Judaism Strives to Relieve and Mitigate Poverty, Not Eliminate It https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/religion-holidays/2020/11/judaism-strives-to-relieve-and-mitigate-poverty-not-eliminate-it/

November 12, 2020 | Elijah del Medigo
About the author:

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 on Athwart: https://www.athwart.org/notes-on-judaic-political-economy/

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