God and the world – the Nature of Being
- Creation is not our possession. The human person must recognize this and find his/her rightful place in relation to this fundamental fact. For some of us, this leads to a sense of gratitude for God’s gifts.
Source 1: Psalm 24, 1-6
A Psalm of David.
The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof;
The world, and they that dwell therein.
For He hath founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods.
Who shall ascend into the mountain of the LORD?
And who shall stand in His holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;
Who hath not taken My name in vain,
And hath not sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of them that seek after Him,
That seek Thy face, even Jacob.
Source 2: Psalm 148
Praise ye the LORD from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights.
Praise ye Him, all His angels;
Praise ye Him, all His hosts.
Praise ye Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all ye stars of light.
Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens,
And ye waters that are above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the LORD;
For He commanded, and they were created.
He hath also established them for ever and ever;
He hath made a decree which shall not be transgressed.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
Ye sea-monsters, and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and vapour,
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
Mountains and all hills,
Fruitful trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all cattle,
Creeping things and winged fowl;
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and maidens,
Old men and children;
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above the earth and heaven.
And He hath lifted up a horn for His people,
A praise for all His saints,
Even for the children of Israel, a people near unto Him.
Source 3: Exodus 20, 1;8-11
And God spoke all these words, saying:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; 10but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; 11for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Note: The inclusion of the Sabbath in the ten commandments makes the Sabbath a constant reminder of the creator and of our creaturely status.
Source 4: Bavli Berachot 35a
The Sages taught in a Tosefta: One is forbidden to derive benefit from this world, which is the property of God, without reciting a blessing beforehand. And anyone who derives benefit from this world without a blessing, it is as if he is guilty of misuse of a consecrated object.
Note: Blessings serve as constant reminders of how we are positioned in relation to God the creator. They are recited throughout the day on numerous occasions. One representative benediction, recited prior to an act as basic as sipping water is “Blessed are you, Lord king of the universe, in whose word all was created”.
- Creation is not simply external to God. It is, in significant ways, permeated by God’s presence and being, manifesting the divine agency and reality.
Source 1: Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, Ba’al Shem Tov al Hatorah, Bereshit 11
God’s glory fills the earth and all that is upon it, for there is no space devoid of his presence, except it is hidden. And when people of consciousness know this, the hiddenness no longer hides.
Source 2: Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, Ba’al Shem Tov al Hatorah, Bereshit 11
It is known that there is no space devoid of his presence and everywhere is the vitality of the creator, blessed be He and blessed is his name, even in the shells (i.e in the domain of evil), as it says (Ps. 103,19) his kingdom rules all, for where it not so, the specific matter would not exist.
Source 3: Rabbi Isaac Levi of Berditchev, Kedushat Levi, Mishpatim
With reference to the creator, blessed be He, there are two aspects – far and near. The aspect that is far is that we believe that the light of the invite is prior to all that is prior and no creature in the world can attain it, because it is impossible for thought to grasp it, as thought is created and God precedes all, and there is no angel or seraph who can attain it, for it is above comprehension, and that is the aspect of far, that he is far and removed from our attainment. And the aspect of close is that we believe that the Creator, blessed be he, fills all worlds and is within all worlds, and surrounds all worlds, there is no space devoid of his presence, for the entire earth is full of his glory, and this is the aspect of close. And we, the children of Israel, must believe in these two aspects, the one is far and the other is close.
Source 4: R. Zaddok of Lublin, Pri Zaddik, Kedushat Shabbat 7
The reality of the world as space is exclusively from the essence of the light of the infinite, that descends and contracts from one degree of hiddenness to another, until this lowly earth plane, which is the full force of hiddenness, of which there is none greater, so much so that it is possible there to rebel against God and anger him (through sinful action). And yet, even there, the earth is full of God’s glory, for everything was created for his glory…for this was the purpose of creation, that there should be a space of chaos and even there there should be the reality of light, as God says (Gen. 1,3) let there be light…for it is present there in hiddenness, and this is the splendor of “the earth if full of God’s glory”.
Source 5: Rabbi Abraham Mordechai Alter (d. 1948), Imrei Emet, Teruma, 1930
A Jewish person should accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven wherever he may go…as it says (Prov. 3,6) know God in all your ways, for wherever you go, it is as it states (Isa. 6,3) the earth is full of God’s glory.
- Within creation, and between humans and other parts of creation, there is interdependence. All are part of a greater whole wherein each element both receives and gives influence, impact, love, and growth.
Source 1: Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, Ziz Eliezer, Part 2, Introduction
A person’s duty in this world is a) to turn all his efforts to his individual rectification, recalling the purpose of the creation of the world for himself, as stated “each and every person must say, the world was created for my sake” (Sanhedrin 37a), and to thereby attune his soul to endless spiritual elevation; b)to do all that is in his power, by virtue of the great light of the kingdom of the spirit and its transformative capacity, for the rectification of the entire world, to spread the authority of the kingdom of God, and to turn all to their purpose, which is to forever unify and uphold God’s kingdom, so that wherever one turns, one senses the awe of God. And not only for this visible world, but also to the supernal invisible worlds, that are covered with divine mystery, and full of the splendor of eternal vitality – for the life of all worlds (God), in his infinite wisdom, made everything dependent on the actions and behaviours of the human person upon this physical world. And it is for this reason that he created him in his image and form to construct from him an eternal edifice, and made him a little less than the divine and crowned him with glory and honor (Ps. 8,5). Just as He, blessed is his name, is master of the forces that are present in all the worlds and the one who orders and guides them at every moment according to his will, so his will gave rulership to the human person, that he should be the one who opens and closes of thousands and millions of worlds, and forces, in line with his actions, in all his matters, at every moment literally, in line with the supernal root of actions, speech and thought, as though he too was their source of power, as it were.
Source 2: Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain, Shem Mishmuel, Mezora, 1916
The point of a person saying the world was created for me is not for his own sake, heaven forefend, for everything was created for God’s glory, as we say in the benediction – all was made for his glory. But the meaning of all worlds being handed over to the human person, as it says “you put everything under their[g] feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas (Ps. 8), is that all the worlds are rectified and ascent when the human person ascends, and they are damaged and descend, when he descends. And this is why a person should say for my sake the world was created, that is – the entire world depends on me, and he should remember well the governance that was handed to him, so that he may repair everything for God’s glory.
Source 3: Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, Kedushat Levi, Purim, third holiness
The main thing that brings a person to the fear of God is when he recalls constantly that the entire world depends on his deeds, as the sages said – every person must say, for my sake the world was created. And a person should always see himself as if he is half righteous and half unrighteous and with one single deed he can tip the scales, for himself and for the entire world (Bavli Kiddushin 40b). So, when he reflects on how the entire world depends on him and on his actions, and for him the entire world was created, he will be heartbroken for his sins and will engage with enthusiasm in God’s commandments and his Torah, so as to bring bounty to all the worlds, all the angels, all souls and to the lower (physical) world.
Source 4: Rabbi Nachman of Breslav, Likutey Moharan, teachings 5 and 102.
5,1 Every person should say the world was created for my sake. So, if the world was created for my sake, I have to take note and to consider at every moment how to repair the world, how to fill its lack and how to pray for them.
102 – And how can one bring down bounty, through prayer. For the worlds of prayer are vessels for receiving bounty. And that is why every person must take care when praying to pray so that bounty is awoken in the world, as the sages say – every person must say for my sake the world was created.
Source 5: Rabbi Shlomo Rabinovitch, Tif’eret Shlomo, Moadim – Shabbat Kodesh
When the sages say a person must say for my sake the world was created, the purpose of such saying is that he should recall and instill in his heart that since for my sake the world was created, and all of the cosmos depends on me, I must engage in Torah and commandment corresponding to the entire world, so that it does not collapse…and this is why Sabbath is a memorial of creation, because on the Sabbath a person remembers the act of creation that was made for his own sake, in goodness.
Source 6: Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin, Nefesh Hachayim, part 4, chapter 25
Even one person of Israel is powerful and he can sustain and keep up all the worlds and creation in its entirety, by engaging and studying the holy Torah for its own sake…and how can one’s heart fail to be excited when one reflects upon this awesome matter, and awe will fall upon him lest he become lax from constant engagement in the Torah. When he thinks, perhaps at this moment, the entire world, from one end to another, is devoid of Torah study, and were it not for his own engagement and study, perhaps all the worlds would be destroyed in an instant. So, this is the Torah and this is its great reward, beyond measure, for he receives reward equivalent to them all, since it is he who upheld and sustained with his power all the worlds at this time. And it is in such a context that the sages say a person must say for my sake the world was created.
Source 7: Rabbi Zadok Hacohen of Lublin, Pri Zaddik, Shekalim
In truth, for each and every one of Israel the world was created…and this applies to everyone, for everyone is particular and elevated in a particular matter that is special to him, and for which the entire world needs him. And this is what the sages refer to when they say (Avot 4,3) there is no person who does not have his hour.
Humanity and Its Responsibilities
- The distinctive task of humanity is to nurture and serve this interdependent life-giving, and so to resist the temptation to exploitation, waste, and harm. Acting in the interest of human well-being cannot be something pursued in separation from working for the well-being of the whole created order. This finds two prominent expressions:
a. Commitment to not harm creation, and the responsibility to protect it.
b. Commitment to serve, advance, and aid in the growth and evolution of all parts of creation.
Source 1: Genesis 2,15 (and commentary)
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it (serve) and to guard it.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
The two Hebrew verbs used here are significant. The first– le’ovdah—literally means “to serve it.” The human being is thus both master and servant of nature. The second—leshomrah–means “to guard it.” This is the verb used in later biblical legislation to describe the responsibilities of a guardian of property that belongs to someone else. This guardian must exercise vigilance while protecting, and is personally liable for losses that occur through negligence. This is perhaps the best short definition of humanity’s responsibility for nature as the Bible conceives it.
Source 2: Kohelet Rabbah 7:13
When God created Adam. God led him around the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at My works! How beautiful and praiseworthy they are. Everything that I have created, I created for you. Take care not to damage and destroy My world, for if you destroy it, there is no one to repair it after you.”
Source 3: R. Zadok Hacohen of Lublin, Pri Zaddik, Kedushat Shabbat 7
The human person is made in God’s image and form…and just as God engaged during the six days of creation in the act of creation, and similarly every day he renews creation…so the human person who is worthy becomes God’s partner in creation.
Source 4: R. Zadok Hacohen of Lublin, Pri Zaddik, Kedushat Shabbat 3
The human person was created in the image of God. This (Elohim) is the name that is mentioned in the story of creation, by means of which the world was created. So from this we deduce that the human being includes the image and form of the entire creation. And just as a human being requires food for his subsistence, so all creatures require something that sustains them…and the human person was made to serve and protect, because all creatures depend on the human person, who is the fulfillment of all creation, and when he serves God he draws bounty for all of creation, and the reverse, God forbid.
Source 5: Rabbi Hayim Tyrer, Be’er Mayim Chayim, Bereshit
The rabbis say that whatever was created during the six days of creation requires further action, because they were not created by God so that they no longer need human action, rather every creature must turn to the deeds of the holy people Israel, the righteous of the generation. By force of the righteousness of their good deeds and their study of Torah and prayer they add power in them to sustain them and give them life and to draw to them all aspects of bounty and blessing, in the aspect of “to serve and protect it”, and at all times (or: in all worlds) they require doing and rectification. And because it is so in their interior vitality, that they are dependent on the deeds of the righteous to add power to them, also their physicality further requires human action to repair and act upon them.
Source 6: R. Yehuda Leib Alter, Sefat Emet, Miketz, 1876
It says (Gen 2,3) God in his creating made (the Hebrew uses an infinitive, rather than a past participle, suggesting continuing action). This means that every creature made during the days of creation requires repair (rectification), and it says in the midrash that God ceased from the labor of his world, but not from the labor of the righteous. The matter is that the perfection of creation is by the coming together of the power of soul within a body, and this applies to all of creation, so there is in every thing an aspect of soul and body, and this has not been completed (in creation), because it depends on human labor (spiritual service).
