Yom Kippur isn’t considered a time of business, but in reality, there are many tefillos we recite that are about our parnasah and well-being. Not only do I daven for future success, but I also contemplate both my achievements and failures in business so I can start the new year with a clean slate.
As a quick disclaimer, I am not a rabbi, and as such, I won’t instruct you on how you should handle teshuvah or anything related on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is about teshuvah and kapparah, but I want to focus on the business side of this holy time of reflection. I am speaking about my personal experiences, spending every single Yom Kippur davening with my father, Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, z”l—the founder of ArtScroll—during his life, but I encourage you to seek out your own rav for guidance.
On this day, I reflect on the many Yomim Nora’im days I spent with my father. I was fortunate enough that even after I was married with children, my family went back to spend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with my parents every year. I sat opposite my father on Yom Kippur until his last one five years ago. He didn’t just encourage our family to daven during this important time—he internalized those tefillos and let them shape his inner world, which he imparted to us. Year after year, he reminded me that the tefillos we recite are life-giving words and essential truths for our eternity. He taught me the full appreciation for tefillah and the role it plays for every brachah for business and personal success.
One of the biggest lessons he taught me was to enter this holy season with the right mindset and kavanos. Since Yom Kippur is the holiest of all days, people are often scared to daven for mundane things in their lives—including business matters. My father said that mindset was wrong; it is about a relationship between you and Hashem, and when you honor Hashem, what is important to you is important to Him.
He used to give me this illustration: Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, and the Beis Hamikdash is located in the holiest of all places. Within the holiest place is the Kodesh Hakadashim, the Holy of Holies, which because of its holiness was only entered one day per year by the kohen gadol—the holiest person.
Yet, if you read the kohen gadol’s tefillah, he davens for the livelihood of all of klal Yisrael, and he not only asks for the rain that they need, but he also goes down to the minute details by saying not to listen to the tourists who don’t want rain. As my father spent time davening during Yom Kippur, he said a tefillah for the things that were important to him, both big and small. He modeled that tefillah isn’t merely a fearful act; rather, it’s about a relationship with Hashem.
My father stressed how much tefillah can change things, and I’ve witnessed its power many times. Every Yom Kippur, I set my kavanos on honoring Hashem in both my business and my personal life. I know putting in the work in business and davening is in my control, and then I put my business into the hands of Hashem and trust His decisions from there. “Ki hinei kachomer b’yad hayotzer” (Maariv for Yom Kippur).
Throughout the ArtScroll Machzor, there are gray boxes with special tefillos for people’s successes. The most important one for my father was the one that he said during Ayei of Kedushah, where one can daven for great children, ruach hakodesh, and wealth. In order to allow for proper kavanah, he used to ask the chazan to stretch out Ayei.
As you may know from other times of the year, Birkas Kohanim was incredibly important to my father. He taught me the full appreciation for Birkas Kohanim and how it includes every brachah for life. This powerful tefillah speaks about protection over our lives, that we will be given everything we need, we won’t lose good things, our ideas will be fruitful, and that all of these things will be have the addition of shalom, because without shalom, there is no brachah.
The other great reminder my father gave me was that although purchasing an aliyah on the Yomim Nora’im is a great zechus, every person who chips in to the purchase gets the same reward. This is one of the few times that becoming a partial partner is like becoming a full partner!
Just as my father did, I also use this time to reflect on what it means to be in a position of leadership. On this day 49 years ago, many lives were lost and leadership decisions resulted in life-and-death consequences. While I don’t make life-or-death decisions in my line of work, the Yom Kippur War is a reminder that we all make decisions that affect those around us, especially when we operate in roles of leadership.
As a leader, I know that my actions carry powerful consequences. That’s why I daven about the past year and aim towards improving in the new year. I ask myself whether or not I gave enough respect to my employees, clients, and even those I dealt with in passing—the people I interviewed whom I didn’t end up hiring, those I exchanged fleeting pleasantries with at meetings, and so on.
It’s easy to take our words and actions in these exchanges for granted, but my father taught me that they have the power to impact lives, for better or worse.
Taking time to daven to Hashem and reflect during Yom Kippur—not only regarding life in general but about parnasah, whether big or small matters—always ensures that I start the new year with my best foot forward. I encourage you to do the same this year, and I pray that Hashem will guide you through everything that comes your way in 5783. ●
Ira Zlotowitz is the founder of GPARENCY, a premier commercial mortgage broker built around a revolutionary membership model. Drawing from decades of experience building businesses to $5B+ in volume, Ira loves giving back by sharing his favorite secrets for success. He has garnered a large, organic online following as a LinkedIn influencer and has formed the Klal Govoha platform to leverage technology on behalf of the klal. Previously, he served in various founding and executive capacities at Eastern Union, Meridian and Masmid Govoha.