British-bred Levi Brackman left his London synagogue three years ago to come to Evergreen to start the outreach group Judaism in the Foothills. Here, the author of Jewish Wisdom for Business Success, a book of business advice drawn from biblical stories and Jewish oral history, talks about faith, success, and the economy.
I moved to Colorado because it's the exact opposite of London. London is dreary and rainy and not that friendly. Colorado is sunny, has mountains, plains, and is friendly.
I was a congregational rabbi before, but working within a preexisting structure, where I had a well-defined job, made me feel boxed in. I wanted to be able to do more than funerals, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. I wanted to be able to write, create new programs and ideas, and go with them.
I became very inspired by religion at the age of 17, because I started studying the mystical, kabbalistic aspects of the religion, and it just hit me as truth. And that's when I decided to become a rabbi. Before that, I had no interest in it.
I decided there were better ways to use one's talent and abilities than to just make money and be in business. I felt that I wouldn't be fulfilled. In the book, we have the concept of spiritual entrepreneurship, which is the middle ground between doing what I'm doing—dedicating my life to inspiring others and spiritual pursuits—and just being in it for money.
There needs to be a shift in our thinking. If you want to earn a lot of money, you have to work hard for it.
We're in a financial crisis because of people overestimating their abilities and getting involved in stuff they didn't understand.
If you want success in anything, you need success as a person. You can't say, "I'm going to be successful as a businessperson on the one hand, and I'm just going to be a horrible person." You might make money, but you're not going to have long-term success. The key to long-term success is working on yourself while you're working on your business. If you're not, you're going to find your personal issues disrupt the money-making process.
Everything you do has to make intellectual sense. We've got this crazy fallacy in this country that says, "Follow your heart." So people have been walking away from their wives, ruining their kids' lives. It might not make sense, but they're "following their hearts."
The same thing happens with investments. It's good to be attracted toward an investment or a business prospect, but it needs to balance out with, "Does this make sense? Have I read all the small print?"
God told Abraham, "Follow the way of the Lord." The way of the Lord is following a path of balance between intellect and emotion.