But this reasoning is fallacious. Taxes are not voluntary and individual citizens can’t decide how they want their tax dollars spent. If they could, the whole tax system would fall apart. Every American would steal from the government, claiming he or she was simply using his or his family’s portion of the nation’s tax revenue. Most Americans would probably simply reroute their taxes straight back to their own checking account. I know I would.

Section 8 housing, food stamps, and similar programs exist for a very specific purpose – a charitable one. Taking money from these programs’ coffers without truly needing it is dishonorable, at best. Lying about one’s income or other matters in order to qualify for government benefits comes awfully close to violating the eighth of the 10 Commandments: Thou shall not steal.

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The last Mishnah of Meseches Pe’ah states, “Whoever does not need to take charity but does so anyway will not die of old age until he becomes dependent on others. And whoever needs to take but doesn’t will not die of old age until he supports others from his own possessions.”

Alas, many in the Orthodox community have completely forgotten this dictum.

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Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press editor and writer, as well as the author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape" and editor of "Perfection: The Torah Ideal."
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