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by Joel Rich

Here is a simplified scenario of evolution according to the standard theory of natural selection. A successful thief furthers his own interests and those of his offspring, but his actions weaken the remainder of the group. Any genes proscribing his psychopathic behavior will increase within the group from one generation to the next – but, like a parasite causing a disease in an organism, his activity weakens the rest of the group – and eventually the thief himself. At the opposite extreme, a valiant warrior leads his group to victory, but in doing so is killed in battle, leaving few or no offspring. His genes for heroism are lost with him, but the remainder of the group, and the heroism genes they share, benefit and increase.
The two levels of natural selection, individual and group, illustrated by these extremes, are in opposition. They will in time lead to either a balance of the opposing genes or an extinction of one of the two kinds altogether. Their action is summarized in this maxim: selfish members win within groups, but groups of altruists best groups of selfish members.
What are the implications for we who (as per R’YBS) are judged both as individuals and as part of the Tzibbur

From a recent Harvard Business Review article – Worth thinking about regarding halachic knowledge:

Unstructured versus structured.
Unstructured (tacit) knowledge involves deep, almost intuitive understanding that is hard to articulate; it’s generally rooted in great expertise. World-class, highly experienced engineers may intuit how to solve technical problems that nobody else can (and may be unable to explain their intuition). Rainmakers in a strategy consulting firm know in their bones how to steer a conversation or a discussion, develop a relationship, and close a deal, but they would have trouble telling colleagues why they made a particular move at a particular moment. Structured (explicit or codified) knowledge is easier to communicate: A company that’s expert in the use of discovery-driven planning, for example, can bring people up to speed on that methodology quickly because it has given them recourse to a common language, rules of thumb, and conceptual frameworks. Some knowledge is so fully structured that it can be captured in patents, software, or other intellectual property.

Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.


  1. “It bothers me a lot that folks focus on the har nof tragedy (which it was) as a galvanizing event when there have been thousands of other terrorist caused deaths and maybe 5 times as many injured.”

    Of course, the reason why Hirhurim readers may focus on the Har Nof tragedy is that one of the victims had connections with a lot of readers-a grandfather world famous gadol, a father who was a leading Jewish scholar, a brother who is a leading Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS, a brother-in-law a Rabbi of a very large synagogue.

    I happened to be in Jerusalem during the murders and attended the levayah of R Moshe Twersky-the crowd was overwhelmingly chareidi, the DL attendance was very small. That afternoon at a Yerushalmi shiur (Shviis) between mincha and maariv, one person asked to make the shiur lezecher nishmas R Twersky. When shown a little resistance he stated a lot of us knew the family.

    I remember visiting a couple with my parents when JFK’s then newborn son was very sick and the person we were visiting was resentful of all the interest-what is it, royalty? Of course as my mother explained to me that person had also lost a child in infancy and felt the resentment of lack of interest.

    Joel as usual has raised an important issue which was obvious two months ago but was not the time to comment then on. Now the general issue may be worth pondering.

    • There is also an “aniyei irekha qodmin — the poor of your own city come first” (Rav Yoseif, Bava Metzia 71a) effect when the victims are olim from the US and the majority of the people under discussion are American. It is normal, and R’ Yoseif could be saying appropriate.

  2. As I mentioned to someone last week, I fully understand why it resonates, I just feel I (we) need to work on ourselves to feel the pain of klal yisrael even when the relationship is not as resonant.

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