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Taking a Cue from the Koreans

Thursday, 31 March, 2011 - 11:07 pm

Jimmy Peterson walks into a Jewish Deli and asks Greenberg, who is standing behind the counter, "why are Jews so smart?" Greenberg answers, "it is because we eat a lot of schmaltz herring. And as a matter of fact, I have some here that I can sell you. It goes for $10 per lb." Jimmy buys the herring and leaves. A few minutes later he storms back in screaming, "you ripped me off. Down the block they are selling it for $5 per lb." Greenberg smiles and says, "you see, you are already getting smarter."

This week there was an article on YNET, an Israeli website, interviewing Young Sum Mah, the S. Korean ambassador to Israel. In the interview he pointed out that Koreans have taken up a fancy for Talmud study. They believe that it is the study of Talmud that makes Jews so accomplished intellectually. Most homes in Korea, he declared, own a copy of a Korean translation of Talmudic passages and it is taught by the mother to the children. They believe that the values of traditional Judaism, respect for elders, the obligation upon parents to educate their children, are highly cherished in Korea. He claims that he owns two copies of the Korean Talmud, one a gift from his mother, and the second one from his wife.

Whether or not it is the Talmud that is responsible for the disproportionate number of Jewish Nobel Laureates, the Torah is described as "your wisdom and insight in the eyes of the nations." We Jews would do well taking a page from the Koreans and dedicating ourselves to the the wealth of wisdom that can be uncovered during the study of Torah. Whether it is a class in Chumash, Talmud, Halacha or Mysticism, the Torah leaves one changed forever. There are so many opportunities to study - in a class, alone, or online - there is something there for every taste and preference. Find out what it is that fascinates the Korean people, who seem more interested than some of our own folks.

Last night I had the opportunity to offer the invocation at the Hornets game (pictures in gallery - photo credits - Morris Bart). It was a great experience to see how much hard work and effort goes into the coordination of just the ceremonies around the game itself. In the 20 seconds that I was alloted - in addition to blessing the city and praying for the safety of the players, I succintly shared a lesson that the Rebbe derived from sports. "To recall the ongoing game being played in the arena of our hearts between goodness and selfishness. To remember that in real life, as in sports, success follows effort and the team that plays best, wins."

After the game a group of non-Jewish fans were back-slapping me and jokingly attributing the successful outcome of the game to the prayer. I joked back that they should call me back for the playoffs. It was all cool.

We express our condolences to Chabad Metairie Youth Leader, Shoshi Biggs upon the loss of her grandmother, Mrs. Bryna Biggs. 

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