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C1. Being Fair & Honest in Business.    [Make a Comment]

We are to deal fairly and honestly in business.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 22:20(21) (Maimonides RN253; Meir MN50; Chinuch C64)
You must neither wrong nor oppress a foreigner living among you, for you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 5:21-24(6:2-5) (Maimonides RN248, 249; Chinuch C225, C226)
If someone sins and acts perversely against ADONAI by dealing falsely with his neighbor in regard to a deposit or security entrusted to him, by stealing from him, by extorting him, or by dealing falsely in regard to a lost object he has found, or by swearing to a lie- if a person commits any of these sins, then, if he sinned and is guilty, he is to restore whatever it was he stole or obtained by extortion, or whatever was deposited with him, or the lost object which he found, or anything about which he has sworn falsely. He is to restore it in full plus an additional one-fifth; he must return it to the person who owns it, on the day when he presents his guilt offering.

Leviticus 19:11-12 (Maimonides RN248, 249; Meir MN30, 36; Chinuch C225, 226)
Do not steal from, defraud or lie to each other. Do not swear by my name falsely, which would be profaning the name of your God; I am ADONAI.

Leviticus 19:13 (Maimonides RN247; Meir MN37; Chinuch C228)
Do not oppress or rob your neighbor; specifically, you are not to keep back the wages of a hired worker all night until morning.

Leviticus 19:35 (Maimonides RN271; Meir MN83; Chinuch C258)
Don't be dishonest when measuring length, weight or capacity.

Leviticus 19:36 (Maimonides RP208; Chinuch C259)
Rather, use an honest balance-scale, honest weights, an honest bushel dry-measure and an honest gallon liquid-measure; I am ADONAI your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 25:14 (Maimonides RP245, RN250; Meir MN47, MP67; Chinuch C336, C337)
If you sell anything to your neighbor or buy anything from him, neither of you is to exploit the other.

Deuteronomy 23:20(19) (Maimonides RN272; Chinuch C602)
You are not to lend at interest to your brother, no matter whether the loan is of money, food or anything else that can earn interest.

Deuteronomy 25:13-16 (Maimonides RN272; Meir MN84; Chinuch C602)
You are not to have in your pack two sets of weights, one heavy, the other light. You are not to have in your house two sets of measures, one big, the other small. You are to have a correct and fair weight, and you are to have a correct and fair measure, so that you will prolong your days in the land ADONAI your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who deal dishonestly, are detestable to ADONAI your God.

Proverbs 20:10
False weights and false measures - ADONAI detests them both.

2 Corinthians 8:20-21
Our aim in this is to show that our conduct in dealing with these substantial sums is above reproach; for we take pains to do what is right not only in the sight of God but also in the sight of other people.

Colossians 3:9-10
Never lie to one another; because you have stripped away the old self, with its ways, and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator.


This Mitzvah consolidates a number of God's mitzvot into the single principle that we are to deal fairly and honestly when transacting business with our neighbors; it applies equally to the buyer and to the seller of both goods and services. The buyer must not defraud a seller by purchasing an item which he knows (or suspects) is under-priced in error. Likewise, a seller must not sell an item whose condition and value do not justify its price.

Error in price is only one of several kinds of errors which can be made. It is possible that either the buyer or the seller could err in the identity, condition, or usability of an item. If an error is made and discovered within a reasonable time by either party, it should be called to the other party's attention, and an adjustment should be negotiated to meet Scripture's requirement of fairness.

In an ethical sale, nothing is concealed, there is full disclosure, and both parties act willingly and without coercion. This is in partial contrast with the British and American Common-law which does not countenance fraud, but embraces the principle of Caveat Emptor - "Let the buyer beware!"

Intentionally using inaccurate weights and measures in a transaction of buying or selling is, of course, dishonest and sinful. However, it can also be accidental, so Scripture prohibits even possessing weights and measures that are inaccurate. To make the point graphic, Maimonides states that one cannot possess an inaccurate measuring vessel, even if it is only used to collect urine.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides draws on the Oral Tradition to say that one-sixth of the fair price is the amount that an item can be overcharged or undercharged without either side having recourse. It is noteworthy that Maimonides' mitzvah RN253 commands that we are not to wrong a proselyte (convert to Judaism) in matters of business. He derives this from Exodus 22:20(21), which refers neither to conversion nor business. Meir and HaChinuch follow Maimonides' reasoning, but broaden their respective statements to include all matters involving monetary value.


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