Social Links Search User Login Menu
Tools
Close
Close

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

Jerusalem

Navigate the Excerpts Browser

Before accessing the excerpts, please review a word about copyright.

Are you more of an "I'll dive right in and figure it out" person, or a "Show Me How This Thing Works" person?  If the former, go right ahead and try the excerpts browers on the right side of this page and/or scroll through the excerpts that start below the following information -- although we still suggest reading the information first.  If you are the latter, click here for a video demonstrating the Excerpts Browser. Either way (or both), enjoy! 

This page is recommended for searches limited to specific Torah books, weekly portions (parshiot), chapters, verses, and/or sources (authors). For keyword and/or for exact phrase (including verse and source) searches of the entire excerpts database, we recommend using the Search Engine page.  For broadest results, use both pages and alternative search strategies. 

This page displays the full text of all or "sorted" (filtered) excerpts in the database.  Use the "Torah Verses" and/or "Excerpt Sources" browsers at the right to locate the excerpts associated with your desired Torah book, portion, chapter. verse, or author.  Or, simply scroll through the excerpts, using the "boxes" at the bottom of any page displaying excerpts to "jump" ahead or back. 

Also note that immediately below the chapter, verse, and keyword of each excerpt is a highlighted line comprised of multiple links.  Clicking on any of the links will limit (filter) the excerpts display to the selected category.  

Transcription of excerpts is incomplete.  For current status, please see "Transcribed Sources" on the Search Engine page.  To assist with completion, please see "Contributors" page. 

GENESIS — 1:26 image

Exactly which feature of the human being reflects this divine image is a matter of debate within the tradition. The Torah itself seems to tie it to humanity’s ability to make moral judgments—that is, to distinguish good from bad and right from wrong, to behave accordingly, and to judge one’s own actions and those of others on the basis of this moral knowledge. [this and following verse; also see Genesis 5:1] Another human faculty connected by the Torah and by the later tradition to divinity is the ability to speak. Genesis 2:18-24; Numbers 12:1-16; Deuteronomy 22:13-19 Maimonides claims that the divine image resides in our capacity to think, especially discursively.  Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, part 1, chap. 1. Locating the divine image within us may also be the Torah’s way of acknowledging that we can love, just as G-d does, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, 33-34 or that we are at least partially spiritual and thus share G-d’s spiritual nature.  Not only does this doctrine describe aspects of our nature but it also prescribes behavior founded on moral imperatives.  Specifically, because human beings are created in G-d’s image, we affront G-d when we insult another person. Genesis Rabbah 24:7 More broadly, we must treat people with respect, recognizing each individual’s uniqueness and divine worth, because all human beings embody the image of G-d. M. Sanhedrin 4:5 Perhaps the most graphic articulation of this doctrine is the traditional blessing: “Praised are you, Lord our G-d, meshaneh ha-briyyot, who makes different creatures,” or “who created us with differences.” Precisely when we might recoil from a deformed or incapacitated person, or thank G-d for not making us like that, the tradition instead bids us to embrace the divine image in such people—Indeed, to bless G-d for creating some of us so.  Moreover, the Torah demands that the body of a person who was executed for a capital crime be removed from the place of hanging by morning out of respect for the divine image inherent in even such a human being. Deuteronomy 21:22-23  Ultimately, disrespect of others amounts to disrespect of G-d: “Rabbi Akiva said: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ Leviticus 19:18 [implies that] you should not say that inasmuch as I am despised, let my fellow-man be despised with me, inasmuch as I am cursed, let my fellow-man be cursed with me. Rabbi Tanchuma said: ‘If you act in this manner, know Who it is you despise, for “in the image of G-d made He man” Genesis 1:27. Genesis Rabbah 24:7 DORFFLOV 22
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:27 image

Being created in G-d’s image imparts value to human life, regardless of the individual’s level of capacity or incapacity. The American way of thinking is thoroughly pragmatic: a person’s value is a function of what that person can do for others.  That view, so deeply ingrained in American culture, prompts Americans to value those who have unusual abilities, who succeed—and, conversely, to devalue those who are disabled in some way.  In sharp contrast, the Torah declares that G-d created each of us in the divine image [this verse].” DORFFLOV 21-2
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:27 image

