After a close encounter with his brother Esau, Yaakov flees the country and seeks refuge with his Uncle Lavan. Lavan welcomes him into the family and offers his daughters’ hands in marriage. As part of the deal, he employs him as part of his key shepherding team. After a short while, Lavan begins to see his sheep business flourish like never before. Recognizing that Yaakov’s prowess is the explanatory factor for his newfound success, he is determined to do whatever he can to retain his prize employee, even to the extent of holding his own daughters and grandchildren as ransom. Left with no other choice, Yaakov picks up his family and leaves town under the proverbial cover of darkness.
Meanwhile, a generation later, something similar happens to Yaakov’s son Yosef. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he ends up in Egypt working for a nobleman called Potiphar. With each passing day, the businessman can’t believe his good fortune. It seems that Yosef has the golden touch. Everything he entrusts to his care becomes extraordinarily successful.
What is the secret of our forefathers’ business acumen?
אָמַר אַבָּיֵי: אַף אָנוּ נֹאמַר: תֵּכֶף לְתַלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים בְּרָכָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וַיְבָרְכֵנִי ה׳ בִּגְלָלֶךָ״. אִיבָּעֵית אֵימָא מֵהָכָא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וַיְבָרֶךְ ה׳ אֶת בֵּית הַמִּצְרִי בִּגְלַל יוֹסֵף״.
Abaye taught: Immediately following Torah scholars is blessing, as it is stated (with regard to Lavan and Yaakov), “And the Lord has blessed me because of you”. If you wish, say from here, as it is stated, “And the Lord blessed the house of the Egyptian on account of Yosef”.
Rashi explains: One who welcomes a Torah scholar and hosts him in his home (receives blessing).
Let’s say you have two job applicants for an opening in your company. Both of them are amply qualified for the position, and you’re not sure which candidate to choose. Ask yourself this question: When each individual goes home at the end of a long day, what are they going to do? If candidate A will kick off their shoes, throw themselves on the couch and reach for the TV remote, and candidate B will head off to the Beis Medrash (study hall) to learn Daf Yomi, there’s a good reason to pick the latter for the job. Why?
Who is funding his Torah learning? As the employer, you would be. Not directly. After all, he’s making good use of his personal time, outside of business hours. Nevertheless, whatever activities he engages in after hours are solely because you have provided him with sufficient means to allocate time to learn Torah. Consequently, part of the merit of his Torah learning accrues to you, causing you to prosper, spiritually and materially.
That explains why Lavan’ and Potiphar’s businesses thrived on account of Yaakov and Yosef. Any Torah and mitzvos they occupied themselves with, a portion of the merit was owing to their employers for providing them with the means to do so. And that’s why Abaye teaches that blessing follows Torah scholars. When you invite them into your home or business and become a pipeline for their material needs, your actions provide them with the wherewithal to devote more time to Torah study. The more you become a conduit for Torah, the more you and your affairs will prosper as a result.
In addition, on a more practical level, keeping company with Torah scholars affects your environment, and hence your life. Many a time I have heard someone comment, ‘I can’t talk like that. The Rabbi is here.’ Having Torah scholars frequent your home brings both spiritual and practical blessing into the home. The level of language changes and we become more tuned-in to and focused on our spiritual growth. And of course, the presence of Torah scholars doesn’t only affect us personally, it makes an indelible impression upon our children. Children who see and hear Torah and its bearers being respected and praised grow up with a deep reverence for our Biblical and Rabbinic tradition.
The Torah is “eitz chayim hee lamachazikim ba.” This phrase may be understood two ways. It is a tree of life for those who hold on to it with strength. And it is likewise a tree of life for those who strengthen it by supporting Torah scholars and institutions.
An old Yiddish adage says, Torah is di beste Sechorah – Torah is the best business. You can make Torah a part of your business by utilizing your material resources to strengthen Torah. May you become a conduit for increased Torah learning and may your home overflow with blessings of health, nachas, and spiritual and material prosperity!