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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 — 1:18 good

ETHICS OF BUDDHA  In admiring the exacting ideals taught by Buddhism, we are forced to a conclusion similar to that arrived at when considering those of Confucius. Buddha was a price garbed as a mendicant friar who preached a gospel of love and charity for all creatures, including animals. The chief planks in his semi-religious ascetic platform are: total resignation and self-effacement in the presence of care, suffering and death—ills which rule the entire domain of life. The ideal life contemplated by Buddha is that of one who has absolutely separated himself from the world.  This separation is to be not only from the vices of life and its debasing luxuries but also from all amusement and exercise, from business and the holding of property, and from unnecessary conversation. In short, almost the whole of existence is evil to Buddha; throbbing life, with its passions and pleasures, its desires and deeds, all come under his scathing ban. His aim was a state of nostalgic “otherworldliness” expressed in the one word Nirvana. The only relief he had to offer to the despair and delusion often attending life, was the sympathy and compassion we should exercise towards others. See Dr. C. Gore: “Philosophy of the Good Life”. Everyman’s Library (1935).  However much men may venerate Buddha himself, his doctrine appears to be that the sole motive for self-improveement is the selfish otive of obtaining a better future for oneself. The only really satisfying motive appears to be that of getting rid of individual life by thye total extinction of desire – a thought that must remain alien to the noblest minds. It is certainly alien to Jewish thought. With its stress on the beauty of tranquility and the virtue of kindness, Judaism is in full agreement. On its insistence, however, that personal life is an evil – with that Judaism must part company. This view vitiates Buddhism, as far as the Jew is concerned. “And He saw that it was good” [this verse] – this is the Kol Ya’akov, “the voice of Israel”.  Life, and all it holds, is potential of joy and goodness. This is the conviction of Jewish ethics, springing from a faith which bids its adherents to “serve the Lord with joy and to come before Him with gladness.” Psalm 100:2. LEHRMAN 23-24

GENESIS — 1:26 us

In the anguish of his heart, the Psalmist cries: “Look on my right hand, and see, for there is no moan that knoweth me. I have no way to flee; no man careth for my soul” Psalm 142:5  To cheer man in his loneliness, G-d was depicted as a loving Father. Even in His anger he doth remember mercy, assuring all who pulse with the breath of life which He has infused into them that none need feel alone in this apparently friendless universe. He is with us in our troubles, loving us and deeply concerned with our destiny. He made Adam a co-partner with Him in the act of Creation. For did not G-d use the plural “Let us make”[this verse] – thus hinting at ma’s share in the making of himself and in omnipotent creativeness? Such a belief gave meaning to Jewish life and a sense of direction to human destiny. LEHRMAN 154-5

GENESIS — 1:27 likeness

ETHICS OF MONOTHEISM. It must be borne in mind that Jews worship no abstract “First Cause”.  To the Jew G-d is a reality, with whom there is personal relationship which inspires righteous and holy conduct. The insistence with which His Unity, as well as His Incorporeality and Holiness are stressed, is due to the protest made by Judaism against the immoral practices which early contemporary religions associated with their local deities. What is now, more or less, accepted as theological doctrine was revolutionary when Judaism first proclaimed that there is only one G-d who is always approachable and nigh until those who call upon Him in truth, who is at all times “a gracious and merciful G-d” desiring nothing more than their happiness.  To provide a further link between man and his Maker, man is described in the story of Creation as formed in the divine likeness. [this verse]  Accordingly, our earthly life must be modeled on the heavenly pattern set out in the Bible. The Jew is asked to do what the Rabbis daringly, if poetically, picture G-d as doing in His ethereal abode. There He is pictured as wearing Tephillin, Berachot 6a; as donning the Tallit, Rosh Hashana 17b, as studying the Torah for three hours daily, besides praying for the welfare of all on earth. Avodah Zara 3b. G-d weeps over the short-sightedness of his children in eschewing the good and choosing the evil. Haggigah 5b. He was present at the marriage ceremony of Adam and Eve; Berachot 61a; He visits the sick, consoles the mourner and assists at the burial of the dead. Genesis Rabbah 8:13. In short, each good deed that man is asked to do is to ascend another rung on the ladder of perfection he is asked to scale if he is to reach heavenly heights.  LEHRMAN 146-7

