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Raise the Debt Ceiling or Reduce the Deficit?

Friday, 5 August, 2011 - 3:00 pm

Our nation’s elected officials have recently been debating the pros and cons of raising the amount of money America is authorized to borrow. Along with that a contentious debate has also emerged about getting our country’s deficit reduced.  A deal was finally reached to avert a would-be crisis of maxing out the nation’s credit card.

There are many opinions and various suggested approaches on how to best get America’s fiscal house in order. Should revenue be increased via taxation? Should we enter an era of radical austerity? Should we simply learn to live within our means? Should another stimulus package be implemented?

What all pundits and parties agree upon is that whatever tack is taken, it must lead to economic prosperity. We might need to implement strict spending cuts or borrow once again – but only because we believe it will lead to increased financial success for America and Americans.

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This coming week we will observe the darkest day on the Jewish calendar – Tisha B’Av – which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem.  This day embodies the exile and suffering that Jews have endured for nearly two millennia.

While it’s easy to blame the Babylonians and Romans for our current predicament, Jewish tradition maintains that everything ultimately happens by Divine decree. In fact, Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah declares in the name of G-d, “Behold, I send and I will take all the families of the north, says the Lord, and to Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and I will bring them upon this land and upon its inhabitants and upon all these nations around, and I will destroy them and make them for a desolation and for a hissing and for perpetual ruins” (25:9).

In other words, G-d Himself decided to cause the destruction of the Temples. That’s very perplexing. In addition to the fundamental question of why G-d would want to do that, His own Torah he forbids us from razing the Temple (and by extension all synagogues). We are not even allowed to remove or destroy one stone from the Temple! How then can G-d – our role model and originator of Torah – destroy the entire Temple?!

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Our Sages teach that the only toleration for demolishing even a part of the Temple (or a shul) is in order to build a bigger one in its place. Then the act of razing is not an act of destruction at all. Rather it is a step in the building process. It may appear as a step backward, but truthfully it’s a step forward.

When G-d affected the destruction of the Temple it can only be that His intention was to build a bigger and better one in its place. As the end of this week’s Haftorah attests, “And I will restore your judges as at first and your counselors as in the beginning; afterwards you shall be called City of Righteousness, Faithful City. Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her penitent through righteousness.”

At nearly 2000 years it’s high time G-d finish what he started and rebuild the Beit Hamikdosh now!

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