Washington Post yesterday stated that Congress will pass legislation that will halt the practice of automatic overdrafts from debit cards. Consumers will no longer be clobbered with huge "fees" (read penalties) for being a penny overdrawn. People should not let this fall by the wayside and let the Congress know that consumers need to be protected.
Too often the perfunctory request for forgiveness is only offered to those of whom we are guaranteed a positive outcome, but, in fact, have not seriously wronged at all.
I offer the following story. A close friend whom I wished to visit because my family was away had told me not to come because a mutual friend was visiting and basically two was company and three was a crowd. It seems my observant lifestyle would have cramped whatever style he had envisioned for the weekend. I immediately wrote a letter saying how upset, hurt I was that somehow our being together was less important than how we might have spent the time. If this was an indication of our friendship, then there really wasn't much friendship at all.
What did I want from that letter? I wanted a response, and as each year, each birthday went by and no response was forthcoming, I came to the realization that what I had written seemed to be true. He didn't really care, and that hurt worse that the previous rejection.
One day, five years later, a letter arrived in the mail (this was a long time ago!) from my friend who apologized not only for what had happened, but for why it had taken him so long to respond. He had had a dream recently that included me, both of us looking for someone's house that we couldn't find. The following day he picked up a random book at a new age book store and it happened to be my translation of Sharre Orah that had recently been published. When he saw my name on the cover, the signs could not be ignored and, finally, he felt impelled to write a letter.
It was clear that I, too, had been waiting lo these many years for that letter. I wrote him back immediately, and he came to visit me for a few days soon after. This is not the end of the story. The visit was not a great one. The memories of our friendship were not rekindled in the present. After the visit, we didn't manage to keep in touch, and years have since gone by without us being in contact.
Once, I got a call from a mutual friend that David was having a special birthday and his girlfriend was organizing a special party and she had requested messages from people who were important to his past. Without hesitation, I sent a message, happy to modestly contribute to this celebration. I received a response, but there was no subsequent correspondence.
David's visit had filled a hole that was in my heart. His acknowledgement that he had been bothered by the way we left things allowed us to discover whether we should be friends based on who we were now and not on what we had done to each other. The hurt went away and I can fondly remember the times we had together.
The point is that fixing what we have done wrong does not have to end in some kind of grand epiphany, but your last memory of someone who once mattered to you, should not be one of disappointment and hurt. People should be able to reclaim the moments when they mattered to each other. It is worth the risk of rejection to try and do this.
It was true that because I had already approached him and been open about how offended and disturbed I was that it was up to him to respond. We don't always get a nudge from a dream and a chance encounter with a book, and we shouldn't need it.
How many Yom Kippurs need to elapse, before we free ourselves from the shackles of our own design. The Mishnah says: Transgressions between people cannot be atoned until one has mollified the injured party. These pains last for years. They don't go away until they are addressed, and even if the outcome isn't dramatic, or even positive, knowing that an effort was put forth, takes the burden off you and places it on the injured party.
The Mishnah says once one has apologized three times, the injured party carries the sin--and carry it, he will.
Please, don't let another Yom Kippur go by. Do yourself a favor.
There were many positive responses to the Shoah. A Jewish army is one, but this too, is an answer that is worth contemplating and appreciating.
Yesterday, I read an article in The New York Times that made my blood boil. It is well known that Jewish Law and American business practice do not see eye to eye on whose responsible for making sure that merchants charge a fair price for their wares. The Mishnah in Bava Metziya makes it clear that the responsibility falls on the merchant to be within one sixth of the market value of a particular item, while American business invokes caveat emptor "let the buyer beware". This, however, is what happens when you rely on the foxes to guard the chicken coop.
When Peter Means returned to graduate school after a career as a civil servant, he turned to a debit card to help him spend his money more carefully.
So he was stunned when his bank charged him seven $34 fees to cover seven purchases when there was not enough cash in his account, notifying him only afterward. He paid $4.14 for a coffee at Starbucks — and a $34 fee. He got the $6.50 student discount at the movie theater — but no discount on the $34 fee. He paid $6.76 at Lowe’s for screws — and yet another $34 fee. All told, he owed $238 in extra charges for just a day’s worth of activity.
Mr. Means, who is 59 and lives in Colorado, figured employees at his bank, Wells Fargo, would show some mercy since each purchase was less than $12. In addition, a deposit from a few days earlier would have covered everything had it not taken days to clear. But they would not budge.
Wells Fargo Bank is sleazier than those check cashing store fronts that charge high fees for getting your own money. At least they tell the customer what their charging up front. In this case Mr. Means finds out only after the fact that his "overdraft protection" was costing him five times as much as his purchase. Also, his sin is in not realizing that a deposit had yet to clear--not that he had insufficient funds.
Worse yet, is the exploitation of those who use debit cards in favor of credit cards. These are people who are trying to be fiscally responsible by paying as they go, instead of accruing heaps of credit card debt. Their reward is to be clobbered by usurious stealth interest under the guise of penalties--or overdraft "protection".
How do banks defend this practice?
Some experts warn that a sharp reduction in overdraft fees could put weakened financial institutions out of business.
Michael Moebs, an economist who advises banks and credit unions, said Ms. Maloney’s legislation would effectively kill overdraft services, causing an estimated 1,000 banks and 2,000 credit unions to fold within two years. That is because 45 percent of the nation’s banks and credit unions collect more from overdraft services than they make in profits, he said.
