Almost one thousand years ago, in Moslem Spain, there lived a Jew named Rabbi Samuel the Prince. He was very wise, and rose to great power, becoming the Sultan’s treasurer. This aroused the jealousy of the other ministers, who planted rumors that Rabbi Samuel was embezzling money from the royal treasury.
The Sultan decided to put Rabbi Samuel to the test. One day, without warning, he called for Rabbi Samuel, and asked him to make a complete accounting of his personal wealth. Rabbi Samuel was taken aback, but he could not refuse the Sultan’s request. He sat at a table, asked for a quill and parchment, and began writing feverishly. After half an hour, he stopped, reviewed the list silently, and handed it to the Sultan.
The Sultan read the inventory carefully, and slammed it down angrily on the table. ‘Why, this is only a fraction of your wealth. I personally have given you far more than what you list here as your salary. This is a brazen lie! My advisors are correct – you have been dishonest with me in your monetary affairs. I shall personally confiscate everything you own. Guards, take this man away!’
‘Your Majesty’, responded Rabbi Samuel, ‘you asked me for an accounting of my wealth. As you can plainly see, my worldly possessions are not truly mine. At any time, they could be taken from me by robbers, war or natural disaster. In fact, your Majesty has just taken them from me with a single command.’
‘The only possession I truly own is that money which can never be taken from me – the money I have given to charity. You see, a Jew is commanded by the Torah to give one tenth of his income to those in need. The figure I gave you, your Majesty, was the total of all the moneys I have given to charity. That is my true wealth, for the benefit from that money remains mine forever, and can never be taken from me.’
The Sultan was impressed by this profound truth, and promoted Rabbi Samuel to even greater power in his kingdom.”
Rabbi Samuel has hit upon a fundamental aspect of human nature – we are easily confused between what is truly ours and what others grant us. The same is true of corporations. Our stock price is soaring, but that is something that is granted by investors, and could be taken away from us tomorrow by those very same investors, based on factors that are entirely out of our control. What, then, is truly ours? It’s our loyal, highly skilled employees, and the passion and innovation that they bring to their jobs. They are our true strategic assets, and they are what will keep us successful for years to come.
Source: An Introduction to Hasidic Management by Moshe Kranc