To that previous post, one friend replied, in a discussion on Facebook,
I've never been fond of the freedom to starve, and have been unimpressed with the majesty of the law which forbids rich and poor alike to sleep beneath bridges.I replied,
[B]ut if you force the rich to provide for the poor - except in a small self-contained community with contractual by-laws as conditions for living there - how is it anything but a mitzvah ha-ba'ah b`averah [i.e. a sin done via a mitzvah, nullifying the value of the mitzvah]?
Another friend then replied there on Facebook,
The Torah requires that the rich provide for the poor, and allows communal authorities to force the rich to pay for communal needs. Do you have a problem with that?I replied,
The Torah requires that the rich provide for the poor... --- Yes it does. The rich to pay for the poor by their own volition. The rich - not the government - have the mitzvah to provide for the poor.
and allows communal authorities to force the rich to pay ---- Yes, with emphasis on "communal". A traditional Jewish community - as Professor Menahem Friedman argues ad nauseum in his writings - was geographically-defined, including all of the Jewish individuals who happened to fall within its geographic domain, irrespective of ideology or observance. Such a Jewish community - otherwise known as a kehillah - was governed by parnasim, laymen appointed by the community's residents to govern the community as proxies, shelihim. These parnasim had only the authority granted them by the residents - and not one iota more - and they could be removed at will by the citizens, especially if they were considered to be derelict in their responsibilities toward the community. Rabbis were hired on contract, and they had only the abilities stipulated in their contracts. At the termination of the contract, the citizens could decide not to re-hire the rabbi, and of course, if he violated his contract at any time, he could be dealt with according to the terms of the contract touching on that contingency. Dayanim too were appointed by the citizens of the locale, with similar contractual obligations.
In short, what we see is that in a traditional Jewish community, the community was a tightly-interwoven entity, in that it constituted a geographic reality of people living and working together, an objective society with great ontological significance, hardly artificial at all. Furthermore, the officers of that community - rabbi, dayanim, and parnasim - all had contractual obligations towards the governed, and were held accountable to those terms.
And irrespective of those contracts, I invite you to imagine for a moment what would happen were that rabbi or those dayanim or those parnasim to abuse their power, even in a way not forbidden by their contracts: they'd face a revolt by the people. If the dayanim made a ruling which was widely seen as unjust, for example, then the people would simply ignore him.
On top of all that, if anyone disliked his community or its leaders - or its residents and his neighbors, for that matter - he could relocate himself to a different community. Thus, John Locke declares that a government may assume tacit consent of its citizens, because it can figure that if the citizens haven't moved, they must like the government's policies. But where the citizens cannot move, this assumption cannot be made. For example, the entirety of the American colonists were unable to leave the thirteen British colonies, and thus, the British could not assume tacit tacit, and Locke's theory did not apply in that case.
Those conditions are all taken for granted by the halakhah. Given such a community, then one may certainly coerce the rich to pay for the poor. Given that the community is a social reality, a real objective entity, and given that one's living there entails obligations to one's neighbors and given that a contractual obligation imposed on all residents is adherence to the minhag ha-maqom [i.e. local communal custom], therefore, one may coerce the rich.
Even then, however, a community was reluctant to use its powers. I quote Rabbi Dr. Marc D. Angel's book The Jews of Rhodes, p. 26:One of the persistent and complex problems associated with haskamoth [communal ordinances, similar to taqanoth, except passed for social or economic reasons rather than religious ones, but with the same binding nature of a religious law as taqanoth] was the question of whether the majority the right to pass an ordinance over the objection of a dissenting minority of the community. Does the majority rule, or is unanimity imperative? Over the centuries this question evoked considerable rabbinic discussion.We see that the Jews of Rhodes were very reluctant to coerce the minority to pay taxes for the benefit of the poor, even given all that I have discussed above, regarding the nature of a kehillah. It seems the Jews of Rhodes did not want to be navalim birshut ha-torah ["scoundrels with the license of the Torah", according to the RambaN] and take advantage of their technical right to coerce the rich even for the sake of the poor.
It seems the Jews of Rhodes resolved this dilemma by distinguishing between different types of haskamoth. In matters involving an improvement that was needed for the general community, a majority was sufficient to enact a haskamah. But in matters involving taxation, a unanimous decision was required in order to protect individuals from a barrage of levies imposed on them by the majority of the community. In the final analysis, the situation surrounding each haskamah had to be carefully evaluated before determining whether a majority or unanimity was required for its adoption.
Rabbinic law allowed for the institution of herem, excommunication, in order to give communities power to enforce their laws. Yet, herem was more a threat than an actual procedure.
Certainly, in America, the above conditions are not met. The entirety of the fifty states of America are not a geographically-defined self-contained community, and so one cannot speak of a minhag ha-maqom [i.e. communal custom] demanding that the rich abide by the communal by-laws demanding support for the poor.
One does not have the ability to relocate if he is displeased, because the federal government rules all fifty states equally. Were each state independent, then each state could assume tacit consent to its laws by all citizens, but this is not the case today, because the federal government has usurped so many prerogatives of the states.
And the people do not have the ability to rise in revolt and ignore the rulings of the government when they become tyrannical. To allow such a revolt, the Bill of Rights included the right to bear arms, guaranteeing that the government did not have a monopoly on force, but today, the people have been stripped of their weapons at the same time that the government has amassed its own.
[Y]ou are citing a halakhah that quite simply, does not apply anymore, at least not in the society that exists today. If you wish for that halakhah to apply again, and allow for coercion of the rich, then we must strengthen local communities and states at the expense of the federal government, and we must strengthen the enforcement of the Second Amendment.