Thou Shall Prosper by Daniel Lapin: Book Overview

What’s Thou Shall Prosper by Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin about? Can you become wealthy and make the world a better place at the same time?

In Thou Shall Prosper, Daniel Lapin explores ancient rabbis’ views on conducting business. Additionally, you’ll learn how to lead your own business and how earning money can be a spiritual pursuit.

Read below for a brief overview of Thou Shall Prosper.

Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

In Thou Shall Prosper, Daniel Lapin teaches you how to be wealthy and practice self-improvement by following the “Ten Commandments” of making money. Lapin blends modern economics lessons and business advice with traditional Jewish wisdom to create a text that’s half business guide and half self-help book.

Lapin is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, a bestselling author, and a public speaker who’s addressed audiences ranging from Harvard graduates to members of the US Army. Lapin is best known for writing Thou Shall Prosper, along with its sequel Business Secrets From the Bible. He’s also an entrepreneur who—along with his wife, Susan Lapin—founded Lifecodex Publishing, which publishes books, CDs, and DVDs to help make Jewish teachings accessible to everyone. 

To aid clarity and avoid repetition, this article reorganizes Lapin’s many lessons into six topics, which can be framed as principles:

  1. Ethics: how to conduct your business morally, and why it’s both important and profitable to do so 
  2. Community: how your friends and family can help you succeed
  3. Leadership: how to lead your company effectively
  4. Change: why it’s important to embrace change as it comes, and how you can do so effectively 
  5. Money: why your wealth is a reflection of your life, and how that realization leads to better business decisions 
  6. Retirement: why Lapin believes you shouldn’t seek to retire, and why age can be a blessing for your work instead of a curse 

Principle 1: Conduct Your Business Ethically

First, Lapin advises earning a living ethically, regardless of whether you run your own company or work for someone else. In this section, we’ll examine: 

  • What Judaism teaches about business ethics
  • How to accept that nobody and no business will ever be perfectly ethical 
  • How to atone for your mistakes
  • Why Jews have an unfortunate and undeserved reputation for being unethical  

What Your Business Practices Say About You

According to Jewish teachings, the way you make money can’t be separated from how other people see you or from how you see yourself. Therefore, Lapin urges you to conduct business in a way that demonstrates to yourself and others that you’re a good person. 

Lapin adds that morally upright people will earn their money through hard work and honest business practices; as a result, they’ll have good reputations and feel good about themselves. Conversely, morally bankrupt people will lie, cheat, steal, and exploit others to make money—those unethical actions will harm their reputations and negatively impact their self-image.

Nobody’s Perfect, so Embrace Imperfection

While you should always strive to be ethical in both business and life, Lapin warns that you mustn’t let yourself become paralyzed by the fear of accidentally causing harm. In other words, while you should do your best to act morally, don’t be a perfectionist—just do the best you can in the moment, and be ready to own up to your mistakes.

Lapin adds that ethical business decisions can be especially imperfect since nearly anything you do will lead to both good and bad outcomes. For example, you could find yourself in the difficult position of having to lay off some of your workers. Those layoffs will be harmful to the people who lose their jobs, but they’ll be helpful to the rest of your staff and your customers if they allow you to stay in business. Therefore, proceeding with the layoffs is the ethical choice. 

Addressing the “Greedy Jew” Stereotype

While on the subject of ethics, Lapin discusses the common stereotype that Jews are greedy, cruel, and overall unethical. He explains that this stereotype arose from the fact that Jews were the first bankers and moneylenders, and therefore the first people to charge interest on loaned money; Christianity and Islam traditionally forbid their practitioners from charging interest.

Lapin adds that Jewish tradition views lending money as more charitable than giving it away—simply giving money away would suggest that the recipient is a beggar who’s unable to support themselves. Conversely, by lending money, you support the recipient in starting a business while maintaining their dignity.

Furthermore, charging interest on loaned money makes banking a sustainable and profitable business. It allows bankers to care for themselves, expand their businesses, and help many more people in the long run. It also makes sense from the standpoint of tradition: Jews are taught that they must provide for themselves before they’ll be able to help anyone else. 

Principle 2: Embrace Community

Lapin also advises recognizing that other people can be invaluable resources in your business pursuits. He notes that Judaism isn’t just a religion—it’s also a community that values friendship and trust. As such, traditional Jewish beliefs can help you develop successful business relationships.

First, it may be tempting to keep your friends and family apart from your business—to separate your personal and professional lives. However, Lapin says that your closest personal connections can be your strongest source of inspiration. Jewish wisdom teaches that your work will only succeed if you have the approval of your friends or family; their support will give you the motivation and passion you need to be successful.

