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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

Jerusalem

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GENESIS — 1:3 said

According to Genesis, G-d brought the world into being by speaking. Speech has been described as the “holiest of the holy” (Igeret HaGra, written by the Vilna Gaon in the 18th century). Jewish tradition teaches that “life and death lie in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21. This seemingly hyperbolic statement turns out not to be an exaggeration; words have stunning power. … In Genesis 1, G-d brings the world into being through speaking, differentiating and naming.  Giving a word or a name to something in effect makes it real.  We continue to create the world by the names we give to people and things.  If we label someone as untrustworthy or self-centered, we contribute to the way that person is perceived and treated.  AGTJL 99
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GENESIS — 1:26 rule

… Rashi, the 11th-century scholar, comments on [this verse] that whatever dominion we have is conditional.  Where Genesis says that G-d planned to create humans “in our image” and to “let them rule over (yir’du) the rest of Creation, Rashi interprets, “If they merit, let them rule (rodeh); if not let them fall (yarud).”  A century later, Maimonides (Moreh Nevukhim 3:13) would say of Genesis that “dominion” is descriptive of a capacity in human nature, rather than prescriptive of the human role in the universe.  We do not have an unconditional mandate to dominate. AGTJL 319-21
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GENESIS — 1:27 image

Traditionally, we are obligated to respect ourselves and others, as we are all created “in the image of G-d” [this verse]. Additionally, Mordecai Kaplan discusses salvation as a quest to fulfill our potential.  In order to effectively achieve these goals, we must care for our health and well-being. “Man has a physical organism… The healthy functioning of that organism is a prerequisite to mental and spiritual hygiene.” (Kaplan, The Meaning of G-d in Modern Jewish Religion).  AGTJL 479
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GENESIS — 1:28 fruitful

The first commandment of Genesis is to bear children.  While it was originally about guaranteeing that there would be future generations, today the size of each generation is an issue that deserves our scrutiny.  The value of nurturing children has to do with the bonds of love between us; our ability to pass on our beliefs, values, attitudes and practice; and the mutually transformative nature of the parent-child relationship.  We fulfill the value by raising children, regardless of whether we are biological or adoptive parents.  Those who are unable to give birth, or who for personal reasons decide not to raise children, fulfill this value by teaching and providing guidance to young people. AGTJL 574-5
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GENESIS — 1:29 food

Concern for minimizing or avoiding pain to animals (tza’ar ba’aley hayim) underlies many regulations regarding kosher slaughtering.  This concern may lead some people to become vegetarians.  The book of Genesis suggests this in the Garden of Eden story, where Adam and Eve live in an ideal state as vegetarians.  Maimonides, the medieval commentator, made the same point but, recognizing the long history of eating meat embodies in the practice of kashrut embedded in the halakha, acknowledged that becoming vegetarian is out of the question for most people.  From this perspective the laws of kashrut, which permit meat to be eaten but only under specific conditions, represents a compromise.  That is why some commentators suggest that in messianic days everyone will be a vegetarian. Some contemporary Jews consciously elect vegetarianism as their form of kashrut.  This reflects a concern not only with tza’ar ba’aley hayim, but also with issues of consumption and concern for the environment (haganat hateva) since vegetarians use fewer natural resources.  The production of meat consumes many times more resources than the production of an equally nutritious amount of vegetarian food.  [A whole pound of tofu has the same environmental impact as just an ounce of beef! Greenhouse gas emission, water table depletion, pesticide use—all are markedly higher for the production of meat than for the production of dairy products (although the production of dairy and egg products, in turn, is still more environmentally damaging than the production of food for a vegan diet).] This is of particular concern since resources are so unevenly distributed in our world.  Vegetarians also have the advantage of needing only one set of dishes and cooking utensils.  Since poultry production is less than that of beef, pork or mutton, and since people have less empathy for non-mammals, some Jews compromise by limiting their meat consumption to kosher poultry, which is available in many supermarkets.  People with this concern also tend to buy products with a minimum of wasteful packaging (bal tash’hit) avoiding waste.  Attending to environmental concerns when deciding what to eat has become known as eco-kashrut, which adds the consideration of environmental damage, such as waste and pollution, to traditional concerns.  Some people add the working conditions of those involved in food production to the list of eco-kashrut concerns.  AGTJL 524-7
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GENESIS — 2:3 work

