Purim and Fair Trade Chocolate

Beth El logoWhy Does the  Chocolate Say “Equal Exchange”?  by Rabbi Michael Rothbaum,  Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, CA

The Youth and Family Education Program bought chocolate for today’s Purim fun from a company whose chocolate is what’s called “Fair Trade.”

It means the cocoa growers have been paid fairly, that working conditions for the growers were healthy and safe, and that it was made in a way that was good for the earth.

It is a mitzvah (“obligation”) in Judaism that workers be paid fairly and on time. Oppression of workers is forbidden:

Do not oppress a worker that is poor and needy, whether one of your people, or of your immigrants that are in your land, within your gates.

Give him his wage on the day he earns it; the sun should not go down upon it; for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it . . . .(Deuteronomy 24:14-15)

Jews are prohibited from activity designated as mesaya l’yiday ovrei aveira“association for the purpose of committing a sin.” If we know someone is engaged in unethical behavior, we are not allowed to assist such a person, even if they could have accomplished it without our help.

Being oppressive and cruel to workers is clearly prohibited by Judaism. We at YAFE seek to support those companies that treat their workers fairly – especially on Purim, a time that’s supposed to be fun for everyone.