Posts Tagged 'Bible'

The Trump Holy Bible: Lessons from the Red Heffer

At the start of Chukat, this week’s Torah portion, God tells Moshe and Aaron to instruct the Israelites regarding the ritual law of the Red Heifer (פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה‬) used to create the water of lustration. The cow was to be without blemish, have no defect, and not have borne a  yoke. Eleazar the priest was to take it outside the camp, observe its slaughter, and take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the Tabernacle. The cow was to be burned in its entirety along with cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson stuff. The priest and the one who burned the cow were both to wash their garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. The ashes of the cow were to be used to create the water for purification from having had contact with death.

It is noteworthy that all other communal sacrifices were of male animals, but the Red Cow was of a female animal. Rabbi Aibu explained the difference with a parable: When a handmaiden’s boy polluted a king’s palace, the king called on the boy’s mother to clear away the filth. In the same way, God called on the Red Cow to come and atone for the incident of the Golden Calf. (Numbers Rabbah 19:8)

To me this parable is relevant in at least four ways to the horrid events from this last week when the Trump administration took to separating children of immigrants from their parents. On the most basic level, this Midrash suggests the sense of connection between a mother and her child. Just as the Red Cow has to clean up for the Golden Calf, children cannot be separated from their parents. On a second level it points to the fact that it will take a miracle for this administration to cleanse themselves  of their sins. Ain’t no magic burnt dust going to help them at this point. Thirdly we need to have more female leadership to clean up Washington. I am having trouble believing that a female commander-in-chief would have suggested this idea.I might be wrong about the gendered assumption, but we do need to clean up our government.  Finally this use of this Midrash comes to point that you could take almost any proof texts from almost any where to prove almost anything you want. AG Sessions will be damned by any God he believes in.  Immorality is immorality, it has no place to hide behind religion or scripture.

 

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Microloans

Note: I am sure that I am missing some basics in economics. I am a Rabbi and not an economist.       Please feel free to comment.

The Great Recession (also referred to as the global recession of 2009) is a marked global economic decline that began in December 2007 and took a particularly sharp downward turn in September 2008. The active phase of the crisis, which manifested as the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, which peaked in 2006,caused the values of securities tied to U.S. real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally. Some economists have claimed that the origin of the financial crisis of 2007–2010 can be traced back to an extremely indebted US economy. High private debt levels also impact growth by making recessions deeper and the following recovery weaker. We are still working our way out of this situation.

It was hard not thinking about all of this when reading about the biblical institution of loans in Mishpatim, this week’s Torah portion. There we read:

24 If you lend money to any of My people, even to the poor with you, you shall not be to him as a creditor; neither shall you lay upon him interest. 25 If you at all take your neighbor’s garment to pledge, you shall restore it to him by that the sun goes down; 26 for that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin; wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he cries to Me, that I will hear; for I am gracious. ( Exodus 22:24-26)

Who can we charge interest? Who can we not charge interest? Being part of Klal Yisrael  is not just the idea of Jewish people, but also a realization of the corporation of Israel. But seeing usury only in terms of belonging to a specific group is missing some of the lessons the Torah has to teach us about the institution of loans.  It is interesting to note the size of standard loans. The pledge needed to secure a loan was only a shirt, but if it was excessive (as the shirt off their back) it was limited by the law . There is clearly a lesson in here of God’s compassion for the needy and maybe also for society at large.

Our Torah portion is resonant with today’s microfinance world. These microloans are made to impoverished borrowers who typically lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history. It is designed not only to support entrepreneurship and alleviate poverty, but also in many cases to empower women and uplift entire communities by extension. In many communities worldwide, in developed and developing nations alike, women lack the highly stable employment histories that traditional lenders tend to require. This reality might result from factors such as leaving the paid workforce to care for children and elderly relatives. As of 2009 an estimated 74 million men and women held microloans that totaled US$38 billion. Grameen Bank reports that repayment success rates are between 95 and 98 percent.

At the core giving a loan is trusting another person to pay you back. Giving someone a hand to help him/herself is more important than just a hand out. But we need to be sure to take loans that we can pay back or we put our whole system in jeopardy. On an interpersonal and collective level giving small loans might not just be doing good, but also doing well.

– This was inspired by my old friend Saul Korin


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