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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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GENESIS — 6:11 lawlessness

Over and above the economic loss involved in theft and the moral effect on the individuals concerned, the rabbis were clearly aware of its effect on the social and moral fabric of society.  Judaism has always maintained that evil actions and wrongdoing, such as theft and robbery are not only the problem of the parties concerned.  Rather, by perverting concepts of what is permitted and what is forbidden, they eventually undermine the whole basis of society.  Permissiveness in regard to theft sooner or later affects man’s religious behavior, his sexual mores, and even his regard for the sanctity of human life.   TAMARI 41

GENESIS — 6:11 lawlessness

The Talmud, discussing the biblical description of spiritual conditions prior to the Flood, concludes that the destruction of that generation was finalized only when they were guilty of robbery.  Sanhedrin 108b  It should be noted that the word chamas – “wrongdoing” – is understood in halakhic terms as referring to the theft of a marginal item (less than shaveh prutah).  Pre-Deluge society was to be destroyed because of all –pervasive economic immorality that concerned itself with the theft of even relatively unimportant things. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch on this verse.  In our day this could be construed as covering those areas not commonly viewed as criminal, such as exploiting expense accounts, exploiting consumer ignorance by overcharging slightly, or holding back due payments in order to benefit from inflationary price changes.  TAMARI 41-2

GENESIS — 18:20 outrage

The same Jewish law which protects the rights of the individual to his own property in turn limits those rights and grants others, the community and other individuals, moral claims to that property.   The rabbis of the Talmud, reflecting an interpretation that was already hundreds of years old, claimed that the sin of Sodom was its inability to share its wealth with strangers, with the weak, and with the poor—and its insistence on the absolute right of each individual to his own property.   The Mishnah defined one who said, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine” as a simple man.   He who says, “What’s your is mine and what’s mine is mine” is an evil man.  He who says, “What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is yours” is a righteous person.   But “What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine – some say this is the mark of Sodom.”   Ethics of the Fathers 5:10.   [In his Bible commentary], the Malbim, a 19th-century rabbinical scholar in central Europe, commented on [this verse] as follows: It must be remembered that the Bible stresses that Sodom was fertile and rich “as the garden of Egypt” before its destruction. The citizens of Sodom were worried that the desert dwellers or the poor from the surrounding areas would come to their cities in search of a livelihood and wealth.   It was in order to prevent others from sharing in the wealth that legislation against strangers –unless they were rich, like Lot – was passed and enforced in Sodom.  This jealous protection of their wealth later led to the corrupt laws and practices which characterized Sodom and precipitated its destruction.”   There is a story about the Gaon of Vilna – the preeminent Talmudic scholar of 18th-century Lithuania – underscoring this idea.   In the middle of the 18th century there were renewed persecutions of Jews in Germany and Poland, which led to refugees flooding Vilna; the Jewish Council of Lithuania debated new legislation to prevent their entry.  Obviously what bothered them was the economic burden of providing food and shelter for the refugees, as well as the economic threat posed by their competition.   When the Gaon arrived and was told of the pending legislation he immediately left, saying, “This is considered new legislation? These are the laws enacted already in Sodom.”   Charity is not simply an act of kindness but rather the fulfillment of a legal obligation.  The “haves” in Judaism have an obligation to share their [property with the “have nots,” since it was given to them by G-d partly for that purpose.   TAMARI 51-2  

LEVITICUS — 15:2 unclean

In the Torah there are a number of injunctions based on a two-fold ideology: the prevention of illness and the removal of “unclean” things from areas of human habitation. [Deuteronomy 23:14]. The temporary quarantine and purification of garments, utensils, and houses prescribed in Leviticus was aimed both at eradicating the physical results of spiritual deficiencies and at preserving the physical health of the community. All the laws of Tumah-- impurity-- which required expulsion from the community and purification before re-entry [e.g.., Leviticus 15: 2- 23; Numbers 19: 7- 22] served the same dual purpose. In the same way, the Talmud, the halachic codes, and the rabbinic literature all include the discussion of health problems, nutrition, and preventive medicine as part of the religious pattern of life. Man, created in G-d’s image, is required to care properly for his body and is enjoined against harming himself or others through neglect of that body.

LEVITICUS — 19:9 harvest

The poor have the right to participate in the Jewish farmer’s harvest: the Jewish poor in accordance with the Torah and the Gentile poor mip’nei darkei shalom (for the sake of peace). (It is obviously not feasible to grant by right all the poor of the world a share in the bounty of such a small entity as the Jewish farming community.) Although at first glance the effect of these gifts on the poor of a modern nonagrarian society seems to be severely limited, this is not really so. Even today, even in industrialized societies, the specter of hunger is such that mitigating it in this form would seem to retain some importance. More importantly, perhaps, the influence of the ideology underlying these gifts in shaping the attitudes of Jews toward wealth and responsibility for each other's welfare inherent therein is as great today as ever. Similarly, the institution of gifts to the poor is based on principles that are relevant to many of the issues confronting the modern welfare state. It is this relevance, both to the concept of wealth and to the perfection of the welfare system, which, we suggest, is as important as an analysis of the role of the gifts themselves. Logically, the gifts enumerated [in this and related verses] are applicable, in one form or another, to the Jewish farmer today.

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