The Best Merchandise
"from every man whose heart motivates him" (25:2)
Question: "How do you make a small fortune in Israel?"
Answer: "Come with a large fortune."
The current macroeconomic climate makes the very thought of starting a new company an act of a courageous soul. Private Israeli companies raised only half as much money in 2002 as they did in 2001, and a third fewer companies raised money at all. Seed stage companies seemed to be hardest hit, constituting only two percent ($23 million) of the total funds raised in 2002, compared to five percent ($95 million) in 2001 (IVC survey).
Against this background, the fact that there are still entrepreneurs out there with a willingness to start new companies and dream about bringing their innovative ideas to millions verges on the miraculous.
There is, however, one industry whose growth is never in doubt, whose dividends are totally safe, and whose entrepreneurs go to bed with a feeling of total security about their investments.
Many years ago, a group of business people were traveling on a ship. Amongst the other passengers was a talmid chacham (Torah scholar). Competitive as business people are apt to be, they were eager to compare their wares.
"What line of business are you in? Where are your goods?" they asked the talmid chacham.
"I cannot show them to you," he replied. Coming from a world of what-you-see-is-what-you-get, this answer provoked their ridicule. In fact, the main pastime on the journey was mocking the scholar and telling him that since he wouldnt show them his wares, they were obviously of inferior quality.
When the ship finally reached its destination, the Customs and Excise promptly confiscated the entire cargo. The merchants found themselves penniless.
The Jews amongst the merchants asked to be directed to the local Jewish community. They made their way to the Beit Midrash (study hall) and found a group of men engaged in a lively debate. The group was learning a difficult section of the gemara. Questions and suggestions were flying in all directions. The talmid chacham, who had accompanied the merchants to the shul, quickly ascertained the subject of the debate and joined the discussion. Within a few minutes, he had clarified all the difficulties. The group began to realize that there stood before them a man of great stature and learning. They brought him food and drink and gave him great honor. The president of the shul approached him and offered him a prominent position in the community.
Seeing what was happening, the business people now began to crowd around him and importune him to help them, "Please tell these Jews to provide for us as well. After all, we were on the same ship as you. We deserve their help."
Suddenly they realized that the Torah is the best merchandise. Its worth is beyond pearls and it can never be stolen or impounded.
When two business people trade goods, each one remains with only one item. The loss of the first item was the price of the new one. When two talmidei chachamim meet and exchange ideas, however, they end up with twice what they started with. Each has passed on his own learning without loss, and has acquired the wisdom of the other.