The Mandatory Half Shekel
Why Every Jew Counts
Shabbos and Mikdash
The Importance of a Proper Appreciation of Shabbos
Mishkan-Lchatchilah or Bdieved
The Episode of the Golden Calf
Rabbi Gidon Rothstein writes: Americans pride themselves on their religiosity, with surveys trumpeting the percentages who believe in God. At the same time, the public discussion of issues facing this country—for now, that means the recession/depression and the stimulus—leave God out as a factor in how we shape our actions. I would have thought, a priori, that belief implies a continuing attempt to both understand and follow God’s Will, but that is not so in this or any other Western country.
This is particularly distressing when it comes to Orthodox Jews, since this is so ingrained in our tradition of how to react to times of trouble. For one quick example, Rambam opens Hilchot Taaniyot by asserting a Torah commandment to respond to communal troubles by calling out to Hashem (and blowing the hatzotzrot).
CYBERDOVE POSTS TO HIRHURIM: The way I see it, this is reflected in observations made recently in the media that people are discovering that there is more to life than consumption.
This is couched in non-religious language, but one with a religious perspective might recognize that in a sense this is one of the things that God may want from us as a society.
MJ POSTS: There is a worldwide economic crisis that is affecting billions of people much more severely than the tiny, sufficiently affluent, Orthodox Jewish community — but it is really all a message for us? The navel gazing never ends.
Well, if there is a message "for us" maybe it is that we have become as avaricious and callous as our fellow Consumers, without regard to the suffering and exploitation of the poor and weak. But then, you don’t have to read too far into the prophets to get that message loud and clear.
Just in case these hard times make anyone feel like tuning out the message and engaging in some escapist fantasy about what the messianic era might be like (or, say, if there was a murder in the Third Temple) remember that it was those prophets who told our ancestors that their sacrifices were despised, their fasting ineffectual, when the starving and oppressed were ignored in favor of "piety".
ANON POSTS: The meltdown was caused by greed (banks and consumers), and this is our punishment. You can attribute it to God directly, or maybe more indirectly, that its all kind of naturally built into the way the world works. That kind of theodicy explanation is difficult for example with a tsunami, but with the meltdown it works very well. The meltdown was a direct and very ‘natural’ result of the greed.
DAGANEV POSTS: I have heard many say that this crisis is a response to the spreading of atheism and our failure to properly respond to it.
GIDON ROTHSTEIN POSTS: Greed? Was that all of it? What about the failure to protest, the failure to be interested in what other people were doing enough to stop them? What about the fac that charities have suffered tremendously as well– were they greedy? To really understand this would involve picking each piece apart and thinking about it, not just tossing off some general comment like ‘greed’.
Y. AHARON POSTS: Greed is what makes capitalism works. If you are against greed then you are against capitalism. – Gil
Is that an objection or a confirmation? I hope that R’ Gil is not conflating capitalism with some kind of religious value. While the torah and halacha recognize the right to private property, it tempers an unfettered marketplace with laws regarding honest weights and dealings, as well as the obligations for sharing wealth via the maaserot, leket-shikcha-peah, and shmitta. To this must be added Shlomo’s admonitions against speculation, in Mishle. Rav Belsky’s comments about what and what can’t be done in investing charitable monies that were cited in an earlier post is very germane, despite R’ Gil’s demurral.
The issue of regulation or non-regulation of the market is the key to the serious problem at hand and a necessary part of the solution. While one can’t legislate against greed as a motivating force, one can and should regulate the expressions of such greed. There must be a divestment between banking which, necessarily, must be highly regulated to insure depositor safety and the taxpayers wallet should a bank fail, and the more loosely regulated investment firms. There is no excuse, however, for allowing institutions that are now deemed too big to fail. They should be broken up to insure that failures of banks and investment houses in the future don’t threaten the entire economy. The stupid risk games that they played to the misfortune of everyone except the leading players must not be allowed in the future. If allegedly independent oranizations such as bond raters don’t do their job because of conflicts of interest, then the government must step in. Such actions will not destroy capitalism in the US, it will save it – as was the case with the New Deal.