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A Model Course in Jewish Business Ethics
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

A Model Course in Jewish Business Ethics

Rabbi Aaron Tendler
Ma'alot Seminary
Baltimore, MD


Each session is 2 and 1/2 hours long, with one 15 minute break.

15 sessions including review and examinations.

Goal of course: Upon completion student should be able to analyze various practical situations where business and ethical considerations interface using Jewish legal, ethical, and theological principles.

Course is given to a class of female students, aged 18-25, but can be easily modified for other ages and genders, ranging from high school age through adulthood.

COURSE OUTLINE

Session I

I.  Introduction to Jewish Business Ethics

Secular Business Law vs. Jewish Business Law

II.  Dispute Resolution I

A. Lifnim MiShuras HaDin

1. Importance of being magnanimous

2. Rabbinically mandated magnanimous behavior

a. Midas Sedom- Prohibition to Restrict Use of Property When Involving No Personal Loss

b. Dina D'Bar Matzra - Law of the Abutter

c. Ani HaMehapech B'Charara -Tortious Interference

Texts used in class:

  • Rashi (Shemos 21:1 "Lifneyhem")
  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapters 181, 62:13)
  • Sefer Mishpetei HaTorah (Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz) - translated as "Business-Halacha" by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Session II

I. Dispute Resolution II

A. Qualifications of a Jewish Leader/ Rabbinic Judge

B. Prohibition to Adjudicate in Secular Court (Arka'os)

C. Structure, procedures, and enforcement powers of a modern day Bais Din

D. Legal profession from a Halachic point of view

1. "Lifnei Eever" - explanation and ramifications in business ethics and other areas of life

2. Misaya Yidei Ovrei Aveirah - explanation and ramifications in business ethics and other areas of life

II. Dina D'Malchusa Dina - various opinions of applicability and how this affects practical  relevance today.

A. Bankruptcy in Halacha

B. Minhag HaMakom - what ramifications this has on business obligations.

Texts Used In Class:

  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapters 181
  • Sefer Mishpetei HaTorah (Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz) - translated as
  • "Business-Halacha" by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Session III

I. Ethical Behavior of a Merchant I

Introduction: Torah approach to "making a living"

A. Free Entry - when is it permitted to open a competing business

B. Aggressive recruitment of customers

C. Monopolies and Anti-Trust from a Halachic perspective

D. Advertising according to Halacha

1. Geneivas Da'as/ Misrepresentation - explanation and ramifications in business ethics and other areas of life

Texts used in class:

  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapter 63
  • Sefer Mishpetei HaTorah (Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz) - translated as
  • "Business-Halacha" by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Session IV

I. Ethical Behavior Of A Merchant II

A. Ona'ah- Overpricing

1. Definition and Explanation

2. Voiding a sale retroactively

3. Items on which Ona'ah can not be claimed (antique sales and real estate etc.)

B. Profiting From Non-Kosher Food Items

C. Accurate Scales and Measurements

II. Review Of Sessions I-IV

Texts used in class:

  • Hebrew Chumash, Vayikrah 25:14, 19:35-36, Devarim 25:13-16
  • Rashi (ibid.)
  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapters 62 (1-3, 7-14), 64

Session V

I. Ethical Behavior Of A Customer

A. Price Shopping With No Intent To Buy

1. Ona'as Devarim - Verbal Abuse

B. The Obligation To Patronize A Shomer Torah U'Mitzvos

1. A customer expresses support or displeasure by who they patronize (e.g. buying items made in Germany, etc.)

2. Patronizing a Torah scholar

C. Purchasing Stolen Goods

1. For one's own use

2. To return to owner (Mavriach Ari M'sadeh Chaveiro)

3. Defining ownership in Halacha- Yiyush/ Shinui Reshus/ Hefker

4. Purchasing items from government auctions

D. Purchasing Items Produced By Employer Exploitation Of Employees and Environmental Abuse

Texts used in class:

  • Hebrew Chumash, Vayikrah 25:17, 25:14
  • Rashi (ibid.)
  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapters 63 (1-3), and 182 (8-11)

Session VI

Midterm Exam

Session VII

Employer- Employee Relations I

I. An Employer's Responsibilities

A. Paying On Time

B. Expense A Person Must Take To Fulfill A Mitzvah (e.g. paying an employee on time)

C. Types Of Work That Must Be Paid For

1. Not Satisfactorily Finished

2. Unsolicited Work

3. Payment For Illegal Activities

D. Good Working Conditions

E. Halachic Ramifications Of Non-Competition Agreements

Texts used in class:

  • Hebrew Chumash, Vayikrah 19:13, 25:43, Devarim 24:14-15
  • Rashi (ibid.)
  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapter 185 (2-5)
  • Sefer Mishpetei HaTorah (Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz) - translated as "Business-Halacha" by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Session VIII

