Flames, Family and Finance

In which countries is it easiest to form a new business?  You’d think that with more than two-hundred years of entrepreneurial culture, the United States would rank fairly high.  And we did.  Until about 1962, starting a new business in the United States was quicker, cheaper, and easier than anywhere else.  Not surprisingly, the country enjoyed the highest rate of new business startups of anywhere in the world.

However, since then, America has been steadily slipping and sliding down the rankings until today the country ranks behind Poland, Lithuania, New Zealand, Singapore and about ten others.  Concurrently however, over the same fifty years, the number of U.S. government programs taxing money away from those who work for it and offering it to others has skyrocketed.   It is made available almost on request in the form of cash, free food, free cell phones, free housing certificates, and so on to almost everyone who applies. 

Not only has the number of give-away programs soared, but it has become ever easier to join the ranks of the receivers.  Why would a society of rational people make it harder for folks to start businesses and easier to become dependent upon one’s fellow citizens?

There’s another number that in the last 50 years has also climbed faster than a Blue Angel F-18 jet at a summer airshow.  That is the proportion of American children born to unmarried mothers.  We all know the basic rule that the more money you give for certain behavior, the more of that behavior you’re going to get.  Again the same question: why would rational people subsidize behavior that produces babies more likely to grow up in dire circumstances? 

The only possible answer is that it is not rational citizens making these tragic decisions but rather rational politicians who want votes and rational bureaucrats devoted to permanent tenure.  The only way for them to achieve these ends is to destroy families and limit financial independence.  Only a small minority of welfare recipients are people who live in intact families, using the word ‘family’ in its traditionally understood meaning. Harming both the finances and families of citizens is precisely what you do if you want to increase the size and power of government. 

As Chanukah recedes into the background for another year, let’s recall that nearly 2,200 years ago, in addition to outlawing certain religious practices, the Greeks attempted to destroy Israel’s families and their finances. (Maimonides, Laws of Chanukah)  To be independent means having family and finances so the Maccabees went to war against the Greeks to defend both. 

Before banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden late in the third chapter of Genesis, God made sure that they had each other along with the ability to make bread. (Genesis 3:19)  In Torah nomenclature, the word bread can also mean money.  Still today, many people refer to money as ‘bread’ or ‘dough’.  Directly after leaving Eden, Adam and Eve started their family.  If you’re going to be independent and free, you need your family and your finances.

Uniquely among Jewish holy days, on Chanukah we continue making money by going to work while at the same time gathering each evening with family to light the menorah and share traditional songs and stories.  It is the festival that more than any other blends together money and family. The candles we lit for the past eight nights were timed so that they would shine, in the words of ancient Jewish wisdom, “while people were coming home from work,” while the obligation to light falls not on each individual but on, “a man and his family.”  It is the only holyday on which there is a tradition to give children gifts of money. 

All Greeks, whether those from thousands of years ago or their secular-fundamentalist counterparts of today, know that if they can break the ties that bound parents and children together as well as the ties between productivity and reward, they can destroy a culture.  Our response must be to double down, forming families and celebrating family togetherness while also working hard for economic gain.


13 thoughts on “Flames, Family and Finance”

  1. Susan, thank you for apprising me of both your positions.

    If you would, may I ask Rabbi Lapin and yourself according to Ancient Jewish Wisdom and other Jewish sources to elaborate on the many scripture references that seem to show the Almighty God threatening to avenge and afflict punishment on individuals and governments hell bent on destroying families?

    More specifically, pertaining to the United States, what do you see coming down the pike if this oppression is not dislodged and reversed? What type of leadership must we take in order to preserve our God given freedoms and liberties?

    Michael Caruso

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Michael-
      Firstly, sorry we had to edit your letter for length. Generally God’s punishment for societies violating His rules for family and social order are imposed on groups rather than individuals. They usually involve economic decline of the offending society. I think this trend is quite evident when you scrutinize the trend lines of the past 60 years.
      Regarding the U.S. we don’t think it’s an issue of type of leadership but type of citizens and types of values informing the hearts of those citizens. Generally, leaders arrive that the people deserve. The problems afflicting America won’t be solved from the top down but from a third great religious reawakening among the people.

