The Jewish iconoclastic philosopher Maimonides, about whom the anecdote advises "He was able to put a brick through the glass showcase window of our faith because 'From Moses our teacher to Moses ben Maimon, there has been no Moses unto this Moses.' addressed what he thought the Jewish communities attitude to improving the life of the poor should be.
He summed it up with his didactic 'The Golden Ladder of Charity' (set out below).The absolute pinnacle of charity goes beyond donations to the poor, whether overt or covert and is summed up in one sentence " The prevention of poverty is the highest act of charity". This is mirrored in the Talmud's admonition "Lending is greater than alms-giving."
This has its echoes in the current phrase "Give a man a fish he can eat for a day, teach him to fish he will be able to feed himself for a lifetime" but it in fact exceeds it as a learned skill is limited in its application without capital which provides "fish" when they are not biting.
This program for positive assistance to the poor through capital provision reflects the current division between the welfare state, big government mindset of the Democratic party and the limited government, low tax, self improvement as a path to a better life individualism the spirit and philosophy of Sarah Palin engenders.
The better path is to, as Palin constantly reminds us, let the great mass of small business owners keep more of what they earn so they can improve their business, hire more staff and get industry working again. The adjunct step would be a focus on skills training, and through this low tax regime, an opportunity for those currently trapped in the cycle of welfare state dependency to move out of ghettoization and poverty to the American dream.
Maimonides recognised this 'hand up, not a hand out' concept centuries ago, and his 'Guide to the Perplexed' is universal, not just for the Jewish community. However it is important for the Jewish community to go back to its roots and to cast off the rigid mindset of support for the Democratic party which has led it down a dead end path.
Palin is entirely Jewish in her philosophy of the better path to fulfilment of the human potential, and with her unwavering support for Israel there are signs the Jewish community is starting to recognise what a true friend not only they but all Americans have.
The Golden Ladder of Charity
THERE are eight degrees or steps, says Maimonides, in the duty of charity.
The first and lowest degree is to give — but with reluctance or regret. This is the gift of the hand, but not of the heart.
The second is to give cheerfully, but not proportionately to the distress of the sufferer.
The third is to give cheerfully and proportionately, but not until we are solicited.
The fourth is to give cheerfully, proportionately, and even unsolicited; but to put it in the poor man's hand, thereby exciting in him the painful emotion of shame.
The fifth is to give charity in such a way that the distressed may receive the bounty and know their benefactor, without their being known to him. Such was the conduct of some of our ancestors, who used to tie up money in the hind-corners of their cloaks, so that the poor might take it unperceived.
The sixth, which rises still higher, is to know the objects of our bounty, but remain unknown to them. Such was the conduct of those of our ancestors who used to convey their charitable gifts into poor people's dwellings, taking care that their own persons and names should remain un known.
The seventh is still more meritorious, namely, to bestow charity in such a way that the benefactor may not know the relieved persons, nor they the name of their benefactor. This was done by our charitable forefathers during the existence of the Temple. For there was in that holy building a place called the Chamber of Silence or Inostentation ; wherein the good deposited secretly whatever their generous hearts suggested; and from which the most respectable poor families were maintained with equal secrecy.
Lastly, the eighth and most meritorious of all, is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty; namely, to assist the reduced brother, either by a loan of money, or by teaching him a trade, or by putting him in the way of business, so that he may earn an honest liveli hood; and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding up his hand for charity. And to this Scripture alludes when it says, "And if thy brother be waxen poor and fallen in decay with thee, then thou shalt support him: Yea though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee." This is the highest step and the summit of charity's Golden Ladder.
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