"Business Secrets From The Bible," this outstanding new book from Rabbi Daniel Lapin, could just have easily been titled "Secrets for a Successful Life." While this new book from Rabbi Lapin focuses on business, these 40 “Secrets” derived from Ancient Jewish Wisdom apply to all aspects of human life. It is neither a book of stock market tips nor financial analysis. It is a book about success in life and business, achieved by compliance with the will of God. Please note that while this book will probably be more meaningful to believers, Rabbi Lapin discusses why it should also be useful and practical for non-believers.
The wisdom in this book is not taught in colleges or business schools. As a retired businessman with an MBA from the University of Chicago and a successful business career, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for advice on how to improve their lot and the lot of their families in the real world.
Each “Secret” is presented in relatively short chapters that can be read on its own; although, the whole book should be read for full context. Each contains fascinating connections between the Bible and the real world that will amaze most readers. The Rabbi’s understanding of the physical sciences and the unique aspects of Hebrew, the Lord’s language, provides meaningful and frequently astounding connections that amazed me. Just two examples: “Secret #13” uses comparisons between Hebrew, English, French, and Spanish to explore the difference between “earning” money and “winning” money. “Secrets” #4 and #12 explore the connectivity required of the 92 naturally occurring elements in the periodic table and God’s message for us to bond, combine, and connect in order “to produce utility and value,” something only humans can do.
Why the focus on business? In his introduction, the Rabbi describes business this way: “Simply put, business is that most effective process of specialization and exchange by means of which humans can wrest a living from an often reluctant Earth. Business is the way we interact with each other and our environment. It is thus a timeless lynchpin of civilization.” Primary to human life is earning a living, and business within a system of ethical capitalism is the most efficient, effective, and only moral way to do so. I emphasize moral because as the Rabbi explains, “Earning a living requires making money, not taking money.”
Success in business requires humans to voluntarily and effectively serve other humans, whether they are customers, employees, suppliers, etc. As the Rabbi explains, “Wealth is God’s way of incentivizing you to do exactly what He wants you to do, which is to care obsessively about satisfying the needs and desires of His other children.” “The good Lord incentivizes us to increase our dependency upon each other by offering the blessing of financial abundance for those of us who comply.” You might ask, “How is the ‘good Lord’ involved?” Rabbi Lapin explains that the Torah (written and oral) is the Owner’s Instruction Manual provided by God for success in His world. Just like physical laws of nature that have consequences when you comply or attempt to go against them; God also created the world with spiritual/moral laws that have consequences, Biblically referred to as rewards and punishments. These are built into the moral nature of the world just as the law of gravity is built into the physical nature of the world. They are not mysterious miracles or strikes of lightening, but the consequences of complying with the moral laws of the universe, wherein God expects humans to survive and succeed by connecting and mutually cooperating with other humans.
Rabbi Lapin’s main principles in the book are human connectivity, collaboration, and service; but how to do this successfully requires more than principles. Success requires techniques for developing and internalizing character traits such as self-discipline, honesty & integrity, self-identity, rising above our animal nature, faith, proper family relations & child-rearing, proper use of language, critical thinking & emotional development, dealing with fear & change, learning to love our work, giving charity.
These 40 “Secrets” provide practical advice on how to develop these and other character traits necessary for success in business and all aspects of life.
For readers unfamiliar with Rabbi Lapin’s work, Ancient Jewish Wisdom is his term for the combination of Judaism’s written (Bible/Torah) and oral (Talmud, Midrash, etc.) laws. While the written Bible, primarily the Five Books of Moses, is well known to Christians and other monotheists, Judaism has always depended on the oral tradition passed down orally from Moses through the generations, not committed to writing until beginning around 250-200 B.C.E. culminating in the Mishnah (completed around 187 C.E.) and later the Gemara (completed around 500 C.E.). Together they are called the Talmud, and they constitute the foundation of the “Oral Torah.” The written Torah/Bible cannot be properly understood without the oral Torah. Rabbi Lapin demonstrates his expertise in both the written and oral Torah as he uses both to explain the universality and eternity of those things in life that never change. He states, “My point in writing this book is to unpack the thousands of pages of ancient Jewish wisdom, most of which remained an oral transmission until about two millennia ago. My goal is to make this easily accessible to you in ways that can dramatically enhance the quality of your life.”
In my opinion, he has achieved his goal.