If we still have Jewish elderly begging for their sustenance, we still have a HUGE problem.
In thinking about what can be done on a macro level to address the spectrum of the ills in Israeli society, this article by Jonathan Rosenblum says much about those first steps needed.
Leveling the Playing Field
By Jonathan Rosenblum
Assassination of a nation’s highest elected official represents the ultimate breakdown of democratic government. Naomi Chazan was therefore justified in reexamining the circumstances leading up to the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and asking whether the proper lessons have been learned (“Democracy Check,” October 30, 2009). Predictably, however, she locates all the democracy deficits on the Right side of the political spectrum, and ignores certain ongoing flaws of Israeli democracy.
Democratic legitimacy depends on citizens’ perception that the playing field is level and that the rules of the game are applied equally. Tolerance of opposing views rests on the belief that if one’s own preferred policies have not prevailed today they may do so tomorrow and that no structural barriers will be erected to the reversal of current political fortunes. When that trust is lost, those out of power feel justified in resorting to extra-democratic means.
Ensuring an even playing field has never been the strong point of Israeli democracy. The referees of the game are commonly players on one team. More than a decade ago, Ari Shavit in Ha’aretz took aim at the “totalitarian self-assurance” of Israel’s cultural elites and their belief that “our truth is the only truth.” Speaking as a member of those elites, Shavit protested the willingness to use “whatever influence we can muster as referees [in the democratic process debate], reporters, and commentators to influence the game in our favor – to do whatever it takes to ensure our final victory [and] vanquish once and for all the Sons of Darkness on the opposing team.”
Numerous factors prior to the Rabin assassination lessened the legitimacy of Israeli democracy and thereby raised tensions in the body politic. None are mentioned by Chazan. Knesset ratification of the Oslo Accords, one of the most monumental decisions in Israel’s history, was secured with blatant political bribes to two MKs elected on the slate of the far-Right Tsomet list. Oslo supporters did not exactly play cricket. Rabin also contributed to the roiling anger by treating opposing views as unworthy of his consideration. He proclaimed himself prime minister of 98% of Israelis and told opponents they “could go spin like propellers.”
Israel’s highly ideological Supreme Court is another aspect of the biased referee problem. The perception that victory at the ballot box may be effectively snatched away by the Court lowers trust in the democratic process. And that problem is compounded by Israel’s unique method of judicial selection, which gives the sitting justices of the Supreme Court virtual veto power over new justices. The result, as Professor Ruth Gavison points out, is that the Court becomes a self-perpetuating ideological cult, and those who hold different views of the proper role of the judiciary in a democratic society have little reason to hope that their views will find representation on the Court.
EFFORTS TO LEVEL the playing field continue to flounder today. Every attempt to reduce the power of the Left to serve as referee of the political process is met with howls of derision. The current attacks on Justice Minister Yaacov Ne’eman for proposing to split the duties of the attorney-general is the latest example. Seldom noted is that the power of the attorney-general in Israel is virtually unparalleled in the world. And the position is almost entirely a creation of the Supreme Court, which treats the attorney-general as their emissary to keep a watchful eye on the executive branch.
The double standards that plague every discussion of free speech issues is another example of the continuing absence of one set of rules for all. Harsh statements made by anyone on the Right are treated as incitement to murder; similar statements by those of the Left are dismissed as harmless. Incendiary words by the Left – reflections on the sometimes salutary effects of civil war (Ephraim Sneh), calls for an intifada against political or religious foes (Yonatan Gefen), or reveries about mowing down fellow Jews with a machine gun (Uri Avineri) – are nothing more than robust expressions of free speech. Underlying the distinction is an unstated theory: Those on the Left are all peaceful flower children; those on the Right all crazed potential murderers, easily aroused to mayhem.
