Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Iyar 5761 - May 9, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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HaRav Salomon Speaks Pointedly to Agudath Israel Conference on "Interface Of Ethics and Halacha"
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

They represented a broad range of professions and different walks of observant Jewish life, but the more than 400 participants in last Sunday's halacha conference for business people and professionals shared a single objective: to refine and update their knowledge of the halachic approach to ethical business practices. Sponsored by Agudath Israel of America's Commission on Torah Projects, the conference included several symposia at which noted halachic experts clarified important and practical issues in Choshen Mishpat as well as several workshops that focused on ethical dilemmas specific to certain businesses and professions.

Setting the tone for the day-long proceedings was the galvanizing keynote luncheon address by Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, mashgiach ruchani of Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood.

The session commenced with remarks by Commission on Torah Project chairman Gedalia Weinberger and co-chair Shlomo Gottesman, and an opening address by Agudath Israel's vice president for government and public affairs, Chaim Dovid Zwiebel.

In his talk, Mr. Zwiebel recalled that the legendary, late leader of Agudas Yisroel, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, zt"l, would always consult with a member of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah before agreeing to speak or sit on a panel within a setting he deemed questionable. "I was taught," Rabbi Sherer explained, "that whenever I walk into a room, with me walks the Chofetz Chaim and the Imrei Emes and Reb Chaim Ozer and the Tchortkover Rebbe and Reb Aharon Kotler and, yb"l, the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. So the question is not simply can Moshe Sherer walk into this room, but can Moshe Sherer bring the Chofetz Chaim into this room?"

Each of us -- and particularly those of us whose professions and businesses bring us into regular contact with the outside world -- is under a spotlight, said Rabbi Zwiebel, reminding his listeners that "every individual through his actions tells the world something that will cause it to speak about either the beauty of the Torah lifestyle or chas vesholom the opposite." And like Rabbi Sherer, every individual who walks into a room is accompanied by the Chofetz Chaim, by the Torah hakedosha, and even, kevayochol, by Hashem Yisborach Himself. How we act in that room reflects not only on ourselves, Rabbi Zwiebel declared, but on all of Klal Yisroel.

Rabbi Salomon opened the keynote address with words of praise for the many who turned out for the Sunday conference, referring to them as mevakshei Hashem. While people often characterize mevakshei Hashem as those who try to become close to Hashem by entirely closing themselves off from the material world, the true mevakshei Hashem, the Mashgiach averred, are those who seek the Ribono Shel Olam in their day-to-day lives and understand that even the most mundane act is elevated when informed by Torah and the rotzon Hashem.

Halacha dictates every aspect of professional behavior, Rabbi Salomon stressed again and again in his talk, noting that when a professional sits in his office, he must see himself as the "embodiment of halacha" and that when he conducts his affairs in accordance with Hakodosh Boruch Hu's will, he achieves the ultimate deveikus beHashem.

Honesty and integrity must govern our actions in our personal lives too, the Mashgiach declared. Our children must learn from our example that "a word is a word" and a promise given is a promise kept. Midas ho'emes -- which, as evidenced by such examples as Avrohom's covenant with Avimelech, predates even matan Torah -- must be recognized as basic and essential to our humanity. Indeed, since Klal Yisroel said na'aseh venishma before they got the Torah, it can even be said that it is middas ho'emes that obligates us to keep the Torah and not the other way around, Rabbi Salomon observed. Yet, too often today, he lamented, we use the Torah to find a lomdishe loophole for breaking our word.

Rabbi Solomon pointed out that when the Mishna in Bava Kama lists the principal categories of damages, it uses the rather unusual term maveh in reference to an odom hamazik. The term is borrowed from a posuk in Yeshayahu that promises that the geulah will come "im tevayun bayu -- if you will but plead to Hashem." A maveh, then, is one who davens for geulah.

Why does the Mishna use this particular loshon to refer to an odom? The Chofetz Chaim cites a medrash that tells us that a tefillah zakah can only be offered by one who "holds nothing in his hand" that doesn't rightfully belong to him. Gezel prevents tefilloh from being accepted because it demonstrates a person's lack of trust in Hashem's ability to provide for him if he simply conducts his business in the proper way. Such a person is, in effect, saying to the Ribono Shel Olam, "I don't need Your help." When this same person then davens to Hashem for help, his tefillos will certainly be rejected. By using the word maveh, Rabbi Salomon explained, the mishna is telling us that our tefillos for geulah can't be effective if we have not fully paid debts like those incurred by having damaged the property of others.

Further illustrating this idea, Rabbi Salomon related the Semag's account of his travels among the Jews in golus. In every city he admonished his listeners not to become immersed in materialism, warning that the pursuit of luxuries ultimately leads to gezel. Only by embracing emes in their dealing with Jews and non-Jews alike could they hope to be among the shearis Yisroel -- those who will be left at the time of Moshiach.

And he explained why honesty is the middah that enables one to merit the redemption. If the nations of the world were to witness the redemption of liars and thieves, the coming of Moshiach would create a chilul Hashem in which Hakodosh Boruch Hu Himself would be implicated, the Mashgiach explained. Conversely, if the shearis Yisroel are those who live a life of emes, the nations will proclaim that Hashem has brought redemption to a deserving people and the ultimate kiddush Hashem will thus be created.

Rabbi Salomon closed his address by urging the rapt gathering to take home with them this very message -- indeed to relay it to their children -- that only by strengthening the middah of emes will Klal Yisroel merit the geula bekorov.


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