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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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DEUTERONOMY — 32:6 endure

[Continued from Deuteronomy 18:1 portion TAMARI 30-1] Although it is necessary and legitimate for man to devote himself to the accumulation of material goods, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavich taught, “Even with the greatest efforts a man cannot increase his wealth above that which the Almighty has allocated to him. A man has to do what is necessary for his livelihood but has to understand that these efforts are only marginal and that the real source of his wealth is G-d’s blessings.” Hayom Yom-Lubavitch (Kfar Chabad, 1972), entry for 4th of Av. It was quite obvious to the rabbis that excessive concern for material goods distorted man's spiritual priorities, and often in subtle and ingenious ways. Consider Rashi’s commentary on the biblical story of the request by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh for an inheritance in Transjordan. “The tribes of Gad and Reuben, because of their vast wealth and cattle, separated themselves from the tribes of Israel and settled outside of the Promised Land [the lands in Transjordan being better suited to large-scale ranching than the Land of Israel]. Therefore, they were exiled before all the other tribes [as they opted out, as it were, of their Divine inheritance]. They made the primary concern [their children] a marginal one and the secondary consideration [their wealth] of major importance. They said to Moses, ‘we will build stables for our flocks and cities for our children.’ (Rashi on Deut. 32:6) As will be shown in the following section, both the achievement of economic wealth and the use thereof are very strictly limited and channeled by Judaism over and above the restraint imposed by the study of the Torah. These limitations do not flow from an exalted view of poverty, however, or from an “otherworldly” philosophy. Rather, all of man's actions, including those involved in the accumulation of material goods, are to be subjected to the ethical, moral, and religious demands of the Torah, so that the individual and society can attain a state of sanctity even while carrying out the most mundane acts.

DEUTERONOMY — 34:6 buried

Fundamentally, the provision of welfare is seen in Judaism as an act of Imitatio Dei -- the imitation of G-d's ways-- and as such is the mark of the Jew, who is obligated to walk in G-d's paths. In a Talmudic discussion, a rabbi asked how one can compare oneself to G-d and be so presumptuous as to assume that one can walk in His footsteps. After all, He is eternal, He is all-consuming fire, He has neither shape nor form, etc. To this, the rejoinder was that just as G-d is all-merciful, so man should be merciful; just as G-d is kind and righteous, so man should be kind and righteous; just as G-d is careful to look after all the creatures in His world, so should man be. Rabbi Simlai taught, the Torah begins with an act of chesed (loving-kindness) and ends with an act of chesed. As it is written at the beginning of the Torah, “and the Lord G-d made garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them” [Genesis 3:21]; And at the conclusion of the Torah, “he [G-d] buried him [Moses] in the valley in the land of Moab” [Deuteronomy 34:6]. Talmud Bavli, Sotah 14a This view of acts of welfare as an imitation of G-d's greatness was extended to every aspect of the welfare spectrum, not just the giving of gifts to the poor. So we find Shimon Hatsadik writing in the 4th century B.C.E.: “There are three things on which the world stands: on the Torah, on Divine service, and on acts of lovingkindness [chesed].” Mishnah, Avot, chapter 1, mishnah 2. The three are equally important in Judaism and equally essential for the construction of a religious and G-dly nation. Acts of chesed were, therefore, considered to be characteristic of the Jewish people, both as individuals and as a nation.

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