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

Westfield

Video: Union County Celebrates Pride Month with CommUNITY PRIDE Day Picnic

June 18, 2018

RAHWAY, NJ — Parents, children, friends and all family members came out on Saturday afternoon to Rahway River Park for the Union County CommUNITY PRIDE Day Picnic.

The family-friendly celebration hosted by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders was a day of arts and crafts, family lawn games, inflatable bounce houses, playground fun and more, along with music by the rock ...

Westfield 20/20 Endorses Tom Malinowski for Congress

June 18, 2018

The upcoming congressional election is not a typical midterm. We, as a country, are in a state of crisis. We need strong leaders to hold the current White House administration accountable on important policy matters such as healthcare, the environment, gun violence, and the rights of women.

Throughout his candidacy, Tom Malinowski has demonstrated intellect, conviction, and strength. As a ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_5dd1a9491eca98aed646_best_79fa8c672d731919f994_tap_building

Tue, June 19, 7:00 PM

Westfield Municipal Building, Westfield

Westfield Town Council Meeting

Community Calendar Government

Carousel_image_0fcaafb85e2e2677157f_img_5705_-_westfield_boe_2

Tue, June 19, 7:30 PM

BOE Administration Building, Westfield

Regular Meeting of Board of Education of Westfield

Education

Westfield Police Blotter: Tires Slashed on Scotch Plains Ave & More

June 13, 2018

June 6, 2018 3:05 p.m.

A resident of the 200 block of sunset avenue reports being the victim of a fraud. Unknown actor(s) utilized victims credit card to purchase an appliance valued at $1,000.00. Victim did not sustain any monetary loss during this incident. 

June 6, 2018 6:50 a.m.

A resident of the 100 block of Scotch Plains Avenue reports being the victim of a criminal mischief.

Westfield Historic Preservation Commission Presents Devlin Awards

June 18, 2018

The Westfield Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) presented its Harry Devlin Awards for outstanding efforts in restoring, expanding or updating older properties to 12 property owners at a reception in the Community Room of town hall on Thursday, June 14.  A special award was given to Helaine Donnelly and Pat Velderman in recognition of their work to establish the Kimball Avenue ...

33 Homes Sold June 10 to June 17 in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside & Cranford

Thirty-three Homes sold from June 10 to June 17, 2018, in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford and Mountainside.*

 

TOWN         ADDRESS                      STYLE    ...

Westfield 3rd Graders Receive Top Honors at Mock Trial Competition

Westfield third graders recently received top honors for three mock court cases they presented at the New Jersey Bar Foundation Law Fair.

“I am proud that, out of 84 entries submitted, our third grade students (now fourth graders) in the Gifted Program have won 1st Place, 2nd Place and Honorable Mention in the 3rd Grade category [of the Law Fair ...

How Divorce or Separation Impacts Your Financial Life

Undeniably, divorce will have a significant effect on your life and especially your finances. There are around 800,000 divorces in the United States each year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Here's how to enter into the situation financially informed.

Know The Costs Sooner Rather Than Later
It’s never too early to gather information on how much money ...

Maximizing Your Portfolio’s Returns -- Beware the Taxman

The old adage in the investment world is that it is not what you make, but what you keep that counts.  Investors often overlook the ultimate deflator of portfolio returns – the taxman. An astute global asset allocation should be the number one priority for investors.  However, there are preferred ways to distribute this asset allocation over the spectrum of taxable and ...

Greatness

In honor of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's (of righteous memory) 24th  Yahrtzeit (anniversary of his passing) this coming Saturday the 16th.

Excerpts from an address given by Nobel-laureate Elie Wiesel on April 7, 1992, at a congressional dinner held in Washington on the occasion of the Rebbe's 90th birthday.

Some of you are aware of my admiration, not only ...

Healthy U Spring Symposium Marks 10 Years of Community Impact

WESTFIELD, NJ — More than 100 Healthy U champions and partners from YMCAs and schools from all over the state gathered at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on May 18 to celebrate 10 years of community impact. Healthy U was also formally presented with the 2017 CATCH® Award for Excellence in State Health. 

CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) is the ...

Is Summer Camp the Right Choice for My Child?

Is your child attending camp this summer? Is it their first experience away?  If yes, it can be an experience causing anxiety for you, for the parent and the child. 

This experience can be frightening to your child if it is their first time and it is so important that they do not see your worry or anxiety about leaving home for the first time… especially if it is sleep ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 16

Summer is in the air, and the latest episode of AtlantiCast is ready to help you enjoy some fun outdoors while staying safe! This week’s episode opens with tips for sunscreen usage from Atlantic Health System’s Chief Medical and Academic Officer, Dr. Jan Schwarz-Miller. You’ll also learn about how Atlantic Health System is advancing the future of health care through ...

Bridgewater Mall Shut Down for 2 Hours After Fight Breaks Out

June 14, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ — No injuries have been reported after a fight involving a crowd of people shut down the Bridgewater Commons Mall for two hours Thursday evening.

According to a Nixle alert from the Bridgewater Township Police Department at 9 p.m., the investigation at the mall has been completed, and the mall was resuming normal business operations.

According to Somerset County ...

Obituaries

Eric Lieberman, 47, of Scotch Plains, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly Tuesday, May 22, 2018 ...
Read more