web analytics
March 3, 2015 / 12 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Society’s Proud Parasites


Growing up, I was taught the value of self-reliance. Dire straits may force a person to ask for financial assistance from his family, friends or community, but ordinarily, a self-respecting individual should not accept charity. “Better that one’s Shabbos meals resemble one’s weekday meals than to rely on others for help,” the Talmud quotes Rabbi Akiva as saying (Shabbos 118a).

This value, however, has apparently vanished in the ethical weltanschauung of many contemporary young Orthodox Jews. Acquaintances of mine have told me point-blank – without a trace of embarrassment in their voices – that they live in Section 8 housing and buy groceries with food stamps.

Are these individuals ill? Have they been fired from their jobs? Hardly. Most are newly married, as healthy as can be, and could easily afford housing and food if they worked for a living. But they prefer not to work. They study Torah all day long instead.

Leaving aside the debate between the relative value of studying Torah versus working, how does studying Torah justify taking charitable funds? Living off a generous father-in-law who wants to support his daughter’s family is understandable in certain circumstances. But living off the government dole is another matter entirely.

“We qualify for these programs,” argue some young Orthodox welfare recipients. Some do, that’s true. But even so, programs like Section 8 housing and food stamps were clearly never intended for able-bodied men who choose not to work. These government programs are essentially charitable funds set up by society for people who work hard to support their families but can’t make ends meet.

Some Orthodox Jews sponging off their fellow citizens concede this point but then argue, “Many undeserving Americans receive welfare benefits, so why shouldn’t we?” Yes, welfare fraud and associated crimes unfortunately do exist. But how does this fact justify taking charity without truly needing it? What exactly are these people arguing – that because some Americans take charity unjustly, they, too, can take charity unjustly?

Even supposing these charity recipients were right – and they’re not – where is their shame in subsisting on other people’s money? The Talmudic sages assumed normal people would feel ashamed to accept charity, which is why they praised anonymous donors and donors who don’t know their recipients’ identities. They also lauded people who employ poor men, thus saving them the embarrassment of living off donations.

How is it, then, that many young Orthodox Jewish couples today don’t feel any shame in taking charity? Indeed, in some communities, they even boast about how many government programs they benefit from. Where is the shame, the sense of honor, the pride in being self-sufficient?

Unfortunately, the problem runs even deeper. The sad fact is that many of these young newlywed Orthodox Jews don’t even really qualify for government welfare programs. They cheat and lie to receive their money. Some of them have part-time jobs – the women almost certainly do – and make too much money to qualify for government benefits. To avoid such “technical” obstacles, they ensure that a portion of their salary remains “off the books,” sometimes funneled through non-profit organizations.

Another trick I just learned about involves couples remaining unmarried – from a secular legal point of view. By marrying religiously under a chuppah but not civilly in city hall, some couples can continue to receive government benefits they would lose if legally married.

How do they justify their behavior? “We’re simply living together like so many other unmarried American men and women do,” they say. This excuse may fool the government, but what of the Lord sitting on High? God commands us to be honest and holy and to “walk in His ways.” Does God employ chicanery?

I’m no fan of government. I’m a conservative/libertarian and dislike many government programs. If I were president, I would urge Congress to phase out welfare, Medicare, social security and all the other major social welfare programs starting tomorrow. (Believe it or not, this country did quite well without any of these programs for the first 150 years of its existence.) In the meantime, however, these charitable programs exist and one cannot steal from them simply because one finds it convenient.

Some people argue that by living off the government one is simply benefiting from the tax money of one’s parents who would love nothing more than for their own children to benefit from their tax dollars.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Society’s Proud Parasites”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressing Congress.
The “Esther Moment” and Why There is Nothing “Random” About This Day
Latest Indepth Stories
Red Line Obama

UN inspectors were flabbergasted when Iran allowed them full unfettered access to All nuclear sites

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressing Congress.

Obama’s real problem is that he knows Netanyahu has more credibility on the Iran issue than he does.

Silwan, in the eastern part of Jerusalem, founded by Yemenite Jews in 1881

Kristof’s op-ed “The Human Stain” was flawed and wrong; more than anti-Israel, it was anti-Semitic.

Hur and Aharon holding up Moshe's hands as Joshua battled Amalek.

“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey after you left Egypt-how undeterred by fear of G-d”

Stalin’s plan for the Soviet’s “final solution of the Jewish question” was totally assimilating them

Many Jews oppose the speech fearing it will further erode relations between Israel & US. I disagree.

The University of Georgia Student Government Association called for more investment in Israel.

Without an alliance comparable to ISIS, Al Qaida & Iran, militant Islam will conquer the Middle East

Ultimately, Esther, Netanyahu, and we, the Jewish people, must and will rely on the true King, God, for our salvation from this genocidal threat.

Netanyahu addresses a clear, present & lethal threat to the US/Israel/WORLD; NOT political bickering

Buried in the tax-returns of the JCF is millions of dollars funneled to NIF in the last few years.

Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world

Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life

It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident

“GETT’s” being screened for Israeli Rabbinical Court judges at their annual convention.

If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism

More Articles from Elliot Resnick

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Nouril concluded he had no choice: He had to become more observant.

I was very pro-Israel, I was very proud of being Jewish, and I was living in New York at the time as a single man in my 20s and I was just looking for a little bit more.

A school voucher means the state is giving you a voucher to send your kid to whatever school you want. That might be problematic as far church-state issues are concerned.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

To many Orthodox Jews the issue is “Permitted & Prohibited;” “Right & Wrong” barely considered,

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/societys-proud-parasites/2010/04/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: