Home
In this issue
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

Why are the human and Divine relationships so easily compartmentalized?

By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg



Acquiring the capacity to love Him and each other

JewishWorldReview.com | Mark Twain once said, I was born to poor, but dishonest parents.

A humorist of lesser renown, the late Fred Englard of Denver, once commented on the Jewish dictum, "give much, give little; it makes no difference so long as one's heart is directed to Heaven."

Englard said: He who gives little also has to direct his heart to Heaven.

Twain introduces us to twists and turns in human relationships. Poverty is not necessarily redemptive, ethically speaking.

Englard introduces us to twists and turns in the relationship with G-d. Wealth is not necessarily disadvantageous, spiritually speaking.

Netziv (Rabbi Naphtali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, 1816-1892) adds still another twist in a comment on the opening of this week's Torah portion.

Under Netziv's interpretive lens, the usual classification of Jewish relationships is oversimplified. That classification embraces relationships "between man and his fellow" (ethics) and between "man and G-d" (spirituality, ritual, prayer).

The Torah portion opens, "Noah was a righteous person; he was wholehearted [perfect, unblemished] in his generations."

From time immemorial commentators have questioned the redundancy. If Noah was righteous, was he not wholehearted, and vice-versa? (Another age-old question concerns Noah in his generations, plural; that we'll leave for another time.)

Netziv comments:

Noah, described as "righteous," denotes Noah's relationship to G-d. Noah, described as "wholehearted," denotes his relationship to people.

Mark Twain and Fred Englard inform us that relations between people, and between people and G-d, may be subtle, not simple. A still more subtle issue: Is there a larger relationship between the two categories of relationships — ethics and spirituality —"between man and his fellow" and "between man and G-d"?

We often hear: So-and-so is a fine person, but not religious. Or: So-and-so is religious, but a crook.

This dichotomy may be true in some cases. But can we easily classify most people this way? Are the human and the Divine relationships so easily compartmentalized? Can ethics be essential to spirituality — can the human and Divine relationships be united?

For example, the fifth commandment reads: "Honor thy father and thy mother." This is an ethical demand. But is this all? If a child can develop a positive relationship with parents, honoring them, respecting them, loving them, then it is easier for a child to make a qualitative leap — to develop a positive relationship with the Creator.



How a person treats the most important people in his life (ethics) may be a harbinger of how he treats Someone (G-d) even more important (spirituality).

Conversely, if a person's relationship with his parents is troubled, it is harder for that person to make the qualitative leap, to develop a respectful, loving relationship with the Creator. Bottom line: There may be no easy and simple compartmentalization of ethics and spirituality.

The greatness of Noah may be that he was an integrated religious personality. His righteousness before G-d and his wholeheartedness with people may have reflected and reinforced each other.


A difficult variation on the same theme — the integration of ethics and spirituality — comes into play in two week's time in the Torah's most baffling passage (Gen. 22:1-19), in which Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac.

G-d commands Abraham, like no one before him or after him, to sacrifice his son Isaac — Abraham's personal, covenantal and demographic destiny. We'll leave for another time the meaning of G-d's command, and simply ask: How was Abraham able to carry this out? How could a human being develop the capacity to follow G-d so fully as to be able to obey this command?

Consistent with the view that one's relationship with G-d receives its training in human relationships (with parents, for example), perhaps there was an incident in Abraham's life that enabled him to accept G-d's command to sacrifice his son.


STIMULATION AND INSPIRATION

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes "must-reading". Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.


I heard from Rabbi Ron Y. Eisenman, spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, N.J., this possibility:

In the same Torah portion read in two weeks, Sarah tells Abraham to dispossess his son Ishmael (21:10-12), to drive him out of their home.

Now, there is no indication that Abraham loved Ishmael, the son of his concubine Hagar, any less than he loved Isaac, the son of his wife Sarah. Indeed, Scripture says of Abraham's response to Sarah's command, "the matter was extremely bad in Abraham's eyes." Whereupon G-d says to Abraham: "Let it not be bad in your eyes . . . everything Sarah tells you, heed her voice, because it is through Isaac that seed will be named after you."

Abraham obeys. He does that which is excruciatingly painful. He drives Ishmael out of his home.

Unknowingly, he prepares himself for his final and most difficult Divine test — to drive Isaac out of his life.


Through this unique event in the spiritual history of the Jews — the binding of Isaac — G-d implanted in the Jewish people the capacity to withstand any excruciating infliction. Indeed we have, from antiquity through the Holocaust.

Noah teaches that the opposite is true, too. Through Abraham and his love for Isaac, the Jewish people have acquired the capacity to love G-d and each other — a capacity to unite spirituality and ethics — first demonstrated by Noah.

Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

To comment, please click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is executive editor of the Intermountain Jewish News and the author of several books on biblical and Judaic themes.

© 2013, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

FOOT_DELIMITER ; echo $article_footer; } ?>