneh Torah (Second Torah) or the Yad HaChazaka (The Strong Hand) as it is also known. The word Yad – hand – has the Hebrew numerical value of 14 – the amount of books in the entire guide.

The guide includes all of Jewish law, both at the times of the Temple (to be rebuilt immediately) as well as to those times when the Temple does not stand (the current time until Moshiach reveals himself.) 1000 chapters work through the entire corpus of Jewish law. Studying just 3 chapters a day will allow one to complete the entire cycle in just under a year, although one may choose to learn just one chapter a day and complete the cycle in 3 years (something worthwhile for those learning it for the first or second times, to be able to spend much more time on each chapter and gain much from it.) The Rambam was heavily criticised for his work as he did not indicate the sources of his legal rulings. Today, there is no Jewish legal authority who considers the Rambam’s work as anything less than the absolute roots of all Jewish law today!

The Rambam begins his magnum opus with an introduction. While it seems that many people wish to get to the nitty gritty of things, this is one introduction that is an absolute necessity to read. It includes a number of ideas that take the reader into concepts he may not otherwise consider, for example, the Rambam’s famous statement that in *his* day nobody was really able to learn Talmud properly anymore, and so he compiled his guide so that people would just be able to read the Tanach – and then this guide – and already know the entire law. Perhaps he may well have put most Yeshivot out of business with a statement like that. Yet, with a very careful study of the Rambam, one can clearly see how accurate this statement of his actually is.

Indeed, until one has a thorough grasp of the laws in the Rambam, the Talmud is truly a sea of law filled with waves crashing all over, and one simply has no idea where one is. After a good understanding of the laws in Rambam, one turns to the Talmud with a whole new approach in learning – one that suddenly brings the Talmud to life, and helps to ease one’s way into understanding the source of these laws, and how they come about. Naturally there is much more to learning Halachah – Jewish law!

Nevertheless, the fact that the Lubavitcher Rebbe saw a need for learning Rambam as opposed to any other structured learning order – shows clearly how he saw it as being the root of everything necessary to care for the Jewish soul. (This excludes the previous Rebbe’s institution of learning the regular portions of Chumash and Rashi, Tehillim and Tanya, and by no means takes into account the tremendous amount of active Mitzvot one is required to perform – constantly, together with inspiring others to do likewise!)

If one were to begin a book of law, where would be the best place to start? The Torah itself begins with a series of stories on how G-d created the world, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel… Noah and his generation… Abraham and his generation etc. The Jews go into Egypt, are taken out, receive the Torah (FINALLY!) and onwards into the Land of Israel. From here – as they say – the rest is history! But what of the actual law?

So many today know the well known game played by children – “Broken Telephone.” A humorous game, whereby a message is transmitted from one child to the next, as it is whispered ever so quietly into the other’s ear. The message may begin with something like, “Today, the president of the United States announced in a speech that he would let the Jewish people live peacefully in their own land without the need to invite terrorists into it and please the rest of the world”, and it may end up at the other side of the room with the last child in the series announcing what the message was, “The fish says we should all jump up and down!”

Today, people think that Torah is a similar game. One in which some child (with a very bad memory) whispered a message to another (thousands of years ago) without ever confirming whether the other heard it, and that that child then whispered the message (including every secret of Torah ever passed down in the past 3300 years and more) to another child – also with a very bad memory, who forgot most, and couldn’t pronounce their words correctly either. So today we have a watered down version of what the real Torah was then.

Indeed many Jews will firmly state that they believe that the Torah was given over 3300 years ago, but that everything was mixed up along the way, and that’s why we have the variety of stylistic “Judaisms” of today, including reform, conservative, and a host of names too unbelievable to even mention! Indeed, when Moses was living in a physical body, there simply wasn’t electricity, no cars – and “sadly” not even the Internet! What would Moses know today of driving to Shul on the holy Shabbat day?! Besides, even if he did have some 2 cents worth of his own mind to say about it – do we really remember it today – what with the state of affairs of forgetful children who cannot pronounce their words correctly – nor confirm if the other really heard them correctly in any case!

And so, the Rambam does not begin his work with the laws, but rather a clear description of the entire transmission of the Torah. Indeed, from Moses, the Torah was passed to Joshua, and from him to the elders. Eli (the Kohen in the famous story of Hana who could not have children) and Pinchas, received it from the elders. The prophet Samuel (the son born to Hana in the story with Hana and Eli) received it from Eli and he passed the entire transmission of Torah to Kind David. And so the Torah was passed – from teacher to student – as the Rambam lists 40 generations of transmission, accurately mentioning exactly who received the Torah from whom.

