I was told once by a rabbi that it takes twice as much strength to be an honest businessman than to be an honest rabbi.
In this week’s parasha, we read the verse: “If a man sanctifies his house to be holy…” (27:14).
Our Sages emphasize “his house to be holy” by explaining that the Torah’s definition of holiness is much more connected to your house than to your prayer halls, synagogues or yeshivas, community centres, etc.
According to Jewish tradition, we are asked questions after we die. What would you imagine to be the first question we are asked?
You may have chosen: how many Mitzvot did you do? How much Torah did you learn? How devoted were you in your Prayer? Did you help the needy? Did you make a positive impact on the world? etc
However, you may be surprised to know our Sages’ answer: The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) offers an insight into the Heavenly tribunal. It tells us that the first question will be:
“Were you honest in your business dealings?”
The message of our Sages is that when one is involved in so called “spiritual matters” such as prayer, meditation, learning, etc., it is relatively easy to be in a holy state, as it is easy to be ethical when the risks of temptation are low.
However, the real test is how you will act in your day-to-day life, particularly, in your business dealings as that’s where the real temptation is.
Rabbi Israel Salanter added by saying: “It takes twice as much strength to be an honest businessman than to be an honest rabbi, but if you have that much strength, it’s a shame to waste it on business.” 😉