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The Jewish Economy Triangle: Capitalism, Faith And Loving-Kindness

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Like every other aspect of running a country, economics is a complex business. But when the nation’s and individual’s bottom line is God and His directives, greed will evaporate and capitalism based on faith and loving-kindness will flourish. A truly Jewish Israel must adopt the economic structure that will most aptly balance objective economic principles with Jewish values. We can call it the “Jewish Economy Triangle.”


Principle 1: Capitalism

Judaism absolutely recognizes personal property rights, the right to amass and maintain wealth, and the fact that there will never be full economic equality. Moreover, Judaism sees wealth as a sign of blessing. Our patriarchs were all “millionaires.”


Commerce, which socialism sees as negative and tainted by “robbery of the workers,” is viewed in Judaism as an honorable trade, just as any other legitimate source of income. Many of Israel’s sages engaged in commerce, from Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi – who compiled the Mishnah – to the Holy Ari.


Principle 2: Faith

A Jew must always understand that his wealth is not the product of his business acumen, and that he is not its ultimate owner. It is God’s blessing that brings him success, and wealth is nothing more than a deposit – placed in his hands to enable him to do what is right in God’s eyes. According to Judaism, it is permissible and appropriate to enjoy wealth. Judaism does not encourage asceticism, but guides us within the refining cultural framework of Torah. Furthermore, Judaism obligates the Jewish capitalist to perform actions that completely contradict the market orientation of capitalism. The Jew must cease from work on the Shabbat, even if he will lose the economic chance of a lifetime.


During the Temple era, “private enterprise” was even more restricted; all male Jews were commanded to ascend to Jerusalem for the holidays three times a year, leaving their work far behind. The laws of Monetary Sabbatical (Shmittat Ksafim) with its nullification of outstanding loans, and the Jubilee, in which land is returned to its original owner, are obviously the most compelling expressions of the second leg of the economic triangle. Personal property is not exactly personally owned. Judaism periodically levels out the playing field, returning the economic status quo to its starting point – in complete contradiction to capitalism. Laws such as these are held in reserve for the “Era of the Messiah”; yet even now, we can integrate the principles of faith that they embody. The primary economic objective is not growth for its own sake, but rather the spiritual lifestyle that wealth can foster.


Principle 3: Loving-Kindness

Acts of loving-kindness are the responsibility of the individual and the community. Neither shall hide behind state organizations such as social security or welfare. The welfare mandate, like most other authority, will be the responsibility of the community and its elected officials. The local officials must be responsible for the underprivileged of the community. They know them personally and can identify who is truly needy. They will collect the taxes and decide what portion of the district income will be allocated for education, health, welfare, etc. Furthermore, every individual in the community must take personal responsibility for the poor, setting aside a fixed percentage of his income for charity – as the Torah commands.


The Jewish state must cultivate an economic approach that reflects the basic culture of the nation. Jewish leadership that would apply the Jewish Economic Triangle in Israel would pave the way for a flourishing economy, and foster a sense of joy and well-being for all of its inhabitants.


Jewish Prisoners


With the start of the New Year, we fervently pray that the Prisoners of Zion – both within Israel and outside Israel – will shortly return home to their families. First and foremost, we pray for the betrayed Prisoner of Zion, our brother Jonathan Pollard; second, the soldier for whom Israel does not even attempt to exact a price – Gilad Shalit. And of course, we pray for the return of all the Jewish Prisoners of Zion languishing in Israeli jails because Israel “doesn’t have a vested interest” (in the words of Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter) in releasing them – although it is convinced that it does have a vested interest in the wholesale release of Arab murderers. We pray that we will soon merit worthy Jewish leadership that will view the Jewish vested interest as Israel’s vested interest, and that will free all the Prisoners of Zion without delay.


Moshe Feiglin is the founder and president of Manhigut Yehudit, the largest faction inside the Likud party. Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) strives to restore Jewish values, pride and integrity to the State of Israel. For more information or to order Feiglin’s newest book, The War of Dreams, visit www.jewishisrael.org.

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