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Mitzvah Dillemma

Rabbi David SperlingIyyar 27, 5780
25
Question
Moishy, an ordinary worker, is walking home from his office when suddenly, he trips and his laptop that he had been holding just a few seconds ago now flies out of reach and lands in a broken heap in a nearby puddle. Needless to say, his computer is now not much use to him in his workplace and he urgently needs to buy another one. He pulls out his phone to google the amazon store when he decides to quickly check the news. From the corner of the page, a headline catches his eye and he quickly presses it. “Apple, Microsoft, and Google accused of using cobalt mined with child labor for their devices” He is now faced with a difficult dilemma. Would it be an unethical decision for him to purchase his new Surface Pro? On one hand, it is only a suspection. On the other hand, it does not say anything about these tech companies defending themselves or clearing themselves of these suspicions. Should Moishy buy his new Surface Pro to save his Parnassah?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. After a quick check on the issues you raise about colbalt mined with child labor, it appears that this issue is presently before the courts, with the companies you mention denying any connection to wrongdoing. Based on this we can perhaps state your question in a more simple form: - may one (or must one) act on unproven claims that discredit others? This relates to the laws of Lashon HaRah – forbidden speech. The Chafetz Haim wrote a classic work that deals in depth with this subject. In general, whilst one is allowed to listen to negative claims in order to protect themselves from damage, it is forbidden to believe such gossip until it is proven. In this case, it does not appear that one would be allowed to let unproven claims (that have been denied) effect their decision of what computer to buy. In general one needs to take care before allowing gossip and unfounded claims they hear, to be accepted as fact and acted upon. When people do this they can cause great damage based on what can turn out to be falsehood. In this case especially, it would seem that one should allow the courts to evaluate the truth of the issues, and then we will see what they advice as the correct course to take if the claims turn out to be true. In the mean time, it certainly does seem to be the case that illegal child labour all over the globe causes hardship and evil – no matter who is responsible for it. A person who has the ability to work to help this situation by direct involvement with those who are suffering, or political pressure to change these terrible crimes, would certainly be doing a good thing, a great mitzvah. Blessings.
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