Dealing with Competition

Dealing with Competition

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  • March 26, 2019

SEFER CHOFETZ CHAIM — Hilchos Lashon Hara 5:7-8

The legendary founder of the Mussar Movement, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, once met a man who had served as a shochet for some time. “Rebbi,” the man said, “I am giving up shechitah and instead plan to become a businessman. I found shechitah too nerve-wracking. There are so many halachos to know, and it is so easy to make a mistake and ‘mess up.’”

R’ Yisrael told the man, “I assure you that to be an honest businessman and adhere to all the Torah’s business laws is more difficult than shechitah.”

One of the areas of business that can be a major test for a Jew is how to deal with competition.

Consider the following:

“Snazzy Suits” has been doing a brisk business for years. Three months ago, a new suit store, “Perfect Fit,” opened a few blocks away. The store was rap­idly becoming popular, and Mr. Krandler, owner of Snazzy Suits, felt certain that the new store was hurting his business. He turned to his friend, Mr. Kornish, an advertising executive, for advice.

“What you need,” his friend said, “are some pow­erful ads, ads that will highlight the quality of your suits as opposed to the shoddy merchandise the new store is offering.

“How about this one: ‘Don’t be fooled by what’s “perfectly unfit”! Snazzy Suit’s salesmen, whose experience and expertise is unparalleled, will give you the suit that truly is tailor-made.’ ”

Mr. Krandler is ecstatic and immediately hires his friend to produce the ad.

It is forbidden to disparage someone’s merchandise; one who does so has spoken lashon hara. The Chofetz Chaim bemoans the fact that it is all too common for businessmen to speak badly of their competitors’ merchandise.

Our Sages teach that our earnings for the coming year are decreed in Heaven on Rosh Hashanah. Our competitors cannot take away our earnings, and maligning their merchandise will not gain us additional earnings.

Sometimes, it might appear that dishonest business practices do result in more income. But Hashem has infinite ways of “evening the score.” Perhaps that person’s house will need major repairs and all his dishonest earnings will have to be used for that purpose. Whatever the case, a believing Jew knows that one cannot gain from going against Hashem’s will, and one cannot lose from living according to halachah.

Once, a young man who was suffering with a difficult personal problem came to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein to ask if, to help his situation, he was permitted to do something which halachah normally does not permit. R’ Moshe replied that he could not permit such a thing. The young man began to cry because he felt that this was his only hope. R’ Moshe took the young man’s hand in his own and, in a voice filled with compassion, said, “What do people do when they have a serious problem? They ask a tzaddik for a berachah. I assure you that following the halachah is greater than a berachah.”

The young man heeded R’ Moshe’s advice and eventually his problem was resolved.

This segment concludes with the following scenario:

Avi relates lashon hara to three of his friends. The next day, Peretz tells the three friends, “I know for a fact that whatever Avi told you yesterday is true.”

Peretz is guilty of speaking lashon hara, though he has added nothing to Avi’s words. His vouching for Avi’s statement makes it more likely that the three friends will believe it. Strengthening lashon hara is also a sin.


Never malign a competitors’ merchandise.  Never endorse someone else’s lashon hara.

 -A project of  Mesorah Publications –

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