In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

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 December 16, 2007 / 7 Teves 5768

When doing-the-right-thing may harm another

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I just noticed that I got extra change from the store, but I'm afraid that if I return it I'll get the cashier in trouble.

A: A surprising number of readers asked versions of this question. Jewish law provides a clear expression of the dilemma as well as some useful ideas for a solution.

One basic assumption of the question is that in general we must return excess change. This is borne out by our tradition. "If a payment is found short or over from the amount stipulated, it must be returned. . . One who receives money from another, whether as a sale, or a loan, or a repayment, and finds extra, even if the giver doesn't demand the money, if it is something which could reasonable be a mistake . . . it should be attributed to an error." (1)

The other basic assumption of the question is that it is wrong to get the employee in trouble for a mistake he made. This also is often true. Jewish law creates a balance between the harm done to the person informed on and any constructive benefit achieved by telling his wrongdoing. The Torah tells us: "Don't go about as a talebearer among your people; don't stand idly by the blood of your brother" (Leviticus 19:16). The second half of the verse qualifies the first; we shouldn't spread idle gossip, even if it is harmless, but we shouldn't let this stand in the way of preventing a loss to our fellow man if the information we have is necessary for this.

The principle enunciated by the great recent authority Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen is that informing is permissible if it is done as the only way to achieve a constructive purpose, and if in addition no undeserved loss is caused the person spoken of. So in this case we have to ask a number of questions:

  • 1. Is it really essential to implicate the cashier?

  • 2. If not, is any constructive purpose achieved by it?

  • 3. If the mistake is disclosed, is the cashier likely to suffer harm disproportionate to his or her wrongdoing?

If it is not essential to implicate the cashier, for example if the owner or manager has no way to identify the individual seller, then it is not justified to reveal the name unless it is necessary for a constructive purpose. This might be the case if you think the cashier was careless and would be likely to make similar mistakes in the future. But if it was a mistake that anyone could make occasionally then there is no justification for disclosing the mistake; after all, the mistake did not cost the owner anything and he has no reason for resentment.

In the end the proper response turns on the likely reaction of the boss. If you know the boss as someone who will be understanding and not penalize the cashier for an innocent mistake, there is no reason to go out of your way to avoid identifying the cashier, though there is no reason to identify the person gratuitously.

If the boss is justified in penalizing the cashier, for example if you feel the cashier was careless or non-professional, and you feel the reaction will be proportionate (a rebuke rather than firing someone summarily) then you don't need to take steps to hide the cashier's identity.

If the boss's reaction is likely to be excessive — penalizing a harmless routine error, or making an excessive reaction to another error (for example, firing the cashier for this) — then you should seek a way of returning the money that will not implicate the cashier. One possibility is to wait a few days until the exact time of your purchase will have been forgotten. Or you can make up some other excuse for the payment, for example implying that you got excess change sometime in the past.

This kind of subterfuge, when necessary, is sanctioned in our tradition. The Talmud tells us: "One who steals from his fellow and hides the sum in an [unrelated] bill, has fulfilled his obligation [to return the stolen money]." (2) This is in effect a sanctioned way to return money for someone who for some reason feels unable to return the money outright. The usual example would be someone who feels that being open about returning the money will cause undeserved damage to himself. (For instance, if you accidentally scratch someone's car and you've carefully evaluated the damage, it may be prudent to leave a phone number without identifying details. You want to pay for the damage caused but not open yourself to harassment and litigation.) But the same principle applies if returning the money directly will cause undeserved damage to someone else.

SOURCES: Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 232:1-2 (2) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 64a.


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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.


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