Those who seek to lessen the hold of the Left in academia or the media – important referees in the democratic process game – are met with accusations of McCarthyism. Once again there is a double set of rules. Many academics favor every imaginable form of affirmative action, except one: ideological diversity in their departments. Hebrew University Professor Yitzchak Galnoor has been one the loudest critics of the “McCarthyism” of academic monitors like Isracampus. Yet when he was civil service commissioner, Galnoor sought the firing of Hebrew University Professor Nachum Rakover, this year’s Israel Prize laureate in Jewish Law, for telling a Knesset Committee that Jewish law opposes same-sex marriage. Few of those who complain of witchhunts in academia protested when the director-general of the Education Ministry, a Meretz appointee, fired a high school teacher in Haifa for complaining that Rabin memorial ceremonies were being used to advance a particular political viewpoint.
A recent Ha’aretz op-ed described Israeli academics as under scrutiny by “vigilantes” who “incite” university donors and encourage students to “spy” on teachers. And that was just the first paragraph. Stripped of the hyperbole, what remains of these charges?
Surely the nature of what is taught in Israel’s universities is a matter of public interest. Was Professor Amnon Rubinstein, the former Meretz Education Minister, being McCarthyite when he wrote that in many Israeli university departments no traditional Zionist need apply? This week, Ha’aretz reported that many Tel Aviv University students are intimidated from speaking in class by the fear that left-wing professors will give them lower grades. Was Professor Nira Hativa, head of TAU’s Department of Curriculum, being McCarthyite to raise the issue?
Statements by Israeli academics and journalists – e.g., Professor Neve Gordon’s call in the Los Angeles Times for a boycott of Israel – have a disproportionate impact on worldwide perceptions of Israel. Such statements benefit from a multiplier effect by virtue of their origin. Anyone who attempts to defend the consensus Israeli view of the “peace process” abroad will inevitably be confronted by someone quoting an Israeli academic calling for an end to Israeli apartheid. That makes the work of those academics a matter of public interest, just as it is a matter of public interest to know who is funding Israel-based non-governmental organizations and what their political agenda is.
If a faculty member at any Israeli university wins a Nobel Prize, donors can count on hearing about it. Do donors not also have a right to know that they are funding academics who seek to delegitimize Israel? Finally, why should professors be granted some unique right to immunize from scrutiny their classroom statements, made in their public capacities, or other published work?
Academic monitoring organizations have a responsibility to ensure the accuracy of what they publish, and would be well-advised to keep their own characterizations of statements to a minimum. But they are providing a valuable corrective to the current monopoly of one narrow band of the political spectrum over large swaths of Israeli academia.
Ultimately, the best protection against a repeat of the Rabin assassination is reaching a national consensus on one set of rules for all political players.
Maimonides teaches us that tzedakah is about assisting those in immediate need. But tzedakah is not just about the transfer of money from donor to beneficiary. It is also about the attitude of the donor and the dignity of the recipient. Maimonides’ levels help us understand that the donor is not superior, nor the recipient inferior, and that tzedakah should not contribute to the aggrandizement of the former nor the denegration of the latter.
Judaism teaches that poverty is not a stigma and it should not define the social status or worth of an individual. It is a condition, somewhat like hunger, that with proper social structures and individual determination can be overcome. It is also a condition that, but for the grace of God, might occur to any one of us. From Here.
From: Ask Rabbi Simmons
What is the difference between Charity and Tzedakkah? Is there a difference? I grew up thinking that Tzedakkah was our responsibility as a Jew, a mitzvah to do. I did a little studying and found out in the Talmud that Charity is equal in importance to all the other commandments combined. My students ask me where is it better to give to tzedakkah or charity and why?
I can share with you some ideas from Rabbi Noah Weinberg, and I’ll leave it to you to adapt it to your students.
The Hebrew word “tzedakah” is commonly translated as “charity” or “tithe.” But this is misleading. “Charity” implies that your heart motivates you to go beyond the call of duty. “Tzedakah,” however, literally means “righteousness” — doing the right thing. A “tzaddik,” likewise, is a righteous person, someone who fulfills all his obligations, whether in the mood or not.
