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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 — 1:26 image

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch clarifies the [Walk in His Ways] concept as an all-inclusive commandment which teaches the Torah Jew to emulate the bountiful love and kindness of the Creator. “To no other being but man did G-d give the eyes to discern Him and to recognize Him. But the purpose of this recognition should be to imitate Him in action, for G-d created you in His image. [this verse]. And just as the one aspect of G-d which you can behold everywhere and always is His activity, and this activity is nothing but love – the birth of creation is love, the existence of every creature is love, the maintenance of the world is love, its ordering and advancement is love, love for the whole, for every individual for you – so let the goal of your striving after G-d be love, love in deed and action with every power that is in you, in every moment of your existence, in order that you may become a blessing in your own circle, in whatever way and whatever place you can. And let this holy model [i.e. of G-d’s attributes] be always and everywhere before you … This all-present, all-loving G-d calls upon you in His love to follow in His steps according to the measure of your powers, to be His image in the sphere of your activities. Therefore look to Him and Him alone at every moment, and make yourself His image in love.”  And if we find it difficult to fathom the pattern of Divine mercy and compassion as reflected within the works of creation, we turn to the Torah to provide us with a deeper insight into the infinite kindness and compassion of the Eternal.  Thus, the entire universe – as seen through the eyes of Torah – becomes our planbook in our quest for improving ourselves and perfecting our ethical and moral pattern of behavior. The words of Tanach, too – the Scriptures – take on new meaning, as they become our eyes and ears, providing us with a more perceptive appreciation of the attributes of G-d. FENDEL 9-10
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GENESIS — 1:26 us

… humility is one of the attributes of the Almighty.  Rabbe Yochanan remarks in Megillah, “Whereever you find reference to the greatness of the Almighty, there will you find reference to His humility.” Megillah 31b.  It was in order to impress upon all future generations the great significance of the trait of humility, the Sages observe, that at the time of the creation of man, the Almighty said, “Let us make a man in our image, after our likeness.” [this verse]. Even though this verse might lead certain individuals to the grievous error that the Angels had aided the Almighty in the creation of man [It was for this reason that when Ptolemy II Philadelphus ordered seventy-two Sages to translate the Torah into Greek, each of the Sages decided independently to change the translation of this verse (among others) to read, I will make a man with an image and a form. Megillah 9a; Yerushalmi, Megillah 1:9 –P. 12b]; Soferim 1:8, Mechilta, Exodus 12:40; See also Legacy of Sinai, p 136], the Almighty nevertheless wrote this verse in the plural form to teach us the overwhelming significance of the trait of humility – “That a great individual shall request advice and permission from a lesser individual.” Rashi, [this verse]  FENDEL 143-4 
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GENESIS — 1:26 us

When the Almighty said, “let us make a man [this verse], He taught us the far-reaching significance of humility.  “Wherever your find [Scriptural reference to] the greatness of the Almighty, you find reference to His humility, as well.” Talmud, Megillah 31a.  And Moshe Rabbeinu, of course, was the personification of humility, par excellence. Numbers 12:3 So, too, therefore, shall you emulate your Creator, and follow in the footsteps of our teacher, Moshe, to become a man of humility, and to walk humbly with your G-d. Micah 6:8. FENDEL 96
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GENESIS — 3:12 she

By referring to the Israelites as “ingrates, descendants of ingrates,” [Talmud, Avodah Zarah 5a - AJL] Moshe emphasized the fact that this trait might be traced back to an earlier generation. The Sages trace this remark back to the transgression of Adam haRishon, who likewise sought to belittle another gift of G-d to man. When Adam was reproached by the Almighty for having partaken of the fruit of the Eitz HaD’as – the “Tree of Knowledge,” he made a futile attempt to vindicate himself. Crying out in self-righteous justification, he replied, “The woman whom Thou have given to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat.” [this verse].  Like a delinquent, pampered son who blames his waywardness, not only on his own weakness, but rather on the fact that his father supplied him with all his needs and catered, even, to his desire for self-indulgent luxuries, so, too, did Adam seek to rationalize his own weakness, and to mitigate his own guilt, by disavowing entirely the great blessing which the Almighty had bestowed upon him by providing him with a wife and helpmate. Instead of being grateful for having been blessed with a wife, and stoically accepting his own rightful share of the blame, he pointed to this blessing as the very cause of his downfall. Here, as before, Moshe viewed this reply, not merely as an attempt at self justification, but rather as a manifestation of Adam’s deep-rooted recalcitrance and inability to acknowledge G-d’s kindness, lest he become obligated to express his gratitude and his indebtedness to the Almighty. [In a similar vein, Rashi likewise relates the transgression of the Dor Haflagah [generation that built the Tower of Babel] to the trait of kefiyas tovah [ingratitude], which he traces, in turn, to the transgression of Adam. See Rashi, Genesis 11:5]. FENDEL 243
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GENESIS — 6:5 iniquity

