Snapshot from the past — Jan 1 2021

Torah tidbits, web dev snippets, and investing guestimates

Torah tidbits

Chofetz Chaim’s Daily Laws of Proper Speech

A derogatory statement may be made for a constructive purpose only if it meets the 7 requirements*. Accordingly, the speaker is acting honorably, but what about the listener? Listening and believing in derogatory statements is improper just like speaking it, so the listener mustn’t accept the authenticity of the statement. It is permissible to listen for a constructive purpose and one may act on the possibility it is true, but cannot change their attitude toward the subject or believe the information (Nidda 61a). On a personal level, one’s relationship with the person should not change nor his attitude affected, rather continue to show kindness as usual. On a practical level, one should investigate the mater and protect oneself against any possible harm in case the report is indeed true. Regarding repeating the information to others, in situations where it’s considered constructive to share secondhand information the speaker must make known the information is indeed secondhand.

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Parshat Vayechi [ויחי] — Did Joseph really forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery? Joseph is the only biblical character given the appellation ‘The Righteous’ [הצדיק], so we must assume he did what was just and upright and forgave his brothers their wrongdoing. But the Torah text doesn’t seem to support this. After the family patriarch Jacob is buried, we are told:

Now Joseph’s brothers saw that their father had died, and they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us and return to us all the evil that we did to him.” So they commanded [messengers to go] to Joseph, to say, “Your father commanded [us] before his death, saying, 'So shall you say to Joseph, “Please, forgive now your brothers’ transgression and their sin, for they did evil to you. Now please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” ‘ “ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also went and fell before him, and they said, “Behold, we are your slaves.” But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for am I instead of God? Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive. So now do not fear. I will sustain you and your small children.” And he comforted them and spoke to their hearts.

There is a lot to unpack in that exchange and, as is axiomatic of Torah learning, there are numerous fitting analyses. One possibility:

Those last few words indicate a peaceful ending but everything beforehand suggests tension. The brothers were so scared they concocted a story to get Joseph to forgive them, so they clearly didn’t feel Joseph forgave them. They all cried, and the brothers then offered themselves as slaves. Deteriorating situation.

As for Joseph’s response and possible interpretations:

‘Don’t be afraid, for am I instead of God?’ —aka fear God, not me.

‘Indeed, you intended evil against me, but God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.’ — aka yes, you wronged me, but God oversees a much bigger picture than just you and me.

‘So now do not fear. I will sustain you and your small children.’ — aka don’t worry, I will do the right thing.

Joseph doesn’t even respond to the request for forgiveness. Instead, as he has done before, he attributes all workings to God. He assures them their needs will be taken care of.

Finally, ‘And he comforted them and spoke to their hearts.’ That is certainly encouraging and suggests a reconciliation. But how complete?

The family rift between Rachel’s descendants and Leah’s descendants exposes itself again, most notably during the First Temple when the nation splintered into two kingdoms, Rachel’s descendants leading one side and Leah’s descendants the other.

Web dev snippets

I just wrapped up the Launch School course on databases. SQL is the most widely used technique to manage data, though some noSQL methods have appeared in recent years. We focused on SQL and PostreSQL to manage our databases.

SQL (Structured Query Language) lets you access and manipulate databases. It consists of three sublanguages:

  • Data Definition Language — allows a user to create and modify the schema, aka structure and rules, of a table in a database. SQL statements include: CREATE, DROP, ALTER
  • Data Manipulation Language — allows a user to retrieve or modify the data in a table in a database. SQL statements include: SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE
  • Data Control Language — allows a user to control the rights and access roles of the users interacting with a database or table. SQL statements include: GRANT, REVOKE

Investing guestimates

Table stakes

On speculation vs investing: Day trading is speculation. Investing indicates longer-term conviction. There are many types of speculators. Two types of investors: enterprising and passive. The intelligent investor need not be enterprising.

Investor profiles:
Risk on — 75% stocks & alt, 25% cash — inflation dove — long time horizon
Risk off — 25% stocks & alt, 75% cash — inflation hawk — short time horizon

My personal profile: secular bear, waiting for the shoe to drop againstl the Fed’s decade+ low interest rate environment and QE policies.

Current Bullish perspective:
Consensus expectations are for internet rates to remain low for several years, indicating a favorable environment for risk-on investments. Covid vaccines will limit any major economic fallouts.

Current bearish perspective:
The world economy is on precarious grounds and still making up ground from the Covid crisis. The world’s central banks and governments have virtually maxed out their monetary and fiscal policy maneuvers. This leaves us vulnerable to another crisis. Such risks may include another pandemic, trade wars, climate disasters.

Questions:

Where is inflation and when will it show up?

*It is only permissible to speak negatively about a person in four scenarios, provided seven requirements are met. Seven requirements : 1) one’s remarks are based on first-hand information and careful investigation, and 2) it is apparent that this person is wrong, and 3) the person has been spoken to but refuses to change his behavior, and 4) the statement to be made will be true and accurate, and 5) the intent of the speaker is for a constructive purpose only and there is a reasonable chance the intended result will be accomplished, and 6) there is no alternative means by which to bring about the intended result, and 7) no undue harm will be caused by the statement. Four scenarios: a) to help the person, or b) to help anyone victimized by the person, or c) to resolve major disputes, or d) to enable others to learn from the mistakes of that person.

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Zachary DuBow

wannabe Torah scholar, amateur stock market investor, junior web developer