Radically Jewish Business Ethics
|By David Weitzner|
Scott Rothstein and Bernie Madoff bring into question Jewish Business Ethics
In the wake of the latest business scandals in the news, let's go ahead and ask the real question that sits in the back of the head of every businessman with a conscience: Is business inherently at odds with ethics?
Let's probe deeper than that: What is the precise relationship between the world of business and the seemingly disparate world of morality and ethics? Does this relationship begin and end with a set of rules specifying the behaviors that are to be avoided while engaging in an inherently unholy, albeit necessary, task? Or, as a radical alternative, can business activity be celebrated as something with significant spiritual potential?
An authentically Jewish approach to business ethics begins by shattering our popular conceptions of morality. Unlike other spiritual traditions, Judaism does not view business activity as nothing more than a necessary evil. Like everything else that is meaningful in one's life, the call to engage in business comes from Above. The classic Jewish discussions of morality in business veer considerably far away from the topics that dominate what we generally regard as the sphere of the moral. Morality is often conceived in the popular mindset as the realm of altruism and self-sacrifice. Yet Jewish business ethics push for the development of qualities and character traits that do not, at first glance, have specifically moral significance.