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August 29, 1969 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1969-08-29

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Purely Commentary



Our Ethical Codes . • . 'Birthright of Man'
Shares Our Teachings With All Nations

By Philip
Slomovitz

Our Treasured Ethical Codes

Wherein do Jewish teachings retain their high ethical qualities that contribute towards survival and
perpetuation of the highest goals imaginable for a people that is hoary with age yet retains its youth
Jeanne Hersch has incorporated many treasured teachings from
in the spirit of its sages?
How universalistic are the instructions contained in the folklore of the people of Israel that holds Jewish lore in the UNESCO volume "Birthright of Man." Here are
some
of the valued admonitions and teachings:
fast to imperishable traditions?
On "Universality," from Midrash Yalkut:
If we boast, we will surely be accused of chauvinism. Yet, because the ideals we adhere to are so
The just among the Gentiles are the priests of God. i call heaven
'
and earth to witness that whether a person be Jew or Gentile, man
vital, so inseparably linked with Torah, with the Oral as well as the Written Law, we choose to speak of
a very moral code that elevates Israel and its teachings to the highest levels in human considerations.
or woman, manservant or maidservant, according to his acts does the
Divine Spirit rest upon him.
We are blessed with a collection of the evidence to affirm these contentions.

Other peoples make their gifts to mankind with their moral codes and ethical teachings. A UNESCO
(United Nations Educational. Scientific and Cultural Organization) volume, "Birthright of Man"
(issued by UNIPUB, Inc.. 650 First Ave., NY 16), proves it. The wisdom of the ages and of the nations of
the world is incorporated in this wonderful selection of texts which was prepared under the direction of
Jeanne Hersch. Yet there are some gems that are so specifically ours, are so deeply rooted in Hebraic lore,
in biblical teachings. in rabbinic interpretation, that we take special pride in that which is our heritage.
Therefore we place emphasis on the Hebraic mortar that hinds us to our tradition.
*
We draw from this work the proscription on oppressions. the adherence to the principles that call
for liberty and equality of man, the forbidding of murder, the universality of the right to life's privileges
for all men.
It was wise for the compiler of this vast treasure to commence with a quotation from Mariano
Moreno, uttered Dec. 8, 1810: "Any tyrant can compel his slaves to sing hymns in praise of liberty."
It leads right into a text that makes the freedom of man emerge as a birthright not to be denied.
It is the universality that is vital. That is why in dealing with mankind's common origin and tradition
there is the quotation from the Talmud Babli:
in all the corners
Rabbi Meir said: "The dust from which the first man was made was gathered
of the world."
And there is the admonition on the right to hire labor, from Deuteronomy 24:
brethren,
Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy
or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates:
it;
for
he
is poor,
upon
At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down
and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee.
So much bile has secreted out of human bigotry about Jews. who have been maligned about the
Talmud and other teachings, that it is necessary to quote in the spirit of "Unity Through Justice," this
regulation from Sefer Hasidim, based on a 12th Century tradition:
against the Jew in order to
If a Jew attempts to kill an innocent Gentile, every Jew must go out
save the Gentile.
s
*
At this point it is vital to indicate that in Jewish tradition there is "law against force." that capital
punishment is practically forbidden, that, as stated in the Talmud, Malkut 7:
A sanhedrin (court) which puts someone to death once in seven years deserves to be called a
murderer; rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah says: once in seventy years; rabbi Tarphon and rabbi Akira say:
if we were in the sanhedrin no one would ever be sentenced to death.
And not to be glossed over is another declaration in the Talmud. Sanredrin 4:
Only one single man was created in the world, to teach that, if any man has caused a single soul
to perish, Scripture imputes it to him as though he had caused a whole world to perish: and if
any man saves alive a single soul, Scripture imputes it to him as though he had saved a whole world.
to
Again, but a single Mali was created for the sake of peace among mankind, that none should say are
his fellow. "My father was greater than your father": also that the heretics should not say, "There
many ruling powers in heaven." Again, but a single man was created to proclaim the greatness of
God, for man stamps many coins with one die, and they all like to one another: but God has stamped
every man with the die of the first man, yet not one of them is like his fellow. Therefore every one
must say. 'For my sake was the world created.'

On "Servitude and Violence." from Deuteronomy 23:

And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land
of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command
thee this thing today.
And on "Slavery and Exploitation — Master and Slave," from

Deuteronomy 15:

Thou shalt not deliver to his master a bondsman that is escaped
from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee in the midst
of thee, in the place which he shall choose within one of thy gates,
where it liketh him best; thou shalt not wrong him.
In Leviticus 25 we read: "For unto me the children of Israel are
servants." And the comment in the Talmud, Kiddushin 22. is: "But not
servants unto servants."

In Jewish tradition, slavery is contrary to human

read in I Samuel 8:

nature. We

When the Jews asked Samuel to appoint over them a King, he
told them of what use a King could be;
This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over your
he will take your sons and appoint them unto him for his chariots,
to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots. And
he shall appoint them unto hint for captains of thousands, and cap-
tains of fifties; and to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and
to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots..
And he will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks,
and to be bakers. And he will take your fields and your vineyards,
and your oliceyards, even the best of them, and give them to his
servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vine-
yards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take
your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young
men and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth
of your flocks: and you shall be his servants.
Being a creditor is matter of real concern and our Scriptures

do not overlook responsibility involved in borrowing and lending. In
Exodus 22 it is asserted:
If thou lend money to any of my people, even to the poor with

thee, thou shall not be to hit as a creditor; neither shall ye lay upon
him interest. If thou at all take thy neighbor's garment to pledge,
thou shalt restore it unto him by that the sun 'goeth down: for that
is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin: wherein shall he
sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will
hear; for I am gracious.

Then there is the matter of tolerance and faith, and we have this
message in Micah 4:
But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of
the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the moun-
tains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow
unto it.
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up
So much is being said even now by Nazis. pro-Na zis and their defenders about the exoneration for
to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob;
crimes which were committed on orders from superiors that it is important for the Jewish tradition to
and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for
the law shall go forth of Zion. and the word of the Lord from Jeru-
be known. From Talmud Yoma 23 is culled this declaration:
-4-
salem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong
A man came to Raba and said, "The prefect of my town has ordered me to kill so and so, or
that
nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
you
think
should
he will kill me. - Raba said, "Let him kill you; do you commit no murder. Why
and
their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not Oft up a
blood
is
redder
than
his?
Perhaps
his
is
redder
than
yours."
your
against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.• But
sword
Related to it is the assertion by Yehudah Lavai, son of Bezalel (1512-1609, Prague):
they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and
Every being rules over himself, for of all beings, only animals are worthy to be ruled by others.
none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts
It is a primary axion that a being is his own ruler.
hath spoken it.
For all people walk every one in the name of his god, and we
And then there is this gem from Psalm 8:
will
walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.
What is man, that Thou art mindful of hint?
On the same subject, there is this story in Talmud Babli:
And the son of man, that Thou thinkest of hint?
For three years the disciples of Hillel and those of Shama{
Yet Thou host made him but little lower than the angels,
disputed among themselves. The former said: 'We have the truth',
and the latter 'We have the truth' At length, a voice from Heaven
.4nd host crowned him with glory and honor.
settled their dispute, saying that both of them spoke the true words
Thou host made him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands.
of God, but that judgment would be in favor of the disciples of
vengeance,
in
acquiring
seeking
satisfaction
in
'
Hillel; and if anyone were to ask why, it was because their manners
There is an especially vital Jewish command ag:inst
were mild and forbearing, because they taught not only their own
satisfaction from human .suffering.
ideas but those of Shamai too, and because they always quoted the
We have a very strong admonition in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 39:
words of Shamai before their own.
The Bible tells how Pharaoh pursued the Hebrews into the desert until they were stopped by the
One must never put his fellow man to shame. In the Talmud,
sea. God divided the waters, letting the Hebrews pass and drowning the Egyptians beneath the waves. Ta'anit 20, there is this story:
Moses sang a hymn to God for the miraculous deliverance of His people. The Talmud odds:
The story is told of Rabbi Eleazar ben Shimon who happened to
When Moses began to sing his hymn the angels also burst out singing but the Holy-Otte —
meet an ugly person. The man greeted the rabbi. The rabbi offered
blessed be He—said to them: The works of my hand are drowning, and you sing a song?
710 greeting but shouted: 'You good for nothing ! Are all the inhabit-
ants of your town as ugly as you are?' The person replied: 'I don't
know, but you should really tell the artisan zvho fashioned me: what
There is the matter of social rights. In Deuteron omy, linked with the observance of a day of rest,
ugly vessel you made.' The rabbi then realized his terrible sin and
an
we have the sound advice for rest, for sanctity in life, through kindness to fellow man:
asked the man's forgiveness.
Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou
*
shalt labor,' and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou
Slavery and exploitation, servitude an d violence are frowned 'upon,
shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maidrservant,
nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of the cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy and on the question of master and slave relations we read in Leviticus
man-servant and thy maid - servant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant 25:
And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty
in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and
throughout the land unto all the inhibitants thereof; it shot/ be
by a stretched out ann: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.
a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his posses-
In Maimonides' Mishne Torah (12th Century),there is a revolutionary rule for teachers and teaching:
sion, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
It is forbidden to give oral instruction in Torah for payment. It was said (by Moses): "Take
We turn to the Talmud (Avot 4) about this admonition of man-
heed, for I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord commanded . . . I learnt them
kind's
common origin and condition:
without payment, and so I teach them to you, and you shall do likewise for ever."
Ben Azzai said: 'Do not despise any person and do not discard
Also from Maimonides, from A Doctor's Prayer, is culled this bit of wisdom:
anything, for there is not a man in the world for whom the hour
Let nze, oh Lord, by my knowledge discover today what I did not know yesterday, because art
does not strike and there is not a thing in the world for which
has no end, and because the spirit of man always presses onwards.
there is no place.'
In reference to God, to nature, to divine protection of the unhappy; to civil liberty and justice,
On property values we read in Isaiah 3:
Woe unto them that join house to house, then Lay field to field,
Leviticus 19 teaches us:
you
as
one
till
there be no room and ye be made to dwell alone in the midst of
born among you, and thou
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto
the land.
shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am time Lord your God.

"The Birthright of Man," the UNESCO
anthology, offers us testimony of the wis-

dom of the nations of the world. All
peoples have good to offer. We learn from
the Hadith, the Satin of the Prophet: "All
men are equal like the teeth of a comb."
We turn to the African Fulahi proverb:
"Men are like two dirty hands. One of them
can only be washed by the other."

We learn from the Magna Charts of 1215:

2—Friday, August 29, '1969

"No freeman shall be captured or imprison-
ed or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled
or in any way destroyed, nor will it go
against him or send against him, except by
the lawful judgment of his peers and by
the law of the land."

We acquire knowledge from the Tamil
where we find the saying of the Sangham
period: "All this world is mine and all men

are my brothers."

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

And there is the Akan proverb from
Ghana: "It is man who counts: I call upon

gold, it answers not; I call upon cloth: it
answers not; it is man who counts."

John Donne. (1624) taught us: "... Any

man's death diminishes me, because I am
involved in Mankind; And therefore never
send to know for whom the bell tolls; it
tolls for thee."

UNESCO's "The Birthright of Man" is

replete with the wisdom of the Jewish
sages. We turn to them—not in chauvinism
but as a reminder of the treasures that are
ours, of the wealth that is in Jewish tradi-
tion, of the lessons for all mankind in the
testaments we share with all peoples and
from which all mankind benefits.

It is with a measure of pride that we
share them here with our readers.

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