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
Earning money is a common goal, and like any pursuit, it requires acquiring new skills and understanding a new culture. Developing the ability to generate income and accumulate wealth can significantly impact every aspect of your life. The first step is to recognize that you want to increase your financial resources. The more money you desire, the more effort you will be willing to put in to achieve it.
Although Jews make up a small portion of the US population (about 2%), they often hold more influence than other demographic groups of similar size. One reason for this may be their reputation for being successful in business and finance. However, there are several misconceptions about why Jews excel in these areas.
One theory, known as the “money gene theory,” suggests that Jews evolved to be good at making money through natural selection. According to this flawed and racist idea, wealthy Jews were able to buy their way out of danger when they faced persecution, while impoverished Jews were more likely to be eliminated. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of a “money gene.”
Another myth is that Jews make money by defrauding customers or being overly aggressive in business. This is a baseless and discriminatory claim. In fact, the Torah, which is the Jewish constitution, has more rules about honesty in business than it does about keeping a kosher diet. A third false belief is that all Jews are especially supportive of one another and constantly help each other out. While it is true that anyone who is committed to the well-being of their group will likely offer assistance, this is not exclusive to Jews. The fourth myth about Jewish commercial success is that Jews are especially intelligent. While this may or may not be true, intelligence is not necessarily a determining factor in financial success.
The true source of Jewish success may be found in the Torah, which contains a wealth of financial wisdom and Jewish cultural and traditional practices. For centuries, the Jewish people have been grounded in certain fundamental ideas about how the world works. These include the importance of sacrificing in the present to build a better future and the importance of education.
Despite the fact that many Jews have abandoned their spiritual foundations and religious practices, these fundamental ideas have persisted and continue to shape the community. The Torah consists of 613 distinct principles, which are organized into ten major principles known as the Ten Commandments. Lapin has compiled his knowledge and wisdom into ten commandments, each of which includes multiple interconnected ideas.
Business Is Good
“Believe in the Dignity and Morality of Business,” advises the first commandment. It can be difficult to pursue financial success if you believe it is an inherently immoral activity. However, according to Jewish faith, making money is a moral endeavor. The first step towards increasing your income is to embrace the idea that business is a ethical, noble, and honorable profession.
The more you enjoy what you do, the more successful you will likely be. As holistic beings, humans tend to perform better when their minds and souls are aligned. People are more likely to follow your lead if you are proud and passionate about your work. In addition to learning new skills, it is important to also strive to better yourself. This may not be easy, but it is achievable. Having enthusiasm and pride in your job allows you to confidently speak about it and find meaning in your work.
One of the Jewish holidays, Chanukah, celebrates money. It is the only holiday when money can be given as a gift. Giving children money as a reward for learning on each of the eight nights of Chanukah is a way of teaching that money is not inherently evil and can lead to positive outcomes. Chanukah reminds us that by focusing on personal growth, we can also improve our ability to help others.
Expand Your Circle
“Expand Your Network of Connections to Many People,” advises the second commandment. Make friends with people from diverse backgrounds, regardless of their financial status, and then find ways to help them achieve their shared goals. You may be able to do this by reaching out to others and taking risks by doing things for them that you would not normally do.
Interacting with others is the first step in building a large network of friends and acquaintances. People tend to prefer doing business with those they have a personal relationship with. It is essential that you form genuine and honest connections with as many people as possible, without considering financial gain or other factors.
One key to making business connections is finding opportunities to meet a wide range of people. The Jewish community has a tradition of making it easy to meet new people and form friendships. Even after a funeral, Jews often 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 through both unilateral acts, such as giving a gift, and shared experiences, such as watching the sunrise together.
“Understand Yourself” is the third commandment. The only way to change how others perceive you is to learn to see yourself through their eyes.
Even if you work for someone else’s company, almost everyone is involved in some form of business. Your time, skills, and personality traits are all valuable assets. It is your responsibility to ensure that you satisfy your clients, supervisors, employers, colleagues, bosses, or patients.
Thinking of yourself as a business owner rather than an employee can give you a sense of security. You will no longer have to worry about losing your job. To be successful in both your personal and professional lives, you must take responsibility for your actions and your business.
Jews often use the horse and rider analogy to help them see themselves objectively and from a higher perspective. It is easy to think of yourself as a single entity. To better understand yourself and others, consider yourself a spiritual being in control of a physical body, with your soul guiding your physical body. Judaism often encourages its followers to ignore their emotions and follow their intellect by taking a step back and viewing situations holistically and logically rather than from a limited perspective.
By learning to act on your thoughts rather than your emotions and desires, you can increase your earning potential. This makes you a more reliable and desirable business partner, as it shows that you have good judgment.
“Avoid Obsessing Over Perfection,” advises 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 hold opportunities for growth. It is okay to want perfection, as long as it doesn’t hold you back in life and business.
Judaism recognizes that idealistic perfection is impossible for humans to achieve, and therefore imperfection is acceptable. Life is about being able to thrive in less-than-ideal circumstances. Think about the ongoing criticism of business and the larger socioeconomic system. Is it possible for it to work perfectly for everyone all the time? Clearly, the answer is no. Everyone agrees that the system is not perfect, but there are no better alternatives.
If you try to go it alone, your life will be difficult and short. On the other hand, those who have mastered the art of peaceful coexistence will feel more at ease. Like any other field, business has the potential to be abused and exploited. However, it is important to distinguish between condemning certain corporate practices as immoral and condemning an entire industry.
A system of free economic interaction does not inherently produce dishonest or unethical businesspeople. These are exceptions who cause harm. It is not surprising that mistakes are made in the business and industry world, as this occurs in every field. What is surprising is that the majority of businesses and professionals uphold the system with dignity and morality.
Be a Leader
“Lead with Consistency and Constant Action,” advises the Fifth Commandment. Leadership skills are developed, but they may not be what you expect. Leadership is about taking action and leading by example, not about putting on a show.
Because there is no universally accepted standard for effective leadership, each organization must set its own criteria. There are many different definitions of transformational leadership. Leadership is most necessary in chaotic and hectic situations. When people are afraid or uncertain, they naturally turn to the leader who seems unafraid and has a firm grasp on the situation.
To be a good leader, you must be able to think both short-term and long-term. In your personal financial endeavors, you must balance short-term budgeting considerations with long-term planning. It is crucial to maintain a balance between increasing your income and reducing your expenses.
Regular decisions about managing expenses must be made, but you also need to focus on increasing income. Keep in mind that no two days are the same in the business world. Constant change can be both inspiring and anxiety-inducing. Successful leaders and businesspeople share the ability to adapt to change.
“Embrace Change When Appropriate, but Maintain Stability When Necessary,” advises the Sixth Commandment. Understand when to enjoy the excitement of change and when to steadfastly uphold the immutable in the face of it. According to traditional Jewish beliefs, humans are fundamentally different from other animals in that they adapt and improve when faced with difficulty. Every aspect of a person’s life evolves over time, from physical appearance to character and abilities.
The Star of David represents a steady outlook on life, which is helpful in navigating change. The first triangle, with its base firmly in place, represents the fundamental elements of life that you can rely on even as everything else changes and takes on new and unknown forms. The upside-down second triangle represents the natural and technological worlds, in which your knowledge and control grow over time.
Human lives are constantly in flux, which is an essential part of being human. The second part is the desire for complete stability with no changes. Recognize this desire, but resist letting it control your emotions and thoughts. One of your greatest human strengths is your ability to embrace and thrive in change, seeing opportunities everywhere.
“Develop the Ability to Foresee the Future,” advises the Seventh Commandment. Some people have a clearer vision of the future than others. And when emotions are involved, it is impossible to see the future objectively. To become skilled at forecasting, you must learn to detach your emotions. This is very difficult, and it is one of the main reasons that few doctors will treat their own family members. Wise doctors understand how hard it would be to separate 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 something disrupts them. What are the chances of this happening? If something is changing quickly, it is already being affected by an external factor.
Identify the force behind the change, understand it, and forecast its behavior. Will it continue? Will it grow stronger or weaker? Analyze the pattern of the situation in question. How has it been developing up to this point? Once you’ve identified the pattern, ask yourself why it has been behaving this way and consider all the potential changes.
You should regularly observe and analyze broad patterns and trends as a business expert. Look for these patterns and try to understand the forces driving them.
You Are Your Money
“Understand Your Money” advises the eighth commandment. In some ways, money is a tangible representation of life energy, which includes your time, expertise, experience, perseverance, and interpersonal connections. If you want to attract and acquire something, you should learn as much as you can about it. Before you can catch a fish, you must know where to look and what kind 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 centuries that your money is you and what it represents. According to ancient sages, wise people value their money more than their bodies. This seemingly strange concept can help you build a healthy relationship with money, and generations of successful Jewish businesspeople 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. According to the Talmud, people at work 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 Prosperously and Donate 10% of Your After-Tax Income,” says the Ninth Commandment. Giving to charity begins the process of generating more money through the mysterious power of money. People have recognized for thousands of years that donating money to charity leads to more wealth.
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches you about the world, not how to behave. Giving money away makes the donor wealthier – anecdotal evidence continues to support this. Many Jews are still taught that helping the poor is not only a kind thing to do, but also a wise thing to do if you want to succeed.
Jews do not give money away because it is always logical or reasonable to do so. Jews give money away because it is good, not because it makes perfect sense. This is just how people live in the United States.
People believe that Americans give more money to charity than people in other countries because the United States does not tax charitable contributions. However, the truth is that US tax law was written this way to reflect the widely held belief that religious charities should not be taxed.
It is important to remember that giving money away is similar to investing. You give money in the hope that it will eventually come back to you in a big way. However, there is no guarantee.
The same goes for investing money and time in your own business. Your investment may or may not yield a large return one day. But you should still go ahead and do it. Giving money keeps your investment muscle strong and prepared 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.”