May 12, 2009
Even in ripest times, the Jew is commanded by Torah and tradition to "Walk modestly with G-d," eschewing ostentation. The Jewish citizen is further required to measure the arc of his financial steps with responsible care. Tzedakah, too, is a fundamental Jewish imperative, conveyed in both lore and law; our righteous ancestors defined their well-being not by the number of possessions they acquired, but by the number of mouths they fed.
Today, in the midst of an international economic crisis, our tradition demands that we re-commit ourselves to these values of modesty, responsibility and tzedakah. Modesty, because the Talmud teaches that we may not enjoy luxury when others suffer, let alone when we, ourselves, are suffering. Responsibility, because the bite of personal debt inflicts pain upon the entire community. Tzedakah, because since the days of Devarim we have been instructed to employ our wealth as a weapon against the poverty of others.
Were the financial crisis to end tomorrow, our community would, nonetheless, be required to live modest, responsible and generous lives; we can do no different when surrounded by unemployment and economic despair.
Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America resolves that we must turn to Modesty and Tzedakah, as a community, in part through the following practical measures:
We call upon our communal institutions to join forces, pooling purchasing power as well as resources, and avoiding duplicate efforts;
We call upon our yeshivot and summer camps to eliminate expenses wherever possible, to enable more families to afford tuition;
We call upon our simcha vendors, including caterers, florists and photographers, to offer low-cost, modest options for weddings and other celebrations. At the other end of olam hazeh, we call upon funeral homes and cemeteries to likewise offer low-cost, modest options for their services;
We call upon our rabbonim and poskim to continue to be sensitive to the current financial she'at hadechak in legislating for our communities, as well as to look out for the welfare of the neediest among us;
We call upon every Jew to opt for modest choices and lower costs, to guard against deficit spending, and to direct some of the consequent savings toward assistance for others.
And we ask those who can afford more to purchase less, in pursuit of modesty and responsibility and in recognition of the social pressure that their luxury brings to bear upon others.
May Zion soon be redeemed with justice, and may her children return to her with righteousness.