Judaism on Wealth and Poverty

Judaism is generally supportive of the pursuit of wealth, as long as it is combined with generosity to the poor and less fortunate. The Book of Genesis relates how Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph amassed and administered wealth. The Book of Proverbs seems to laud hard work and material productivity, and Job is rewarded by God for his travails with twice his original fortune. This positive valuation of material wealth should be read against other biblical verses which demonstrate a marked concern for the plight of the poor and other groups on the margins of society, including slaves, orphans, and widows. The condemnation of wealth pursued without concern for the good of the community and the wider society is a theme of rabbinic law (halakha). With the advance of industrialization and widespread poverty and social inequality in the nineteenth century, many Jewish intellectuals and labor leaders took up socialist ideas. Today, Jewish charities are active inside the Jewish community and around the world, and Jewish citizens in Israel, the United States, and Europe tend to be supportive of a robust welfare state.