Judaism

What are some basic teachings of Jewish ethics?

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2018-01-28 07:06:00
2018-01-28 07:06:00
  • Judaism has an all-enveloping and passionate dedication to the ideal of justice. The moral imperatives of justice, ethics and morality were taught by the Torah and the Jewish prophets, so that they are religious ideals and obligations, rather than just good behavior. We are obligated to care for the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-8), the widow, orphan and stranger (Exodus 22:20-21), the Levites (Deuteronomy 12:17-19) and the landless. We are also warned against corruption, bribery, misuse of power, and mistreatment of workers. The Torah specifies rights for women and other groups. The Torah teaches the ideal of justice for the benefit of society and the moral guidance of the individual. The relevant verses are mixed in with other Torah-topics so that the message is imbibed as part of the whole.
  • Judaism addresses in depth and in detail the obligations of the individual and the community to other individuals. A Jew has a legal obligation to help someone in need (e.g. Leviticus 19:16, Exodus 23:5); and to be a bystander in such a case is a Torah-violation. Tradition states that every Jew should exhibit the characteristic of chesed, meaning the ability to go beyond the requirement of the law to help others. The Talmud states that mercy and kindness should be among the defining traits of every Jew (Talmud, Yevamot 79a).
  • Personal Relationships: The rabbis stressed the necessity for people to help each other. In order to survive, all human beings must practice mutual aid. Rabbi Akiva qualifies that the initial duty of every person is to him/herself in order that s/he then be able to care for others.
  • Compassion, humility, a charitable spirit, forgiveness and good manners are also desirable qualities of the Jew in personal relationships. The Jewish sages specified in detail the attributes which are expected of us.
  • Work and Business Ethics: Being ethical in business is an essential value in Judaism; such as paying workers on time (Leviticus 19:13), keeping honest weights and measures (Leviticus 19:36), and repaying damages (Exodus 22:4-5). These laws are discussed at great length in the Talmud. The Forefathers themselves were the earliest examples of this kind of carefulness, which has permeated the Torah ever since (for example, Genesis ch.31, and Rashi commentary on Genesis 24:10.)
  • Environmental Ethics: Judaism has a heightened sensitivity to the world around us, reflected in the Torah and by the Rabbis and their later rulings. Judaism created specific laws in this area that predated modern laws by thousands of years. For example, the Talmud rules that there must remain distance between industrial and rural areas to create a healthy ecological balance. Garbage must not pollute public property. Maimonides states that causing air pollution through smoke, dust, and noxious smells is not permitted even if no one protests. Water must not cause damage or pollution. Noise must not create a nuisance to the human environment.
  • The laws of sh'mittah, by which the land must lie fallow every seventh year (Leviticus ch.25), are to preserve the earth and maintain its fertility. These laws are observed in Israel to this day, by religious farmers.
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2015-01-10 23:45:14
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"Do not do to your fellow what what you dislike (being done to you)." Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
The moral imperatives of justice, ethics and morality were taught in detail by the Torah and the Jewish prophets, so that they are religious ideals and obligations, rather than just good behavior. We are obligated to care for the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-8), the widow, orphan and stranger (Exodus 22:20-21), the Levites (Deuteronomy 12:17-19) and the landless. We are also warned against corruption, bribery, misuse of power, and mistreatment of workers. The Torah specifies rights for women and other groups. The Torah teaches the ideal of justice for the benefit of society and the moral guidance of the individual.
Quote:
"I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation ... fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations" (John Adams, 2nd President of the United States).
"Certainly, the world without the Jews would have been a radically different place. Humanity might have eventually stumbled upon all the Jewish insights, but we cannot be sure. All the great conceptual discoveries of the human intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they had been revealed, but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jews had this gift. To them we owe the idea of equality before the law, both Divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person; of the individual conscience and of the collective conscience and social responsibility" (Paul Johnson, Christian historian, author of A History of the Jews and A History of Christianity).

See also the Related Links.

Link: Are non-Jews expected to keep these laws?

Link: Jewish ethics

Link: How do the Scriptures and Talmud teach the Jewish ideas of justice?

Link: Judaism's influence

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