MembersGoogle Ads: Nuisance, or Necessity?

Did you know that the morality of public advertisement has been debated by rabbis for centuries?

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Jewish Wisdom for the Everyday Man
Photo: Aharon Krohn/Flash90

Part 1 in Jewish Wisdom for the Everyday Man: a “guide for the perplexed” through the modern maze of morality from ancient Jewish Sages.

Advertising is everywhere we look on our streets, in our homes and on our screens. Millions are spent on a single television commercial, while Internet companies invest billions in algorithms learning how to target and capture our attention.

You may be surprised to learn that very early on, Jewish sages understood the incredible power of advertising, and the moral integrity that such power demands.

The word in Hebrew for advertising is persomet, a term that means publicizing a product or idea in a positive light in order to attract attention. Shulchan Aruch, Judaism’s most widely-consulted code of religious law, provides guidelines on persomet nisa, how to advertise a miracle. There is a discussion on how to display a Hanukkah menorah in a way that will draw the most effective attention to the miracle it is intended to commemorate. For example, Jews are to choose the...

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