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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 — 1:27 image

… beyond any doubt … compassion for others is a Jewish value.  This value comes out of the commandment, “Love your fellow as yourself” Leviticus 19:18, which is a manifestation of the core Jewish belief that each of us is created in the image of G-d [this verse and Genesis 5:1]. As such, we must preserve not only the life and the health of others, but their dignity as well.  DORSOC 141

GENESIS — 3:21 clothed

Rabbi Samlai taught: The Torah opens with acts of kindness and closes with acts of kindness.  It opens with acts of kindness, as it is written: “The Lord G-d made leather cloaks for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” [this verse].  It closes with acts of kindness, as it is written: “And he buried him in the valley” Deuteronomy 34:6  Sotah 14a DORSOC 5

GENESIS — 5:1 likeness

[A just] society is one that does not allow for discrimination.  The following midrash from Genesis Rabbah 24 serves as one of the foundations for the idea of kavod ha-beriyot: “Ben Azzai says: ‘This is the record of Adam’s line’ (Genesis 5:1) is the foremost principle in the Torah. R. Akiva says: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18), this is the greatest principle of the Torah.  You should not say: Because I have been dishonored, let my fellow man be dishonored along with me…R. Tanhuma explained: If you do so, know whom you are dishonoring—‘G-d make him in the likeness of G-d’ (Genesis 5:1).” The Rabbis in this midrash do not disagree that humans have an obligation to each other.  What is in question here is why we have that obligation. Is it because we have shared parentage, all descending from Adam and Eve? Is it because we must treat each other as we hope to be treated? Or is it because dishonoring another person dishonors G-d, as we are all created in G-d’s image? In this midrash, kavod ha-beriyot, respect for human dignity, becomes the foremost principle of the Torah, meaning that all people have an obligation to treat each other with respect. Neglecting these values enables us to convince ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, that some people are less deserving than others of equal protection under the law and of being treated with common decency.  As Jews, kavod ha-beriyot can’t just be a textual value, left to some rabbis to debate on a forgotten page.  It must be a lived value.  DORSOC 60-1

GENESIS — 5:1 likeness

Rabbi Akiva taught: “Love your neighbor as yourself” Leviticus 19:18: this is a great principle in the Torah.  Therefore, do not say: “Since I was demeaned [/dishonored], let my fellow be demeaned [/dishonored] as well, since I was cursed let me fellow be cursed as well.”  Rabbi Tanhuma said: If you do this, know Whom you are demeaning, [since] “In the image of G-d He made him” Genesis Rabbah 24:7 DORSOC 38

GENESIS — 18:19 doing

Jewish ethics is, of course, not only about avoiding wrongdoing.   Rather, we have a greater mandate to go beyond the ethics of the “do no harm” principle and the responsibility to repair the world from its brokenness.  We are asked to partner with others to help meet our potential for moral leadership.   As a nation, we are commanded to commit to being laasot tzedakah u’mispat—a nation enacting justice.   Setting positive examples that cultivate leadership in our communities is vital to the Jewish moral enterprise and to the creation of a vibrant, just society.   DORSOC 19

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