Wednesday, Tishrei 7, 5751

Each day provides us with a unique lesson from the Torah. The weekly Torah portion is divided into seven sections and thus, there is a particular reading which gives direction for each day of the week.

Today’s Torah reading begins, “Rejoice Zevulun in your [business] excursions and Yissachar in your homes.”1 This message is particularly appropriate to our present gathering. Zevulun represents a person occupied in business,2 an individual who, like each of you who have gathered here today, sees his personal mission in commercial enterprise. The Torah tells such a person to “Rejoice,” assuring him of happiness and satisfaction in his/her efforts.

Zevulun’s activity is associated with “going out.” From Biblical times onward, successful commerce has required travel. Indeed, even today, a businessman generally does not sit at home, but rather spends a substantial amount of time at his office. Nevertheless, this activity brings about satisfaction and happiness.

Why does Zevulun rejoice? Firstly, because he develops and exercises his individual potential to its fullest extent. He constantly challenges himself and strives to perfection, utilizing the gifts which G‑d has granted him to their ultimate capacity.

Moreover, Zevulun’s happiness stems mainly from his connection to Yissachar, i.e., to Torah, its study and its scholars. Our Sages explain that the verse alludes to a partnership established between the two. Zevulun would support Yissachar’s Torah study and Yissachar would share his Torah merit with Zevulun. This connection is multi-dimensional, affecting Zevulun’s life in many ways and granting him fulfillment, purpose, and peace of mind. At the outset, it ensures that his business dealings are just and moral, both in the eyes of G‑d and in the eyes of man.

His partnership with Yissachar also encourages him to study Torah himself. A businessman should devote a fixed amount of time to Torah study. During the week these sessions may be somewhat limited, to allow for one’s business activity. On Shabbat and festivals, when he is free of this activity, they should be expanded.

Preferably, one should study in a place of Torah, a synagogue or a yeshivah. This allows for greater concentration and thus facilitates the comprehension of the subject matter one has set out to learn in less time.

A businessman need not fear that his business will suffer because of this study and the time it takes. On the contrary, the more a person studies, the more will he be successful because he will be able to grasp the nature of a situation and make decisions much faster than one who has not studied Torah. Furthermore, he will not feel hindered by personal problems or worries and will be able to function with true peace of mind. In simple terms, the more minutes he invests in Torah study, the more hours of commercial success is he assured of.

Zevulun’s connection with Yissachar also implies that he supports Yissachar’s endeavors, providing synagogues and houses of study for children and adults. Yaakov, our Patriarch, made a vow which provides a fundamental lesson for every businessman: “Of all that You give me, I will set aside a tenth for You.”3 A person should realize that his livelihood and that of all the others around him is granted by G‑d. Thus, when G‑d grants a person success, he should dedicate a tenth of his profits — and preferably, add at least slightly to this figure — to “G‑d’s business,” and happily accept the role of serving as G‑d’s agent to distribute beneficence to the needy.

This approach will undoubtedly bring abundant blessings in this new year. As we say in the Avinu Malkeinu prayer: “Inscribe us in the book of parnassah v’chalkalah (livelihood and sustenance).”4 This implies success in earning a livelihood and a promise that the money that one earns will be used for “sustenance,” for the prosperity — both material and spiritual — of one’s family and others and not, G‑d forbid, to counter undesirable occurrences.

In that prayer, we also request that G‑d, “Inscribe us in the book of pardon and forgiveness,” that He write off all the “debts” we owe. This reflects an accepted business procedure. We see that even governments are willing to nullify debts owed to them by other countries, because they realize that it is to their own benefit to allow others to begin a new slate.

May the coming year be a year of ever-increasing success, allowing you to maximize your profits with the minimum of effort. You should use your success to enlarge your offices, placing a Tzedakah pushkah in every room. This will involve G‑d as an active partner in your business, and enhance your potential to distribute G‑d’s blessings to others.

In this manner, one’s office — and, of course, one’s home — will become a dwelling for the Divine Presence, the source of all sorts of blessing and herald the coming of the ultimate blessing — the redemption when the Beis HaMikdash, G‑d’s dwelling, will be rebuilt. May this take place in the immediate future.