Lapin adds that developing strong bonds with your coworkers will also motivate you to succeed in your work. Just like close friends and family would, you and your coworkers can provide each other with support, encouragement, and reminders about why you’re all passionate about your work. 

Be Friendly and Confident to Form Strong Relationships

Lapin adds that, in order to easily form strong business relationships, you have to be the kind of person others want to do business with: someone they see as likable and trustworthy. Note that this doesn’t simply mean acting friendly, or pretending to be confident so others will trust you and then give you what you want—it means actually changing yourself to become a friendly, confident person who cares about and is interested in others. Genuine change is necessary because people will eventually see through a fake personality; once they do, you’ll lose their trust and their business. 

Principle 3: Become a Leader

Next, Lapin advises becoming a leader. He says that the most successful people are those who lead others—for instance, the CEO of a company is surely considered more successful than an entry-level employee.

There’s no one correct way to lead other people—the best way to lead is to embrace whatever leadership means to you. For example, being a leader could mean that you’re an executive officer at a large corporation; it might also mean that you inspire others with art or speeches, or that you’re a spiritual leader in your community. 

Characteristics of a Leader

Lapin says that, while there’s no singular definition of leadership, there are some common characteristics that all great leaders share:

Characteristic 1: An Inspirational Vision 

Lapin notes that to motivate others to follow them, leaders must have a clear vision or goal that they’re working toward, and they must be able to keep others focused on that goal. For example, the story of Exodus says that Moses led the Jews through the desert for 40 years based on the strength of his vision of the Promised Land: a new homeland for the Jewish people, promised to them by God, where they would live happily.

Characteristic 2: The Will to Engage in Necessary Conflicts 

It’s not enough to have a goal; you must also have the will and the ability to fight for that goal. According to Lapin, this often means confronting people who don’t approve of your ideas in order to win them over, but it can also mean confronting your employees or your colleagues when their work isn’t meeting your expectations. 

Characteristic 3: The Ability to Follow 

Counterintuitively, successful leaders must be followers as well. Lapin explains that even the person at the top of a hierarchy has something to follow—for example, a religious leader must follow the teachings of their religion, while the CEO of a company must follow that company’s mission statement. 

Characteristic 4: Faith 

Lapin notes that this means having both faith in God and faith in yourself. First, Judaism teaches that trusting in God is crucial for success in any endeavor—in Judaic stories, people who follow God’s will invariably succeed and earn great rewards, while those who oppose God are ruined or wiped out. Second, when you have faith in yourself, you’ll naturally project a confident air. That confidence will cause others to also have faith in you—therefore, they’ll follow where you lead.

Characteristic 5: The Ability to Leverage the Power of Facts 

Faith and self-confidence are necessary for leaders, but they aren’t a substitute for knowledge. According to Lapin, to make good decisions, you must have the relevant facts about the current situation. For example, if you’re the head of a new tech startup, you should have a thorough understanding of the hardware or software your company makes, entrepreneurship and effective business practices, and the current state of the technology industry (so you know your competition). That background knowledge will help you to make effective business decisions and ensure that your startup becomes profitable. 

Principle 4: Embrace Change

Lapin’s next teaching is that many people fear change because it can be difficult and painful. However, it’s also both necessary and inevitable. Therefore, you must readily embrace change, rather than fear it; you can’t stop change from happening, and in the long run, it often turns out that things have changed for the better. 

Lapin adds that this pattern holds true for businesses as well as for individuals. Many companies go out of business when faced with change. However, the companies that successfully navigate those changes often enjoy profits that more than make up for their initial losses. In other words, those companies find that things have indeed changed for the better. 

For example, when the Internet became available to the average person, it created enormous changes in the business world. Many companies that didn’t embrace those changes went bankrupt, like Toys “R” Us and Blockbuster. However, businesses that embraced those changes and used them to their advantage—such as Amazon, led by Jeff Bezos—enjoyed enormous profits. 

In this section, we’ll discuss how you can guide your business through major changes, and how you can anticipate those changes by learning to predict future trends. 

How to Navigate Big Changes

Lapin says that companies can navigate major changes by acting slowly and purposefully, rather than impulsively reacting to a changing market. Furthermore, it’s crucial for companies undergoing change to stay connected to their core values and mission statements—if they make changes that compromise their brand identities, they’re likely to lose customers instead of gaining new ones.

A business that exemplifies successfully navigating change is the Walt Disney Company. While staying rooted in its mission to entertain and inspire people through stories, and continuing to use its most popular characters (like Mickey Mouse) as the foundation for its brand, Disney has repeatedly expanded and diversified over the last century to become one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world. 