A central concept of Judaism’s understanding of ourselves and others is that each of us was created in the image and likeness of G-d [this verse and Genesis 5:1].  We are not an accidental happenstance produced by blind forces of nature; we are rather the conscious and purposeful creation of G-d.  Moreover, we share some of G-d’s characteristics. Like G-d, but, of course, not to the same degree, we are capable of sustained thought, creativity, and awareness of ourselves, our world, and G-d; the light of G-d is imminent in our spirit. Proverbs 20:27 We share in G-d’s dominion over the earth, Genesis 1:26, 28, and we have the divine attribute of free will, Genesis 3:5 and Deuteronomy 30:19 for we can recognize the difference between right and wrong, good and bad.  We are privileged to commune with G-d and, in rabbinic terms, even to be G-d’s partner in ongoing acts of creation.  B. Shabbat 10a, 119b DORFFLOV 75-6
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:27 image

Judaism certainly prohibits embarrassing someone else publicly. Indeed, rabbinic statements compare public shaming of a person to killing him or her, for one Hebrew way of saying “shaming another” is malbin p’nai havero b’rabbim – literally,” making his friend’s face white in public,” just as it becomes white in death. B. Bava Metz’ia 58b  Moreover … an assailant must pay for the embarrassment caused to the victim and his or her family for causing a personal injury. The Talmud, in fact, engages in a sophisticated discussion of the nature of shame, asking whether the heart of it is the victim’s degradation in the public’s esteem, in the victim’s own sense of self-worth, or in the victim’s family’s embarrassment. The sources within the tradition that proscribe shaming others are all corollaries to the underlying theological principle of Judaism that human beings are worthy of respect as creatures of G-d created in the Divine image [this verse].  Some things, though, take priority over this prohibition. Specifically, as in the case of defamatory speech, when shaming another is not done out of meanness or indifference but is rather an outgrowth of a practical or moral necessity, it is justified, permitted, and, in some cases, required. For example, if someone is committing fraud, a person who discovers this is not only allowed but is also duty bound to expose the fraud. Even though that will inevitably embarrass the perpetrator, the overriding needs are to protect any future victims and to enable those who have already been defrauded to recover what they can. If such monetary protections supersede the concern of shaming another, preventing bodily injury or even death does so all the more. As in the case of defamatory speech, we may not stand idly by but must rather expose the abusers so as to stop the abuse and get help for his or her victims. This is demanded … both under the laws of rodef (the pursuer) and also under its legal roots, the requirement to violate all but three of the Commandments of the Torah [i.e., adultery/incest, idolatry, murder - AJL] in order to save the life of another (pikkuah nefesh). Identifying an abuser will inevitably cause him or her shame, and we should not do that anymore than necessary. The Torah, after all, demands that we respect even the executed body of a murder by not letting it remain unburied overnight.  Deuteronomy 21:23 But we are not only permitted but also required to override our concern for the perpetrator to stop the abuse and to get help for the victims.  DORFFLOV 183-4
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:28 multiply

The family creates, educates, and supports the next-generation. Sex within marriage has two distinct purposes: companionship and procreation. Thus, on the one hand, sexual relations are valued as a form of human love even when the couple cannot or is not planning to have children.  On the other hand, procreation is an important activity, so important, in fact, that it is the very first commandment mentioned in the Torah [this verse]. The rabbis later defined that obligation as the duty to produce minimally one boy and one girl—although this does not apply to those who cannot comply because of problems of infertility—and the ideal is to have as many children as one can.  On the minimum of two, see M. Yevamot 6:6 (61b); M.T. Laws of Marriage 15:4; and S.A. Even Ha’ezer 1:5. On the ideal of having more, see B. Yevamot 62b (based on Isaiah 45:18 and Ecclesiastes 11:6) and M.T. Laws of Marriage 15:16. Marriage not only provides the venue for having children but also, in the Jewish view, the context in which children are educated. Parents have the duty to educate their children in Judaism, including its moral components. Deuteronomy 6:7,20-25, 11:19. This was already one of Abraham’s duties Genesis 18:19.  Parents may use schools to help them fulfill that duty, but they must periodically check to make sure that the children are in fact learning what they should, because ultimately the duty to educate children remains theirs. Moreover, much of the Jewish tradition can be taught only at home, for this is a tradition that is not restricted to the synagogue or school: It intends to influence virtually every detail of life. DORFFLOV 27-8
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:28 multiply

