Rabbi Daniel Lapin is a traditional Jewish scholar and the author of Thou Shalt Prosper and Business Secrets from the Bible. In this interview, Rabbi Daniel explains how Jewish wisdom and history clarifies the path for anyone who desires wealth, and he illustrates how economic success is ultimately an issue of character.
John Meese 0:01
Rabbi Daniel, thank you so much for joining me. How are you doing today?
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 0:04
Couldn't be better. John thank you. I've been looking forward to this chance to chat.
John Meese 0:09
Oh, good. Well as if I had spent I was, uh, I actually just finished reading one of your books, business secrets from the Bible, I read that I was actually in the midst of reading that when the COVID-19 crisis hit, and it was a, it was a comfort and a just an enjoyable read throughout that time. So thank you for that.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 0:27
Now, apart from the fact that you're running a business, you are an entrepreneur, you're a husband, you're a father of, I think three delightful little children. That's correct. But in spite of that, I have to ask why have you only read one of my books?
John Meese 0:42
Well, I don't have a good answer.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 0:45
I'll say. Well, I'd well we'll we'll see if we can provide you and your listeners with some good answers to that question as well. Thank you.
John Meese 0:51
Well, I appreciate that. Well, I had to start somewhere. So this book caught my eye and piqued my interest. I read it and I'm sure it will not be the last few books that I read, but it was the first. Well, I appreciate you so much for joining us today. And for anybody who might be listening this podcast and saying, wait, Rabbi does this. I thought this was a business podcast that I tuned into the wrong one. Would you just share for for a moment with us a little bit about who you are and why? You know how you kind of went, you became the business Rabbi of sorts?
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 1:22
Well, look, I may not be as intelligent as Warren Buffett. And I may not be as entertaining as Bill Gates. But I am absolutely more useful than both those gentlemen to your audience, unless there happens to be among your audience, somebody who bought into the stock market very early was an average student superbly intelligent, and built up a company like Berkshire Hathaway. In that case, he can learn from Warren Buffett or if you happen to be somebody who dropped out of Harvard on the cusp of the computer revolution, and whose mom served on the board of directors of IBM, well, then you resemble Bill Gates, and you can probably learn from him. But if you like, well, pretty much like all the rest of us. I'm a whole lot more useful. And that is because when you read Warren Buffett and by the way, I mean I I don't miss a single one of these annual reports from Berkshire Hathaway. And if you if you read Bill Gates, which I find less interesting, or for that matter if you read Donald Trump, these are all people who tell you their story, their unique story of how they reached the billionaire status. And it simply is not applicable to to your life in any way whatsoever. But my role here is a little bit different. I looked into, as a matter of fact, spend 10 years of research on a very simple question, which the you're simply not allowed to say I'm allowed to say it, because I'm circumcised. But you're not allowed to say this neither. And that is that Jews are disproportionately good with money. Now, the overwhelming majority of your listeners are saying, Yeah, yeah, he's right. And the Jewish listeners you have, are looking around fearfully and saying, I wish he wouldn't tell people about us. Because they hope that maybe a Rabbi Daniel Lapin keeps quiet. Nobody will notice that out of the 400 people on the Forbes 400 List of richest americans every year, Jews represent about 20% of that list. And do you know what percentage of Jews are in America's population, John,
John Meese 3:57
I don't know.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 3:58
Less than one and a half.
So that is grossly over represented.
John Meese 4:04
Mm hmm. Interesting. So you think there's something there?
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 4:11
Well, maybe what it is, is that Jews just rip people off all the time. And that's how they get to do so well. And because I wanted to be scrupulously fair and academically rigorous, I actually did look into that. And I interviewed, actually over 100 non Jews who's had lengthy business relationships with Jews, and what came out is what you'd expect of course, and what I guessed which is that they're bad apples in the Jewish barrel at about the same rate as their bad apples in every other barrel. Yeah, you know, they're they're Bernie Madoff's and, and for that matter, Bernie the guy who keeps on running for president I can't even
John Meese 4:54
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 4:55
John Meese 4:56
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 4:57
Yeah, Sanders. That's right. He's a bad apple and Bernie Madoff so bad apple but we also have our Bernie Marcus's, who's a very good apple who started Home Depot and and so that you know that was ruled out so it's not that we rip people people off. And is it that we have some genetic predisposition? Maybe the cause x killed off all the poor Jews leaving the rich to reproduce. And for that incredibly dumb racial explanation. All I can say is that no money gene has been found in Jewish sperm in since a time of, of genetic research, it just doesn't exist. So you know, when you get right down to it, searching out all the bogus explanations and refuting them. You have to come up with some reason. I mean, the fact is, our people are disproportionately good with money doesn't mean they're no poor Jews there are but overwhelmingly It's It's insane. And look, in general, the gross domestic product of a company is proportional to the population, you know, provided conditions are fairly uniformly distributed in the population. You know, it's not that one tiny corner of the population is highly educated. But in any general homogenous population, GDP is directly proportional to population. So for instance, Georgia has eight times the population of Rhode Island. And if you check the GDP every year, it's you know, roughly eight times the, which is perfectly natural and perfectly normal. In the Middle East, there are five contiguous countries around Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, and their aggregate populations, about 100 million, Israel's about 5 million. So you would expect that the aggregate GDP of the contiguous nations around Israel to be about five excuse me 20 times of Israel, but it isn't it's, it's the same, which means that in a Isreal, the economic contribution of each person is five times what it is.
John Meese 7:14
or 20 times or
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 7:16
Excuse me 20 times, of course
John Meese 7:18
Lets's not under, let's not undervalued that
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 7:20
you're right there, they're 20 times more productive. Now, these are just facts. You may not like them. But um, but they're facts. Nonetheless, facts can live with being unpopular. They don't mind. You know, it's this is a reality. So obviously, we've got to ask why that is. Now, Israel does have some other specific characteristics. Everyone having served in the army, very small, tightly packed, in the sense it's a bit like Singapore and Hong Kong, and so to have that inter pollination factor, which is the same reason that you have a conglomeration of have digital technology in Silicon Valley, or, to a lesser extent used to have it around Boston on Route 28. And, and in other places. So clustering is is a is a valid thing. But what about all the ordinary Jews and it's not just the ordinary Jews in America in the 21st century. And it's the ordinary Jews in every country in all time, hospitable, wonderful countries like the United States and also despotic tyrannies, like the Soviet Union, for instance. You I'm sure, I've noticed how many of the Russian oligarchs happened to be Jewish. So it doesn't matter where and it doesn't matter when this was true in the 17th century, it was true in the 16th century. It was true when Rothschild started his fortune, and it's true everywhere every time so obviously, we need to know the explanation and this is the long run So for your very simple question, which, who needs a Rabbi on a financial discussion? And the answer is because the Rabbi is the only person this Rabbi is the only person who has diligently and honestly researched how it is that Jews do well with money, and then converted that answer into a series of books and audio programs and courses that enable anybody to share those qualities and, and to employ them in their financial life. And as I say, only somebody who was is Jewish could have possibly gotten away with doing this because anybody else particularly in today's ridiculous climate, would have been instantly assaulted as a anti-semitic bigot. How dare you say Jews are good with money. I thought being good with money is kind of a good thing. I don't really think it's a bad thing. But nonetheless, I'm very happy that I'm circumcised and I've often thought that this may be the only time in all of academia, where bigotry is converted to research by the removal of a small piece of skin.
John Meese 10:12
Well, very well. Well, that's a quite the introduction. Thank you, Rabbi for sharing that a little bit about what you're up to. And I, you know, I've enjoyed kind of your reading from afar. And so this is actually our first conversation directly, but I appreciate it. So, I want to talk about this because I think that this is an interesting perspective, to look at the history of, as you said, you kind of the Jewish business background, the philosophy that the common traits, common practices, because right now we're in the midst of a global pandemic, and an economic crisis, which seems like a once in a lifetime unique situation. But I know I'm Eastern Orthodox, and I know it's been kind of entertaining, not Well, not really entertaining. It's been it's been academically interesting to hear our bishops, the Orthodox Church talk about well Let's look at how we address the last six plagues. You know what, because we are part of a church with such a rich history. And I know that that's true as well with the Jewish tradition. So I love to talk about COVID-19. And let's talk about the economic crisis and specifically, you know, what you think applies to this crisis in terms of what to do with it. But first, I would love to know your personal story with COVID-19. Specifically, I'd love to know if you remember when you first realized that COVID-19 and by the way, by that I also mean the great lockdown that came with it. I love to know when you first realized that that was a real threat. If there was a specific conversation or news item that kind of caught your eye and you realize, Oh, this is a little out of the ordinary.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 11:44
As soon as I as soon as I saw the the earliest reactions, and the comments on the part of Bill deblasio, Mayor of New York and Governor Cuomo, Governor of New York. And as a matter of fact, I spoke about this on my podcast the rabbi Daniel Lapin show at the time and I said two things. Number one, this is going to be overwhelmingly and grossly and violently exaggerated. And I said there are several reasons for for that. And but it is going to be and I said at the time that the economic and the health devastation will be far greater from government action than from viral action. The actual Corona virus is is really relatively innocent compared to the culpability of government in what has happened in the United States over the last four months.
