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The educated American consumer has become reliant upon labels. When shopping for food or the ingredients and nutrient labels alert the buyer to any potentially dangerous part of the secret formula used to produce the tasty or medicinal product. One who is scouring the shopping mall for clothing looks for labels that will indicate brands that he or she has found of the quality and fit that provide the most value or prestige. Wash care labels advise the proper care needed for satisfactory long-term wear of the many fabrications used to produce garments. From electronic devices to cigarettes and alcoholic beverages warning labels caution consumers of harm these products may cause. Labels are mini-directories of information that help us maximize our safe use of consumer products.

However, misuse of labels can cause great damage. When we negatively label people we harm their potential for positive action. If a parent or teacher tells a child "You are bad" the child is shackled in his or her future behavior to a pattern that is in fact "bad." The label reminds the child of what they did. It is as if the parent or teacher is constantly saying: "This is what you were, this is what you are and this is what you always will be". The same is true whether the victim of harsh labeling is a child, an employee or friend.

The one thing left out of the formula is the fact that there is always potential for change. We cannot assume future behavior based on past actions with any degree of certainty. Everyone deserves to start the day with a clean slate so when you are unhappy with another's behavior - criticize the activity in a constructive manner --BUT don't label the person for with indelible ink.


The laws of ribbit - interest on loans -- applies to neighbors who borrow products (like milk or eggs) from one another. The borrower may return only the amount actually borrowed. Anything added to the payback would constitute ribbit.

[Source: Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah, 160:17]


The older one is -- i.e. the less years one has left to live -- the less one should be invloved in the pursuits of this temporal world and the more constant should be thoughts about fear of G-d, correction of traits and the chase after Torah and misvot.

Rabenu Yonah, Shaare Teshubah

Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Project Genesis, Inc.



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