Word of Wisdom: Tsalach

 In business, Word of Wisdom

by Jared Vineyard

צָלַח tsalach {tsaw-lakh’}


צָלֵחַ tsaleach {tsaw-lay’-akh}

Word of Wisdom

Live long and prosper. Thanks, Spock. You know just what we want.

We all go into business with hopes to prosper. So I couldn’t think of a more appropriate word of wisdom than the one for today.

It is the Hebrew word translated as prosper in the Genesis story of Joseph.

The story of Joseph is one that has been treasured by millions of people over the course of thousands of years.

Perhaps the story is so treasured because Joseph is so relatable. Joseph is a man with a dream. We all have dreams. He’s part of a family, as are we all. He doesn’t always get along with his siblings. What siblings do? They sell him into slavery. Uh… He becomes the second most powerful man in the most powerful country in the world.

Okay, maybe his story isn’t all that relatable.

The prosperity Joseph reaches is to a level we only dream of. But in the word translated as prosper in the story of Joseph is a lesson for bringing prosperity to our lives.

The word is:

tsalach {tsaw-lakh’} or tsaleach {tsaw-lay’-akh}; a primitive root; to push forward, in various senses (literal or figurative, transitive or intransitive):–break out, come (mightily), go over, be good, be meet, be profitable, (cause to, effect, make to, send) prosper(-ity, -ous, – ously).

I know, reading definitions can feel like a jumble of words by the end, especially definitions of words as versatile as tsalach. At least I’m not talking grammar.

Sometimes, we skip over the part of the definition that describes the senses a word can be used in. While I think it is significant that the prospering tsalach describes can be literal or figurative, what interests me here is that the word can be transitive or intransitive.

What did I say about grammar?

Using a word (specifically a verb) in the transitive sense, the subject of the sentence acts directly upon the object of the sentence.

When you read the story of Joseph, tsalach is certainly used in a transitive way. God prospers Joseph. In the previous sentence, God is the subject and Joseph is the object. Prospers (tsalach being its primitive root) is the transitive verb of the sentence.

But in the very story itself, the intransitive sense of the word seems to be illustrated.

When a verb is used in the intransitive sense, it does not act upon a certain object. The verb is simply what the subject does.

Joseph prospers.

What stands out to me in the tsalach definition of prosper is the phrase “to push forward”. You’ll see it near the beginning of that definition above.

Joseph always pushes forward. Even when things go wrong. Even when things go terribly, unfairly, ridiculously wrong.

When you read the story of Joseph, it seems like every time things are going well for him (he’s prospering figuratively or literally), horrible circumstances beyond his control take him to the depths of poverty, slavery, imprisonment. This doesn’t seem like prospering. This can’t be tsalach.

But Joseph does tsalach (yeah, you can ignore the grammar in this sentence). Joseph pushes forward.

Joseph doesn’t give in and give up to the situations in which he falls. After his brothers sell him into slavery, Joseph pushes forward. He works hard and prospers. Joseph’s master sees his good work and puts him in charge of the household. When Joseph is falsely accused and thrown into prison, he pushes forward and prospers. Soon Joseph is put in charge of operations at the prison.

Joseph doesn’t sit around blaming God, blaming his brothers, blaming his boss–I’m using a term more relatable to us than master, but maybe you’ve felt like a slave at a job. Joseph pushes forward. I’m sure as a human, he did get angry at all of the above and he probably did blame them at times for his woes, but… you get the point.

In the end, Joseph realized his dream because he pushed forward, no matter what the circumstances. He prospered. We can, too.

Ignoring the God aspects of the story, there is still wisdom the atheist or irreligious person could pull from from the scriptures of the Torah or Bible. There is wisdom to be pulled from the word tsalach.

Push forward. No matter the circumstance. No matter how business looks, whether international or domestic. No matter how people and life treat you. Push forward. And prosper. Until you realize your dreams. And then continue pushing forward.

Live long and tsalach.

Showing 3 comments
  • Thembelani Faniso

    Wow! Thank you sir!

  • Gio

    This is a very interesting piece you’ve written here. Especially after having a dream about this very word, and I don’t speak a word of Hebrew!

  • Linda gwin

    This has truly blessed me. I have a whole new meaning of the the word prosper. Thank you!

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