Marketplace Ethics

The Torah teaches in rapid succession that if you see someone’s sheep or ox astray, you should return it. If you see someone trying to raise their fallen ox, you should help them. Don’t take the eggs of a bird in front of its mother. And when you build a house, put a railing on the roof so no one falls [Deuteronomy 22].

In other words, empathy. Imagine how your neighbor feels having lost his sheep. Or how he feels trying to raise an ox by himself. Or how a mother bird might feel watching her young taken. Or what you will feel like endangering another in your own home.

We don’t usually think of empathy in laws of home building or commerce. But actually, in a deep way, capitalism depends on empathy too. You cannot create a successful product without understanding the consumer. You cannot market it without speaking the same language as the people you sell it to. And you will not build a corporation without inculcating the values you hold dear. The Torah reminds us that ethics and empathy are all of a piece. What we practice at home we should carry to the marketplace. 

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).

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.
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