In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 7, 2008 / 2 Nissan 5768

Suspicious Supplier

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I have a translating business. Recently someone asked me to translate some financial documents that are clearly forged. Should I agree?

A: The question of taking part in a seeming transgression pits two ethical principles against each other. On the one hand, the Torah educates us to mutual responsibility, on the other hand it teaches us to judge others favorably. We must not take part in wrongdoing, but we must also not be quick to conclude that wrongdoing is taking place.

We learn in the book of Leviticus (19:14): "Don't put an obstacle before the blind." Our tradition understands that this does not refer to a physical obstacle before a person with poor sight, but rather creating an obstacle to someone pursuing his self interest, which he himself does not perceive. In particular, this verse forbids us from enabling someone else to do a transgression, which is obviously against his true spiritual and ethical interest.

The rabbis of the Talmud extended this rule and concluded that in many cases, it is forbidden not only to enable a transgression but also to abet one. The mishna states: "We don't strengthen the hand of wrongdoers". (1)

Not only should we not abet wrongdoing, when possible we should actively oppose it. A few verses farther on (Leviticus 19:17), the Torah tells us, "Surely reprove your fellow, and don't bear sin towards him." So it is best for you to warn the other side that submitting forged documents to authorities is a serious crime and could get him into trouble. On the other hand, the Scriptures write of the Torah that "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace" (Proverbs 3:17). The Torah does not envision a busybody society where everyone is scrutinizing his fellow man and rebuking him constantly. Another verse in the same chapter (Leviticus 19:15) tells us: "Judge your fellow righteously," which our sages understood to mean that we must give our fellow man the benefit of the doubt. (2)

Thus, the same chapter in the mishna that tells us that we many not strengthen the hand of wrongdoers also tells us that we should go out of our way to seek a favorable explanation. For example, if a person wants to buy a cow used for plowing in the Sabbatical year, when plowing is forbidden, we should assume that the person intends to use the cow for eating, even though draft animals are seldom used for this purpose. The reason, the mishna tells us, is "the ways of peace" - evidently an echo of the verse from Proverbs telling us that the ways of the Torah are ways of pleasantness, and its paths peace.

However, in your case it seems that a favorable explanation is quite far-fetched. There is seldom a good excuse for creating forged documents, even more rarely for taking the trouble to translate them. At the very least we would expect the client to explain to you his rationale for doing something so surprising. Obviously any use made of the documents is the responsibility of the client, not the translator, but these documents seem to be designed for mischief. In this respect the Torah warns us (Deuteronomy 25:13-15):

You must not keep in your pouch two different weights, one large and one small. [Similarly], you must not keep in your house two different measures, one large and one small. You must have a full honest weight and a full honest measure. If you do, you will long endure on the land that G-d your Lord is giving you.

The Torah doesn't forbid only giving short measure; it forbids even keeping the inaccurate weights in the pouch or in the house, since the only reasonable use for them is a dishonest one.

We shouldn't be hasty to assume an unusual request from a client or customer is a dishonest one. But you should draw the line when it is pretty clear to you that your services will contribute to wrongdoing.

SOURCES: (1) Mishna Shviis 5:9 (2) Shevuos 30a.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


You've enjoyed his columns on JWR for years. Now the Jewish Ethicist has culled his most intriguing — and controversial — offerings in book form.
Sales help fund JWR.

© 2008, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics