Thou Shall Prosper (2009) offers a revealing look at what Jewish principles can teach us about building wealth and finding success. By adhering to these principles, one can survive and thrive in today’s volatile economy.
If you’re familiar with Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, you know that the Jewish character of Shylock is portrayed as a greedy and vengeful loan shark who’s only interested in money. Unfortunately, this derogatory portrayal of the Jewish businessman has persisted.
In addition to this negative image, there are many false theories about why Jews have tended to have business success.
One absurd theory suggests that Jews evolved in such a way that moneymaking is simply part of their DNA.
Jews have survived countless periods of persecution, so it’s been suggested that only wealthy Jews survived these ordeals since they could buy their way out. Therefore, the future generations of Jews were born with a so-called “money gene.”
Another nasty theory is that all Jews are cheaters.
However, this enduring myth is refuted by the Torah, the holy book that defines Jewish law. It specifically calls for people to maintain an honest reputation when doing business. Any instances of cheating would be a direct offense against God.
Then there’s the conspiracy theory that Jews are part of some secret society.
While it’s true that community is an important part of Jewish life, Jews also tend to be very argumentative, so it’s ridiculous to think they could keep some secret organization together and under wraps.
People also often think of Jews as possessing superior intelligence.
But intelligence generally doesn’t increase monetary gain since people with higher IQs tend to become academics and scientists, not business leaders.
When Jewish people do become successful, it’s because they’ve received a good education at home and in the synagogue.
A Jewish home is often filled with books, and the centrality of education in Jewish life is why Jews throughout history have had high literacy rates. This is also why, even though Jews only comprise 0.2 percent of the world’s population, there is a disproportionately large number of books published every year concerning Jewish themes.
In addition to the Torah’s teachings, there are also oral traditions that continue to be passed down. A common lesson is to sacrifice present pleasures for future benefits – a reminder that putting in hard work today may well lead to a successful business tomorrow.