Samuel Levine: Mensch or goniff - or both?

Pahkcah02 reports that while her rabbi in Stoughton discussed Aaron Feurstein (you know, the Malden Mills guy) in his Rosh Hashanah sermon, her sister's rabbi down in Baltimore discussed the life of Samuel "the Chief" Levine of Boston - who was both a ward boss under James Michael Curley and her great uncle. His life gives one a chance to reflect on what sort of life you want to lead in the year ahead, she writes.

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    How about, Excess Menschlishkeit: Problem or Solution?

    By on

    Interestingly, the talmud codified 1000's of years ago that a person, unless exceedingly wealthy, should give not more than 20% to charity, to avoid themselves becoming needy out of excess menschlishkeit (please excuse poor yiddish).

    Later, in the middle ages, I read that european rabbis had to enforce this as a law in rural shtetl communities, because itinerant preacher types kept telling the hopeful fools chasing their 3 chickens around a shack outside of Pinsk that, Baruch HaShem, the entire world would be perfected if they simply gave all their wealth to the paupers. Which they promptly did, apparently, in cycles of hopeful foolishness.

    Now in as much as the current crisis is based in the subprime-loans, and in as much as those were made because FM/FM guaranteed them, and the CRA mandated that banks offer these sorts of loans, and both were driven by mensch-like instincts to make housing affordable to people of all stripes, even those with no deposits or documented income... perhaps Excess Menschliskkeit, rather than Greed, might be the thing we should be looking at.

    Or maybe I'm just being contrary, after having sat through largely the same sermon that she did.