As was his custom, Rabbi Ehud took an evening stroll down Congress Avenue to the Capitol Plaza. His was a slow, pensive pace, an opportunity to think through the events of the day.
On a warm evening in September, Rabbi Ehud encountered a small group of protestors gathered on the grassy Capitol lawn. One particularly angry young man carried a sign which read ‘Free Healthcare Now!’. The angry young man called out to the rabbi.
“Support free healthcare!”
Rabbi Ehud was undisturbed by the angry young man. It only seemed to enflame the protestor. He stopped the rabbi.
“Support free healthcare,” said the angry young man.
“Put on sunscreen,” said Rabbi Ehud.
“Since you told me what to do, I thought I might reciprocate,” said Rabbi Ehud.
The angry young man swore at the rabbi. Rabbi Ehud responded by moving around the protestor and continuing on his way.
“Stop.” The angry young man grabbed the rabbi.
“I have to. You won’t let me go.”
“Don’t you think everyone should have equal access to healthcare? It’s a fundamental human right.”
“If you say so.”
The angry young man was incensed. “How can you be so apathetic? People are dying.”
“Do you believe death will end if we have free hospitals?”
“Maybe. People’ll live longer.”
“Will they live better?”
“Most will, yes,” said the angry young man.
“How do you know this?”
“Studies. There’ve been studies. They prove it.”
“Oh, well. If there are studies, how can I argue?”
“We have to stop the rich from keeping us down, can’t you see? They’re holding us back, keeping us sick. It’s oppression, man.”
“Young man, all I see right now is a protestor keeping me from my walk. Walks are healthy, you know. And they’re free,” said Rabbi Ehud.
“What if you get sick? Walks won’t help you then.”
“Did your studies tell you this?” Rabbi Ehud stared at the angry young man with penetrating eyes.
The angry young man released the rabbi. “Do you want free healthcare or not?”
“Why do you ask me if I believe in fairytales?”
“What’re you talkin’ about, old man?”
“Do you really believe it’s free?”
“Yeah, the government pays for it.”
“I see,” said the rabbi. “And where does the government get it’s money for your free healthcare?”
“By taxing rich people and corporations.”
“Your logic is sound,” said Rabbi Ehud.
“Thank-you,” said the exasperated, angry young man.
“Except the wealthy don’t live in one city. Or one country, even. Neither do corporations. If it’s too expensive in one place, they simply go somewhere else,” said Rabbi Ehud.
“We won’t let them,” said the angry young man triumphantly.
“I see,” said Rabbi Ehud.
“It’s brilliant,” said the angry young man.
The rabbi frowned and rubbed his beard. “Not so much. To make healthcare free, society can not be. Or so you say.”
“Only in this case. What’s wrong with that?”
Rabbi Ehud looked to the pale blue evening sky. “My family lived in such a place many years ago. Many of them died at the hands of angry young men. It’s not a place I ever wish to know.”
The rabbi and the angry young man stared at each other, curiously, then went their separate ways.