Of Boats and Businesses

Like many of you, I find myself turning to online videos for information. Instead of reading through a dense and confusing manual or using a process of trial and error, I simply need to type a few words into my search engine to see step-by-step instructions for changing a water filter, manipulating the settings in my car or, should I ever be so inclined, how to fold a fitted bed sheet. If I follow the steps, I will accomplish my task. On a larger scale, carefully following engineering drawings and architects’ plans allow you to successfully build a house, boat or plane.

Yet, building a business or a marriage offers no such assurances.  Although countless books exist about starting a business and getting married, following those advisors brings no guarantee of success.  Surely directions for marriage and entrepreneurship ought to ensure success just as do directions for ship builders, airplane builders, and home builders.  Why would the success rate for new businesses and marriages be well below the figure for ships, planes, and buildings? Maybe Exodus can guide us.

God directed Moses how to build the Ark of the Covenant and then told him to place inside it, “…the testimony which I shall give you.” (Exodus 25:16)

God directed Moses to build the Table and then told him, “And you shall set the bread of display upon the table… (Exodus 25:30)

God directed Moses to build the Menorah and then told him, “…and he (the priest) shall light its lamps… (Exodus 25:37)

However, when God directed Moses to build the altar (Exodus 27:1-8) no subsequent instructions followed.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that the purpose of building the Ark, the Table, and the Menorah was to allow actions like sheltering the testimony, setting the bread, and lighting the lamps to happen.  Building the altar had purpose and meaning in and of itself.

Building the Ark, the Table and the Menorah more closely resembled changing a water filter or building a boat.  However, the altar was more of a spiritual entity. Building it was meaningful in itself.

A ship is built for the purpose of launching it; an airplane is built for the purpose of flying it; a sheet is folded for the purpose of neatness and efficiency.

However, a marriage needs no other purpose to exist.  Its very existence provides meaning.  While it is true that a business will fail if it does not make a profit, it gives its owners significant meaning and purpose in life entirely separate from that goal.  If you enter into either a marriage or a business with the proper attitude, they are both vehicles for giving to others. Thus they resemble the altar whose purpose was also giving—to God. Building a successful marriage means becoming a giver and building a successful business means focusing on giving real value to other human beings.

There are libraries of information on how to build physical objects like boats, planes, and houses. And you will only fail by ignoring those physical directions.  Happily, for successfully building entities like marriages and businesses, there is information available too, but you need to expand your horizons to include spiritual information.

9 thoughts on “Of Boats and Businesses”

  1. This is probably why the happiest marriages are comprised of two givers. When you find one giver and one taker or worse yet, two takers, there is little happiness to be found. The good news is that we can all choose to become givers and thereby have happy marriages. The more we become like God the easier it becomes to be a giver as He is the original Giver and continues to give in abundance!
    Thank you both (Lapins) for giving us your time, your wisdom and your love.

  2. All too often it seems the thought of love in a marriage is what is received as “love,” when love is actually an action of “giving.” To say I love you, should mean I give you whatever I can, to make you happy, or a better person, or our lives to be more meaningful and blessed.

  3. Stefanie McMillian

    I like the analogy of building an ark as a comparison to create a business and then at the same time the difference of the spiritual aspect as to why the ark had to be created. It shows that the first step was necessary for the second step to fall in place.

  4. Very good observation Rabbi. I have found great spiritual significance from both business and marriage. Perhaps that’s why such ordinary tasks as home repairs using YouTube don’t hold my interest very long.

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