I spent some part of this past Shabbat reading Maimonides. I came across mention of a letter written by his student and disciple, Rabbi Joseph ibn Aknin. In the letter, ibn Aknin attacks his Rabbi for convincing him to marry his [Maimonides’s] daughter Kima, who has since left him and been unfaithful to him. Maimonides writes back a missive, saying that the marital problems between the two were ibn Aknin’s fault and that he should invest more time in the relationship. If you make the effort, Kima will surely return, Maimonides counsels.
There’s one problem with all this Thirteenth Century "Dear Abby" correspondence. Maimonides never had a daughter named Kima. The two of them were discussing the presence of God in one’s life, and using the daughter-in-law analogy. In fact, if you look at the odd name of Kima, you’ll find the Hebrew root verb of K-Y-M, which means “to sustain.” Maimonides and ibn Aknin wer earguing over how best to let God into one’s life, but once He’s there, there was no argument over His effect on us: He sustains us.
All of this came home (literally) as my family was walkingout of Wal-Mart later that night. “Cool, look at that!,” my daughter shouted. There, practically shivering in the freezing Colorado rain, was a salamander, its tail in shreds from an unfortunate encounter with someone’s shopping cart. As daughters will do, mine convinced me to bring the salamander home and nurse it back to health. I wasn’t hopeful. The amphibian was barely moving and its tail looked like it had just stepped on a land mine.
The next morning, however, it was doing fine. Its wound was starting to heal and it was clearly recovering. I would later read that salamanders can lose parts of their spinal column and not only survive, but regenerate the entire missing part. Our little buddy was going to make it. That meant that it was time to name it. I didn’t hesitate. Kima is now happy sitting in its cage (I call it “it” because I have no idea how to determine the gender of a salamander; let me rephrase that: I have no desire to learn how to determine the gender of a salamander), eating bugs and swimming around in circles.
This is not the first time that I’ve consciously thought about bringing “K-Y-M” into my life. I’m in the process of launching a start-up in the renewable energy field. Every time I make progress in my goals for the business, I try to remember to say the “Shehechayanu” prayer, which thanks God for allowing us to arrive at a place towards which we have been striving, for sustaining us enough to be able to reach that place, and for instilling the fire of life in us that started the journey.
Now some people might consider saying a brucha over a business deal borders on the sacrilegious. I disagree strongly. I try to let God into every part of my life, not just while I’m davening. For heavens sake, He certainly does his best to nudge his way in everywhere else, from telling me what foods to eat to determining how I wash my hands to forbidding me from wearing leather shoes last Thursday. So why not bring Kima into my business life? That’s the place where I spend most of my waking moments, and it’s also the place where, aside from parenting, I hope to have the most lasting impact. It’s a place where Kima should be happy, eating bugs and swimming around in circles.
Sam Jaffe, co-author of Jewish Wisdom for Buisness Success, is guest-blogging on Jewcy, and he’ll be here all week. Stay tuned.
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