While I don’t profess to know much about business and don’t offer any business advice, I have often written about monkey business of which I have gained a little knowledge and have written about from time to time in the CY magazine. I’ve done so in order to alert the public of some of the dangers that lurk in our midst and prevent the public from being conned out of their hard earned money by the charlatans and swindlers that walk the streets. While many people may be very intelligent, they have never been taught the “Street smarts,” and can easily be taken by the master con artist’s deceptive tricks.
Recently I received a call from a good friend of mine asking for my advice on a particular lucrative business deal he was being offered to engage in. Without going into any details, I advised him to stay away and not to touch it with a fifty foot pole. I was quite familiar with this Multi Level Marketing scheme and I knew that their promises were no better than Yasser Arafat’s, and that their products are overrated, and that their claims to riches were illusionary. A few minutes after I hung up the phone I received some calls from those very same scam artists who were pushing their product. They were very angry at the advice I had offered and they wanted to know why I was so strongly opposed to the deal which they claimed was a perfectly legitimate and profitable enterprise. From past experience I’ve learned that there is nothing as dangerous as empty space between one ear and the other and I knew that debating someone that’s already sold on it was worthless and no matter what I said my arguments would fall on deaf ears. Listening and hearing seem to be two separate senses.
For many years I have advised people not to waste their time and money with MLM’s such as “Amway” ( Scamway, ) “Jewel -Way” and the many others that have left many people penniless and disillusioned. Unfortunately, many ignored my advice and went into them despite all my protestations. I was even taken to bais din when I put an ad in the paper exposing one of the biggest crooks in our midst who embezzled millions of dollars from the religious public with his fraudulent business deals which he advertised in the Yiddish papers with outright impunity. I learned that people were easily bamboozled by promises of great riches that supposedly lay at the end of the rainbow and that no matter how sensible the advice, people want to believe the unbelievable and the unrealistic. Even thebais din couldn’t fully understand that when one offers 3000% interest on an investment it is ludicrous and a sure sign of fraud and allowed this scam artist to continue advertising his ridiculous claims so long as he doesn’t write the word “guaranteed” in his advertisement. It was only a few months later, when the FTC closed down the company called “Purchase Plus” that the bais din realized that they too had been taken for a ride.
The sales pitch of those who promote these pyramid, Ponzi, and MLM scams are so powerful that few people can see white light when wearing green glasses. Some people seem to refuse to take advice and have to bang their own head on the wall to believe that it will hurt. They’ll climb up to the top of the ladder of imagined success only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall. “If you want to double your money, just fold it over and put it back in your pocket” is a good piece of advice that should often be followed. While there are certainly many exceptions, one must be very weary when the offer sounds too good to be true. Unfortunately lots of people have lost their money in business deals which are nothing but camouflaged pyramid schemes or clever Ponzi scams or simply misrepresent their true earnings or the true worth of their product. It is very easy to manipulate statistics and books to make them seem very lucrative deals as we have seen happened with companies such as Enron and many others who have embezzled billions from the naïve and unsuspecting investor.
That is why it is extremely important that one get the advice of a good lawyer or accountant before going into any business deal and never rely on the person who is trying to sell you the product or the business venture, unless he’s your own father. While I know that my words of caution may land on deaf ears, I will be quite satisfied and pleased if I can prevent even one person from being bamboozled.
P.S. In order to get a better understanding about such monkey businesses, I suggest you read “False Profits” by Robert Fitzpatrick and Joyce Reynolds, and “Behind the Smoke and Mirrors,” by Ruth Carter.
Bogus Mezuzos, Tefilin and Sifrei Torah Being Sold!
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
For thousands of years, teffilin, mezuzos and sifrei Torah have been hand written on parchment in the very same manner. Even with the invention of the printing press, Jews continued to write them by hand. That’s because the Torah says “u’ksavstom” which means that they be written and not produced by any other means such as spraying or pouring. (See Yerusahlmi (Gitin) that says that letters cannot be formed by dripping ink on parchment.)
Yet, most recently, there are some people, (based on the p’sak of one very learned rabbi) that have decided that smearing ink over a silk screen is also considered a kosher form of writing and have now begun producing sifrei Torah, mezuzos and tefillin through the process known as silk screening which is similar to a stencil placed over a piece of parchment. All that is required is to paint or smear the ink over the stencil. Using this method, one can produce a perfect mezuzah or sefer Torah for only pennies.
When Horav Hagon Yosef Shalom Eliashuv and Horav Hagoan Shmuel Wosner, two of the leading poskim were asked if this is indeed permissible, they both replied that this was clearly prohibited.
To make such a radical innovation which changes the method of writing that has been used for thousands of years would necessitate the approval of the leading poskim and certainly cannot be done by any individual no matter how learned he may be.
Free translation of letter given by Rav Shmuel Wosner when asked about using the silk screening process used to produce sifrei Torah, teffilin, and mezuzos.
Thursday Parshat Bolok 5761
To the honor of my esteemed friend who works for the merit of the public, Harav Hagoan Rabbi Dovid Leib Greenfeld Director of the Vaad Mishmeres Stam.
I received the information from you and was appalled to hear about the new destructive method being used to write sifrei Torah, tefilin and mezuzos. I hear that there is a person who plans to write sifrei Torah (print) -through the process of silk screening – i.e. engraving the shape of letters one page at a time. By using this method, it is easy to print a column of a sefer Torah or mezuza, or teffilin at a very low cost.
This method goes against a fundamental requirement of the Torah, since it is not considered writing a sefer Torah at all. This is a “kal v’chomer” that can be derived from what the Mogen Avrohom states at the end of simon 32 (Or Hachaim) where he discusses the problem of not writing the letters in their proper sequence. This process however is not even considered writing at all. For the correct process of writing sifrei Torah, tefilin and mezuzos for which we have a tradition from Sinai, is to write each individual letter with the hand of a sofer, with the proper intent for each individual letter. There are other fundamental halahos in Siman 32 which are derived from the traditional way of writing which are contrary to this process.
This is a grave transgression and a clear-cut sin, and it is forbidden to use this process for it will also cause others to sin as well. It is truly difficult to comprehend how someone who has a Torah outlook and feeling would even contemplate doing something that causes others to transgress this. It’s a mitzvah to stop this and to stand very firm against it.
Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner