Torah Values for Life and Business

            April/May 2012    
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Essential Core Values for Individuals and Organizations, as Derived from the Torah

By Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D. © 2011

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Core Value 2: Peace

Peace is a core Torah value. The Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 59b) observes that: “The whole Torah is for the sake of promoting peace.” This is derived from the following verse (Proverbs 3:17): “Its [the Torah] ways are the ways of pleasantness and all of her paths are peace.” According to the Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Derech Eretz Zuta, Perek Hashalom) one of God’s names is Shalom (peace). The Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 64a) says that “Scholars increase the peace in the world” and refers to them as “builders.” A just legal system can be used to build a peaceful world. When waging a war against an enemy, the Torah says ( Deuteronomy 20: 10 ): “When you draw near to a city to wage war against it, you shall offer terms of peace to it.” Zechariah (8:19) said: “Love peace and truth.” The Palmist (Psalms 34:15) urges us to: “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
The following verses describing the messianic vision make it clear that peace is an important component of it.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat; the calf, the lion cub, and the fatling [will feed] together, and a small child will lead them. A cow and bear will graze together and their young will lie down together. The lion will eat straw like the cattle. An infant will play over a viper’s hole, and a newly weaned child will stretch forth his hand over an adder’s den. They will do no harm or damage anywhere in all of My holy mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of God, as water covers the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

He [the Messiah] shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for mighty nations from far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. They will sit, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid… (Micah 4: 3- 4)

There are numerous statements in the Talmud that stress the importance of peace: For example, Hillel’s famous adage: “One should be of the disciples of Aaron: Love peace and pursue peace; love humanity and bring them closer to the Torah” (Hillel, Avot 1: 12). Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel the Nasi (President of the Sanhedrin), declared: "The world endures on three principles: truth, justice, and peace" (Babylonian Talmud, Avot 1:18). Making peace between a person and his fellow is also listed in the Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Peah 1:1) as deeds of which “the fruits a person enjoys in this world, while the principal remains intact for him in the hereafter.”
The Torah is unambiguous about the evil of lying: “Thou shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16), “Thou shall not steal, thou shall not deny falsely, and thou shall not lie one to another” (Leviticus 19: 11), and “Distance yourself from a false matter” (Exodus 23:7). The Talmud maintains, however, that lying is permitted when its purpose is to maintain peace. The following is one passage from the Talmud on the subject of permissible lies (Babylonian Talmud, Yebamoth 65b):

Rabbi Ille’a said in the name of Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon: It is permitted for a person to deviate from the truth in the interest of peace, as it says (Genesis 50: 16-17): “Your father [Jacob] commanded before his death, saying: So shall you say to Joseph, ‘O Please forgive the offense of your brothers and their sin for they have treated you so wickedly.’”

Rabbi Nathan said it is a commandment to deviate from the truth in the interest of peace, as it says (I Samuel 16:2): “And Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’”

At the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael it was taught: Great is the cause of peace, seeing that for its sake, even the Holy One, blessed be He, changed the truth, for at first it is written (Genesis 18:12), ‘My lord [i.e., husband Abraham] is old, while afterward it is written (18:13), “And I am old.”

The Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Derech Eretz Zuta, Perek Hashalom) unequivocally states: “All falsehoods are prohibited. It is permitted, however, to lie for the purpose of making peace between a man and his fellow.”
The Talmud instituted many laws, some of which at face value appear not consistent with Torah law, in order to prevent strife. The Talmud uses the principle of darkei shalom (the ways of peace) as the reason one who removes a fish caught in a net is considered a thief (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 59a-b). According to Torah law, one would not legally acquire the fish by placing a net in the ocean which is public property. The rabbis wanted to preserve peace so they enacted legislation to prevent people from taking fish from nets (or animals or birds from traps and snares set in forests). The Talmud discusses other laws that were enacted because of the principle of darkei shalom (e.g., allowing minors and the mentally ill to acquire a lost object). Peace is a core Torah value which must be enhanced by rabbinic law. The principle of “Its [the Torah] ways are the ways of pleasantness and all of her paths are peace” is used by the Talmud to establish laws that will not lead to any kind of unpleasant situation that could be injurious to a marriage or disagreeable to a person (Babylonian Talmud Yebamoth 15a; Sukkah 32b). For example, the Talmud (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 32b) derives that the hirduf plant could not be one of the four species used on the festival of Sukkot (Leviticus 23:40). Its leaves are sharp and as dangerous as thorns and might hurt the person holding it. The plant that is used is the myrtle; it meets the criteria of the Torah and cannot hurt anyone.
Peace between Man and Wife

Peace between man and wife ( shalom bayis ) has a special status in the Talmud and Jewish law. The Talmud notes that God allowed his name to be erased in order to bring peace between husband and wife. The sotah , a woman suspected of committing adultery by her husband, was made to drink “waters of bitterness.” A scroll, which contained a description of the curses that would befall an adulteress and included God’s name, was erased in the “water of bitterness” drunk by the Sotah (see Numbers 5). Normally, erasing God’s name is a serious transgression but was permitted in order to bring harmony between husband and wife.
The following example cited by Berkovits (1983: 38) demonstrates the importance of peace. According to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, if a man goes to a married woman and betroths her on the condition that the marriage would take effect after the death of her husband, this would technically be valid under Torah law (if the woman accepts). However, Rabbi Yehuda said that the reason the conditional marriage is not valid is because it would cause enmity between man and wife (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 63a). The same problem applies in a situation where a man betroths his wife’s sister with the stipulation that the betrothal will become valid only after his current wife’s death (even when polygamy was permitted, the Torah did not permit a man to marry two sisters). This type of conditional marriage would cause enmity between sisters as well as husband and wife (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 63a).
The Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah 9:9) relates the following story to demonstrate how far one should go to bring peace between man and wife. The great Talmudic sage Rabbi Meir allowed a woman to spit in his eye seven times in order to preserve a marriage. The woman attended Rabbi Meir’s lecture and came home late one Friday night. The woman’s husband was furious that she got back so late, threw her out, and swore he would not take her back unless she spat in the lecturer’s eye (Leviticus Rabbah 9:9). Dratch (2006) provides some interesting examples of how the concept of shalom bayit is used in Jewish law.
The Talmud mentions the principle of chiena (for the sake of pleasantness). They wanted a pleasant atmosphere to be maintained between a husband and wife in order to promote harmony and stability within the home, and to make marriage attractive to those that were unmarried (Babylonian Talmud, Kethuboth 84a, 97b; Gittin 49b). The Talmud enacted various laws based on the principle of preventing ill feeling ( ayvah ) between husband and wife (Babylonian Talmud, Kethuboth 58b).
Testimony rules were relaxed to ensure that a woman whose husband disappeared would be able to remarry. The rabbis of the Talmud did not want a woman to be an agunah (anchored or chained) so they enacted various takanot so that a woman would not be “chained” to a marriage without a husband and thus have to remain alone for the rest of her life. For example, the testimony of one witness that a husband had died was deemed sufficient to allow a woman to remarry despite the fact that Torah law generally requires the testimony of two witnesses (Babylonian Talmud, Eduyyoth 8a).
According to Torah law, ones (meaning, an act of God, e.g., a freak tornado) is a valid excuse and would exempt one from responsibility in virtually all situations. The rabbis, however, were afraid that in the case of a conditional divorce — e.g., the husband gives his wife a get (divorce document) and states that it only becomes valid if he does not return by a certain date — a woman might remain an agunah for the rest of her life. Her husband does not return by the stipulated date and she is afraid that an unexpected, unforeseeable accident has occurred; she will therefore never remarry. This is the reason the sages felt that if the husband does not return by the specific date, the divorce is valid and it does not make a difference whether the reason is an “act of God” (Babylonian Talmud, Kethuboth 2b). Thus, when a husband gives his wife a conditional get, both the husband and wife are supposed to be informed that “if the condition is fulfilled and the husband has not returned, we do not care about the cause or rationale, the divorce is valid (this example is cited by Berkovits (1983: 8) ).

For continuation, go to Page Four

The author is a Professor of Business and Marketing at Department of Finance and Business Management, School of Business at the Brooklyn College of the City University of New York


from the April 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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