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At Limmud Fest: Halachic Morality as a Guide to Ethical Living

November 20, 2013 – 9:24 am2 Comments

By Dov Silberman:

morality2How people behave and act in both the public arena and in their own private lives depends very much on their personal ethics and morals.   Society balances people’s rights and obligations in two ways.  Firstly by determining what principles, however arrived at, that it wishes to protect or enhance, and then by developing a series of laws and rules and the mechanisms to encourage and enforce such principles.

The purpose of any economic theory is to maximise the efficiency of the marketplace.  Within a secular economic theory any morality and ethics is ultimately based on the self-interest and profit motive, be it material or non- material.

Constraints on behaviour are imposed firstly, by the competitive environment, and secondly, by society’s legal institutions. When these are weakened, then the opportunity for fraud and deceit increases with disastrous results, as seen by many recent economic events.

On the other hand, Judaism aims to instil within each person a personal morality which is based, not so much on a fear of other people or institutions, but by an acknowledgment of the grandeur of G-d and a sense of dignity beyond  such profit constraints.  This morality should compel one to act sometimes against one’s own perceived interests.  This morality is not confined just to Jews, but can be transmuted into general societal mores.  It will also ultimately help to create a Torah based society, in which the whole world will become a better place to live in.

At Limmud, this weekend, I will be examining real life situations and Australian legal cases concerning comparative advertising; that is, when an advertiser says that my product is better than someone else’s.  We will look at what Jewish law has to say about comparative advertising, from the times of Moses down to today.   We will discuss whether these halachic parameters have any relevance today.  Most importantly, we will consider these halachic principles for guidance in our own interpersonal relationships with other people.

Dov is a commercial and litigation lawyer, and an accredited mediator with an interest in the intersection of Jewish and civil law.   His presentation at Limmud is “Insights into halachic decision making – you be the judge” .  He recently prepared for public feedback a draft set of model rules to be used as the basis for a Jewish arbitration procedure in Melbourne.   See his pages at www.dovsilberman.biz.   

“Register for Limmud Fest at http://www.limmudfest2013.com/

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