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May 11, 1984 - Image 60

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-05-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

60 Friday, May 11, 1984

FOCUS

Toronto Jewish SINGLES Weekend
JULY 5th-8th

You'll meet the riicest people, 30's and up, Dine, Dance, Swim,
$90. — Canadian, plus hotel.
Fred Wolff, 164 Lyndhurst Ave., Toronto, Canada M5R 2Z9.'

(416) 923-4303 or 638-0202.

•• • • • • •

Torah principles and the Golden Rule

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

Jewish Community Center Singles Trip to Israel

BY IRVING GREENBERG
Special to The Jewish News

June 16-27, 1984 • Total Price Per Person Only $1,399.00
INCLUDES:
Accommodations In double



• Round trip air Detroit -
Tel Aviv - Detroit.
• Meeting and assistance at
Ben Gurion Airport In Tel
Aviv on arrival and departure

• Transfers.
• Porterage and entrance fees
• Tours conducted by deluxe,
air-conditioned coach by
licensed government guide.

New York

Is there one
great principle from which
the whole Torah can be de-
rived? Can the traditional
613 mitzvot (command-
ments) and the thousands of
stories, parables, and say-
ings in the Jewish tradition
be boiled down to one es-
sence that captures it all?
This possibility has chal-
lenged rabbis in every gen-

rooms (If you are alone we
ask to match you).
• Israeli breakfast all along.
• Boatride on the Sea of
Galilee & ascencion to
Masada by cable car.
• Interview with (Hello
Jerusalem) cable television

program.
• A folklore eve on the last
day day's stay in Jerusalem.

Ask for our Israel Specialist: Suzy Goldsmith



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eration, and more than one
has offered a personal
summation.
The classic one was ex-
pressed when a non-Jew
promised to convert to
Judaism on condition that
Hillel teach the entire
Torah "on one foot." The
great scholar replied:
"What is hateful to you, do
not do to another. This is the
Torah in its entirety." Hillel
then added: "All the rest is
commentary. Go and learn."
(Talmud, Shabbat 31.)
Rabbi Akiba, one of the
greatest Talmudic scholars,
considered the essence of
the Torah to be found in
Leviticus: You shall love
your neighbor as yourself"
(Leviticus 19:18). Rabbi
Akiba said: "This is a great
principle in the Torah"
(Sifra 89).
Akiba implied two things
here. One, the essential
purpose of the Torah is to
bring people to ethical ac-
tion that grows out of love of
another human being; and
two, all the rituals, prayers,
and holy days must be un-
derstood as rnitzvot nurtur-
ing or expressing the ethical
imperative. Even the most
formal and seemingly irra-
tional ritual is designed to
sensitize the human being
to greater love and concern
for others. It is up to us to
discover the connection be-
tween the ritual and its un-
derlying purpose.
Another Talmudic pas-
sage sees the essence of the
Torah as imitatio dei, to
emulate God. "(You shall)
walk in all God's ways."
Says the Sifra: "The mean-
ing is to follow the attri-
butes of the Holy One. Just
g..(kci.is,,613-ribas1Rifitterta "'DA-
be compassionate and gra-
cious; just as the Holy One is
righteous, so, too, shall you
be righteous; just as the
Holy One is loving, so
should you be loving." Here
the emphasis is on the
model for the type of human
being the Torah seeks to de-
velop. The 19th Century
Rabbi Israel Salanter sum-
marized it: "The Torah was
given to make a person a
mentsch."
Rabbi Ben-Azzai dis-
agreed with Akiba's sum-
mary of the Torah as the
Golden Rule: "The verse,
`This is the book of the gen-
erations of the human (race)
in the day God created the
human in the image of God
. . " (Genesis 5:1), he said,
"is even greater" (Sifra
89B). In Ben-Azzai's view,
the bedrock of the Torah is
that the human being was
created in the image of God.
As images of God, each
human being has infinite
value. This is why the Tal-
mud says, "If you save one
life, it is like saving a whole
world." Each image of God

is equal. There is no pre-
ferred image of God. Nor
does God have any color or
gender. And while
human-made images such
as stamps or coins all re-
semble each other, each
image of GO'd is unique. If
you've seen one, you haven't
seen 'em all.

In Ben-Azzai's view, the
Torah's call is to create
more human beings in the

Living as we do
after the
Holocaust, the
concept of the
image of God has
greater urgency
and meaning for
us than ever.

image of God, to treat all
with infinite value and
equality — and to structure
political, social and eco-
nomic reality to make this
possible. __Without food and
shelter, without medicine,
without justice, and without
equality, human beings are
denied their infinite value.
Furthermore, the world
itself must be perfected so
that society can wish as well
as afford to treat each per-
son with total dignity. Thus,
societal justice is a central
concern of Judaism. The
Messianic age is one of
peace, prosperity, and jus-
tice which will pave the way
for the full flowering of
human relationships and
spirituality.
. -
rituarrn &Toni's_ view, no
vorced from the creation of
images of God, however un-
related to this ethos that it
might seem. Kashrut
teaches the sacredness of all
life, which engenders rever-
ence for human life. Restric-
tions on planting certain
grains together or mixing
certain textiles in weaving
teach respect for the
uniqueness of each species.
Shabbat teaches that hu-
mans have intrinsic value
even when not actively
engaged in producing mate-
rial goods.
Living as we do after the
Holocaust, the concept of
the image of God has
greater urgency and mean-
ing for us than ever. In an
era which witnessed mass
murder without divine in-
tervention, the best way of
expressing religious con-
sciousness is not to talk
about God but to create im-
ages of God that testify to
the presence of the Divine,
whose image they are.
In an era when Jewish
children were burned alive
to save a half-penny's worth

of gas, the fundamental
religious act is to restore the
infinite value of every
human being.
Anything that degrade*
— poverty, sickness, op-
pression; anything t
sults — stereotypes,
udices, inequality — cannot
be accepted. To mend the
world, there must be a new
primary to the commitment_
to restore the image of Go&
and to create the conditions
that nurture the infinite
value of each and every in-
dividual.
This is why people
everywhere demand dignity
and refuse to accept that the
conditions they were born
into will destine them for
nasty, brutish, and short
lives. This, too, is why Jews
created Israel as well as an
unparalled structure of
philanthropy to rescue and
rehabilitate the oppressed.
Observant Jews are chal-
lenged to lead people to the
essence of the Torah
through the myriad of
Non-
Jewish mitzvot.
observant Jews are chal-
lenged to discover the ways._
in whth the infinite value
of the human being needs to
be — and can be — nurtured
by tradition.
All the rest is commen-
tary — a commentary writ-
ten with out actions. The
way we treasure life, the
way we help others, the
communities we create are
our ,expressions of the es-
sence of the Torah and of the
renewal of Jewish hope
after the Holocaust.

Copyright 1984, the National
Jewish Resource Center.
Irving Greenberg is president of
the National Jewish Resource
Center.

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