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Riches to Rags
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Q. A formerly wealthy family in our congregation has fallen on hard times. Is it appropriate to dip into our charity funds, which are already stretched thin, to help them? A. When the Torah tells us to be generous in giving charity, it uses an interesting expression: “If there should be a needy person from […]
Defect Disclosure
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Q. If I tell a customer the whole story when he first comes to look at a property, he may lose interest before he becomes aware of its advantages. How far can I put off disclosing some details? A. One thing is certain: any flaws in a purchase item must be made known to the […]
Salad-Bar Scandal
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Q. I saw someone at the grocery store salad bar eating as much as she was taking. Should I mention this to a security guard? A. This is a good time to review the criteria for talking about someone’s faults or misdeeds. According to the classic work Chafetz Chaim by Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaCohen of Radin, there […]
Crooked Contributions
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Q. A prominent businessman has offered our organization a generous donation. The problem is, his prominence stems from his notorious business practices. Is it proper to accept the money? Can we honor the donor as we do other generous friends, for example with a dinner or a prominent plaque?  A. Did you hear the joke […]
Stealing Somebody Else’s Mitzvah
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Q. I recently did a kindness for someone. But someone else wanted to do the same kindness, and felt hurt that he was now unable to help. Am I required to forgo an opportunity to do help when I know that someone else would like to do it instead?  A. I think we’re in good […]
Terminal Deception
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Q. Is it permissible to mislead a seriously ill patient about his condition, if there is fear that letting him know may discourage him and harm his health?  A. The consideration you mention is certainly acknowledged in our tradition. One example is the deathbed confession. This declaration is of profound importance and can perfect a […]
Stealing a Business Model
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Q. I have a consulting business that provides a unique service. When I offered my services to a local business, at first they expressed interest and asked me to give details of how I work. However, they eventually declined to hire me, and a few weeks later I learned that they decided to enter my […]
Renegotiating a Low Estimate
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Q. My contractor estimated that it would take two days to remove my wallpaper and then paint the wall. But it turned out the wall was in bad condition and it took three days instead. I’m thinking of offering him extra payment, but I’m not sure I should. After all, if the job had taken […]
Ethical Animals
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Q. Why doesn’t Jewish law allow people to be buried together with their animal companions? Don’t animals also have a soul?  A. Your question is a profound one. We can arrive at a partial answer by a careful examination of the various sources relating to animals. Let’s start with the Bible. On the one hand, […]
Witness Character
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Q. Much of my income as a real estate appraiser comes from testifying as an expert witness. The litigants who hire me expect me to give low appraisals which will help them in court, and they’ll stop hiring me if I don’t meet their expectations. Can I tailor my testimony to the needs of my […]