As the Democratic Party continues to move toward socialism, American Jews should recognize that socialism is antithetical to Jewish values.
Karl Marx famously said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” Following Marx’s lead, socialism seeks to replace G-d with a socialist Government. It destroys principals that are inherent to both Jewish and American traditions such as limited government, individual responsibility, and traditional morals.
Let’s start at the beginning, or in the beginning, when man, as Bereishis explains, is created in G-d’s image. “Created in G-d’s image” should teach us that just as G-d acts as a free being, so should man. It can be further understood that for mankind to have true free choice, he must not only have inner free will but an environment that allows a choice between obedience and disobedience. G-d thus created the world such that both good and evil can operate freely; this is what the rabbis meant when they said, “All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven” (Talmud, Berachot 33b). G-d controls all the options we have, but it is up to man to select the correct or incorrect choice.
Free will is the divine version of limited government. G-d picks the correct direction and gives us the Torah as a guide to follow, but He does not pick winners and losers — it is up to each and every one of us to choose the direction in which we want to proceed.
Because we all are created in G-d’s image, Jews believe that “All men are created equal.” This means we each have the ability to be infinitely good or wicked, or to forge a relationship with G-d regardless of our intellectual capability, social background, physical strength, etc. It does not mean, as socialism dictates, that we are all equal in talents, predilections, or natural abilities. If that was the case we would all be scholars at the level of the Rambam, or when the Temple is rebuilt anyone could be a Kohan.
Nor does it mean that we all should have the same big-screen TV, wireless internet, or savings account balance. We all have the same right to be as good as we can be with the cards we have been dealt. Socialism, on the other hand, teaches that everyone has a right to an equal amount of “stuff.”
In socialism, everyone gets the same reward no matter what they get done, something that is also against Jewish teachings.
In Bereishis, after five of the seven days, G-d “saw that it was good”? The two exceptions are Mondays and Tuesdays. Monday (day #2) is void of an “it was good,” Tuesdays gets called good twice. On first thought, one might think that G-d hates Mondays (as do much of mankind), but that doesn’t seem right. Besides, it doesn’t explain why Tuesday gets to double dip. The reason for the difference is G-d is teaching us that we get rewarded based on what we accomplish.
According to the text, only part of the job of creating oceans gets accomplished on Monday. Bereishis 1:6 says water is separated on Monday, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water, and let it be a separation between water and water.” But the next day G-d does something else with the water, “Let the water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear” and G-d “called the dry land earth, and the gathering waters He called seas.” Bereishis 1:9-10.
The water job was completed on Tuesday, so Tuesday got the reward — and Monday got bupkis.
The Tanach respects economic success, so long, as it is obtained honestly and proper respect is shown for the social responsibility that comes with it. That social responsibility is an individual duty and a job for the community led by its religious leaders, but not for the government. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for the federal government to provide a safety net, but primary responsibility rests with the individual and the local community.
That’s why Hebrew word for charity, “tzedaka,” has in its root the word “tzedek,” which means righteous. We are taught that personally giving charity is one of the keys to being righteous. Vayikra (25:23) says, “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him proselyte or resident so that he can live with you.”
Notice it says live with you, it does not say live in a government facility. That’s because the obligation is on the individual. In biblical times farmers were directed to leave some of their fields unharvested for the poor to feed on.
Some of the ancient rabbis suggested that when the universe was created sparks of G-d’s holiness were spread across the earth. Every time that a person makes the choice of performing a righteous act (such as giving charity) one of those sparks is purified and sent back to heaven. Therefore, through that process, we become closer to Hashem. But socialism takes away that free choice given to us by G-d. They believe that their own devices, mankind will do the wrong thing.
In summation, socialist governments endeavor to takeover the role of G-d.
The Torah teaches us that we cannot rely on G-d to bail us out all of the time, that the responsibility to act falls upon each and every one of us.
There is a midrash involving Moses splitting the Reed Sea in which Moses sees the Pharaoh’s troops bearing down on the Israelite nation, who are trapped against the sea. Moses starts praying to G-d, but G-d says stop praying and do something!
“And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” That is holy talk for, “Hey Mo, stop praying and do something!”
But when Moses lifted his staff over the sea, the water did not part. The Egyptians were closing in, and the sea wasn’t moving. Moses and the Israelites stood on the banks of the sea, frozen in fear until a man named Nachshon took the responsibility upon himself to act. Nachshon just walked into the water. He waded up to his ankles … his knees … his waist … his shoulders … and just as the water was about to reach his nostrils and possibly drown him, the sea parted.
This midrash teaches us that it’s good to have faith and believe G-d may eventually help us, but we cannot get that help until we take personal responsibility and act on our own. This too is antithetical to socialist philosophy which teaches that government is the first place to look for help rather than looking at one’s self, family, and community.
Socialism teaches that the government will always bear the responsibility of protecting people, that there is no individual responsibility just the collective bailout. Conversely, G-d instilled in us a personal responsibility to do the right thing, and also provided mankind with the choice to accept that responsibility or not.
There is no room in our faith for a government that forces its interpretation of the right thing down our throats. Per our rabbinical sages, following the 613 commandments is the Jewish version of what Thomas Jefferson called “the pursuit of happiness.”
Socialism’s objective is for the government to supplant the role of G-D, and, obviously, that is entirely antithetical to Jewish teaching.