Of Money and People

In this weekly Torah portion, the commandments pertaining to the human relationships are found after the long list of rules regarding the treatment of the property. Does it mean that the commandment of being hospitable to strangers or the law about the support of widows and orphans is less important than the restitution of the other person’s property? Of course, not.

However, there is a logic in such an arrangement of the laws. It is not enough to be nice to widows and hospitable to strangers. If your charitable deeds are built on the transgression of the other commandments, such as respect for people’s property, due payment of the debts, and safeguarding the well-being of your workers, then what’s the value of fulfilling one set of mitzvot while neglecting the other?

Thus, the prohibition of taking bribes, perjuring oneself, and spreading rumors come after the commandments dealing with property and debt. A just society does not resemble the fairy castle floating in the sky. Justice to the people can only be delivered on the solid foundation of the fair treatment of their property rights.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.