by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Shavuos, the holiday of receiving the Torah, has no special sign -- because
the Torah is all we need. As Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf puts it: "On Shavuot,
God is the active party, so to speak, and our job is to be receptive to His
On this holiday, we recognize who we are, and _why_ we are who we are. Jews
are together as a people because we have the Torah.
Because my work is done on the Internet, I have gradually acquired a number
of free subscriptions to technology magazines, one of which is the Industry
Standard (www.thestandard.com). It has many interesting articles about the
Internet economy and what new technologies we can expect to see down the road.
So, why am I plugging a magazine on the eve of Shavuos? Because this year,
they ran a feature they called the "MBA draft," which Americans will
recognize as an obvious take-off on the draft of the top prospects for the
NBA, the National Basketball Association. These young graduates with a
Masters of Business Administration were considered the Standard's "top
choices" for business in the year 2000.
Draft choice number three was Dan Rapaport, and given so obviously a Jewish
name I was inspired to read his story. I must admit, it came as a very
pleasant surprise. Here's an interview question from the Standard, and his
Q: Who's your most important mentor?
A: My father. My father has taught me the importance of integrity and
honor. Most people use those words casually and without recognizing what
they truly mean and how they differ from each other. To me, integrity is a
stock, a scorecard balance sheet of how you measure up to your own
principles over time. Honor is therefore the flow -- it's the
income-statement side of the equation -- showing how you live up those
principles on a day-to-day basis.
Now, I'm not sure I understand how he differentiates between the two, but
the underlying statement is that one must live up to an ethical compass,
whether or not something looks like a good opportunity for business or
pleasure. It indicates that Mr. Rapaport's moral compass is pointing in
the right direction.
Just as striking, though, is the fact that he chose none of his teachers,
but his father. Why? Because it was his father who taught him the
importance of personal integrity, ethics, and honesty. Despite what people
say, one cannot do anything to get ahead, and good guys do not finish last.
And some things are more important than business -- even for a top young
Where did Dan Rapaport's father acquire such a principled understanding of
life? I'm sure he would tell us that it was his parents who conveyed this
message to him, which he then passed to his son. Where does this message of
morality and ethics take us? Back to the source -- to Sinai.
If we recognize Torah principles coming from an MBA, someone entering the
"dog eat dog world" to participate in the "rat race," it should be no
surprise after all -- because it is the Torah which engraved those
principles into our people, just as surely as G-d engraved his Commandments
into tablets of stone.
So this Shavuos, let us turn to the Torah, appreciate all it has given us,
and push forward in our study. Let Torah have yet another opportunity to
implant itself into our hearts, for generations to come!
A Happy Holiday and Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Yaakov Menken