Yoel Cheshin

Parashat Vaera

What would you say is the most important criteria for investment in entrepreneurs? For me, a good entrepreneur is someone who is at a higher level of spiritual awareness. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about your average tree-hugging flower child singing about peace and love. I’m talking about a completely different type of people, of whom the first two verses in Parashat Va’eira can tell us a lot. These verses are pretty much the gist of the whole of spirituality, from the dawn of history to this very day:

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am יהוה. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name יהוה.

Why is God choosing to become known to Moses by that name now, just as he is about to send the 10 plagues upon Egypt and deliver the Israelites from slavery to freedom? To me, the answer has to do with the meaning of God’s name and the power it holds. 

Not even the Internet has enough space to contain the answer of what or who God is. But one thing is clear, God is an entity that enjoys admiration, worship, and self-deprecation. From the Bible to the Jewish prayer book, God is put on a pedestal: Who is like You, oh Lord, mighty in holiness, too awesome for praise. I am averse to total adoration of any human being, and the combination of worship and personification of God has almost made me feel awkward. So much so, that I have often resented the sacred texts of Judaism. 

In any case, it was during one of my walking meditations that it hit me. As I struggled to stay present, slow down my thoughts, be completely in the here and now, it occurred to me that that word for Present in Hebrew is very much like the word Being, Becoming, and, most strikingly, like God. The letters are almost identical, as is their root and sound: הווה (Present), הוויה (Being), התהוות (Becoming), יהוה (God, Yahweh). I then realized that all that admiration, worship, the passion to be closer to God and experience the divine, to know “Yahweh”, is nothing but the expression of our spiritual desire to live in the present. God is the manifestation of all times – past, present and future. That is, God is beyond or out of time. God is eternity. He is the experience of lucid consciousness in which no sense or thought exists other than that which we are feeling right here and now. 

If you look at human history, you’ll notice that every spiritual teacher from East to West teaches the same principle. From The Buddha to Krishnamurti or Sadhguru, through the Rav Kook, the Ramban, and my great great grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, every single one of them is calling us to reconnect with the here and now, with this moment. That is what apps like Buddhify or Headspace and thousands like them are all about. Whether we reach that longed-for moment of full presence through meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, Biofeedback, or keeping the Jewish commandments (Mitzvot), the purpose of all these exercises comes down to one thing: freeing ourselves from our enslavement to the known patterns of life, to the endless distractions and intrusive thoughts. And instead, to give ourselves up completely. 

Realizing that the name ״יהוה״ symbolizes the deepest, most meaningful spiritual desire to live in the present, has left a real mark on me. It allowed me to come to peace with the Jewish sacred texts, in the sense that now when I came across God’s name I took it to mean something like ‘this present moment’, or as an admiration of the power of now. The same belief adds meaning to the fund that I’ve founded, 2B, and it also helps me define more accurately that elusive quality I look for in every entrepreneur and startup I invest in.

This is the most important criteria I look for in entrepreneurs – the extent to which their passion to live in the present is felt in them and in the startup they founded. Now, how may that passion manifest itself, for instance? These are the people who would never speak ill of someone else, who would never play the victim or hide behind excuses, whose storytelling is straightforward. In short, anyone who says no to a life of enslaving pettiness and who longs instead for a life of liberating creativity. These are the entrepreneurs who get to experience moments of pure clarity and focus. They know exactly where they stand, how they got here, and what needs to happen next to make the future of their imagination become reality. 

A living proof that true spirituality has nothing to do with hippie culture is Reuven Avi-Tal, a dear 76-year-old man, and my partner. You won’t hear Reuven babbling about spiritual things, and if you ask him he’ll most likely say that spirituality is above him. And yet, he is one of the most spiritual people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. He is self-aware and has a sharp, practical mind that is free from noise, hidden agendas, flattery or the need to impress. He is fully in the moment, in every given moment.

This is what I look for not only in my entrepreneurs but in my startups, too. The extent to which the startup can help humanity go from slavery to freedom; to live a fuller, more meaningful, healthier life; to reduce the level of anguish and suffering in the world, and make room for flow and becoming. That is the purpose of impact investing, of conscious capitalism. And that is the significance of finding some purpose that is not focused solely on turning a profit. 

Here’s to having muse and spirituality be with every entrepreneur and startup in our Startup Nation. 

Good Shabbos,

Parashat Vaera,’ by Shai Azoulay.

About the Author
As a prolific and human-centric investor, Yoel supports innovative entrepreneurs with disruptive technologies and helps them build industry-leading enterprises.
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