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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Some of the Values and Ethical Precepts of Judaism

The tenets of Judaism teach one to live ethically.

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself alone, what am I? If not now, when?" And "What is distasteful to you, do not do unto another." both ethics from Torah as expounded by the sage Hillel

Also the prophet, Micah sums up Torah pretty well when he says," What does God require of you? To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God."

Judaism is more deed than creed. How we live and treat one another and how we care for the world and all life around us are a direct reflection of what we believe. The Jewish faith is all about the relationship of the covenant nation working side by side with God as partners in restoring the world to justice and in helping better the world for the generations to come in the ongoing creation.

The concept of tikkun olam or repairing the world through social action, is one of the traditional categories of tzedakah (righteousness and justice). The word "tikkun" first appears in the book of Ecclesiastes (1:5; 7:13; 12:9), where it means "setting straight" or "setting in order." The most notable early rabbinic source for the phrase tikkun olam is the Aleinu prayer, where the phrase expresses the hope of repairing the world through the establishment of the kingdom of God.

While the sage Hillel and the prophet Micah summed up Torah to essentiallly declare that treating our fellow human in justice and mercy are the ultimate observance of Torah..here is a list of Jewish values and ethical behaviors taught from Torah and explained in greater detail and how they are applied in various situations in Talmud.

Dina D’Malchuta Dina – The law of the land is the law – Jewish law
asserts that, so long as they do not require us to violate Jewish law, local civil laws must be followed
(T.B. Gitten 10a; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 369:8).

Adam Yachid– a single human being – The rabbinic concept that one human being was created originally so that no one can say, „my father was greater than your father.‟ In other words, every human being is unique and inherently precious (M ishna Sanhedrin 4:5).

Ahavat Ger – love of “the stranger in your midst” – A series of laws insisting on compassionate behaviour towards strangers, empathy with foreigners, and their inclusion in every aspect of society
(Exodus 22:20,;23:9; Deuteronomy 16:14; Tractate on Strangers, Minor Tractates of Talmud).

Ahavat Ha-Beriot – love of all of God’s creations – A principle that encourages appreciation for the world and all of its inhabitants
(Leviticus 19.18; Avot of Rabbi Nathan 16).

Anei Ircha Kodmin = “the local poor are the priority”/ The concept that your primary tzedakah responsibility is to those closest to you (your family, then the poor of your city, then the poor of other cities).
(Bava Metzia 71a)

Arevut – the concept that Jews have a special obligation to other Jews – A series of ideas and laws encouraging commitments of mutual aid and devotion among Jews
(Sanhedrin 27b; Shevuot 39a).

Bakesh Shalom V’Rodfehu – seek peace and pursue it – The obligation to actively reduce conflicts. A series of laws and ethical teachings advocating peace, conflict resolution methodologies, and prohibiting violence against the innocent (Psalms 34:15; Chapter on Peace, Minor
Tractates of the Talmud).

Bechirah Chafshit – freedom of choice – The Jewish philosophical assumption that all human beings have the ability to freely choose actions, and are responsible for those choices (Deuteronomy 30.19; M. Avot 3.19; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 5:4).

Chesed, Rachamim – compassion, especially for those who are disadvantaged or vulnerable (Zechariah 7:9; Hosea 2:21; Sabbath 151b; Bezah 32b; Sotah 14a).

Chillul Ha-Shem – the desecration of the Divine Name – Discouragement of actions that may bring shame to the reputation of the Jewish people (M. Avot 4:4,6; Yoma 86a; Moed Katan 17a;
Berachot 19b; Yevamot 79a).

Dan L’Kaf Zechut – the presumption of innocence – We should never initially believe someone has acted wrongly, even if it may be difficult to find merit in their actions (M. Avot 1:6).

Darchei Shalom - ways of peace – Talmudic rulings intent on preserving societal peace and maintaining positive inter-ethnic relations; includes directives to feed the poor of the gentiles and
care for their vital needs (M. Shevi’it 4:3; Gittin 61a).

