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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 31, 2007 / 22 Teves 5768

Flawed Freebies

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I'm struggling to succeed in a small business. Often people put pressure on me to do jobs free or at a discount, especially if they are friends or for worthy causes.


A: Of course there is nothing wrong with doing a favor for a friend or donating your services to a worthy cause. It's not unusual for business people to do casual favors for friends without charge, for example, a professional such as a lawyer or accountant sharing a little bit of his or her expertise with a friend without giving true professional advice. It's also common and praiseworthy for business people to give charitable donations in the form of professional services, and Jewish law views these donations just like any other kind of contribution. In fact, they are an especially praiseworthy kind of contribution because they demonstrate personal involvement. (1)


But I have heard from a number of small business operators that the requests they get are quite beyond this pattern. Friends may request not friendly advice, but rather full-blown professional editing or public-relations services. It's certainly not customary for someone to provide his precise professional service as a casual favor. Worthy causes may pressure service providers whom they would otherwise not think of approaching for a donation, given their means or orientation.


While acts of generosity are always good, they should always be done out of your own free will, and not because of pressure or duress. And in Jewish tradition, pressure or duress does not necessarily mean some kind of harmful threat; the threat of unjustified embarrassment is also a kind of threat.


Maimonides writes: "Someone who eats from a meal which is not enough for the host is akin to robbery. Yet he imagines that he has done nothing wrong, saying, Did I eat anything without his permission?!" Indeed the permission was given, but it wasn't true "informed consent". Everyone likes to host guests, and it's embarrassing not to be able.


It's not only improper to solicit help from someone who can't really give it; one should avoid getting into the awkward situation to begin with. The great Talmudic sage Pinchas ben Yair, in his many travels, went out of his way to provide for himself to avoid imposing on eager but impecunious householders. (3)


The case of charity is slightly different, but basically the same principle applies. The difference is that it is unseemly to solicit gifts, as the Scriptures tell us, "One who despises gifts, will live." (Proverbs 15:17) Whereas it is proper to solicit charity for a worthy cause; indeed our sages tell us that someone who inspires others to give charity is as praiseworthy as the giver himself. (4)


But even when it comes to charity, Jewish law still prohibits crossing the line into duress and pressure tactics. Again, Maimonides writes: "A soft-hearted person who gives more charity than he is able, or stints for himself and gives to charity so as not to be embarrassed, it is forbidden [for the collectors] to demand and collect money from him. And if a collector shames him and asks him, G-d is liable to requite him."


The Talmud states that this behavior is referred to in the Biblical verse (Jeremiah 30:20), "And I will requite all who oppress them." (6)


You can be grateful that you have a unique talent and ability which is much in demand not only among your clients, but also among friends and worthy organizations. Of course you may choose to share these talents with others on a voluntary basis. But it is wrong for others to pressure you to do so beyond what is affordable for you and customary for business owners, and you should feel no embarrassment in politely refusing requests for inappropriate freebies.

SOURCES: (1) Cyril Domb (ed.), Maaser Kesafim pg. 130 (2) Maimonides Code, Teshuva 4:4 (3) Babylonian Talmud Chullin 7b. (4) Babylonian Talmud Bava Basra 9a (5) Maimonides Code, Matanos Aniim 7:11 (6) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Basra 8b

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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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