Scarcity and Surplus: Economic Reality and Idealism

Texts from Our Tradition:

Text 1:
A. "May there be no poor among you" (Deuteronomy 15:4)
B. "There will always be poor people in the land. (Deuteronomy 15:11)

Text 2:
Shefa, a kabalistic concept, is the flow of divine spirituality from the extreme high stages on the divine world down multiple realms before it finally comes into the material world and to human beings. This divine flow is the necessary sustenance of all existence.

(Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction)

Text 3:
And they spoke unto Moses, saying: The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make (Exodus 36:5).

Guiding Thoughts:
1. How can we understand the two contradicting texts from Deuteronomy 15?
What does it mean that God offers a 'wish' and then admits its impossibility?

2. Scarcity is one of the most basic concepts in human consciousness. Fundamentally, scarcity is the problem if infinite human needs and wants in the world of finite resources.

According to economist and social commentator Paul Hawken in Blessed Unrest, the discipline of economics itself is defined as the "social science that studies the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, and the allocation of scarce resources... to satisfy wants." (Hawken, 210)

Comparing the economic understanding of shortage and the kabbalistic understanding of surplus, where are there (surprising!) similarities between the two?

3. In light of Moses' remarkable success in fundraising, what can we gain from the methods that Moses employs in previous chapters to 'cultivate donors' and what elements of the story are impossible to replicate? What role can this story have in serving as a paradigm for Jewish fundraising?