Putting the words “Jewish” and “business” in the same article is bound to get some comments. Of course, we as a people have a reputation for being very savvy in the career world. But sometimes life is not that simple, and we are forced to face a dreadful loss: the closing of a business.
I know a little something about this. I have worked for two businesses which eventually closed. The first one, a small coffee shop, and the second, a furniture store. In both situations, the loss was not just financial, but the loss of a dream, the loss of a sense of identity, the loss of the owner’s purpose.
Business owners are not the only ones effected by a company closing. Of course, workers lose their job: but also, the people who sold products to that company, the people who provided services like cleaning or temporary help. When someone falls, we all fall to a certain degree.
A member of our community recently lost her business, and while I was on the phone with her, I realized that Judaism does not offer her any solace in her time of need. There is no ritual to signify this transition from one place to another. If this were a new business about to open, I could have told her about Jewish business ethics, about proper weights and measures, paying her workers on time, and other Jewish values. But what do I say to someone who is stuck paying the rent on a business that no longer exists? How do I help a person grieve the loss of their creative potential?
This may seem over the top to some people, but the loss of a business can feel like the loss of a child. Just as we nurture our children and watch them grow, putting so much of ourselves into their development, so too do we put ourselves into our enterprises. And so I would suggest that we develop a way to Jewishly mourn the death of our ventures.
I could see several prayers working:
Min hameitzar karati Yah, anani vamerchav Yah (Out of the depths I call to You, God; You hear me fully when I call)
Ozi v’zimrat Yah, vayehi li lishuah (God, You are my strength and courage; God, be my deliverance)
Uvachartah bachayyim v’shalom (May you continue to choose life and peace)
What other suggestions do you have? What would make the loss of a business ritual meaningful for you? How would you construct a ritual like that?