Brazilian footballer Neymar has moved to Paris Saint-Germain Football Club for £200million and will earn a staggering £500,000 a week. What does the Torah say about this?
Ideally, the value of a human being is not usually transferable for money. The prophet Isaiah says: “You were not sold for money and not for money will you be redeemed.”
Nevertheless, purchasing a human being from a slave market is recognised by the Torah as a valid sale. Nowadays this is not practised, owing to international law on the slave trade.
Although it is possible to estimate and trade the value of a person, it is only used to calculate the usefulness of a lost limb for compensation or to donate to the sanctuary or the Temple.
The value of a human being in the Torah is age-graded. Thus, a younger or older person is of less estimable value that a fully mature adult.
In an agricultural world, value is linked mainly to the ability of a worker to hunt and feed the homestead.
Nowadays, values have shifted. In today’s world, the services of a footballer and his ratings in the entertainment industry are worth more in financial terms than the service of a prime minister to their country.
The former has feet that dribble well and that cannot be replaced, whereas even the highest political appointments have deputies who can take over their job.
Furthermore, stars such as Neymar are aware their career is short and will last only for the time they can perform.
But should such huge sums be spent on individual professionals and paid to them? If there is any perceived harm to society, lawmakers should quantify it and only then limit what they can earn.
Public policy alone is not a reason to cap earnings. In Jewish law, the only person who may not be the greatest earner is a king, who has absolute authority.
Preventing an abuse of position is a good reason to cap income, but professional skill is not.
Ariel Abel is Padre to HM Forces and rabbi of Liverpool Princes Road Synagogue