This true story is old, but when I recently heard it again, I felt it warranted repeating. Kivi Bernhard is a famous author and speaker who has spoken for many Fortune 500 companies, including Amex, Bank of America, Coke and ING, to name a few. One time, Bernhard was invited to be the keynote speaker at a major Microsoft event.

At that time, it was a huge opportunity for Bernhard as hundreds of executives worldwide were set to participate in this event, including Microsoft Founder Bill Gates. After confirming his participation, Bernhard realized that the event was on a Saturday, and he immediately called his contact to notify them that he would be unable to participate.

A few days later, he got a call from the senior vice president of Microsoft offering him an exorbitant sum of money to reconsider. He was offered double his fee, then triple his fee. When that didn’t work, the executive said he would send Bernhard a blank check so he could determine the appropriate compensation for this accommodation. After Bernhard refused that offer, the phone was slammed down, terminating the call.

With no alternatives, Microsoft, determined to have Bernhard speak at their event, was forced to change the date to Sunday. A few months later, Bernhard received a call from the same Microsoft executive who furiously hung up on him. He shared that he had just been with Bill Gates on his private jet with many top executives.

A conversation came up about the conference. Gates was inquiring why the entire event had to be postponed. The executive explained that the keynote speaker was a Sabbath observer and refused to participate on their initial date because it was a Saturday. The executive explained, “We tried everything in our power to make it work … We threw money at him, but he wouldn’t budge!”

When Gates heard this, he replied, “That’s what happens when you have something money can’t buy.” Wow. I remember being extremely inspired when I heard this story years ago. As we approach Shabbos Rosh Hashanah, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what truly matters in our lives.

In a world where the pursuit of financial success can sometimes overshadow our spiritual and moral values, we are reminded that there are aspects of life that are truly priceless. It encourages us to remain steadfast in our principles, even when faced with tempting offers or societal pressures. It’s easy to get distracted by “making a living” and fail to recognize our priorities and purpose in life.

While the challenges of making a living and the rising costs of living are real, remembering our actual objectives can help us find balance and meaning. Living a life aligned with our values might not always be the easiest path, but it’s often the most fulfilling.

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous year where all of your tefillos are answered l’tova. May we all find the strength to hold onto our core values, even in the face of life’s challenges, and recognize the priceless aspects of our existence.

Shmuel Shayowitz (NMLS#19871) is President and Chief Lending Officer at Approved Funding, a privately held local mortgage banker and direct lender. Approved Funding is a mortgage company offering competitive interest rates as well as specialty niche programs on all types of Residential and Commercial properties. Shmuel has over 20 years of industry experience, including licenses and certifications as a certified mortgage underwriter, residential review appraiser, licensed real estate agent, and direct FHA specialized underwriter. He can be reached via email at Shmuel@approvedfunding.com.

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