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In the 2005 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. New London Justice John Paul Stevens, in rationalizing the taking of private property for use by private developers – as opposed to the classical interpretation of the Fifth Amendment in which eminent domain may only be invoked if the confiscated land is to be taken for public use – wrote: “For more than a century, our public use jurisprudence has wisely eschewed rigid formulas and intrusive scrutiny in favor of affording legislatures broad latitude in determining what public needs justify the use of the takings power. Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government.”
In other words, it may be assumed that government is better at determining how other people’s property should be used than the owners themselves. As predicted by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in her dissenting opinion, in which she rightfully criticizes the Court’s abandonment of the limitation on such government power, “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner. The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more.”
Since the 2005 ruling, the threat of eminent domain, especially for the “redevelopment” of areas with an alleged dearth of ratables, has become commonplace. In brief, consider:
The Washington Times, in an October 3, 2005 story, described a plan to revitalize a Riviera Beach, Florida, community that could end up displacing approximately 6,000 residents, much to the dismay of several long-time homeowners.
The Boca Raton, Florida Community Redevelopment Agency recently stated (April 25 online edition of the Palm Beach Post) that “No one on this board is the least bit hesitant on using eminent domain to complete [a project to link the southern and northern ends of the downtown area].”
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the superior court just ruled that eleven acres of a power company’s property could be seized for an economic development project. And the list goes on (and on and on).
Is this something the Jewish community should be concerned with, or, should we keep our noses out of such matters – at least until it affects one of our homes or businesses? I think the answer may lie with an oft-quoted, yet perhaps underutilized, commandment from Leviticus: Lo ta’amod al dam rayecha: Ani Hashem – Do not stand [idly] by the blood of your neighbor: I am God (19:16).
Most of us do understand the plain meaning of this verse; that is, if a person’s life is in jeopardy, one must not stand by in indifference, allowing that person to drown, be attacked, bleed to death, etc. Thankfully, many Jewish communities around the country operate dedicated volunteer first aid squads, and there is little need for the average person to make use of this commandment in such a fashion.
But it is rarely noted that the Hebrew word for blood, dam, and the word for money, or value, damim, share the same linguistic root (tartei mashma). In reality, though, this makes perfect sense. The Torah commonly identifies the blood as the transporter of life; see, for instance, Leviticus 17:11, where it states, “For the nefesh [usually translated as ‘life’] of the flesh is in the blood” Certainly, one’s physical life is at risk when there is a great loss of blood. If one loses too much and dies, one’s physical existence is nullified. (Of course, it goes without saying that physical death does not negate one’s achievements or spiritual worth).
About the Author: Michael Paley, a young and talented writer with an eclectic range of interests, died tragically in December 2006.
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Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive
There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN
Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well
Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.
Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly
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The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi
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“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.
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Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel
“A Torah insight explains that though we think people fear darkness, in truth they fear the light.”
In the fall of 1993, I had the wonderful experience of interviewing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Both a controversial personality and a dynamic presence, Reb Shlomo never lost his unqualified love for his fellow Jew, though he was well aware the feeling was not always reciprocal.
Just a month after being diagnosed with cancer, and now practically confined to a bed as a method of pain control, I couldn’t sleep, so I picked up the Maharal’s Drush Na’eh l’Shabbos T’shuvah, which I had been hoping to read prior to Yom Kippur.
The singer and political activist Bono recently caused a stir when word got out that his California-based venture capital firm, Elevation Partners, invested around $300 million in Forbes magazine, and, more significantly, that his band’s company, U2 Unlimited, which holds the rights to U2’s master tapes, moved to the Netherlands to pay a lower corporate tax rate.
In 2001, Mexican president Vicente Fox made something of a splash when he, contrary to his campaign rhetoric, came out in support of the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. Fox noted that, despite the number of people imprisoned for drug trafficking, and despite the legal penalties for the possession and use of substances, drug use was going up, not down.
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