Views on the News

Super Bowl Beer Commercials

January 30, 2008 1:30 PM

The following observation was passed on to me by my friend, Rabbi Moshe Goldman, member of Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi team:

Leafing through the New York Times business section (rabbis always read the business section...), I happened upon a brilliant marketing strategy being employed by Anheuser-Busch. In a departure from the approach of years' past, the advertising powers decided to narrow their focus to promoting only the "core brands" of the company, namely Budweiser and Bud Light.

Robert C. Lachky, executive vice president for global industry and creative development at Anheuser-Busch, was quoted as saying that "We have to go to the mother lode. If you focus on your core brands, the rest of the portfolio will benefit."

Pure genius. I mean, this is really a great concept. Heck of a way to live. Let's examine this idea and see how it can apply to us as people (and not mere beer buyers).

Like any company, each of us has our "core brands" in addition to the "rest of the portfolio." There are those things which are essential to our identity and those which register as peripheral and secondary.

Our core brands were, are, and forever will be the Torah and Mitzvot, G‑d's design for a purposeful, happy life. The rest of our portfolio is our careers, our moods, our wardrobe or _______ (fill in the blank).

Investing time and money in the rest of the portfolio is a terrible strategy, without a doubt. It will only lead to a confused mind, sleepless nights and most importantly, no solution or growth. The core brands carry a company or a person through the roughest of times. Dependable, solid and important; they are the reassuring bedrock of faith in an unstable market. The rest of the portfolio can be bought and sold at whim and don't really make a huge difference at the end of the day.

The Rebbe would commonly advise people who wrote to him about the various troubles they were facing in life, that the blessings and flow of life are channeled to the Jew via the conduit of Torah and Mitzvot. As such, if one needs more blessings, the surest way is to "widen" that conduit, by increasing one's commitment to Torah and Mitzvot.

If I may paraphrase the Rebbe's words: Invest in your core brands, and watch the rest of your portfolio benefit.

I wonder what Mr. Lachky has been reading lately…

Timely Links

January 30, 2008

Giuliani is out of the race. An unimagibale prospect some 2-3 months ago. Wondering why he suffered such an incredible free-fall? See Primary Madness.

Super Bowl fever sweeping over you? My good friend Dovid Zaklikowski tackles the game's "spiritual side." Some nice ideas to share with your gameday party pals: Touchdown.

Pork Barrel Spending

January 29, 2008 1:30 PM

One of the things that President Bush railed about in last night's State of the Union Address was pork barrel spending, euphemistically known as "earmarks." (I love the name, by the way; who is going to stand up and say: "I'm all for pork barrel spending!") It's one of those issues that politicians love to grumble about—but no one wants to actually do anything about it.

[Before you start condemning them for this, let's consider: do we have a tendency to do the same thing? Are there certain issues we just love to harp on, "horrible evils" that require attention—but please don't ask me to take action?

Excessive television viewing, hiring an Xbox to babysit our kids, sedentary lifestyles, spouses—all things we love complaining about, but too good to do without. Let the other person conquer these evils...]

Now for the hard part. Let's identify pork barrel spending (and I'm not talking about money here) in our personal lives. I have some ideas—but let me first hear what you guys think!

State of the Union Address

January 29, 2008

They sat in the congressional chamber that is divided down the middle by an aisle. And providing easy access to the restrooms is not the primary function of this passageway... Defeating the people on the other side of the aisle – and the ideas they represent – in next year's elections was foremost on their minds. And there they gathered last night to hear the State of the "Union" Address.

And rightly so. We may have different ideas, but this nation is united around the ideals expressed in a certain two-century old document. Good ideals. Just ideals. Yes, we have disagreements, and sometimes we foolishly let them get to our heads and we take them personally, but every once in a while we have to take stock and realize that we are a union. And the state of the union is strong.

We have many different problems and threats that we must address. We'll handle them all—as long as the union remains strong.

I think we can all use occasional State of the Union assessments. In our marriages. In our synagogues. And for us Jews, as a nation.