Employer- Employee Relations II

I. An Employee's Responsibilities

A. Working Properly and Diligently

B. Personal Use Of An Employer's Property And Time

C. Business Allowances/ When Can Employee Keep The Surplus

D. Customer Incentives, Frequent Flyer Miles, And Discounts Acquired at Company Expense (Who Keeps Them?)

E. Unions and Strikes

1. Avid Inish Dina D'Nafshei- Taking the Law Into One's Own Hands

Texts used in class:

  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapter 185:6
  • Sefer Mishpetei HaTorah (Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz) - translated as "Business-Halacha" by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Session IX

Theft, Ownership, and Privacy Rights I

Introduction: Torah Perspective on Mine And Yours

I. Lo Sachmode- Not To Covet Your Neighbor's Property

II. Theft

A. Geneivah and Gezeilah/ Burglary and Robbery

B. Theft From A Non-Jew

C. Using Someone Else's Property Without Permission

1. In life threatening situations

2. In case of great need

3. For performance of a Mitzvah

D. Unsolicited Mailings

Texts used in class:

  • Hebrew Chumash, Shemos 20:14, Devarim 5:18
  • Rashi (ibid.)
  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapter 182:1-5, 12-14, 9:11
  • Commentary Of Torah Temimah, Vayikrah 25:14, #83
  • Sefer Mishpetei HaTorah (Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz) - translated as "Business-Halacha" by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Session X

Theft, Ownership, and Privacy Rights II

A. Copyright Infringement

1. Intellectual and Creative Property

2. Plagiarism

B. Halachic Right To Privacy

1. When violation of privacy causes damage

a. Industrial espionage

b. Hezek Re'iya- visual damage

2. Snooping someone else's private business

a. "Lo Seilech Rochil"

b. Ban of Rabbeinu Gershon

Lending Money I

Introduction: Highest form of charity

A. Obligations Of The Lender

B. Duties Of The Borrower

C. Rabbinic Decrees To Facilitate Lending

D. Shemittah And Pruzbul

Texts used in class:

  • Hebrew Chumash, Vayikrah 19:16, Shemos 22:24, Devarim 15:1-3,15:7-8
  • Rashi (ibid.)
  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapter 179:1-7, 180
  • Sefer Mishpetei HaTorah (Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz) - translated as "Business-Halacha" by Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Sessions XI and XII

Lending Money II

I. Ribbis - Interest and Usury

Introduction and Explanation of Terms

A. Underlying Concepts/ Participating Parties

1. Status of corporations

2. Status of Charitable Institutions

B. Common Ribbis Situations

1. Credit Cards/ Mortgages

2. Various Business Arrangements (2-10 Net 30 Arrangements, etc.)

C. Borrowing Food and Items From Neighbors and Friends

Texts used in class:

  • Hebrew Chumash, Shemos 22:24, Devarim 23:20-21
  • Rashi (ibid.)
  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapter 65:1-10, 28

Session XIII

Lending Money III

I. Hetter Iska

A. History Of Hetter Iska

B. Mechanics Of Hetter Iska

C. Use Of Hetter Iska For Personal Loans (Non dividend generating)

II. Maaser- Tithing Our Income

A. Introduction and Underlying Principles - A Partner With Hashem!

B. Definition Of Income Liable For Maaser

1. Capital Gains

2. Compensatory Payments

C. Pre-Maaser Deductions Of Expenses And Losses

D. Distribution Of Maaser Funds

1. Priorities In Distribution

2. Use For Educational Purposes

Review Of Sessions VII-XIII

Session XIV

Ethical Behavior in the Workplace

I. Social Interaction with Business Associates

A. Attending Social Functions

B. Meetings In Non-Kosher Eating Establishments

1. Explanation of Maris Ayin and Chashad (suspicion) concepts, and their ramifications in the work place and in other areas of life.

C. Holiday Gifts and Greetings to Non-Jewish Associates

D. Kashrus In The Workplace - Use Of The Office Facilities

E. Modesty In The Workplace

1. Yichud - Seclusion with members of the opposite gender

2. Contact between members of opposite genders

Session XV

Examination on Sessions VII-XIV

Texts used in class preparation:

  • Mishna and Babylonian Talmud
  • Shulchan Oruch (Choshen Mishpat, selected passages)
  • Kitzur Shulchan Oruch Chapters 181, 62, 63
  • Sefer Mishpetei HaTorah (Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz)
  • Economics & Jewish Law (Rabbi Aaron Levine)
  • Free Enterprise & Jewish Law (Rabbi Aaron Levine)
  • In The Marketplace (Dr. Meir Tamari)
  • Torah Guide To Money Matters (Rabbi S. Wagschal)
  • Torah Guide For the Businessman (Rabbi S. Wagschal)
  • Questions Of Interest (Rabbi Yisroel Gornish)
  • Maaser Kesafim (Edited by Dr. Cyril Domb)
  • RJJ Journal of Contemporary Halacha (various articles on business related topics)
  • Encyclopedia Talmudis (various articles on business related topics)
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