Does Being Jewish Change Your Business Insights?

Judaism looks to the Torah as its written law, and that book has a great impact on how business is done. The Torah is rich in verses concerned with business, and the Talmud (source of Judaism's oral law) expands on what is written in the Torah. The legislative process is ever ongoing, and rabbis use their predecessors' decisions to successfully apply Jewish laws and ethics to modern situations. Some of the Jewish business ethical issues we will discuss here are fair pricing, relations between employers and their employees, and honest selling. Jewish law is not only meant to dispense ethical and legal advice, but it is also intended to encourage people to go beyond the scope of the law in their ethical business dealings. In Jewish law, money must be obtained honestly, and wealth is to be used to help strangers, the needy and the poor.

HandshakeJewish ethics and values have made their way into many parts of modern life, especially the marketplace. The impact of Jewish business ethics is seen in the religion's take on social responsibility, as well as its attitude toward business and money. There have been many books and articles done on the application of Jewish ethics in business, from ancient times to the present day, and to understand the role that Judaism plays in business, one must first examine the religion's culture, tradition and laws that pertain to the marketplace. The Torah and the rest of the Hebrew Bible is the word of God, and the concepts within the Torah provide the foundation of Jewish law. According to tradition, there are 613 precepts in the Torah, and many of those deal with business ethics. The Torah is also revered in other religions, but the Midrash and the Talmud are exclusively Jewish. To understand how Jewish ethics play a role in business and marketing, one must read all three books.

Approaching business in a Jewish manner begins by re-examining our concept of morality. Unlike other religions, Judaism does not see business transactions as a "necessary evil", and like almost every other part of life, the call to do business comes straight from God. Jewish discussions of business ethics usually are far departed from topics that we would consider "moral". Morality is regarded in altruistic terms, but Jewish business ethics espouse the development of character traits that do not possess moral significance. In Talmudic tradition, the first question asked of people when they reach the afterlife is "Did you do business in good faith?" However, the high court of the heavens is not just interested in how honest a person's business dealings have been; rather, they see good-faith business dealings as a sign of sanctity in other areas of life.

The Talmud says that when we are judged, the Creator doesn't ask for an account of the misdeeds done in the course of business, or list the behaviors from which we abstained, or ask for an account of the altruistic things we have done. It says that the Jewish approach to business ethics can be found not in criticism or a list of rules- Jewish business ethics are about doing business in such a way that one's business environment and the rest of their life is changed. Doing business in the Jewish way is all about creating that story that we will give to the Heavenly Judge when it is our time, and it is every Jewish businessperson's job to make that story as compelling as possible.

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