It's The Economy

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In a fair world, we are all judged by the actions we cause and our attendant intentions. The world-to-come is called an upside down world (Bava Basra 10b) because its justice is the opposite of what we see here. In this world, people are often judged unfairly, based on what others see and hold most important. Leaders suffer and benefit from this effect, as we can see from Moshe.

Moshe’s Other Name

The Gemara (Megillah 13a) notes that Yered is one of the multiple names by which Moshe is referred. Why Yered? Because, answers the Gemara, in his days the man fell (yarad).

However, this is a great understatement. According to the Gemara elsewhere (Ta’anis 9a), the man fell in Moshe’s merit. He was the reason it fell, not just an incidental figure who led at that time. Why does the Gemara merely state that the man fell in his days?

In the end, it doesn’t matter that Moshe caused the man to fall. Leaders are evaluated based on the wellbeing of the common person, even when the leader in power did not cause the current situation. The economy was doing well in Moshe’s time, so to speak, since the man fell consistently. When the economy does well, the leader is praised regardless of whether he caused it. And when it does poorly, the leader’s reputation suffers regardless of his culpability.

Economy and War

Not only was Moshe praised but he was even called by a name that referred to the successful economy. This one issue, the ability of people to support their families, is a, if not the, principal concern. Only when people can survive financially, when they can overcome the struggle for basic survival, can they then focus on other crucial personal and communal issues. If all we care about is money, we lack souls. But without the ability to care for our basic physical needs, we cannot attend to our souls’ needs.

The Gemara (Berakhos 3b) tells how Jewish leaders came to King David and complained that the economy had collapsed. David replied that people should support each other. The leaders replied that there simply was not enough money within the economy to support everyone. David responded that, if so, they should go to war in order to expand the economy.

Certainly, any such war was waged against a deserving enemy. As the Gemara continues, they obtained divine permission before proceeding with a war. However, the primary justification for entering this war was economic. Restoring the country’s economic wellbeing is evidently sufficiently important to allow embarking on a war, placing lives at risk.

It’s The Economy

When Bill Clinton first ran for president, his campaign used the slogan: “It’s the economy, stupid.” He was right. According to the Gemara, the wellbeing of the economy is an issue of national security by which the president will be remembered. When millions of people cannot feed their families, the leaders at the time are blamed, rightly or wrongly.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

6 comments

  1. “But without the ability to care for our basic physical needs, we cannot attend to our souls’ needs.”

    Primum panem, deinde philosophari

  2. >When Bill Clinton first ran for president, his campaign used the slogan: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

    Just to clarify, it wasn’t a campaign slogan. It was more like a little trick cooked up by James Carville that the media fell in love with. In Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Little Rock Carville had posted a hand written sign on the wall which said

    1. Change vs. more of the same
    2. The economy, stupid
    3. Don’t forget health care.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It's_the_economy,_stupid

  3. I think it’s important to note the difference between an economic war now, when “the economy is bad” never means people will die of starvation, as opposed to then, when “the economy is bad” means people will. But, as is clear, that’s a tangent, and I’m a big fan of this post.

  4. I’m waiting for someone (I have one particular person in mind) to comment on how many hundred billion dollars the Iraq war has costed and what it has done to the deficit 🙂

  5. “Leaders are evaluated based on the wellbeing of the common person, even when the leader in power did not cause the current situation.”

    Have we really evaluated gdolim by such a criteria.

  6. “In the end, it doesn’t matter that Moshe caused the man to fall. Leaders are evaluated based on the wellbeing of the common person, even when the leader in power did not cause the current situation.”

    But are they supposed to be evaluated that way? Are we supposed to judge a leader for things they didn’t cause, where I presume you are included the cause-by-omission of things they couldn’t prevent?

    Because you’re making here a comment about how Chazal understand a name of Moshe. I would think they judged leaders more charitably than that.

    -micha

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter


The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

Archives

Categories

%d bloggers like this: