Day 10: Week 2, Day 3
In the Second Book of Kings (12:4-6), we read that “Joash said to the priests, “Collect all the money that is brought as sacred offerings to the temple of the Eternal…. Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasurers, then use it to repair whatever damage is found in the temple.” But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still had not repaired the temple.” The king’s response to the corruption of the priests is to ban future donations until they have rebuilt the temple. His anger at corruption is shared by mainstream Jewish thought. The Book of Exodus (23:6-8) warns against corruption by saying “You shall not subvert the rights of your needy in their disputes. Keep far from a false charge; do not bring death on those who are innocent and in the right, for I will not acquit the wrongdoer. Do not take bribes, for bribes blind the clear-sighted and upset the pleas of those who are in the right.”
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato wrote (Mesillat Y’sharim 21) that “most people are not outright thieves, taking their neighbors’ property and putting it in their own premises. However, in their business dealing most of them get a taste of stealing whenever they permit themselves to make an unfair profit at the expense of someone else, claiming that such a profit has nothing to do with stealing. It is not merely the obvious and explicit theft with which we have to concern ourselves, but any unlawful transfer of wealth from one individual to another that may occur in everyday economic activities.” This astute observation is aware that corruption is usually not deliberate but subconscious.
Even corruption that is done with the best of intentions is clearly forbidden in Judaism, as Maimonides explains (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Sanhedrin 23:1): "It is obviously forbidden when the intention is to pervert justice, but even if the intention is to acquit the innocent and convict the guilty it is still forbidden". As we continue to focus on economic justice, today we consider corruption in all its forms, locally and nationally.
Get Engaged! Learn about Money in Politics.
Center for Public Integrity, October 2012. “The ‘Citizens United’ decision and why it matters”
Public Citizen: Take Action & Demand Transparency