David Wolpe
David Wolpe

A offer you can (and should) refuse

The Talmud tells the story of Rav Safra, who was offered a price for some goods but could not respond as he was in the middle of prayers. The buyer kept upping the price. When Rav Safra concluded, he told the buyer he would accept the initial offer since his silence was misinterpreted, and he would have accepted the initial offer had he not been in the middle of prayer.

Rabbi Leo Jung told the story of the once-formidable firm Beer, Sondheimer and Co. In 1870 just before the Franco-German war, Mr. Beer left his office for the Sabbath. His company had the copper and other metals the war ministry required, and they sent a series of telegrams offering him more and more for his material, none of them answered because of the Sabbath. On Sunday morning, Mr. Beer returned to the office and said, recalling the precedent of Rav Safra, that he would accept the initial offer because they misinterpreted his silence.

The ministry was so impressed by his scrupulousness that it made his company its main supplier and so “established its global significance.” Sometimes doing the right thing turns out to be the right thing to do.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.