The Jewish tradition sees two primary purposes for sex within marriage, as evidenced by the two commands in the Torah to engage in sex. One appears in Exodus 21[p:10], where the Torah says, at least as the Talmud understood it, that a man taking a woman in marriage must not deprive her of “her food, clothing, or conjugal rights.”  The other appears in the very first chapter of Genesis, in which G-d tells the first man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” [this verse].  Thus companionship and procreation are the two divinely ordained purposes of sex within marriage. Moreover, these are independent commandments. Thus before, during, and after the years that a couple plans to have children, the duty to have conjugal relations for the sake of companionship continues. G-d’s desire, according to the Torah and Talmud, is that people should, if at all possible, live in marital partnership, regardless of their ability to procreate. B. Yevamot 61b, where Rabbi Nahman, quoting Genesis 2:18, asserts that “although a man may have many children, he must not remain without a wife, for the Torah says, ‘It is not good that a man should be alone.’” Later Jewish law codes take this as authoritative law; see M.T. Laws of Marriage 15:16; Laws of Forbidden Intercourse 21:26; and S.A. Even Ha’ezer 1:8. DORFFLOV 82
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 1:31 all

The various manifestations … of G-d’s image within us give us each divine worth. We have that ultimate source of value regardless of our abilities and disabilities, our wealth or poverty, our personal qualities or defects, or the degree of our usefulness to others. We have divine worth even if we do not think very much of ourselves. The divine worth granted to each of us is a special blessing; we share in no less than the essence of G-d. It is also the source of many of our responsibilities to ourselves, to others, to our world, and to G-d. If we indeed know the difference between right and wrong, we have the responsibility to choose the right. If we are to be G-d’s partners in ongoing active creation, we must act accordingly. This concept has far-reaching implications when applied to the area of intimate relations. The sexual aspects of our being—physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual—are not base or obscene; they are part of the entire human being that G-d termed “very good” after creating us [this verse]. We must use our sexual faculties, like all other elements of our being, for good purpose, as defined by Jewish law and tradition, to activate their potential for divinity. And we have not only the ability but also the duty to do that. Intimate relations, then, are not seen within Judaism as simply physical release or the product of base, animalistic lust; they are, when carried out in the proper context, no less than an expression of divine image within us. DORFFLOV 76
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 2:7 living

The human being is an integrated whole, combining all aspects of our being. Western philosophical thought and Christianity have been heavily influenced by the Greek and Gnostic bifurcation of body and mind (or soul). In these systems of thought, the body is seen as the inferior part of human beings, either because it is what we share with animals, in contrast to the mind, which is distinctively human (Aristotle), or because the body is the seat of our passions and hence our sins Paul in Romans 6-8, esp. 6:12, 7:14-24, 8:3, 10, 12-13 and Galatians 5:16-24; see also 1 Corinthians 7:2,9,36-38. Even though the Greeks glorified the body in their art and sculpture, it was only because developing the body was seen as a means to an end, a necessary prerequisite to cultivating the mind (as, for example, in Plato’s pedagogic program in The Republic). Similarly, Paul regarded the body as “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 6:19 but only because it serves to sustain the soul so that it can accept faith in Jesus; the body per se “makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body.” Romans 7:23  Such classical views have shaped Western and Christian traditions from ancient times to our own. In Christianity, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin followed the lead of Paul and maintained that the body’s needs are to be suppressed as much as possible; indeed, asceticism and monasticism have been important themes in Christian ideology and history. In secular philosophic thought, the “mind-body problem” continues to be a stock issue in philosophic literature, which asks how the two, presumed to be so different and separate, are related in some ways to each other. While some Jews (in particular, Philo Lewy et al. (1960), part 1, esp 42-51, 54-55, 71-75. He calls the body a “prison house” (72); and Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed, part 3, chap. 33) were heavily influenced by the doctrines of the people living around them, biblical and talmudic literature does not share in this understanding of the human being as divided into parts. In the Talmud and Midrash, our soul is, in some senses, separable from our body. For example, when the Torah describes G-d as breathing life into Adam’s body, rabbinic sources understand that to mean not only physical life but consciousness. G-d repeats that process each day by taking our souls away during sleep and returning them to us again when we awake. Moreover, at death, the soul leaves the body only to be reunited with it again at the time of resurrection [this verse, B. Ta’anit 22b, and Genesis Rabbah 14:9.]. Rabbinic sources conflict, however, as to whether the soul can exist apart from the body, and even those who say it can exist separately depict the soul in physical terms, capable of performing many of the functions of the body [footnotes omitted].  In any case, in sharp contrast to the Greek and Christian traditions, classical rabbinic sources maintain that the soul is definitely not superior to the body. Indeed, one rabbinic source speaks of the soul as a guest in the body here on earth: One’s host must accordingly be respected and well treated. Leviticus Rabbah 34:3  Moreover, since the Rabbis regarded the human being as an integrated whole, the body and the soul are to be judged as one.  B. Sanhedrin 91a-91b  Furthermore, the Rabbis’ recipe for life and their method for moral education reflect this integration of body and soul. Thus, although the Rabbis emphasized the importance of studying and following the Torah, even placing it on a par with all of the rest of the Commandments, M. Pe’ah 1:1, B. Kiddushin 40b they nonetheless believed that the life of the soul or mind by itself is not good, that it can, indeed, be the source of sin: “An excellent thing is the study of Torah combined with some worldly occupation, for the labor demanded by both of them causes sinful inclinations to be forgotten.  All study of Torah without work must, in the end, be futile and become the cause of sin.” M. Avot 2:1 Thus, while the Rabbis considered it a privilege to be able to study Torah, they themselves – or at least most of them -- earned their livelihood through bodily work, and they also valued the hard labor of the field worker who spent little time in the study of Torah. B. Berakhot 17a. DORFFLOV 23-4
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS

GENESIS — 2:18 alone

Adam and Eve, the progenitors of all humanity according to the biblical story, were specifically created for each other, “for it is not good that person be alone… and therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife so that they become one flesh.” [this verse, Genesis 2:24].  The Torah thus recognizes the basic human need for intimate companionship and sex to satisfy that need through the institution of marriage. Indeed, Genesis 2 portrays Adam as created by G-d first as a solitary human person, endowed by himself with all the possibilities of life. Since, according to that story, G-d eventually created both Adam and Eve, why, we wonder, did G-d not create them simultaneously? The reason seems to be that G-d wanted the first person to experience, not just to imagine, what it is like to have every material thing but no person to love. Only after Adam had experienced the pain of being continually alone would he be ready to appreciate the need for companionship and interdependence as the essential path of personal fulfillment. For him, and for us, his descendants, this is the human norm. This interpretation attributed by the author to Rabbi Mark Loeb.  Sex is one of the ways in which the companionship between husband and wife is expressed. In … Exodus 21:10 …, the Torah recognizes the sexual desires of women as well as those of men.  While contemporary Westerners might take it for granted that women as well as men have rights to sex within marriage, other societies in the ancient world—and, for that matter, in the medieval and the modern worlds as well—assumed that only men have sexual appetites. Women tolerate the sexual advances of their husbands, in this view, because they want children and economic security. In contrast, the Torah and the Rabbis who later interpret it, in recognition of the couple’s mutual desires, structure the laws of marriage so that both spouses have rights to sex with regularity within marriage. For the wife’s rights to sex, see M. Ketubbot 5:6; M.T. Laws of Marriage 14:4-7, 15; S.A. Yoreh De’ah 235:1, and Even Ha-ezer 76,77:1.  For the husband’s rights to sex, see M. Ketubbot 5:7, M.T. Laws of Marriage 14:8-14; and S.A. Even Ha’ezer 77:2-3.  Moreover, within the bounds of modesty, Jewish law permits couples to have sex in any way they want. S.A. Even Ha’ezer 25:2, gloss.  The Torah and the Rabbis thus went quite far to affirm the rights of both members of the couple to the pleasures of each other’s sexual company. On the other hand, when sex becomes a tool for control, a marriage ceases to be the partnership that it is intended to be. Jewish sources specifically proclaim that coercive of sex is never allowed, and they disdain either spouse “rebelling” against the other by denying sex.  One need not agree to engage in sexual relations each time that one’s spouse wants to do so, and a refusal to have conjugal relations must be respected. At the same time, the tradition does not approve denial of each other’s sexual rights over a long period of time without due reason, for then the spouse who wants to have sex is being denied the sexual expression of companionship to which each partner is entitled in a marriage. Marital companionship is, in part, sexual, but it is more than that. In the Jewish marriage ceremony, the only explicit reference to the couple being married describes them as “re’im ha-ahuvim” (the loving friends).  This description appropriately indicates that the companionship of marriage should extend over a wide scope, such that the husband and wife are not lovers but also friends. They should take time to enjoy many things together. They should talk with each other about what is going on in their lives in what they are thinking and feeling. They should be, as the marriage ceremony says, loving friends, where the friendship is a strong element in their relationship as their romantic love. DORFFLOV 82-4
VIEW EXCERPT DETAILS
RSS
12345678910

Torah Verses

Excerpt Sources

Complete List of Source Books
Back To Top