Growing up in a Chabad community, I’ve been attending Farbrengens since I was a child. For my non-Chassidic readers: a Farbrengen (from the Yiddish meaning “joyous gathering”) is a gathering focused on Hasidic stories and melodies, with food and refreshments being served. Throughout my life, I have attended “Farbys” to catch-up with friends, drink and have a good time. As someone who struggles with sitting still and listening even when it’s mandatory, I have not always gotten the most out of these events. Last month’s Farbrengen, for the Chassidic holiday of Yud-Tes Kislev, was an exception.
The speaker was the Chabad Rabbi of Istanbul, Turkey. With the current geo-political situation between Russia and Turkey and the connection to the Chassidic holiday of Yud-Tes Kislev*, I put down my phone and tuned in to the Rabbi’s talk, looking for inspiration in life or business. After discussing the history we were there to celebrate, the Rabbi told a story that gave me the inspiration I was looking for. Here is the story:
There was once a Rebbe who had a Chosid (disciple) ask him for a blessing for livelihood. A short-while later, after this disciple began showing signs of financial success, a neighbor approached the Rebbe to ask him for a blessing for wealth. The Rebbe replied that he didn’t give blessings for physical things; he only gave blessings for spiritual things. To which the neighbor replied, you just gave my neighbor a blessing for wealth and he is doing so well.
Oh, said the Rebbe. Let me tell you a story.
There was a town that held a merchant’s fair each year. Merchants from all over the world traveled to attend. One of those merchants specialized in stones purchased from a local seller in the town. One year a big storm made the roads so difficult to travel that you needed axel grease in order to prevent your horse and buggy from breaking down. With the thousands of people looking to leave town, grease was hard to come by, but the jewelry merchant went to his supplier and asked to buy some grease. Because the two had a relationship, the seller sold the jewelry merchant the grease and off he went. A short while later, another merchant who had heard about the sale showed up and asked to purchase some grease, to which the seller replied, I don’t sell grease, I sell diamonds.
You see said the Rabbi, I don’t give physical blessings, I give spiritual ones. Your neighbor has been a disciple of mine for many years. Every morning he comes in and learns with me. Every night we discuss the bible. He asks for spiritual blessings several times a year. Now this one time he needed a physical blessing so I gave it to him. You are like the merchant asking to buy grease from a diamond dealer.
As the story ended I had my life and business lesson right in front of me. Don’t reach out to people only when you need something. A large part of being a successful entrepreneur is building a great network. But building and especially maintaining a network is hard work. People are mostly well intentioned and willing to help you, but they want to feel appreciated, and most importantly they don’t want to feel like they are being used. Make sure you’re not reaching out to your network only when you need something—that’s the lesson I took from the Farbrengen.