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 August 24, 2009 / 4 Elul 5769

Condemning those who succeed at making a killing with other people's money

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. Is it fair for Wall Street traders to be making tens of millions of dollars a year?

A. Last week we discussed whether traders are engaging in socially worthwhile work, as opposed to some kind of rip-off. Based on the evidence I am aware of, I wrote that traders seem to be engaged in a job like any other, earning a salary based on performance which results from a combination of skill and luck.

Some people may be willing to grant this point, but still feel that at some stage salaries become "obscene" or "excessive." In the US, there is legislation limiting how much salary can be considered a legitimate business expense. (Ironically, this supposedly "salary limiting" legislation is partially responsible for the compensation system of traders, who get a low base salary partially for this reason.)

It is interesting that no one has tried to limit how much money can be made from a business, or by an athlete. For some reason, people don't have a problem with the fact that people like Bill Gates of Microsoft or Sam Walton of Walmart can make billions of dollars from the firms they founded, or with the hundred million dollars earned in a good year by outstanding sports talents like Tiger Woods. Yet it disturbs them that a "regular" salaried worker like Andrew Hall can earn a hundred million dollars a year. Perhaps it is because a salaried worker is working with "other people's money" and not risking his own.

I think we can find a precedent for this attitude in the Torah. The patriarch Jacob begins working for Laban as an impoverished hand. But his management of the flock is so successful that soon his salary (a percentage arrangement worked out with Lavan) makes him a wealthy man in his own right. Laban's sons became jealous: "And he heard the words of the sons of Laban, saying: 'Jacob has taken everything belonging to our father, and from what belongs to our father he obtained all this honor" (Genesis 31:1). Yaakov after all was merely a hired hand; it didn't seem right for him to become a wealthy householder in his own right from a mere salary. But Laban's daughters, who are Jacob's wives, recognize the truth: "All the wealth that G-d saved from our father, it is ours and our sons'" (Genesis 31:16).

Later on we find a similar story with Jacob's son, Joseph. Joseph is acquired as a slave in the household of Potiphar. There, he makes shrewd use of his master's possessions. "And it happened, since he appointed him on his house and on all that was his, that the Lord blessed the house of the Egyptian because of Joseph." Joseph, despite being a slave, was allowed to enjoy a standard of living commensurate with the profits he brought his master, as he says to Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39:9), "and he hasn't denied me anything except for you, seeing that you are his wife." It is likely that jealousy towards Joseph 's success also played a role in the enmity borne him, which resulted in his imprisonment, but certainly we do not find any condemnation of Joseph's generous remuneration merely because he was managing "other people's money."

To sum up, I don't find that there is any reason to condemn someone for making a lot of money merely because they are managing and risking someone else's money and not their own. If any person, such as Jacob or Joseph, lacks funds of their own but shows a unique talent for effectively managing the funds of others, there is no reason they shouldn't enjoy a fair return, up to an including making them independently wealthy like Jacob or enjoying the lifestyle of a lord like Joseph.

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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.


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© 2009, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics