The Key to the Garden of Eden- Honesty
Taste of Parasha
A Shochet once came before the saintly Rabbi Yisroel of Salant to inform him that he was having a mid-life crisis. Although he had been slaughtering animals for many years, he was afraid of the severity of the sin of making a mistake in these matters. He did not want to carry on his shoulders the sin of feeding non-kosher meat to Jews. Rav Yisroel asked him, “So, how will you provide for your family?” The Shochet responded, “I am planning on opening a store.” Rav Yisroel was surprised and said to the Shochet, “I do not understand you. You are leaving a profession for which a mistake carries with it a single negative command: Do not eat the meat of an animal not slaughtered (properly). Going into business, however, is a profession which presents the proprietor with numerous positive and negative commandments which could inadvertently be transgressed. Of this you are not afraid?” When a Jew conducts business he must constantly be vigilant to not charge interest, not cheat, not over charge, pay his workers on time and fulfill many other responsibilities discussed in this week’s Torah portion. The Chofetz Chaim Zt”l wrote that just as a Shochet is required to receive a letter of approbation prior to slaughtering, so too it would be appropriate to require a businessman to pass an examination concerning the laws of conducting business prior to entering into business.
Taste of Talmud
After 120 years, when man returns his soul to his maker, the first question he will be asked will be: Did you deal honestly in business? (Shabbos 31a). The Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin (7a) says that man will first be judged as to whether or not he made set times for Torah study. Tosafos asks, “Which question is actually presented first?” Rabbi Avraham Pam Zt”l resolves the question with the following answer: The first matter to be scrutinized will be how he conducted himself in business. If, however, he was unscrupulous in his business dealings and the reason for this was due to the fact that he was negligent in educating himself in the laws of business according to the Torah, then the retribution for the cause will come before the retribution for the symptomatic result of his impropriety in his business dealings. On the positive side, the reward for conducting oneself honestly is very great. The commandment to love G-d is fulfilled by causing others to love the ways of the Torah and those who study it. When one deals honestly in his dealings with people and speaks nicely what do people say? “Look how beautiful and orderly are the ways of this man who learned Torah (Yoma 86a).” The Medrash teaches that such a person will be blessed. Upon him the verse says, “My eyes are focused on the trustworthy ones of the land, they will dwell with me (Tehilim 101:6).”
Taste of Halacha
Rabbi Yehuda ben Besaira once came to a silk merchant looking to buy some silk. After discussing the various possibilities he decided upon a certain type and quantity that would suit his needs. Rabbi Yehuda was not yet ready to finalize the deal, so he left without finishing the transaction. The merchant put aside the silk and waited and waited. On his next business trip to the town in which Rabbi Yehuda resided, he brought the selected silk with him. Rabbi Yehuda asked the merchant, “Why did you hold on to the silk for me for so long? We only discussed the matter but no formal acquisition was made.” The merchant responded, “Your words are trusted to me more than money.” Rabbi Yehuda blessed the man, “Just as you have been trustworthy, you should be blessed with a son as trustworthy as the prophet Shmuel who we are told was trusted throughout the land of Israel, ‘From Dan to Be’er Sheva’ (Samuel 1: 3:20).” Indeed, this man was blessed with a son whom he named Shmuel. He became none other than the famous Amora Shmuel, a leader of Babylonian Jewry and a major contributor to the Talmud. The actions of his father follow the strict letter of the law as set forth by the Rambam (Laws of Sales 5:6) and Shulchan Aruch CM (204). “Even if the market value changes, it is considered to be a lack of trustworthiness to back out of a deal that was only agreed upon verbally.”