Making the Headlines in Torah and Business
As we all know, the YU motto is “Torah Umadda” which stands for the proposition that one can be a committed Jew and a productive member of secular society. As students at YU, we are encouraged to pursue such an approach to life. As Rabbi Norman Lamm zt”l famously stated, “Torah, faith, religious learning on one side and Madda, science, worldly knowledge on the other, together offer us a more overarching and truer vision than either one set alone.” For Sy Syms students, in particular, “Madda” no doubt conjures up images of success in finance or business, the “truer vision” being a life in which one can achieve success in both business and religious endeavors. Our scholar in residence over Shabbos, Jan. 21st, Dovid Lichtenstein, is an ideal role model in this regard.
Lichtenstein is the CEO of the Lightstone Group, one of the largest privately-held real estate firms in the United States, which he founded in 1988. During his time at the helm of Lightstone, he has executed some of the largest and most daring transactions in the retail and hospitality sectors, including the acquisitions of Prime Retail and Extended Stay Hotels. Forbes identifies him to have a net worth of nearly $2 billion. He continues growing Lightstone with a focus on many property types including industrial, multifamily, retail and hospitality. Lichtenstein's experience has helped him amass knowledge of the real estate business as he continues to push the industry and his company to greater heights.
Even more impressive than becoming a self-made real estate billionaire is his devotion to his faith and the Jewish people as a whole. He donates to many Jewish organizations and works to solve foundational problems that face the Jewish community. Examples of this can be witnessed on his very popular podcast and in his best-selling books, both called Headlines. As notably, he is a serious talmid chacham with an immense knowledge of Torah. This vast Torah knowledge was very much on display over Shabbos.
While YU students love our Roshei Yeshiva, there was a unique enthusiasm in the reception Lichtenstein was given, considering his amazing success in both the realms of Torah and business. The weekend of his sharing his Torah ideas is one that we will all savor for a long time to come.
One idea he shared was a comparison of Yosef’s and Pharaoh’s views of Pharaoh's famous dreams and how we can learn a valuable lesson regarding using our time at YU for the future. Lichtenstein explained that when Pharaoh dreamt of the skinny cows swallowing the fat cows without showing signs of having eaten them, this represents one forgetting the good times in more challenging times. He explained this as the approach of a wicked person. Yosef the Righteous, on the other hand, viewed the same set of images and derived a means for Egypt to thrive during challenging times by saving when good things were plentiful. Lichtenstein explained that when we are in the workforce and do not have as much time or flexibility as we do now in Yeshiva we should dip into the reservoir of the positive memories and learning from our time at YU to help support us in our growth as Jews and professionals.
Speaking for many of the students in attendance over Shabbos, Lichtenstein’s status as a role model for a life of Torah Umadda is one that many of us will have in mind as we continue our studies in YU and, thereafter, when we enter the working world and make endeavors to achieve success in both realms, as he has done.
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Photo Caption: A cluster of modern office buildings through a color filter making them look a similar shade of blue/grey
Photo Credit: Pixabay