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Judaic Principles of Success in Business 11/14/16

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Judaic Principles of Success in Business 

November 29, 2016

On November 14, 2016, an intimate crowd gathered at the offices of Adjmi Apparel to hear a panel of rabbis and businessmen discuss the importance of the Jewish values of optimism, gratitude, perseverance and honor, and how these traits foster success in business.

Rabbi Richard Tobias, dean of the Magen David Yeshiva Scholars Program as well as a rabbi at Beth Torah of Brooklyn, started the evening with some shocking and helpful anecdotes. He relayed how J.K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series, was rejected twelve times before being published and that she is now the best selling author of all time. So too, The Beatles were lambasted for years before they became the most influential band of all time. And finally, the rabbi shared that Walt Disney was fired from his first job for “lack of creativity.” His next venture was the founding of Disney Studios.

The rabbi proceeded to discuss the value of failure. “Failure can be the greatest thing to happen to us” he said. He explained how the Torah prepares us to use failure in a positive way, to accept it and understand that it is part of a happy life. He relayed this sentiment through the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin, which states three separate instances that never occurred and will never occur yet are the cornerstone for understanding failure. The first is the concept of the wayward son whose rebellion knows no bounds and can never be stopped. The second is the city comprised of Jews that is overrun by idol worship and therefore must be razed. The third is the Jewish house that is so toxic with sins that its walls sprout leprosy. The rabbi then asked, if none of these ever happened, why is the Torah sharing them with us? He explained that the Torah is teaching us to define failure. Most of us define success readily and easily. It comes in the form of happiness and can be measured by the amount of money we have. Yet few of us understand failure and we must look at ourselves and say, I have failed as a parent if my child is wayward. Or, we have failed as a community if we have allowed idol worship to penetrate so deeply. And finally, I have failed to lead my own house by proper example. “Owning failure, understanding it and using it as a jumping off point for good, is holy and necessary” said the rabbi. “If I can define both ends of the spectrum, I know where I do and do not want to go. Knowing where you don’t want to go is just as important as knowing where you do want to go.”

The next speaker was Rabbi David Ashear, rabbi of the Avenue J Torah Center in Brooklyn. He started by addressing the concerns he hears from many young people in the community. “Many young men I speak with have severe anxiety about the future. How will I live up to the community standards, pay tuition, and get a good job, they ask me. Some people have so much anxiety they are taking medication, worrying about events ten years down the line. These worries consume them.” Rabbi Ashear went on to explain that worrying is pointless. “The money we will make this year is preordained by Hashem. He owns all the money.” So, in order to achieve the result we want out of our business lives, we must both work as hard as we can and ask Hashem for help. “No man does it on his own” said Rabbi Ashear. “A person may work hard and have many blessings waiting to be bestowed upon him. But, he must ask for them.” Referencing another topic that comes up often with his students, the rabbi shared the notion that not all money we make during the year will come from our jobs. He relayed a personal anecdote in which his pay was cut by several thousand dollars. He prayed to Hashem and the money was returned to him in the form of lower insurance premiums and a weekend job. “Having faith that Hashem will provide is just as important as working hard.”

The rabbi then shared the concept that parnasa, livelihood, is often like the splitting of the sea. The Jews were trapped between the Egyptians, wild animals and the sea. They assumed the only way to survive was for Hashem to send more plagues to destroy their pursuers. Yet, He split the sea, a conclusion they never considered. So too, sometimes, our livelihood comes from an unexpected place and we must be open to all possibilities.

The final speaker was Ronnie Adjmi, President and CEO of IFG. He started by sharing various stories in which a business outcome which seemed terrible and irreversible was righted by his faith in Hashem and hard work. While these personal stories were moving and refreshing, the crux of his message lay in his last remarks. “Many people lack monetary success but are very successful in life. So, too, a person may be monetarily successful yet very unsuccessful in life.” When he was younger, explained Adjmi, he learned with a man who was clearly lacking in monetary possessions yet always had a smile on his face. When he asked his learning partner why he was so happy, the man replied simply. “I have a nice wife, beautiful children and I am always learning. How could I not be happy?” “From that day forward,” said Adjmi “I knew I needed to start appreciating what I had, to seek happiness and gratitude.”

Mr. Adjmi finished his thoughts with a four part plan for success in business. Based on the Talmudic tractate Baba Metziyah, whose source comes from the Torah portion Lech Lecha, success in business and in life comes from a happy spouse. In order to accomplish this, a spouse must engage in four acts. First, they must give generously and without expectation. Second, they must be in touch with their spouse daily, even if it is a quick check in. Third, they must set a happy tone when they walk into the house. And finally, a spouse must always project a stable and confident outlook. Even if times are tough, they must be a rock for their family.

The night ended with resounding applause and a deep appreciation for the simple and powerful lessons given over. The crowd was energized by the panel’s words and it was clear that they would go forward in their businesses with a renewed sense of appreciation for and understanding of Judaism’s views on business and monetary success.

Due to overwhelming success of the evening, Rabbi Ashear’s Saturday morning Minyan at Yad Yosef Torah Center on Avenue J is having a speaker series throughout the months of December and January, featuring a new speaker every week discussing his take on Jewish values of success in business.
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