by Rabbi Ariel Abel
In this week’s Torah for Today, we answer what the Torah says about… The Greek Bailout….
Greece has faced perhaps the greatest economic crisis in its national history. In October 2009, Greece announced that it had been understating its deficit figures for years, triggering economic mass divestment from lending banks and investors.
At the time of the writing, the Greek government has decided to accept a European Union bailout of €7.6 billion. What does the Torah say about bailing out a failing modern state? The first issue to consider is state culpability for misinformation.
The Torah requires public bodies to abide by the principle of keeping far from lies. A failure by the state in its contract with the people requires its leadership to atone for leading them astray. Thus, a Sanhedrin is not protected by court privilege in misapplication of law.
The relationship of honesty with the people required of leadership is not only in matters spiritual, but also temporal.
The royal officer in the northern kingdom of Israel who mocked the prophetic prognosis for the national index for the price of grain to plummet was trampled to death by the very people with whom he refused to consider in a time of famine.
Similarly, the family Ruth the Moabite convert married into had originally left Judea as they were unwilling to bail out their local population of Bethlehem. The abandonment of their townspeople to their fate is held as a severe criticism of Elimelech the Efratite, who died, along with his two sons, even before the famine in Judea was over.
Earlier still, Moses sent 12 spies out to return with a positive report on the Promised Land. Only two concurred, the other 12 misinterpreting survey data with catastrophic consequences for the Israelites whose entry to the land was delayed by almost four decades.
In ancient Greece, accountability was a priority. Athenian democracy obliged elected officers to be transparent with the citizens of the state about how Athenian wealth was spent, publishing accounts on stone columns erected in city squares. Modern Greece should follow suit.
Hence, the European Union is only justified to bail out Greece if its governments act in the most transparent manner from here on, affording every advantage to the collective benefit of the union.
If assurances to this end are shown to have been lacking, the bailout would be morally wrong.
• Ariel Abel is rabbi of Princes Road synagogue, Liverpool