[Iggeres Ha-Mussar of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter]. Let us give thought to the subject of transgressions. We will find that they fall into two categories. One category derives from unrestrained lust – the desire that which is momentarily sweet – without taking heed of the future, though the end will be a bitter one. We find somewhat similar circumstances, in regard to worldly matters. [For example], a foolish individual – and particularly one who is ill – may, with his limited intellect, love to snatch food which is sweet to his palate, and he will forget that this will lead him to unrestrained illness. [This is a common occurrence in regard to those individuals, who, because of either health or cosmetic reasons, wish to go on a diet. Nevertheless, all too often, they find – against their own better judgment – that because of their great craving for sweets or gourmet foods, they are entirely unable to do so. The same, of course, holds true for many cigarette smokers, who are convinced that cigarette smoking poses grave health hazards. Despite this intellectual awareness, however, they often find it all but impossible to break the cigarette habit – frequently to their own great consternation.]  Therefore did the Sages teach us, “Who is a wise man – he who regards the future.” Talmud, Tamid 32a; Cf. Avos 4:1 This, [too], is as the Sages said [elsewhere], “An individual does not perform a transgression unless a spirit of foolishness enters within him.” Talmud, Sotah 3a.  This is man’s entire toil in his service of G-d, be He blessed, to give thought to, and to ponder into the [matter of] the fear of G-d, and into the great fear of His retribution through [the study of] mussar words and the Aggadic Midrashim of the Sages, until he will hear with his ears and almost see with his eyes the terrible punishment – in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense – arrayed in front of his eyes. As the Sages observe, “A dayyan – a Jewish judge – shall always visualize that Gehenna is open for him, beneath him.” Talmud, Sanhedrin 7a.  Reference is made here to the Dayyan because he is more prone to become ensnared in transgression. ‘This is because of the great pressure which is often placed upon the dayyan to render a biased judgment, either by offering him bribes, or by exerting pressure upon him in numerous other ways. For further treatment of this topic See Halacha and Beyond, p 38-52]. The same thought applies, however, to every man, to guard himself from adverse situations involving grave transgressions.  If the individual will take this approach, with an understanding heart, he will repent, and he will be healed. Isaiah 6:10  However, Great is the iniquity of man upon the earth. [this verse] There is none who seeks out righteousness, Cf. Isaiah 59:4 or who is perceptive in regard to the fear of G-d, to set aside time regularly to toil in the “fear of G-d,” to draw “waters of wisdom” from that faith which is dormant and hidden within the recesses of the heart, to broaden it, to reinforce it, to give it strength and power, to place the dominion upon its shoulders, [Cf. Isaiah 9:5. Here the emphasis is upon seeking ways to reinforce our dormant, intellectual belief in G-d and in His reward and retribution, and to endow this belief with an inner source of power, so that it might exert dominion over the hitherto dominant emotional impact of the yetzer hara that it might rule over the bodily limbs, that they might not exceed its limitations [That is, that they might not exceed the limitations set upon us by yir’as Shamayim – “fear of Heaven.”], and that they might comply with Torah law.  This is the second category, the likes of which we do not find in regard to worldly matters. There is no man who has tribulations hovering overhead to engulf him, who will not take out time to reflect upon how he might escape from them. [Why, then should we not do as much in regard to the yetzer hara, which is waiting to engulf us.] How [enigmatic] this is! It is not even caused by passion. [There is no logical reason, the author tells us here, why we should not take time out, before we are actually engulfed by temptation, to give serious thought to methods whereby we might combat the powerful lure of the yetzer hara and of temptation, when it does come upon us, and to seek ways and means of reinforcing our fundamental emunah-values in this regard. Not to do so, Rabbe Yisroel says, is entirely incomprehensible]. This transgression is astounding, and astounding is its name – not to give serious thought to the fear of G-d, and to the chastisement of His retribution! These transgressions cannot fall into the first category [where the transgressions are motivated by passionate desire], for there is not sufficient passion here to be [regarded as] their cause. Rather, they are derived from the [negative] spiritual power of טומאה -- spiritual defilement, which surrounds the individual, so as to cause him to sin. This is particularly true of transgressions involving speech, [e.g. רכילות talebearing and  הרע לשון speaking evil of someone] for what advantage is there to the slanderer [Cf. Ecclesiastes 10:11 – “If the serpent bites without having been incited; and one who slanders derives no advantage”, as the Sages observe in tractate Erachin [“In the latter days, all animals will gather around the serpent and say, ‘A lion claws at its prey and devours it; a wolf tears its prey apart and devours it. But what benefit do you derive [when you inject your venom, since you do not devour your prey’?’ Whereupon, he will reply, ‘What advantage is there to the slanderer? [Yet he does it nevertheless!]’”  [15b] FENDEL 276-80
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GENESIS — 12:8 called

