By Rabbi Daniel Travis
These [animals] he gave to his servant, each herd by itself. He said to
his servants, "Go on ahead of me, and keep a space between one herd and
the next." (Bereshith 32:17)
The reason Yaakov did not send Esav his gift all at once, but rather gave
it in a series of installments spread out in time and space, was to
impress Esav with the size and generosity of his gift.1 Was Yaakov
deceiving Esav into thinking that his gift was larger than it actually
was? No. Any technique used to highlight the positive qualities of an
item, so long as it does not cover up any negative aspects, is considered
Similarly, in business, as long as one conveys only the truth and does not
create a false impression, it is permitted to call people's attention to
the fine qualities of one's product without restraint.3 This applies to
advertising as well as to any other technique employed to attract would-be
customers. Nevertheless, a businessman must be careful that in advertising
his product he does not imply that other people's products are inferior.
It is permitted for him to say that his wares are better than those of his
competitors, but he may not say that other people or companies are selling
inferior merchandise, or that they are overcharging for their merchandise.
To make such claims would constitute a violation of the Torah prohibition
of lashon hara.4
The Talmudic sage Rav Papa once said that someone who drinks wine when he
could drink beer has squandered his money.5 Seemingly Rav Papa's words are
not a violation of the prohibitions mentioned above, for he was not
speaking out against any particular manufacturer or storeowner. His
message was rather that beer is comparable in quality to wine and is far
more affordable.6 However some commentators explain that Rav Papa made
this statement for his own personal gain, because he himself was a beer
manufacturer.7 According to these opinions we may understand that Rav Papa
sincerely believed that drinking beer was superior to drinking wine, and
that is why he made a strong statement about the benefits of drinking
beer. Although he made his statement to assist his business, there was
nothing false about what he said.
1. Rashi, Ramban and Seforno on Bereshith 32:17.
2. Mesillath Yesharim, Ch. 11; Ruling of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
brought in Titein Emeth L'Yaakov p.106.
3. Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 228:6.
4. Chofetz Chaim 5:7.
5. Shabboth 140b.
6. Meiri ibid.
7. Maharsha ibid.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org