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The Value of Doing Business

The Value of Doing Business

How making money can fix the world

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Image: Shmueli Bell
Image: Shmueli Bell

Rava said: When a person is judged in the heavenly court, the first question asked is “Did you buy and sell with integrity?”

Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Real Value

What is a human being?

A human being is a creature that looks at what is and sees the value of what could be.

That is how we farm, how we prepare food, how we conduct commerce, how we create art and how we build our lives. In simple math, we make one plus one equal three. In business talk: We create value.

It’s not possible to create real value and create it for yourself alone. Everyone and everything is a shareholder in that value. If this field now yields crops, there is more food available in the world. Once you cook that food, there are more calories available in the world. Go to market to sell that food, and there is more availability of food in the world. Do it with integrity, and there’s more trust and goodwill in the world—which means there’s more business to be made. Create music or art, the entire world gains beauty.Meaningful business means the sum total value for everyone has increased. Doing any sort of meaningful business means there is now more of something for others, and the sum total value for everyone has increased.

This is the human being: We are not just productive. We fix up. We create with foresight. We save our seed for the coming year, invest our profits in further profits, make our dreams come true.

But is that all there is to the human being? Is there no higher purpose?

Certainly, for the Creator, there is value in creatures that create value. “He didn’t create the world so it should sink into nothingness,” says the prophet. “He created it to be settled.” (Isaiah 45:18)

“Sinking into nothingness”—that’s the natural force of entropy, by which all things tend towards death and decay. Life, and particularly human life, defies entropy. Instead, we create synergy—putting things together to grow and keep growing in a sustainable way, a way that promotes trust and goodwill and leaves behind a better world for the next generation. Settling the world with life.

But the question remains: Is that all there is to the human being? Are we here only to form a sustainable world? Or to fix it up into something yet greater?

Reassembling

If you ask the right questions, often they lead you to the right answers. Here’s a simple question: Why does it work? What’s behind this strange phenomenon of synergy, this potential the world provides us to increase value?

What’s behind it is that the entire universe began as a single and singular thought, a thought that contains infinite information. That thought traverses time and space, holding every event and particle of a great big universe in a single point.

But the universe we perceive from our position within time and space has been fractured into uncountable parts. With each fragmentation, more information is lost. Until we are left with parts that appear meaningless and worthless.

Imagine picking up a volume of Moby Dick, throwing it in the air and watching all the letters fly out of the book, scattering in the wind and falling to the ground. The story is gone. The characters are gone. All meaning has disappeared. You are left with nothing but lifeless letters, as lifeless as grains of sand, with no story to tell, no meaning to share.

That is the world we live in—a scattered book. Yet the Author of this book breathes within one of its characters, the human being. And so, the human being somehow sees how these pieces must fit together, and behold, value appears.From where does that value appear? From the primordial thought of the universe.

From where does that value appear? From the original great light, that infinite pack of information that filled the primordial thought of the universe. A harmonious rearrangement of a few pieces of the puzzle now resonates with that great light, and a glimmer of that light is transmitted through this new matrix. And so, here in our world we find increased value.

Rediscovery

Now we have a better idea of what we human beings are doing down here. We are not just making a better world. We are creating a magnificent one. One that can transmit to all of us who live within it the oneness and magnificence of its Creator.

Where do we create that world? Not in some spiritual heaven above. Down here on earth, doing the earthly activities of earthly human beings—but injected with meaning and higher purpose.

That, after all, was the primordial thought from which all this universe extends: The Creator’s thought of Himself being discovered within this earthly world.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Shmueli Bell is director of X-Nihilo Creative. Check out his website for original and creative ideas.
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Sholem July 24, 2014

May your returns become positive and abundant! That is when our faith is tested and we have the opportunity to elevate ourselves to a new dimension. Hashem is above economic cycles and can bless us with bountiful returns in any situation. Through your integrity and creativity you have done your utmost to create a 'Keli'. A physical receptacle for blessing. Now we create a spiritual one by adding in Mitzvos or Torah study that increases our faith. May Hashem respond by bentching you with abundance. May his blessings bring positive returns that answer your question Reply

Anonymous July 19, 2014

Rabbi,
How do you handle that if all that you do, even with the highest integrity and creativity, in this economic environment,only rewards you with negative returns? Reply