The verse says: “Tzedek, tzedek you shall pursue” — justice justice you shall pursue (Deut. 16:20). There’s a basic human responsibility to reach out to others. Giving of your time and your money is a statement that “I will do whatever I can to help.”
The Torah recommends giving 10 percent. (Hence the popular expression “tithe,” meaning one-tenth.) The legal source is Deut. 14:22, and the Bible is filled with examples: Abraham gave Malki- Tzedek one-tenth of all his possessions (Genesis 14:20); Jacob vowed to give one-tenth of all his future acquisitions to the Almighty (Genesis 29:22); there are mandated tithes to support the Levites (Numbers 18:21, 24) and the poor (Deut. 26:12).
Ten percent is the minimum obligation to help. For those who want to do more, the Torah allows you to give 20 percent. But above that amount is unrealistic. If you give too much, you’ll come to neglect other aspects of your life.
Of course, don’t just impulsively give your money away. The Almighty provides everyone with income, but it comes conditionally: Ten percent is a trust fund that you’re personally responsible to disperse. God is expecting you to spend His money wisely.
If you were running a humanitarian foundation, you’d make a thorough study of the best use of your money. It’s the same with tzedakah. When you choose one project over another, you have to calculate why it is more effective than the other. Consider it the “Your-Name-Here Save the World Foundation.”
Put this money aside in a separate account. That way it will be available when the need arises. And it is a constant reminder of your obligation to help.
There are so many possible projects: the poor, the sick, the uneducated, drug abuse, domestic violence, the homeless. Which one should you pick?
Tzedakah begins at home. If your parents are hungry, that comes before giving to a homeless shelter. From there it is concentric circles outward: your community, then your country. (For Jews, Jerusalem and Israel are considered as one’s own community, since every Jew has a share in the homeland.)
Once you’ve defined “who” to give to, what’s the best method to do so? Maimonides lists eight levels of tzedakah in order of priority (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:7). Many people think the highest level is to give money anonymously. Actually there’s an even higher level: helping a person to become self-sufficient. This includes giving him a job, or a loan to start a business.
This is the source of the Jewish concept of a free loan fund, called a Gemach. If you help someone start a business, he can feed himself and 10 other people besides. As the old saying goes: Rather than give him fish to eat, teach him to be a fisherman. This represents a higher level of Tikkun Olam, because now the fisherman can go out and help others. You’ve really fixed something.
There’s actually one higher level of tzedakah: being sensitive to someone before he’s in trouble. As the Sages explain: It takes one person to support something before it falls, but after it falls, even five people may not be able to lift it. (see Rashi, Leviticus 25:35)
Tzedakah is not only helping people financially, it’s also making them feel good. If a hungry person asks for food, and you give it to him with a resentful grunt, you’ve lost the mitzvah. Sometimes giving an attentive ear or a warm smile is more important than money.
You can also protect someone’s self-esteem by giving even before he asks. The bottom line is that every person has unique needs, and it is our obligation to help each one accordingly.
What if you offer someone a job and he’s too lazy to work? Then you don’t have to give him anything. The Talmud (Baba Metzia 32b) says: If he doesn’t care about himself, then you’re not required to care about him, either.
Beyond the 10 percent commitment of money, there’s another aspect: a 10 percent commitment of time.
If you’re really serious about fixing the world, you won’t just mail a check. You’ll join an organization. Many of the world’s great revolutions have succeeded by strength in numbers: the civil rights movement, women’s rights, or even save the whales.
What if no organization exists?
Then create it.
The Talmud (Baba Batra 9a) says: “Greater than one who does a mitzvah, is one who causes others to do a mitzvah.” If you really want to be effective, wake others up to the problem, and mobilize their efforts.
Imagine that a child is sick with a rare disease. If it’s an acquaintance, you’d probably say, “Oh, that’s terrible.”
Now ask them: “Okay, what are you doing about it?”
“Me?! What can I do about it?”