Source 7: R. Yehuda Leib Alter, Sefat Emet, Bereshit, 1871 (1870)
The world was created by ten utterances, because the vitality of the world is by means of the Torah. And the human person’s service (work) is to verify (or clarify) that all things (exist) by means of God’s vitality. And when a person performs his actions with the power of the Torah, to fulfil the creator’s will, then he renews the light that is hidden within nature…so he becomes a partner in the act of creation…and the person who is attached to the inner point that is in everything, and all of his vitality is drawn following this point, becomes God’s partner in the act of creation.
Source 8: R. Abraham Mordechai Alter, Imrei Emet, Ki Tavo, 1917
Regarding the first Adam it says (Gen. 2,15) to serve and protect. Before the sin service was in the heart, which is prayer, and it says that all creatures wanted to prostrate before the first Adam, and he told them, let us prostrate before God our maker. This teaches that the human being must turn all creatures to God.
- The human person has capacities that are conducive to the realization of this vision, as well as forces that are destructive. Ego, self-centeredness, greed, arrogance, and more are negative traits stemming from a limited sense of the human person. The soul, or the higher aspects of the human person, have the capacity to realize the fuller vision of humanity’s role in the broader scheme of the meaning of life and creation.
Source 1: Talmud Bavli Berachot 61a
Rav Naḥman bar Rav Ḥisda interpreted homiletically: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Then the Lord God formed [vayyitzer] man” (Genesis 2:7), with a double yod? This double yod alludes to that fact that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created two inclinations; one a good inclination and one an evil inclination.
Source 2: Mishna Berachot 9,5
it is stated: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). The mishna explains this verse as follows: “With all your heart” means with your two inclinations, with your good inclination and your evil inclination, both of which must be subjugated to the love of God.
Source 3: Rabbi Yakov Yosef of Polnoye, Zofnat Pa’aneach, Yitro
When the soul rules over the body then consequently it rules over the good inclination and the evil inclination. Over the good inclination, in accordance with its nature, as they are both from the side of holiness, and it (the good inclination) is called brother to the soul, whereas the rule of the soul over the evil inclination is contrary to nature.
Source 4: David Shlomo Eibeschutz, Arvei Nachal, Ki Teze 1
This was made in opposition to that by God, holiness and impurity. And since the sin of Adam good and evil are intermingled. And the core of our deeds, our Torah and our commandments is to clarify the holy sparks from the impurity. And due to this intermingling there is in a person a good inclination and an evil inclination, a soul from the side of holiness and a soul from the side of impurity. And this is the basis of the human person’s free will.
Source 5: Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, Ziz Eliezer, Part 2, Introduction
Because the human person is the one responsible for the advancement and evolution of all worlds, and so as to avoid creatures erring by comparing the wonderful creation that is man with its great, unique and special maker, there was need to clothe him in a physical garment, that is like broken clay, made of dust, taken by sleep, so that all will recognize that despite his supreme greatness he is but the handiwork of God…and the purpose of his wondrous creation is only to make great and sanctify God’s great and awesome name among all, because he is composed of and incorporates the essence of all the forces in the worlds, both positive and negative, and their spiritual roots, he should be albe, with the supreme and lofty power that dwells in him and fills his being, to be the lively spirit in the various creatures, and to fight with the ores of darkness and the abyss, so that he can conquer them…and to send a great bounty of lights of holiness to all creatures, for the purpose of raising all of creation in the throws of love to its higher source…and to recognize their pleasant and holy duty to give thanks and to praise the dweller on high.
And how did the human person…merit to be the mover and facilitator of all that is in the heavens above and on the earth below, and what is the sublime power that dwells within him…? He attained this and great is his power by virtue of the soul that is in him, God’s candle, that when God made man on the earth, he intended in his great wisdom and plan to mine a sublime soul …from the source of sublime celestial holiness, from below the throne of glory, a portion of divinity from above, and to bring life to it and to place it in a dwelling place, for a limited and calculated time, in the valley of suffering of the dross body, in the world of choice and action, so that it should shed light upon its darkest darkness by means of its great light and its penetrating rays of light, and it shall give it the form and color of image and form, so that man may serve as a clear example and faithful witness to the great creator.
The color and form of the image and divine form were given to the human person not only so that he may serve as an example to the creation, but especially so that he should attained the wondrous supreme perection, by using the image and form in which he was made, by emulating his maker, through clinging to his ways…and thereby he will transmit the power and vitality of true holiness and eternal and true purity to all the worlds….
And by means of recognition of the full scope of the entirety (of creation) will come to light also the purpose of the myriad hundreds of thousands of individual creatures and their specific and elevated purpose, within the gigantic machine (creation), for the purpose of attaining the goal of rectifying the world in the Kingdom of God.
Such deep understanding and such a penetrating gaze has been given only to the human person, after he attains and understands by force of the soul that is within him, when he places a soul-oriented regard, and issues, by means of his great spiritual power, a great and unceasing call within the camp of creatures concerning faith in God and his unity.
- There is an inherent relationship between the human person (within) and nature and objective reality (without). Thoughts, speech and action have the capacity to bring harm or to heal.
Source 1: Abraham Joshua Heschel (d. 1825), Ohev Yisrael, likutim
It is known that God created an infinity of worlds, one higher than the other, and one different in some aspect from the other. As it is known, there is a world of thought and imagination, and a world of speech and a world of action. And it is known in truth that a person, through the good deeds that he does with good intention and thought and purity of heart, he brings light and flows vitality to all the worlds. In thought he illuminates and brings elevation to the world of thought; in speech he illuminates the world of speech and in action he illuminates the world of action, and awakes it and unifies all with the power of the infinite, blessed be he, and a great union and association is formed.
Source 2: Rabbi Shlomo Rabinovitch, Tif’eret Shlomo, Teruma
The world was created in thought, speech and action, as is explicit in scripture….and since the creation of the world was in these three aspects – thought, speech and action, then also the righteous who sustain the world sustain it in these three aspects of thought, speech and action. And all three are in the Torah, to observe it in thought, speech and action….There is, however, a difference and different degrees between the righteous who sustain the world. There is an aspect of a great righteous person, who is holy in thought, who by the power of his thought alone can draw forth good influx (or: influence) for the subsistence of the world…and there is a righteous person who through speech alone, in Torah and prayer, draws forth good influx for the subsistence of the world…and there is a righteous one who must observe the Torah and commandments physically, in action, and thereby sustains the world, in the merit of his good deeds he draws good influx for the subsistence of the world.
- The processes of growth, transformation, return and repentance are fundamental to human existence.
Source 1: Bereshit Rabba 1,4
Six things preceded the creation of the world. Some were created, some arose in thought towards their creation. The Torah and the throne of Glory were created…The Patriarchs, Israel, the Temple and the name of Messiah arose in thought towards their creation. Rabbi Ahava son of Zeira said: also Teshuva (return; repentance)
Source 2: Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, Chapter 43
- Ishmael says: had repentance not been created, the world could not subsist. But since repentance was created, God’s right hand is outstretched to receive those who return to him daily.
Source 3: Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, The Lights of Penitence 4,3
General penitence, which involves raising the world to perfection, and particularized penitence, which pertains to the personal life of each individual…. they all constitute one essence. Similarly, all the cultural reforms through which the world rises from decadence, the improvements in the social and economic order through this redress of every form of wrongdoing, from the most significant to the minutest ordinances of later sages and the most extreme demands of ethically sensitive spirits – all of them constitute an inseparable whole.
Source 4: Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, The Lights of Penitence 4,2.
The world must inevitably come to full penitence. The world is not static, but it continues to develop, and a truly full development must bring about the complete state of health, material and spiritual, and this will bring penitence along with it.
