Shmuel Shayowitz (NMLS#19871) is President and Chief Lending Officer at Approved Funding, a privately held local mortgage banker and direct lender. Shmuel has over two decades of industry experience, including licenses and certifications as a certified mortgage underwriter, residential review appraiser, licensed real estate agent, and direct FHA specialized underwriter. Shmuel provides a uniquely holistic approach to comprehensive real estate and financial matters that goes well beyond any single transaction. Shmuel is an award-winning financier recognized for maximizing the short-term and long-term objectives of his client. As a contributing writer to many local and regional newspapers and publications, his insights have been featured in the media for many topics, including mortgages, personal finance, appraisals, and real estate trends.

As much as I enjoy trying to tie-in current events into my articles, I always find this time of year to be a big challenge for such feats. It would be nice to be able to provide some business insight with a good take-home message. Hopefully, it will inspire me (perhaps, others) to take advantage of the powerful days before us. If nothing else, perhaps my effort will motivate others to think of a better lesson here.

I was thinking about one of the ‘al-cheits’ that we will be saying this Yom Kippur, I believe at least ten times over the course of the day. We ask forgiveness for the sin which we have committed before G-d “intentionally or unintentionally.” If you think about it, aren’t all the items things that we committed intentionally or unintentionally? Furthermore, which is it – “and” or “or”?

The above inconsistency really gave me pause recently when I was speaking to two past non-clients of mine. Yes, you read that correctly, they were not clients of mine. I was following up with these two individuals who ended up getting their mortgage elsewhere. Based on the notes I took from our discussions, I knew they would benefit from a refinance now. I reached out to one of them, but the second one actually reached out to me directly. Neither were contacted by their previous mortgage representatives.

When I was reviewing their current mortgage and closing statements I noticed that in both cases the details were not what they initially told me. In one case the interest rate was higher, and in the other case the fees were more than they told me during our discussions. When I asked them, they each went on the explain the circumstances as to why the final numbers were more than they were initially promised. Neither blamed or had any resentment towards the previous loan officer. They merely attributed it to the normal progression of events that forced the last minute changes.

When I heard these stories, I recalled the well-known explanation of Rabbi E.E. Dessler on the Al-Cheit of sins done ‘intentionally and unintentionally.’ He famously says the contrasts come to highlight sins that could otherwise have been “avoided” which falls into this joint category. I didn’t say this to my ‘non-clients,’ but I thought in both of these cases the extra fees and higher rates could have been avoided. In fact, the way I quoted them the rates and fees initially took into consideration their full circumstances, which was why my offer seemed slightly more expensive at that point.

Interestingly, when I went to look up the exact verbiage of the al-cheit this afternoon, I realized that the actual word used and translated as “intentionally” is “zadon” which is literally translated as “malice.” To me, there is a stark contrast between intentional and malice. Malice notes someone who has deliberate intention to harm or cause pain against someone.

I now understand perhaps why these specific words were paired together. It is not merely referring to intentional or unintentional (avoidable) sins. It may be referring to an even greater example, and that of a situation where someone did more than just “fail to avoid.” Perhaps they also had a deliberate reason to harm because of a conflict of interest. In a case of business, while no physical harm is sought, financial harm might, in fact, be premeditated. We sometimes call it a bait-and-switch, regardless of whether the initial intentions were honorable or not.

I believe the lesson here is that when someone is faced with a potential conflict of interest, the onus is on them to be even more forthcoming and upfront with what impact might befall their customer. In that case, they will truly prevent deliberate malice as well as unintentional consequences. Not a simple task in the least bit for those chasing prosperous deals over proper dealings. Wishing all of you a gmar chasima tova and an easy and meaningful fast. I ask forgiveness from anyone that I might have intentionally or unintentionally harmed to the full extent of their definitions, sincerely it was not my intent.

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