If you care, you could do a lot. If it was your cousin, you’d take some personal responsibility, perhaps researching information on the Internet.
If it was your own child, you’d leave no stone unturned.
I know a young couple — he’s a businessman and she’s a doctor. They found out that their two young children had Gaucher disease, a debilitating condition that is handicapping for life, and sometimes fatal. So what did they do? Together they founded an organization, committed to finding a cure for Gaucher disease. She conducted the medical research and he raised the money.
There was no guarantee of success. But inasmuch as it was their own children, there was no alternative but to try. And the Almighty helped them. After six years, they developed a synthetic enzyme which can effectively treat the condition — and their two children became the first in the world to have a hopeful prognosis.
Big goals, small goals. If you want to make a difference, it’s possible.
Beyond the basic responsibility of tzedakah is rachamim, “mercy” — caring about others personally and getting involved. You can walk around claiming to be a good person, but unless you feel it inside, you’re not really there.
That’s why the Torah juxtaposes the command to “love your neighbor,” next to the prohibition “not to stand idly by while another is in need.” (Leviticus 19:16-18)
Don’t cruise through life as if it’s some obstacle course: watch out, here’s a human being, manipulate him, push him, score a point, one-upmanship. That’s not the way. You have to share the burden.
The Talmud asks, “Why was Adam created alone? So that every person should say, ‘the entire world was created just for me.’”
This is a recognition that everything — including the needs of every other human being — was created for you. We are all caretakers of this world, responsible to deal with the problems. Everything on earth, problems as well as beauty, offers an opportunity for you to connect and to grow. Every person you encounter is there because you need it at that time. If someone needs help, it’s part of your challenge, a message for you.
Look around at absolutely everything and ask, “What is this saying to me? Why was this sent as part of my path to perfection?”
Feel the victims of society. Feel the victims of crime. Feel the victims of terrorism. Feel the victims of old age. Feel the victims of discrimination. Feel the suffering of people you will never meet — about the plight of strangers halfway around the world.
How do you become real with the suffering of others? To understand the problems encountered by a blind person, for example, try blindfolding yourself for a day. Or go to the hospital and visit patients who have lost limbs. Share the burden.
With blessings from Jerusalem,
Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Posted by admin under Child Poverty, Disposable Income, Getting By In Israel, Perspective, Poverty in Israel, Self Improvement, Social Justice, Solutions to Poverty, Tzedakah, What can "I" do, What can THEY do
The holy Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760) teaches a basic teaching in life – one which every conscientious person needs to internalize. He says that one should consider the physical needs of others – as if they were one’s spiritual needs, and consider the spiritual needs of others as if they were one’s physical needs. What does he mean?
The world is filled with enough people ready to pull apart the spiritual behaviour of others, correcting them whenever they feel necessary. They may point out how the other person needs to pray more, to have more faith, work more on his spiritual service. When he does so, they say, he can expect an improvement in physical and material necessities. Until then, they’ll point out, so long as they’re not “connected correctly” spiritually, they may well even be deserving of the physical fate that G-d has “blessed” them with. Of course if the poor man turns to this very same “spiritual guru” asking for real physical help, the “guru” may well back away to distance himself as far as possible from the “beggar.” The real test of greatness in a person is to see whether their actions are greater than their speech. After all – action is the main thing!
In the world of reality, each of us consists of both body and soul. Both are necessary if we’re going to manage to live our lives in this world. Both are necessary if we’re going to add some goodness to the world. But without the most basic physical sustenance, nobody in the world – no matter how talented, how smart, how giving, will ever be able to give of themselves to others. What a shame! Every person has something special to give. But much like a vehicle – for example – that requires gas in order to run, so too without the body being adequately taken care of, the vehicle remains just that… a piece of metal (no matter how attractive) unable to perform it’s duty. In our case, the vehicle – with gas, does a terrific job of bringing us to our destinations in a most timely manner! Without gas though… it’s no better than a rusted piece of metal serving no purpose to anyone, other than taking up unnecessary space!