GENESIS — 1:27 male/female

Ethics in Family Life.  The basis of Jewish social life being the family, Judaism has exercised a ceaseless vigil over its purity and stability. The relation between the sexes is based upon the ideal of tohorat ha’mishpachat, that is, upon chastity and purity which border on holiness.  The Jew does not regard woman as his inferior but as his co-partner. The sole reason why she is exempt from certain precepts, the fulfillment of which is circumscribed by the occasion, is the fact that male and female have been cast into different physiques, making it biologically necessary for a division of labour between man and woman. It was never intended that the sphere of the home, delegated to the wisdom and tenderness of the wife and mother, should be considered as secondary to the study of the Torah or to the pursuit of a livelihood, occupations set aside for the programme of men.  The Bible knows no such distinction, for “male and female He created them”. [this verse] LEHRMAN 237

GENESIS — 1:28 blessed

When G-d created man, He left the task of moral perfection to man himself.  That is why the divine refrain “And He saw that it was good” that accompanies the other acts of Creation which sprang into life at the fiat of G-d, is significantly omitted when man was shaped in the likeness of his Creator.  For though the first chapter of Genesis concludes the six days of Creation and “And G-d saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good”, this approval seems to be the work in general, and not specifically of man.  In fact, man is described a few chapters later (Genesis 8:21) as possessing “from his youth, an evil inclination.”  In this steep climb towards nobility, the ethics of Judaism, as presented in belief and action, will serve as competent guides.  To help man in his aim of becoming spiritually perfect, the Torah has outlined the unique design for living that we call Judaism.  LEHRMAN 3

GENESIS — 2:3 do

Th[e] never-ceasing emphasis on moral perfection is the core of Judaism. This practical sense of our faith looks askance at metaphysical discussions of G-d and the Universe. Its counsel of perfection is “To know Him in all thy ways”, Proverbs 3:6, to obey His commandments and become G-d like in the process. Life is given to man by G-d, and it is his task to shape it after the divine pattern revealed on Sinai. To choose life and to shape it – this is the demand of Judaism. All that we have – body and sul, wealth and want, pain and pleasure, life and death – must become stepping-stones on the road to holiness and perfection; so many rungs on the ladder placed on earth on which to climb heaven wards. The meaning of the words “which G-d created to do” [this verse] is: He created the world; but it our task to make it and ourselves perfect.  The all-embracing nature of Jewish Ethics takes every aspect of life into its wide net – science and art, industry and commerce, literature and law. They teach that the Messianic age will dawn only when all the forces of material, intellectual and social life have been harnessed into the service of humanity, when all the prophetic ideals and the visions of the seers of humanity, spread large across Holy Writ, have been realized. Zion’s heights of human perfection will have been attained when holiness sis combined with duty, and when all service is performed from disinterested motives. This is Jewish teaching in excelsis, in its most exalted form. LEHRMAN 29-30

GENESIS — 2:4 Lord

Laws and Ethical Doctrines: The Difference.   As we shall be citing many laws of Judaism in order to discover their moral background, it is right at this stage to venture some distinction between doctrine and law. The first category of precepts teaches the eternal principles of Justice, Love and Moral piety as the standard of duty. Law, on the other hand, is the embodiment of these principles and their application to life. Judaism issues this warning: a life that is shaped by the rules of Ethics, without the sanction of religion, tends gradually to become one of weariness, pettiness and frustration.  To free man from this sense of disillusionment, our laws, governing every action of our lives, seek to impart an aspect of “something more” to our thoughts and deeds, teaching us that life is a part of eternity and duty an indivisible law of the universe. Only when laws and ethics are combined indivisibly does Jewish life become sacrosanct, endowed with a vitality sufficiently potent to glorify trivial duties until they are performed as nobly as deeds upon the battlefield. These laws and ethics must be wisely blended if Judaism is to achieve its purpose of perfecting human nature. Take an example. In our philosophy, Mercy and Justice are not opposites. Mercy, if exercised without due consideration for the demands of justice, will hurt the recipient. Every sensible parent knows that in the training of the child, too much yielding to its petulant and querulous demands may result in effects that are undesirable and injurious. A sense of justice, that is, a knowledge of what, in the long run, will be good for child must control the emotions flowing from parental love. That is why our prayers for material blessings are not always answered.  In fact, they are answered; for “No” itself is an answer.  Only our Heavenly Father knows what is good for His children on earth. On the other hand, strict Justice unsoftened by the chastening effect of Mercy will be equally unbearable. In the second chapter of the Torah [this verse] G-d taught us this lesson of blending inextricably law and ethics. There the name Adonai is used of G-d before that of Elohim.  The Rabbis deduced that the change of name was due to the fact that He saw that this world of ours could not be governed by the norm of rigid Justice (Elohim) untempered by Mercy (Adonai). The latter word means that He is Master over us, and makes allowances for shortcomings on our part. Elohim expresses the idea of a powerful Judge intent that Justice be done at all costs. Here is an illustration. Suppose that G-d did not “remember mercy in His anger” (berogez rahem tizkor) [Habbakuk 3:2 – AJL] but punished each man as soon as he sinned, how many would be alive to-day? Again, if He rewarded each of us as soon as we performed a noble deed, much, if not all of the ethical content of the Mitzvah joyfully performed, would be destroyed. Good would then be done, not for goodness sake, but for the thought of the material reward.  One of the prime incentives of ethics (lishmah) [i.e., for its own sake – AJL) would then be destroyed.  With mercenary motives as the spurs to good deeds, a valuable tool in the carving of character would be blunted. In Judaism, themoral character of man is considered fundamental as a measure of the true value of his life. Salvation is not through creed but through deed. The character of the motive colours the value of the action.  LEHRMAN 144-5

GENESIS — 2:18 alone

The essential teaching of Judaism is that its believers must have love and kindness for all, malice and prejudice towards none. When first created, man was told that “it is not good for man to be alone.” [this verse].  He must regard himself as a member of a large family, a limb in a body known as humanity. This consciousness creates many responsibilities and solemn duties towards those with whom he is a fellow-pilgrim on earth. His life is no longer to be considered as his own to do with it as he pleases. He will now realize that just as their conduct affects him, so will his conduct affect them. The story of the man in the boat who, having nothing to do while his friend was strenuously rowing, idly occupies his leisure in drilling a hole under his seat and answers his friend’s complaint of his dangerous action with the retort that the hole is under his seat only – forgetting that the water would flood the whole boat – is at the very essence of social ethics. Leviticus Rabbah 4:6.  One of our teachings in the Torah is that the indiscretions of one man may cause the misery of a community. Numbers 16:22 in connection with the rebellion of Korah. This is especially true when applied to the attitude the world adopts towards the Jew. Instead of judging him by the best representative, he is judged by the worst type.  Our ethics teach us to be considerate and pleasant towards others. Ketubot 17a Such consideration for the safety of others was shown by one saintly character, Rabbi Leib Hasid of Kelm, who, after the ceremony at his wedding, picked up the pieces of the glass he had just broken lest one trod upon them to his hurt. It is not enough for the pious Jew not to cause injury directly; he must go out of his way to prevent the occurrence of any such damage. It is told of many Rabbis that perceiving any obstacle on the ground likely to cause injury, they would remove it. “He who wishes to be regarded as pious, must fulfill the words laid down concerning damageBaba Kamma 30a  LEHRMAN 197-8

GENESIS — 2:18 alone

When G-d advised Adam that “it is not good for man to be alone” [this verse], this meant that man would never achieve perfection alone, unaided by a good wife. To live in the so-called “single blessedness” is an error, resulting in loneliness and frustration. “Without a wife, man lives without joy, blessing, peace or anything that can really be called good.”  Yevamot 62b  He is not the complete man, and in the Life to Come he will have to answer, on Judgment Day, the question why he remained unwedded throughout his earthly pilgrimage. Shabbat 31a. Further, by not marrying, man is prone to be held in suspicious, thus transgressing the command “then ye shall be clear before the Lord and before Israel”. Numbers 32:22  A Rabbi cautions us that “in order to appear blameless before men and G-d, one must remove any cause for suspicious”. Yoma 38a  LEHRMAN 239

GENESIS — 2:22 rib

G-d endowed woman with more intuition and tact than man. Niddah 45b Biblical support for this statement was found in the word Vayiven [ וינן which is made from a denominative from  בינה “intelligence”; this verse], used when woman was created from the rib of man. G-d used special intelligence (binah) before coming to the decision that the best material from which to shape woman was the rib, the symbol of modesty, for it is that part of the body which was always covered. Genesis Rabbah 18:2.  LEHRMAN 238

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