PESACH POLITICS: LOCAL OR GLOBAL?
Throughout history, a debate has raged that influences everything from personal welfare to modes of government: What takes precedence: individual rights, or the public good?
Even the current health care debate – between Obamacare supporters and opponents – reflects the tension between individual rights and the common good. Some feel that health care initiatives are in the interest of a healthier nation. Others claim that compulsory health insurance impedes individuals’ right to the best health care money can buy.
Capitalism vs. socialism is but one manifestation of this larger debate. The former emphasizes self-advancement and actualization as the motor of progress, both personal and communal. The latter emphasizes subjugation of individual gain for the greater good.
Of course, both approaches have pros and cons, and both have evolved to incorporate elements of the other. The truth is, though, that no system can be sustained without individual freedom on one hand, and group cooperation on the other. At the same time, when you try to combine the two systems, many problems tend to crop up. For example: What can we do when an individual’s right of expression might offend the community?
This question is especially relevant to religion and its role in our lives. Many have rejected religion precisely because they see it as a way to control people and stifle individual freedom. Some will not even attend a Passover Seder because they experienced it as herd mentality. Others embrace the need for a system whose guidelines benefit the community or nation as a whole, even as they place certain restrictions on individuals.
Pesach, the holiday celebrating our freedom, gives us an elegant solution to this dilemma.
A seemingly technical Talmudic debate about the Passover offering and the role of the Seder (are they individual responsibilities, or communal ones?) offer us a solution to balancing individual and community that everyone can embrace: a system wherein the community enhances the individual.
It also provides us with the ultimate health care plan.