In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

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 Nov. 6, 2006 / 15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767

The bundle of life

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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Does future reward make ethical behavior selfish?

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: You wrote that judgment after death helps induce people to act ethically. Isn't that a selfish reason to act properly?

A: I received many responses to the column on the ethical significance of life after death in Jewish belief. The most common question was the one above, but there were many other questions as well. I will try to clarify some of the points this week.

Judgment for our acts is certainly a fundamental part of Jewish faith. Maimonides includes it among the 13 foundations of Jewish belief. (1) (Belief in resurrection is also among the 13 foundations.) Yet most of us feel strongly that ethical behavior is not only a question of right acts, but also of right motives. Acting ethically out of self-interest is not really ethical, but rather expedient.

Our sages confirm this. The Mishnah instructs us: "Don't be like those who serve the Master in order to obtain a reward." (2) Maimonides' Code also emphasizes that the ideal of divine service is when it is motivated not by desire for reward or fear of punishment, but rather by love of G-d:

"One who serves out of love is occupied with Torah and commandments and goes in the ways of wisdom not because of anything in the world, and no because of fear of harm and not in order to obtain good. Rather, he does what is true because it is true, and in the end good will come out of it." (3)

However, this is far from nullifying the ethical importance of reward and punishment. Even if a person doesn't act on the basis of incentives, it is still fair and appropriate for G-d to reward those who act righteously. Note that Maimonides concludes that "in the end good will come of it." So even if selfishness is a second-best motivator, it is still a moral necessity.

There is also a deeper approach to understanding the idea of selfishness in Jewish belief, especially with respect to the final judgment. If we conceive of each person as a distinct, atomistic self, then acting only on selfish motives is merely a question of expedience, though we must always acknowledge that base motives do not nullify the importance of a good act. But this narrow understanding of selfhood is completely inadequate to comprehend the Jewish concept of reward and punishment in the World of Truth. Let us elaborate a bit.

The book of Samuel tells that David, before he was king, had a band of followers in the area of Maon and Carmel, south of Hebron. Abigail, the wife of Nabal, went to greet David and his men and brought them provisions. Abigail also gave David a special blessing:

"Even if a man comes to pursue you and seek your soul, may the soul of my lord be bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord, and the souls of your enemies shall he sling out from the hollow of a sling" (I Samuel 25:29).

The translation of the Tanna (pre-Talmudic authority) Yonasan ben Uziel, translates "bundle of life" as "eternal life." While the soul persists after death, it doesn't continue as a solitary free agent, as we sometimes feel in this world. It joins a great bundle of life; after death the soul recognizes the unity and interconnectedness of all human life. Even in this world all of humanity, and most especially all of the Jewish people, are bound up in a bundle of life and a deep spiritual bond, but here it is difficult to perceive this connection. However, after death the artificial boundaries between souls disappear, and all souls, while maintaining a degree of individuality, clearly perceive that they are one piece of a unified whole.

It follows that any benefice or sorrow we experience in the World of Truth is, by its nature, common to all humanity (actually to all life). When someone has an adequate understanding of this concept, then any right action he or she does out of a desire for future reward or to avoid future punishment is by its nature something done on behalf of the entire world.

SOURCES: (1) Maimonides commentary on the Mishnah, chapter 10. (2) Mishnah Avos 1:3 (3) Maimonides' Code, Laws of Repentance 10:2

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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The whole truth — Even in the marketplace?
Judaism and the afterlife: Reincarnation, heaven and hell
The Jewish belief in resurrection of the dead affects how will live in the here and now
Ethical guidelines on what to say and what's proper to keep to yourself
Is it wrong to get credit for something you didn't do?
Ethics and sportsmanship
The ethics of forwarding email
Must a supplier honor a discount offered by a rogue sales representative?
Should I boycott my daughter's fashion show?
Should you respond to all those annoying email pop-up requests?
Do I have to reimburse someone who tried to do me a favor?
Seeking credit card debt settlement
Can I threaten to spread the word about someone who cheated me?
How can the terminally ill tap into their life insurance?
Is there value in an unhappy marriage?
Where does the Almighty fit into your corporation's mission statement?
Does an expert witness have to be impartial?
Should I give recognition to a modest man who did a great deed?
In representing my firm, can I tell a white lie?
Defrauding insurance to save a life
Can top level management unilaterally give away money to corporate dollars to charity?
Loans to Family Members
How much worker supervision is too much?
Should I turn in a colleague for inappropriate acts?
Priority in charitable giving
Trolls and ogres
How many hours of work is too many?
Can I promote my product by having it unobtrusively written into a story?
He's not heavy he's my brother
All's fair in war?, II
All's fair in war?
Girth vs. worth
Is it proper to tax bequests?
Ethics of Being Overweight
Penalized for working swiftly
When is it a bluff?
'Rate and switch'
My paycheck is late!
Should schools cater to an elite?
All's fair in love?
Comfort and Competition
Do I need the caller's permission to put a call on the speakerphone?
Overtime for lost time
Is it unethical to play suppliers against each other to get the lowest bid possible?
Do family members have precedence in charity allotments?
What the world of business can teach us about our annual process of repentance and renewal
Are religious leaders subject to criticism?
Vindictive Vendor: How can I punish an abusive competitor?
Blogging Ethics: Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts?

© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics