Shlach 5767

June 23, 2009

4 min read


Shlach (Numbers 13-15 )

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GOOD MORNING! The story is told by Rabbi Yisroel Reissman of a man in a small Russian village observing the sale of a horse for the unbelievably cheap price of 500 rubles. After the conclusion of the deal, the man approaches the seller and asks, "That horse was worth at least 2,500 rubles! How could you possibly sell it for so little?" The seller sneered, "You idiot! That horse is so lame that in 2 blocks he'll have to carry it home on his shoulders!"

___The man runs to the buyer and breathlessly asks him, "Do you realize that the horse you bought is lame?" The buyer guffaws, "Fool! Of course I know he's lame! He has a nail in his hoof. As soon as I get it out, I'll have a perfectly good horse for only 500 rubles!"

___Running back to the seller, the man exclaims, "The horse has a nail in his hoof! Once he takes it out it will be perfectly fine." The seller laughs, "You're a bigger idiot than I thought! No one is going to buy a lame horse. I put the nail in the hoof to trick the buyer!"

___Huffing and puffing back to the buyer, "You've been swindled! He put the nail in the hoof to deceive you!" The buyer shrugs and throws up his hands, "It doesn't matter. The rubles are counterfeit anyway!"

___What does the Torah say about deceiving or cheating someone in a business deal?

"And if you sell anything to your fellow or buy anything from the
hand of your fellow, you shall not wrong one another" (Leviticus 25:14)

___The Torah is a handbook for life. The word "Torah" means "Instruction." It is our guide for perfecting ourselves, being more God-like and coming closer to God. It governs three areas: between a person and the Almighty, a person and his fellow human being and a person and himself or herself. The laws governing business are an important part of living righteously and building a better world.

___The above verse forbids us to cheat others when buying or selling. The laws of this prohibition are sometimes complex, An halachic authority (an expert in Talmudic law) should be consulted whenever a question arises.

___The Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, informs us that you are obligated to inform the buyer of any defect in an item you are selling, even if the price is reasonable. (Choshen Mishpot 228:6).

___Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes: "It is very easy for a person to fall prey to sin in regards to deceiving a customer. A person might consider it proper to attempt to make his merchandise attractive and to use sales talk on his customers to make them more receptive. However, if a person is not careful, he will violate the prohibition against deceiving others. Someone who deceives others is considered 'wrong,' 'hateful,' 'abominable,' 'despised,' and 'detested' (Sifra 19:35). Our Sages have stated, "Whenever someone steals even the value of the smallest coin from another person, it is considered as if he has taken his soul" (Bava Kama 119a).

___"If you ask: 'How is it possible not to try to influence a prospective customer to buy my merchandise?' you should know that there is a big distinction in the methods one might use. When you try to show a customer the true value and beauty of an article, it is good and proper. However, what is done to conceal the defects of an item is deceitful and forbidden. This is a basic principle in business integrity.

___"Someone who perfects himself in matters pertaining to the desire for acquisition has reached a very high level. For there are many who achieve righteousness in other areas, but do not achieve perfection in despising dishonest gain." (Mesilas Yesharim, Ch. 11)

___There are a number of excellent books available in English from your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242 including Kosher Money by Rabbi Yoel Schwartz. Also, one can read the Jewish Ethicist at

___Is this important? The Talmud, Shabbos 31a, teaches that after a person dies, on Judgment Day he will be asked 6 questions - the first of which is, "Were you honest in your business dealings?"

(This piece draws greatly from "Love Your Neighbor" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, pages 321-325.)

For more on "Business Ethics" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

___The Jewish people received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and were ready to enter the land of Israel. There was a consensus of opinion amongst the people that we should send spies to see if it was feasible to conquer the Land. Moshe knew that the Almighty's promise to give the Land included a guarantee to conquer it. However, one of the principles of life which we learn from this portion is: the Almighty allows each of us the free will to go in the direction we choose. Even though one man and the Almighty is a majority, Moshe by Divine decree, sent out the princes of the tribes (men of the highest caliber) to spy out the land.

___Twelve spies were sent. Ten came back with a report of strong fortifications and giants; they rallied the people against going up to the Land. Joshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefunah (Moshe's brother-in-law) tried to stem the rebellion, but did not succeed. The Almighty decreed 40 years of wandering in the desert, one year for each day they spied in the land of Israel. This happened on the 9th of Av, a date noted throughout Jewish history for tragedy - the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain amongst them.

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

___The Torah tells us about the negative response of the 10 spies to Calev's positive report about going into the Promised Land:

"And the men (the 10 spies) who went up with him (Calev, one of the 2 good spies) said, 'We cannot go up to that people (the present inhabitants of the land of Canaan) because they are stronger than us.' " (Numbers 12:31)

___Why did the 10 spies feel they weren't strong enough to enter the land?

___The Chofetz Chaim used to say that the evil inclination tries in every possible way to prevent a person from doing good deeds. At times, a person is arrogant and feels that he is already on the highest level and need not do more. At other times, when a person tries to do something good, he starts feeling sad and guilt-ridden. He tells himself that the good thing he wants to do is only possible to accomplish for people on a much higher spiritual level that he has attained. He immediately remembers all the bad things he has done in his life. Even though he might have already regretted those things and repented, he forgets this and starts feeling so inferior that he loses all desire to accomplish anything positive.

___This, said the Chofetz Chaim, was their mistake in being afraid to enter the Land of Israel. They remembered the things they did wrong in the past and said that they were unworthy to enter the land. Especially since the people who lived there were very mighty. They would need a special merit to be victorious and they felt too lowly for this. However, we should never be deterred from doing what is good out of misplace humility. Do not allow guilt feelings to prevent you from doing the will of the Almighty. (Shmiras Haloshon, Vol.2, Shelach).

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