God's Tycoons

Who is working for whom - Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto for the Israeli businessman Nochi Dankner, or vice versa?

Who is working for whom - Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto for the tycoon Nochi Dankner, or Dankner for Pinto? Pinto is one of two rabbis that Dankner consults frequently. The other is Yaakov Ifergan of Netivot. Like some of his other colleagues in the top one-thousandth echelon of society, Dankner his ascribes supernatural powers to these two religious figures. Dankner credits his meteoric success, in part, to the the spiritual assistance he gets from them. In order to enjoy this aid, Dankner often visits the courts of these two rabbis, who have become exceptionally rich themselves; he dines with them and sits alongside them at the public celebrations and ceremonies they hold.

Dankner consults with Pinto, for example, on every subject including, and in particular, business affairs. In return, he transfers considerable sums - also through his public companies - to the complex network of religious institutions under Pinto's control.

Dankner has accumulated astronomical debts that are concretely endangering the capital of the investors who helped him build his empire. He uses the money of those investors, without their permission, to fund the institutions of the man whose advice is in part responsible for endangering their savings and investments. Pinto therefore works for Dankner and is paid for his work through money that others invested with Dankner.

But if until now it would have been possible to think that Pinto's involvement in Dankner's life was that of a guru or spiritual leader alone, and that he gives business advice only by virtue of this status and without pretensions of really understanding economic affairs, the events of the past few days prove that Pinto is in fact a businessman for all intents and purposes. Once upon a time, they would say in religious circles that the best deals were clinched in the synagogue. But what is fitting for any small wheeler dealer and for the bourgeoisie is not suitable for the upper crust. They need an exclusive meeting place like that of the grave in Bulgaria of the sage, Rabbi Eliezer Papo (known as "Pele Yoetz" - which literally means "miracle consultant" - after the title of a book of ethics he wrote ), and an intermediary like Pinto who has personally become, in their eyes, a miracle consultant.

During a meeting at the hotel that hosted all the businessmen - who arrived in an airlift from every corner of the globe to pay homage to the sage with Pinto - the rabbi succeeded in persuading the Argentinean businessman Eduardo Elstein to buy 10 percent of Dankner's privately held company, Ganden Investments, for $25 million.

Did Pinto initiate the deal out of a feeling of regret and responsibility - in the spirit of the period of "slichot" (penitential prayers ) and the days of awe - for the severe downturn in Dankner's businesses? Apparently that is not the only reason because Pinto, who was present a few days ago in Buenos Aires during the signing of the deal, provided other patently non-spiritual motives: "There is a promise from the Almighty that the money of those who invest in Israel will be doubled and tripled," he declared. Thus Pinto is proposing a pyramid deal for those who invest in Israel - one that is much more enticing even than the deals made by the convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff because Pinto also promises zero risks. If there is a promise from God, there is absolutely no risk because even God cannot create someone who will get Him to break His word.

Rabbi Pinto's God is the supreme banker and Pinto is His representative on earth. Pinto is the intermediary between the banker of above and the businessmen below. Therefore it is not Pinto who is working for Dankner but rather Dankner - like Elstein and like other businessmen and officials, most of them secular, who beg favors from Pinto - who work with, and for, Pinto. They plan their investments according to his instructions. And God? He apparently sits in the supreme bank and laughs at everyone from above.