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Good Business Tips

by Rabbi Dr. Yitzchok Breitowitz

  

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There is a mistaken notion about the scope of our Jewish obligations.


“I’ll ask a rabbi about Shabbat or Kashrut, but I don't tell the rabbi how to run his business, so the rabbi shouldn't tell me how to run mine. We may observe holidays and rituals at home on weekends, but what we do in the office 9 to 5 is our own business.”


According to the Talmud, the very first question we are asked by the Heavenly Court after our passing is “did you conduct your business honestly?” The second question is “did you study Torah, etc.” But question #1 is: were we ethical in business.


Note how the Ten Commandments combine our relationships to G-d and to our fellow. The Torah constantly juxtaposes the ritual commands and the interpersonal ethical obligations. One verse may say, eat only Kosher and the other verse will say, do not cheat, do not engage in fraud, because they are all part of the same religious structure. Judaism sees no dichotomy between ritual behavior and social behavior.


The Torah states: “Kedoshim Tiyu, be holy!” The great commentator Ramban explains that this requires us not to just obey the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law. A person can be 100 percent observant, and yet be a “Naval B’rshut HaTorah” a repulsive, disgusting individual within the confines of the law. We must go beyond the law and embrace the ethical imperatives within that legal structure.

The very first question we are asked by the Heavenly Court after our passing is “did you conduct your business honestly?” The second question is “did you study Torah, etc.” But question #1 is: were we ethical in business

Alexander de Toqueville remarked 200 years ago that Americans are a litigious society; that we go to court at the smallest drop of the hat. We've become a rights oriented society rather than an obligation oriented society.


Judaism teaches us not to always press our claims to the fullest, but to deal with the other person in a spirit of tolerance, acceptance and compromise.


We declare in the Shema, “You shall love G-d with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all your might.” All of your heart, all of your soul we understand. But what is ‘your might?’ Rashi interprets that the verse means that we should love G-d with all our money.


But, how do we serve G-d with all our possessions? Certainly, G-d doesn’t require us to renounce material wealth. So, how does one serve G-d with all of his possessions?


The short answer is: with the probity and integrity by which we amass those possessions.


Business ethics is the arena where the ethereal transcendent teachings of holiness and spirituality confront the often grubby business of making money and being engaged in the rat race that often comprises the marketplace. It is the acid test of whether religion is truly relevant or religion is simply relegated to an isolated sphere of human activity. It is business ethics, one could posit, above all, that shows G-d co-exists in the world rather than G-d and G-dliness being separate and apart.


Serving G-d with all your possessions means that in the accumulation of our wealth, there is also a mechanism to serve G-d.


Torah teaches us to live in this world. We know that this world is a mixture of good and evil where other people don't play by the same rules. But the test of an ethical and moral person is to adhere to those values even if everyone else fails to adhere to them.


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Mitzvot » Prayer » About

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Kashrut
Laws of Kosher (Jewish dietary laws).
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Shema
The most fundamental Jewish prayer, recited twice daily. This prayer, of Biblical origin, professes the belief in G-d's absolute unity.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.