These were no simple children unable to pronounce words properly. Nor did they forget easily! In addition they *all* feared G-d, were either great prophets themselves or filled with Divine Inspiration, and wanted nothing more than to serve G-d with every fibre of their being! Do spend some time looking through the list of the transmission and become acquainted with these great individuals who made up the beginning of Jewish history.

These people were not interested in bribery, wealth, honour, greatness etc. They wanted only to serve G-d every day of their lives. They knew that this is simply what life is all about – connecting to G-d at all times in everything one does.

Were King David to walk into a reform synagogue (which he would not) on a Friday evening while both men and women sat next to each other singing with the piano accompanying them as the main singer arrogantly demonstrated her way of praising G-d through singing “sections” of the “Standing Prayer” aloud, I have no doubt there would be an absolute silence, and a feeling of complete embarrassment by all, as they realised just who this man – King David really was.

But as these same people read of the stories contained in the Tanach, they consider King David a simple poor man. Someone who had a hard life. If only *he* had had a car, it would have made his life so much easier when it came to driving to Shul on Friday night! But the reality of meeting him in person would no doubt stir in all of us such a fear of what truth really is – of what fearing G-d is all about – I have no doubt, most of us would simply melt away in embarrassment!

The truth of the transmission of Torah is clearly discussed in the Rambam’s introduction. It serves to teach us the biggest lesson in life we all need to know. Without this introduction, we will continue to scoff at the questions regarding the truth of Torah – of its accuracy, of its true authenticity.

There is nothing but the same Torah in our hands today as it was given to Moses – by G-d Himself over 3300 years ago. It was handed from teacher to student in a long chain of transmission (still continued to this very day – from teacher to student). Teachers knew about fear of G-d and truth of Torah – and it was these teachers who taught their students these very same values.

The written law we have today – is exactly the same law that Moses was given over 3300 years ago. The oral law today – is that same law that Moses received way back then too. Nothing has changed. The Rambam makes it clear. The mysteries contained in the Torah were those same mysteries taught to Moses then – and each of us has the choice in life to grab hold them today – as if they were our very life (because they are!) – and to spend our lives immersed in learning Torah, teaching it and practicing it.

First comes this acknowledgment, to realise the Mesora – the tradition – the *real* tradition – is as true today as it was then… and when one is then ready to move on, one begins to turn the pages of the Rambam and learn the laws of life. The laws of the soul – as contained in a body. Its duties. Its connection with G-d. About angels and mysteries (chapters 3 & 4)… and about the every day law of giving charity to another. About guarding the holy Sabbath day, keeping the laws of Family Purity, and eating Kosher food (for nothing in these laws has changed one iota even if we think our food is cleaner today than it was then.)

There is nothing more left to do or to say – says the Rambam. The transmission is a clear one made up of the greatest people in the Jewish nation. People whose memories were *perfect*. People of the greatest stature that the generations have ever known about. People who strove for absolute perfection in serving G-d every day of their lives – every moment of the day!

Now it is up to each of us to begin the cycle today without delay, and to learn how to behave as a Jew, what to do, how to do it, when to do it. And from here, we will grow to degrees that slowly but surely, we will not just do – but we will hear what it really is all about, until one day as we turn around, we will realise that we have suddenly connected to G-d. We become One with Him, and realise that our lives are filled with meaning.

101 Survival Tips for Your Business

There is no disputing the fact that a lot of businesses are collapsing in Nigeria and indeed the world over today because of lack of knowledge of what it takes to salvage the situation. This has even led to serious health conditions as many entrepreneurs have become hypertensive and their health state has defied medical solutions. This is because as long as the survival of their businesses is threatened, their own survival too will continue to be under threat. This is why I am reviewing this book this week as a textual solution. I wish you pleasurable reading.

This text entitled 101 Survival Tips for Your Business, with the subtitle Practical Tips to Help Your Business Survive and Prosper is written by Andrew Griffiths, a professional marketing consultant, as well as director of an Australian company called The Marketing Professionals. Griffiths is an accomplished trainer and a reputable public speaker. He specialises in trouble-shooting for companies that are in dire need of professional advice on marketing and customer-related issues.

In the course of his career, Griffiths has owned and operated a number of businesses, including a commercial diving operation, a travel company, an outdoor advertising business and a tourism publication. He equally worked as a dive instructor and commercial diver, door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, gold prospector, international sales manager and gardener.

According to this author, running a business is difficult and demanding even at the best of times. Griffiths says the trick to surviving is to avoid the common hazards that all business operators face along the way. He assures that the 101 practical survival tips offered in this text will guide you to successfully navigate your way through these hazards, and help your business to reach its full potential. This expert says each of these survival tips is based on his many years of experience and sound advice from successful businesses around the world.

Griffiths advises you to choose and apply a new tip each week or use this book as a source of inspiration and guidance when you are setting up a new business. In this book, there are tips to help you build better relationships with your suppliers, your staff and your customers, as well as financial, legal, marketing and personal survival tips. All these tips are designed to highlight common problems and give you a clear course of action that will increase your chances of business survival. As regards structure, this text is segmented into 12 basic sections of 101 tips, in addition to a bonus section containing 20 tips. Section one is christened The future of small business.

In the words of Griffiths here, “Small businesses form the backbone of many economies. As populations grow worldwide, so do the number of small businesses starting up. Millions of people around the world continue to opt for running their own business instead of working for larger organisations. As a result, there is an incredible knowledge and skill base tied up in running these small businesses.”

He adds that there is an enormous amount of expertise and specialist knowledge that thrives in this economic sector, the value of which is often underestimated. Griffiths says experience has shown him that small businesses generally offer far better levels of service than do their larger counterparts, due, in most cases, to the key personnel being involved at the front of business. However, Griffiths says the problem facing most small businesses is the ever-increasing competition from other small businesses, adding that this dilemma is here to stay and even increase.

In section two christened Getting advice survival tips, and which contains the first four tips, this accomplished public speaker discusses the type of help available, tells you to know when to look for help, asks you to embrace technology and save money, and says you might be eligible for a grant. According to this author, “Many governments around the world offer incentives for people to run small businesses. These governments realise that small businesses play a major role in their economy…by distributing products and services to the general public.” He says these governments are equally aware that small businesses provide jobs for millions of people, and this development keeps the economy going well.

Section three of this text is generically labelled Financial survival tips, and contains tips five to 19. Here, Griffiths stresses the need for you to have enough money to start your business. As far as budgeting is concerned, he advises you to plan for the worst not the best, adding that you should keep your personal and business records separate. Griffiths reiterates the need for you to use a good accountant, keep a good record from the start, and beware of the third-year boom and fourth-year bust.

In section four that contains tips 20 to 27 and entitled Business relationship survival tips, this expert reflects to you how to avoid partnership pitfalls; how to build a relationship with your suppliers; how to build a relationship with your professional advisers, etc. Section five of this text is based on staff survival tips and contains tips 28 to 37. In this section, Griffiths stresses the need for you to put the staff job description in writing and always check references. He emphasises the need for you to train yourself and your staff properly; lead by example so that your team will follow; communicate effectively with your staff; conduct performance reviews; be conscious of security issues and protect your business, etc. In section six based on tips 38 to 46 and tagged Customer service survival tips, this author says you need to build a good relationship with your customers and learn how to say No. Griffiths stresses further that you need to use simple market research to keep on track, adding that you should continually ask your customers if they are happy. He advises that you should deliver whatever you promise, and be honest and upright in all your dealings.

Section seven is based on advertising and marketing survival tips, with tips 47 to 57 examined. Here, the author says you need to develop your own marketing philosophy; do a course or read a marketing book; take small steps to market your business; develop a strong corporate image; market your business to a simple plan; never stop marketing just because business is booming, etc.

Sections eight to eleven are respectively entitled Internet survival tips; Insurance survival tips; Legal survival tips; and Personal survival tips. These four sections contain tips 58 to 93. In these sections, Griffiths stresses the need for you to be realistic about the Internet and make sure that you market your website. He says you should budget for the Internet to be an ongoing expense and beware of spam. Griffiths advises on the type of insurance you should have, adding that you should make sure that you meet your policy requirements. Griffiths offers you guide on when to use a lawyer and how to choose one. He also offers you tips on how you could keep the legal costs down. According to this author as regards personal survival tips, you need to start your business feeling refreshed and healthy.

