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Thought for the Day: Honesty and Emuna -- A Jew's Highest Responsibility

Chazal tell us that the first question one will asked when being brought to judgement is whether he was honest in his business dealings (Shabbos 31a).  Second on the list is setting aside time for Torah study.  Shabbos didn't make the cut.  Neither did chalav yisrael nor glatt kosher.  Moreover, at the beginning of parshas Eikev (D'varim 7:12) HaShem promises (basically) that if you hearken to the basic logical laws (mishpatim) that things will be really, really good for you.  Rashi comments on the unusual word "eikiv"/since that it means the real reward will come from observing those easy/simple mitzvos that people tend to trample underfoot (dash b'eikeivav).  Again, not the big ticket items one might have expected.

As we have discussed, though, the issur of stealing extends much further than is usually thought.  Running into the bakery for three minutes without paying for parking, thus cheating the parking meter company out of 2.5 cents, for example.  Be that as it may; why in the world would my judgement start with that?  Who really cares about 2.5 cents one way or the other, anyway?

One answer could be that if you don't care about cheating on 2.5 cents, maybe you don't really care about cheating on $10,000,000.00 either.  I mean, you may care about being caught, but the actually cheating might not bother you at all.  In fact, I recently heard a interview with someone who had stolen $10,000,000.00.  It was in the banking/mortgage industry and lots of money was flying all over the place.  Most of the players were not so ethical, and the properties were losing value, so skimming off $10,000,000.00 in one of the transfers was barely a blip and hardly noticeable.  In fact, our banker didn't get caught till he tried another $5,000,000.00.  So maybe that's one answer, or one dimension of an answer, but I think there is more.

This world is nothing other than an entry way and preparation for Olam HaBah.  If you really, really believed that there were never be any reason to take something, no matter how small, that doesn't belong to you.  Just like when I was in chemotherapy, I never ever wanted a medicine or drug -- no matter how innocuous -- that I did not absolutely need.  Honesty in business -- scrupulous honesty -- is a hallmark of that emuna.

Honesty and emuna work together.  Working on being honest to the finest detail helps one to work on his emuna.  One who is truly a ba'al emuna will automatically be honest in business.  Not because he has faith that his business dealings will work out as he wants.  Rather, because a ba'al emuna realizes that this world is nothing but a playground in which to practice honesty.

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