Rav Aviner: Social Protests Should Focus on the Poor

Leading Religious Zionist rabbi criticizes the social protest for focusing on the haves, not the have nots.

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Gil Ronen,

Rav Aviner
Rav Aviner
Flash 90

A leading religious Zionist rabbi, Rav Shlomo Aviner, has come out against the social protests that have dominated the news over the summer. 

Rav Aviner points to a problem: the protest is aimed at improving the lives of the middle class – not the poor. The Torah allows this, he says, but it does not demand it. What the Torah does demand is prevention of poverty.

An individual must give tzedakah – or alms to the poor – and society must enforce this, the rabbi explains. While a person must take care of his own life before that of another man's, a man's luxuries do not come before the life of another. For instance, Halacha says that a person may not bathe in water or water his garden if his friend has nothing to drink.

A poor person is one who lacks the most basic necessities. 

The middle class says it is going under and it demands that the government give it a bigger piece of the pie, at the expense of other needs, like security, Rav Aviner points out. "Therefore this is not a struggle for the truly poor."

Socialism is undoubtedly more just than capitalism, the rabbi says. It is practiced in the family, to a certain extent, and it is proper for the entire nation to be one big family. But the problem with socialism is that it is not practical. Communist countries failed and turned capitalist. Capitalism succeeds.

The solution is capitalism with a welfare mechanism, the rabbi opines. The state is the biggest philanthropist around and the Welfare Ministry is the country's tzedakah box. But there is a limit to how much the state can tax its citizens.

He quotes Rambam (Maimonides) as saying that the world would not have been built were it not for "the crazy people" who devote their lives to make money.

Most of the Israeli people did not attend the rallies in any case, the rabbi added. The numbers reported by the press were 3, 4 or 5 times the real numbers. "Only a part of the nation is there, and its struggle is a legitimate one, but it is not a struggle of Torah and justice, rather one of money – it is individualistic, not idealistic."