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In tractate Makkot, the Talmud discusses a Jew’s obligation to perform the mitzvot and the division of those mitzvot into 365 negative and 248 positive commandments.
The Talmud posits that King David reduced this number to just eleven essential requirements, delineated in Psalm 15, most of which deal with moral and ethical issues such as speaking the truth and refraining from slander and doing evil against one’s neighbor.
The Talmud then tells us that Isaiah reduced even further the number of essential mitzvot to just six ethical requirements. Again these mitzvot stress the relationship between people. Conspicuously absent are mitzvot between man and God.
The Talmud also relates that Micah reduced these six to three: “What does Hashem want from you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?”
Isaiah, according to the Talmud, again reduced these obligations to only two: “Guard justice and do righteousness” and Amos to one: “Seek Me and live.”
Though the worship of God and our underlying relationship with Him are implicit in this text, the stress is on our relationship with people. It is as if an essential purpose of performing God-based commandments is to enhance our relationship with other human beings. That’s not to say that the performance of mitzvot is unimportant, but we seem to be directed to the conclusion that if we only perform commandments that are God-related and stop there, we are not achieving the ultimate purpose of living as a Jew.
Our Orthodox Jewish community is facing a serious challenge. Many of us believe that one need not show respect to and for those who are non-religious or non Jewish. We often tend to speak derogatorily about those who we feel do not meet our religious standards. I have known religious people who pray fervently three times daily with a minyan, yet act unethically in their business practices and arrogantly in their dealings with non-Jews.
Who is to say what is more important? King David, Isaiah and Micah all seem to state that a person with who claims to live by religious values but is wanton in his ethics is not behaving in accordance with what the Torah expects from us.
One can recognize a gadol, a leader of our people, in the way he respects and values all people. He doesn’t judge or offer a disparaging word against people who are not religious, nor does he degrade a non-Jew. He knows that all people are the creation of God and by definition deserve respect and reverence – that each person has some worth and can contribute something precious and valuable.
Our sages describe Yiftach, one of our judges, in a non-complimentary manner, and indeed he was not a leader we should be proud of. Yet our sages state that Yiftach in his generation was equal to the great Samuel in his time. Leaders come in many forms, and each has something positive to leave to his generation regardless of the level of his religious dedication or knowledge of Torah.
There are those who criticize leaders such as Theodore Herzl and David Ben Gurion. They ask how we can recognize a Jewish state that was formed by people who were not religious. Such a state, they say, is contrary to the dictates of the Torah and, therefore, its creation is meaningless.
But God has many messengers, and a person who is irreligious can also be chosen to ultimately achieve God’s ends. Who says it is better to be a Jew who follows the religious dictates of the Torah but who is unethical in his business practices? How do we know that a Jew who is not shomer Shabbat but is honest and forthright in his dealings with humankind is less virtuous than the religious Jew who is deceitful in his dealings with people?
About the Author: Rabbi Mordechai Weiss is principal of the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford. Any comments can be e-mailed to him at Ravmordechai@aol.com.
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Desperate people take what they can, seizing opportunity to advance their main goal; the Arabs don’t
There was a glaring void in the President’s State of the Union speech: Israel.
Let’s focus not on becoming an ATM for that little bundle of joy, but on what you can save in taxes.
Israel has some wild places left; places to reflect and think, to get lost, to try to find ourselves
The British government assured Anglo-Jewry that it is attacking the rising levels of anti-Semitism.
Obama’s Syrian policy failures created the current situation in the Golan Heights.
Our journey begins by attempting to see things differently, only then can we be open to change.
Despite Western ‘Conventional Wisdom&PC,’ the Arab/Israeli conflict was never about the Palestinians
Confrontation & accountability, proven techniques, might also help dealing with religious terrorists
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Plainly, there is no guiding hand dictating choices across the board.
Teachers, as well as administrators, must be actively involved in the daily prayers that transpire at a school and must set the bar as dugmaot ishiot, role models, on how one must daven.
In our times, most of us when we pray, our minds are on something else-it is hard to focus all the time.
Two of these attacks occurred close to Allon Shvut, and somehow I feel responsible.
We recognize that we are only a speck in this great world and only a small impression in the unfolding of time. As an educator, I have always believed that teachers should realize this as well.
Schools should realize that a child’s life is composed of multifaceted experiences, and schoolwork and homework are only one small part of the equation.
When the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, successfully escaping the clutches of the Egyptians, Moses gathered the Israelites together and they sang the famous “Az Yashir.” Miriam, Moses’s sister, also assembled the women as they danced with tambourines and sang “shiru lahashem ki gao gaa sus vrochbo rama bayam” – let us sing to Hashem for he is great, horse and chariot he drowned in the sea.”
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/respect-for-all/2006/05/17/
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