John Meese 12:54
hmm. Well, so as a business, not just a, I mean, as an author, I mean, you are a business owner yourself. And you also talk mostly to business owners in your conversation entrepreneurs. How did you respond to that? I mean, to see seeing this happen, there's sort of the there's the there's the personal response, and then there's the getting your hands into action. How did you respond to that?
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 13:17
Well, it's, you know, I'm no smarter than the next man. Look, here's I mean, here's the key thing. And I speak about this all the time, and I and I haven't heard much I've heard some of your shows in preparation for this one. I wanted to get to know you a little bit. But I'm sure you have taught this as have I and have all the smart guys including another fellow Tennessee fan of yours, my good friend, Dave Ramsey. Everybody speaks about the importance of building up a cash reserve. So I said, you know, for people who have, you are smiling now and you're thanking whoever it was, who advise you to do that. And if you haven't, then you need to be in survival mode. If you are financially stressed, you just need to be in survival mode. And no, let this be a lesson that once you're out of it, you have to build a cash reserve, you've got to have cash. And that is, I mean, always was a very, very basic lesson from Jewish experience. You know, in the final analysis, many of the Jews that escaped the death camps of Adolf Hitler in the 20th century, were those who had negotiable assets, and were able to buy their way out of Poland, out of Germany out of Russia and we're able to uh to get to safety. They they had gold, they had diamonds, they had cash, they had money. And this is really important. You know, so that's not much help to people in it who didn't do it but but it's it's perhaps one of the most important lessons. The suddenness of this, I think was also a wonderful lesson. Things can change on a hair trigger. You know, again, looking back at World War Two, there were many Jews living in upper class luxury and comfort in cities like Warsaw. And, and, you know, there was 10 years during which Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany. And it took it took 10 years before he was able to become the democratically elected don't think democracy is a protection against calamity. The founder In the United States, I understood the country, they made it a republic, not a democracy precisely because a democracy can contribute to the speed with which we are overtaken by calamity. And, and then, you know, people overlooked it. They said, Oh, Germany, the land of Mozart and Beethoven and the land of hydration, hiney and gutter. There's no way this country is going to tolerate a roughian like Hitler, it's going to be okay. We don't have to worry. And they didn't worry. And, and literally overnight, Hitler invaded Poland, and their lives were overturned and the speed with which it went from normal, comfortable living. The there was an orchestral recital at one of the big concert halls in Vienna, shortly before the Germans arrived. Excuse me, I said Vienna and Warsaw and and then In many cases within a week, they were untrained to death camps. So the speed is really a good lesson. So, in many ways, you know, if you are surviving at the moment, pat yourself on the back and make it a new tomorrow, just resolve to learn the lessons of them, how quickly things can change, and how important it is to have cash on hand. You know, and this is a character issue, you know, we have in America and this isn't hard to find, because we're so good with statistics, and with 320 million people, so to find 1000 people who have the identical earning financial history, in other words, they're the same age, roughly the same qualifications. They've held roughly the same kind of jobs for roughly the same amount of time. So you can actually end up very easily with about 1000 people, mostly men, who have all earned by this point in their lives, exactly the same sum of money. So you'd think that if economics was a pure science, which obviously isn't, we could now predict the net worth of each of those thousand men. Right, because they've all made exactly the same amount of money. But you see, whether you save and invest or whether you spend and consume is a character issue is not an economic issue. It has to do with your soul. And so, it's shocking to many people. But it shouldn't be a surprise to any thoughtful person, that in that thousand cohort of statistics, the ranges from people who have several million dollars of assets and negligible liabilities to people whose net worth is negative, But they all got the same amount of money, right? It's not what you make. It's what you do with it. And yeah. And how do you strengthen your character to resist the temptation to spend everything you make?
John Meese 19:18
Well, you're giving us a lot to think about. And I appreciate that. That's why you're here. And perhaps a thoughtful tool or two. But a Rabbi Daniel, no, I would love to know if you could take us a little bit behind the curtain into your own business. Because you're, you're an author. And you have so what is that your primary revenue stream are the books that you have now?
