“It’s Only Business,” What’s Kosher About Business Ethics?

“Its Only Business,” What’s Kosher About Business Ethics?

from rabbincalassembly.org by Mark Greenspan


“It’s not personal it’s only business. You should know, Godfather.” Those were the words of Licio Lucchesi,
one of the characters in the classic film The Godfather. After looting the Vatican-owned Immobiliare
Corporation of several billion dollars with the help of a high ranking Catholic official, Lucchesi turned to
Godfather Michael Corleone for help covering his tracks. While few of us will ever be quite so cunning or
deceitful it’s not uncommon for people to say, “Its only business” when cutting corners in business. The end
justifies the means. We presume that in the real world of business the standards of ethics are different than
they are elsewhere. After all don’t we say caveat emptor, “Let the buyer beware?” In the world of business and
corporate dealings only the shrewd and the most cunning survive. We admire those people who manage to
get ahead until their actions have an adverse effect on our lives.


The Jewish Ethicist – Discounts

The Jewish Ethicist – Discounts

from aish.com by: Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem

Q. I have a standard price list, but I’m pretty liberal about giving discounts when I need to make a sale. Is this a problem?

A. Adam Smith noted that economic progress is dependent “a certain propensity in human nature,” namely “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another”. After all, Smith notes; “Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog.”

However, people nowadays seem to prefer facing predictable prices over having to haggle over every exchange, and so most sellers today have standard prices which apply equally to all customers.


Jewish Business Ethics: Jewish Law and Copyright

Jewish Business Ethics: Jewish Law and Copyright

from jewishvirtuallibrary.org by Rabbi Israel Schneider

In our highly advanced technological age, the duplication of original works of authorship has become almost effortless. While at one time, manuscripts or books had to be copied laboriously by hand, it is now possible within several minutes to produce high quality reproductions of entire works. Similarly, audio tapes, videos, and computer programs can all be reproduced quickly, effectively, and cheaply. The purpose of this essay is to explore the halachic implications of making or using unauthorized duplications and to inquire if there are precedents which could serve as grounds for the protection of an author’s or creator’s proprietary rights.


The Jewish Ethicist: Complaints

The Jewish Ethicist: Complaints

from aish.com by: Rabbi Dr. Asher Meier, Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem

Q. I have a worker who is always complaining. Maybe if he is so unhappy I should just let him go.

A. It is true that an unhappy worker can be bad for both the worker and the workplace. In one place the Talmud likens the matchmaking process to the splitting of the sea at the Exodus (1); in another place it likens making a living to the splitting of the sea. (2) Perhaps this is a hint that finding the suitable workplace is a little bit like finding a suitable spouse. If the worker is unhappy, maybe that means that his “workplace made in heaven” is really someplace else.


Jewish Medical Ethics: The Role of a Physician in Jewish Law

Jewish Medical Ethics: The Role of a Physician in Jewish Law

from jewishvirtuallibrary.org by Daniel Eisenberg, M.D.

The Torah states: “I am the L-rd that heals you!” (Exodus 15:26) This verse implies that G-d does not need man to cure the afflictions that He creates. If so, by what virtue does man attempt to “short circuit” His will and attempt his own meager cures? Does man have any right to heal at all, and if he does, are there any limitations on how it may be accomplished. Is every action done in the name of therapy justified, solely because a physician performs it? Because Judaism recognizes the enormity of these questions, it requires direct permission from G-d to permit the practice of medicine and carefully circumscribes the limits of medical practice. Fortunately, the duty to save one’s fellow man is well grounded in the Torah and the restrictions are discussed at length in our codes of Jewish law.


Forget the Cow

Written by: Rabbi Yosef Rosen

Rabbi Nachum Twersky of Chernobyl, a member of the Baal Shem Tov’s inner circle, was once travelling through the Ukraine and lodged at an inn owned by “yishuvniks” – sweet, simple Jews who lived in the middle of nowhere, and ran a small farm and an inn for a non-Jewish landlord on a desolate stretch of a busy road.  Following a time-honored Jewish practice popularized by Kabbalists, Reb Nachum woke at midnight to pray tearful midnight prayers for our ruined Jewish Temple and our exiled people.

