Judaism Strives to Relieve and Mitigate Poverty, Not Eliminate It

Drawing on the Talmud, the Bible, and the works of Moses Maimonides, a writer using the pseudonym Elijah del Medigo outlines an understanding of economics rooted in the Jewish tradition:

Property rights are enshrined in the Hebrew Bible, yet they are contingent, subject to the strictures of Jewish law. God, according to the Torah, is. . . the ultimate creator and owner of the earth and everything it contains. Therefore, God retains the ultimate rights over property. For instance, Jewish law requires that a small percentage of harvested produce, . . . known as t’rumah, be given to the priests. This percentage is not a mere tax; it is a precondition for consumption: produce from which t’rumah has not been offered is off-limits and its consumption is forbidden. . . .

As Maimonides makes clear, property rights in Judaism belong ultimately to God and are bestowed contingently, on condition that property is used in a manner which benefits society at large.

Poverty, in Judaism, is not considered the result of individual choices nor of poor habits. A midrash, [citing Leviticus 25:25], states: “There is a wheel which turns in the world; therefore Moses admonishes the people of Israel: ‘if your brother be waxen poor, . . . [then thou shalt relieve him].’” Poverty is a matter of fate, of cycles, whether cosmic or economic, which are out of the control of individuals or even of society as a whole. The halakhah does not put its trust in cure-all solutions, and its laws are designed to mitigate and to relieve suffering, not to abolish it entirely. “For paupers will never fully cease from the land,” the Torah says in Deuteronomy 15:11; the complete abolition of poverty is only possible through divine blessings, not via utopian schemes.

Read more at Athwart

More about: Economics, Halakhah, Judaism, Moses Maimonides, Poverty


Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship