cost price

Friday, 19 January, 2024 - 4:18 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

A Jewish man was in a supermarket in Thornhill, Ontario.

He saw a seemingly non-Jewish woman trying to get her young child to put down a candy bar he had picked off the shelf.

'Latrell, you put that down! It's not kosher!'

Intrigued, the young man decided to investigate.

'Excuse me, ma'am, are you Jewish? 'No.'

'So why did you say that?'

'Why? I'll tell you why.

'Cuz I see all the Jewish mothers saying that to their kids — and it works, so I decided to try it.'

My aunt, who is a psychologist once shared with me her epiphany she had while raising her young children.

‘Why is it, I asked myself, that when I tell the kids to clean their room, they whine, procrastinate, and may not even do it. While when I tell my children that they can’t eat ice cream as they had recently eaten meat, they obey without question’?

‘It became crystal clear to me that the difference was entirely in the way I, the parent, was projecting. Cleaning the room was something I preferred, but I could live without it. A clean house is not an absolute inviolable requirement for life.

Following the instructions of G-d is something that is non-negotiable. My insistence that they do not eat milk in proximity to eating meat is a part of my relationship with G-d as it’s a commandment in the Torah.

Regarding my connection to G-d, I have no room for negotiation. The kids pick up on it.’

As it turns out, children are expert negotiators from a very young age.

They sense what things they can negotiate, and at the same time they are acutely aware that there are some things that are not negotiable.

At a very early stage in life a child learns when their parents ‘no’ is not negotiable and when ‘no’ is just an invitation to whine enough till the no turns into a yes.

Have you ever thought deeply and hard about the following question?

What do you consider sacrosanct and non-negotiable?

What are your unyielding principles?

For what values and actions will you be obstinately uncompromising.

As a Jew writing to fellow Jews, I know that your connection to Hashem is absolute. Your connection to your neshama is a fact. Your commitment to your core Jewish identity, is ironclad.

When we translate that into the actual nuts and bolts of living life how does that express itself?

It can seem quite complex.

You first need to establish your bottom line. You must define your inner convictions regarding which you have no room for flexibility.

Let me give an example from one of the popular industries in Thailand, the precious stone industry. Over the years while visiting community members who deal in stones, I have learned a little bit about how it works. 

The stone dealer will be sitting with a client showing him a stone, or he will get a call from his salesman who is out in the ‘field’ trying to sell a stone. The potential buyer hears the asking price and starts to bargain, giving a lower counteroffer.  The salesman needs to call the stone owner to see if he agrees to the reduced price being offered.

Many a time I have watched what happens next. The stone dealer will pull out his records to see how much he paid for the stone, punch in some numbers to a calculator and announce a price that he says is ‘my cost’.

What he is saying is that ‘I cannot go lower than this price as that would leave me with no profit and perhaps even incurs me a loss.’

In business, if you know your cost price and you figure in your overheads, you know that if you sell below that price you will find yourself out of business. This becomes the ‘final and lowest price’. At that stage the seller projects in words and in body language that he is prepared to walk away from the sale if he doesn’t get that price.

This week’s Parsha relates the negotiation between Pharaoh and  Moshe who has been sent by Hashem to redeem the Jews.

Pharaoh called for Moses and said, "Go, serve God—only your flocks and cattle shall remain behind to ensure your return. Even your children may go with you."

Moses replied, "Not only will our flocks and cattle go with us, you will even provide us with some of your animals for sacrifices and ascent-offerings so that we may offer them up to God, our God.

Our livestock must also go along with us, not a hoof shall remain, for some of them we must take for the service of God, our God, and we will not know with what we will serve God until—i.e, how many sacrifices He will require—we arrive there. Maybe He will require more than just our own animals."

After the tenth plague Pharaoh agreed to send the Jewish People free.

Pharaoh searched all the entrances of the city and called out for Moses and Aaron in the night. When he found them, he said, "Get up and get out from among my people, you adults and the young children of Israel, too, and go and serve God as you said!

Take both your flocks and your cattle, just as you said, and go!

Moshe could not negotiate with Pharaoh and agree that the Jews would leave their animals in Egypt, as he knew ‘his cost’ may be all the animals that the Jews possessed. It may even be that Hashem will require more than they have. There is no ‘fat in the budget’ that they can ‘trim’. It is therefore impossible for Moshe to agree to Pharaoh to have the people leave Egypt minus their animals.

