My thoughts this week are simple, and based on one short verse from parashat Matot-Masei, Bamidbar 35:8
וְהֶֽעָרִים אֲשֶׁר תִּתְּנוּ מֵֽאֲחֻזַּת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֵת הָרַב תַּרְבּוּ וּמֵאֵת הַמְעַט תַּמְעִיטוּ אִישׁ כְּפִי נַֽחֲלָתוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִנְחָלוּ יִתֵּן מֵֽעָרָיו לַֽלְוִיִּֽם
In assigning towns from the holdings of the Israelites, take more from the larger groups and less from the smaller, so that each assigns towns to the Levites in proportion to the share it receives.
Yes, I’m broadly interpreting these words to encompass my unabashedly socialist leanings.Yes, I’m cherry-picking. No doubt my capitalist friends, whether of the the Smith, Keynesian, or Randian camps could just as easily cherry-pick text to support their economic points of view.
Nevertheless, I find these verses fairly typical of how Torah approaches economic justice. It’s clear about how we need to treat the widow and the orphan. It’s clear that we should treat rich and poor the same in matters of justice. But the Torah has, overall, at least to my sensitivities, more of a socialist bent when it comes to how we deal with the poor and the needy, and also in its general opinions of people with great wealth and those who value great wealth. That itinerant rabbi who became the basis for a whole new religion certainly seemed to embrace a more socialist and charitable outlook.
Things are just too out of balance in our society. The daily stats that come across my various social media feeds that highlight the growing economic inequities in our society are revealing and frightening. Too much wealth is concentrated in the hands of too few. Trickle down is not the answer. Progressive taxation is what the Torah recommends here. Those who have more contribute more.
Yes, I’m stretching it. The Torah is simply talking about land for the Levites. It’s talking about taking more land from those who were greater in number and thus assigned more land, and vice versa. However, the idea is basic and core. Those with more are required to give more to support the community.
There are those among the wealthy who are giving more. It all depends upon where you draw the line for wealthy. I’m not opposed to wealth. I am opposed to its excessive and vulgar accumulation. I am in favor of redistribution. Call me a socialist. I don’t care. The Torah is my manifesto.
©2015 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings On This Parasha:
Masei 5774 – Would Jeremiah Be Surprised?
Matot 5774 – Over the Top (Revised 5763)
Matot-Masei 5773 – The Torah Is One Of My FaceBook Groups
Matot-Masei 5772 – And the Punting Goes On
Masei 5771 – Cause and Effect
Matot 5771 – Don’t Become Like…Them
Matot-Masei 5770 – Treasure Trove of Trouble
Masei 5768 – Accidents Matter
Matot 5768/5765-Even Moshe Rabbeinu Had to Punt
Matot-Masei 5766 – First Fruit
Matot-Masey 5764-Putting the Kids Before the Kids
Matot–Masey 5763-Over the Top
Matot–Masey 5762–The Rebel’s Complaint and Promises, Promises