Friday, October 08, 2010

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It’s Not My Responsibility

Budget_Webe_s640x524 Our modern age has taken Jewish and Xian ideas of compassion and responsibility for those in need and moved those communal responsibilities to government responsibilities.

In the process as those who run the government have striven to provide greater and greater help (for reasons of compassion, for reasons of votes, for reasons of pork barrel politics) more and more such responsibilities have left our persons, our synagogues and churches, our communities and been transferred to faceless government bureaucrats and clerks who are “just doing their job”.  And no insult to such government workers, indeed for them it’s just their day job.

Today when we see a poor man our response isn’t ‘how can we help?’  It’s ‘why isn’t the government doing something about it?’  Our charitable impulses have been outsourced to “government authorities”.  And if asked to help, a response of ‘I pay enough taxes already’ isn’t so unusual.

However the current economic climate has brought this pattern to it’s logical conclusion.  More and more people in greater and greater need together with solid portions of the populace who’s complete survival and living mechanism is based on government support and a government faced with a significant decrease in available resources.  And backup support from communities, churches, synagogues, charitable organizations mostly non-existent throughout much of society.

( It’s sad and almost humorous listening to various needy groups on the news complaining “why doesn’t the government do something or more or whatever” while [effectively] sitting next to a pile of snow blocking the road with several shovels sitting by the side of the road. )

People’s ability to help others has withered and with it even people’s ability to help themselves!

Fortunately Judaism strongly counters this pattern.  We are directly expected to help our neighbor, community, synagogue, people.  And in the religious Jewish communities we see a plethora of charitable organizations fulfilling a wide variety of needs, and every (religious and many non-religious) Jewish home has many a charity box (a pushka or tzedaka box) for these organizations.

Because Judaism teaches the responsibility isn’t the governments, it’s the community.  This idea can be seen in practice somewhat in Israel where going to a government office people will be directed for many kinds of support services back to communal charity organizations.

This keeps compassion and charity in everyone’s face and keeps a sustainable structure.  There are no pork barrel projects with communal charity funds.  [ Not that charities are 100% efficient or 100% properly using funds.  But they’re not building bridges to nowhere either. ]

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