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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 has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at email@example.com or 914-368-5149.
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There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN
Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well
When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel
Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly
What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?
Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach
The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi
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“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.
And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.
Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel
In addition to the palace’s tremendous size it was home to the “hanging gardens,” which were counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world.
We tend to justify and idealize this division with pride attributing these tendencies as demonstrating a higher level of kedushah.
A leader that has lost faith in his people cannot lead his people and conquer the land of Israel.
There was no question that when Mrs. Cohen entered the room to meet the teacher she was hostile from the outset.
He always impressed me with his brilliance and erudition. But it was his warm remarks and his sincere concern that made me want to please him.
In the midst of all this name calling by these so called leaders stands a man who is steadfast in his beliefs and is prepared to deal with any outside pressure to get his point across.
“Well, you are also part of this class! If someone drills a hole in the boat, the boat will ultimately sink, and even the innocent ones will perish as well. The whole class must be punished!”
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/respect-for-all/2006/05/17/
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