The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is Universal Healthcare a Jewish Imperative?

From Tablet Magazine:

Much has been written in the progressive press about how Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman has betrayed, first, the party that elected him to the senate in the first place (and protected his seniority in the second place, when he got himself reelected to the senate as an independent); second, the Obama agenda that he supported as a candidate; and, third, the cause of universal health care and/or any health-care reform. Indeed, he is vulnerable on all of these counts.

But he is also guilty of a fourth betrayal. And it is this fourth betrayal that, in my view, accounts for much of the anger aimed at Lieberman, anger greater than that expressed at the Republican opposition, which has cynically voted as a bloc to block any health-care reform emanating from the Democrats. Lieberman’s fourth betrayal is the betrayal of his Jewish heritage . . .

If Lieberman were a gentile, it would, for many Jews, be a mere political disagreement. But Lieberman being Lieberman, the feeling is that he should be ashamed of himself. And by the way, he should.
See the above link for the full article.

My brief response:

Can we got off of this liberal trip that Modern day progressive moors are a Jewish imperative? If the Torah itself has an ethos of its own, and if it does, do they translate to modern standards is up to debate. But to make a question of  a betrayal of one’s Jewish heritage is ridiculous.

More so, it's overlooking other Jewish precedents - such as persecution of heretics, massacring our enemies, Animal Sacrifices etc. etc. That's a whole 'nother discussion if they are acceptable . . . but progressive and liberal they aint - any argument the other way is revisionism.

If we are indeed to take a lesson from Jewish precedent, we would organize health reform on a community level (something a community organizer should be familiar with), based on the rule that the poor of one’s own city come first - not a bloated national system.


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mobius1ski said...

your remarks betray a longstanding heritage of progressivism that is not necessarily rooted in torah (though i argue that it is, in part), but in our historical experience of persecution, our struggle for civil rights and emancipation, and our solidarity with other minorities that have struggled under similar circumstances.

to suggest that torah is the only relevant means by which to deduce our social imperatives ignores the fact that the majority of jews have never been religiously observant and that, for at least 300 years, there has been a strong jewish cultural identity that has run parallel to and provided for countless jews and alternative to jewish religious identity.

that said, the jewish tradition does in fact stipulate that health care is something we should provide to all, and this notion that an expansion of medicare will somehow result in a bloated national system that will ultimately do more harm than good is based not in any clearheaded analysis of fact, but in right-wing talking points crafted by an insurance lobby intent on protecting its industry's profits no matter the cost to human life or dignity.

show some chesed.

Nemo said...

Mobius - I think you missed his point that progressive legislation is not so incorporated into our faith that it would become a violation thereof not to follow that.

Yes, Yoreh Deah says that providing healing is a community imperative. But what that means about universal healthcare, single payer systems, insurance mandates, and any other buzzwords (or how to pay for these systems), I don't know think one can say that someone is acting less Jewish for disagreeing.

Furthermore, even if you argue that there is an external source that Jews derive their social values from, there is no clear consensus on health care to say that someone has not lived up to Jewish values.

Leora said...

>organize health reform on a >community level
Yes! Amen to that notion. Greatly preferable to the bloated central government ridiculousness.

Nemo said...

Mottel - David Bernstein, a law professor, shares similar frustration:

Mottel said...

-Mobius: I think it's important to distinguish between what Jews do - even movements started by and largely supported by Jews - and what is intrinsically Jewish.

True throughout the history of Judaism, not all Jews were religious (Though I'd argue that a simple majority were), most associated themselves with Traditional Judaism (Yes, people went to the Sadducees and later the Karaites) - they're lack of observance was due to ignorance and estrangement from the greater Jewish community - not a separate belief system. Only with the break of Reform Judaism - particularly in the recent generations - have their been normative Jewish beliefs that fall outside the realm of Orthodoxy.

If we are to posit that any form of belief held by Jews is 'Jewish' then what of Communism (started by a Jew and led by Jews as well) or Rand's Objectavism? Are they part of our Jewish Heritage. What about Right Wing Settlers? Their beliefs stem from Judaism (or so they say), they are all Jewish and make that very clear. Are their actions part of our Jewish Heritage?

While early American Reform Rabbis were involved as abolitionists, that was limited to the Jews in the North. What of the Jews who marched to the tune of Dixie?
Judah Philip Benjamin was Jewish and served as Secretary of War in the Confederate Cabinet.
Even further back Sephardic Dutch Jews were very active in the slave trade - they were by and large not religious - do their actions count as Jewish Heritage?

While you may wish to claim that the Torah isn't the only source for Jewish beliefs (I disagree), they must definitely stem from and be based on it.

The modern progressive movement has widely (though there are moves in the other direction) taken out basics of Judaism (Shabbos, Kashrus, Taharas Hamishpocha) on any level . . . Meaning while I'd say that a vegan shabbos with Yoga, mediation and what are not (necessarily) a Shulchan Aruch Shabbos, they do stem from it. Instead they have supplanted a modern liberal agenda and push it as principles of Judaism. This has nothing to do with my Conservative beliefs - if they were to push a purely conservative agenda over Judaism I'd have a problem as well.

Now in regards to Health Care. There is a Jewish basis for being compassionate and helping the needy - community soap kitchens, taxes to help the poor and other things are all discussed at length in the Talmud - but to apply them to an unprecedented modern political debate is deceitful.

There is much basis, as I mentioned in the blog post, for community based initiatives. In Eastern Europe everything was based around the Kehilah - the community. The poor were helped, hospitals were set up, bikkur cholim societies were established. In Orthodox communities this remains especially true today as well - go look at the empire Satmar has built out of it!

My personal reservations with a national plan stem from the very negative experiences I've seen my family go through in Montreal, Canada. Unfortunately even a dedicated doctor may be turned by chances for higher pay, and when caps were set on the amount a doctor could earn each year, many of the most skilled left Quebec.

People are forced to wait to get the attention they need - my grandmother has told me about being forced to schedule appointments with her physician months in advance. The neglagence there took the life of my grandfather and then my great-aunt last year . . .
Speaking to healthy Canadians, that need regular checkups and the occasional prescription it works well. But when things, G-d forbid, turn bad . . . it aint pretty.

All of that is opinion however, as far as Judaism comes in - I wouldn't have the chutzpah to say it's inline with our heritage, or that your beliefs aren't.

National Healthcare has no Jewish precedent - only a liberal one.

-Nemo: My thoughts example.

Mottel said...

exactly even. Not example.

Nemo said...

Who practices mediation on Shabbos afternoon? And what's a soap kitchen?

Dovid said...

Yes Mottel, whoever shlugs kaparos, drives an SUV, or votes republican also forsakes Judaism and should be ashamed of himself.

Mottel said...

-Nemo: The Maharat Sarah Horwitz writes about meditation and yoga while saying Ashrei (Ashrei - hands in the air - Yoshvei - sitting on the ground - beisecha - hands arched over the head).
Soup kitchen - u'biti haslicha.

-Dovid: Come Again?

Nemo said...

me·di·a·tion (md-shn)
1. The act of mediating; intervention.
2. The state of being mediated.
3. Law An attempt to bring about a peaceful settlement or compromise between disputants through the objective intervention of a neutral party.

Mottel said...

I'm typing on a cell phone - meditation - excuse the typo

Anonymous said...

אחד מסמני מובהקים של אןתם אנשי
בני בליעל שיונקים חיותם מאותו האיש
הוא שנאה עזה כנגד לומדי תורה. ובשביל זה כולם נכללים עם כת שונאי השם ר''ל