The body’s first necessity is food and water. Nobody would dare disagree with this. In order for the soul to live in the body, it needs real nutrients, proteins, vitamins and iron in order to operate. By today’s standards, the cost of food is expensive in itself. Fortunately we live in a generation where if one finds oneself on the street, looking grossly dirty and undernourished, somebody might come to one’s aid – though even this is never a guarantee. But does anybody care about the rest of one’s other necessary needs in life?!
Let me put it to you this way: In Israel, one might find oneself needing between 1000-1500 shekel for basic food each month. An average meal can cost between 10-20 shekel, and taking into account the many Jewish festivals, an estimation of 1000-1500 shekel per month can be quite accurate. One can get a balanced and healthy diet of protein, fruit, vegetables, fish and meat etc.
But few people ever acknowledge the other necessary costs in life. Not being able to speak for everyone, I can at least speak for my own living conditions, where, before even beginning to pay for board – rent, one must pay some hefty taxes! Basic living taxes (Arnona) can set one back some 400 shekel per month. Health insurance – another 200 odd shekel. National insurance – another 150 shekel. These – by the way are mandatory, there is no way out. In fact, national insurance costs more to someone who is not earning an income – than to someone who has a job… a most strange and awkward situation.
The situation above tells us that each month – for no other reason than being alive in Israel – one simply MUST come up with some 750 odd shekel just to live here – even if one is lying with filthy garments on the street.
Rental in Israel is not cheap. Living outside of Jerusalem in a “settlement” area can cost as much as 3000 shekel a month for a two bedroom apartment. The equivalent apartment in Jerusalem may cost at least 4500 to 5000 shekel (and more!) Not to mention paying that person who oversees the general cleanliness of the entire building. Without choice, whether one soils the building or not, one will be obligated to pay between 50-250 shekel a month for the upkeep of the building.
Without a roof over one’s head, one cannot live a fulfilled life at all. One needs a place to sleep and to put one’s possessions down, no matter how few they are.
I think though, that somewhere along the line, people forget about the other necessities in life. While those with wealth go about talking on their cell phones for hours on end paying no attention to the costs, they will be the first to criticize the one without wealth for daring to think they can even own an ordinary phone! These same people, who may often be found driving brand new and large cars, will once again criticize another for wanting to use public transport.
What I mean of course, is that when one lacks the money to afford these necessities, and one explains to others how one needs to communicate on a phone, or use public transport, they will offer no support, no sympathy and no care, believing, once again, that one needs money only for food.
So, how does it feel to be unable to pay one’s rent each month? To be unable to pay for one’s water and lights? To be unable to pay the forced fees of the government – just to live in Israel? To be unable to afford the forced fees of the town’s security service?! To be unable to afford to pay for one’s electricity and one’s water?
The “poor” man feels a sense of total hopelessness. He feels embarrassed and ashamed at himself for feeling that he is asking others for the “luxuries” of life. As he considers begging another – just so that he can pay his regular governmental taxes (or the accountant who does his books that indicate huge losses) – he feels humiliated as he is judged for asking for something that apparently nobody else needs. He is asking for something which everybody else apparently goes without – of course!
As time passes, and the most basic bills cannot be paid, the poor man often finds himself unable to even ask another for an interest free loan (often requiring many sureties and hours of harassment and embarrassing personal questions.) He turns to a bank, who will charge between 6-9% interest. He accepts the loan humbly, embarrassed and with a sense of complete despondency that he will even be able to pay the loan back! But when he realizes he cannot pay the loan the next month, his life deteriorates further, as he realizes he will now have to take out another loan – to pay back the first – which has now accumulated due to interest. And so it continues. A never ending spiral into debt. A spiral into depression, embarrassment, humiliation, stress, tension and complete hopelessness. How many have given up hope on life itself, not because they could not afford food, but because they could not afford these other necessities?
