Terumah 5768 — God’s Intellectual Property revisited

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This coming week’s Torah portion is Terumah, which includes among other things detailed instructions for the construction of the mishkan which I used last year as a launching point for a discussion of the protection of intellectual property under halacha.  You can read it here

I’m happy to report this year that my teshuva (Jewish legal opinion) on the protection of Intellectual Property,"Intellectual Property: Can You Steal it if You Can’t Touch It?" was approved by the Conservative Movement’s Law Committee by a vote of 18 to 1, with 2 abstentions at their most recent meeting in December.  You can read the teshuva on the Rabbinical Assembly web site by clicking here .   

Having had the opportunity now to present several teshuvot to the Law Committee, and having had the opportunity to attend several of the meetings of the committee, I have to say I have been very favorably impressed with the work of the committee, the caliber of the rabbis involved, and the results. 

The 25 rabbis and 5 non-voting lay people on the committee really do their homework — the first time I presented the predecessor of this paper to the Law Committee, i was shocked.  I thought I was presenting what should be a "motherhood and apple pie" opinion, yet I sat and took furious notes for an hour and half as the members of the committee provided their detailed and well thought out critiques.  I have to admit that while at first I felt a little put off by the sheer volume of criticism, at the end of the day the paper is FAR stronger than the original thanks to the process it went through.

I’m please that the Committee is addressing a number of issues of moral significance.  In addition to my two recent papers on intellectual property and whistleblowing, they also considered a paper about veal at the last meeting.  One of my complaints about the curriculum in rabbinical school was that halacha classes spend more time on ritual issues like ta’arovet, the accidental mixing of meat and dairy, than they spent on moral issues.  I’m glad the movement as a whole seems to be increasingly tuned in to the importance of moral issues as we live in a society which often seems to have lost its moral compass.

Have a great week…

Rav Baruch

T

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