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May 15, 2017 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Behar

This week’s Torah portion contains various verses related to care for the poor (such as Lev. 25:25 , referring to redemption of a poor relative’s land).  Rabbi Miller notes: “Never be tempted to find fault in the poor who ask for your help.  Our moral duty to the less fortunate is to help them, not to judge them.”

This sentiment seems very different from the attitude of many Americans (including many if not most modern* Orthodox Jews) towards the non-Jewish poor.  There is a widespread attitude (primarily among people who think of themselves as political conservatives) that if you are poor, it is your own fault because you are lazy and/or dependent on welfare.

I am much less sympathetic to this view than I was a couple of decades ago, for three reasons.  First, being exposed to the Torah may have affected my views.  Second, the economy doesn’t produce low-skill jobs to the extent it did 50 years ago.  Third, the welfare state isn’t what it used to be; the 1996 welfare reform  turned the midcentury American welfare system into block grants to states, who need not use the money for cash payments to the needy.


*I say “modern” because I am not as familiar with haredim.  But to the extent not-so-modern Orthodox Jews share these views this applies to them as well.


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