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GENESIS — 1:28 subdue

GEN172 R Soloveitchik understands this blessing [God conferred on Adam the first] as a divine mandate to mankind to subdue the earth and aster the environment (hereafter, kibbush).  In R. Soloveitchik’s thinking, the kibbush mandate amounts to a charge to man to self-actualize himself by realizing his God like potential as a creative being.  Fulfillment of the mandate bids man to achieve dignity but along with it to attain a rarefied sense of responsibility.  Man achieves dignity when he reclaims himself from coexistence with nature, rising from a helpless existence to a powerful existence that is intelligent, planned, and majestic.  … What emerges from the kibbush mandate is a criterion for evaluating the inherent worthiness of economic activity.  If an economic activity contributes neither to advancing man’s dignity nor to his sense of responsibility, it has no rational for existence.  Illustrating a perversion of the kibbush mandate is the production and sale of cigarettes.  This judgment is not predicated on the ability of Halakhah [Jewish law] to establish a clear-cut prohibition against smoking.  … the causative links medical science has established between cigarette smoking and various dreadful diseases is undeniable.  Far from advancing human dignity, the tobacco industry degrades human existence by causing disease, misery, and pain.  Its very existence perverts the kibbush mandate. … Investment in [a cigarette company] would represent a clear-cut perversion of the kibbush mandate and therefore should not be made.  CASE 373-4


GENESIS — 2:7 dust

GEN229 One manifestation of God's mercy is shalom (peace).  A nuance of this attribute that relates to [employer performance appraisal requirements] is the mercy God show us in preventing the outbreak of discord.  In this regard, R. Shimon b. Halafta observes that in the first five days of creation, God created an equal number of things for the heaven and the earth. On the sixth day, when He came to create man, He said: “If I create man as one of the upper elements of the universe, the upper elements will outnumber the lower by one created object, and if I create him as one of the lower created objects, the lower will outnumber the upper by one created object.” What did He do? He created man of the upper as well as of the lower beings: this is proved by what is written: The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground [this verse] i.e., out of the lower parts of creation; And He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [this verse], i.e out of the upper spheres. Imitatio Deo, in the form of emulating God’s attributes of shalom, urges an employer to arrange his labor relations by means of a performance-appraisal system because doing so minimizes discord in the workplace.  CASE 311-2


GENESIS — 18:12 old

GEN942 As a sales tactic, making the customer feel food about himself is subject to a restriction.  It enjoys validity only when the compliment or the appreciation the salesperson exudes is sincere.  Should the sentiment expressed amount to nothing more than false praise (hanuppah), the conduct is prohibited.   The condemnation of flattery by Maimonides (Egypt, 1135-1204) is instructive here: “It is forbidden to accustom oneself to smooth speech and flatteries. One must not say one thing and mean another. Inward and outward self should correspond; only what we have in mind, should we utter with the mouth.” [Yad Hazakah [Mishneh Torah], De’ot 2:6] It should not be concluded, however, that engaging in false praise is absolutely forbidden as a sales tactic.  The halakhic prohibition of falsehood is not absolute, and under certain conditions it is suspended.  Examining these exceptions to the prohibition against falsehood, however, will demonstrate that their application to the area of sales practice is very limited.   … darkhei shalom (the ways of peace) does not suspend the prohibition against falsehood unless its purpose is to end conflict or avert the eruption of discord.   If the conduct is merely intended to enhance the quality of human relations, the prohibition against falsehood is not suspected. … Within the framework of the darkhei shalom rationale, engaging in false praise should be legitimate only when the alternative of truth-telling does not better promote peace of mind [See, e.g. Genesis 50:16-17] for the vendee.   This would be the case, for instance, when the vendee does not recall where he bought the articles.   Since he has no recourse to undo or otherwise modify the transaction he entered into telling the truth serves no useful purpose; it only makes the vendee feel foolish.  False praise, on the other hand, helps the vendee make the best of his situation.   Suppose, however, that the vendee does recall where the purchase was made and is a victim of an overcharge or the article has a defect.  Here, false praise is decidedly against the interests of the vendee.   Instead, he should be apprised of his mistake.   CASE 145-6


GENESIS — 27:12 trickster

GEN1237 In the thinking of R. Isaiah ha-Levi Horowitz (Poland, 1565-1630), training in truth-telling is the centerpiece of the moral education of youngsters.   The ideal is for the father to spare no effort in emphasizing to his child the importance of truth-telling. Toward this end, a father should magnify the punishment for those who lie and glorify the reward for those who speak truthfully.  If the child is caught lying, the father should admonish him harshly instilling great trepidation in him.  This approach will guarantee that the child will always go on the straight path, even when not under the father’s supervision. Because the child will feel compelled to always tell the truth, he will always depart from evil and do good.   Further insight into the connection between truth-telling and the ability to resist the temptation of veiled misconduct can be obtained from the connection the sages make between truth-telling and belief in God: He who speaks truth harbors belief (emunah) in God. [In contract] chronic liars harbor idolatrous fancies (Midrash Pinhas).   R. Eleazer also said: Whoever dissembles his speech is as though he had engaged in idolatry: Here it is written, And I shall seem to him as a deceiver [this verse]; and elsewhere it is said, they are vanity, and the work of deceivers (Jeremiah 10:15).   The key to understanding this connection between deceptive speech and idolatry, according to R. Judah Loew b. Bezalel (Bohemia, ca. 1525-1609), is that the seal of the Almighty is truth.   He who possesses the attribute of truthfulness, therefore, clings to the Almighty.   To engage in deceptive speech, however, amounts to embracing something that has no existence at all. What idolatry and deceptive speech share is that both are vanities; that is, they have no real existence.   Hence, whoever dissembles his speech is as though he engaged in idolatry.  Judaism’s standard for truth-telling makes it a sin to lie even when the fabrication causes no harm or damage to others.  Two varieties of harmless lies are identified: the lie that brings some advantage or benefit, and the lie that brings no discernible benefit.   Both varieties are prohibited by dint of Torah law.   The latter variety is more egregious and warrants greater punishment because it reflects a love of falsehood for its own sake.  CASE 4-5


GENESIS — 30:27 blessed

GEN1321 Tending Laban’s flock, Jacob exerts himself to the utmost for him and never idles on his time.   When a mishap occurs, Jacob never shifts the blame, but instead makes good the loss even when he is not legally required to do so.  After fourteen years in his employ, Jacob decides to take leave of Laban, leading to the following dialogue between them (Genesis 30:27-30).   By ascribing his good fortune to Jacob’s piety rather than to his diligence, Laban, notes R. Samson R. Hirsch (Germany, 1808-1888), fails to recognize Jacob’s integrity.   R. Hirsch’s insight provides us with an understanding of why Jacob decides to remain in Laban’s employ despite his exploited status until now.   Jacob considered it his mission to perfect in himself the character trait of integrity.   His failure to make an impact on Laban proved to Jacob that he had not yet achieved the highest level of integrity.   Jacob therefore redoubled his efforts to display a level of honesty that would make his integrity objectively evident.   Toward this end, he proposes a plan for compensation in which he deliberately exposes himself to an objectively verifiable standard: All the spotted and mottled lambs will be removed from Laban’s flock, leaving in his (Jacob’s) care only the single-colored lambs.   Jacob’s wage will consist of the mottled and spotted goats born from the single-colored herd.   (Genesis 30:33) CASE 25


GENESIS — 30:38 rods

GEN1325 Nachmanides (commentary at Genesis 30:37) finds no element of dishonesty in Jacob’s use of striped rods. Given that the contract called for offspring of a certain color to belong to him, Jacob had every right to promote his own interest by seeking to ensure such births.  Given Laban’s ignorance regarding the ramifications of the use of the striped rods, it is even possible, avers Nahmanides, that Jacob negotiated with Laban the legitimacy of their use at the outset of the agreement.   CASE 32 (ft. 17)


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