Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I've heard sermons for years that claim that Man is free because of the Torah, that in getting the Torah we were freed, etc. How can this be, when the essence of Torah is to limit our lives in dedication to God as slaves are dedicated to serve their Master? It seems paradoxical.

Now, with the economic crisis, and the education I've been getting reading Harold Feld's blogs, I think I understand it. The root of the economic crisis seems to have been the gradual elimination of New Deal era bank regulation from Carter through Clinton, enhanced by Pres. Bush's light oversight of the economy. The return to the pre-Depression banking environment has meant a return to the boom-and-bust cycle that brought us panics in 1837 (and the ensuing depression), 1857, 1873, 1893, 1901, 1907 and the Great Depression, with its crashes in 1929 and 1938.

And that has meant a greater disparity between the haves and the have-nots. The haves, the Wall Street guys, get bailouts; for the have-nots, the union guys, well, the government has been dragging its heels.

Not to get into a huge argument about whose fault it is (I think it was inevitable, esp. since, as Harold says, the Chicago School of free-market economics has dominated policy for several decades), but I now see the analogy with Torah:

Law levels the playing field.

We were all told about the Torah vs. the Code of Hammurabi, at least those of us who went to Jewish day schools, how the Torah removed the distinctions in torts between social classes. The Torah may be full of distinctions between one group and another, but one major source of personal fulfillment is available to all: the crown of Torah. Financial success is not limited to one caste or social or tribal group. If we devote our lives to Torah, in all its aspects, societal as well as ritual and ethical, we have a constitution for a truly free life.

The regulation of banks and markets leveled the playing field between the big companies and upstart companies, allowing true competition to take place. Big companies were not allowed to use their power to destroy all new competitors. This allows for growth in the national economy. So too in Torah, in the academy, the order of speaking is meant to encourage the newcomers, the younger students - they speak first, before the Great Leaders Prounounce their Opinion. Had the great leaders spoken first, that would have ended discussion without the younger students being heard.

The Wiccans have it wrong: an it harm none, do as thou wilt. Without defining harm, without defining regulations for the smooth functioning of a growing society, each person's definition of harm will allow them to get away with things that should not happen in a free civil society.

Only through law, comprehensive definition and equalization of the various classes of individuals, can man truly be free.


zevman said...

Bravo, well said

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

interesting! i've actually never heard a critique of the Wiccan Rede before; you make a good point.

Harold Feld said...

Seems right to me. Well said.