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch makes the following perceptive comment: “In the teachings of the Mishlei [Proverbs], there is great emphasis on opposing the vice of sloth and idleness, and on rousing us to energetic and industrious activity. They never cease to portray to the lazy person the ridiculous and absurd as well as the unfortunate consequences of his behavior.  Particularly interesting is the term רמיה repeatedly used in Mishlei to signify the opposite of industry.  This expression, which is usually found in an ethical connotation – meaning deceit --is here used in an economic context as the opposite of industry, thus meaning sloth, idleness, negligence, et. And in truth, the person who does not spend his life and the spiritual and physical powers which were bestowed upon him for their manifest purpose, does commit deceit. He betrays the sacred charge and opportunity entrusted to him; he betrays his maker, who grants him strength, by failing in the duty which is expected from him in return; and he betrays the world which his actions should benefit. Consequently, the vary air that a lazy person breathes can be considered theft.” From the Wisdom of Mishlei (Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1966, pp. 164 f.] Thus, the man of Torah is, indeed, productive, industrious, energetic, innovative, ambitious; he is very much an alive, vibrant member of the community. He has desires and aspirations. But these desires are not for materialistic acquisitions for their own sake, nor are they centered around the attainment of this–worldly pleasures. He yearns for spiritual fulfillment; he seeks to attain Torah knowledge and wisdom, both for himself and for others. And those materialistic benefits with which he is endowed by the Almighty – large of small –he regards as a blessing, which will aid him in the attainment of his spiritual goals, or which will make it possible for him to help others attain a richer appreciation of Torah values, and an enduring commitment to the pursuit of a Torah way of life. This approach is reminiscent of Avraham Avinu, who used all of his extensive resources to fulfill himself as a man of G-d. Also, wherever he went, he called out in the name of G-d. [this verse], thereby bringing others to a recognition of the G-d idea, and to an acceptance of His dominion over all creation.  [See Genesis 12:5, and Targum Onkelos, and see Torah Faith: The Thirteen Principles, pp 268 f. See also Sforno, on Genesis 12:4.] FENDEL 210-1.
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GENESIS — 17:1 perfect

