Talmud this Shabbat: From Deuteronomy to Parasite, Poverty and Economic Inequality Are Insoluble


In winning Best Picture at the Academy awards and being the first non-English-speaking film to do so, Parasite made history. When I saw Parasite several months ago, the wisdom of Ernest Hemingway came to mind. You know something is good for you if it feels good not while you are doing it, but if it feels good after you have done it. I found watching Parasite exquisitely uncomfortable. For large stretches of the movie, I was squirming, it was that uncomfortable. And yet, in the months since, more than any film I have seen recently, it has stayed with me.

The film is about economic inequality, the very rich and the very poor, in South Korea, and the simmering resentments that lie just below the surface.

But the film is not only about South Korea. It is about us. Think about the New Hampshire primary this week. So much of the energy is around different responses to economic inequality, to the problem of the persistent and permanent economic underclass–a perennial issue in every election cycle.

About this problem the Torah has something sober to say, something that no politician running in Iowa or New Hampshire would or could ever say: Poverty is insoluble. There will always be a permanent economic underclass. There is no program, no policy, no plan that can change that. There is no sermon, no teaching, no exhortation that can change that. God seems to have a special solicitude for the poor, but that does not stop them from being poor. Economic inequality there always was, economic inequality there always will be.

On Shabbat, we will examine the Torah’s sober wisdom, and then talk about two very different responses: our prophets and our rabbis. Echoes of both voices are heard at every campaign stop in this, and in every, election cycle.

See you tomorrow!

Shabbat shalom,
Wes