Loving God and Doing Business

The Torah admonishes us to "love God" with our material possessions -- that is, not to keep our religious values and economic lives in separate compartments

Print this page Print this page

The third sentence of the Ve’ahavta prayer, “Impress them [these words] upon your children,” also reminds us that holiness and ethical action are inseparable. The twentieth-century commentator Pinchas Peli explains: “Your children will be taught by the fact that you yourself practice your religion. Action and thought must go together in the life of the truly religious person.” In other words, to love God is a call to action--action defined by setting an example for others, especially one’s own children, of how people who love God conduct themselves.

Knowledge of Ethics Must Supplement Good Intentions

Can one be ignorant of these teachings and still be a devout Jew? The answer can be found in Pirkei Avot [Ethics of Our Fathers], Chapter 2, Mishnah 6: “An unlearned person cannot be pious.” In the introduction to his translation of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Rabbi Eliyahu Touger comments that “although an individual may possess the highest motives, unless he knows the law, it is possible that he might take unfair advantage of a colleague. For this reason, it is important to study the Torah’s edicts of business law, and integrate them within our personalities….The contents…serve as guidelines which every one can--and should--apply in his daily life….[These] active, spiritual principles…point toward the refinement of ourselves and our society.”

How we conduct ourselves in business is not only a test of our love for God and our moral character; it is “the acid test of whether religion is simply relegated to an isolated sphere of human activity,” says Rabbi Breitowitz. “It is business ethics, one could posit, above all, that shows God coexists in the world, rather than God and godliness being separate and apart.”

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Grant Perry

Grant Perry, a media consultant, lawyer, and journalist, lives in Connecticut.