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June Rabbi Series
Featuring Sinai Temple's
Distinguished Rabbis

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Honesty in Business
By Rabbi David Wolpe
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Our Intention Matters
By Rabbi Erez Sherman
Read the Full Article  »

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Coming this Month!
Make a Habit

By Rabbi Nicole Guzik



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Honesty in Business
By Rabbi David Wolpe
Sinai Temple


According to the Talmud, our honesty in business will be the first thing we are asked when coming before the Throne of Judgment. In other words, were you honest when it was easiest and most seductive to cheat? "If one is honest in business, and earns the esteem of others, it is as if one has fulfilled the whole Torah" (Mechilta, Vayassa). Religion may begin at home, but it should never end there.

In this age of deception and fraud, it is worthwhile to remember the unequivocal voice of the Jewish tradition. As Maimonides rules: "It is forbidden to mislead people in business or to deceive them. This is equally true whether it involves Gentiles or Jews. Thus when one knows that there is a defect in one’s merchandise, one must so inform the purchaser. And it is even forbidden to deceive people in words only" (M.T. Hil. Mekhira 18).

Any reader of Jewish texts could multiply such quotations. As the Israeli banker and scholar Meir Tamari points out, the Torah has 24 regulations about kashrut and over 100 about economic justice. Yet many Jews are far more careful what they put in their mouths than what they put on their tax returns or account books.



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Our Intention Matters
By Rabbi Erez Sherman
Sinai Temple


Someone once told me that their friend put on tefilin everyday. I was impressed by this man's religious habits until his friend told me, "He does this daily religious act to protect him from the bad business dealings he is about to take part in."

Each of us with an ethical soul is cognizant that this behavior is not the purpose behind the mitzvot in our tradition.

Yisrael Salanter, the 19th century Rabbinic scholar, known as the father of the Mussar, Jewish ethical living, teaches in his "Mussar Treatise" that one must practice good ethical conduct until it becomes second nature. That is the only way to stray from transgression.

Salanter points out that we act differently depending on the transgression we are about to commit. For kashrut, we have no qualms in asking an authority as to whether a food is fit to be eaten or not. Yet, when it comes to our behavior in business, we base these decisions solely upon our own thoughts and rarely look into our religious tradition. Thus, while our Torah clearly states, "You shall not oppress your fellow and you shall not steal," it becomes less in stature than "you shall not eat a non-kosher animal."

While the transgression of stealing is so serious, that on Yom Kippur, even death does not grant atonement, it is still not taken seriously in our business lives. Rabbi Salanter teaches, that if we study the laws of what is permitted and forbidden in the Torah, we should easily be able to relate that to the infringements of stealing. The power of Mussar, ethical study, slowly assists one to form new habits that take root in our soul. Eventually, there is no difference between eating a kosher animal or stealing. In essence, when one wears tefillin, it should not be to prevent one from stealing, but rather, it should celebrate the good business dealings that one will partake in.

We must only look at our ancestors to see how serious this transgression could be. The Talmudic Rabbi Mar Zutra once lodged at an inn, where during his stay, the owner's silver goblet disappeared. One day, Mar Zutra observed a guest who washed his hands and then wiped them dry on another person's coat. Mar Zutra immediately called the owner. "Arrest this man! He is the thief. I notice that he is careless with other people's belongings!!" The surprised thief confessed that he had indeed stolen the silver cup.

Our personal and professional lives go hand in hand. We cannot ask, "Were we good in business?" without asking, "Were we good to our family?" That is the essence of what JNET brings to a Jewish community; creating personal relationships through ethical understanding that in turn create business opportunities for each other. For it is then that our business transactions can turn us into an or lagoyim, a light unto the nations.



Rabbi Series Introduction

Jackie Mendelson photo

JNET Incorporates Jewish Values into Networking
By Jackie Mendelson
Chairperson, JNET Board of Directors


Featured Rabbi

Rabbi Schuldenfrei photo

Cooperation or Competition:
What is Best for Business?

By Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei
Congregation Ner Tamid,
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA



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JNET Incorporates Jewish Values into Networking
By Jackie Mendelson
Chairperson, JNET Board of Directors

It is written that when we die and go to the gates of heaven, the first question that we are asked before being allowed to enter is “Did you practice honesty and integrity in all your business you conducted?” This reinforces just how intertwined our spiritual beliefs, religious laws, and traditions are with our practices as Jews.

In ancient times, how you conducted business and, in turn, what you gave back to those in the tribe was the measure by which your status and reputation were judged. It was a given that we took care of our community; leaving the corners of our fields to those less fortunate (charity), presenting a gift to the temple leaders (our temple dues) and then the remainder to our family to consume, sell or barter.

The Torah and Talmud stress the interrelationship of our religious beliefs and business; it is ingrained throughout our teachings and rituals. The rules are divided between those that we must adhere to for the purity of our soul and body and the rules we should live by to assure that we are charitable, honest, and practice integrity in all our affairs.

We are excited about our Rabbi Series because so many of these topics have been taboo to speak of in the synagogue. They are ingrained in our core values in every way. Please enjoy the teaching of our Rabbis, and give us your feedback on this series and topics you may want to see in the future.



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Cooperation or Competition:
What is Best for Business?

Rabbi Brian Shuldenfrei photo

How does your business function? Operating from a belief that the pie is big enough for everyone to share, do you seek partnership and collaboration with others in your field? Or does the presence of competition feed your desire to offer a better product or service? In essence, do you embrace collaboration or competition? For most, the answer to some degree is both. There are times, when motivated by a shared interest or just the desire to be helpful, we collaborate. And, at other times, the presence of competition drives us to perform even better.

Traces of these competing voices can be found in our tradition as well. It may be a stretch to say that the rabbis encouraged collaboration, but they certainly demonstrate a commitment to preventing businesses from cannibalizing one another. According to the idea of hasagat gvul (“invading a boundary”), the rabbis teach that businesses may not encroach on one another’s space. With the hope of giving businesses necessary room to thrive, according to hasagat gvul, one cannot open a gadget store down the block from another gadget store.

Glossary Terms

Aside from this form of protectionism, rabbis also warn individuals from yored ltoch umanut haveiro (“going into your fellow’s business”). The Hebrew is telling of the rabbis’ thinking. Yored literally means “descending”; by going into your fellow’s profession, and thereby taking business away from her or him, you are bringing yourself down - a not so subtle condemnation of character.

On the other hand, many other sources affirm the value of competition. Our tradition affirms that it is in fact the yetzer hara (“evil inclination”) that motivates human achievement. A desire to get ahead fuels an individual's ambition, but simultaneously helps advance society. The Talmud affirms that competition often facilitates a better result. The sages teach that the advancement of knowledge is, at least in part, a result of kinat sofrim ("the jealousy of scholars"). Of course, Kinat sofrim has application beyond Jewish studies. In any field, the successes of an other, is a very strong motivating force.

The presence of both more collaborative and competitive voices in our tradition reminds us that finding the right balance is critical. May each of us find an appropriate balance, allowing us to simultaneously grow both our pockets and our hearts.



JNET’s From the Rabbi Series

JNET's Rabbi Series Promo

This March 2017, JNET launches a new series of Jewish rabbinic teachings about how Jews should conduct business — with each other, and within the broader community, citing historic references to business in our traditions and religious principles.

JNET is very honored to have several distinguished rabbis contributing, featuring one article by a different rabbi each month from the synagogues where our chapters are held. JNET partners with synagogues because JNET and its members highly value doing business with integrity, with fellow Jews, and within the context of the temple community.

Each monthly series will appear here on JNET’s website, www.jnetonline.org, and will stimulate conversation while networking in JNET’s 12 chapter meetings.

Tune in to the JNET website this March for the series launch, presented by Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei of Congregation Ner Tamid in Palos Verdes, and return each subsequent month for a new topic and fresh rabbinic perspective on doing business halachically.

Be sure to tell your family, friends and colleagues about this special opportunity to become an even better businessperson!

Featured Rabbis

Check back each month for new commentary and teachings by distinguished rabbis on doing business halachically.


News & Announcements

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