March 31, 2016 – Smolarz Auditorium, Tel Aviv University
“It only took me four hours to quit the first job I had after my internship. It was a senior position at a government ministry, and I quickly understood that I would have to be party to conduct that was unacceptable, at least in my view – and perhaps it was in fact just in my view, because I have since learned that what I personally consider to be unacceptable and immoral is not the view of the general public.
Morality is inseparable from business. The Gemara tells us that when a person finally comes to the Heavenly Court, he is asked: “Were you honest in your business dealings?” In other words, “Have you conducted your life with integrity?” The first question we will have to answer is not whether we
observed Shabbat, kept kosher, or went to synagogue.
Imagine what the world would be like if all our business affairs were conducted in an atmosphere of integrity and mutual trust.
Moral conduct is both effective and compatible with the win-win principle. It does not conflict with everyone’s desire to profit from the business world. As managers in the investment sector, our goal is to create a surplus yield.
Yet this aim never prevents us from always recommending that our clients invest their money with decent, honest, and carefully-selected professionals. I believe that it is better to make a loss with honest people than profit with crooks. Of course, this is the
moral high ground, and our priority is to profit while dealing with honest people.
Unfortunately, we are living in a time of legal, ethical, and moral decline, with prisons housing the former Israeli president and prime minister, government ministers, rabbis, company presidents, and board chairmen.
I would like to believe that, following this moral decay, we will come to a period of rebuilding. Where all of us will work with moral people, who run their businesses honestly and think beyond their own personal interests.
I believe that we will achieve this as soon as our society denounces anyone who does not meet the moral standard. Courts will punish those who commit perjury, elected officials who have broken the law will not be able to return to their positions, and the market will not do business with the dishonest.
Once we advocate zero tolerance for immoral behavior, the entire business world will follow suit.
In The Last Lecture, professor Randy Pausch said:
“If I only had three words of advice, they would be, ‘tell the truth.’ If I got three more words, I’d add, ‘all the time.’ Honesty is not only morally right, it’s also efficient.”
The biggest gift we can give our children – and at my age I can add our grandchildren – is a legacy of integrity.
I hope the day comes where everyone in the business world can wholeheartedly say that they always
conducted their affairs in good faith.”
* Translated from Hebrew