Torah Thought for the Week

Capitalist or Communist?

bf19e4a5b84fd49ab172_UC_Torah_Center.jpg
bf19e4a5b84fd49ab172_UC_Torah_Center.jpg

Karl Marx may have been the pioneer, but many other Jews were also involved in the struggle for communism, particularly in the early days of the Russian revolution. Personally, I don’t think that we have any apologies to make for this phenomenon. Having suffered unbearably under successive oppressive regimes, many of those political activists genuinely thought communism would be better for the people than czarist corruption. Their sense of idealism fueled hopes for a better life and a more equitable future for all. On paper, communism was a good idea. The fact that it failed — and that the new leaders outdid their predecessors’ oppression — may reflect the personalities involved as much as the system they promoted.

What is Judaism’s economic system? Is there one? I would describe it as “capitalism with a conscience.” In promoting free enterprise, the Torah is clearly capitalistic. But it is a conditional capitalism, and certainly a compassionate capitalism.

Sign Up for E-News

Winston Churchill once said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent vice of communism is the equal sharing of miseries.” So Judaism introduced an open market system, where the sharing of blessings was not left to chance or wishful thinking, but was made mandatory. Our Parshah gives us a classic example.

Shemittah, the Sabbatical year, was designed to allow the land to rest and regenerate. Six years the land would be worked, but in the seventh year it would rest and lie fallow. The agricultural cycle in the Holy Land imposed strict rules and regulations on the owner of the land. No planting, no pruning, no agricultural work whatsoever in the seventh year — and whatever grew by itself would be “ownerless” and there for the taking for all. The owner could take some, but so could his workers, friends and neighbors. The landowner, in his own land, would have no more right than the stranger. For six years you own the property, but in the seventh you enjoy no special claims.

This is but one of many examples of Judaism’s “capitalism with a conscience.” There are many other legislated obligations to the poor—not optional extras, not even pious recommendations, but clear mandatory contributions to the less fortunate. The ten percent tithes, as well as the obligation to leave to the poor the unharvested corners of one’s field, the gleanings, and the forgotten sheaves are all part of the system of compassionate capitalism.

Judaism thus presents an economic system which boasts the best of both worlds — the advantages of an unfettered free market, allowing personal expression and success relative to hard work, without the drawbacks of corporate greed. If the land belongs to G‑d, then we have no exclusive ownership over it. G‑d bestows His blessings upon us, but clearly, the deal is that we must share. Without Torah law, capitalism fails. Unbridled ambition and the lust for money and power lead to monopolies and conglomerates that leave no room for the next guy and widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The Sabbatical year is one of many checks and balances that keep our capitalism kosherand kind.

Some people are too businesslike. Everything is measured and exact. Business is business. If I invited you for Shabbat, then I won’t repeat the invitation until you reciprocate first. If you gave my son $50 for his bar mitzvah, then that is exactly what I will give your son. We should be softer, more flexible, not so hard, tough and businesslike. By all means, be a capitalist, but be a kosher capitalist. What a person is “worth” financially should be irrelevant to the respect you accord to him. Retain the traditional Jewish characteristics of kindness, compassion, tzedakah and chesed, generosity of spirit, heart—and pocket.

May you make lots of money, and encourage G‑d to keep showering you with His blessings by sharing it generously with others.

The Union County Torah Center - Chabad is a Jewish educational outreach center and synagogue serving Union County with Shabbat & Holiday services, Hebrew School & youth programs &  Adult Education. The center is not membership oriented and is open to the public. 

Rabbi Levi Block can be reached at rabbiblock@torahcenter.org

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Scotch Plains/Fanwood

Sex Toys, Gay Jokes, Nepotism, Frat-Boy Pranks; Mountainside P.D. Out of Control Says Lawsuit

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – In a 46-page complaint packed with allegations of harassment involving sex toys, official misconduct, nepotism, hazing, double-dipping and other egregious behavior, five Mountainside police officers and a female employee are suing the borough in state Superior Court.

The complaint, filed by officers Jeffrey Stinner, Christopher Feighner, Richard Latargia, Thomas ...

Penguin Exhibit Opens at Turtle Back Zoo

May 8, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ — African penguins have officially joined the giraffes, lions and hyenas in the African Adventure at the Turtle Back Zoo, bringing all of the zoo’s animals from the largest continent into the same area.

Local dignitaries joined Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. in opening the new Shores of Africa Penguin Exhibit on Friday afternoon.

"Our penguins ...

Capitalist or Communist?

Karl Marx may have been the pioneer, but many other Jews were also involved in the struggle for communism, particularly in the early days of the Russian revolution. Personally, I don’t think that we have any apologies to make for this phenomenon. Having suffered unbearably under successive oppressive regimes, many of those political activists genuinely thought communism would be better ...

The Facts About Vaping

May 13, 2018

Dear Editor:

The recent public discussion about vaping and “Juuling” that occurred at our high school really opened the eyes of a lot of parents who may have been clueless about what their kids are doing to themselves. There is a lot of conflicting and confusing information available online, on YouTube and social media about the so-called benefits of vaping vs. smoking ...

Ask Maria: When Should We Step in to Rescue Our Children?

May 8, 2018

Dear Maria: 

My husband and I have been very child-focused most of our lives. We have always put our children first. Many times we have stepped in and rescued and we think it's starting to cause issues. Do you think this parenting style is damaging and what are the consequences of our behavior as they mature? How do we stop it?

Thanks so much!

ANSWER:

As parents, we all have ...

Janessa Mendoza Honored as Union Catholic's Scholar Athlete of the Year by the NJSIAA

May 21, 2018

EDISON, NJ -- Janessa Mendoza, who served as a co-captain on the girls basketball team and is the Student Council President at Union Catholic, was honored by the NJSIAA as Union Catholic's Scholar Athlete of the Year at a special banquet at the Pines Manor on Sunday.    

Mendoza, who lives in Edison and will attend Georgetown University, played guard on the ...