Alan Simons
Author | Writer | Social Activist

Religion and Business. Are they really compatible?

Many people figure out there’s always at least two sides to every story. For the most part, I tend to agree. Take for instance this weeks’ business news emanating out of Toronto that Road Metric Ltd., a Canadian-owned Israel artificial intelligence transportation management company, had been sold to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., an Australian-based company specializing in intelligent traffic management solutions.


Acquisitions, as we know, are a regular component and a daily recurrence in the business sector, so what makes this sale different? Well, does the name Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter mean anything to you? He’s Road Metric’s Toronto-based controlling shareholder.

Rabbi Hofstedter is a respected Canadian Orthodox Jew who not only works in the real estate and property management business, but he is also the founder of Dirshu, a 23-year-old worldwide organisation whose existence is to inspire the learning of Torah, predominately within the Orthodox Jewish Community. As of 2018, more than 150,000 participants have taken part in their programmes. Participants do not pay membership dues. In 2018, Dirshu opened its 60th European branch in Berlin, Germany. As of 2019, they operate in 26 countries on five continents. Their office in Israel serves as their worldwide headquarters.

It’s been said that “tens of thousands worldwide have joined Dirshu’s daily Halacha learning programme and benefitted from Dirshu’s unique structure and accountability methods of retaining one’s learning.”

Yet, within the Secular Jewish Community, I believe one thing remains a puzzle to most people: What role in the Orthodox Community should one’s religious education values play in an individual’s ability to earn a living? And are the two really compatible?

Saadia Gaon, the great ninth-century Jewish philosopher, the father of both scientific biblical exegesis and Jewish philosophic theology, in his masterful The Book of Beliefs and Opinions said:

“There exist many people who assert that the highest endeavour of the servant of God in this world ought to be to dedicate himself exclusively to the service of his Lord. That is to say, he should fast by day and arise at night in order to praise and glorify God, abandoning all mundane cares, in the belief that God will provide his sustenance, medicaments, and all his other needs.

“Nevertheless. The objection must be raised against this view because of the exclusive devotion to this one [activity which it advocates] and the remark of its proponents that one should not engage in any other. For if a person were not to concern himself about his food, his body could not exist. Again, if he were not to concern himself with the begetting of offspring, divine worship would cease altogether.”

Saadia adds:

“So, too, is it impossible to dispense with the effort to earn a livelihood and marriage and other occupations that have been designed by God as means conducive to the welfare of mankind. To be sure, there are occasions on which God provides some of these things by way of a miracle, without the mediation of man. He does not, however, make it a regular practice to change the law of nature that has been fixed by Him.”

In Roland Berger’s Think:Act Magazine, July 18, 2018, edition titled, “The Connection Between Religion and Business,” Detlef Gürtler writes:

“Another example of the long-term economic effects of education can be studied in Judaism, which enforced a religious norm requiring fathers to educate their sons from the end of the 2nd century AD. Economists Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein are convinced that this had a major influence on Jewish economic and demographic history in the first millennium: “The Jewish farmers who invested in education gained the comparative advantage and incentive to enter skilled occupations during the urbanization in the Abbasid Empire in the Near East and they did select themselves into these occupations.” And as merchants the Jews invested even more in education – literacy and numeracy are the key preconditions for building up trading networks.”

Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter is a modest and deeply private gentleman. By all accounts, through his dedication to his religious values, coupled with his business and education acumen, it’s been said, “He arranges all of Dirshu’s funding himself.”

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881), the Swiss philosopher said: “There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.” Perhaps this aptly sums up the work of Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter.

With files from; 

About the Author
Simons publishes an online international news service, now in its 15th year, dealing with issues relating to intolerance, hate, antisemitism, Islamophobia, conflict and terrorism. As a diplomat he served as the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Rwanda to Canada, post-genocide era. He has lectured and designed courses as well as been a moderator at numerous institutions in the areas of therapeutic management, religion in politics and communications. He is currently working on his fifth book, The Children of the Forest, a children’s fairy-tale in the European tradition. He is available for workshops, lectures, talks and readings throughout the year. He can be contacted at
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