Does the Torah Mandate Charity for Those Who Don’t Wish to Work?

During testimony before a Congressional hearing on the federal food-stamp program, a representative of a Jewish “social-justice” organization asserted, citing Leviticus, that “the Jewish tradition” mandates the distribution of charity without regard for whether the recipients are able to earn money themselves. While Mark Tooley has responded to this claim from a Christian perspective, Gil Student explains that the Jewish view is in fact far more nuanced than the witness at the hearing suggested:

The most famous source [on this topic] is the gloss found in Kli Yakar—the biblical commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz (ca. 1550-1619)—to the verse (Exodus 23:5), “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would refrain from setting it free, you shall surely set it free with him.” The Talmud, noting the phrase “with him,” explains that the obligation to help only applies if the ass’s owner also participates. So too, writes Luntschitz, you only have to help someone by giving him charity if he also will help himself by working. If he is physically unable to work, then he is exempt from doing so. However, the non-working poor cannot demand help without exerting any effort to help themselves. . . .

[By contrast], the late Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, quoting the medieval talmudic commentator Menaḥem Meiri—who is unsure about the rule in such a case—concludes that [in principle] we must give charity to everyone regardless of whether they contribute to their own survival. [Nonetheless, even in Lichtenstein’s opinion], context matters. For example, it is necessary to look at the reason why the person is not working. Is it because he “sneers as society and expects it to support him” or because he cannot find a job that matches his training and background? These details matter in determining whether to offer charity to someone who chooses not to support himself. Lichtenstein concludes that “the effort to encourage sensitivity on the one hand and [individual] responsibility on the other . . . reflects halakhah’s values.”

It is a shame that Jewish advocacy groups project a limited vision of the Jewish tradition.

Read more at Torah Musings

More about: Charity, Halakhah, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Religion & Holidays, Welfare

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy