Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


In order to address the metaphysical meaning of justice, we must first go back to two statements in Genesis 1.  These are "And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." and you shall "have dominion over" (or "rule over") all that is upon the earth. 

Adam and Eve are the allegorical representation of all of humanity.  Therefore, we are all made in "God's image".  If we are truly "made in God's image", then we must respect ourselves.  Otherwise, we would be demeaning God.  In addition, since everyone is made in the image of God we must learn to respect others for who they are.  This requires that every person in a community will respect their neighbor as they respect themselves.

The second statement raises a question.  What is dominion in the context of the Torah?  You cannot understand any document or statement unless you know its context.  From the context of the entire Torah, the specific meaning of dominion is responsibility.  These two statements come together when we recognize that no one can accept responsibility without self-respect.

In order to have a just society, every person in the community must be responsible for his/her actions.  Justice is the result of the value system that determines the nature of that responsibility.    Justice is not a system of laws.  It establishes the manner in which the law is applied.  Laws are dependent upon the society's value system.  History has taught us that the most law-abiding nation can produce evil when the law is perverted.  A nation of laws does not necessarily produce a just society.  A just society produces a just legal system.

Then we must ask can humans, left to their own devices, establish a just society?  Genesis 1 asserts that God is the creator and, therefore, the governor of the universe.  George Washington maintained, "It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible."  From the perspective of the Anthropic Principal, we are observers and the observed. As the observed, we are subject to the governance of the universe.  Whether, our perspective is metaphysical or scientific, we are governed by something that exists beyond us.  It is this "something" that defines justice. 

For our purpose, let us take the Sinai Covenant as an example that creates a just society.  In the Ten Commandments, the source is immediately identified, "I am the Lord your God".  In Exodus 24:7, we are told "And he took the Book of the Covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the Lord has said will we do, and obey."  This is clearly a voluntary contractual agreement made between God and every individual.  The commandments define the responsibilities of each individual, e.g. no idols, keep the Sabbath, don't murder, don't steal, etc.  It is the responsibility of every individual to fulfill his/her part of the contract. 

The purpose of the commandments is to create a just society.  The source that defines a just society is God.  The society must reflect God's governance.  This is the meaning of "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." (Lev. 19:2).  This also clarifies the meaning of "God's image".  We are intended to reflect God's governance in our society.

In the next post, we will examine the application of the contract and the judgment of those who choose to violate it.



Original content copyright © Secular Kabbalist


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Community Love
“If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”  – Hillel

There is a beautiful tale of a great Sage who was watching the crowds of people coming to Jerusalem for one of the festivals.  He stood on a hill, surrounded by his disciples.  Suddenly he raised his arms heavenward and cried out, "Lord thank- you for the blessing of all these people".  His disciples were aghast, and criticized him.  "Master you are one of the wisest men in the world.  Why should you be grateful for those who are inferior to you?"  He looked at them sternly, and chastised them.  "Do you see that man over there?  He is a butcher.  He provides me with the meat that I eat.  That man is a tailor. He makes my clothing.  And, that man is a baker who supplies me with bread.  If it weren't for them, I could not be who I am."

This is the essence of community love.  If each person is contributing to the well being of the community in accordance with their particular capabilities, then each deserves the respect and gratitude of the others for who they are.  In this case, respect is earned through the outcomes of an individual's actions and the benefits they bring to the community.  Respect is not measured by title, or wealth, or power, or wisdom, or any other characteristic of an individual.  It is measured by the benefit that each individual brings to the community.

In this environment, a mystical exchange takes place.  As each individual learns to respect others for who they are, his/her respect for her/himself increases.  This cycle is the source of self-respect, and, ultimately, to true self-empowerment.  It provides meaning to the first command given to Abraham: "Go out to yourself" (Gen. 12:1).

The story of the building of the Tabernacle, Ex. 35-40, provides another example of this process.  Each member of the community participated in the building of the Tabernacle.  Everyone brought the materials and/or the talents needed for its construction.  All had an investment in the Tabernacle, and all were elevated by its presence.

 Unfortunately, this does not describe the world in which we live.  In our world, respect and gratitude of this sort are rare.  Then we are confronted with a dilemma.  How do we acquire self-respect in this world?  Surprisingly, the answer is quite simple.  We train ourselves to appropriately respect others.

The training is a variant of the process discussed in the previous post ("Love").  There is a simple exercise that I recommend to start this training.  Commit to find a reason to say thank-you to, at least, nine people every day, three family members, three friends or co-workers and three strangers.  Each thank-you must be personalized and sincere.  For example, suppose your server in a restaurant was particularly pleasant and attentive.  Then, at the end of the meal you might say, "I really enjoyed your pleasant attitude.  It made my meal all the better.  Thank-you very much."

Since you are looking for something unique in that person, you become better able to see others as they really are.  By responding to people in terms of what is important to them, you will start to discover that you have the capacity to impact on the lives of others.  In most cases, the impact will be small.  Over time, you will become aware that these small encounters can be life changing for some. 

By offering positive incentives to others, your self-respect will grow.  As your self-respect grows, you will become less dependent on the opinion of others.  You will be able to put aside the barriers to yourself and become who you really are. Self-empowerment is the ability to be yourself.  Once again, we confront the metaphysical mystery.  As you seek to help others achieve greater respect for themselves, you receive the greatest benefit.

Because of the world we live in, this process must be selective.  Otherwise, we would suffer for our efforts.  It, necessarily, presumes that all parties that are involved are trying to enhance the well-being of their community.  However, it does not require that all participate to the same degree.  Their offering should be consistent with their relative capability to contribute.  From this perspective, everyone has the ability to invest in the well-being of the community and their own self-respect.

Original content copyright © Secular Kabbalist


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"you shall love your neighbor as yourself" -- Lev. 19:18

Perhaps, one of the most striking applications of the dominion - humility connection in our daily lives is in love and marriage.  Very often, each member of a couple is looking for someone to fill their needs.  If one, or both, does not respond to the needs of the other, this becomes a narcissistic arrangement.  The relationship becomes a competition for attention.  The usual outcome is the loss of love and the destruction of the relationship.  This is a living example of dominion taken to the extreme.

It is true that most of us have needs that require the help of others.  It is not the needs that are at issue.  It is a matter of how those needs are satisfied.

Someone once defined love as when the well-being of the one you love is as important as your own well-being.  However, this presumes that this applies to both members in the relationship.  That is, it is a reciprocal relationship.

Now let us look at "you shall love your neighbor as yourself".  Note that this is a conditional statement.  It is not love your neighbor.  It requires that you shall love your neighbor as   yourself. 

The word love has many meanings in our culture.  With regards to the biblical intent of the commandment, let us equate the word love with the word respect.  This definition is consistent with every commandment in the Torah.  It is the essential requirement for every relationship, both between people and people and God.

The implication of the commandment is profound.  It was given to an entire community.  It applies equally to every member of the community.  It requires reciprocity on the part of every member of the community.  This reciprocity is demonstrated with acts of respect and gratitude.  Furthermore, it recognizes that you cannot respect others unless you respect yourself.  This places an obligation on the community to ensure that all members of the community respect themselves, no matter what their status.

A marriage is a community of two.  The first step toward a loving relationship is that both members must know themselves.  To know yourself is to know both your strengths and your weaknesses.  It is not narcissistic self-love.  Rather, it is the ability to sustain the balance between dominion and humility within yourself.  If you can see yourself as you really are, then you can remove the barriers and self-illusions, and see others as they are.  A person who achieves this balance can then respect him or herself and respect others for who they are. 

The first step makes it possible for you to see the other person for who he/she really is, not who you want her/him to be.  You will be living with that real person.  The next step is for each person to discover who the other person is.  Strangely, it is separation that makes true intimacy possible.  No person can be who you want him or her to be because each of us is unique.  The real purpose of a good relationship is complementarity.  It is an intimate union in which two basically different people achieve greater self-respect because of their differences.  In this way, each can grow. 

The result of this is gratitude that the other person is exactly who they are at any given time in the relationship.  The mystery is that by appreciating another you learn to appreciate yourself. This is love!  Sadly, so many relationships are growth limiting.

This might seem complex, but at the level of real application, it can be very simple.  Consider a couple who are similar in some ways and quite different in others.  Very early, they set a simple rule for their marriage: "if it bothers you, you do it".  For example, she cannot tolerate a dirty bathroom.  Being a male, his definition of a dirty bathroom is different from hers. If he does not clean his bathroom according to her expectations, she cleans it herself.  Not a word is exchanged until he thanks her.  On the other hand, he cannot stand to have dirty dishes sitting around after a meal.  She is satisfied to leave dishes until there is enough to fill the dishwasher.  Then he washes the dishes most of the time, and she thanks him.  This might seem amusing, but this simple exercise is very important to their appreciation of each other.  They never have reason to say, "I wish you were..."  They are always saying "thank-you for being you".  It results in constantly growing gratitude for each other and their own continuing growth.

Original content copyright © Secular Kabbalist