Is the poor man asking for anything but the basics? He asks just to be able to live. But today, life is not just about a loaf of bread and a glass of a water – each day. It’s about expenses that simply must be paid. Everybody pays them. Just as we do, so too does the poor man need to cover these necessary debts. Without the help of another, his life is one which is destroyed. A life of degradation.
We all need food – healthy nutritious food. We all need a place to stay – clean and healthy. We need to pay our governmental taxes every single month – no matter what! We must pay for our lights and electricity, so that we can cook our food, have light in our homes at night, and use a fan in the heat-waves of summer – and our heaters in the bitter cold of winter. We must look after ourselves – just to live. Just to be able to get through life. All this, without the luxuries. Without a car, without a yacht… without jewelry and even without a regular change of clothing…
Every human being is deserving of living a dignified life.
From today’s Jerusalem Post:
The Knesset took a break from political rivalries and diplomatic debate on Tuesday to mark – albeit a month late – the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
A series of committee meetings took place, as well as a plenum discussion and a central gathering meant to raise awareness among MKs regarding the many facets of poverty in Israel.
A number of panels, including the Committee for the Rights of the Child, the Finance Committee and the Immigration and Absorption Committee, held hearings addressing aspects of poverty and ways that the Knesset could address them.
This was the first time that the legislature marked the international day, and in honor of the session, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent his greetings through UN Envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry, who opened the central meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Serry told the 15 gathered MKs, as well as dozens of other attendees, that Ban congratulated the Knesset on joining other world parliaments in recognizing the importance of combating poverty.
The conference’s organizers – the Forum for Recognizing the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – said that they were happy that 15 lawmakers, representing a wide range of political parties, made a point of attending the entire meeting, and highlighted the important role taken by MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) in helping to organize the day.
Conference organizers emphasized the value of bringing Israel’s poor into the Knesset building, and enabling MKs to come face-to-face with poverty.
NGOs including Shatil, the Organization for Housing Rights, the Israeli Center for Social Justice and legislators including Eitan Cabel and Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, both from Labor, stressed that poverty was not just a result of unemployment.
“Encouraging employment is no longer relevant for the fight against poverty, since nearly half of the families that are now below the poverty line are working families,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said.
“The focus must move to reducing the burden, and thus we must not place additional financial burdens on the lowest percentiles such as the increase in water and electric prices,” added Rivlin, warning against the imposition of regressive taxes that disproportionately impact the poor.
Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) suggested – citing the example of the recent debate over the Drought Levy – that every bill brought for a vote should undergo a special review to analyze its impact on the poorest sectors.
According to data presented in the recent Poverty Report, one in five families and one in three children live in poverty. Participation in the workforce is among the lowest in the Western world, while the poverty rate is among the highest among developed countries.
The MKs who participated in the meeting also agreed to set up a steering committee to formulate legislation to encourage an overall reduction in poverty in Israel.
Talk openly, communicate, and set goals
Financial difficulty brings a slew of questions: What are we going to do now? How will we pay the bills? Should we consider bankruptcy? What if “x” happens? While all these questions are buzzing around, talk with your spouse and communicate. Decide on a direction you both support and start looking forward. Commit to moving through the process together, not alone.
Prioritize together by asking “What is most important to you?”
What things do you value the most? What people do you need around you? If I lost “x”, things would be even worse. Write the items in a list. For example, food, household, transport … Take your very first dollar and apply it to #1 on your list. Go in order no matter how loudly someone else says they need to get paid. If you are not budgeting you need to start. Here are some free budget worksheets to help. In case you find it helpful, here is a sneak peak into how my family budgets.
Switch to survival mode
Bring in the spending tsar who reduces spending to absolute necessities. I suggest you write your needs list and then cut out half the stuff. This is the time to get the most mileage out of every single dollar. While your life might feel completely out of control this is still one area you can control. Spend carefully and intentionally. This might be a good time to sell your stuff on ebay.
