When we are shopping for groceries and other items we need the main thing on our minds besides getting what we want would probably be making sure we get it at the best price possible. But do we really stop to think what the true price of some products really are? Companies have been known to move to countries with less regulations to promote the workers’ well-being and exploit those who do not have many other options with poor wages and unsafe work environments. Is this something Jewish faith should be concerned about?
The Jewish Prophet Isaiah recording the words of God, “Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, who write misfortune, which they have prescribed to rob the needy of justice, and to take what is right from the poor of My people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless. What will you do in the day of punishment, and in the desolation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? and where will you leave your glory?” Isaiah 10:1-3 Believers are not to pretend social injustice -even if it is deemed legal by the those in power- is nothing to be concerned about.
We can make better decisions when shopping by choosing to support companies that believe in fair trade and providing safe environments for workers. Let’s not allow our desire to save a few bucks enable and encourage companies to rob the poor of what they should be given. “Thus says the Lord: ‘For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name.” Amos 2:6-8
Supporting exploitation of the vulnerable in anyway defiles God’s holy name and a lot of poverty and luring or forcing of people into sex trafficking is fueled by desperation caused by financial instability which is largely supported by selfishness. The Torah tells us “’You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.’” Exodus 20:7 We take God’s in vain if we ignore social injustice in order to benefit ourselves “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18. If you were poor you would like to be paid and treated fairly so we should encourage the same treatment of others
Yes, ensuring workers are treated and paid fairly by companies we support often means we would have to pay more for things. But we can practice self-denial by limiting unnecessarily purchases and blind consumerism in other areas so we can afford to more of a product that has a lower cost on sociality at large. You may be thinking you may never be able find a company on earth that does everything right or always be able to find a product we need that is guaranteed to be produced ethically. But we can try to practice Tikun-Olam and make the world better whenever we have an opportunity to do so, and think about the true cost of our actions. “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” Proverbs 19:17. “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.” Proverbs 21:13
Picture originally found here