Misrepresentation and Fraud in Jewish Law

Talmudic law and the medieval law codes developed from it protected consumers from many types of deceptive practices.

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“A man should not sell his neighbor shoes made of the hide of an animal that died, [representing them] as made of the hide of a living animal which was slaughtered; there are two reasons: first, because he is deceiving him, and secondly, because of the danger.” (Babylonian Talmud, Hullin 94a)

Rashi [the classic eleventh-century commentator on Bible and Talmud, from Northern France] explains:

“A shoe made of the hide of an animal that died without being slaughtered: the hide is not as strong as that of an animal that was slaughtered.”

And he explains the danger as follows:

“The animal may have died of a snake bite, the venom of which was absorbed by the hide [posing possible danger to whoever wears the shoes].”

Origin Marks Must Be Retained

Altering markings that indicate an item’s place of origin may also be included under the prohibition of misrepresentation:

“There are two types of deception. One is deception in the body of the merchandise, where it is sold as quality merchandise from a particular place, when in fact it is merchandise from somewhere else.” (Arukh Ha-shulhan [late nineteenth century work, by Yehiel Michal Halevi Epstein], Hoshen Mishpat 227:1)

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Professor Nahum Rakover, former Deputy Attorney General of the State of Israel, is a leading scholar in the field of Jewish law and has written widely on Jewish legal topics. He compiled The Multi-Language Bibliography of Jewish Law.