On Global Economic Disparity
I am writing these words while on official “Yeshiva business” in
One inevitable question that nags one’s consciousness is: Why do so many people, literally hundreds of millions out of a population of one billion, live in conditions of abject poverty and illiteracy, while you and I are forced to suffer in other ways – say by being denied the opportunity to buy a 50 inch LCD television -- due to the painful burden… errr … groisse mitzvah of paying yeshiva tuition? And this is a question that goes beyond what I am witnessing in
At the root of this of course lies two of the most fundamental questions of all: Why has the Reboinoisheloilum created his world with such disparity? And how do the existence and fate of Klal Yisroel mesh with this broader reality?
I am reminded of a Maiseh Shehoya (this really happened, by the way). When I was a young bochural, I once asked my Rebbe how it was that Klal Yisroel was destined for the rewards of Oilum Habah, whereas the Goyim (Yemach Shmum!) will be unfairly punished for their Pugoom, their damaged state, and will be denied preferred access to the Reboinoisheloilum. Are they to be punished for a fate that is not of their own choosing? How could Hakadoshboruchhu deny a Goy his eternal rewards if he is never given the opportunity to be “chosen”?
Answered my Rebbe essentially the following: The Reboinoisheloilum is inherently fair. Everyone in the world, even the most illiterate native of
Now, clearly, my Rebbe was a total ignoramus. This was never more apparent than when visiting a place like
There are exactly two ways to think of these questions, as characterized by a famous machloikess between Rav and Shmuel in a Gemara in Baba Basra.
According to Rav, the Reboinoisheloilum is not at all interested in fairness between Klal Yisroel and the Umois HaOilum. We were chosen to be His people, His nation, or, as the Rabbeinu Chananel describes is, “His bitches”. Hakadoshboruchhu intentionally created the world with its many categories of people and animals, and with its own built in hierarchy of capability and Kedusha. Do you expect a cat to type on a computer? Do you expect a monkey to speak in sign language?… errr…Let me try this again. Do you expect a monkey to fly a rocket to space?… errr… Let me try this one more time. Do you except a monkey to take a long position on a biomedical stock? Kal V’Choimer, you should not expect a Goy, a shaygitz, to have a special relationship with the Aimisheh! It is simply not in his genetic code; it is not his destiny. This is the position that is indeed echoed in the words of my old Rebbe.
However, Shmuel takes the opposite position. According to Shmuel, Klal Yisroel indeed does NOT have a monopoly on the Reboinoisheloilum. As proof, Shmuel points to the important role of the galach Yisroi, Moishe Rebbeinu’s father-in-law, in the formation of Klal Yisroel and its legal system. He also points to the basic notion of the Sheva Mitzvois Bnei Noiach, the seven Noahide laws, as a fundamental illustration of the relationship between Hakadoshboruchhu and the Goyim – If they have basic behavioral responsibilities, which imply free choice, they must, therefore, also be recognized as partners in the world, whose behaviors are part of the fabric of Oilum Hazeh, with the opportunity for reward in Oilum Habbah. To support his position Shmuel highlights additional key roles played by Goyim in the Toirah. Did Moishe Rabbeinu marry a skinny Bais Yankif girl from
So if Hakadoshboruchhu does not distinguish between Klal Yisroel and the Goyim, why are there people in
“And there He was, holding what looked like a Matzoh in His hand. And I asked Him, ‘My Lord, why are you holding a Matzoh?’ to which he looked directly at me, and said, ‘It is not a Matzoh. It is Kol HaOilum Kooloh. And I am holding it because I am hungry!’ He then spread date jam on the Matzoh, and proceeded to eat it. It was at that point that I realized that Hakadoshboruchhu is less concerned about Klal Yisroel and the rest of the world than he is about having a nice snack. So from that point on I gave up on understanding the Aleph Baiz and started meditating on fresh fruit.” Unquote.
It is believed that this passage was critical in the formulation of the MAHARSHAL’s famous introduction to the Chuchmas Shloimoi. In introducing his Sefer, which focuses on identifying and correcting textual errors within the Talmud, the MAHARSHAL writes, “It is high time someone has taken upon himself the task of correcting all of these mistakes in the various manuscripts. Aimishteh knows He isn’t about to do it; He actually enjoys watching us create silly new Halachois and Chumras based on incorrect readings of the Gemara. Frankly, the Reboinoisheloilum likes to play with human beings the same way a boy pulls the wings off a fly.”
So what do these quotes have to do with the basic questions we are addressing: The fundamental inequalities of the world, and the role of Klal Yisroel? Very simple, you mechutziff! In the minds of Abulafia and the MAHARSHAL, the Reboinoisheloilum is disinterested in the day-to-day workings of the world, and that disinterest leads to inherent inequality. And perhaps, in their minds, that inequality falls in favor of Klal Yisroel because of Hakadoshboruchhu’s grand design for His Chosen, as well a few timely investments in the energy markets and several networking stocks.
However, there are two things we must keep in mind: The House of Saud and your great-grandfather. What’s Pshat?
If we were to identify a single group that is devout and universally enjoys all the benefits of wealth in our day and age, it is not Klal Yisroel, It is the House of Saud, the royal family of
Now, with regard to your great-grandfather, I know you think that he drove a Lexis, worked on the Polish or Moroccan equivalent of Wall Street, and had a wife with a shaytel made out of the finest hair from the Belgian Congo. But, to be honest with you, unless your last name is Rothschild, he probably ate potatoes everyday, if he was lucky, owned one pair of tattered shoes, and sewed on buttons for a living. He also lived in a community rife with disease and subject to pogroms, just for an occasional change of pace. I don’t know about your great-grandfather, but mine wasn’t so much better off than the Aluvei HaChaim – the miserables – of
Now, with regard to the role of Klal Yisroel, I would like to point to the explanation of the Ari Zahl, who viewed Hakadoshboruchhu as being in a form of Galus from Klal Yisroel due to a cosmic accident at the time of creation (the Shattering of the Vessels), and it is up to Klal Yisroel to rescue the Holy Sparks from the evil Klipois in order to restore the world to its intended perfect state. Think of this as trying to get your girlfriend’s bra off while making out in a parked car (a distant memory for many of us who have dedicated our lives to Toirah and Mitzvois, and to monogamy): It takes great exertion to restore your girlfriend to her natural state. She may not even be helpful. But the rewards are plentiful, especially if she is a C cup or greater.
So it is with Tikkun Oilum. Klal Yisroel has a mission, but it is also easy to envision that even the Goyim can share in that mission. They too, through their actions, can contribute to the effort to recover the Holy Sparks of Creation. Alternately, they can at least help out a little when we try to take off their bras.
Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval.