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G‑d's Business

G‑d's Business


The purpose of a business venture is to make a profit: no self-respecting businessman would invest capital and expend time and talent where the figures did not show a definitive potential for profit.

And yet, the greatest profits are to be harvested under the very conditions that the responsible businessman seeks most to avoid--in the wake of completely unforeseeable developments, in environments over which he has no control and in which his entire venture (and perhaps his own self) are in jeopardy.

In other words, the mind of the businessman can be said to operate on two levels. On the manifest level, he seeks stability and control. On this level, being caught unawares is anathema to business. While he knows that there are risks to every venture, his aim is to avoid the risks, to steer clear of the unforeseeable, to have a contingency plan for every possibility.

But on a deeper, subconscious level, the businessman craves the unforeseeable. In his heart of hearts, he wants to be caught unawares, to be plunged into the very circumstances that his business is structured to avoid. For here, and only here, lies the potential for profits greater than any analyst could forecast. On this level, having everything go according to plan would be a disappointment rather than an achievement.

These are scenarios that he will never present to his investors, or even to his own conscious self. But in the final analysis, it is these very possibilities, lurking behind the official figures and projections, that are his greatest motivation for engaging in business.

The Fearsome Plot

The Talmud declares that "the kingdom of Heaven is similar to the kingdom of earth"--that the structures of human society and the patterns of human behavior reflect the manner in which the Creator relates to and runs His world.

G‑d has a business strategy: the Torah, which the Midrash calls "G‑d's blueprint for creation," catalogues the profit that the Creator desires to see from His enterprise. The Torah's laws detail what should and what should not be done, and what should and what should not happen, to safeguard the divine investment in creation and assure its "profitability."

But on the very first business day of history, the plan went awry. Adam and Eve, by eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, violated the first mitzvah (divine commandment) commanded to them. Their deed jeopardized the entire venture, unleashing a chaos of good and evil upon the controlled, orderly world into which they were born.

Yet our sages tell us that this was G‑d's "fearsome plot upon the children of man." It is I who caused them to sin, G‑d admitted to Elijah the Prophet, by creating them with an inclination to evil.

For it is the process of teshuvah (return) from sin that yields the greatest profit of the endeavor of life. There is no greater love than the love experienced from afar, and no greater passion than the quest to return to a forsaken home and an alienated self. When a soul's bond to G‑d is stretched to the breaking point, the force with which it rebounds to its Source is greater than anything that can be generated by the soul that never leaves the divine orbit. And when a soul wanders off to the most alien corners of life, and exploits the very negativity and evil of its environment as the impetus to return to G‑d, it redeems those parts of G‑d's creation that lie beyond the pale of a righteous life.

This is G‑d's "fearsome plot upon the children of man": to create man with an inclination to evil, so that when he succumbs to it, he should rebound with a greater love for G‑d, and with a greater harvest of transformed and redeemed resources, than is generated by a life lived in conformity with the divine will.

However, it cannot be said that G‑d wanted man to sin: a sin, by definition, is an act that G‑d does not want done. Also, if G‑d's plan was that man should sin, this raises the question of what would have happened if Adam and Eve had not chosen (for this was an act of choice on their part--had it not been, it would not have been a sin) to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Would the purpose of G‑d's creation not have been realized?

What G‑d Wants

This is where the analogy of the businessman comes in. As is the case with the conventional businessman, there are two levels of motivation behind the divine act of creation.

On the manifest level, the world was designed and created to carry out the plan outlined by the Torah. This plan calls for the existence of an inclination to evil in the heart of man, in order that our conformity to the divine will should have meaning and significance. As Maimonides writes, "If G‑d were to decree that a person be righteous or wicked, or if there were to exist something in the essence of a person's nature which would compel him toward a specific path ... what place would the entire Torah have? And by what measure of justice would G‑d punish the wicked and reward the righteous...?"

This plan does not require actual evil to be committed--only the potential for its actualization. It must be possible for us to violate the divine will, so that our not violating it should be a moral triumph for us and a source of pleasure for G‑d. It must be possible for us not to do good, so that our good deeds should have value and significance. The risks must be there--they are what make the business venture rewarding and profitable--but the point of it all is that they be avoided.

But on a deeper, subconscious level, G‑d plots man's succumbing to sin. This is not what He wants--indeed, it is at variance with His express will. But when it does happen, it unleashes a wealth of possibilities that are infinitely more potent than anything the official business plan could have yielded. And it is these possibilities, lurking behind the official figures and projections, that are His ultimate motivation for investing in the business of human life.

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; adapted by Yanki Tauber.
Originally published in Week in Review.
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Jorge Munuzuri Qro. October 1, 2013

Thanks Rabbi Shurpin Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin I'm the most grateful for your words about my commentary. I've already read both articles, by Rabbi Freeman and by Rabbi Tauber and I feel compelled to clarify my commentary. First of all I have to confess that I was left perplexed when I read it again because I find no connection between the Talmud's paragraph and my inability to do business. Next and last is the fact that I am in the final stage of my life, so the idea of being a successful businessman is out of the question. However, my personal idea that sin distorts the vision of the earthly things preventing its proper evaluation is still an idea with which I currently get along. Reply

Dennis Cape Town, South Africa September 25, 2013

Wow, what a magnificent article. Thanks you. Reply

Gabriel FL October 13, 2012

RE: Pala Great article. It was G-d's test. In the Talmud, Berachos 32A explains G-d's use of "Evil Inclination" (take a look at Micah 4:6) citing many examples including the Golden Calf (made from the gold and silver the Blessed One gave the people), and other analogies. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for October 11, 2011

Re: Jorge Perhaps the solution is synchronizing how we view the purpose of business, with how heaven views the purpose of doing business. See for example, <a href="/article.asp?aid=377329" target="_blank">The Meaning of Making Money</a> and <a href="/article.asp?aid=l83612" target="_blank">The Myth of the Self-Made Man</a>. Reply

Jorge Munuzuri October 7, 2011

Today I have found the explanation of why my life has been a total eclipse of the heart. I'll try to be more specific.
I'll base my reasoning in this paragraph I've taken from this article.
The Talmud declares that "the kingdom of Heaven is similar to the kingdom of earth"--that the structures of human society and the patterns of human behavior reflect the manner in which the Creator relates to and runs His world.
So If I sin I distort my vision of the kingdom of Heaven, that in turn distorts my vision of the Kingdom of Earth. So how can I possibly be a successful business man with such a distorted vision on the earthly things? Reply

Anonymous ny, ny November 29, 2010

God is good and knows what he wants us to do. I think we also know what to do we just choose not to do it Reply

alex lexington, ma November 19, 2010

Better ways There are better ways for humanity to be profoundly challenged without reserving to "sin". Reply

Daniel Kew gardens, NY October 16, 2009

Deliberate? Sure God intorduce, indirectly, the inclination for evil by telling Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit. That by itself did it. That's the point where man realizes for the first time that something can be forbidden. And once that happens, temptation to evil naturally follows.

G-d doesn't want man to sin, but he does want man to have the choice not to, and then choose to make things right if he does happen to make the wrong choice and sin. The only way that can happen is to have the evil inclination there. Makes sense to me. G-d wants servants, not robots. Reply

Ronel Brink Krugersdorp, South Africa October 15, 2009

G_d's Bussiness I enjoyed your article.
As a family we have started on the path of conversion to the Jewish faith. Sometimes, I get so dispondant thinking and fearing that at the age of 44 how will we ever "catch-up" on all we have missed and lacked? What you wrote about the soul's bond to G-d stretched to its maximum, I now associate with the time in our lives when we knew no Torah. I know we have rebound (Teshuvah) with a passion and we stand in awe at the mercy and love of the Creator Whom with a still small voice is calling our souls back to the covenant of Sinai.
Be blessed Reply

Pala Green Bay, WI / USA September 19, 2009

Most High didn't give man an 'inclination to evil' Most of your argument is correct and helpful in explaining the ability of it all being turned around for positive for Adam and Eve after 'the fall.' I certainly disagree with your statement that "G-d created them with an inclination to evil"-- that simply isn't true and you refute it yourself twice in the remainder of your essay. I'd need to cross-examine that 'sage' who said that G-d supposedly admitted this to Elijah: it isn't in the Torah, & although some of the sages' wisdom is beyond question, that isn't the case with every so-called sage. You do a good job of showing the good that comes of repentance from evil. Yet in citing Maimonides you refute this supposed 'inclination to evil.' As you quote: "if there were to exist something in the essence of a person's nature which would compel him toward a specific path...what place would the entire Torah have?"... exactly. You also distanced yourself from your own argument by stating, "it cannot be said that G-d wanted man to sin." Reply

Oz onitsha, Nigeria September 17, 2007

G-d's bussiness well i agree with your comment but i will also say G-d has more than that. 'to bring us to be eternally with him'. Reply

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