Greed is bad

17 Shvat 5770

This past Shabbat was the 15th of Shvat, (Tu B’Shvat) the “New Year for Trees”.  Originally this simply meant that for the purpose of applying certain laws, a tree became one year older every time it reached this date; but this connotation has engendered many beautiful commentaries and customs related to actual and metaphorical trees.  One rabbinic source on trees (not specifically connected to Tu B’Shvat to the best of my recollection) concerns an old man planting a tree which he knew would only bear fruit for the generations after him.

We also read the Torah portion entitled “Beshallach”, which is best known for the splitting of the Red Sea but also relates the giving of the manna.  We are told there that all who collected it ended up with the same amount.  By contrast, in Numbers 11:32, greed for meat resulted in a free-for-all that ended tragically.

I do hope this column will usually not be so immediately political, but I see our hopes for addressing national and global crises threatened by an outdated ideology that for the last 30 years has promoted short-sighted selfishness and pursuit of unlimited wealth at the expense of identifying with the larger community.  The current stalemate may not be broken as long as progressives are divided and insecure about requiring shared sacrifice by all, and conservatives ask nothing more from Americans than to enrich themselves — in the short term — as much as they can.  We need a fundamental change in attitude that brings about a renewed commitment to ensure a basic level of economic security to all citizens, and to create the conditions to nurture future generations.

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