Apple vs. Samsung: Learning to Love the Black Sheep of the Family

By Yonatan Gordon

Does the world’s biggest company need the assistance of lawyers? Can you innovate new products while defending the patents of old ones in the courtroom? These are the questions people are asking Apple and the questions we all need to start asking ourselves.


Our discussion begins with a name. The “apple” name was chosen because it sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” But the connotation of a bitten apple seems reminiscent of something far more. When we think of a bitten apple, our take on “Think Different” sends us back to the Garden of Eden. While according to Jewish tradition, the Tree of Knowledge was likely not an apple, still the world of technology relates very closely back to the episode of Adam, Eve and the snake. It was because of this taste that Adam was sentenced to plow the land [1], and it was through Noah’s invention of the plow that some of the “curse” of Adam began to be rectified. Technology, when properly harnessed,  has the potential to cure physical ailments and maladies as we set our sights on exploring the knowledge of God.

When we speak of a companies name, we are speaking of its reputation to the public. More specifically, achieving stature among the public  is like coronating company’s name. When a company seeks to foster a good reputation, they are also seeking what we call the “crown of a good name.” To be heralded as a leader in their industry.


There are two essential terms in Chassidut: Substance (עצם) and Revelation (הארה). The הארה is external relative to the עצם, the substance. To extrapolate to our discussion then, we can say that Apple is attempting to show themselves to be substantial. If a name is known to the public, then the question we then ask is what is known? The inner substance or external revelation of the name?

The task of “showing” the substance of something is elusive. This is because the act of revealing the “crown of a good name” relates to seeing the Anochi (אנכי)–the substance of the Al-mighty– in that thing we are observing. It is a paradoxical idea, because this sort of revelation comes about through closing one’s eyes. We see substance by means of first closing our eyes, then opening them once more to see that which normally can’t be seen at all.

There are three types of people, those who have an essential (עצםי), inner (פנימי) and external (חיצוני) character to them. Someone who is external says everything simply to impress people. He doesn’t mean what he says. Then the person who is inner is speaking from his heart, the inner point of his heart is still external and a revelation (הארה) relative to the substance (עצם). In reality, revelation and substance are complete opposites.

How would we phrase this for our discussion? Even an external person could be known in the streets. But to be seen as being of substantial character, you need to be the king of your industry. While ultimately the quality to reveal the substance will be revealed in full by Mashiach, we can emulate this path even in today’s world of business.


In recent years we heard about the importance of transparency in business. That management should run their businesses ethically, and that their inner decision making should match the words they convey to the public. This desire stems from a motivation that the world of business should match our personal drive to be inward. That the sentiments of management should match what they really feel in their hearts. But in the world of business today, it’s not enough to just run a transparent business. People now expect that businesses should be something substantial. To do this, they need to be leaders and pioneers of their industry. But more than simply leading the charge of progress and innovation, the public expects some vast qualitative change as well. This perhaps then is the main point of discontent behind these patent infringement filings. People today expect industry leaders to really “Think Different.”

“See that I place before you today” [רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם)  [2) meaning that one should see the Anochi, the exalted I of the Al-mighty, and we should see it today. This is one way to interpret the message behind Apple’s line of “I” products. That the “I” that we experience–in iPads, iPhone, iMac, and so forth–should be the divine “I” of true substance. This also relates to Adam’s desire to see the world like God does, “For God knows that on the day that you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like angels, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5). If he had waited a few more hours, until the onset of the first Sabbath, even the Tree of Knowledge would have been permitted to him. Our desire then is not only that we should perceive, but that our “taste” or “bite” of knowledge should now be permissible.


We know that there are two Mashiachs in the Jewish people. One of the differences is that Joseph is a child who grew up spoiled in his parent’s home. He is spoiled because of how his parents treated him. On the other hand, there is David. How did David grow up? Among his brothers he was the black sheep of the family. He was ostracized. The complete opposite of Joseph the Tzadik, the one who was chosen by his parents. David was an outcast. But it says, “until David attains greatness” (עד דוד הגד’ל), the rectification (תיקון) of Mashiach is that the substantial love Jacob gave to Joseph should be even surpassed by the love of Jesse (Yishai) for his son David. He needs to learn how to love even the black sheep of the family, the same way that he treats the best of his children. And this black sheep with be Mashiach. This is the reason that two Mashiachs are needed.


What does the public want to see? They’d prefer if everyone got along, including the black sheep of the family. While an industry leader may be tempted to see that they are the rightful heir to the throne, there is room for both those who have impressive lineage and the adopted son. The common sentiment is that competition is good for the free market. Given our discussion, we would say this is true because it allows companies to love those whom they otherwise would estrange. The Ba’al Shem Tov adopted children, orphans, out of his love for them. He said this is how God loves every Jew, like an old man who has a single child that is born in his old age. That is how God loves each of us, and this love is a substantial love towards all the children. The further the son is, the stronger the love. It is the son who is the furthest from the father who will become Mashiach and will bring us the complete and true redemption.

Who is the black sheep of the smartphone family? Apple of Samsung? One the one hand Apple is the industry leader, but perhaps Samsung’s product is better even without the reputation?

As far as the public is concerned, the main interest is in innovation. More essential than declaring the winner, is the betterment of the family of smart phones. The short answer is that there is no clear winner in issues such as these. If companies are in court then they are not innovating.

Perhaps this also answers our other question of which company is more substantial than the other. The act of entering into litigation itself leaves room for more competition. Whether Samsung copied elements of Apple’s phones is really a secondary question. The primary concern is whether Apple is still the industry leader after these battles.

As with Noah’s invention of the plow, the best thing a company could do is make reality easier to work with. When technology helps us properly interact with the physical world, then this eases our ability to foster our spiritual development.

[1] By the sweat of your brow, you will eat bread (Genesis 3:19)

[2] Deuteronomy 11:26

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