It is this all-encompassing Torah principle of בדרכיו והלכת   [walking in His ways] concerning emulation of the ways and attributes of the Creator, which is the great central motif around which we must pattern all of our attitudes and all of our efforts concerning character development and ethical self-improvement. In his commentary on Genesis the Sforno renders expression to the exceedingly far-reaching significance of this concept as the most fundamental principle in regard to the development of the total Torah personality. Thus, on the words of the Almighty to Avraham … Walk before Me and be perfect [this verse], the Sforno remarks, “Attain the greatest perfection possible for a human being, to understand and know Me, Jeremiah 9:23 Radak commentary, through knowledge of My ways, and through emulating Me as much as is possible for you.   For in truth, the deeds of everything that exists serve as a reflection of its essence. [i.e., Therefore, we can know the Almighty through our knowledge of His attributes and His deeds.] As Moshe Rabbeinu said, “Pray, let me know Your ways, that I might know You.” Exodus 33:13 This is the ultimate perfection for the human race, and this is the purpose of the Eternal, be He blessed, in Creation, as it says “Let us make man, in our image [With a spark of eternal intellect, See Rashi, Sforno], after our [Whose behavior is performed with knowledge and bechirah – free choice. See Sforno] likeness.” [Rabbeinu Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550) on Genesis 17:1].   In a similar vein, Maimonides stipulates that it is an affirmative Torah commandment for each individual to attempt to emulate the attributes of the Almighty.   “We were commanded to emulate the Almighty as much as possible. This is what is meant by the verse, You shall walk in His ways. Deuteronomy 28:9 The commandment is repeated in another verse, as it says “To walk in all His ways.” Deuteronomy 11:22.   For similar verses, see Deuteronomy 8:6, 10:12; 14:5; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16. The repetition of this phrase a number of times in the Torah, reinforces the significance of this concept.]   This was explained in the Sifrei to mean, “Just as the Almighty is referred to as merciful, Exodus 34:6; Psalms 145:8, so, too, shall you be merciful; just as the Almighty is referred to as compassionate, ibid. so, too, shall you be compassionate; just as the Almighty is referred to as righteous, Psalms 145:17, 11:7, so, too, shall you be righteous; just as the Almighty is referred to as saintly Psalms 145:17, Jeremiah 3:12, So, too shall you be saintly.” Rambam, Sefer Hamitazvos, Mitzvas Asei 8.  FENDEL 5-6
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GENESIS — 18:19 instruct

The Rambam [Maimonides] [observes] that he who pursues this [middle] path in life, is following in the footsteps of Avraham Avinu, and that this is the derech Hashem -- “the path of the Almighty.” “Because the Creator is called by these names, and they represent the middle path which we are commanded to pursue, therefore is this path known as the ‘Path of G-d.'” And it is this path which Avraham Avinu instructed his children to pursue, as it says [this verse], For I have known him [lovingly] [Rashi], that he might instruct his children and his household after him to follow the path of G-d. And he who pursues this path brings goodness and blessing upon himself, as it says [this verse] That G-d might bring upon Avraham that which He had said concerning him. [Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos De’os 1:7]  This mitzvah is not only meant to be interpreted in an abstract, conceptual sense. It must be accompanied also by practical application.   In his Sefer haMitzvos, therefore, Maimonides concludes with the observation that this concept of emulating the Creator must be applied to His deeds, as well as to His attributes. [See also Talmud, Sotah 14a and Rashi, Deuteronomy 11:22]. FENDEL 8
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GENESIS — 18:27 dust

“Rava expounded: What is the meaning of the verse, Song of Songs 7:2, How beautiful are thy feet in sandals, O’daughter of the generous one?"  How beautiful are the feet of the Israelites when they make the pilgrimage to the Bais HaMikdash [Temple -- AJL]. O’daughter of the generous one – O’daughter of Avraham Avinu ["Abraham, our father" -- AJL], who was called “the generous one” … for he was the first of all proselytes.” Talmud, Chagigah 3a. Rashi comments that the term “generous one,” is an appropriate reference to Avrahm Avinu because “He was propelled by his generous heart towards a recognition of his Creator.” This is an intriguing statement. Here, again, the Talmud makes us aware of the existence of a distinct correlation between the middos [character traits – AJL] of an individual and his ability to recognize the existence of the Creator. It was Avraham’s ability to give of himself unstintingly, coupled with his great humility, which enabled him to totally negate his own will and his own desires, making them subservient to the will of his Creator. Avraham Avinu was unencumbered by pride and egotistical haughtiness. He was, instead, the very personification of kindness, generosity, compassion, and humility, as manifested throughout the Torah narrative concerning Avraham and the Malachim [angels -- AJL] [Genesis, Chap. 18], as well as in Avraham’s remarkable, self-effacing prayer for Sodom, in which he likened himself to “dust and ashes.” [this verse]. Consequently, Avraham harbored no hidden reluctance to accept the intellectual truth concerning the existence of a Creator.   FENDEL 247
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GENESIS — 18:27 dust

One of the most pronounced characteristics which permeated the entire fabric of the personalities of the האומה אבות – the progenitors of Klall Yisroel – was their great humility.  The Rabbis observe that when Avraham stated, “I am but dust and ashes,” [this verse] in his moving pleas for the deliverance of Sodom, he manifested an exceptional degree of self-effacing humility. So, too, did Moshe and Aharon manifest extraordinary humility and restraint in their almost impossible task of leading the Israelites through the many turbulent and trying episodes which occurred during the forty years in the desert. FENDEL 145
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