The Substance of Jewish Business Ethics

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Philosophers generally agree that meaningful ethical statements are universal in scope. If so, what sense is there to speak about a business ethics particular to Judaism? Just as a Jewish algebra and a Jewish physics are contradictions in terms, so too, is the notion of a particularly Jewish business ethics. The goal of this paper is to deny the above assertion and to explore the potentially unique characteristic of a Jewish business ethics. Ethics, in the final analysis, is not like algebra or physics. Specifically, it is argued here that – in terms of substance – Jewish business ethics differs from secular approaches in three very specific ways. Jewish ethics: (1) recognizes God as the ultimate source of value, (2) acknowledges the centrality of the community, (3) and holds out the promise that men and women (living in community) can transform themselves. We define Jewish ethics as the interpretation of the written and oral Torah to determine what God commands us to be and to do. The paper carefully explores this definition and examines its specific implications for modern business ethics.

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