Volume 16 Number 58
                       Produced: Wed Nov 16 23:27:51 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Business vs. professions
         [Chaim Twerski]
Hebrew Question Adverbs
         [Meylekh Viswanath]


From: <ChaimTw@...> (Chaim Twerski)
Date: Tue, 1 Nov 1994 03:21:01 -0500
Subject: Business vs. professions

Due to many pressures and time constraints, I have not had a chance to
respond to the several persons who have posted replies to my posting. 
I apologize for the long delay in responding to the several persons who
have responded to my posting.

Eliza Berger writes 
      "Chaim Twerski suggests that business is a better career than a
      profession because one makes enough money to support a family that
      way.   I may have an idealistic viewpoint, not having to support a
      family at the moment yet, and maybe one day I'll regret not having
      chosen business over a profession.  However, I think that choice
      of career should be based on one's aptitudes and interests,
      besides the money-making potential"

But of course, and I shall add to this as well.  This community, as all
others, needs in addition to businessmen, a considerable number of
professionals, in medicine for certain but also several in several
other areas, particularly in the field of psychology and social work. 
Moreover, the need for frum persons in these professions is especially
important because the understanding of the underpinnings and social
mores of our society is crucial in appreciating and analyzing a problem. 
It is often frustrating to deal with a non-Jewish, and ofttimes even
worse, a Jewish but irreligious psychologist and/or social worker who
cannot understand or is antagonistic to the outlook and the viewpoint
of the client and gives advice and counsel that is harmful due to
attitudes based on these misunderstandings.

Just as I was would not suggest that most of those who are "kli kodesh"
should abandon their posts and enter into business, (an absurd
suggestion that I have heard from some misguided people many times and
on many occasions), so  do I not suggest that all who are in professions
do the same.  Certainly, our society needs professionals of many types,
and individual who are motivated to enter into these fields due to
concern for the community and individuals who are in need, should be
encouraged to do so, for this is no less avodas hakodesh than is chinuch
and rabbonus. (education and the rabbinate) 

However, as a society we must also be practical.  We have too many
employees not enough businessmen.  Those whose persons who view their
careers (and I believe that this is indeed the majority) primarily and
basically as a means to earn a livelihood, should be practical and seek
out business opportunities rather than work for others on salary, even
if this amounts to a career change.  There are many who have done so, (for
example, there is one Harvard Ph. D. graduate in our city, who gave up
his career in secular education and his subsequent career in government
to take over his father's business, and is now earning multiples of the
salary than his earlier professions would have earned him.  The business
he entered, understandably, has nothing whatsoever to do with
education.  He does not regret the change of careers, and the community
is far better for it as well.) 

Note that my posting, was a response to one who was critical of "right-
wing" orthodoxy (the yeshiva and chassidic communities) for restricting
college and basing this criticism on the practical consideration of
earning a living; who made a statement that called the "right" a "social
failure" due to its inability to sustain itself financially.  The
criticism may have some merit.  However, the proposed solution, that the
"right" should abandon its negative approach toward college, has no
merit.  In fact all educational institutions, from the left to the right
are now facing enormous financial problems. The problem noted, that the
"right-wing" Orthodox society cannot afford its educational
institutions is true at this time for the "left-wing" Orthodox (or
centrist, or whatever you want to call it) as much as it exists on the
right.  (I myself am employed by a "centrist" educational institution
and the financial difficulties are known to me from personal
experience). The most practical solution to this social problem is that
more of our baalei batim enter into business.  Going into professions
will not solve the problem, and will probably not even alleviate the
financial problem that the entire Orthodox community faces.  An
increase in business activity would go a long way towards a solution.  

Jerry Altzman's remarks indicate a degree of naivety that surprised me, 
coming from a person familiar with the secular world. He writes:

      I find this line of argument a bit specious. After 18+ years
      of"indoctrination" (I can't think of a better word here) wouldn't
      J. Random Bochur be a little "resistant" to most, if not all, of the
      "lures" in a secular education? Haven't we been training them that
      derekh torah [the path of Torah] is the way they should be going?

As if the lure of foreign ideas and ideologies would be our chief concern
for an eighteen year old student to enter a society so promiscuous that
it rivals Mitzraim and Canaan of Biblical times.  Ideologies often flow
from the heart to the mind, not the reverse.  I would go on a bit further,
but Bruce Krulwich's critique was more than adequate.

Now, Bruce wrote a second posting which had some important points: He

      First of all, his limud from Yaacov Avinu is interesting, but
      perhaps it is appropriate for us to learn from halachic sources as
      well.  In the chiyuv (obligation) of a father to teach his son a
      profession (discussed in Gemorah Kiddushin) there are
      commentaries who say that the obligation is specifically for
      teaching a profession, NOT for teaching business.  

The Maharal states that business is a type of profession and that one
does fulfill his obligation by teaching the profession of business.  Rav
(towards the end of Arvei P'sachim) told his son that since he had not
been successful as a Talmid Chacham, he ought to teach him the basic
rules of business.  (The advice given to him in the following passages
on that page in P'sachim remains good and prudent advice to the present
day.)  Evidently, Rav held that teaching business skills fulfilled his
obligation.  Yet, there is something to be said in favor of teaching
one's son (or oneself) an "umnus kalla v' nikiya" (easy and clean
craft).  Clearly, to earn a living by one's labor and handiwork is
preferable to earning a living by means of business.  However, the
practical considerations stated above appear to me, in our times, to be
of overriding importance, especially on a community-wide basis,
dictating that the business must be given encouragement whenever this
is possible.

      Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that I think it's
      necessary to look more closely at the current realities of the
      community.  We're not flooded with people going into business. 
      We're not flooded with good ideas for businesses that aren't being
      started.  We are, however, flooded with people scratching out a
      difficult living (much less than the 60-75K that Chaim discussed)
      doing low-end administrative work.  The majority of people in this
      situation will probably never go beyond this, due to the lack of
      education needed to move up within an existing (secular) business,
      and due to the lack of capital, opportunities, ideas, financial
      security, and perhaps chutzpa, needed to start a business of their
      own. Certainly we should try to enable people in this situation to
      start businesses and the like, but the reality is that only a
      limited number will do so, and only a limited number of them will

But that is precisely the problem that I am addressing.  We need more 
chutzpa, and those who have succeeded in our community and have capital
should be encouraged to invest and finance others to help them start or
buy their own businesses.  How many uneducated people arrived from
Europe forty years ago, with no more than an elementary education if
that, and have succeeded in establishing thriving businesses here.  The
reality, that only a limited number will do so, is correct.  My advice is
that we should make a push to increase the present small limited number
to a larger limited number.

      On the other hand, if a reasonable percentage acquired at least
      minimal professional education, and made 40-50K instead of
      20-25K, the community as a whole would be in much better shape.    

Very few in our community earn as little as 20K-25K, even those with
limited secular education.  The vast majority (teachers included) in
our community earn more than that.  Moreover for a person with 6
children, 40K-50K, considering the financial needs of Orthodox families
this, for a family income is hardly above poverty level.  That is
precisely the point that I have made.  To enter the professions is not
the road to financial independence.

Dr. Roths comments (mj 14:92) have much merit, and he is 100% correct in
noting that I am speaking from the viewpoint of the presidium of Bais
Yaakov. It is from this vantage point that I feel the problem so acutely. 
He points out that my suggestion is not practical because there are many
who do not have the aptitude or resources for business.  I acknowledge
this, but I never suggested, that ALL people ought to go into business. 
I am quite aware that many do not have the aptitude for business, and for
these, business is indeed inadvisable.  My suggestion is that business
needs to be encouraged, that as many as possible should go into business
and that business should be considered as a primary option by those who
are presently employees, doing a great job for someone else.

Dr. Roths's counter proposal, (coming, I believe, from his perspective
as a physician), that more enter into high paying professions, however,
is probably more impractical than is my suggestion.  To my knowledge
there but two high paying professions, medicine and law.  Many do in fact
become physicians and lawyers, and to some extent these persons are
often as financially successful as businessmen, particularly since many
physicians and lawyers are businessmen, as I indicated in my previous
posting.  However, medical school is an option only to outstanding
students who have the resources to go through medical school.  Law,
which is not nearly as lucrative, also requires specific academic
skills that are not available to many. 

