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


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GENESIS — 1:12 good

The Biblical account of the Creation lists two categories of agricultural products, vegetation and trees. After the emergence of these distinct species, G-d surveyed them and declared them “good.” Religious ethicists have assumed that the phrase “after its kind” expresses a divine design to preserve each of the distinct species in its natural state. Does man have a moral right to tamper with the laws of nature, divinely ordained, to berate products superior to that which G-d proclaimed to be “good”?  This ethical question is predicated on a theological principle If we put the religious issue aside, it is hard to perceive any ethical breach in the cross-fertilization of different species. However, modern genetic engineering, which promises to yield the secret of “creation” to man, enabling him to predetermine the gender, traits, and character of a newborn, surely projects the moral issue inherent in the altering of the laws of nature. Will a future dictator have it within his power to decrees the birth of a generation of fanatical fighting men?   BLOCH 267

GENESIS — 1:22 blessed

Judaism has always manifested humane attitude to animals. This attitude is inherent in the biblical account of the creation of living creatures [this verse].  The act of blessing is an expression of care, concern, and love. Animals were placed in “subjection” to man Genesis 1:26.  Their subordinate position granted man the right to domesticate them, to use them as beasts of burden, and to derive whatever benefits are beneficial to him. However, man’s sovereign power did not give him a license to mistreat or torment helpless creatures. Indeed, according to the Talmud, man was initially barred from using animals as a source of food, a right granted only after the Flood Sanhedrin 59b. The significance of G-d’s “blessing” of animals was lost upon primitive man. Living creatures were subjected to torture in superstitious rites designed to propitiate evil spirits. Cruelty to animals did not provide any objection or protest. Biblical intimations of a loving relationship between G-d and all living creatures had a profound influence upon the universalist poetic creativity of the psalmists. G-d’s promise to provide food for all creatures Genesis 1:30 inspired the psalmists’ depiction of beasts looking to heaven for their subsistence.  Psalm 36:7; 104:14, 21; 24, 27; 147:9; 148. BLOCH 79

GENESIS — 1:26 image

(Continued from Leviticus 19:18 love BLOCH 254) The principle of equality, which bars men from assuming dominion over other people, is linked in the Bible to the creation of human beings in the image of G-d. This verse pointedly excludes the dominion of men over other men, who are equally endowed with divine qualities. Any act which disregards the rights of other people constitutes an unlawful exercise of dominion. The restatement of this basic principle by Ecclesiasticus (2nd cent. B.C.E.) is also based on the aforementioned sequence of the biblical text. “The Lord created man of the earth … and made him according to his image … and gave him dominion over beasts and fowl” Ecclus. 17:1-4. Malachi (6th cent. B.C.E.) used the theme of man’s equality before G-d as the basis of his appeal for respect for man. “Have we not all one father? Has not one G-d created us? Why do we deal treacherously everyman against his brother, profaning the covenant of our fathers?” Mal. 2:10. BLOCH 254-5

GENESIS — 1:27 image

Ethics is defined as the science of proper human behavior. This definition presupposes a clear perception of propriety. That is a false assumption. There is no single standard of ethics by which the rectitude of human conduct can be measured. What we have come to label as civilized deportment reflects the moral values of a particular civilization in a particular era. All of man’s values derive from religion and mores and are conditioned by economic necessities and geographic exigencies. Perfection is an abstract term subject to development and change. This precludes the establishment of a universal uniform standard of ethics.  Sociologists speak of a Judeo-Christian civilization. To the extent that major religions have accepted the Decalogue as the foundation of morality there is a significant consensus among them. However, divergent developments have created many differences which are not insignificant. It is therefore proper to speak of Jewish ethics, Christian ethics, Islamic ethics, and other sets of ethics. They are all designed to serve the same purpose.  Jewish ethics are primarily based on the Bible, the whole range of rabbinic literature, and ancient traditions. Their structure and evolvement were predetermined by a single sentence in Genesis: “And G-d created man in his image” [this verse]. The psalmist restated it as follows: “Thou hast made him but little lower than G-d and hast crowned him with glory and honor” Ps. 8:6. The attribution of g-dliness to earthly man had a dual effect. It heightened the degree of concern and respect that man must manifest in relations with his fellowman. It also imposed on man the duty to express his g-dliness through an emulation of the divine qualities attributed to G-d in the Scriptures. The biblical assertion that G-d created man in his image marked a radical departure from pagan theology, which created its deities in the image of Man. Like man, they warred, lusted, and committed murder. Paganism urged man to propitiate his deities but not to emulate them.  BLOCH 3-4

