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    Price controls – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Recently* there was a “cottage cheese revolution” in Israel where consumers demanded a reduction in the price of the product, and there were suggestions that the government add it to its list of price-controlled foods. Does Jewish law believe in price controls?

    A. I can’t judge whether someone or anyone is making an unfair profit, but I do know that in Jewish law the market price should not fluctuate by more than one-sixth.

    From ancient times, Jewish society had the halachic power, backed by the rabbis, to institute ordinances to govern wages and prices; in the most basic sense control could and still can be exercised refusing to buy overpriced products.

    There were a number of famous episodes in Jewish history when prices were brought down because of communal boycotts, supported by a cherem imposed by the local bet din.

    * This article first appeared in 2011.

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