Code of Ethics & Culture
By Elaine Fisher, Judaica Advisor
From the Talmud we learn that the first question we will be asked after death is, “ Were you honest in your business dealings?” This is a measure of character and the most important thing we can do in life.
Having wealth is not as important as how the wealth was attained.
“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways” (Proverbs 28:6).
Judaism measures success by asking did we keep our promises, have personal integrity and put honesty above profit?
"I do not want followers who are righteous, rather I want followers who are too busy doing good that they won’t have time to do bad." – Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
(The above is from Aish HaTorahL
Modern Applications for Business Ethics:
Jewish law mandates that we are to avoid exploiting the weak and uninformed in matters of business
Both employers and workers have responsibilities to make the workplace an ethical environment:
Employers are mandated to treat workers fairly and pay them in a timely manner.
Workers are mandated to maintain a positive work ethic and are to treat the employer fairly by not wasting the boss’s time.
The rabbis teach us, “Let the property of others be as precious in your eyes as your own.”
Maimonides states that a person “should engage one’s body and exert oneself in a sweat-producing task each morning.”
In the 20th century, Rav Kook made the connection between physical and spiritual health. He said that physical health is in itself a value…there is a constant reciprocal relationship between body and spirit.
One of the first lessons we teach Jewish children is that we are created b’tzelem Elohim – “in God’s image.”
God gave me my physical body to take care of, nurture, and cherish.
What does being b’tezelem Elohim mean to you? Do you think Jewish leaders should model a healthy lifestyle?
Read these pages for more:
The Jewish people have made music from the time of the Torah. Today, we are a diverse culture with music influenced by many cultures. Music celebrates both the diversity and unity of the Jewish People.
- Song is central to the Jewish experience. It is prayer, celebration, yearning, thanks, love, an attempt to rise above the ordinary. The entire Torah is a song that we chant. Our prayers are songs directed to heaven.
- “The Torah is music of the soul. Music is closely tied to spirituality…If we are to hand on our faith and way of life to the next generation, it must sing…It must speak to our emotion.” (Lord Jonathan Sacks)
- “…when Jews sing together, they sing in harmony, because words are the language of the mind, but music is the language of the soul.”
- Miriam the prophetess ... took the tambourine in her hand; and all the women followed her with tambourines and dances. And Miriam called to them: Sing to Gd...(Exodus 15:20-21)
- King David and King Solomon were musicians and songwriters whose music we sing today. Song of Songs written by King Solomon is a sensuous song that is used today at weddings, sung at Passover, and often on Friday nights. It is love poetry at its peak. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”
- Rabbi Akiva said, ““while all of the sacred writings are holy, the Song of Songs is the holy of holies!” (Mishnah, Yadayim 3:5)
- Our secular and religious music includes styles from many countries and communities from ancient to modern times. The music reflects the times and places where we lived and the experiences of our history and culture.
Click on these links to appreciate the diversity of Jewish music:
Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) Hebrew / Spanish:
Leonard Cohen “Halleluya”
Bon Jovi “Halleluya”
Sephardic Jewish Arabic Moroccan Gitano Flamenco song & dance Al-Andalus
Jerusalem of Gold
Jews of Uganda
Jews of India in Israel
music & song
Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers instructs us, “Make for yourself a Rav (a teacher / mentor); acquire for yourself a friend; and judge every person on the positive side.” (Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers1:6)
In the first century c.e., a cynical individual asked Rabbi Hillel to “Teach me the Torah while I am standing on one foot,” Rabbi Hillel responded. The main idea of the Torah is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Everything else is commentary. Now, if you’re really interested, go and study...”
Jewish education is the foundation for what we do as Jews. It is never too early or too late to begin to study. Having a Jewish mentor or organization in our lives helps us understand more and do more according to our Jewish ethics.
While education is an important value, action is more important that study.
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) teaches us:
“The main thing is not study, but doing.” (1:17)
“Do not say ‘I will study when I have time’, for perhaps you will never have time.” (2:5)
Community and Progression
Hillel said, “Do not separate yourself from the community.”
It is a Jewish obligation to participate in communal affairs and to care for the needs of the community. One midrash compares a person who removes himself from the community to one who is destroying the world. The key to building a community is to be involved and to take social action. How can I make a difference to the world? The time to take social action is now!
“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it" (Pirkei Avot/ Ethics of the Fathers 2:21)
“If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?” – Hillel, Pirkei Avot/ Ethics of the Fathers 1:14
The Torah teaches us that it is not good for man (or woman) to live alone.
The rabbis compared matchmaking to parting the sea, because there is an element of miracle and exodus in finding the right partner.
There are four skills that will help strengthen spiritual muscles during the dating process:
- Practice self-respect and build your sense of self worth.
- Practice courage and kindness to others when you know this is not the right match for you.
- Practice patience by waiting for the other person to respond to your calls and messages
- Practice equanimity by not rushing the relationship. Remain present and honest in the relationship. If it is not for you, find peace in your aloneness. (Alicia Jo Rabins)
A Jewish wedding blessing comes from the book of Genesis:
Make these beloved companions as happy as were the first human couple in the Garden of Eden.
Jewish marriage is a foundation for companionship and for family. The wedding canopy (chupah) represents the home that the couple will build together. The couple receives 7 blessings. It is a mitzvah (obligation) for others to add joy to the couple’s wedding day and to rejoice in “kol sasson v’kol simcha: the voice of joy and happiness)
Amidst the joy of a wedding, we break a glass. We recognize that every marriage may experience some brokenness. We need to remember our skills of equanimity, self-respect, kindness, and patience to maintain that love over the course of a lifetime. (My Jewish Learning)
Dating and Marriage
Kashrut (kosher dietary rules) reminds us again and again that Jewish spirituality is inseparable from the physical. (Rabbi Ruth Sohn) – “You are what you eat.”
Many people think that kashrut is outdated because of our modern health laws and food processing. But, was kashrut really about health? It that were true, we would be allowed to jeopardize non-Jews by giving them unkosher food.
“Kashrut reminds us again and again that Jewish spirituality is inseparable from what one might term “physical.” It teaches us that Jewish spiritual practice is about taking the most ordinary of experiences — in all aspects of our lives — and transforming them into moments of meaning, moments of connection.” You are what you eat.