Saturday, July 30, 2011
What party does G-d want you to vote for?
This Shabbos I read a fascinating excerpt from one of the Rebbe's sichos. The Rebbe asks: Why (according to some opinions), is it a chiyuv to loan money to a non-Jew for interest? One can understand why it's a chiyuv to loan a Jew money for no interest (a Jew is your brother); one can also understand why it's permitted to ask interest from a non-Jew (that's the normal state of affairs*) — but why should asking for the interest be required?
The answer is interesting: because of the prohibition of bal tashchis, wanton destruction. If a Jew is permitted to loan money to a non-Jew for interest and does not do so, he is destroying some of his potential property (the money from the interest). Therefore, it's a requirement for him to request the interest.
The ramifications of this reasoning are very interesting. First, a Jew must be careful about being financially responsible. Hashem gives him his possessions for a reason: to use in his avoidas Hashem. A Jew was sent into this world to elevate it by making it more G-dly. All physical objects contain "sparks of G-dliness", and it is our job to elevate them by doing mitzvos with those objects — the process of elevating the sparks converts the objects into Dira B'Tachtoinim, the Dwelling Place for G-d, which is the purpose for which G-d created everything, both the spiritual worlds and the physical one, and the purpose for which our soul descended into this world.
(This is why, according to Chassidus, it is ossur to steal. When Joe steals Bob's pencil, he is taking the object which has the sparks of holiness which were destined for Bob to elevate. Joe cannot elevate them — not only because those sparks were destined for Bob, but also because it is impossible to elevate sparks of holiness in the objects that are halachically forbidden to us, Mi'de'Oraysa or Mi'de'Rabbanim.)
Therefore, when a Jew is not careful about his property or financial situation, he is denying a part of the world from becoming Dira B'Tachtoinim. He is failing in one aspect of his purpose in this world.
There is a second interesting ramification. Seemingly, Torah does not support any particular political view or any particular political party. You may say that actions of liberals are damaging to our economy and wealth, but so what — what does this have to do with Torah?
But from the above, we see that Torah cares about the wealth of a Jew. The government's actions lead to a Jew losing his wealth. First, from direct taxation — which is not even spent on anything pertaining to the Jew's livelihood, such as paying for the roads he drives on or police/army that protects him. Second, from the government's control of money production that leads to devaluation of money (you can think of it as unseen taxing, or as the government counterfeiting money — the effect on the worth of the money you have in your wallet is the same). Finally, from the policies damaging US economy, which leads to a Jew losing money from higher prices of food, gas, bills, lodging, etc., having to pay higher interest on the loans he takes out, from losing money in the investments, etc.
Therefore, although one may say that Torah does not care about a particular political ideology (a statement I do not necessarily agree with, since there is a concept of yashrus in Torah), Torah definitely cares about the effect this ideology has on a Jew's livelihood, since his livelihood is an aspect of his avoidas Hashem — both from a simple point of view that if he doesn't have enough money, he may not be able to carry out all the mitzvos, or at least carry them out b'hiddur, and from the above point of view which states that if a Jew loses even one extra dollar, that's a dollar that he was supposed to make into a Dwelling for Hashem!
Furthermore, I think the concept of bal tashchis applies not just to Jews but also to non-Jews. If a certain political ideology's actions lead to general destruction of civilization (such as multiple businesses closing all over the country due to high taxation or governmental regulation, services and products not being used by people due to damaged economy or due to liberal propaganda about things like global warming), Torah is against this ideology and the people who support this ideology.
* Many libertarians (such as on Mises.org forums) ask: why is the Bible against interest? Well, it's not! It's only forbidden to ask interest from a Jew, since he is your brother. It is stated that the interest that you forgive him is a gift that you're obligated to give him. A gift — not something that is inherently a bad thing. (We don't say that a man not committing adultery with someone else's wife is a gift he has to give to the woman's husband; adultery is an inherently abominable phenomenon.) Why a Jew has to give that gift to another Jew is a different question, which can be explored from socio-moral to Chassidic perspectives.
But in the areas where a Jew is not required to give this gift, there is nothing wrong with charging interest; in fact, he is obligated to do so.
at 11:21 PM