I note in closing that the Orthodox community in general needs to
address an impending financial crisis.  The crisis is a result of a
tremendous growth rate, which is a good thing, coupled with a stagnating
and indeed decreasing total income base, which is a bad thing.  In the
past, the non-Orthodox were great in number, and felt an affinity
towards Judaism and a respect towards Orthodox Judaism.  Most of the
Yeshivos that were built here prior to the 1970's were built an
maintained on non-Orthodox money.  Alas, the non-Orthodox Jewish
community is rapidly assimilating, which will reduce the income base
for our institutions, and those who do not assimilate are beginning to
develop a hatred toward Orthodox Jews and Judaism, for reasons that
should be the subject of some other posting.  As a result of the above,
a good deal of the funding obtained in the past will be lost to the
future.  As time goes on, the Orthodox community will have to become
self-sufficient in order to survive.  All major Orthodox institutions,
from Yeshiva University to the Lakewood Yeshiva (Beth Medrash Govoha)
rely to a large extent upon non-Orthodox money today. On the other hand,
as a whole, the family size in Orthodox homes has risen in the past
generation.  (I don't have hard statistics on this, but just about every
family that I know has more children than siblings, and I have a hunch
that this is a trend throughout the wider American community).  As a
result of this, per capita income is decreasing, making "disposable
income" (money left over after food, clothing, housing, utilities and
medical expenses) scarcer.  Disposable income is the stuff that is
needed for educational institutions.  With income from non-Orthodox
sources likely to dissipate over the next few decades, and with per
capita income decreasing or even remaining at present levels, we can
anticipate a severe financial crunch in the upcoming years that will
crush our institutions.  In my opinion, the the community as a whole must
alter its own financial objectives and goals.  In this, I mean business.

Chaim Twerski 


From: Meylekh Viswanath <pviswana@...>
Subject: Hebrew Question Adverbs

Sam Juni talks about research into what turns out to be a form of the 
Whorf-Sapir hypothesis that language reflects and/or influences 
perceptions of reality.  There has been a fair amount of research done on 
this question, and the results don't seem to be supportive of the W-S 
hypothesis.  Some of the recent work was described in a volume edited 
by Prof. Joshua Fishman of YU (you can look up the book under his 
name, I don't have the precise cite).  The one study that I remember had 
to do with the classification of objects in terms of shape vs. color.  The 
hypothesis (I believe) was that Hopi children should classify objects in 
terms of shape first, and then in terms of color, because the Hopi 
language distinguishes between differently shaped objects (I 
don't remember how this worked; I think each object took on 
a suffix depending on its shape).  Anglo children, on the other hand, 
were expected to classify by shape equally as frequently as classifying 
by color.  I think the results were exactly the opposite--so the WS 
hypothesis was rejected.

> I'm doing some research into the relative complexity of question adverbs
> across different languages/cultures. My thesis is akin to the
> formulation based on the complexity of snow-related adverbs among the
> Eskimo -- that concise descriptors correlate with clearly formulated
> conceptualization, while circumlocutions indicate a lack of
> willingness or ability within a culture to deal with material
> directly. 

A long time ago, I posted something on science and judaism (it should be 
in the archives, v. 4, no. 5--I will be happy to email a copy to anybody 
who desires), where I argued that the two were compatible and in fact, 
similar, because both depended on acceptance of axiom systems.  I 
argued that the axiom systems that one accepted would condition one's 
search for facts and even one's observations.  In this context, I gave the 
example of the Eskimos being able to perceive many different kinds of 
snow, and I attributed this at least partly to there being 40 words for 
snow in the Eskimo languages.   To this there was an emotional response 
from Prof. Geoffrey Pullum (vol. 4, no. 14) that there are not more than 
four or five words for snow in Eskimo languages (you can read more on 
this in Laura Martin's article in the American Anthropologist in 1986).  
Although I posted a response to Prof. Pullum later on disputing some of 
his points, one should clearly be more careful than I was in my earlier 
posting, and so I would caution Sam Juni on this point, too.

[A description of Sam's thesis deleted]

> I have examined What, When, How, How Many, Where, Why, Who, Whose, as
> well as specifc combination question (e.g., either/or, "M'muh
> Nafsheich").  For instance, Spanish/French are unique in having one word
> for "How many."  Hebrew's compound word "Kama" seems derived from an
> elementary combination translating to "Like what." "Why" is unique to
> English, while almost all other languages use the compound "For What."

The basic problem with such linguistic analysis for most of us is that we 
don't have anything like the necessary diversity in the languages that we 
know.  Tamil, e.g. has the word 'en' for why (with a long initial vowel, 
which sounds like the name of the english letter A).  English is not 
unique in having a single word for 'why,' and I would suspect it is far 
from being unique.

Graduate School of Management, 92 New St, Newark NJ 07102
Tel: (201) 648-5899  Fax: (201) 648-1233  email: <pviswana@...>


End of Volume 16 Issue 58