You will experience a bunch of emotions from bitterness to guilt to frustration. The emotions will impact your relationship with your spouse, your children, your extended family, your friends, and your faith. Did I miss anything? You may be tempted to lash out to find a place to release your frustration. When you talk about your emotions, use phrases like, “I feel …” This makes others less defensive.
At this point, once things are damaged, it is not the time to figure out who is to blame. This will only serve to push your spouse away. Your frayed nerves will do more damage than good if you let them run rampant. There will be a time for reflection and debriefing, but in the midst of the chaos you will do more harm than good if you start to play the blame game.
Accepting help is difficult because of one reason – pride. Perhaps you will have a new favorite Bible verse “It is better to give than receive.” God may once again put you in the position of the giver, but for now this might just be your time to receive. Standing together is a function of community, and in this case standing alone is a sign of selfishness.
If you allow it financial concern can completely consume you. Schedule time in your day to focus your energy on other chores or tasks. Removing yourself from the worry and strain will help remove the burden.
Turn to your faith
When the world seems to be falling apart you will need a Rock upon which to stand. Continue or begin a habit of daily devotionals and seek the will and presence of God. (Check out these encouraging bible verses)
Count your blessings
Yes, count your blessings. Things may be bad, or awful, or even horrible. But are there probably still many blessings in your life? Focusing solely on the problems and your lack of stuff will only cause depression. Remember that around every corner there is a blessing, if you are looking for it.
Don’t be afraid to dream
If you have just lost a job, this is a great chance to dream. What am I passionate about doing? What have I always wanted to try? This crisis might simply be a hidden opportunity. Look ahead and have some direction. The time may be right for turning a hobby into a business or even trying a new way to make money. Just be sure to ask the right questions to reduce risk.
These circumstances might just be the greatest blessing in your life (in a few years). Journaling helps learn all the important lessons that the school of life is trying to teach. If hindsight is 20/20, don’t you want to have a chronicle that details exactly what was going on and exactly how the problem was resolved?
Stay in control
You may be tempted to throw up your hands and say “I don’t care anymore.” Creditors want to drive you to this state where you just give them what they want to get you off their back. Remember, you don’t need to answer the phone. Whatever you do make sure you break the debt cycle by refusing to take on more debt. Digging deeper is not your solution. Don’t be a good person who make bad money choices.
While a series of financial tragedies can be extremely difficult, your responses during this time will determine a large portion of the situation’s solution. From: Living Richly on a Budget
Maimonides teaches us that tzedakah is about assisting those in immediate need. But tzedakah is not just about the transfer of money from donor to beneficiary. It is also about the attitude of the donor and the dignity of the recipient. Maimonides’ levels help us understand that the donor is not superior, nor the recipient inferior, and that tzedakah should not contribute to the aggrandizement of the former nor the denigration of the latter.
Judaism teaches that poverty is not a stigma and it should not define the social status or worth of an individual. It is a condition, somewhat like hunger, that with proper social structures and individual determination can be overcome. It is also a condition that, but for the grace of God, might occur
to any one of us. From justaction.org
by Jonathan Rosenblum
Last week we discussed the responsibility of each of us to use our talents and energies to alleviate the suffering of our fellow Jews and to bring Klal Yisrael closer to its ideal state. Our starting point was Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz’s, zt”l, statement that taking responsibility for Klal Yisrael is perhaps the principal measure of a person’s spiritual state.
Taking responsibility goes far beyond showing concern or davening for others, though doing so is certainly vital. A former student of Torah Vodaath returned to the yeshiva after many years. After Minchah, Tehillim were recited for the Jews in the Soviet Union. The former student approached the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr, zt’l, and told him, “Nothing will ever come from your kapitel Tehillim because it is not serious.”
