By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
Once central to everyday Jewish piety, the Laws of ritual purity have, for the most part, fallen into desuetude. These ancient practices, however, still offer considerable wisdom and guidance concerning challenges confronting us in the twenty-first century. Mishnah Kelim 12:7, for example, teaches:
“If a dinar (a coin of limited value) became defective or worn, and was fashioned into an ornament to be hung around a young girl’s neck, it becomes susceptible to ritual impurity. If a sela (a coin of greater value) became defective or worn, and was fashioned into a weight, it is susceptible to ritual impurity…”
Jewish Tradition has never frowned on prosperity or possessions – nor on the pursuit of these material goals – as inherently evil or undesirable. We can direct our belongings and conduct our commercial efforts and business dealings in an entirely wholesome manner. Indeed, to holy ends. Yet, when we turn our monetary assets into vain public displays… when we treat such ornamentation as the measure of human worth… when we value cash flow and a robust economy over human lives and the scrupulous preservation of public health… we engage in an act of shameless impurity.
The worth of a human life – a human soul – is never to be measured in dollars and cents. Nor in dinars and selas.
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)