Quick Summary: In Thou Shall Prosper (2008), Rabbi Daniel Lapin maps out his ten commandments for making money, inspired by his Jewish faith. He aspires to make the Jewish perspective on money approachable and valuable to people of all faiths. You can succeed if you stop viewing money as a burden or an unavoidable evil and instead see it as the key to becoming a contributing and prosperous member of society.
You don’t have to read the whole book if you don’t have time. This summary will provide you with an overview of everything you can learn from this book.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Thou Shall Prosper Book Summary
Jewish Approach to Money
Making money isn’t anything special. It, like other pursuits, necessitates the acquisition of new skills and the learning of a new culture. Understanding how to increase your ability to generate money and accumulate wealth has a profound impact on all aspects of your life. The first step is to acknowledge that you want more money. The more money you want, the more you’ll be willing to work for it.
Jews make up about 2% of the US population, but they wield more power than other demographic groups of comparable size. One reason for this is that they are usually good at business and money. There are four widely held but incorrect explanations for why Jews are so successful in business.
First, according to the money gene theory, Jews evolved into good money-makers through natural selection. Wealthy Jews were able to buy their way out of danger when persecuted, whereas impoverished Jews were exterminated. One major flaw in this obviously racist theory is that such a gene does not exist.
The second myth is that Jews make money by defrauding customers or being too pushy in business. This is yet another illogical racist claim. In fact, the Torah, the Jewish constitution, contains more rules about business honesty than it does about keeping a kosher diet. The third false belief is that all Jews are especially devoted to one another and constantly assist one another.
In reality, regardless of religion or ethnicity, this applies to anyone who is dedicated to the well-being of others in their group. The fourth Jewish commercial success myth is that Jews are especially bright. Whether or not this is true, IQ has little bearing on economic success.
The Torah, which contains a wealth of financial wisdom as well as Jewish culture and tradition, is the true source of Jewish success. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been firmly rooted in some fundamental ideas about how the world works.
One of these concepts is the importance of sacrificing the present in order to build a better future; another is the importance of education. Despite the fact that many Jews have abandoned their spiritual foundations and religious activities, these fundamental ideas have endured and continue to shape the community.
The Torah contains 613 distinct principles. These are divided into ten major principles known as the Ten Commandments. Lapin has organized his knowledge and wisdom into ten commandments, each of which contains many separate but related ideas.
Business Is Good
“Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business,” says the first commandment. Making money becomes much more difficult if you believe it is a morally reprehensible activity. Making money is moral according to the Jewish faith. The first step toward increasing your income is to accept the fact that business is an ethical, noble, and honorable profession.
The more you enjoy what you do, the more successful you will be. Humans are holistic beings, and when their minds and souls are in sync, their bodies perform better. People will follow you if you are proud and passionate about your work. You must do more than just learn new skills to make more money. You should also strive to better yourself. It will not be easy, but it is doable. Feeling enthusiastic and proud of your job allows you to speak confidently about it and discover passion in what you do.
One of the Jewish holidays, Chanukah, is about money. It is the only holiday when money can be given as a gift. Giving money to children as a reward for learning on each of the eight nights of Chanukah is a way of instilling the idea that money is not evil and can lead to good. Chanukah reminds us that by working on ourselves, we can improve our ability to help others.
Expand Your Circle
“Extend the Network of Your Connectedness to Many People,” says the second commandment. Make friends with people from all walks of life, regardless of their financial situation, and then figure out how to help them realize the dreams they share with you. You may achieve this goal if you reach out to people and take a risk by doing things for them that you would not normally do.
Interaction with others is the first step toward establishing a large network of friends and acquaintances. People prefer to do business with people with whom they have a personal relationship. It is critical that you cultivate genuine and honest connections with as many people as possible, regardless of financial gain or any other consideration.
Finding opportunities to meet a large number of people is the key to making business friends. Meeting new people and making new friends has always been easy in the Jewish community. Even after a funeral, Jews traditionally gather for a week of communal mourning. Attend events and celebrations, and prioritize the happiness of those around you over your own. Friendships can be formed and maintained in two ways: unilateral acts, such as giving a gift, and shared experiences, such as watching the sunrise together.
“Get to Know Yourself” is the third commandment. Learning to see yourself through the eyes of others is the only way to change their perception of you.
Even if you only work for someone else’s company, almost everyone is involved in some kind of business. Your time, expertise, and personality traits are all valuable assets. It is your responsibility to ensure that you please your clients, supervisors, employers, colleagues, bosses, or patients.
When you think of yourself as a business owner rather than an employee, you feel more secure. You no longer have to be concerned about losing your job. You must accept responsibility for your actions and your business in order to be successful in both your personal and professional lives.
Jews use the horse and rider analogy to help them see themselves objectively and from above. It’s all too easy to think of yourself as nothing more than a single organism. To understand yourself and others better, think of yourself as a spiritual being in command of a physical body, with your soul riding on and guiding your physical body. Judaism frequently tells its followers to ignore their emotions and follow their intellect. They accomplish this by taking a step back and viewing situations holistically and logically rather than from their own limited perspective.
You can increase your earning potential by learning to act on your thoughts rather than the urges and desires that lead you to your emotions and appetites. This increases your attractiveness as a business partner because it makes you more reliable and demonstrates your sound judgment.
“Do Not Pursue Perfection,” says the fourth commandment. Perfectionism is a waste of time and energy because it is unattainable. Don’t ignore the flaws in your life because they may contain a wealth of opportunity. There’s nothing wrong with wanting perfection as long as you don’t let it paralyze you. Just don’t let the pursuit of perfection sideline you in life and business.
Imperfection is acceptable in Judaism because idealistic perfection is impossible for humans to achieve. Life is all about being able to function in less-than-ideal circumstances. Consider the ongoing criticism of business and the broader socioeconomic system. Is it capable of working flawlessly for everyone all of the time? This is obviously not the case. Everyone agrees that the system isn’t perfect. However, there are no better options.
If you try to persevere on your own, your life will be difficult and brief. Those who have mastered the art of peaceful coexistence, on the other hand, will feel at ease. Business, like anything else, has the potential to be exploited and abused. However, there is a distinction to be made between labeling some corporate practices as immoral and passing judgment on an entire industry.
A system of free economic interaction does not naturally produce evil businesspeople. They are twisted anomalies who cause harm. At the end of the day, it is unsurprising that business and industry have made mistakes. This occurs in every field. What’s more surprising is that the majority of businesses and professionals maintain the system with dignity and morality.
Be a Leader
“Lead Consistently and Constantly,” says the Fifth Commandment. Leadership skills must be developed, but they may not be what you expect. Leadership is not about putting on a show; it is about taking action. Be a leader by example, not by pretending to be one.
Because there is no universally accepted standard for defining what constitutes effective leadership, each organization must set its own standards. There are many different definitions of transformational leadership. Chaotic and hectic situations require the most leadership. When people are scared or unsure, it’s natural for them to turn to the leader who appears unafraid and has a firm grasp on the situation.
To be a good leader, you must be able to think both short and long term. In your personal money-making endeavors, you must balance short-term budgetary imperatives with long-term planning. Maintaining a similar balance between increasing your income and reducing your expenses is critical.
Regular decisions about managing expenses must be made, but these concerns must also be set aside in order to focus on increasing income. Remember that no two days are ever the same in the business world. A constant state of flux provides both inspiration and anxiety. Successful leaders and businesspeople share the ability to adapt to change.
“Constantly Change the Changeable While Steadfastly Clinging to the Unchangeable,” says the Sixth Commandment. Recognize when to enjoy the thrill of change and when to steadfastly protect the immutable in the face of it. According to the traditional Jewish viewpoint, people are fundamentally different from other animals. When things become difficult, it is human nature to adapt and improve. Every aspect of a person’s life evolves over time, from physical appearance to character and abilities.
In fact, the Star of David represents a steady outlook on life, which is useful in navigating changes. The first triangle, with its base firmly in place, represents the basic elements of life on which you can rely even as everything else around you shifts and takes on new and unknown shapes. The upside-down second triangle represents the natural and technological worlds, in which your knowledge and control grow with each passing year.
People’s lives are constantly in flux, which is an essential part of what it means to be human. The second part is the desire for complete stability with no changes. Recognize your longing, but resist allowing it to control your emotions and thoughts. One of your greatest human strengths is your ability to embrace and thrive in change, seeing opportunities everywhere.
“Learn to Predict the Future,” says the Seventh Commandment. Some people see the future more clearly than others. And when emotions are involved, it is impossible to see the future clearly. You must learn to detach your emotions in order to become skilled at forecasting the future. This is extremely difficult, and it is one of the primary reasons that so few doctors will treat their own family. Wise physicians understand how difficult it would be to withdraw their emotional involvement when caring for their spouse or children.
Before you look ahead, check your rearview mirror. Look at how things have been going up until now. Things that are stable and consistent will remain so unless they are disturbed. What are the chances of this occurring? If something is changing quickly, it is already being influenced by an outside factor.
Find the force, recognize it, and forecast its behavior. Is it going to continue? How strong or weak will it become? Examine the pattern of the situation in question. How has it been going up to this point? Once you’ve identified the pattern, you must question why it has been acting in this way and consider all of the potential changes.
Broad patterns and trends should be observed and analyzed on a regular basis. As a business expert, you should be on the lookout for these patterns and try to understand the forces that are driving them.
You Are Your Money
“Know Your Money” is the eighth commandment. In some ways, money is a measurable analog for life energy, which is comprised of your time, expertise, experience, perseverance, and interpersonal connections. If you want to attract and acquire something, you should learn everything you can about it. Before you can catch a fish, you must first know where to look and what type of bait to use.
Your money, in many ways, represents you. Your financial situation is intertwined with and reflects the rest of your life. Jews have understood for millennia that your money is you and what it represents. According to ancient sages, wise people value their money more than their bodies. This somewhat strange concept can be used to build a healthy relationship with money, and generations of successful Jewish business people have done just that.
Money is the most effective way to quantify our creative energy – a simple way to evaluate our time, integrity, talent, health, experience, and perseverance. People at work, according to the Talmud, are more than just bodies; they are also the sum total of their creative energy, a portion of which is captured in the form of money. Intelligent people value all aspects of their own creativity, including money.
“Act Rich and Give Away 10% of Your After-Tax Income,” says the Ninth Commandment. Giving to charity begins the process of making money through the mystical power of money. People recognized thousands of years ago that donating money to charity resulted in more money.
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches you about the world rather than how to act. Giving money away makes the donor richer – anecdotal evidence continues to mount. Many Jews are still taught that helping the poor is not only a good thing to do, but also a smart thing to do if you want to get ahead.
Jews do not give money away because it is always wise or rational to do so. Jews give money away because it is good, not because it makes perfect sense. It’s just how people live in the United States. People believe that because the United States does not tax charitable contributions, Americans give more money to charity than people in other countries. The truth is, however, that tax law in the United States was written in this manner to reflect a widely held belief that religious charities should not be taxed.
It is critical to remember that giving money away is similar to investing. You give money in the hope that it will all come back to you in a big way one day. However, there is no guarantee. The same goes for investing money and time in your own business. Your investment may or may not pay off big one day. But you should still go ahead and do it. Giving money keeps your investment muscle strong and ready for whatever comes your way.
Retiring Is Selfish
“Never Retire,” says the Tenth Commandment. You can connect your profession and your identity by viewing life as a journey rather than a destination. The assumption that you will one day retire and no longer “have to work” is harmful because it slows you down gradually but steadily.
If your goal is to reach a certain age and then retire, your wealth may be significantly less by the time you reach that age than it would have been if you had reached that age without any plans to retire. You must accept that retirement is fundamentally selfish. Working productively implies a concern for people. Because you are preoccupied with yourself when you are retired, it is difficult to form meaningful connections with others. Retirement reduces tenacity, which is one of the most important factors in success.
Finally, remember that life is business and that business is life. If you master one, you will have mastered the other.
Thou Shall Prosper Review
This book takes a while to read, but that’s what makes it so great. Because there is so much “meat” in it, I read some and then stopped to think about what was being said. I was really challenged to think about money and what it really means. I do not agree with the main criticism, which is that people should join groups to make money. In more than one place he emphasizes that true wealth comes from serving others. In his opinion, if you help others, you already have “everything”. I can truly say that I am a different person after reading this book.
About The Author
Daniel Lapin is a Wall Street Journal and Jewish Press-published Orthodox rabbi and author of South African origin. He received religious and academic education in England and Israel before establishing his own boat-building company in South Africa. He later relocated to the United States and founded the Pacific Jewish Center in California. After experiencing difficulties in his own business, he decided to write about the commandments. He believed that writing them down would help him internalize and share them with others.
Thou Shall Prosper Quotes
“You dramatically increase your value to others if you always maintain a calm and pleasant manner.”
“Take out a dollar bill and look at it,” he said. “Now pat yourself on your back because you are looking at a certificate of performance.”
“Thou may not lose one’s temper in an office, especially if thou art the boss. Out of control by you means in control by them—you’ve lost it.”27”
“for the most part people prosper when they behave decently and honorably toward one another and live among others who conduct themselves similarly.”
“Similarly, in whatever enterprise you find yourself, practice predictability. Never impose your mood swings on your associates and customers.”
View our larger collection of the best Thou Shall Prosper quotes.
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- A Wealth of Common Sense by Ben Carlson
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Buy The Book: Thou Shall Prosper
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