0 Posted by - February 11, 2016 - Parsha, Shemot


Parashat Terumah

Someone once asked one of the heads of Rolex, “So, how is the watch business going?” He answered, “I have no idea. I am not in the watch business! I am in the luxury business!” No one who needs a watch for telling time buys a Rolex. They buy a Seiko.

McDonalds is not in the cheeseburger business. He is in real estate. He gets prime commercial real estate, and holds on to it. He just needs to pay off his properties, so he does that by selling cheeseburgers. Starbucks is not in the coffee business. You can buy a good coffee for almost half of their price. They are in the customer service business, giving you a coffee with a smile; a great way to recharge your day with your coffee.

The common denominator of all these is that they know what business they are in, at the essence. After they know WHO they are, they expand from there. When someone has a business problem, it is many times deeper than where to put the next advertisement. It usually depends on defining what business you are in, what service or product you are selling, and in what way your selling it is unique. Who is your ideal customer? Who is your competitor, and what do you have to offer? When you get down to the basics, you are in business. But if you ignore the basics, the essence, your business will run around in circles.

The Messilat Yesharim, one of the best self-help books in the world, starts off his masterwork with the basics. Why are we here, what is the point in life. He expands the rest of the sefer from that point. If your marriage is not like you want it to be, maybe your definition of marriage is wrong. Try to define what a marriage means, what is the point. And then, when you know, you might be able to tweak things. If your learning with your study partner is not turning out the way you would want it to be, maybe find out what is the purpose of studying with a partner. Is it about reading the text one to another, or discussing how each one understands the concept, questioning each other for clarification. If your coaching is not going well, maybe define to your coach or to your client what your goal in this coaching relationship is, and then go from there. The reason why we get stuck is because we did not clarify the basics.

It is common for yeshiva students who do not understand the Gemarah to ask someone else. They look to Tosefot, before reading on in the Gemarah. They look for what some commentary says. They go outward, not inward. That is ineffective.

But the way that will help you understand something in learning is by reading it again. And again. And again. Going for the essence. Saying it over out loud, crystallizing what you already know. The brain has a kind of a magic: If a person understands some things, but not others, it depends on what we focus. If a person focuses on the things that he has not yet been able to comprehend, the brain begins to doubt even those things that were clear. And, on the contrary, if a person focuses on those things that are clear to him, suddenly, the brain is able to grasp those areas that were problematic.

If you get stuck in learning, in life, in anything, always read in rounds. Start all over again. See the passuk ‘inside’; see the Mishna inside. Understand what you have already understood at a deeper level. Ask the six questions, Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, as much as you can, to get clarity on what you already “know”. And then, the brain does its magic. From what you understood, it branches out, just like the Menorah, to things that you did not understand before.

The Menorah represents the wisdom of the Torah. Learning Torah has in it this amazing feature that when you focus on the main concept, other concepts slowly branch out. Just like the Menorah, that had one middle stem from which three branches spread out on both sides. The Menorah needed to be made of one, solid piece of gold, without anything added on to the main piece. מקשה אחת. Why? Because the side subjects automatically branch out from the main subject. You just need to take the essence, to take what you’ve got, and when you focus on it long enough, when you play around with it, you have a beautiful Menorah.

This is also the way to take notes, to think clearly. Make a main goal the middle stem, and the ideas branch out, like the branches of the Menorah. Write down the passuk as the main stem, and branch out from there to all the things that are learnt from it. Use the six questions, like the six stems that branch out from the Menorah. This is why the Torah repeats itself over and over when describing the Menorah, to teach you that just by reviewing what you already know again and again, you will suddenly discover many new ideas. Try it, and let me know how it works for you! (885)


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