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Behar: In business, we’re all princes

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Every single person we do business with is the child of an exceptionally important person. 

This is a comment of the great medieval commentator Sforno on Parshat Behar which teaches, 

“Vechi timkeru mimkar la’amitecha oh kano miyad amitecha al tonu ish et achiv.” – “When you’re selling something to someone or buying something from someone, don’t ever cheat another person.” 

Sforno explains that if you were doing business with the son or daughter of a monarch, or a president or the head of the army, you’d be exceptionally careful to engage with that person with the utmost integrity and honesty. That’s because either you respect that person’s parent, or you fear them.

So too, says Sforno, Hashem is the God of every single human being. Therefore, when we deal in business matters with others, we must respect Hashem or fear Hashem, Who is the Parent of everyone on earth. 

I believe that we need to go one step beyond this. Often, I come across people who desist from doing what is wrong because they don’t want to be caught out or don’t want bad publicity! That’s not the best reason not to do what is wrong. We shouldn’t do what is wrong because it’s wrong! And we should be doing what is right because it is right! 

This week we celebrate Lag b’Omer, and fascinatingly, the day of Lag b’Omer gives us a message for our journey from Pesach to Shavuot and our counting of the Omer. There are 32 days preceding Lag b’Omer, and 32 numerically is lamed bet (לב) which makes the Hebrew word ‘lev’ meaning a heart. After lag b’Omer, you have an additional 17 days until Shavuot and the Hebrew word tov (טוב) meaning good has the value of 17. This indicates that the whole of our journey of the counting of the Omer should inspire us to have a lev tov, a naturally good heart.  

Therefore when it comes to honesty and integrity and all our dealings with others, let us have a naturally good heart and let’s do the right thing not because it’s a policy but rather because that’s the Torah true way of conduct. 

Shabbat shalom.

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