Lapin bases his assertions about change on Jewish traditions. Judaism teaches that change is easier to accept when it happens gradually, which is why rituals to honor life changes (such as marriages and deaths) take place over multiple days. 

Jewish rituals also make it easier to embrace change by encouraging you to draw support from the parts of your life that remain constant. Such rituals involve praying, celebrating, or mourning with your family and community—therefore, they help you stay connected to your loved ones and your faith as you navigate major changes in other aspects of your life.

Looking to the Future

You can arguably embrace change more easily and more effectively by following another of Lapin’s teachings: Learn how to predict the future. (This may help you to figure out exactly how things will change.)

To help with this, Lapin provides several pieces of advice on how to make the most accurate predictions possible.

Tip 1: Study current trends and ask, “How did we get here?” When trying to predict future events, it’s often helpful to see what led to the present state of affairs. In other words, before trying to guess the future, look at the recent past for major trends that are likely to continue (or to end soon). For example, the Earth’s climate is getting warmer, and that trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that people will need affordable and reliable air conditioning; that could be a business opportunity for you.

Tip 2: Keep an eye on world events. Major events can create opportunities or dangers for your business. For example, Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine caused a sharp—though relatively brief—spike in gas prices around the world. Therefore, companies that rely on transport vehicles (trucks, trains, planes, and so on) had to find ways to prepare or compensate for those increased costs. 

Principle 5: Understand the Nature of Money

Another of Lapin’s teachings is to understand that your money is a reflection of you: Everything from your possessions to your time, creativity, and energy can be measured in monetary value. For instance, when you go to work, you’re selling your time and energy in exchange for money; if you make and sell a piece of art, you’re selling your creativity and artistic skills. 

Therefore, Lapin says you should develop a healthy respect, and even love, for your money. However, don’t love your money because of what you can buy with it, but rather because it represents the value that you’ve contributed to the world. 

Furthermore, when you view wealth as a reflection of yourself—instead of just as numbers on a bank statement, or as a goal that you’re supposed to chase—you’ll make more careful decisions regarding your finances and your business. 

Why Charitable Donations Are Profitable

Lapin says that how you use your money reflects on you just as strongly as how you earn it. In other words: While the money you gain reflects the material value you’ve contributed to the world, the money you spend reflects your principles and your moral character. For example, if you pay your employees well and on time, you’ll earn a reputation for generosity and reliability. Therefore, it’s important to be generous and charitable with your money. 

Jewish tradition holds that giving money to charity benefits the giver more than the receiver. First, being generous is a mitzvah (a good deed) meaning that it will benefit you spiritually and help you feel good about yourself. 

However, counterintuitively, giving money away is also one of the best ways to increase your income. This is because it’s profitable to have a reputation for generosity; people will be more willing to work with you and to support charitable causes by supporting your business. On the other hand, people who cling to their money seem desperate and untrustworthy, so people tend to be uncomfortable doing business with them. 

Principle 6: Don’t Retire

Lapin’s final teaching is that you shouldn’t seek to retire—instead, stay active and productive for as long as possible. 

Lapin says that people commonly believe three things that lead them to think retirement is not just necessary, but also desirable. In this section, we’ll review those three beliefs and why Lapin argues they’re not true.

False Belief 1: Work Is Meaningless

Lapin says one belief many people hold is that work has no value; it’s just something they have to do to survive. People who believe this only work to make enough money to eventually retire and don’t see any reason to work a day longer than necessary. 

However, Jewish wisdom teaches otherwise: Work gives meaning to the worker’s life, and helps to improve the world for everyone. Remember that your money is a reflection of your accomplishments and your contributions; therefore, if you choose to stop earning money, it means you’ve chosen to stop contributing to society and to limit what you’ll achieve in your life. 

False Belief 2: You Won’t Be an Effective Worker Anymore

The second false belief people commonly hold is that you’ll become less productive as you age. However, unless your career relies almost entirely on your physical abilities, Lapin argues that you’ll actually get more productive as you get older. This is because you’ll have more money to invest, producing ever-increasing returns. You’ll also continue to grow your network of contacts throughout your life, which will provide more and more opportunities to generate wealth.

False Belief 3: People Are Supposed to Retire

The third false belief is that people aren’t meant to spend their whole lives working; they’re supposed to spend their last years relaxing and enjoying the life they’ve built. 

However, Lapin argues that as you get older, you might find that you don’t want to retire. Instead, you may want to be as productive as possible up until the end of your life, to make as much of an impact on the world as possible. 

Further, he notes that people commonly become more spiritual as they age. Continuing to create wealth can be a spiritual endeavor because your work benefits the whole world. 

Thou Shall Prosper by Daniel Lapin: Book Overview

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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