There is an interesting note in this parshah that reminded me of something from Donald Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, which, yes I have read from cover to cover, and yes it is actually a pretty good book.
In the parshah Yakov comes to town and sees the shepherd’s hanging around by the well. He tries to introduce himself by making small talk with the shepherd’s but he is met with cold responses.
He begins with a little small talk but is rebuffed.
Yaakov: “My brothers! Where are you from?”
Then he tries the Jewish geography route, but also doesn’t get much.
Yaakov: “Do you know Lavan Ben Nachor?”
Shepherds: “We know him.”
Yaakov: “How’s he doing?”
So Yaakov is not making friends. I suppose once he saw that the situation was cool to hostile he decided to take a different tactic.
Yaakov: “Hey, the day is still young.” Why are you guys just sitting around shmoozing? Shouldn’t you get to work?
Right out of the Dale Carnegie play book. Nothing wins friends better than telling people how to do their jobs!
But in truth, we see Yaakov’s amazing quality of truth. As a conscientious worker himself he was outraged to see a bunch of shepherds sitting around and wasting time.
Rashi says, Since he saw the flocks lying down he figured they were done grazing. He said to them, if you are hired workers, you still have a job to do. You are stealing your employers money by wasting time.
And if the flocks belong to you, then bring the sheep in. (Being a shepherd himself, I assume Yaakov knew what he was talking about, and somehow it was damaging for the sheep to leave them out.
Either way, Yaakov could not stand to see this type of laziness, and even if it would make him unpopular, he had to stand up and say something.
In The Art of the Deal Donald Trump has a chapter about the Wollman skating rink in new York City.
The same year he began building Trump Tower, a 68 story luxury sky scraper with a $200 million budget in 1980, the city of New York announced that they would begin a $2 million renovation of the skating rink and finish in 2 years. 2 years later Trump Tower was finished and the rink was nowhere near completion. 2 years after that, and millions of wasted dollars later, the city announced that they had made so many mistakes in the renovation that they were going to start the job over from scratch.
Trump offered to take over the job for no charge. The city refused. “Don’t tell us how to do our job!”
2 more disastrous years later and the skating rink job was still at the starting gate. After some public pressure the city had to agree to let Trump have a shot.
He took over the project and long story short he finished the job in 3 months. Part of the deal was that Trump would be able to choose which management company would operate the rink. Normally the city would choose a company that gave the lowest bid. Instead trump chose the company that could do the best job, even if it was more expensive.
The rink made more money in its first year of operation than it had made in the previous ten years before the renovation combined.
I am sure there are many people who will challenge Trump’s version of the story and tell me all kinds of details that are not mentioned in Trump’s book that tell an entirely different story.
But that is not the point.
The undeniable fact is that under the government management the project took way too long and cost way too much money. In The Art of the Deal Trump talks about why.
One reason is because of a law that insisted that for any large job, the government required multiple contractors to do it.
This is just like the case of Yaakov. The shepherds had to wait until all of the shepherds had arrived before removing the stone that covered the well, even though the stone could be removed by one strong man, perhaps by two or three men of average strength.
By the well in Haran and at the skating rink in New York, there was no leadership. Yaakov showed leadership the minute he showed up in Haran. He showed that he would make the other shepherds accountable for their time, and that he was willing to do any job by himself, not matter how difficult.
Yaakov’s success was not because of the colored sticks he put in the well. It may have contributed, but that is not the take away from the story.
Yaakov tells us himself what was the secret to his success. At the end of 20 years he says to his ungrateful employer lavan:
these twenty years I have been with you, your ewes and goats did not miscarry, nor did I eat the rams of your flock. That which was mangled I never brought you – I would bear the loss, from my hand you would exact it, whether it was stolen by day or stolen by night[I took responsibility]. This is how I was: by day heat consumed me, and snow by night; my sleep drifted from my eyes.
Yaakov was successful because of hard work and personal responsibility. He set an example for us to follow.
But he ends his speech with one final caveat. Hard work, intelligence, and talent alone do not guarantee success. Yaakov ends his speech to Lavan with the final ingredient upon which all success depends.
Had not the God of my father – the God of Abraham and the Dread of Yitzchak – been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty handed; God saw my oppression and the toil of my hands and last night he rendered judgement.
Yaakov attributed his success ultimately to Hashem,