What does the Torah say about… affairs at work?
With Rabbi Brian Rubenstein.
At first glance, this is an easy one. Of course it is inappropriate to mix the personal with the professional to such an extent that it leads to an affair at work.
Until recently, I worked in a FTSE 100 bank in the City, and even in that environment, you would have found very few dissenters. So the real question, in my opinion, is as follows: should the personal and the professional be mixed at all?
In Ethics of the Fathers 2:2, our sages extol the value of a synthesis between Torah and mundane work. The clear implication is that mixing the
spiritual and the professional is not only acceptable, but that it’s highly desirable.
Yet while that may be the case regarding the relation- ship between the spiritual world of Torah and the material world of work, we still need to understand Judaism’s position on the relationship between that same world of work and one’s personal life. Nothing is more personal than the Torah wisdom that one has learned, understood and imbued. For when that occurs, by definition it becomes personal – it becomes an integrated part of that person’s DNA.
This Torah frames an individual’s values to such an extent that the personal and the spiritual become one and the same.
It’s time to debunk the illusion that one can separate one’s personal issues from one’s work; the two are unavoidably interlinked. You don’t leave your personal issues at the door when you come into work. Like it or not, they accompany you. (If you don’t believe me, try to remain completely unaffected throughout an entire working day the next time you are grappling with a serious personal matter.) So the answer is not to disaggregate the two: rather, the challenge is to integrate them, to create a sense of harmony between the personal and the professional.
There is one caveat: we must use the personal to positively influence the professional. We are impelled to ask ourselves how we can bring our spiritual values to bear in a way that enriches ourselves, our colleagues and the organisations that employ us.
If this can be achieved, then this beautiful synthesis can be created. When that occurs, we are no longer concerned with how mixing the two can lead to a morally questionable affair. Rather, this fusion results in a wonderful marriage of two harmonious worlds.
• Rabbi Brian Rubenstein is chief operations officer of Aish UK