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Spiritual Goods: Faith Traditions and the Practice of Business

2001

Spiritual Goods: Faith Traditions and the Practice of Business

Ronald M. Green
Pages 367-380
DOI: 10.5840/spiritgds200131

Guiding Principles of Jewish Ethics

This discussion develops six of the most important guiding principles of classical Jewish business ethics and illustrates their application to a complex recent case of product liability. These principles are: (1) the legitimacy of business activity and profit; (2) the divine origin and ordination of wealth (and hence the limits and obligations of human ownership); (3) the preeminent position in decision making given to the protection and preservation (sanctity) of human life; (4) the protection of consumers from commercial harm; (5) the avoidance of fraud and misrepresentation in sales transactions; and (6) the moral requirement to go beyond the letter of the law. Although these Talmudic principles are clearly obligatory only for "Torah-obedient" Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, many Jews share a sensibility informed by them. Non-Jews, too, may be instructed by Jewish teachings about business ethics.