Griffiths advises you never to give up your hobbies when you start your own business; asks you to maintain your enthusiasm; and learn how to handle stress. Section 12, the last basic section is tagged Planning for the future survival tips and contains tips 94 to 101. In this section, this author says you need to know exactly where you are going and know exactly how you are going to get there. Griffiths reflects that you need to always have a plan for when things go wrong and set your business up so that someone will want to buy it.

As already said, apart from these 12 basic sections, there is a bonus section containing additional 20 survival tips. Here, Griffiths says among other things that you should not be afraid to charge what you are worth; learn to delegate; try to win an award for your business; constantly strive to improve your business; make your business environmentally friendly; and compile your own operations manual.

Stylistically, this text gets a pass mark. For instance, the text is written in short blocks reinforced with very simple, jargon-free language. Griffiths adds Survival Tips Action List at the end of each section to arouse readers’ active participation and practical application. However, the (partially) repetitive areas of the multiplicity of tips contained in the text can still be harmonised to avoid possible conceptual redundancy. Generally, this text is a masterpiece. Do you want to achieve enduring success in your business, especially during this period of global economic downturn? If “Yes”, then, you need to get a copy of this book.

Saving Your Marriage – What To Do When You’re On The Brink Of Disaster

On your wedding day, I bet the furthest thought from your mind was “What happens if this marriage doesn’t work out?”

As time goes by things change. You find that you’re not in the same place as you were when you got married. Things have happened in your marriage. You don’t communicate the same way you used to. Perhaps your partner hasn’t been faithful.

What do you do? Do you consider divorce?

If you’re like most Americans, you do. Divorces are common these days. In fact, half of our marriages end in divorce now. What happens when you get divorced?

Quite a bit, actually. First of all, one of you needs to find a new place to live. Second of all, if you have children, you must create a plan for when the children will be with each parent. Does one parent get full custody with visitation for the other? Is custody shared? Holidays, vacations, they all have to be planned out ahead of time and put into a calendar.

Next, you have to split up everything you own. Remember all the flatware and dinner plates you received as wedding gifts? Well, your sixteen piece service just became an eight piece service. Your spouse got the vacuum cleaner, you kept the stereo, your spouse got the Christmas tree, and the list goes on.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. One you may be paying child support, alimony or both. 401k’s and other investments get divided up. Perhaps other properties or expensive belongings you have must be sold. Hope you weren’t attached to anything.

Finally, you have to have some sort of legal proceeding involving attorneys, mediators and a judge to do the final divorce decree. I’ve never known anything involving the word “legal” to be cheap.

Now those were all the things involving money. Really the money is just a small part of it. Divorce’s biggest impact is on people, especially children. Picture in your mind that conversation when you sit the children down and tell them that Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other the way they used to and one of them won’t be living here anymore. The children, who may be too young to fully grasp the concept of divorce, are now being shuttled back and forth between two homes every few days. They need clothes and toys for Mommy’s house and Daddy’s house. They need to get used to the fact that their bed at Mommy’s is more comfortable, but Daddy has better TV.

The kids at school may say things and look at them differently. They probably need to start seeing counselors to work through a lot of their questions and feelings about what has happened. What if your ex starts to say things about you, that aren’t very nice, to your children? What if you start dating again and your ex says means things to them about your new “friend”?

Your parents are effected too. Now they may need to become more involved in child care or assisting you financially. Your parents also have to deal with issues they have about the divorce. “What did I do wrong? Did I put too much pressure on my child to get married? Did I alienate their spouse or cause some kind of friction? Am I the reason they split up?”

These are all very deep issues and I hope you never have to tackle them in your lifetime. But half of you will and the numbers get worse every day. There are resources available to you that can help you start repairing your marriage immediately. You may not want to acknowledge your marital difficulties to your pastor, friends, or even a licensed marriage counselor. If you don’t, there are things you can do, on your own and right now, to stop hurting and start saving your marriage.

First, sit down and talk with your spouse. Be honest about your feelings. Now is not the time to hold back.

Second, invest in a good book. There are great resources available that can give you practical tips to start using today. These techniques work, even if only one of you is committed to working on them.

Third, get your family involved. Maybe they can take the children for a couple days while you start working things out with your spouse. Maybe a sibling or another relative has gone through the same thing but never really talked about it. The information they provide could help more than you expected.

Just remember, you have options and you have resources. You can decide right here and now to stop the damage, stop the pain, and stop the slow decline of your marriage. If you do something, you may be able to recapture the love and remember why you got married in the first place. If you do nothing, your marriage will fail and many of those things we talked about above we start to become a reality.