judaism is jewish


“There are four types of people,” teaches an ancient rabbinical text. “The one who says: What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours — this is the common type, but there are some who say that this is the type of Sodom. What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine — this is a boor. What is mine is yours — a saint. What is yours is mine — a villain.” Brothers and sisters, is this liberal or conservative? The legitimacy of private property is certainly championed, but that is both a liberal conviction and a conservative one; and the tradition sees fit to record also the remarkable opinion that this elementary and uncontroversial norm — a scholar many years ago called it “possessive individualism” — was the custom of the most wicked city on earth. Moreover, legitimacy does not confer sanctity: the rabbis entertain the prospect of different distributions of wealth, and prudently contemplate the extremes of selflessness and selfishness. So liberals and conservatives, and socialists too, and even the Club for Growth, will all find a use for this text, which is to say that the text is useless, I mean, for establishing the liberalism or the conservatism of the Jewish tradition.

more from Leon Wieseltier on Norman Podhoretz (!!) at the NYT here.