ZJB: I really liked this post by Alan about Torah and Socialism. The text by Joseph Heinemann is from 1944, so it has that classical feel to it. As a special treat, Alan linked the entire piece in translation further down under “Read the Rest Here- Heinemann- Torah and Social Order.” All the other links are worth reading too. I may include the Heinemann as part of my course this fall on Israel and Israeli Judaism. It’s a nice reminder that religion, Judaism, and Orthodox Judaism do not necessarily have to be reactionary. Or is that just whistling in the wind?

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to

  1. Michael Makovi says:

    Professor Braiterman,

    Might I please suggest making sure you are at least minimally acquainted with economics before you proceed to pass judgement on which economic system Jews ought to support? Start with Walter Block’s “Jewish Economics in the Light of Maimonides” (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1896480) and Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson (http://mises.org/document/6785/Economics-in-One-Lesson).

    To quote Murray N. Rothbard, “It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

    I would submit that for a Jew today to follow the Talmud’s economics, is equivalent to following the Talmud’s medical science. It would be tragic if, according to you, the way for Orthodox Judaism to avoid the sin of being reactionary, is to regress to blood-letting and its Talmudic economic equivalents. If that is what avoiding reactionarism means, then I will be a reactionary who avails himself of modern science.

    I mean no disrespect, but please, are you familiar with modern economics? If not, then what business do you have teaching Heinemann?

    • zjb says:

      Thanks, Michael, and to explain that my interest in Heinemann’s piece is philosophical and historical, not economic. I myself am not a “socialist,” but I think it’s very interesting how orthodox Jewish thinkers in the 1940s sought to blend socialism and Torah. What still attracts me about socialism is, again, not its economic program as much as its ethical-moral vision.

  2. Simcha Gottlieb says:

    [I’m reposting this comment to your reblog.] First thoughts… (I would like to get to the full translation as time permits) …Heinemann strikes me as naive, well-meaning, and constrained by the vicissitudes of his times.  Can’t really assess from this the depth of his Torah scholarship, but I think Torah and Talmud, particularly as illuminated by and integrated with Chassidut (primarily Chabad), has a far more nuanced perspective on the perennial challenges of balancing the needs and rights of yachid and klal than Heinemann’s simple conclusions suggest.  I’ll add that he appears to make the same mistake as most neo-classical economists in failing to distinguish between the three factors that produce wealth: (a) land and natural resources (which is what the Biblical verse he cites refers to – ‘ki Li ha’aretz’) – which do indeed belong by rights to the community and should not be monopolized by individuals; (b) labor, the fruits of which rightly belong to labor; and (c) capital, the fruits (or risks, or losses) of which are rightfully claimed by the capitalist. Per Henry George, author of ‘Progress and Poverty,’ this clarification allows a rectified capitalism to avoid the statist or individualist excesses of socialism or capitalism, respectively. And I think such an approach to the production of communal and individual wealth is most consistent with Torah.First thoughts… (it’s 3 am and I should either be sleeping or otherwise engaged, but I found this compelling enough for a quick read – would like to get to the full translation) …Heinemann strikes me as naive, well-meaning, and constrained by the vicissitudes of his times.  Can’t really assess from this the depth of his Torah scholarship, but I think Torah and Talmud, particularly as illuminated by and integrated with Chassidut (primarily Chabad), has a far more nuanced perspective on the perennial challenges of balancing the needs and rights of yachid and klal than Heinemann’s simple conclusions suggest.  I’ll add that he appears to make the same mistake as most neo-classical economists in failing to distinguish between the three factors that produce wealth: (a) land and natural resources (which is what the Biblical verse he cites refers to – ‘ki Li ha’aretz’) – which do indeed belong by rights to the community and should not be monopolized by individuals; (b) labor, the fruits of which rightly belong to labor; and (c) capital, the fruits (or risks, or losses) of which are rightfully claimed by the capitalist. Per Henry George, author of ‘Progress and Poverty,’ this clarification allows a rectified capitalism to avoid the statist or individualist excesses of socialism or capitalism, respectively. And I think such an approach to the production of communal and individual wealth is most consistent with Torah.

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