Am I wrong to accept gov’t. assistance?

July 22nd, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I have an ailment affecting daily tasks. My decline causes need for care. The system for this is through Federal assistance, etc. Were I better, I’d never ‘go on the dole’. Yet I am viewed as a taker. 

Yet, did not my folk put forth that which was placed into the chest so to speak, for such events as mine? I paid it too. Now it is my turn. Do I give it up or accept thankfully what I have?

∼ Al H.

Answer:

Dear Al,

We are very glad that you wrote us because this is one of those questions that doesn’t lend itself to thirty-second statements. For this reason, exaggerated, misquoted and misleading statements get made and repeated.

Many people are rightly concerned that the percentage of Americans who are dependent upon government is becoming larger than the percentage who are supporting themselves. This is a valid concern, however we must recognize that there is a huge difference between someone whose lifestyle choices lead them to irresponsibly take advantage of their fellow citizens and those who, for example, are members of the military getting paid by the government.

It also unfairly condemns people like you, who are the intended beneficiaries of the government assistance programs that were initially set up through the idealism of  benevolent and caring citizens. We think that you provide a huge clue in your phrase, “…accept thankfully…” People who receive their fellow citizens’ largesse when they should and could be working hard and taking care of themselves, tend to be resentful and sullen, not grateful. When large scale bureaucracy makes it so easy to be a taker, many people succumb to the temptation of living off the sweat of other people’s brows. The removal of a shared value system leads people to not even recognize that there is anything wrong in doing so.  The downward spiral that ensues damages as many or more people than it helps.

While we certainly do need to reform our system of government assistance, we don’t think that you should feel embarrassed or guilty at drawing from the wellsprings that you and those who came before you watered. We bless you that you should soon be able to contribute financially once again.

Until then be a giver with your smile, your gratitude and in whatever other ways you can,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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