We read several times in this double reading an interesting phrase:
Speak to all the congregation of the people of
, and say to them, You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy. [Leviticus 19:2] Israel
And you shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from other people, that you should be mine. [Leviticus 20:26]
If I were to ask most people they would be hard pressed to tell me 10% of that list. Could you name just five? Try it right now –stop reading for fifteen seconds and see how many you can list.
1. You shall love your neighbor as yourself; [19:18]
2. You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reason with your neighbor, and not allow sin on his account[19:17]
3. You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind,[19:14]
4. You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people;[19:16]
5. You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie one to another.[19:11]
Much of the ethical principles are there sitting in these two chapters. To do these ethical things is to be as holy as God. I have to wonder why we are not familiar with where the golden rule shows up in Torah.
One of the problems with education is there is a limited time to study an immense amount of material. IN much of the medieval period, Talmudic study was far more emphasized than Tanach – many students, it is clear did not study anything in Tanach that wasn’t referenced in the Talmud. Classical Reform, 120 years ago believed that the Torah was obsolete and that it was the prophetic literature we should study and teach. But one teacher gave a much simpler answer:
On another occasion it happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, ‘Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.’ Thereupon he repulsed him with the cubit-length ruler which was in his hand. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.’[Shabbat31a]
All of Judaism is a commentary to Leviticus 19:17-18 according to Hillel. Yet there is another teacher who mentioned the golden rule:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O
, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' (Deut 6) The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'(Lev 19) There is no commandment greater than these." "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." [Mark 12:28-33] Israel
This story, also found in Matthew 22, cites Jesus as the source of the golden rule, and if you ask most people they will tell you the golden rule originates in the New Testament. The thing that disturbs me is how many times I’ve heard even Jews mention the golden rule as a Christian rule, totally unaware of Leviticus 19:17.
Hillel died around 10 CE, a few decades before Jesus was preaching. “The teacher of the law” may very well have been a direct disciple of Hillel, one of the members of the school known in the Talmud as Beit Hillel. Beit Hillel was the leading school of rabbinic Judaism and rather lenient in their rulings about halakah compared to their rival school Beit Shammai. Of Beit Hillel we know:
Hillel the Elder had eighty disciples. Thirty of them deserved that the Shechinah would rest upon them as [upon] Moses our teacher. Thirty of them deserved that the sun would stand [still] for them as [for] Joshua the son of Nun. Twenty were of an average character. The greatest of them was Jonathan b. Uzziel; the least of them was R. Johanan b. Zakkai. [Baba Batra 134a]
In an ironic understatement, Johanan b. Zakkai, the founder of the
While I am bothered by my not knowing where the golden rule is, I know where to blame. My early education was insufficient. My early Jewish education was almost exclusively Zionist. We leaned where Tel Aviv and
At the same time I was introduced to Taoism in a high school comparative religion Class, with the first two verses of the Tao Te Ching
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
The Name that can be named is not the Eternal Name
I saw a parallel between these passages of Torah and Tao. I asked my rabbi about it, who promptly and rather rudely rebuffed me. It was the last straw. I left Torah behind, and studied the Tao instead. I’m sad to say, I’m not the only one. All of the Jewish demographic studies point to an increasing abandoning of Judaism for either atheism or other religions. As this cannot be completely be accounted for by intermarriage, intermarriage itself may be a symptom of a bigger problem: a lack of a learned Jewish religious identity. If one erroneously thinks Mark and Matthew say the same thing as Torah, why stay Jewish? If anyone who has an ethical problem with the Israeli government is labeled a self-hating Jew, and is thus hated by other Jews, why stay Jewish? If Christians or Buddhists are more accepting of you for your ignorance of religion, why stay Jewish?
He used to say: it is not [incumbent] upon you to finish the work, but neither are you a free man so as to [be entitled to] refrain from it; if you have studied much Torah, they give you much reward, and faithful is your employer to pay you the reward of your labor; and know that the grant of reward unto the righteous is for the future. [Avot 2:16]
While R. Tarfon may have meant by “future” was the afterlife, I believe in these times “future” means the future of the Jewish people. It is my hope we can all be righteous and holy enough for such a reward.