Torah For Today! This week: Thomas Cook’s demise

Torah For Today! This week: Thomas Cook’s demise

Rabbi Abel takes a topical issue and delves into the Torah for an Orthodox response

Rabbi Ariel Abel

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Thomas Cook (Wikipedia/Author: Adrian Pingstone).
Thomas Cook (Wikipedia/Author: Adrian Pingstone).

Travel giant Thomas Cook went bankrupt at short notice, leaving customers stranded and out of pocket. So, what does the Torah stay about this?

Bankruptcy is not a concept relevant to either Jewish or Islamic law. Once debts have been incurred, they must be paid. Partnerships with unlimited liability are part of classical Jewish law.

However, a company cannot have separate legal personality and thereby enable a debtor to walk away from debts.

Nonetheless, if the law of the land entertains the legality of a company, then as Jews we are bound to respect those definitions of business.

Loss is calculated in accordance with the five types of damage enumerated by our sages, based on the passage in Exodus that deals with this issue and details these as personal injury, suffering, compensation for lost income, health bills and embarrassment.

Stress and personal discomfort would fall under the head of suffering,  as would lost income at work, and any medication or other outlay for food and health not adequately compensated by way of vouchers or other forms of payout distributed on the ground from
Thomas Cook.

The knock-on effect of the collapse of such a prominent airline and travel company collapsing means there are likely to be delays lasting a lot longer, not only for Thomas Cook travellers, but for users of other airlines, who must pick up the fall-out of stranded passengers at the expense of some of their own clients.

Compensating losses negatively affects third parties, including the taxpayer, owing to the promise made by the government to underwrite repatriation costs.

From a Jewish law perspective, so long as the debts incurred can be paid off by an insurance policy and no party is left uncompensated, the duty on the company to pay customers can be
satisfied and discharged.

  •  Rabbi Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force
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