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Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – The Business Disconnect

Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – The Business Disconnect

Operation Inspiration


One of the issues that faces Torah Jews and causes us as a nation much tribulation, is the fact that the way we are supposed to conduct ourselves is not necessarily the way the rest of the world conducts themselves. What is acceptable in the business world, for example, may not be so according to the Torah.

Let me start by saying there are many wonderful ehrliche people who, for example, will not try to gain clients who are already doing business with other Jews, or who will not artificially inflate expectations, or misstate facts or figures. These are the people we should be doing business with.

Then, there are others who fall for the old adage, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” Sadly, when it comes to the Torah, that doesn’t hold water. It’s ironic to find that the same people who are standing and praying long Shemona Esrais, asking Hashem for His blessing, then turn around and act in a way that contradicts what Hashem has told us.

One of my favorite pieces in Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar HaBitachon, discusses what our hishtadlus, our personal effort, does. Essentially, our efforts for physical things, e.g. parnasa, health, popularity, and similar, are basically there to gauge how we act in the world, and not that they actually accomplish anything. If we behave with integrity and intent to serve Hashem, then He will grant us His help.

If we don’t act properly, Hashem essentially says to us, “If you think you can do this better than Me, go ahead and try. I’ll be here when you get back.” That’s pretty dangerous. That’s the Business Disconnect. It’s when we think we can parse parts of our life from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, not realizing that He is everywhere and everything.

However, I recently experienced another business disconnect. Surprisingly, this one actually brought business and hashkafa together in a very unexpected way. One part of my job (the one I have to have because Hashem wants us to work for parnasa, and thereby camouflage His miracles, as well as dealing honestly,) is compliance. I’m supposed to make sure the business and its staff are following the rules and regulations that apply to them. To that end, we often institute policies to ensure we’re doing the right thing.

Other times, we implement procedures not because certain things are necessarily prohibited, but because we’ve learned from experience that they are not good ideas. Anyone who’s ever sold on credit can probably relate.

Well, one fellow is a frequent complainer about the rules. He claims they hinder his success and don’t make any sense. He wants permission from the boss to ignore the rules that were set up specifically to protect us and the business. He argues that in order to succeed, he NEEDS to do this, that, or the other thing.

I’ve tried explaining to him that our procedures are made with much thought, and developed primarily after having lost money or gotten in trouble for something we did or should have done. Sometimes we use other examples, like the people who got in trouble and paid millions of dollars in fines, because they didn’t have a procedure for something. The boss called me and said, “We need a procedure ASAP.” I told him we’d had one in place for months.

The disconnect, or perhaps, reconnect, here, was that this fellow’s arguments are nothing new. They are as old as time, and probably even older. Hashem looked at the Torah and built the world. This means the world operates according to Torah. So, the rules and regulations, aka the mitzvos, are policies and procedures built around keeping us safe and enabling us to succeed.

Like the fellow who felt limited by the procedures we’d put in place, people often feel that the Torah is holding them back, chas v’shalom. Their focus is, “I can’t do this, or I can’t do that.” But they have it all wrong. The Torah is protecting you from failure and from making mistakes that could be very costly.

Imagine an astronaut in space saying, “Those meanies at NASA say I can’t take off my helmet during a spacewalk. But I want a good selfie with the moon! I’ll show them. When I’m up there they won’t be able to stop me and then I’ll be able to do what I want.” Of course, we all know what will happen if he tries it (at least I hope you learned enough science at school to know…) and that’s why astronauts follow the rules, because they know their lives depend on it.

Well, our lives depend on following the Torah, and if we break the rules, denigrate them, and don’t recognize their value, then when things go wrong, we have no one to blame but ourselves. And it’s not personal – that’s the nature of the business… or the business of nature.


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