Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mishenichnas Adar

Mishnah Shekalim 1:1 :

On the 1st of Adar they announce about the shekalim.

Exodus 30:12-16 ("Parshat Shekalim"):

When you take a census of the Israelite men according to their army enrollment, each shall pay the Eternal a ransom for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled. This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight--twenty gerahs to the shekel--a half-shekel as an offering to the Eternal. Everyone who is entered in the records, from the age of twenty years up, shall give the Eternal's offering: the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel when giving the Eternal's offering as expiation for your persons. You shall take the expiation money from the Israelites and assign it to the service of the Tent of Meeting; it shall serve the Israelites as a reminder before the Eternal, as expiation for your persons.

We've come a long way since that first extremely regressive tax. Even the proposed national sales tax and the Bush tax are more progressive than the half-shekel. But whatever the details, for over 3000 years we have had an individual obligation to chip in toward the common good.

George Lakoff:

Taxes are an issue of patriotism. Are you paying your dues, or are you trying to get something for free at the expense of your country?

Patriotic Americans pay their taxes. Taxes maintain the investments we made to build roads, schools and hospitals — we pay our dues to make sure they remain in good repair and available for our use. Taxes support the infrastructure and services that protect us—the military, our police officers, and our firefighters. As a community, we contribute our taxes so that all of us are safe. We pay our taxes because we love our country and want to support it and our fellow Americans — it is an issue of patriotism.

Taxes are our dues — we pay our dues to be Americans and enjoy the benefits of American society. Taxes are what we pay to live in a civilized society that is democratic, offers opportunity, and has a huge infrastructure available to all citizens. This incredible infrastructure has been paid for by previous taxpayers. Roads and highways, the Internet, the broadcast airwaves, our public education system, our power grid — every day we all use this vast infrastructure. Our dues maintain it.

Today is the 1st of Adar, so I sent in my federal and state tax returns today. Happy Adar, and may we all pay our fair share so that no plague may come upon us.


  1. I take it you are not of the mind of Stephen Maturin in Patrick O'Brian's "Master and Commander":

    But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either 'my country, right or wrong', which is infamous, or 'my country is always right', which is imbecile.

    So I'm curious: what does "patriotism" mean to you, when you approvingly quote the Lakoff passage?

  2. would that apply to dues, also?