Derech Eretz – proper behaviour – We must behave in a respectful, socially acceptable manner when interacting with others, including family members (Shabbat 114a; Yoma 4b; T.B. Hullin 84a).

G’zelah – the prohibition against unlawfully seizing other people’s property, particularly the poor and vulnerable (Exodus 20:13, Leviticus 19:13, Jeremiah 20:12; Proverbs 22:22; Job 24:9; T.B. Sanhedrin 108a).

Hakarat HaTov – [recognition of good]; gratitude – Much of Judaism is based upon the principle of gratitude and thanksgiving )Comments of Rashi on Exodus 7:19 and 10:12).

Hakaim Takim Imo – you shall surely lift up with him – A law designed to encourage aid to one in distress, even one‟s enemy
(Exodus 23:4; T.B. Baba Metzia 32a).

Halbanat Panim – avoidance of humiliating someone in public – The loss of personal dignity at the hands of others is considered one of the gravest wrongs in Judaism, akin to murder
(T.B. Moed Katan 9b; T.B. Baba Mezia 58bff.; Tractate Kallah, Minor Tractates of the Talmud).

Halva’at Chen – loan of grace – basis for the establishment of an interest-free loan society of the medieval Jewish community
(Leviticus 25:35-36; Exodus Rabbah 31).

Hochai’ach Tochee’ach – you shall rebuke – The obligation to be a social critic when you see that society or individuals are making terrible mistakes.Such criticism is viewed as an expression of care for others (Leviticus 19:17; Genesis Rabbah 54).

K’doshim Tihiyu – you shall live a holy life – Specifically, you should remove yourself from sexually provocative situations, but this principle is extended to include avoidance of inappropriate, albeit permissible, actions (Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus Rabbah 24:6; Commentary of Nachmanides (Ramban) and Rashi on Leviticus 19:2).

K’vod Ha-B’riot – honor for all human beings – A set of values and laws designed to encourage dignity and respect for all human beings
(M. Avot 2:10; 4:1; 4:3).

K’vod Nashim – the honor of women – A rabbinic value and law designed to encourage the dignity and honor of women
(T.B. Baba Metzia 59a; T.B. Yevamot 62b).

Kashrut – The specific dietary restrictions for Jews which apply to the eating of meat, fowl, fish and insects; the prohibition against mixing milk and meat together; the commandment to eat meat and
fowl properly slaughtered and deveined. The stated purpose of these laws is to make the Jewish people a holy nation (Leviticus, ch. 11; Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34; 26; Deuteronomy 14:21; T.B. Hullin, chapters 1,7 & 8; Shulchan Aruch - Yoreh Deah, Section 1).

Kibbud Av va’Em – honor your father and mother – The Biblical obligation to honor, revere, respect, and heed your parents. Only under specific conditions, when violation of other Jewish laws is at issue, may this value be overridden (Exodus 20:12; Kiddushin 30b; Maimonides, Mishne Torah, Laws of Mamrim; chapter 6).

Kupah – community fund for the needy – It is the obligation of every
Jewish community to establish a communal agency to collect resources and distribute them to the needy (M. Avot 2:7).

Lashon Harah, Rechilut - tale bearing – Rechilut prohibits statements
which are not true, whereas lashon harah expands this prohibition to include even factually truthful speech if it might possibly malign an individual or ruin a reputation. The gravity of the offence results from the fact that it is nearly impossible to retract these types of statements (T.B. Erchin 15b; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of De’ot, chapter 7).

Leket, Shichechah, Pe’ah -agricultural provisions for the poor – A series of ancient agricultural laws designed to guarantee that a portion of agriculturally produced products were left untouched in the fields for the poor to gather (Leviticus 19:9; 23:22).

Lifnei Iver Lo Titen Michshol - do not place a stumbling block
before a blind man – Applied to the sin of keeping someone in ignorance from information that will protect him/her, or to the sin of making it easier for someone else to commit crimes (Leviticus 19:14; Maimonides, Book of Commandments, neg. 299).

