Faith and business can seem an awkward mix. In a world of hard-nosed competition and cold calculus, faith can seem out-of-place, almost a weakness. My personal experience has been quite different. Running a high-tech startup has helped deepen my faith, and my faith has helped me run the business better. I better understand the world in general and business in particular by studying the Torah. I can even say I understand Torah better, by bringing my business experience to its learning.
Torah and business are not two separated realities with distinct rules. When God created the world, He looked into the Torah and used it as the blueprint for creation. That’s why we better understand creation when we study its blueprint, and we learn to understand the blueprint by experiencing one of its main expressions: the business world.
Eighteen hundred years ago, the Talmudic Sage, Rava unveiled the first question a human is being asked when led in for judgment after completing his life in this world: Did you do business faithfully? This is not just the first question; it is the main question; another way to say this is did you bring your faith to your daily business life? That’s quite a surprising question for the day of Judgment. One would expect a more religious question, such as observance of Ten Commandments, about the frequency of visiting the synagogue or even about how well you supported your community. But the Talmud seems to care more about business integrity.
A following question seems more conventional: Did you fix times for Torah learning? Note that the question is not about the number of hours spent learning, but rather it is about actually setting fixed times for learning. Rava knew then what we know today; man spends most of his day dealing with mundane business. However, to achieve the level of doing business faithfully (as required by the first question), we must fix times for learning. We’ve got to take a step back from our daily business and look at life and business as opportunities to bring faith and morality to the world. How do we react when a really large deal we have been negotiating for months falls through? Will we try to analyze and learn the root cause, or look for a scapegoat?
Judaism is not a religion: A set of ceremonies that we practice at home and at the synagogue. Rather, Judaism is a way of life… perhaps it defines even life itself. Our commitment to Torah and to morality doesn’t end when we exit the synagogue, rather, that is where it starts. It is much more difficult to behave fairly and honestly when conducting business than it is to recite a prayer. Sure, prayer can be a tremendous source of inspiration, but the real test of its impact on our soul happens when we go back to our daily business.
The question we must ask ourselves on a daily basis is, “Do we bring our faith to our mundane, day-to-day business life or do we check it at the office reception door?”
This post is part of a series co-produced by The Huffington Post and Blogworld, in conjunction with the latter’s NMX BusinessNext Social 2013. That event will feature some of the world’s leading social-business luminaries and influencers, each of whom will be speaking at the event to provide an up-close look at how the world’s most successful businesses harness the power of social.