Jewish-American philosopher Ayn Rand didn’t receive any Jewish education; she never studied with a rabbi and never belonged to a synagogue. Technically, she was not religious. Nevertheless, her creative achievements in making our world a better pace for everybody are spiritually Jewish. How could it be so for a person who proclaimed herself non-religious? An answer to this question could be found in considering the two realms of Jewish life as the “Chosen”.
In many my papers I discussed those two realms of the life of Jewish people.
One realm is where the Jews live and work together with the Gentiles in almost all countries of the world. In this realm, the Jewish people are performing the Chosen-people mission of continuing the God’s creative work with the purpose of making our world a better place for everybody – for Jews and non-Jews. In this realm, the Jews are working together with non-Jews, mainly with the Christians, thus strengthening human spiritual bonds. Many rabbis ignore this realm. Therefore the Jews in this realm are trying to understand how to do everything Jewishly without rabbis’ help – probably with their own intellectual guidance (and probably with genetic inspiration). Let’s call this realm an intellectual one.
The other realm is where Jewish people are preserving and strengthening their unity by separating themselves from the others by variety of rituals and traditions. In this realm the rabbis are leaders and they provide for their congregants all needed guidance on rituals and traditions. Tradition – not the intellect (reason) – is a king here. That’s why we may call it a traditional realm.
Many Jews fulfilled their Chosen-people mission admirably in the intellectual realm. Their achievements are well known and recognized by the others in almost all spheres of human activities – in science and technology, in economics and finances, in social justice and arts, etc. Their achievements are the cause of great appreciation and great hate.
One of such great Jewish achievers was Ayn Rand and her achievements in my view are genetically rooted in the concepts of Torah as most of the achievements of other great Jews in the intellectual realm.
Ayn Rand (AR) is widely known for her best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism. She was an uncompromising advocate of rational individualism and laissez-faire capitalism, and vociferously opposed socialism, altruism, and other contemporary philosophical trends. She is generally either hated or loved.
Below are 25 of her more profound quotes, and I (VM) intend to demonstrate that those quotes are Jewish in nature. It seems to me those quotes are derivatives of the Torah although she considered herself non-religious and wasn’t affiliated with any organized Jewish movement. However, her philosophical system is very close to the morals of Torah (without rituals of Judaism).
I have combined the 25 quotes into four groups:
- Collective vs. Individual
- Freedom vs. Slavery
- Intellect (reason) vs. Tradition
- Wealth vs. Spirituality
Collective vs. Individual
(1) A government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.
(2) Do not ever say that the desire to “do good” by force is a good motive. Neither power-lust nor stupidity are good motives.
(3) Government “help” to business is just as disastrous as government persecution… the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off.
(4) Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).
(5) The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking law.
(6) We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.
These Ayn Rand’s statements reflect one of the major concepts of the Torah – God created all people, Jews and non-Jews, in His image and likeness. Since God is One and Unique each of us is unique as well. To protect everybody’s uniqueness we, the unique individuals, elect a government. And we elect the government only with one task in mind – to protect our unique creative activities in this world from all enemies internal and external. The government cannot impose on us, the individuals, its will – we, the individuals, should exercise our will over the government. Thus, the Ayn Rand’s thoughts on ‘Collective vs. Individual’ are spiritually Torah-based.
Freedom vs. Slavery
(1) Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
(2) I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
(3) It only stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.
(4) The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.
(5) The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.
(6) The most depraved type of human being is the man without a purpose.
These Ayn Rand’s statements reflect another major concept of the Torah – God guided us from the Egypt’s slavery to the Promised Land’s freedom. And God guided us to the individual freedom – not to the freedom of the collective where an individual is a (spiritual) slave of the collective. The collective (a community, a people, a state, etc.) is needed but just for one goal which is to provide secure and friendly environment for individuals to do their creative work in all areas of individual’s activities. That’s the least understood Torah-based concept of Freedom that was understood rightly by Ayn Rand – God made us Free individually, not collectively!
Intellect vs. Tradition
(1) From the smallest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from one attribute of man – the function of his reasoning mind.
(2) Man’s unique reward, however, is that while animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background, man survives by adjusting his background to himself.
(3) Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.
(4) There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.
(5) There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.
(6) When I die, I hope to go to Heaven, whatever the Hell that is.
(7) People create their own questions because they are afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don’t sit looking at it – walk.
These Ayn Rand’s thoughts respond to what is the most important trait of the Man’s ability to make our world a better place where the Good (in the Torah’s definition) is thriving and the Evil (again, in the Torah’s definition) is being identified and destroyed. An individual can identify Good and Evil only through intellect (reason) – not though tradition. Why? Tradition defines the Good and the Evil in a sort of unchangeable, frozen illustrations while our real world is changing fast. That’s why traditional definitions of Good and Evil are of little help here since a creative individual is creating constantly a new Good, and a creative Evil is camouflaging its appearance continuously. The intellect is a “must” trait which let an individual reinterpret the Torah to find in the Torah guidance for new situations in the ever-changing world. The quotes on ‘Intellect vs. Tradition’ above of Ayn Rand perfectly reflect this intellectual aspect of the Torah.
Wealth vs. Spirituality
(1) Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.
(2) Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth, the man who would make his fortune no matter where he started.
(3) Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.
(4) The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.
(5) Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves – or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.
(6) Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think.
And finally: these quotes from Ayn Rand’s writings clearly indicate that in her opinion the created wealth by an individual is a measure of his/her successful creative work aimed at making our world a better place for everybody – Jews and Gentiles. Nobody has a right to take this wealth forcefully from an individual – neither a government nor a community. That’s up to an individual to devote a part of his/her wealth to do mitzvah (charity) as a personal spiritual obligation to help poor, sick and disadvantaged people. And that’s up to an individual to transfer a part of his/her wealth to the government or to any public/religious organization with the request of providing safety and security for individual creative work (be it material or spiritual).
Thus indeed a non-religious Jewish-American philosopher, Ayn Rand, fulfilled her “Chosen” religious obligations as have done a great majority of other Jewish intellectuals who consider themselves non-religious.