A young graphic designer living in Eretz Yisroel finally found a position where she could effectively use her talents and hard work in school to make a living. Her employer seemed to have two businesses. The first business was that he published and promoted local yellow page-type publications to various communities throughout the country. He and his other employees obtained ads from both local businesses, as well as more prominent national businesses to place in these local publications. The young lady’s job was to design the advertisements that would appear in each of these local publications. It was a dream job—or so she thought.
Her employer also owned a more lucrative, second business. The second business was a van transport business. The graphic artist would design ads for five of the van transport advertisers that appeared in each of the yellow page-type publications.
One day, she observed her employer carrying five different cell phones. She, then, observed him speaking on the different cell phones in different accents! The first phone call he received had inquired as to the price of a van transport from, say, Yerushalayim to Kiryat Sefer. He responded—using one of his different accents—that it would cost 1900 NIS. The caller responded that this was an insane amount of money. Her employer calmly answered that given the cost of gasoline, insurance and the cost of vans and their maintenance, the cost was very reasonable. He, then, invited the customer to shop his competition in the yellow page publications. The caller responded that he definitely would do so.
The next call her employer received was from the very same caller—this time, on a different cell phone of his. Pretending to be a different person, and using a different accent, her employer quoted the caller a price of 2150 NIS. This same scenario played out a third time and her employer—pretending to be yet another person and using a different accent—quoted the caller a price of 2050 NIS. Finally, her employer’s first cell phone rang again, and he closed the deal with the caller for the original 1900 NIS, using his original accent.
The young lady was appalled. She realized that her entire job was a façade! That first business of printing and promoting local yellow page publications was a front to enable her employer’s van transport business to extract exorbitant fees from its clients.
She posed the following question to Hagaon Harav Yitzchok Zilberstein, shlita: Must she quit her job due to the dishonesty of her employer? Rav Zilberstein answered that she is obligated to inform him that what he is doing is forbidden and wrong. However, she is not obligated to quit her job, because she is merely performing her duties as a graphic designer and not engaging in deception herself. Even though she is providing her services to the dishonest employer, it is not considered a violation of “lifnei eiver” or “mesayeh lidei ovrei aveira”—assisting the hand of evil-doers—since even without her, her employer can readily do the aveira, as the graphic design can be readily done by others.
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The author can be reached at [email protected].