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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2007 / 7 Mar-Cheshvan 5768

Revolution through one word

By Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When studying the life of Abraham, we often wonder what made him into the first Jew in all of history. Without any doubt he must be seen as the progenitor of all that Judaism had to offer throughout the ages. As such he laid the foundations of nearly all religious thinking in the west. Not only did Judaism give birth to two other world religions — Christianity and Islam — but it also became the foundation of several legal systems, the concept of justice and western morality. What was Abraham's secret?


Conventional thinking argues that it is was Abraham who "discovered" G-d after mankind had fallen prey to idol worship and that this was his main contribution. This however cannot be the whole story. It is clear that other individuals also recognized G-d as their Lord. So we read that Avimelech, King of Gerar and Melchizedek king of Salem, believed in G-d seemingly even before they met Abraham. (Genesis 14)


On top of that, belief in G-d alone does not automatically lead to the need for morality and justice.


It was Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel (1883-1946), former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, who suggested that it was the replacement of only one word that made Abraham into the father of all western religions and justice. And it was this change which brought about a radical departure from conventional thinking for all future times.


When Adam meets his wife Eve for the first time (after she has been formed from his rib), he identifies her with the words: "This now is the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2.23).


This is a most remarkable statement since we would have anticipated that he would refer to her in spiritual rather than in physical terms. Somehow Adam was not able to see himself or his wife in terms of soul. This is even more startling when we realize they had not yet participated from the tree of knowledge and as such lived highly spiritual lives in the Garden of Eden.


During the following centuries we see that human beings continue to see themselves in terms of flesh. Even the Torah (Bible) which originally had called man "nefesh chaya" a living being, (2:7) continues to describe man in terms of his flesh. This becomes very clear when we read the story about the flood of Noah.


"And G-d saw the earth and behold, it was corrupt for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth." (6.12)


Only when Abraham enters the Biblical narrative, is man never again described as flesh. From this moment onwards he is called soul (nefesh). (See, for example, Genesis 12:13)


This possibly means that Abraham's most important contribution was not so much the discovery of G-d but to teach mankind that the human being is not so much flesh as he/she is soul. And once the word flesh is replaced by the word nefesh, the foundations of morality become possible and the concept of religion is able to undergo a radical change. No longer is its function to make man just aware of G-d's existence, but the driving force behind moral values. From this moment it taught the human being that since he has a soul he is a moral being and henceforth responsible for his deeds.


Remarkable is the fact that Abraham's personality must have been so inspiring that once he met a stranger, the latter automatically changed his language from physical to spiritual. Even the King of Sodom, far from being righteous, could no longer employ his old sensual expressions. When speaking to Abraham after the latter had rescued Lot, he says: "Give me the souls and take the goods for yourself" (13:21)


One has only to recall the abominable practices associated with the old polytheistic cults and Plato's criticism of the Greek religion because of the great moral evils it bred, to realize that the relation of religion to morals is by no means obvious. It was only in Judaism that the idea of the inseparableness of religion and ethical living arose. And from there this concept was taken over by Christianity, Islam and different legal systems. It is only because man is seen in terms of soul that he is asked to be ethical.


Once that is established, values such as "kedusha" (holiness) and "tahara" (spiritual purity) become possible.


All this became part of western civilization once Abraham revolutionized the world by replacing the word flesh with soul.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a world-renowned lecturer and ambassador for Judaism, the Jewish people, the State of Israel and Sephardic Heritage. Comment by clicking here.


© 2007, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo