Weekly Newsletter Message

Income Inequality is Not the Problem

I've never understood all the talk, from both sides of the aisle, about the income inequality problem. 

Poverty is the problem not income inequality.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Bill Gates having so much money. I'm not an economist, and I may be missing something, but as far as I understand, I wouldn't be any richer had Bill Gates not made all that money. What is very wrong though is a wealthy society that does not support those in need. It’s not the gap that’s the problem it’s the poverty.

In the Torah, we never find a moral responsibility to create income equality but we do find, many times, a responsibility to support the poor. As a society we must ensure that the needs of every single individual are met whether through taxes, charity or both, but this has nothing to do with equality.

Either way there’s a moral requirement for some form of wealth redistribution but how we frame the issue, creating equality vs. eliminating poverty, makes a major difference and reflects the attitude of society.

Framing the issue as a problem of inequality rather than poverty implies that there is something inherently unjust about the fact that one person has more than the other. In this mindset even if I have enough there's a problem if someone else has more. This is a far cry from the Talmud’s recipe for happiness and true wealth  "Who is the rich man, the one who is happy with his lot" The secret to success, the Talmud is saying, is to appreciate what you have regardless of what those around you have but that’s hard to do in the “income inequality” mindset.

Additionally, framing the issue as a problem of inequality may be sending a subtle message that one person’s success is another person’s loss. What a negative way to look at life. With this zero-sum mindset we resent the success of others seeing it as a threat. Shouldn't we rejoice in the honest success of others rather than resent it?

All this talk about the problem of income inequality inspires a comparative society in which we measure our success by comparing ourselves to others. As a result we never truly enjoy what we have and resent the success of others.

"Who is the rich man, the one who is happy with his lot" - Focus on what you have and forget about equality and fairness and you’ll find yourself a lot happier :)

 Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Benjy Silverman

PS. This Monday we will be launching a 24 hour matching campaign. Every dollar donated will be quadrupled! And its all or nothing. Stay tuned for details.

The Dark Menorah?!

Fill in the blank – Every encounter is an opportunity to  ______________.

Imagine a menorah that doesn’t give off light?

The entire purpose of a candle is to share light and warmth.  If it is not doing so, can you even call it candle?  It is nothing more than a lump of wax.

A candle becomes a candle and is “at its best”  when it is fulfilling its purpose.

We work the same way. “Ner Hashem Nishmat Odom” (Mishlei 20:27)– the candle of Hashem is the soul of man. 

The metaphor is deliberate.

Just like the candle,  our entire purpose is to share “light and warmth” and we too are “at our best” and happiest when we are fulfilling our purpose.

Every encounter is an opportunity, not to further our own agendas in some way, but rather  to uplift those around us and bring more light to the world. 

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

Six Words That Changed the World

Six words that changed the world.

No, I’m not referring to “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”

I am referring to "Why are your faces sad today?"

Those six words changed history.

In this weeks Parsha, Yosef , a slave and prisoner in an Egyptian jail reaches out to two new prisoners. “And Joseph came to them in the morning, and he saw them and behold, they were depressed. And he asked Pharaoh's chamberlains who were with him in the prison of his master's house, saying, "Why are your faces sad today?"

As a result of this small gesture, of asking two non-Jewish inmates why they felt dejected, they shared their dreams with him, which he interpreted successfully. Years later when Pharaoh dreamt his own mysterious dreams, Joseph was summoned to explain them and he was appointed viceroy of Egypt which enabled him to save the world from a devastating famine. The interest he showed in the mood of his fellow inmates in prison is what allowed him one day to save civilization!

Six words of kindness and concern. That’s all it takes to change the course of history!

In today’s dark and confusing world, rather than feel helpless, simply sighing and shrugging our shoulders, we must believe that even our simple gestures of kindness can and will have an impact. 

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.