Rabbi Schorr was taken aback by that statement. The former student explained himself: “There is very little of a tangible nature that you can currently do for the Jews in the Soviet Union. But I come from South America where there are hundreds of thousands of Jews upon whom yeshivaleit could have an immense impact. If you really cared about doing something for Klal Yisrael, you would be figuring out how to bring Yiddishkeit to the Jews of South America, not contenting yourself with davening for Jews behind the Iron Curtain.” Rabbi Schorr acknowledged the force of his point.
The percentage of those in our community who are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the lot of Klal Yisrael is one of the glories of the Torah world. Reading the English Mishpacha’s pre-Yamim Noraim Mosaic of the Jewish World: A Panoramic View of Institutions and Initiatives I was struck that virtually every one of these initiatives was the product of an individual or small group of individuals who saw a particular problem and devoted themselves to solving it.
They did not convince themselves that if they had noted the problem someone else more qualified to solve it must have done so as well. Nor did they place the responsibility elsewhere, telling themselves that if the issue were truly of importance it must already being addressed by the gedolim. Rather they accepted that if they had noticed a particular problem it was likely one of their life tasks to do what they could to solve it.
The same sense of responsibility is reflected in the far higher rates of volunteerism in the Torah community. Many of our most important chesed organizations depend on massive amounts of volunteer labor. Mesila, an organization that offers guidance in money management to families and businesses experiencing financial distress, for instance, utilizes 300 volunteers in Israel, who have each completed an intensive training course, and who contribute 2-3 hours weekly to working directly with clients. Thousands of Israeli avreichim set aside an evening a week to teaching Torah to non-religious Jews, and an even larger number of frum women do so via the telephone.
NOTHING PROVIDES ME with more satisfaction that when I see the efforts of one of the meshugoyim l’davar echad, upon whom, Rambam writes, the world depends, crowned with success. Last year I wrote about Jeff Cohn, a Baltimore businessman, who was so moved the tales of woe he was hearing from local singles that he decided to devote himself to finding solutions. One of his brainstorms was to increase the shidduch possibilities for singles outside of the New York metropolitan area by making it possible for them to meet initially via video conferencing. Armed with haskomas from leading gedolim and the support of generous sponsors in Baltimore, Chicago, Toronto, and Lakewood, the idea is now a reality, and the Baltimore-Chicago couple who inaugurated the system pronounced themselves well-satisfied with the naturalness of their meeting.
For years a Flatbush businessman named Albert Kahn has been obsessed with the necessity for every young couple to purchase low-cost term life insurance so that in the event of tragedy the surviving family members will not have to endure the humiliation of being dependent on communal efforts. Partly in response to his efforts a growing number of yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs now include term insurance in their salary package. And recently, Bais Medrash Govoho of Lakewood announced that all talmidim of the yeshiva are eligible to be part of a group policy providing up to $250,000 of individual term-life coverage, with the yeshiva covering one-third of the cost of premiums.
Not all communal issues, however, are susceptible to individual initiatives. Those affecting the entire community – e.g., parnassah and housing – are too complex and involve too many different aspects [murkav] for any single individual to develop the type of comprehensive plans necessary. Doing so requires a great deal of research and bringing together many different people with relevant expertise to exchange ideas and develop plans over an extended period of time, in consultation with gedolei Yisrael. Only umbrella organizations representing the entire community can provide the necessary framework.
I HAVE MY OWN IDEA for a project someone should undertake. While writing my pre-Succos column on the full-scale war that might erupt in the wake of an Israeli attack on Iran, I started to think about how the Torah community would be able to contribute. With the IDF and civil defense structures stretched thin, many of us would be eager to do anything we could to help. But our ability to do so productively would be severely limited by our lack of prior training. It occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to set up some kind of training program in advance for those no longer learning full-time so that we could make a maximal contribution in the event of catastrophe, chas ve’Shalom.
The truth is that I have no more idea how to set up such a program than I would have an idea of how to start a business, even with a million dollars in start-up capital. But I’m not sure that is an excuse. Before approaching the gedolei Yisrael, I would be interested in hearing from readers as to what they think of the idea, how they think it should be done, and whether they would be interested in participating.
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