Only half-jokingly, on both my KSFO radio show and the TCT Television show that Susan and I host, I often say, “You need a rabbi to reveal how the world REALLY works.” I have been privileged to learn from many great rabbis who took that responsibility seriously.
Without knowing the Torah’s timeless truths about the realities of life it is easy to blunder. What is more, it is easy to be baffled as to why one is blundering. How we would like the world to work isn’t always how it does work. For instance, here is one question I am frequently asked:
“Rabbi, I have come up with many great business ideas. Yet none of my dreams come to fruition. Why have I never had the luck to to carry my ideas forward? I don’t understand a God who gives me these ideas and doesn’t let them benefit me.”
That is similar to asking why so many great fortunes are made by people other than the inventors upon whose ideas those fortunes are based. Before the Civil War Charles Goodyear came up with the vulcanization process which made tires possible, but he died penniless. Four decades later, Frank Seiberling founded the very profitable Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Bill Gates did not invent the modern computer operating system, but he profited immensely by brilliantly implementing the idea. Similarly, Steve Jobs didn’t invent the graphic interface with its windows and icons which put Apple on the map.
Thinking up business ideas or conceiving of intriguing inventions is a start but that is only the beginning. Indeed, one is often better off expanding or improving an existing idea rather than coming up with something quite new.
Ancient Jewish wisdom conveys this vital point with an incongruous verse at the end of the book of Joshua.
The Children of Israel buried the bones of Joseph,
which they had brought up from Egypt, in Shechem…
and it became a heritage for the children of Joseph.
But wait! Did the Children of Israel actually bring the bones of Joseph up out of Egypt?
No. It was Moses who remembered Joseph’s request and carried his bones for forty years through the desert.
And Moses took the
bones of Joseph with him…
Moses started the job, but he died before arriving in Israel. Thus it was the Children of Israel who buried Joseph and it was they who were given the credit at the end of the Book of Joshua.
They buried him, not in the Cave of Machpelah where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been laid to rest, but in the vicinity of Shechem-the very place where his brothers kidnapped and sold him. (Genesis 37:12-28) This was to demonstrate that they were closing the circle that had begun so many years ago in exactly that place.
He who finishes or greatly advances the job often gets the credit and most of the reward. While Moses wasn’t able to finish the task of burying Joseph’s bones because of death, many of us start projects with great enthusiasm but lose steam as we encounter obstacles and time goes by. This is true in both matters of money and marriage. It is exciting to think of business ideas but wisely implementing them takes perseverance. Until someone pays you for the goods or services you have delivered, you make no money.
Similarly, a man can date many women but until he proposes to one, gets accepted and gets married, none of the benefits accrue. Even getting married is really a beginning, as staying married and thriving in that marriage is the real goal. That is a lifelong project, but oh, what a payoff!
In her book, I Only Want to Get Married Once: Dating Secrets for Getting it Right the First Time, Chana Levitan shares timeless truths to make sure you invest energy in those relationships that will be worthy of a lifetime effort. For our part, we started by finding and purchasing her book, but our job won’t be done until you absorb the information. To make that easier, the price is reduced this week to only $10.00. (Clash of Destiny remains on sale through Wednesday night)