In order to get into the Jewish perspective on business, we must examine the spiritual origins of business. The first time we find the concept of anyone working for anything, it is Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam was to be involved in "Service of the Heart"—a reference to prayer—which would be "received" by God and, in turn, God would respond with rain that would cause ready-made edible loaves of bread to grow from the ground. That is, Adam was to be solely involved with the Source of all sustenance for his sustenance.
However, when Adam sinned and turned away from God, a curse took hold by which Adam would now eat bread "by the sweat of his brow." Due to his sin, Adam's labor of the heart now had to make room for backbreaking labor as well.
Effects of Our Actions
According to Kabbalah, Adam was not merely our ancestor. Rather, Adam was and is the collective soul of which we are all a part. That is to say, each of us took part, and had a portion in, that sin of Adam's in the Garden of Eden. (According to Kabbalah, there are actually exceptions to this. That is, there were a minority of souls who did not consent to the sin and managed to not take part in it.) It's not that we are paying the price for something that our great-grandfather did. Rather, each of us has something unique to fix and raise up based on that which we have broken and brought down. If we were to compare Adam's collective soul to a boulder that caused damage, each of us would be a unique individual pebble within that boulder.
That having been said, in the Garden of Eden we all (with the few exceptions mentioned) disconnected from our Source to some degree, and the history of humanity is our attempt to reconnect. However, in the meantime, given the post-sin, God-disconnected reality in which we live, each of us are to involve ourselves with our new "reality" and get a job to support one's self and one's family if needed.
The truth is that this is the fundamental principle of business according to Jewish law and Jewish philosophy—to be involved in business with God-consciousness and act accordingly. This means to work with honesty and to internalize that God is your true business partner; all matters of finance and sustenance are really 100 percent dependent on God. Once we internalize this mindset when dealing with acquaintances, we, in essence, return to the pre-sin Garden of Eden consciousness, where it was clear that we were solely dependent and reliant upon God for our sustenance. By achieving this higher and truer state of awareness when involved with our dealings, we "bring God back" into the picture that we effectively "pushed him out of" by doing the sin in the Garden of Eden.
If a person succeeds in making this his mindset, the time and effort he spends on business will be within reason. He will not overly engross himself in financial matters nor stress over them since he is living with the reality that one's monetary success is determined by God, not the amount of effort one puts in. (Now, we are not saying here that a person should rely on God and need not work. What we are saying is that if one internalizes that God is in charge of his business dealings, he will not be engrossed by them. It is certainly appropriate that most people make an effort to earn a living, but only an effort that is reasonable. To make one's job his number one priority or to become a workaholic are certainly unreasonable and, by extension, demonstrate such an individual's mindset—i.e., that his efforts determine his financial success rather than God.)
Such an individual will take on the viewpoint and approach that, while work is a necessity in order to live, it is but a means toward achieving the purpose of what life's really all about. Placing work at the center of one's life and running after it is to give superiority to something that is inferior and to chase after what is essentially a curse.
8/18/2011 4:00:00 AM