The Pope and some rabbis support compulsory wealth redistribution and encourage the government to take by force, through taxation laws, a significant portion of wealth rightly accumulated by a small minority of truly successful entrepreneurs and to redistribute this wealth to a large majority of less successful citizens – all that in the name of human rights, social justice, economic equality, or equal opportunities. Religiously, they justify the redistribution support by quoting Torah/Bible guidance on helping the poor.
Indeed, as could be seen at
Pope Francis reaffirmed his plea for world leaders to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor during an address before top U.N. officials and called for a global initiative to reduce the income gap.
Chabad Rabbi Nochum Mangel expressed the same beliefs in his lecture “The One Percent: Distribution and Redistribution of wealth” at
However, other rabbis believe the Pope-Chabad redistribution concept is wrong and anti-Torah.
For example, Rabbi (Dr.) Meir Tamari says in his paper “The Challenge of Wealth” at
“… the Jewish welfare system [is] opposed to the philosophy of universal benefits that developed after the 2nd World War. Rather, its insistence on the religious and spiritual obligation on all to participate in ‘holy taxation’ meant that the benefits could only be given after either a means test or else taxation based on income levels. The alternative, granting benefits to the rich as well, would be legalized theft from the coerced taxpayer. “We examine [the claims of the poor] in the case of requests for clothing [and other benefits] but not in the case of the requests for food.”(Rambam, Ibid, chapter 7, halakhah 6).” Thus Orthodox Rabbi Tamari believes the Torah/Bible is against mandatory government redistribution of wealth to help the poor – the individuals and their communities should do this.
Another Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Aryeh Spero also thinks that the Torah is against government mandatory redistribution of wealth. He writes in “Obama’s Rev. Jim Wallis Misreads the Bible” at
“The social justice that God expects of us is handled not through statist redistribution of wealth but through acts of charity. In the Old Testament, there are constant calls for giving charity but none for statist redistribution of wealth, nor calls for an economic leveling of society or for a lack of distinctiveness and differences among individuals. Doing so runs contrary to the notion of the individual as a unique and distinctive being, which is the meaning behind “human created in the image of God”, i.e., singular beings.
The Bible calls for acts of charity from the individual, for in being direct and personal, charity has the ability to elevate and ennoble the giver and provider. The direct act of giving changes the person and involves and partners him with God. Unlike Marxism, the Bible emphasizes the individual, not the state, the personal and not the “masses.””
“That the Bible never called for redistribution of wealth is obvious when considering that it required from its citizens only a tithing, a 10% giving. It mandated another 5% or so toward functionaries in the temple as a compensation for work they did in behalf of the citizenry, like civil servants. And while government certainly has a safety-net role, the state should eschew policies that enlarge dependency and certainly not manufacture conditions, as is the Obama Administration, that make redistribution of wealth inevitable.
The equality that God seeks is not in a manufactured across-the-board parity but in “Equality before the Law.” In matters of law and redress before the court, all are equal, be they rich or poor. A virtuous and Godly society is not one that redistributes wealth but distributes law and justice across its population.”
“The greater the ability to create wealth, the more money is available for charity and good works. It is America’s men and women of wealth, imbued with religious and civic responsibility, who have served as the greatest patrons of the civic infrastructure, be it hospitals, libraries, museums, the arts, or the charitable United Way. England once had those patrons, but they went away as redistribution of wealth came in. The primary theme of the Bible is individual responsibility, not entitlement and dependency. God wants the individual to be robust.”
So who is right: the rabbis advocating – in the name of the Torah – the government compulsory wealth redistribution aimed at reducing the wealth disparity in the society, or the rabbis who believe in reaching the same goal through the individual mitzvah/charity – also in the name of the Torah?
I am with the rabbis who believe in individual mitzvah/charity for helping the poor and repairing the world, and the reason for my choice is in clear guidance of the Ten Commandments.
The last of the Ten Commandments says:
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
The government mandatory redistribution of wealth clearly violates this Commandment because at the core of the government mandatory redistribution of wealth is the government’s support and even encouragement of the coveting.
Indeed, many of the less fortunate in the society
– who don’t have their own house (they don’t have money to pay for a good living space),
– who don’t have a good wife (since they have no money to provide a decent living conditions for her),
– who don’t have a male of female servant (since they don’t have money to hire servants),
– who don’t have their own ox or donkey (a high-pay employment or profitable business),
– who don’t have many other things that the more fortunate in the society have (nice clothing, car, travel, expansive food, etc.), –
they are coveting!
They see their neighbors have all that, and they want all that as well. They realize they cannot have all as a reward for their own hard work. And they see two main sources to get something if not all for free – through government redistribution of wealth, or through individual mitzvah/charity givers; and they prefer the government redistribution.
Taking the free staff from the government mandatory redistribution system requires no personal responsibility since government bureaucratic rules are easy to cheat and get around – the government is not interested in getting people out of the poverty programs – the government is interested in making those programs eternal.
Accepting a mitzvah/charity requires a personal responsibility because a mitzvah/charity giver is monitoring the recipients – the greatest reward of a mitzvah/charity giver is a poor person becoming financially self-supporting.
Rabbis should encourage people to help the others in need through acts of mitzvah/charity – not to ask the government for mandatory wealth redistribution. That is the guidance of the Torah.