From Wall Street to Jerusalem with the Power of Letting Go

Shmuel Halpern
3 min readFeb 19, 2021


Journalist, wall street analyst and rabbi, do not seem like very related fields. However, one man begs to differ. Rabbi Avraham (Tod) Jacobs, co-founder and director of Yeshivas Machon Yaakov in Jerusalem, has had a varied and successful career.

As a journalist, he won an Emmy Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He then took the unlikely step of entering wall street — a world he knew nothing about.

In 2003, after having achieved renown as a telecom expert, Rabbi Jacobs left wall street to co-found Machon Yaakov.

Joseph Liu who recently interviewed Rabbi Jacobs, asked him, “what do you wish you’d have known earlier along your journey?” Here’s a part of his answer.

The extent to which you can’t force these changes and opportunities to occur. If a person understood that earlier on, they would be saved a lot of stress and anxiety. We don’t control the world — although we like to think we do. The earlier one understands that, the more flexible and malleable they can be; allowing them to be a more relaxed and healthier person. Which in turn will make them a better employee, and a better person in general.

Lot’s of people achieve success in a particular field, but few can replicate that same level of success in all areas of their lives; especially when the setting changes drastically.

The secret of resiliency is the ability to let go and know that our successes aren’t solely ours.

Sure, there are choices that we make, and effort that we invest; but who led us to the point where we had the opportunity to make those choices?!

Sfas Emes’s comments on the parshah highlight this very point.

“And make for me a sanctuary (mikdash) so that I may dwell (v’shochanti) amongst you.” This verse seems to contain an inherent contradiction.

The word mikdash (for sanctuary) means exalted, removed and transcendent. This refers to Hashem’s Holiness, and how distant we are from accessing His greatness. On the other hand, v’shochanti (to dwell) talks of hosting Hashem’s presence in our very midst, and how close He is to us. Both of these ideas are crucial, but how do they come together in the building of the mishkan?

Sfas Emes explains that these two ideas are perfectly compatible, in fact, one is impossible without the other. Only by stepping back and appreciating Hashem’s unfathomable greatness, do we begin to see and feel His presence.

He writes that every single aspect of existence has a mikdash, a point of unfathomable holiness.

Everything we do has an aspect that is truly beyond us. We can’t touch it or explain it, but if we are humble and open, we can feel it. We might sense it in the unusual opportunity that presents itself, or in how things finally seem to open up only after we’ve truly let go.

When we stubbornly hold onto the notion that we are in charge, the subtle spark of holiness is concealed. However, when we joyously submit to Hashem’s guidance, the spark explodes into a brilliant light. This allows us to feel Hashem’s presence everywhere we go and in everything we do.