In part of an ongoing debate on health care reform, JewishJournal.com is hosting this dialogue on the pros and cons of universal health care.
In the always lively Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Rabbi Elliot Dorff writes in a cover essay that “support for universal health care is an imperative in Jewish law.” Is it now? On health care reform, Rabbi Dorff has his classical sources all lined up—most having to do with obligations on the community to rescue its needy, the captive, and those otherwise endangered. The communal court system can compel a person to give charity in support of the poor. Proper medical services are a necessity in a Jewish community. And so on. Whether through socialized medicine or government health insurance, something must be done: the fact of there being 40 million uninsured Americans is “intolerable.”
Do you notice how many times the words “community” or “communal” appear in the foregoing paragraph? Rabbi Dorff is chairman of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of Conservative (i.e., liberal) Judaism. He knows that Jewish laws of the kind he cites are specifically communal laws. They were never envisioned as applying en masse to a non-Jewish country of 300 million people. Liberal Jewish analysts often lose sight of this simple fact. So too in the abortion debate where, simply put, Jewish law for Jews is more liberal on abortion than Jewish law for Gentiles. We are more protective of the unborn non-Jewish life. In Torah, there are separate legal tracks—the Mosaic and the Noachide, for Jewish and Gentile communities respectively. Yet liberal Jews invariably cite Jewish abortion law, not the Gentile one which makes abortion a death penalty offense. They forget that we live in a non-Jewish country.
Read the full story at BeliefNet.com.