Friday, 9 May 2014

Support Your Fellow - First!

This week's Parsha - Parshat Behar contains an important lesson for life. It's all about money. It's all about being Jewish. It's all about understanding the unity of the Jewish people. It's really about caring - where caring counts the most - first! 

The verse (Leviticus 25:14) states, "When you make a sale to your fellow or make a purchase from the hand of your fellow, do not aggrieve one another." Every word means something. It's written there for a reason. No word in the Chumash is extraneous. The choice of the wording is selective because though another could be used just as easily - it is this word that makes all the difference for this particular point.

Rashi points us in the right direction - the need to focus ourselves not just on the choice of words - but on how we interact with each other. Naturally (as Rashi says) the verse is coming to teach us that we should not aggrieve each other when involved in business transactions. Honesty is just such an obvious point when it comes to working on ourselves and behaving correctly - making a society healthy. Who could think otherwise? Who could honestly think he/she has the right to destroy another's livelihood - and life - when it comes to a business transaction? But still, the verse informs us of the necessity. Honour your friend's money as much as you honour your own. Value his money as much as you value your own. Appreciate his right to having the good things in life - as much as you demand it of yourself. Our verse tells us all this.

Rashi asks - from where do we know that when you sell something, you should sell it to a Jew who is (actually) your fellow? We know it from this verse which says that when you make a sale i.e. when you are about to make a sale, sell to your fellow. Rashi asks likewise - and from where do we know that when you come to make a purchase, purchase from a Jew who is your fellow? For this, the verse teaches, "from the hand of your fellow." (i.e a Jew.)

The verse points out to us that when it comes to business - if you are Jewish - your first choice of customer should be the person who is "your fellow." When you come to make a purchase - support "your fellow" first as well. This is an important rule in a world filled with an infinite amount of business opportunities available from so many billions of people. We always have the choice of whom to interact with first. It can be a person on the other side of the world who we do not even know - nor have any relationship with. Likewise - we could just as easily find a fellow Jew who lives right next door(!) (who may legitimately be in need of work / income etc. or likewise in need of the service that you offer.) 

This is one of the core responsibilities of being Jewish. It's about connecting with each other first. Assisting each other first. In as fast a paced world as ours where everyone is grabbing their own opportunities wherever they can - with so many of our fellow Jews not being able to get by - it is imperative that we take these words to heart - and do everything we can to offer our services to them first - and likewise to make our purchases with them first. Let no Jew be lacking anything - ever.

As the verse continues - but don't forget - even when you do curb your desires of supporting the rest of the world - and attune yourself to the importance of your very own nation, and now offer your services to your fellow Jew - or even when you make a purchase from him - do not aggrieve him. Do not cheat him (just because you feel you have done your share now in supporting him in some way.) Now that you have come to support him - being totally honest is no less of a responsibility than attending to his support.

Lessons for life. Honesty in business. Helping another Jew to cope with life when the world may seem to be against him. Be a part of it!

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