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June 24, 2022

Housing Act of 1937 (Shelach)

Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, often referred to as Section 8, authorizes the payment of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households in the United States. In other words, certain people who have low income can qualify to have their rent portion either partially or sometimes even totally reduced.

I was recently having a conversation with a tenant who belonged to this special government assistance program, and she happened to be receiving full benefit from the program, so essentially, she was paying zero dollars to live in a newly renovated apartment. She told me how happy she was when she finally picked up her keys for her new place, since the day before she was all upset that her Mustang was hit!

I didn’t say anything to her, but just think about the irony of this. Here is a lady who – because of her low income – is getting absolutely free rent to have shelter over her head, yet she owns a Mustang! For all those who don’t know, a Mustang is one of the fanciest and expensive sports cars on the automobile market.

Of course, we cannot judge others and their financial situations, after all, we have no right to do so. But it is interesting to point out the tremendous irony – and apparent contradiction – of this situation. How can it be that the same person who is having her rent completely paid for by a low-income assistance program also be driving around in a Mustang?!

If you think about it, though, don’t we all do this? Ok, maybe not this exact case, but we all – to an extent – have moments when we seemingly contradict our very own belief and value systems. We do things that contradict who and what we truly are. How can we daven a lengthy and beautiful Shemoneh Esrei and then peek at our phone in middle of Kedusha? How can we be the nicest guy at work and then yell angrily at our spouse? How can we learn the Sefer Shemiras Halashon and then speak Lashon Harah? Aren’t’ these contradictions?

The Parsha discusses the grave sin of the 10 spies, the Meraglim, who spoke negatively about the Land of Israel. The word Meraglim – מרגלים – comes from the word רגל, which connotes the idea of: accustomed to; used to. These great men – on their level – got accustomed to and used to thinking negatively about the Land of Israel.

But these were leaders, let’s not forget. Aren’t the leaders of the Jewish people supposed to lead by example and live with faith and positivity and all that good stuff? Yes, they are supposed to. But they – like many of us – acted and conducted themselves in a way that was contradictory to who and what they truly were.

May we strive to be consistent and live with purpose, value, and conviction.