GENESIS — 1:28 fertile

Does the Bible approve of, or even condone, celibacy? Emphatically, no. Celibacy is contrary to the marital obligation of procreation [Note: Author cites Genesis 1:25, but as that verse does not mention procreation, this verse may have been intended – AJL].  Furthermore, sex is a conjugal right and duty inherent in the marital status. This duty is independent of procreative obligations and must be discharged even if the latter have already been fulfilled Exodus 21:10.  The foregoing discussion leads us to the inescapable conclusion that asceticism is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Bible. BLOCH 38-39

GENESIS — 1:28 fruitful

Procreation is a primary aim of sexual relations. The biblical command of procreation [this verse] is fulfilled with the birth of a boy and a girl Yevamot 61b. However, a husband’s sexual obligation continues in force even after the requirement of procreation has been met. Judaism does not sanction birth control by means of interrupted coitus Genesis 38:9-10.  The use of contraceptives, tampons, or oral sterilizing drugs by pregnant or lactating women is permissible, if it is needed to prevent conception which may endanger the life of the mother or her offspring Yevamot 12b. Men may not use contraceptives. Continence is the only permissible birth-control method, providing it is practiced with the consent of the wife and that the minimal requirement of procreation has been fulfilled. Childlessness is a painful problem which confronts some couples. Modern science has achieved remarkable progress in alleviating that condition Prevailing rabbinical opinion sanctions artificial insemination, using the husband’s semen but not the semen of another donor. Test-tube fertilization with the husband’s sperm of a human egg taken from the woman’s ovary is permissible. The embryo may be reimplanted in the mother’s womb. Some rabbis object to this procedure on moral grounds. The implantation of a fertilized egg into the womb of a host mother raises a problem of maternal identity. According to one opinion, if the embryo is forty days and older, the child is the offspring of the biological mother. According to another opinion, the woman who experiences the labor and travail of childbirth is regarded as the mother. There is as yet no consensus on the moral aspect of surrogate mothers. A similar problem regarding parental identity is raised in connection with the transplant of an ovary or testicles. Except for the problem, there seems to be no objection on moral or ethical grounds.  BLOCH 225

GENESIS — 1:31 very

Rabbinic Judaism believes that man was initially endowed with good and evil tendencies Berachot 61a.  As a rational being, he must convert his evil impulse into a constructive force to serve the needs of society. In a midrashic interpretation of the Pentateuchal verse “And G-d saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” [this verse], a rabbi alleged that “everything” is inclusive of the evil impulse. Had it not been for the evil impulse (lust), man would not take a wife, he would not procreate, and he would not establish a home. Shochar Tov on Ps. 9:1. One must therefore learn to serve G-d with both impulses, the good and the evil. Berachot 54a. BLOCH 203

GENESIS — 2:18 alone

(Begin with “(Continued from Exodus 11:2 friend BLOCH 140) The rewards of friendship are great, and the Bible encourages people to cultivate it. There are exceptional people who are loners, either by choice or by chance. For most people, the acquisition of friends is a practical necessity. The biblical phrase that “It is not good for man to be alone” [this verse] is as applicable to a man without friends as to a man without a wife. Ecclesiastes advocates the assiduous pursuit of friends Soncino, Eccles. 11:2. Ben Sira informed his readers that “sweet language will multiply friends” Ecclus. 6:5.  He cautioned, however, that “if thou wishest to get a friend, prove him first and not be hasty to credit him” Ecclus 6:7. He also warned, “Open not they heart to every man, lest he replay three with a shrewd turn” Ecclus. 8:19 BLOCH 140-1 (Continued at Genesis 2:18 alone BLOCH 141)

GENESIS — 2:18 alone

Despite the misgivings of moralists about the possible misuse of feminine pulchritude, Judaism was not distracted from its goal of promoting the institution of matrimony as the cornerstone of civilized society. Matrimony offers many rewards, chief among them physical comfort, companionship, and gratification of the sex drive and the craving for children.  Of course, some of these advantages can be obtained outside of matrimony. Furthermore, matrimonial benefits are offset by heavy responsibilities. Support of family, the onus of child-raising, and domestic friction are serious deterrent considerations.  For the hesitant, Judaism painted a bright picture of the bliss of matrimony. At the same time it branded extramarital sex as grossly immoral. It also condemned celibacy as contrary to G-d’s design. The Bible is quite emphatic in its advocacy of matrimony. [This verse]. This divine pronouncement proclaims the desirability of marriage. Entering into matrimony is an ethical imperative and a practical act which fulfills G-d’s intent. BLOCH 218

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