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The Jewish Perspective on the Occupy Wall Street

The Jewish Perspective on the Occupy Wall Street

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To Support or Not Support the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I really dont think rich people are the enemy.

Before I can make up my mind whether or not I support the Occupy Wall Street movement, I think they need to tell us whether this is more about money or morality. I wish they would be a little clearer about what they're protesting.

Much of the anger of the protesters seems to be fueled by a sentiment about wealth that Judaism long ago rejected. Sure there have always been people who believed that rich people are wicked by definition and accumulating a great deal of money is a sin.

But from a Jewish perspective, wealth is not shameful; it presents us with precious opportunities. The philosopher Philo had it right when he summed up the Jewish sentiment in these words: "Money is the cause of good things to a good man, of evil things to a bad man."

From time immemorial we have recognized that our mission in life is to improve the world. We are realistic enough to realize that a great deal of good they were required to perform on this Earth can only be fulfilled with adequate financial resources.

Helping the poor, assisting the community and its needs, building synagogues and houses of study, and supporting friends, family, neighbors – all these mitzvahs require money in order to properly perform them.

Having a great deal of money isn't a problem. Not knowing what to do with it is what causes almost all of our difficulties. And spending it correctly is the challenge we face throughout our lifetimes that will best determine whether we can face our final judgment with confidence.

“Show me your checkbook stubs,” said the noted psychologist, Erich Fromm, “and I’ll tell you everything about yourself.” Self-indulgence or selflessness? Hedonism or helping others? Forsaking God because you no longer need Him or feeling more spiritually connected out of gratitude for your good fortune?

For those whose crusade against Wall Street is synonymous with a vendetta against all those with wealth, there needs to be recognition of the great good accomplished by many of those who've been blessed with prosperity. Just because someone has "made it" doesn't make him a villain.

We could all learn much from Michael Bloomberg, the self-made billionaire founder of the Bloomberg financial information firm and New York Mayor, he recently said he intends to give away most of his fortune, because “the best measure of a philanthropist is that the check he leaves to the undertaker bounces.” And that will insure that he dies a very happy man.

When the Occupy Wall Street crowd talks about cleaning up corruption,  when it gives voice to the anger we all feel at the perpetrators of highly immoral business practices that hurt millions of innocent victims – for all of these righteous causes they deserve our unqualified thanks.

It's only when they confuse anyone who is wealthy with the enemy that I think we need to remind them that just as much as the poor don't deserve to be despised for their poverty, the rich don't deserve to be hated simply because they have money.

 

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