  2. Your discourse of “Flames, Family and Finance”, which is based upon the fundamental foundational concept of a marriage between a man and a woman and their producing of offspring connects all the way back to Genesis 2:21-24 that brings up questions I would like to ask you to elaborate on.

    1. Michael, I appreciate the thoroughness with which you wrote your question, but we did delete it because we never comment on the Gospels. It is an area on which neither my husband nor I have any knowledge; our studies are limited to Jewish sources.

  3. What are your thoughts on the US government paying those who own farm land not to farm in order to keep the supply of agriculture goods from becoming scarce due to a would be surplus of supply and a corresponding drop in price? I feel that if our government allow farmers to farm there land and stop paying these ridiculous subsidies, which is by the way substantially more than what tax payers pay for welfare, with today’s international networking capabilities and modern day technology there is a very possiblity that the price of agriculture goods in this country would remain competitive and successful in retaining the newly increase farming activities. This undoubtedly would increase global surplus for buyers and sellers. Also by allowing our country to serve more of God’s children’s world wide, we would not only save a substantially amount of tax revenue that could be better spent on such things like reducing the national budget but we would render more wealth to reward us for our service to humanity .

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      In general, Andrew, my thoughts are implacably hostile towards government using tax money to subsidize farming or any other part of the economy that the marketplace ought to be handling on its own.

  4. You are right, Sir! You make it clear how Chanukah holds many hidden messages for uninformed Christians. How I wish I could quote verbatim what so many wise men have said on the subject! But one of these, Alexis de Tocqueville, said that America will be great as long as Americans are good. Another said that our Republic is doomed, once the politicians become self-serving and corrupt and figure out that the votes of the populace can be bought by distributing to them revenue (‘free stuff’) from the public treasuries. And since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, his institutional War on Poverty has done a great deal to destroy families, especially among the poor. Dependence upon the Government is more a curse than a blessing, as it inhibits ambition, motivation and enterprise. We should have learned from Pilgrim Governor William Bradford’s early experiment in socialism in Massachusetts: it failed miserably for the same reasons and was remedied only by the establishment of free enterprise, whereby the inhabitants of Plymouth Colony were motivated to work and harvest the fruits of their own labor.

  5. I don’t know how to work hard to get economic gain, money or dough. I dont know if I have vaulable skills, or experience for a job, I have ideas but I don’t implement. My mom calls me lazy. I’m trying to read the bible for the bible lessons, but idk where to start. I don’t have more than ten dollars a single good job prospect, I owe my mother almost 2k for two months rent in NYC and now I have to tell her I didn’t get a job as a doorman. Sorry for venting bu5 I need help. My dad says pray but I fear I don’t believe. I do and I don’t. Please help me RDL.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Brandon,
      Everyone in need of financial deliverance needs two things: a little jar of oil ( II Kings 4:2 )or its equivalent and the willingness to take the first step, even into the water if necessary (Exodus 14:15)
      Your jar of oil is your candor. You are bravely disallowing yourself any illusions. You mention your debt and your mom’s view of you. You mention your failure to secure a job in NY and your doubts about God. This is all good.
      Regarding your willingness to take the first difficult step…we’ll, we’ll see.
      You didn’t disclose why you moved to the most expensive housing in the country before you had a job. You didn’t reveal where you are living. I am guessing it’s with your parents quite some distance from New York.
      Here’s your first step. Get a job! Any job at all! Near where you live. Walking or cycling distance preferably.
      Do nothing else till you have a job. It literally doesn’t matter what the job is.
      Next step is deliver a little more than the job calls for. Third step is keep that job for at least three hundred and thirty days.
      Get on with it! Why are you sitting there? There’s no time to waste.

      P.S. As to where to start with some Bible reading and inspiration, the two references I cite above are excellent starting points. Good luck.

  6. Thank you for this brief historical reminder of how the gov. has gone about to destroy families. Those that it has not been able to destroy, Satan, has gone hard after them with amazing success. That could well be why the last verse in the Old Testament says: He, Elijah to come, will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I smite the earth with a curse.

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