Oh, poor baby! Now, we know the truth. Your local neighborhood bank is nothing more than a check cashing storefront masquerading as a respectable institution. They now rely on fees from the more vulnerable in society in order to stay in business. Charging exorbitant fees is a no-risk proposition that allows banks to fund adventurous mortgages that also exploit the poor.
The Torah understood loaning as a means for helping people out of difficult circumstances and therefore eschewed the practice of charging interest. The world could not tolerate this level of idealism, so that the practice of charging interest is reluctantly allowed under Jewish law, but now one can see the perversity of putting a price on money, and the consequences for those who play by the rules. It seems a no brainer that charging these fees would be halachically prohibited. I don't know if I'm more upset by the practice, or by the sneakiness of so called respectable institutions.
I once heard a lawyer joke, but it seems more appropriate for bankers these days. "What's the difference between a banker and a rooster? A rooster clucks defiant..."
There's a special place in hell for these people.
When either of them prayed, the rains came.
Rav Hisda lived to be ninety-two.
Raba lived to be forty...(Moed Katan 28a)
Each day brings new possibilities, but each day is a gift.
Rabbi Elazar fell ill, and Rabbi Yochanan went up to him but he was obscured because the house was dark. When Yochanan revealed his arm, light fell from it. When Rabbi Elazar saw this he broke down and cried.
Rabbi Yochanan asked: Why are you crying? If it is because of the Torah you have not learned, isn’t it taught: One will learn much, one will learn littler, but most important is that one direct his heart toward heaven? If it is because of your income, not every individual merits both tables (the table of plenty and the table of Torah). If it is because of children that you have lost, here is the tooth of my tenth son.
He answered: I am crying for this beauty that will be ravaged by dust.
Yochanan responded: This is truly worth your tears.
Both of them then cried together!
After awhile Yochanan asked him: Are these afflictions dear to you?
He answered: Not them, nor their reward.
Then give me your hand. He gave him his hand and helped him stand.
- I had a break from teaching for the last three weeks, and if I'm not teaching, I'm not learning.
- I simply have nothing to say, but hope to have more to say soon.
- I have recently purchased an iPhone which has me mesmerized with its apps, its packaging, and its ability to keep me in touch will all my email accounts, at all times.
It is curious that Jewish holidays are never on time. They are always early, or late. I've never heard it said that Rosh Hashanah is on time this year. Nevertheless, the Jewish new year is in sync with the academic calendar. Both begin the year at around the same time.
School starts usually in Elul, just when we are preparing ourselves for the New Year. It is the only time the academic and Jewish calendars coincide. I don't count Chanukah and xmas only because it was xmas that enhanced the importance of Chanukah. Certainly, there was nothing inherent in Chanukah that would make one take a break from school.
A major theme of Rosh Hashanah is that not only our community, but the entire world is being judged at this time. It is a season of new beginnings for the entire world community. Elul is a time to change patterns of behavior that have proven to be destructive just as the school year affords those opportunities. This type of personal work is much easier when the general culture is also beginning a new term. Let everyone see themselves as preparing for the first day of a brand new term.
It's a new semester folks, and change is possible.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart.
"All the gates to God have been locked except for the gates of wounded feelings." (Bava Metziaya 59b)The grievances of a working class Cambridge cop and a black, public intellectual, once again, opened the gates of wounded feelings, closing temporarily, the gates of the health care debate, the unemployment crisis and the billions of bonuses enjoyed by bloated deadbeat bankers. Instead, the nation's attention is preoccupied with the drinking habits of our nation's leaders as the media plumbs the socio-economic subtext of an arrest that shouldn't have happened.
"Just as one can cheat a person in financial transactions, so too, one can cheat him with language alone."
The Talmud tells us that when Resh Lakish -- Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish -- died, Rabbi Jocanan was inconsolable. No one else challenged Rabbi Jochanan's conclusions so vigorously or engaged him in such sharp argument. Repeatedly the Jewish tradition emphasizes that disagreement, even fundamental disagreement, need not be the same as personal hostility.
"the customs connected with prayer have become varied from one country to another, and most of the people do not understand the words of the prayers, nor do they know the correct ritual procedures and the reasons for them."
The Sages taught: One should support financially the idolatrous poor with the Jewish poor, visit their sick with the Jewish sick and bury their dead with the Jewish dead. (Babylonian Talmud Gitin)
(George) Washington absorbed, and later came to personify what you might call the dignity code. The code was based on the same premise as the nation’s Constitution — that human beings are flawed creatures who live in constant peril of falling into disasters caused by their own passions. Artificial systems haveto be created to balance and restrain their desires.This is an idea that is at least two thousand years old, as it says in Pirkei Avot
Who is considered mighty, one who conquers his impulses." (Pirkei Avot 4:1)
I would never use the term artificial systems because the struggle between impulses and a moral, or higher calling is a natural one. The desire to serve an ideal is as deep and natural as any other impulse. It is called a desire for a reason, and it is natural for human beings to wish to be good, just as it is natural to be selfish and narcissitic. The notion that we are flawed is also a natural conclusion from the intellect. This is not just a minor point, but it goes to the heart of the matter. Is hearkening to our better angels an artificial action to control who we really are? Or is the impulse to do so the process by which we become who we really should be. The distinction I think is a serious one.