A rather short and simple musing for this Shabbat. A warning to the many in our society who would lord over people and benefit from greed.
The special haftarah for this 3rd special Shabbat before Pesach, Shabbat HaHodesh, is taken from Ezekiel chapters 45 and 46. They tell of the renewed rituals to be established at a rebuilt Beit MaMikdash (Holy Temple) in a restored land after exile. All the people join with the prince who will rule Israel in those days to make offerings. Yet a distinct hierarchy is established, spelling out those places where only rulers and priests may go - peasants keep out!
As is not uncommon, the ruling class has the better end of things. As is not uncommon in our Jewish heritage, a balance must be maintained lest the rulers become greedy and ruthless.
Thus, this wonderful verse, Ezekiel 46:16 :
But the prince shall not take property away from any of the people and rob them of their holdings. Only out of his own holdings shall he endow his sons, in order that My people may not be dispossessed of their holdings.
How many have lined their own pockets through robbery, trickery, deceit, fraud, etc. And I imagine most of it does get passed on to the next generation. Blood money.
We read and hear of many scandals in the business world (and even in the non-profit and religious sector.) How many more do we never learn about?
Can we truly apply a teleological approach to Joseph's appropriation in Pharaoh's name of the property of the Egyptians? It did enable the people to survive-but at what price? In our own time, we hear similar arguments, only in the guise of ideas like "trickle-down economics," "stimulating the economy," "outsourcing," "gentrification," et al. In the end, some poor sucker is getting ripped off somehow, and some lucky stuff is getting richer.
Here in DC, when our shiny new baseball stadium gets built, and the surrounding neighborhoods starts to become gentrified, what will become of those who can no longer afford to live there yet have no place else to go? Will the fat cats lining their pockets with new-found profits from our outrageous infatuation with sports do more than offer an occasional trinket to those who have suffered to make their profit possible?
Yes indeed, there is plenty of need to heed these wise words from G"d via Ezekiel. All you "princes" of capitalism-beware.
Jews and money-we've got a rather negative image there, in some ways. (Even the positive image of wealthy Jews is actually a backhanded negative image if you think about it.) Yet if we follow what our tradition teaches-though it may be practical, and recognize competition, and the need for parnassa-justice, above all else, is what is called for.
Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof.
©2006 by Adrian A. Durlester
Khazak, khazak, v'nitkhazeik.
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