In business, knowing your bottom line is critical. In simple terms, if you buy merchandise for 100 and sell it for 90 you are going to bankrupt your business.

It’s hardly ever so simple though. There are so many factors involved in figuring out the real cost of an item. There is the actual purchase price, the delivery charge, the storage cost, the wastage if it’s something with an expiry date, the rent and utilities on the office or store etc etc. To really know your cost requires careful calculation and experience.

It is quite common for people to question the selling price of an item as being too expensive. Only if you know all the myriad of details and have experience in running a similar business can you really know the true cost. There are often associated costs that you would not know about and take into account.

When it comes to our life values, we also need to clarify our ‘final price’ – the red lines from which we have no room to negotiate downwards.

It is critical you know what you cannot compromise on.

It’s not just about you. It is a multi-generational message. Remember your children and those influenced by you, will learn from your body language what your true inner values are.

Not so much from what you say. Much more impact will be had from how you live.

One may say, ‘to maintain my connection with Hashem I need to do the very basic things like fast on Yom Kippur, eat Matzah on Pesach and stay away from eating pork and seafood’.

And I must instill those rudimentary values into my children. As well as impress upon them the critical importance of marrying Jewish. So that they too keep their relationship with Hashem strong and vibrant and transmit it to their children.

In the business analogy, if one didn’t consider wastage and spoilage, and incorporate it into the cost price, the business may go bankrupt.

Similarly, when one builds a ‘bottom line’ of a ‘minimum’ requirement to stay connected to G-d and their Jewish identity, they ought to factor in all the challenges and social pressures pulling away from Jewish identity so that they don’t sell themselves short.

When it comes to transmitting Jewish traditions, observance and identity it is quite clear that one cannot expect the next generation to automatically adopt all of the values of their parents.

It is fanciful and unrealistic to think that one can practice the bare minimum of a commitment to Hashem and Torah and expect to convey a deep and inspiring message of Jewish steadfastness to their child.

We need to fortify our ‘bottom line’ and bring it up a few notches.

It is not too late. Even if the milk is spilled. It is never too late to take the next step in the right direction and begin to enhance our connection to Hashem.

The more connection points to Hashem we initiate, the more commitment we show, the stronger the message will resonate and be transmitted.

This response that Moshe gave to the ‘negotiation’ that Pharaoh tried to initiate speaks to me so poignantly and practically.

‘…we will not know how many sacrifices He will require until we arrive there. Maybe He will require more than just our own animals."

This is a powerful argument against procrastinating. When one pushes off an important thing he was intending to do today, for another day and ‘wastes’ the original time allocation, he is making a serious misjudgment. The alternate date may have already been scheduled by Hashem for a new mission. There is no ‘spare time’ that we can pull out of our hidden reserves to make up for what we didn’t do when we were meant to do it.

Along the lines of what Moshe was saying, we don’t know what Hashem has planned for us to accomplish in our lives and it’s possible that every single day/hour/minute is already figured in to Hashems expectation of our work output during our journey of life.

Since Hashem created our world, everything in it and time itself, there is no room to delude oneself into thinking that something is redundant.

Rather, one should think to themselves, that if I have been given another day of life, I have also been given a mission to achieve on that day. Hour by hour, minute by minute etc.

If I have been given certain wherewithal, abilities and resources, they are all precisely allocated to me for me to do what I have been privileged by Hashem to be tasked with.

To shirk todays, work and put it off for next week is not a possibility. Next week’s calendar is full with next week’s tasks.

It is unG-dly to leave opportunities on the table without utilizing them. If He gave an opportunity, He expects us and empowers us to actualize it.

Part of leaving Egypt is knowing your true inner self and actualizing it.

For a Jew, this means opening the Torah, the code of Jewish law, and living according to one’s true self.

It is not ‘all or nothing’ and one must take steps that are sustainable, the main thing is that one must not stagnate.

Liberation from Egypt is the theme of this week’s Parsha, and it reminds us to never yield to the inner Pharaoh who would like to keep us enslaved.

G-d liberated us from Egypt back then and He gives us the opportunity to be liberated from Egypt every single day.

It is up to us to take up his offer and ‘run with it’.

May Hashem bless us with the collective liberation that we all await, the true redemption, with the coming of Mashiach, who will bring peace to Israel and usher in an eternal era of abundant good, Amen.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


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