Friday, January 24, 2014

What's your answer to the Jewish Question?

The purpose of this blog is to help your family and friends feel smarter at the Shabbat table. Please print and share.

gI_0_mystmanSomeone asked me the other day about how to deal with a bad neighbor.

Ever happen to you? That you had a malicious, vindictive, or otherwise harmful neighbor?

What did you do?

Here's an answer in good rabbinic style, in the form of quesitons.

First question, see if anyone can guess what famous person said this:

"Some people like Jews and some do not; but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are, beyond all question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world....

We owe to the Jews…a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together. On that system and by that faith there has been built out of the wreck of the Roman Empire the whole of our existing civilization."

Do you want a hint?

The same guy who said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Same guy who said, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Still don't know?

How about this one: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

Yes, indeed, it was Sir Winston Churchill.

But the more important second question to ask is: What did he mean by "system of ethics"?

Churchill's knowledge of Judaism was mainly through the eyes of Christianity. But he was giving credit where credit is due. He got that Christian ethics is largely a reframing of Jewish ethics.

That takes us to the third question for your table: What's your favorite ethical teaching from the Torah?

The easiest answer is the Golden Rule or the verse, "love your neighbor as yourself".

Here's mine:
When you see the donkey of your enemy struggling under its burden you should help him reload the donkey.

Now why in the world should you help your enemy?

And does it matter if you help him with a frown or a smile?

And what does this imply about helping someone who isn't your enemy?

And what does this imply about being Jewish?

Shabbat Shalom

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." - Churchill (the original tweeter)

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