Behar: A Holy Economic System

The Jewish state must set a high moral standard.

Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen,

 Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen
Rabbi Yehuda HaKohen

While the Torah instructs the Jewish Nation to establish a holy kingdom over the Land of Israel, a just social order and healthy economy are two crucial ingredients to fulfilling this charge. Since modern Zionism's early years, there has existed a struggle between the adherents of Socialism - a utopian ideal where all share a collective
Although this may sound more idealistic in theory, it often leads to problems.
responsibility and direct our energies toward the national good - and Capitalism - a free-market system which encourages hard work through personal incentives. For decades after our state was established, this conflict raged within Israeli society and formed deep social and political divisions without clear resolutions. Although increased Westernization in recent years has caused this issue to fade into the background, Israel still lacks the socioeconomic ideal necessary to serve as an example of morality and justice to other nations.

It is Israel's mission to be a light to the world. Through being a "kingdom of priests and holy nation" the Jewish people are meant to educate mankind on how to run all facets of life according to HaShem's highest ideal. The State of Israel must set an example of excellence to the global community in every sphere of nationhood, from commerce and agriculture to warfare and social services. Israel must aspire to be a perfect national entity that lives and breaths G-d's Divine Truth in every area of life. The formula is not man-made, but a sacred reality that transcends the limited perception of human beings. Only through being such a sovereign national light in the whole of Eretz Yisrael can the Hebrew Nation hope to bring mankind towards genuine peace and gratification.

In order to achieve that goal, however, it is necessary that Israel establish an economic system that reflects the morality and justice of G-d's Torah. Because Israel is not merely another nation, but a unique nation meant to guide humankind, the Jewish state must set a high moral standard for our national institutions and build a society where no person goes hungry and people behave with a genuine love and concern for one another.

"If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him - proselyte or resident - so that he can live with you." (Vayikra 25:35)

While Capitalism encourages a healthy work ethic that can eventually benefit the entire economy, it also tends to generate a feeling of selfishness within society. When people become highly motivated by personal reward, they can become conditioned towards doing what will benefit the individual, possibly at the expense of the collective national good.

Socialism is more focused on communal success and takes the emphasis away from individual achievement. Although this may sound more idealistic in theory, it often leads to problems as the lack of personal reward can deter less altruistic people from honestly working to their full potential. People naturally become lazy and less motivated, resulting in low national productivity and a frustrating bureaucracy that interferes in people's lives.

While it is obvious that neither structure is ideal, both possess clear positive aspects. But in order to achieve a perfect system, the Hebrew Nation cannot be limited to working with the choices offered by the Gentile world. Rather than play by foreign rules, Israel must set our own agenda in accordance with our Divine culture and tailor a new system in compliance with Torah Law - a system that will express and uplift the best in everything.

The Torah forbids us from allowing any Jew to fall into poverty. We are commanded to provide assistance to any
We are commanded to provide assistance to any and all of our brothers in need.
and all of our brothers in need. Based on a verse at the end of Malachi, the sages recommend that this charity be at least ten percent of a person's regular income. While we can infer from much of the Talmud that the Torah ideal is a free-market economy, Israel is at the same time given many balancing statements that obligate us to provide for those less fortunate. Helping the poor is not a recommendation, but a commandment from G-d and a Divine expression of justice; no different than safeguarding the Sabbath or liberating Eretz Yisrael from foreign rule.

The Jewish Nation must determine and implement clear financial solutions that will benefit both the collective society, as well as all of the individuals within. We must create an economic system based on Torah values that encourages free enterprise and limits government intrusion, while at the same time promoting a sense of communal responsibility that will infuse an overriding social consciousness into our holy society. A social order must be established in the Jewish state founded on the inherent morality of Israel and the justice of Torah; an order where no man may go hungry and all live in amity and mutual respect, setting an example of justice and perfection for the entire world.