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The Kabbalah of a growth hacker

There's an esoteric, spiritual side to hacking
Hackers work on apps and bug fixes at the Wikimedia Israel Hackathon (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Hackers work on apps and bug fixes at the Wikimedia Israel Hackathon (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Upon reading Shy Rosenzweig’s blog post on Times of Israel entitled, “Every start-up needs a growth hacker,” I thought to myself that I need to contact the author. While Shy happens to be the co-founder of a social media company called Meetey, what interested me most was the close correlation between the concepts he was presenting and Kabbalah.

While I’ve analyzed TED speeches and business articles many times in the past, it’s preferable to have the support and encouragement of the person who actually first delivered the content that is now being written about. So I contacted Shy, and the response was resounding in its support.

So without further ado, here’s the Kabbalah of a Growth Hacker!

To save you the effort of toggling back and forth, portions of Shy’s article we’ve pasted into this article, with explanations in between.

The title “Growth Hacker” started gaining its popularity after Sean Ellis first coined the term in 2010. Before that, growth hackers were simply called “marketers” for lack of a better name. A growth hacker is a marketer, but with one focus in mind – growth. That’s not to say that all marketers aren’t interested in growth – they are, but the difference is in the extent of their focus.

As will be explained soon, the person who most represents a “growth hacker” according to Kabbalah is Joseph. In Kabbalah, Joseph is the archetypal personality of the sefirah of yesod (foundation), also the organ of procreation in the body. As related to the natural sciences, the communication sciences (of which social media is a big part now) also corresponds to this sefirah. This is because yesod represents our contact point with outer reality, what is termed the union of the masculine sefirah of yesod and the final feminine sefirah of malchut (kingdom). While the physical counterpart of this union takes place between a husband and wife in marriage, the union of yesod and malchut also serves as the basis for all our efforts to both connect with the world, and aspire to change it for the better.

The reason we mention this is that both yesod and malchut tend to the left, the left axis on the Tree of Life model of the sefirot. Above yesod on the left is the sefirah of hod (acknowledgement) which also corresponds to marketing. The archetypal soul of hod is Aaron the High Priest who “marketed,” kindled the lights of the Menorah inside the Holy Temple in order to illuminate the world with its holy light.

It is then easy to understand how growth hackers were originally confused for marketers, since again yesod tends towards the left, to hod. But since the communication sciences have become a more integral part in the daily operations of a business, the name for this type of individual has become more recognized.

A Successful Person

A growth hacker has only one goal and will use any channel they can to obtain it. Because of this, your typical growth hacker will be knowledgeable in many fields, such as social media marketing, UI/UX, etc. Basically, it’s the entire marketing team stuffed into one person in terms of the channels being used and the skills required, but not in terms of responsibilities and goals.

On the first reading, it seem like a “Jack of all trades” will suffice. But this is not what Shy is explaining. Instead, the personality that is being described is someone skilled in many things, but isn’t just the product of his knowledge. He is what we call a “successful person” (ish matzliach).

In the merit of standing up to the seduction of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph merit the uncovering the “gold” within himself, a level where everything he touched turned to “gold” (i.e., became successful). Joseph is called a “successful person” and indeed whatever he touched throughout his life, whatever endeavor he occupied himself with, “turned to gold” as he had a tremendously strong mazal. This is one of two reasons why we are calling Joseph the ideal “growth hacker.” He is the person that even Moses wanted to have as part of his team.

Towards the beginning of the Torah portion of Beshalach we have the following verse:

Moses took Joseph’s bones with him, for he [Joseph] had adjured the sons of Israel, saying, God will surely remember you, and you shall bring up my bones from here with you.

The literal interpretation of this verse is that Moses physically took the casket of Joseph out of Egypt to be buried in the land of Israel. While the Torah doesn’t deviate from the literal interpretation, we can also appreciate an inner dimension to these words as well.

When Moses took the Jewish people out of Egypt, he wanted this fledgling new nation to be successful in all their endeavors; even to the extent of making money to be able to give tzedakah as part of their service of God. In addition to fulfilling the wishes of Joseph, Moses took his bones out in order to assure that the Jewish people would be successful. The Hebrew word for “bone” (עֶצֶם) also means “essence.” Even in English, when we say the “bone” of matter, we mean to say the “essence” of it. So too, the fact that Moses took Joseph’s bones out of Egypt indicates a very special relationship between the two. Moses knew that in the merit of Joseph being a “successful person,” if Moses dedicated himself to removing Joseph’s bones, the essence of Joseph with him, then the Jewish people would also be successful.

Revealer of Secrets

Identifying a growth hacker isn’t the easiest thing in the world. There are a lot of talented marketers out there that aren’t calling themselves “growth hackers”, when it’s exactly what they are, while others falsely claim to be the growth hacker you’re looking for. There are several things to keep in mind when searching for a growth hacker for your startup:

hiring a growth hacker

This chart is the first part of Shy’s article that alerted me to the clear correspondences being made between Kabbalah and the concepts he was presenting. For those who know a little about the sefirot, these three clearly relate to the intellectual sefirot of chochmah (wisdom), binah (understanding), and da’at (knowledge/consciousness/perspective).

chochmah (wisdom) creative
binah (understanding) analytics
da’at (knowledge) ethical

But since our focus now is on our “growth hacker” personality of Joseph, we will save the explanation of the correspondences of the above chart for another time. For those interested, Anatomy of the Soul by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, or Hanefesh in Hebrew, explains each of these sefirot related to the qualities mentioned by Shy.

Instead, we’re going to travel to the realm above intellect, to the level within the superconsciousness we are calling the “revealer of secrets.”

In addition to the sefirah of yesod, Joseph also attained the level of the “crown of foundation” (עֲטֶרֶת הַיְסוֹד) which has its source in the superconscious crown, the sefirah of keter. It is in the merit of standing up to test of adolescence, as Joseph did during the story of Potiphar’s wife (he was seventeen at the time), that a person merits to become an “explainer of hidden things” (צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ)—the name that Pharoah called Joseph.

Whereas the word “growth” indicates yesod, the desire to actualize one’s potential–to uncover the “gold” within–to “hack” is to bring down secrets from the superconscious realm into conscious reality.

Implicit throughout Shy’s article is both that a growth hacker helps make the company successful, and given a varied knowledge base, then knows how to push the envelope further to achieve one goal after the next.

Thanks Shy for publishing your article. May you merit both qualities mentioned above. The first being that everything that you touch “turn into gold” as a result of revealing the gold within yourself. And the second, to become a “revealer of secrets” in the merit of standing up to the trials mentioned above.

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About the Author
Yonatan Gordon is a student of Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and co-founder of InwardNews.com.
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