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 19:40
We're a publisher, we have our company is life Codex publishing. And we, we obviously publish most of our own output, but we also publish other writers. Okay. So for instance, we we found a a woman in Jerusalem, who had a she used to teach teach young single women how to go about dating. And her big insight was she said, Look, I grew up in Boston, I did everything wrong. I didn't find the Lord until I was in my late 20s. And she says, and and that's when my life changed. And that was when I met my husband. And that was when I started my family and, and we, we listened to her, and we encouraged her to join our stable and write a book for us on why it is that if you are serious about wanting to get married, you should avoid physical touch during the dating process. Now this is revolutionary it's it's almost outrageous. Because we're living in the the hookup culture, the swipe right culture, as the culture of apps that are literally there to help you find somebody with whom to spend the night. And in this, we're saying, Hey, be smart. And then the rest of the book gives the full explanation the background of why it is that you would be very smart to have a no touch dating policy. And now obviously, that also means that you don't date for three years. need this well, and as a matter of fact, you don't date at all we we promote a courting rather than a dating which means that I look at what I any woman who consults me, I tell them and work with them exactly the way I did with my own daughters, which is if he isn't real potential, kick him to the curb within the first three weeks end of story doesn't take longer than that to rule him out. Now, ruling him in can take a little longer, but not more than three or four months period. That's it. But you don't go and waste years of your life, trying to figure out if a guy is ever going to propose marriage to you. So I'm very much in the defense of women. And this book she wrote for us, is called 'Hands Off This May Be Love' And over at our store at Rabbi Daniel Lapin calm you'll see it and many other books written both by me and by other people. So we have a publishing company. I do business consulting, I have a few business clients, and I've have a few personal coaching clients as well. And, but it's all based on ancient Jewish wisdom. There is nothing to the brilliance of Rabbi Daniel Lapin it doesn't exist, but I'm a very good and accurate transmitter.
John Meese 22:48
Hmm, that's good. I often say that if I was a an Avenger superhero, my superpower would be following instructions very, very well. So I'm probably in a similar boat there. But uh, That's kind of my secret to success is just I'm really good at following instructions. But let's, uh, I'm curious, has your business been, How has your business been affected or changed yourself personally by
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 23:12
You know, I'm happy to tell you I don't know how interesting will be to you just because in those details, you know, my business is unique as yours is and, and the the general principles I mean how my business has been affected as you know, in different ways, but I'm just not it's just not that interesting a sure you know, some things I correctly plan for other things I fail to correctly plan for, you know, thank the Lord overall. You know, we're, we're fine, nothing to grumble about compared to particularly compared to many, many, many millions of other people who truly have been struggling.
John Meese 23:50
Yes. Well, okay, so I'd love to know, what advice do you have for the business owner that's listening to this, who's trying to figure out how to build or rebuild build a profitable business in any economy. I mean, this is maybe this is not the first and probably not the last economic crisis. It's a fairly unique economic crisis. But we have people who are listening who are small business owners who maybe own a brick and mortar business, like a coffee shop or a restaurant, we have people who are listening who have online businesses, and we have people who are listening who are have recently been promoted to entrepreneur from employed, and they're trying to figure out what to do next. So I mean, what advice do you have for those people listening about?
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 24:32
This is laid out in the book, you are reading 'Business Secrets From the Bible', and others of extreme importance are laid out in my second book, "Thou Shall Prosper the 10 Commandments for Making Money' And, and so first thing I say is, you've got to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Which that mean means stop thinking of yourself as an employee. I don't care if you are an employee, but that's the last time I even want to consider that possibility. If you are employed, pouring coffee for a large chain of coffee shops, whose name I will not mention, because as far as I know, they do not yet to advertise or sponsor your show, do they?
