Applying Wisdom from the Jewish Scriptures to Consumerism during the Coronavirus Pandemic

In the Jewish Scriptures, there is much wisdom that applies to the Coronavirus pandemic, as people rush in fear to supermarkets or grocery stores to “stock up” on food and other supplies. Those who have the financial means to purchase their goods are, of course, at a distinct economic advantage, because it is possible for them to deplete the shelves of stores, leaving the poor with little, if anything, to care for themselves. That, in fact, is precisely what is happening in not a few places in the United States.

However, the problem I am describing was addressed thousands of years ago to the Jewish people in the Torah, where Yahweh, through Moses, Israel’s great lawgiver, instructs the people to care for the needs of the poor or economically disadvantaged, saying,

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:9-10, NIV).

Elsewhere in the Torah, Moses gives a similar moral and economic principle to Israel, saying,

“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21, NIV).  

In other words, those who have the financial means, the economically advantaged, while caring for themselves, should not deplete the land of all its natural resources, leaving nothing for the poor. That moral-economic principle also applies, say, to Costco and BJ’s. Food and other basic human necessities should be available to all people, regardless of their socioeconomic status. It would be well, then, for those who own and manage wholesale stores and supermarkets to keep the Mosaic principle in mind, limiting the consumption of goods, so that those who are less fortunate may be able to care for their basic human necessities.


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