CLERGY CORNER: Bill Gates & the Shabbos

Posted on 07 September 2017 by LeslieM

Kivi Bernard, a jeweler living in Atlanta, is an international motivational speaker. The author of the internationally acclaimed business book: Leopardology – The Hunt For Profit In Tough Global Economy, is a frequent popular speaker for large corporate events. He is also an observant and Chassidic Jew.

Some time ago, Microsoft, invited him to present a keynote address at their senior conference. This was a conference for senior executives from all over the world, and a major part of it focused on Bernard’s theories presented in his Leaopardology.

Kivi looked at the date and said he was sorry, but he would not be able to attend. You see the date they set for him was on the Shabbat, and the presentation would require the usage of electronic devices, power points, videos, mics, recordings, etc. all thing which he could not do on the Shabbat.

A very senior Microsoft executive decided to resolve the issue quite simply by offering Bernhard almost double his speaking fee. He explained that the meeting had been set some year and half in advance and it could not be changed at this point.

Kivi refused. He said he was sorry; he would not speak on the Shabbat.

Microsoft was convinced that it was an issue of money, so they phoned back and offered him even more money. At some point they were ready to pay him an astronomical fee, which would be a half a year salary for some of us. Tempting it was, Kivi knew that was his test. This is where his Jewishness was being tested. This is where his integrity as a G-d fearing Jew was being challenged. This is where he stood at the end of a chain of 4000 years of ancestors who celebrated Shabbat, and he would have to make his own decision now. And he did.

He explained to Mircosoft, that it did not have to do with money. He was not declining because he wanted more money; he was declining because G-d told the Jewish people to observe Shabbat, as one day which is beyond money, beyond career, beyond finances, beyond promotions. It was a day of intimacy with G-d, and with your loved ones.

They phoned him back and said that if that was the case, they would reschedule the entire conference to Sunday. He said that would work and the original price would work too.

Indeed, the Sunday conference opened with a keynote address by Kivi Bernard.

A few weeks later, he gets a call. It was the same senior Microsoft executive who tried to negotiate with him. He told Kivi that subsequent to the conference he had an occasion to join Bill Gates on his private jet where this particular event came up for discussion. The Microsoft executive mentioned the unusual experience of having to reschedule the entire conference for Microsoft in order to accommodate “a Jew’s observance of the Sabbath.”

Bill Gates remarked: I am a person who can buy anything I want. From any skyscraper to any company under the sun. There is nothing I can’t purchase for money. I can buy people. I can buy patents. I can buy talent. I can buy genius. But there are some things that money cannot buy. One of them is the Sabbath! It is not up for sale.

Kivi shared the story and said that it was Bill Gates who allowed this Chassidic Jew to grasp the value and preciousness of what he has done. Gates made him realize how meaningful his sacrifice really was. Bill Gates made him realize how rich he really was, when he owned something that money could not buy.


It is a question we ought to ask ourselves on Rosh Hashanah. Do I own something that money can’t buy or even define? What is it? Do I have something in my life that I am ready to make sacrifices for? 

Helen Keller (1880-1968), who could not hear or see, transformed an entire nation when she graduated with honors from college. She is still a source of inspiration for millions. She was once asked, “How does it feel not to have eyesight?” She responded:

It is a lot worse if you have eyesight but you lack vision…”

This Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year, we need to develop vision. A vision of a nobler, higher, deeper self, which we can only discover through sacrifice, loyalty, devotion, transcendence, humility and lots of courage. We ought not to sell ourselves for cheap; we are capable of developing a moral vocabulary, where we determine the value of a certain behavior not based on comfort or success, but based on the inner music of our soul and convictions of truth, depth, holiness, Torah, Mitzvos and our relationship with G-d.

Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetain Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please

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