Image: Three stacks of coins, with seedlings growing on top. (nattanan23/pixabay)
Jewish tradition has always regarded economic activity as a normal and legitimate pursuit. Just as with any other normal human activity, Judaism established a framework for economic activity to keep it within the boundaries of Torah.
The Jewish businessperson, the Jewish consumer, and the Jewish investor have sacred boundaries for behavior in our tradition. Jewish values apply in the economic sphere. Some examples:
- Every adult is responsible for their own words and behavior.
- Every adult is responsible for the maintenance of the community.
- The strong may not exploit the weak or the ignorant.
- Powerful individuals may not use their power to the detriment of society.
- Workers are protected from exploitation, but they also have responsibilities.
- Truth in marketing, advertising and speech are key values.
These values hold true for Jews whether they are capitalists or socialists, conservatives or liberals, owners, stockholders or workers.
I am not suggesting that we substitute halakhah (Jewish Law) for the laws of the state. There is a principle in Jewish law, “Dina d’malkhuta dina” (in Aramaic, דִּינָא דְּמַלְכוּתָא דִּינָא ) “the law of the land is the law.” That means that the law of the state is binding upon the Jews who live there. However, when Jewish tradition holds us to a higher standard than the civil law, the observant Jew should adhere to that higher standard.
Has there ever been a time when you felt a conflict between your Jewish values and your economic interests? Did you feel you had the tools to make the right decision?