“Jewish Ethics of Employee Treatment and Communal Responsibility” by Dani Passow, p. 14
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In many realms in Jewish society, one can appoint an agent to carry out some task. For instance, one can elect an agent to purchase land on one’s behalf, to propose marriage, or to give charity. One can even be considered an agent for another without being appointed as long as the purpose for which they are acting as agent is something that is beneficial to the principal and that the principal would have agreed to had they been offered. Nevertheless, the sages of the Talmud place sole responsibility with the agent when the assignment involves violating a religious prohibition. This understanding is summarized in the phrase, Ayn Shaliach L’Davar Avera, “There is no agent for a sinful act,” and is quite reasonable on two accounts. First, the agent, being an aware and autonomous person, is ultimately the one who decides whether or not a crime will be committed. Being contracted is not an excuse for shirking this responsibility. At the very least, the agent should share responsibility. That mental awareness is integral to holding the agent accountable is demonstrated by the fact that if one appoints a child or someone with mental disabilities, culpability lies entirely with principal.
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What does it mean to appoint an agent to do something for you? What is the extent of agent’s responsibilities to you?

2. Why do we have the principle that “there is no agent for a sinful act”?

3. How can we apply this text to notions of consumer responsibility? How can this text help us to understand to what degree we are implicated in crimes committed by those who produce goods for us?

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Time Period: Contemporary (The Yom Kippur War until the present-day)