ETHICS IN BUSINESS
Q. How can some people be unethical in business even though they keep kosher homes?
A. I honestly don’t know.
What you eat and how you live your life are part of one and the same Torah.
There are no marks for picking and choosing the commandments you keep, though of course it is better to keep something rather than nothing.
But since keeping kosher is such a visible observance, it is not only God who must be puzzled to see kosher-keeping Jews being fussy about food and less concerned about honesty, but other people who say this is not a good advertisement for religion.
I have to add, though, that it works the other way too. It is to be deplored if kosher people are not ethical, but also if ethical people are not kosher.
The Torah way of life is comprehensive; omitting ethics leaves Judaism lopsided, but so does omitting kashrut.
READING THE 10 COMMANDMENTS EVERY DAY
Q. Why don’t we say the Ten Commandments every day?
A. Once upon a time we did (Mishnah Tamid 5:1), but the practice was changed (B’rachot 12a) “because of the claims of the sectarians”.
This is a reference to the early Christians who said (Galatians 3:7) that only the Decalogue came directly from God but the other commandments were conveyed through angels as punishment for the Golden Calf.
Judaism did not want to give the impression of supporting these claims.
The Palestinian synagogue in old Cairo was reading the Ten Commandments in the liturgy as late as the 13th century.
When the dispute was no longer so acute, attempts were made to reintroduce the Ten Commandments. One compromise that was arrived at was to read hints of the Decalogue into Biblical passages such as Lev. 19.
Several siddurim add the Ten Commandments to a series of optional readings at the end of the morning service.
CAMERAS THAT LIE
Q. Is there anything in Judaism that forbids touching up and distorting camera images in order to deceive the public?
A. It is one of the great tragedies of the contemporary world. Though the Ten Commandments forbid the bearing of false witness, here we have false witness paraded before our eyes every day.
No longer is it true that the camera does not lie. The fact is that the camera does lie, or rather the people that operate the camera use it to peddle falsehoods that are so dangerous that they can destroy our own civilisation.
If they do it for financial or political gain they are a particularly insidious form of mercenaries. The Bible calls mercenaries “Och’lei Shulchan Izevel” – “People who eat at Jezebel’s table”, because Ahab’s wife Jezebel hired mercenaries to say whatever she programmed them to say.
How do we control the misuse and abuse of the camera and indeed of the power of the pen and of human speech?
If the media and those who control it do not want, Samson-like, to bring the global edifice crashing down around them, they have to work fast and work hard to formulate an ethic.
I wish I could say that the United Nations should do something about it but I suspect that the organisation has lost so much credibility that it too is among the “Och’lei Shulchan Izevel”.
by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com