John Meese 25:28
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 25:28
When their name will remain unknown. Okay, but if you pour coffee for a national coffee chain, stop thinking of yourself as an employee. You got to think of yourself as being in business. You can think of it as you incorporated and on your board of directors is your spouse and by the way, your children and friends, advisors, people have something to contribute and what's so important about this is When you thought of yourself as an independent business person, well then what is your relationship to this? This this coffee chain? The answer is they are your biggest customer. Mm hmm. And when you ask for a raise, that's what employees do. But business professionals raise their prices. Hmm. It's a total total shift, crucial to do. And it's all very well hearing about it. But you know, this is a lot like self defense and martial arts. And, you know, I can tell you what to do if somebody jams a gun in your ribs from behind on a dark street in a major American city. But it's not going to do you any good. Until you go to a teacher who will rehearse it with you and rehearse it with you and rehearse it with you. Until your reaction jumps out from muscle memory. You don't have to think You don't have to say this lesson was on page 11 of my manual of self defense, it doesn't work like that. And so so it is with changing yourself in terms of your economic destiny, you actually do have to change yourself and, and there are ways to do that, that lie outside the scope of a conversation like this, which is why on my website, I do have the courses and the books for the purpose but obviously, one of them is to how to start seeing yourself as a business professional and independent as professional. And second thing is
that now that you realize that you are not an employee, but you are an independent business person, and then you've got to make sure that you don't have just one customer having one customer is the road to ruin. You've got to get more customers now. I don't know if that means doing independent coffee bars for people are having parties in your neighborhood, or whether it means starting something else non coffee related, but you definitely do need more customers in your business. What is your business? Well, it's, you know, overall your business might be termed finding solutions Incorporated. the right solution for your coffee chain employed customer is to, you know, they need somebody to pour coffee Well, I'll do that for them. And it's quite possible that I have some other customers I'm in recognized yet who need regular transport and for some reason or another, they don't like using Uber, they, well good then I'll do driving in which case I'm a transportation consultant as well. It doesn't matter but you definitely need more than one customer. Other people put this differently saying you need more than one revenue stream. And and that's also true, it helps to think in terms of customer Because that reinforces the necessity of thinking yourself as an independent business professional. And thirdly, you've got to get rid of the notion that what you do is a function of your passions and your enthusiasms and you know, nothing could be further from the truth. That's the dumbest advice ever given to people. All you must find work in your area of interest, That's rubbish, complete nonsense, and, and will do mute to utter failure. My area of interest is boating, and I would I would be a very hungry rabbi. If I held out for a job in the boating arena goes then pay people a lot of money to go boating or fishing. So leave your passions alone. Have them make enough money to enjoy them. But don't try and find work in your passion area. I mean, what happens if you're passionate about medieval Byzantine frescoes is there's a very limited market out there for experts on medieval Byzantine frescoes. So stop it. Just get away from that notion and find out how you can best serve most people most effectively. That's all. And then later on, I'll teach you how to learn to love what you do. But that's the secret. Learn to love what you must do. Don't do what you love.
John Meese 30:30
Well, I love that and I would love to expound upon that and for I'm thinking now about the current business owner that's trying to think, okay, I hear what you're saying. I'm an independent business professional, and I have a business whether it's technically a job or it's my own business. What do you think Rabbi Daniel is different about how a business owner should approach their business right now today in the midst of this economic crisis, that may be different from any other time outside of that, you know, when the markets Good, or is Yeah, I mean, well, I'd be curious to know what you think about that.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 31:03
I think that the important thing is not to be not to allow the crisis of the day to overwhelm you. Because admittedly, what the government's have done to this Coronavirus, has essentially plunged you into really the equivalent to finding your country at war. It's, it's a huge problem. And are there opportunities there? Yes, I know somebody who is literally on a second million of the last four months, simply because he had some Chinese connections which he parlayed into sources for shields and masks and so on, and he was able to provide them at a good price. Now. It wasn't easy I'll tell you this he got a sailed and villainized and demonized for profiteering on the crisis. And one needs the psychological strength, as well as the philosophical understanding to be able to withstand that to be able to realize that this is all the the maudlin outpourings of the diseased egos of the envious. And the fact is prices do go up when there's a shortage. And I'd much rather have the person supply them at those prices then for them not to be available at all.
John Meese 32:40
Right supply and demand.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 32:42
So I'm just saying, you know, this was an easy he, his family was stood a lot of calumny from people. He's making money off the crisis. Yes, that's quite correct. And if you don't have the intestinal fortitude to do that, then you mustn't try and do it.
John Meese 33:00
Right. I love that. In an earlier interview, our mutual friend Michael Hyatt defined an entrepreneur as someone who solves a problem at a profit. I think that's what you're saying right there is like that's, that's, that's what we're doing. And there's a lot of problems right now.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 33:13
So I guess what I'm saying is, you know, don't be overwhelmed by this thing. And admittedly, this is a biggie. But if there's not one crisis, there's another and the notion that there is ever a period where God allows human beings to sail placidly through life, with no clouds on the horizon, you're dreaming. Welcome back to the real world. That's not how it works.
John Meese 33:38
Well, thank you so much for your for your insight for ancient Jewish wisdom and for taking a few minutes with us today. Rabbi Daniel, I appreciate you your time. I would love to know where can we go to find out more about you and learn more about you online?
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 33:54
Well, for people with short memories, they just have to remember the website youneedarabbi.com That's great. You need to rabbi.com and with people better memories, they can remember my name RabbiDanielLapin.com.
John Meese 34:09
Excellent. Excellent. Well, thank you so much for your time and I appreciate it and keep up the good work
Rabbi Daniel Lapin 34:14
Tahnks for being with you, john, and my admiration to you and Rachel for the good work you're doing. And I wish you I wish you continued success and growth. And please, as I say, tell Michael Hyatt, how much I admire him and what a giant of a man he is.
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