Jewish tradition teaches that work is a source of kavod [honor]. When we have done our economic share, we have a different relationship to what we consume.  The idea that labor is a critical source of human dignity has powerful biblical and rabbinic support. The rabbis required fathers to teach their sons a trade; we would broaden this to include all parents and children. “You will eat the fruit of your labor and be happy, and it will be well with you” says the psalmist. (Psalms 128:2).  The Talmud (Berakhot 8A) interprets this verse to mean “happy” in this world and “well with you” in the world to come, and goes on to point out that reverence for G-d (yirat shamayim) does not by itself guarantee that things will go well in the next world.  Work is thus seen as having a redemptive power for the person who undertakes it.  Productivity has value beyond the external goods produced. Producing value also has worth in terms of the workers’ experience of the world and their place in it.  … The G-d in whose image we are created is pictured, from the very first chapter of Genesis, as a working G-d, one who creates on every one of the first six days and then creates daily, as is stated in the first blessing of the morning service hamehadesh betuvo bekhol yam tamid ma’asey v’reyshit, ‘who is goodness renews the work of Creation every day.” Some people picture perfection as immutable.  Not the Jews.  Thank G-d that G-d does finally rest on the seventh day, reminding us that rest, as well as work, is godly. AGTJL 327-8
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GENESIS — 2:18 alone

How can we decide when preserving privacy should take precedence and when we should give precedence to other needs? The comparative gains and losses must be weighed.  The gains from invading privacy are usually obvious, but some of the largest costs of invading privacy are more subtle.  These include not only the short-term strains on relationships and the losses to the person whose privacy has been breached, but the broader erosion of trust, a form of moral and social capital that is critical to sustaining community and building relationships.  People’s conduct changes when their trust is eroded. They might, for example, stop consulting the doctor, therapist, or rabbi, or they might become less committed to their employer or friend.  Given the high cost of violating privacy, compelling reasons should exist for doing so.  One simple way of gaining perspective on a decision involving privacy is to consider how others whose ethics you respect will view you if you breach privacy.  Will they find your explanation compelling? Will they appreciate what you have accomplished?  When violating privacy also involves breaching confidentiality, the moral price of doing so increases considerably because such a violation also involves breaking an explicit promise, or at least an implied one, that confidentiality will be maintained.  This results in an even more substantial breakdown of trust.  Therefore, it is much harder to justify, though the examples above [i.e., duty to warn a third party when in danger of serious emotional or physical injury; reporting a wrongdoer to authorities] indicate that on very rare occasions breaching confidentiality may be the right thing to do.  … Weighing “comparative gains and losses” of privacy against other needs is no easy matter, made even more difficult by our inability to be objective about ourselves.  As it is written [this verse]: “It is not good for the human to be alone.”  We need to seek out and to cultivate trusted counsel to help us decide such matters.  AGTJL 114
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GENESIS — 2:24 wife

For the last millennium Ashkenazi Jews have seen monogamous marriage as the primary locus for sexual activity. While divorce has always existed within the Jewish community, it has been relatively infrequent.  However, in recent years changing financial and social circumstances have led to increased rates of divorce and remarriage – a shift from monogamy to serial monogamy.  Monogamous marriage has remained a dominant social form because at best it provides emotional intimacy, companionship, stability for raising children and a relatively efficient economic unit, while avoiding the complexity and jealousy that can plague other sexual arrangements.  Monogamy has long been the dominant social form in Christian societies, and Jews tend to confirm to such external structures when they are not in tension with Jewish values and practice.  The sanctity of monogamous marriage (kidushin) has long been appreciated in the Jewish community. … The idea of monogamy is expressed in [this verse].  … Monogamy – a committed, lifelong, binary relationship between adults – is a basic metaphor in Jewish life.  Mystically, the intimate joining of a loving couple expresses the covenant between G- d and Israel, the bond between the Creator and creation, and the possibility of moving beyond this world of separation to the world of unity.  Mythically, humanity was created as a couple, emerging at the same time and bound together as one flesh.  The intimate bond between a committed couple recreates this sense of primal unity and equality. AGTJL 217-8
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