The parsha this week is Behar. In Behar we learn about many important rules relating to business and social justice. One of the interesting rules that is explained is one prohibiting ona’ah – “wronging” others. In the Torah, it is written, “When you sell property to your neighbor or buy any from your neighbor, you shall not wrong (AL TONU) one another” (Lev. 25:14).
In his d’var, Words Can do Damage, Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb explains more about this verse.
“The Talmud deals with commercial dishonesty at length (Bava Metzia Ch. 4). For example, a seller is not allowed to deceive a customer by disguising old or low-class produce as new or high quality. Nor is one allowed to overcharge: a price one-sixth over the market rate is grounds for canceling a sale, even though the buyer had agreed to it.”
He goes on to explain:
“The gravity of financial misbehavior can be understood from what the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) says will be the first question one is asked on getting to heaven, for the final judgment: – Did you conduct your business dealings with integrity?”
The Washington Post recently wrote an article with the headline, “Why A Housing Scheme Founded on Racism is Making a Resurgence Today” that discusses the recent increase in the predatory practice of contract purchasing. As Jewish people, we have a responsibility handed down to us from the Torah to set high moral standards for business, especially with regards to those who are in lower positions in society.
At Yachad, we take the lessons of Behar into the real world as we strive to balance this inequality of finances by assisting those in need of housing repairs. We will be sharing the stories of some of our homeowners in the coming weeks and hope you will read along.