An Orthodox Rabbi and the Left

9 June 2007

I once had a rabbi in one of my classes.  His was an unusual situation: he’d done some undergraduate work, gone into computers in the late ’80s when one could still do it semi-apprenticing, and become a successful businessman.  While building his business, he studied under Gedalia Dov Schwartz, shlita from whom he received semicha.   His business thrives, he teaches computer classes at the school, and he’s working on finishing that bachelor’s abandoned so long ago.

The class I taught him was speech.  He chose to deliver his major informative speech on solar ovens.  His initial research had been done for one of his children’s school projects, but it had gotten him thinking.  The research also showed that solar ovens would allow even the most impoverished people in countries with nonexistent infrastructures and corrupt governments to have safe drinking water and fully cooked food.

Now, this rabbi is a member of the Agudath Israel, a particularly conservative religious group within Judaism.  And yet, he sees the need to help the poor, that many people —in this country and elsewhere— don’t even have bootstraps to pull themselves up by.  Government help may not be feasible or advisable; sometimes we need to do it ourselves.

I remember looking at him as he finished his speech and thinking, “You sound almost as anarchist and socialist as me!”

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2 Responses to “An Orthodox Rabbi and the Left”

  1. madmouser Says:

    This is not meant to be disrespectful. I want to make that clear up front, but I do have a problem with ‘socialism’. I do not disagree with helping others less fortunate, but I disagree with it being a government mandate.

    America is one of the most generous nations on this planet. Individually, we are more generous. Just look at the telethons and charity drives. It would be even greater if we did not have to fee the corruption in government first.

    I don’t think we will get brownie points with God for the taxes we paid, but I think he may approve when we dip deep into our pockets to help others, when we spend time helping others, when we comfort the sick by our visits, when we help children learn how to be good adults. These are the tings that really count in my estimation.


  2. Your comment was not disrespectful at all.

    In the post, however, I made it clear that sometimes government help is not advisable or possible, and that we have to do it ourselves. Indeed, this is the preferable but not always possible alternative.

    If the people can help each other without government intervention, they should do so. If the people are unable or unwilling to help others, as is sometimes the case, a broad-based organization might be needed, whether its government or not.

    I think you may have been reacting to the use of the term “socialism,” instead of considering the term used in context.

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