Lo Ta’amod Al Dam Rei’echa - do not stand by the blood of your
neighbor – The prohibition against passivity in the face of violence to others (Leviticus 19:16; T.B. Sanhedrin 73a).

M’sirah - [the prohibition] against delivering fellow Jews into the hands of unlawful non-Jewish authorities (Gitten 7a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Batterers and Damagers {Chovel u’Mazik} 8:9).

Ma’akeha L’Gagechah -erect a railing for your roof – The obligation to ensure that your own home does not prove dangerous and, more generally, to provide safe living conditions for other(Deuteronomy22:8).

Ma’aser -tithes – A series of taxes levied to support the Levite priests, who were originally designated as a landless tribe, and the poor, underscoring the community‟s obligation to provide the basic
necessities of life (Deuteronomy 26:12).

Milchemet Chovah -obligatory war – Laws that insist on war as a last resort in order to defend oneself (T.B. Sotah 44b).
Mishpat, Din – justice, law – A foundational set of rabbinic assumptions about the need for good government and a just legal system (Zechariah 8:26; M. Avot 1:18; 3:2; Deuteronomy Rabbah 5;
Sanhedrin 7a, 8a).

Mitzvah Haba’ah B’aveirah – a good deed made possible from a
wrongful act – The Talmudic version of stealing from the rich to feed the poor; the resulting mitzvah is voided (T.B. Sukah 30a).

Ona’at D’varim – verbal humiliation – Laws aimed at preventing people from verbally abusing one another ( Leviticus 25:14; Leviticus 25:20; T.B. Baba Metzia 58b).

Pidyon Sh’vuyim – the redemption of captives – The obligation to do everything in one‟s power to help release people who are trapped and suffering in some way (Isaiah 58:6; 61:1; Baba Bathra 8a; Talmud Yerushalmi Gittin 4:4; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 8:10).

Pikuach Nefesh – the saving of life – The highest Jewish obligation that overrides almost every other law
(Yoma 85b; Sanhedrin 4:5; Baba Mezia 62b).

R’tsichah – the prohibition against murder
(Exodus 20:13; M. Avot 5:9).

Rodef – pursuer – The obligation to actively intervene to prevent the murder or injury of innocent victims, even to the point of killing the aggressor (Leviticus 19:16; T.B. Sanhedrin 73a).

Sameach B’Chelko - one is rich if satisfied with what he/she has in life– Underscoring that happiness stems primarily from one‟s attitude rather than from material and spiritual possessions
(M. Avot 4:1).

Shalom Bayit -for the sake of peace in the house – The need to ensure that there are peaceful relations in one‟s home and family. This can also be extended to one‟s synagogue, workplace, or community
(Sanhedrin 76b; Yevamot 62b).

Sheker - falsehood – A set of laws and values designed to discourage falsehood, duplicity or hypocrisy (Exodus 23:7; Leviticus 19:11).

Shoftim = Judges – The only positive mitzvah of the seven Noachide laws; the universal obligation to set up a system of justice. This requires any human society to guarantee equal treatment
before the law for all people
(T.B. Sanhedrin 56-60).

T’shuvah -repentance – The obligation to provide individuals with the opportunity to repent for wrongful behavior. Jewish tradition provides means for a person to “cleanse his/her soul” of illicit
behavior towards both God and man (Maimonides, Laws of T’shuvah, chapters 1-10).

Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayyim - the pain of living creatures – A set of laws
prohibiting cruelty to animals and obligating acts of compassion and proper treatment of animals used to perform labor
(Shabbat 117b; Deuteronomy 22:9).

Tzedakah – righteousness; charity – One of the best known aspects of Jewish communal and religious life, encompassing a wide range of Biblical, Rabbinic and medieval institutions of Judaism
(T.B. Bava Batra 8b).

Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof - justice, justice, you must pursue – The obligation to actively promote justice (Leviticus 19.36; Deuteronomy 16.20; Zechariah 8.16-17; M. Avot1.18).

Tzelem Elohim -image of God – The foundational principle of Jewish ethics that every human being is created in the image of God and must be treated accordingly (Genesis 1:27; Genesis Rabbah 24).

Tzniut - modesty – Laws requiring people to conduct themselves, in dress and attitude, in a
non-ostentatious manner, designed to limit the power of the ego
(Micah 6:8; Numbers 24:5 - see commentary of Rashi).

Umot ha-Olam - other nations of the world – A set of principles recommending care and respect for gentiles, especially those who are vulnerable or in need (Kiddushin 33a; Pesachim 113b; Berachot 17a).

Ush’martem Et Nafshotaichem - and you shall protect your health
– The obligation to protect the general health of oneself and one‟s society (Deuteronomy 4.15; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Book of Knowledge, Laws of De’ot, chapter 4).

V’Shinantam L’Vanecha - and you shall teach your children – The mandate to teach and transmit the Torah to one‟s own children, one of the most important tasks of any Jewish parent (Deuteronomy 6:7; Maimonides - Laws of Talmud Torah).

Yatom, Almanah - orphan, widow – Series of laws obligating special care for orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 24:17; Isaiah 1:17; T.B. Ketubot 50a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Book of Knowledge, Laws of De’ot, 6:10).


Shanah Tovah!

The Jewish New Year 5770 begins at sunset September 18, 2009. The following message isn’t new. I had this on a blog that has now disappeared..for last year’s New Year message. I liked it so much I’m repeating it again THIS year.

The following is from a year old copy of The Arkansas Jewish Times published by Lubavitch of Arkansas. I do not have their permission to borrow from it, but since Chabad wants to reach out to everyone (and they managed to get me on their mailing list), I figure they would not mind if I share with you. Obviously, I do not always agree with them on everything or I would be a Chabadnik or Orthodox. I loved the following article so I‘m going to share it with you, too.
The portion I will share does not list the author on that page; I will assume and give credit to the editor Dassie Ciment. I am also going to edit it a bit for emphasis.

Our List vs. His List
“May you and yours be blessed with health and happiness throughout the coming year.” “May the blessings of health, peace and contentment be yours.” “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good, sweet year.”

At this time of year, wishes to friends and family for the upcoming year ahead abound. And our wishes usually contain what we hope we will have in our own lives, health, happiness, prosperity. We are, in essence, blessing our friends and hoping that God will hear our blessings and fulfill them.

That’s what we want from God. But what does God want from us?
Midrash records:
God tells the Jewish people, “My children, what do I ask from you? Only that you should love one another and respect one another.”

We ask God for health. All He asks is that we love each other.
We ask God for good jobs. All He asks is that we respect each other.
We ask God for emotional strength to get through hard times. All He asks is that we honor each other. We ask God for children whom we can be proud of. All he asks is that we be kind to each other.

Day after day, year after year, we present our lists of requests of what we want from God and what we want God to give to our loved ones.

Like a child let loose in Toys “R Us, we want this and that, and can’t we get one of these and two of those?

And like the ever patient parent, God says to us, “You are all my children. I would be happy to fulfill all of your requests. All I really need to see is that you treat each other with love and respect. That you are sensitive to each other’s needs and that you care for one another.”
Is this not what our parents wanted from us? Isn’t it what all parents want from their children? “Don’t give me the cards, the presents, the box of chocolates. Just be nice to each other. Just behave yourselves, “ our memory tapes replay, “ Don’t fight. Look, you made him cry! You don’t have to like her, but you do have to be nice to her because she’s your sister, she always was and she always will be!”

“My children, what do I ask from you? Only that you love one another and respect one another. “

For my brothers and sisters all over the world no matter if theist or atheist, Jew or non-Jew:

L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu - May you be inscribed for a good year!

Shalom y'all!