Source 5: Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, The Lights of Penitence 6,1
Penitence emerges from the depth of being, from such great depths in which the individual stands not as a separate entity, but rather as a continuation of the vastness of universal existence. The desire for penitence is related to the universal will, to its highest source. From the moment the mighty stream for the universal will for life turns toward the good, many forces within the whole of existence are stirred to disclose the good and to bestow good to all. “Great is penitence for it brings healing to the world, and an individual who repents is forgiven and the whole world is forgiven with him” (Yoma 86a). In the great channel in which the life-sustaining force flows, there is revealed the unitary source of all existence, and in the hovering life-serving spirit of penitence all things are renewed to a higher level of the good, the radiant and the pure.
Penitence is inspired by the yearning of all existence to be better, purer, more vigorous and on a higher plane than it is. Within this yearning is a hidden life-force, for overcoming every factor that limits and weakens existence.
Living in Spirituality and Responsibility
- There are reactions when we harm the earth and others. Actions have consequences and no action can be ignored.
Source 1: Deuteronomy 11, 13-18
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and thou shalt eat and be satisfied. Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, so that there shall be no rain, and the ground shall not yield her fruit; and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you. Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul.
Source 2: Leviticus 26 (excerpts)
If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; then I will give your rains in their season, and the land shall yield her produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time; and ye shall eat your bread until ye have enough, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid; and I will cause evil beasts to cease out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. And I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you; and will establish My covenant with you. And ye shall eat old store long kept, and ye shall bring forth the old from before the new. And I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bars of your yoke, and made you go upright.
But if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do all these commandments; and if ye shall reject My statutes, and if your soul abhor Mine ordinances, so that ye will not do all My commandments, but break My covenant; I also will do this unto you: I will appoint terror over you, even consumption and fever, that shall make the eyes to fail, and the soul to languish; and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set My face against you, and ye shall be smitten before your enemies; they that hate you shall rule over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you…
And you will I scatter among the nations, and I will draw out the sword after you; and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. Then shall the land be paid her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye are in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and repay her sabbaths. As long as it lieth desolate it shall have rest; even the rest which it had not in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it….For the land shall lie forsaken without them, and shall be paid her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them; and they shall be paid the punishment of their iniquity; because, even because they rejected Mine ordinances, and their soul abhorred My statutes.
Source 3: Avot de Rabbi Nathan, ver. 1, chapter 33
He (ben Azzai) used to say: If so and so, then so and so.
Source 4: Mishna Avot 2,7
He [Hillel] too saw a lone skull floating upon the water. He said to it: Because you drowned [others] you were drowned, and in the end those who drowned you will be drowned.
Source 5: Maimonides, Mishna Commentary Avot 2,7
You were killed because you killed another person, and whoever killed you will himself be killed. And the point of this saying is to teach us that evil deeds will return upon the head of the perpetrator…as the sages say – according to the measure a person metes out, so it shall be meted out to him. And this can be seen in all times and places, that whoever does evil, and invents new forms of injustice and imperfection, he will himself be harmed by the evil that he has invented, because he has taught an activity that will be done to him as well as to others. Similarly, whoever teaches something of virtue, and whoever initiates a good deed from among good deeds, he himself will benefit from the action, because he will be teaching something that will apply to himself and others….
- [Empowered by mind, reason and spiritual understanding, we adopt a mindful and attentive view of the natural world.] Take seriously the lessons and observations that humanity has reached by application of its mind in scientific study and through common reason.
Source 1: Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, Part 2, Chapter 8
Our Sages have, in this astronomical question, abandoned their own theory in favour of the theory of others. Thus, it is distinctly stated, “The wise men of other nations have defeated the wise men of Israel.” It is quite right that our Sages have abandoned their own theory: for speculative matters every one treats according to the results of his own study, and every one accepts that which appears to him established by proof.
- The life of attentive, intelligent love is embodied in compassion: in openness to the pain and vulnerability of the world. Care for the other is expressed in love and compassion as fundamental spiritual principles.
Source 1: Bavli Ta’anit 11a
The Sages taught in a baraita: When the Jewish people is immersed in distress, and one of them separates himself from the community and does not share their suffering, the two ministering angels who accompany a person come and place their hands on his head, as though he was an offering, and say: This man, so-and-so, who has separated himself from the community, let him not see the consolation of the community.
