Parshas Shelach – Bill Gates’ Secret

By: Rabbi Mendy Wolf


Have you ever wondered what the teenage Bill Gates was thinking when he started Microsoft?

Have you ever wondered what Thomas Edison thought when trying for the thousandth time to create the light bulb?

They had a secret, as do all successful people, be they business moguls or influential politicians. It is one little thing, and it makes all the difference. It is the key to achievement, advancement and growth, and it brings them wealth, fame and fulfillment.

The secret is simple: Change “Can I?” to “How Can I?”

This reminds me of the spies that Moses sent in the desert. In this week’s Torah portion, we read about how they were instructed to travel north to the Land of Israel. They were to scout the land, gather information and assess the military strength of the inhabitants. Their report would help the Jewish people plan their strategy before attempting to conquer the land they had been promised.

But they failed. They returned with a frightening description of the land. “It’s a lost cause,” they declared, “the people are too strong for us.” The Jews listened, and they despaired of conquering the land.

The tragic mistake of the spies was that they forgot the secret. Moses had not asked them whether or not it was possible to conquer the Land of Israel; he had simply asked them to gather information. They were supposed to help decide how: How could they conquer the land most easily? How should the Jews prepare for battle?
If we would only remember that little secret every time we faced a challenge, Bill Gates would have major competition. It’s about the big obstacles and small annoyances. It’s about personal growth and professional advancement. And it’s about doing that extra mitzvah. There is always only one question: “How can I?”


Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization which promotes Jewish values throughout the business community in NYC. R’ Mendy is a sought after teacher and lecturer and resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and family. Contact Rabbi Mendy to book him to speak or with feedback at

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