Monday, January 30, 2012

Daily Business Ethics Halachah #6

We are learning from Case Studies in Business Ethics by the late Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine z"l professor of economics at Yeshiva University.

There are copious Jewish sources that condemn the trait of envy.  However, the Talmud on Bava Batra 22a says that a certain type of envy, referred to as kinat soferim - the envy of scholars - is not only allowed but encouraged.

Rabbi Levine writes that effective moral training must include an understanding of proper jealousy.

Jealousy is an inevitable fact of life and therefore the trait must be acknowledged, harnessed, and channeled in productive ways otherwise it will manifest in destructive ways.

"To successfully reduce envy int he material realm, a proper incentive-disincentive system must be set up to foster competition in the spiritual realm."

Envy in the material realm is the envy of the procession of others.  By contrast, kinat soferim is a jealousy of the attained attributes and positive achievements of role models.  Things like education, scholarship, and character developments should be made objects of envy.  These are things that cannot be stolen or misappropriated and there are no short cuts to achieving them.  The envy of these things is meant to inspire us to work harder and ethically towards a positive goal.