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    Profits & accounts – P’kudei

    P’kudei means “accounts”.

    Whatever was done towards the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness had to be audited. Not even Moses could get away without being checked.

    This principle establishes commercial integrity as an indispensable feature of Jewish ethics. No-one is exempt from scrutiny.

    It is not that anyone is expected to work for nothing and let their family starve, but what they charge has to be fair. Profit is not an unacceptable motivation; not even in a utopian society can anyone be expected to do everything for free. The question is what is fair as a profit.

    It all depends on the circumstances. In the days of the Talmud the community generally had inspectors who monitored people’s commercial activities. They watched costs, determined prices, supervised weights and measures, and exerted controls.

    The general principle was justice, i.e. what was fair to all concerned. The criteria included ona’ah, “oppression” and overcharging.

    There was a notion of ona’at d’varim, “oppression by words”, which includes misleading a customer… and for that matter, even misleading a vendor.

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