A similar idea is taught in another baraita: When the community is immersed in suffering, a person may not say: I will go to my home and I will eat and drink, and peace be upon you, my soul. And if he does so, the verse says about him: “And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine; let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die” (Isaiah 22:13). And the prophecy continues with what is written afterward, in the following verse: “And the Lord of hosts revealed Himself in my ears: Surely this iniquity shall not be expiated by you until you die” (Isaiah 22:14).
The baraita comments: Up to this point is the attribute of middling people, who merely exclude themselves from the suffering of the community. However, with regard to the attribute of wicked people, what is written about those who hope for more of these days? “Come, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant” (Isaiah 56:12). And what is written afterward? “The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart, and godly men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come” (Isaiah 57:1). This verse teaches that righteous people suffer early death to prevent them from witnessing the harm that will befall these evil people.
The baraita continues: Rather, a person should be distressed together with the community. As we found with Moses our teacher that he was distressed together with the community, as it is stated during the war with Amalek: “But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat upon it” (Exodus 17:12). But didn’t Moses have one pillow or one cushion to sit upon; why was he forced to sit on a rock? Rather, Moses said as follows: Since the Jewish people are immersed in suffering, I too will be with them in suffering, as much as I am able, although I am not participating in the fighting. The baraita adds: And anyone who is distressed together with the community will merit seeing the consolation of the community.
Source 2: R. Moshe Cordovero, Tomer Devorah (The Palm Tree of Deborah), Chapter 2
[One’s] eyes [should] not gaze at any disgraceful thing at all. Indeed, they [should] always be open to survey and have mercy upon all the despondent, according to his ability. And when he sees the distress of a poor person, he [should] not shut his eyes at all. Rather, he [should] contemplate about him in his mind – according to his ability – and arouse mercy upon him in front of the Heavens and in front of the creatures. And he [should] distance himself from all observation of evil, in the way that the Highest Eye is open and gazes immediately at the good.
Source 3: R. Moshe Cordovero, Tomer Devorah (The Palm Tree of Deborah), Chapter 3
And he [should] always seek mercy and blessing for the world – in the way that the Highest Father is a Merciful One upon His creatures – and always pray about the distress of those in distress, as if they were his actual children and as if he created them. As this is the will of the Holy One, blessed be He – in the way that the faithful shepherd stated (Numbers 11:12), “Did I conceive all this people, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom.'” And in this [way], he [should] carry all of the people of God ‘as a nurse carries an infant’ – ‘with his forearm he gathers the lambs, with his bosom carries, leads the nurse-mothers.’ He [should] remember the hidden, seek the young, heal the broken, sustain the needy and return the lost. And he [should] have mercy on Israel and carry their load with a pleasant countenance – like the Highest Merciful One, who tolerates everything and does not wither nor ignore nor get sick [of them], but [rather] leads each one according to his need.
These are the traits of Wisdom, the merciful Father over [Its] children.
To have mercy upon all of the creatures: He must also have his mercy extend to all the creatures. He [should] not disgrace them nor destroy them. As behold, the Highest Wisdom is spread over all the creatures – the inanimate, the growing (plants), the living (animals) and the speaking (people). And we are warned about disgracing food for this reason. And about this thing it is fitting that [just] like the Highest Wisdom does not disgrace anything in existence and everything was made from There, as it is written, “You made all of them with wisdom” – so [too, should] the mercy of a person be over all of His creations, may He be blessed. And for this reason …when [Rabbi Yehuda the Patriarch] had mercy on a weasel and said, “It is written (Psalms 145:9), ‘and His mercies are over all of His creatures,'” he was saved from the judgement – since the light of Wisdom was spread over him and the afflictions withdrew. And upon this way, he [should] not disgrace anything in existence from that which exists, as all of them are with Wisdom. And [so] he [should] not uproot a plant except for a need nor kill an animal except for a need…[and] have mercy in as much as is possible.