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Al Chet: Sins in the Marketplace


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Al Chet: Sins in the Marketplace

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The viduy, or confessional, is the central prayer on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Recited both silently and by the cantor, the viduy is a confession of sins committed both individually and as a community. Each line of the prayer begins with "al chet shechatanu," "for the sins which we have committed." A major theme of the viduy is social immorality and unethical behavior. in Al Chet: Sins in the Marketplace, Meir Tamari, a renowned authority in the field of Jewish business ethics, explores the viduy specifically as it relates to the business world. Within Judaism's rich body of texts, there are discussions relevant to contemporary business issues, including insider trading, limited liability corporation, false advertising and the pirating of computer software. Using the viduy as a guide, Tamari explores the sins resulting from business activities using textual material culled from the Bible, the Mishnah and the Talmud, the homiletic literature and moralistic texts, as well as sayings and stories from some of the greatest rabbis in Jewish history. Following a discussion of teshuvah, "repentance", and the necessity of confession to achieve it, thirteen specific sins are explained. Some, such as "bribery" and "usury and interest," are obvious in their relation in business ethics. Others are less clear but perhaps more important, such as "brazen arrogance," which can lead to the browbeating of competitions, employees, and debtors, and "callousness," which can result in ignoring the needs of the disadvantaged or the harassment of employees. Subconscious drives such as gluttony, envy, and jealousy are also explored as they relate to business. For example, the blurring of needs and wants that results in gluttony also plays a role in the search for a constantly rising standard of living. To conclude, the author presents Judaism's way of avoiding and atoning for these sins, so that "you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the L-rd" (Deuteronomy 6:18). Psalm 15, which presents eleven cardinal principles of Jewish observance, all concerning the earning and spending of money, forms a striking epilogue to this thought-provoking volume. Whether studies in anticipation of Yom Kippur or used as a guide for personal and professional life, the insights revealed here will be invaluable to all entrepreneurs, creditors, debtors, employers, employees, producers, and consumers.
by Meir Tamari

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