The debate over health care in the US reached another peak/valley this week (depending on your perspective on the vote). Since our Torah reading this week includes some of the most critical moral teachings our tradition has to offer, I thought it would be worthwhile for us to explore our sources to answer a few key questions:
What, if any, are the resources or benefits that a community is obligated to provide for its inhabitants? As we will see, such a list exists, serving as a sort of Chamber of Commerce checklist for house hunters in Talmudic times. What can we learn about communal priorities from this list?
Second, given that resources are never unlimited, how should a community prioritize its commitments? Is there a hierarchy of recipients of services? Is there a hierarchy of values? Or should everyone be treated equally?
As always, we don’t expect Jewish law and values to dictate policy in this country. But Jews do have an obligation to know our tradition, and and encouraged to bring these values to the table where such critical societal questions are being raised. So on Shabbat morning, with phrases such as “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) ringing in our ears, we’ll see how Jewish wisdom can inform this contemporary debate.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,