What's Your Loss Leader

Friday, 26 November, 2021 - 5:57 am

I have always thought it somewhat amusing that Thanksgiving – a day of reflection and gratitude for the important things in life – is immediately followed by the shopping frenzy of Black Friday.  Isn’t it ironic that we Americans go from our humble feelings of thanksgiving to an all-out campaign of ‘give me more’?  True, many are searching for gifts to give others, but the atmosphere smacks of greed and encourages jealousy. 

Many in America are heading to shopping malls or online merchants in the wee hours of the morning to cash in on Black Friday sales.  In fact, we are witness to fierce price wars between major businesses – each trying to undercut the other’s prices.  Popular retailers engage in hand-to-hand combat this season, slashing prices to attract customers.

Many stores and websites are offering numerous products below cost, just to get you through their doors and portals.  Commonly known as loss leaders, these products usually generate great profits by drawing consumers’ wallets and purses into the shop.

Ultimately, the industry is betting that a little red will lead to a lot of black.


In this week’s parsha, Vayeshev, Yaakov (Jacob) gives his favorite son Yosef (Joseph) a special coat, causing envy from his brothers. In time, they sell him as a slave and he ends up in Egypt.  He suffers further when he is thrown into prison after a false accusation by his master’s wife. Finally, (in next week’s parsha) he interprets Pharaoh’s dream and is appointed viceroy of Egypt.

As we look at this sequence of events we find something ironic.  Jacob intended to show his love and affection for Joseph by bestowing an extraordinary gift, yet that caused Joseph to be hated and despised.

Joseph is sold into slavery and eventually thrown into prison, with the expectation that he will languish endlessly – and it leads to his installment as viceroy and ultimate reunion with his father.


This episode is replete with lessons on Divine Providence, but in reading it this week I was touched by another aspect. And that is what I might call the “loss leader.”

Joseph’s unique tunic was instrumental in getting him in trouble. But that trouble ultimately brought great reward to him and his family.

Slavery and prison time for Joseph must have been tough, but in due course they led to greatness.

In a sense, these events were loss leaders. They seemed detrimental, wasteful and harmful, but resulted in clear, vigorous advances.  It takes a great personality, with deep foresight, to appreciate the endeavor.  It takes a Joseph to persevere.


Indeed, we are all grateful on Thanksgiving.  Perhaps, the message of Black Friday is that we need to demonstrate that thankfulness by investing in a loss leader.  For some of us that means devoting time to a friend in need who cannot repay the kindness.  For others it may be committing to keeping kosher even though it costs more. Yet others will find challenge in observing a mitzvah they fail to truly understand.

So, what’s your spiritual loss leader?

Seize it now. It will pay dividends later.

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