The innkeeper, ever a simple yishuvnik, was concerned when he heard Reb Nachum crying in the middle of the night.  The innkeeper came to his room and saw Reb Nachum on the floor, with a prayer book in his hand, ashes on his head, and his eyes full of tears.  The surprised innkeeper ignorantly asked, “Are you hurt?? What happened?”

Reb Nachum explained, “I am saying the Jewish midnight prayers and begging the Master of the Universe end our bitter exile.  I’m praying that the Messiah should quickly come so that we can all go to the Land of Israel and rebuild our Temple, so that our world can better receive holiness.”

The innkeeper seemed to understand, but said, “Ok, Rabbi, but you still don’t have to disturb the other guests at the inn with your midnight weeping.  Why do you want the Messiah to come, anyway?”

Reb Nachum responded, “What?!  And you don’t want the Messiah??”

“I don’t know,” said the innkeeper, “but I consult with my wife on all matters.  I’ll run to our apartment and ask her if your prayers warrant such noise at this wee hour.”

The innkeeper came back a few minutes later and explained to Reb Nachum that he spoke to his wife and said that she wants more information about this “Messiah” for whom he’s praying.  Reb Nachum explained to the simple yishuvnik that the Jewish People will arise and the Jewish Diaspora will end and that we will all go to the Land of Israel.

The innkeeper expressed concern about the need to move and left to again consult with his wife.  He returned quickly, telling Reb Nachum to stop praying immediately, “My wife reminded me that we just bought a new cow and spent a lot of time and money fixing the barn door.  Now you come here and pray that we should leave it all behind and run away to Israel?!  She does not accept this.  Please, cease praying for Redemption.”

Reb Nachum explained that God cannot fully give holiness to the world without the world’s correction, which requires Jewish freedom and the teaching of holiness too all people.  He went on, telling the innkeeper that all of this requires our Temple and the Divine Presence, etc., etc.

However, the hour was too late and the concepts too abstract for this yishuvnik innkeeper.  Reb Nachum saw he wasn’t making headway and changed his argument; “Right now, in this part of Ukraine, there are terrible massacres and robberies perpetrated by Tartar raiders.  We live in constant danger.  The Messiah will subdue Jewish enemies and take us to a Jewish kingdom!”

The innkeeper then left to speak with his wife about this aspect of the Messianic era.

The innkeeper came back with the final word from his wife: “This Rabbi wants us to go to Israel!?  Leave the brand new cow?  We have a new barn door that we can finally use, and now we must simply walk away??  Go tell the Rabbi to ask God to take all of the Tartars to Israel and we’ll stay here with the barn and the cow.”

This time of the summer, the three weeks between the two summer fast days which mourn the destruction of the two ancient Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, is a period of Jewish national sadness.  However, this period is also a time when every Jew must take personal responsibility for the state of his or her nation.

Reb Nachum’s story teaches us that the essence of Jewish Exile is neither the destruction of a Temple, nor massacre, nor intermarriage, but rather confusion.  Exile, in its truest form, is the degree to which a Jew is alienated from a clear perspective on what it means to possess a Jewish soul and for what purpose Hashem created our Holy Nation.

When enough Jews have this clarity, then rebuilding our Temple with our Messiah will easily follow.  The holy Baal Shem Tov taught that the personal redemption of every Jew as an individual is a prerequisite for the national Jewish Redemption.  At first blush, a sense of responsibility for the Messiah and big eschatological events seems way above our current spiritual pay grade.   Therefore, we must first attempt to recall our sublime personal visions of redemption and to have better perspective on the smallness of our very own cows and barn doors.

If we can achieve that, then God just might meet us halfway to take us beyond our limited horizons.