Of Leaders and Horses

January 24, 2008 8:00 AM

The presidential campaign is top news these days. Fair enough. The quest to occupy the most powerful political office in the world is certainly news-worthy.

Looking at the pack of contenders, however, leaves me disillusioned. Who will win their party's respective nomination—the one who most successfully pandered to their party's most radical base? Which one of these individuals will win the general election—the one whose focus groups were most on target or the one whose political consultants conceive the more outrageous smear campaign? Is there a true leader with real vision among the lot?

Is it just me, or do many of you agree that that the reins of our magnificent and storied nation will (again?) be in the hands of a person whose primary interest is creating a personal legacy? Am I being cynical to think that the prime motivation of these candidates is ego and the fulfillment of a personal fantasy?

With these people at the helm, will our nation move forward or backwards? And to think that the policies of this superpower nation have global impact...

But to be honest, our nation has trailblazed the way in so many positive areas: equal rights, government programs that benefit the needy, religious freedoms, to name a few. Most of these initiatives were spearheaded by politicians not very different than the ones we have today. How does this add up?

Here's a cute story that I think explains the dynamic:

The fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom DovBer of Lubavitch, was once conversing with a French-educated self-described intellectual, who explained that he refused to believe in angels or other spiritual entities that cannot be perceived with the five senses.

The Rebbe responded with a parable:

"Two French intellectuals are traveling in a horse-drawn carriage en route to a prestigious academic conference. They occupy their time with scholarly discussions; profound theories and abstruse intellectual concepts abound.

"Now, the horses are dreaming of the hay they will eat when they arrive at their destination. In the unlettered coachman's mind, he is already savoring the spirits he will buy with the paycheck he will receive at the trip's conclusion. And all the while, the passengers' minds drift in worlds unimaginable to the horse and coachman.

"Now," the Rebbe concluded, "the fact that the horses are thinking of hay, does that in any way negate the factuality of the topics the intellectuals are discussing?"

Ironically, the horses and the coachman – notwithstanding their base gastronomical aspirations – are the ones leading the scholars to their convention...

As we get nearer and nearer to the Messianic Redemption the world is becoming a better place. Not because of the leaders, but because of the passengers.

So, fellow passengers, what are we doing today to better the world? Comments welcome!

Welcome Aboard!

January 24, 2008

Hi everyone, and welcome to my blog! Though I've written other articles for Chabad.org, I'm very excited about this new venue. We'll try for a casual and informal approach; with a focus on conversation and dialogue.

About this blog:

It's very easy for a news blog moderated by a person holding religious, morally-conservative views to degenerate into a diatribe against the state of our society, and particularly the stories that the news media chooses to highlight: "Hey, did you see on the news what that actor/singer/model/sports player (fill in the name du jour here) did?! Look how morally bankrupt our society is! If only more people would accept the wholesome lifestyle advocated by the Torah!"

While this is true – and this is a helpful attitude for a religious person suffering from an inferiority complex – this blog will take a very different approach. We will look for the positive lesson inherent in every news story. The down side: we might not get our acquaintances to despise us for our holier-than-thou airs. The up side: training ourselves to use everything we see or hear about to enhance our service of G‑d and our interpersonal relationships.

G‑d didn't create this world because He takes masochistic pleasure in watching a world descend into anarchy and godlessness. To the contrary, He envisioned a world whose inhabitants steadily improve themselves and their habitat. And if this is what He desired, it's clear that this is what's happening: the world is becoming better and holier. Let's not be fooled by external trappings, let us look and see where and how the world is improving. Let us use these improvements as lessons in our personal lives.

This isn't an easy task. I'm really hoping that you all will help me out!

What's the latest news? For that information, check your local or national news outlet. In this blog we will discuss the "why?"

Not "why did this event occur?" but "why did I find out about it?" There must be a reason. It must contain a lesson I can use to better myself and my surroundings. Together we will find the lessons...
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