Socialism opposing Torah

Why would anyone think that socialism could oppose Torah? Opinion

Ronald Sones ,


Why would anyone think that socialism could oppose Torah? After all, socialism has to do with an economic system, whereas Torah has to do with a moral system. Yes, there are some economic directives in Torah, such as “LEV. 19:35-36 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have …” [Jewish Pub. Soc. 1917 Translation]. But these are certainly the exception, not the rule. Isn’t socialism really unrelated to Torah?

Well, no. If we look at the thinking and motivations behind socialism, a very different picture will emerge. From what I’ve ever seen, the argument for socialism starts with the concern which today we call Income Inequality. “It’s NOT FAIR that the wealthy fellow over there earns more and has more than me. After all, we’re both people and have the same intrinsic moral worth in society.” It should be pretty obvious that this attitude directly contradicts the Tenth Commandment: “EXO. 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's”.

It's probably a natural human tendency for one to have envy or resentment toward someone else who has more than oneself, especially if there might be no obvious reason why it should be so. Torah tells us that it’s critically important to combat that tendency in oneself, so important that it’s one of the seminal Ten Commandments given at Mt. Sinai. Why should it be so important?

It’s because if this Commandment is not followed, then other moral problems will ensue. Specifically, if our less wealthy person looks at the more wealthy person and doesn’t see or understand why that other person has more wealth, he can easily come to believe that the wealthy person gained his wealth through cheating or theft, and then he might voice this belief to others. Since he would presumably have no real evidence upon which to base this belief, other than the wealth disparity itself, he would then be transgressing the Ninth Commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

At this point, he might well feel justified in finding some way of rectifying this unjust situation, and if he can accumulate enough political power by joining with like-minded others, he could enact a method of Income/Wealth Redistribution through taxation. Although taxation is considered a legal means for a government to extract wealth from citizens, its only proper application is for funding necessary operations of the government itself, such as national defense. If the government uses taxation to “redistribute” income or wealth from one set of citizens to another, that is actually theft perpetrated under the color of government. Now, we are violating the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”. [It’s true that in context, Torah is specifically enjoining against stealing people, i.e., kidnapping. However, the general principle applies, since the prohibition against stealing is also one of the Seven Commandments of the Children of Noah, applicable to all humanity.]

We can see that the problems are beginning to compound. Next, if the wealthier people protest at having their wealth taken from them in this manner, the more numerous less wealthy people can complain that the wealthy people are being selfish and unjust, and they could publicize these views. This would be an attempt to embarrass the wealthy people, to coerce them into cooperating with this scheme.

In various places in the Talmud, we are told that embarrassing someone in public is equivalent to murdering him. Now, we are faced with transgressing the Sixth Commandment “Thou shalt not murder”. [Note: the Hebrew verb used here is used in contexts beyond only premeditated murder, such as negligent homicide. A more accurate, if less elegant, translation would be “Thou shalt not cause wrongful death”. But in situations where this wrongful death is caused deliberately, it’s actual murder.]

We can also note that in the extreme socialist countries, i.e, communist countries, such as the late Soviet Union and North Korea and Cuba, resistance to this kind of taxation can be considered an “economic crime”, subject to capital punishment. So from the Torah view, this is literal transgression of the Commandment.

In socialist societies, there is a great premium placed on “Unity.” By this it is meant that the will of “The People” is supreme. And the intent of that will is determined by the government. And since that will is supreme, no dissent can be tolerated. To make sure no such dissent is being fomented among the people, the government will commonly encourage children to disclose if their parents are doing forbidden things or expressing forbidden ideas. This is usually done through schools and youth groups, where the teachers or group leaders ingratiate themselves to the children and thereby gain the children’s trust and confidence. Now, we see transgression of the Fifth Commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother”.

Once this happens, the bonds of love and trust between parents and children are broken. In extreme cases, the government takes actual control over the children and removes them from the parents’ household. Now, the institution of the family is, at best, distorted, and at worst, destroyed. If the family unit is so damaged, then there’s no need for a Commandment like the Seventh, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, since there’s precious little left to adulterate.

Finally, a hallmark of socialist societies is government sponsored atheism. After all, it’s the government that determines the Will Of The People, and that will includes the determination of morality: good and bad, right and wrong. Therefore there is no need to have a G-d to provide such guidance.

Indeed, it’s very inconvenient to have a G-d Who provides rules at variance from those of the government. That’s why there’s typically such persecution of Jewish and Christian religious institutions in socialist/communist countries. So, now the Commandments of “I am the LORD thy God … Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. … Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, … Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain …” all become irrelevant and unnecessary.

And, of course, if there is no G-d, then there is no meaningful concept of Holiness, and the Commandment “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” also goes by the wayside.

So now we can clearly see how socialism is antithetical to Torah. In building a socialist society, the people must necessarily, at least to a discernable degree, transgress the moral Leadership of G-d and His Torah. And we understand why socialism is the wrong way to go.

Ronald Sones is a senior computer systems analyst and rocket propulsion engineer. He studied physics and mechanical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Purdue Graduate School. He is the author of Fusion Threshold.