Never before have more people hungered, as the prophecy, that ten world hungers would exist – nine for food and one for the word of G-d.
Judaism is currently honored as having a age old tradition clarifying the Divine intent.
As such, it pays to mention that we believe that the Bible is merely an infinite headline – on one level each verse can be explained on four dimensions (called Pardes). Each dimension itself contains no less than 600,000 variations (corresponding to the 600,000 Jewish root souls from which all Jewish souls emanate.) And beyond this level is called Chassidus – an infinite dimension!
In the words of Rabbi Freedman, this world is God’s classroom – our experiences contain lessons; as the Baal Shem Tov taught, every experience contains an insight which we must probe, understand, implement, and then abandon, to make room for the next – certainly this is true in every verse of the Bible.
But succinctly, we Jews have a tradition that there are 613 commandments:
Of these, there are three types: one is called “edus” testament between the unique relationship of G-d and the Jewish people, such as Passover and the other Jewish festivals, the Sabbath. Fundamentally, the Edus make sense, once they are revealed. Then there is a second type called “chukim,” for-example Kosher, which the reason was never revealed and we do it on blind faith – perhaps the most important notion, that ethics are not arbitrarily decided, but Divinely mandated; and then there are “mishpatim” laws which any ethical person would agree to.
I have come to realize there is great value in writing down these laws, for though all of Judaism as the great master and Rabbi, Menachem Mendel Shcneershon taught boils down to goodness and kindness – the Torah (Bible) gives us an absolute clarity as to our obligations (an important concept that being good and kind is not extra nor heroic but the difference between being barbaric or not.)
Fundamentally in G-d’s world there are simply brothers and sisters – certainly from G-d’s perspective we are all his children and hence our bonds for one another rise not out of compassion nor pity but rather brotherly love, a scene of familial duty.
1. Love your fellow man as yourself.
Rabbi Akivah said “this is the foundational principle of the entire Torah.”
In other words, love is an emotion that engenders giving.
Without love humans only use (hopefully not abuse) one another.
The question of course is, how do I love another?
The answer is, love is a result of identification – this is why families who know they have a common bond find a common love.
In other words, by understanding what you have in common with another, you automatically will love them:
1. On a soul level we are all G-d and there is but one G-d.
2. Even on the soul in the body level, we are all here as the foundational instructions from the Mishnah to serve G-d (fulfill his will.) This being the case, like many employees of the same company, we share a common job, though the particulars may and obviously should differ, based on gender, local etc.
An instructive teaching is from Rabbi Hillel, whom a gentile once asked him to explain the entire Torah while he stands on one foot. Replied Hillel “That which you wish not another to do to you, do not do to them, this is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary.”
A deep lesson arises, if we analyze Hillel’s words; for a profound question is, wouldn’t it make more sense to say it the other way around – namely, “That which you want others to do to you, do for them. Is that not a more positive versus negative approach.”
Rather Hillel was teaching, the one thing we truly dislike is being shamed. Just as you wish that no one should ever shame you – in other words, even if you have a fault – so to, the entire Torah is teaching us, never shame anyone.
The secret to this is found in G-d’s exact precise wording.
Love your fellow as you love yourself. Not as much, but as. In other words, just as you can overcome your faults, and do not see them as making you unlovable; for wherever there is real love there is forgiveness, similarly to your friends.
The Holy Baal Shem Tov takes this a step further – when you see something wrong in your friend, you are actually only seeing a subconscious (in other words, something you are not conscious of) evil within yourself. He compares this to a person looking in a mirror who can only see dirt if there is dirt on him.
This is a profound psychological truth (sort of “discovered “ by Carl Jung as well.)
So whenever we become judgmental, the real reason is not because we care about justice, rather we are jealous that another person is happy (this in truth explains the irrational obsession of bullying, terrorism, antisemitism, to malign.)
“You and I are the same.”
2. Do not hate a fellow (hold a grudge.)
This is the flipside of loving everyone. There are two options if someone has given you reason to hate them: 1. forgive them in your heart, which is the higher way, or 2. confront them and tell them why you are upset with them.
Holding onto a grudge is as one psychologist told me “like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
The Zohar teaches, we should learn from Josef who through his belief that all comes from a benevolent G-d not only did not avenge his brother’s gross injustice to him but in fact fed and cared for them.
“I forgive everyone!”
3. Educate a person who is doing something wrong.
It is wrong to watch someone doing something wrong and not help them by not educating them. Obviously this education must be done out of love, not with a sense of superiority or anger.
“I will strive to educate fellow man in the most gentle caring way possible.”
4.. Do not embarrass anyone (this includes family members.)
As this commandment is a continuation of the previous commandment, thus the sages deduce, that moral education must be done in a way that the person realizes that you only want to help them, such as saying, “May I tell you something only for your benefit?”
“I will never embarrass anyone.”
5. Do not insult or hurt in any way a widow or an orphan.
Human nature is to take advantage of the weak; however G-d’s nature is to take up the cause of the oppressed; so one must be super-careful when speaking to people who feel weaker, such as an orphan or a widow (as they lack a protector and thus feel alone and perhaps the same should be applied to a divorcée today.) To speak gently, kindly, compassionately, mercifully, and to never ever cause them any harm, pain, or sorrow.
“I will be extra careful when dealing with a widow or an orphan, in order to be extra kind, gentle, compassionate and loving.”
16. Do not be a gossiper – talebearer.
There can be no more damaging crime then ruining the reputation of someone else – even if the information is true (unless it’s to protect another from damage).
“Thank You for never destroying another through me.”
16. Do not take revenge.
We all want to settle a score, to rectify an injustice, to balance an inequality; however, we would be far wiser to not let ourselves be sullied, by getting into the dirt thrown at us – as our sages teach us, “one who throws dirt at a dirty person gets dirty.” Better to have a clean soul than to get muddied and sullied in emulating an evil person or evil behavior.
“I will never take revenge, for I prefer a bruised ego than a bruised soul.”
17. Do not take Netirah
Netirah is helping someone who didn’t help you, yet telling them: “Unlike you, I will help you.” Again this allows our souls to be pure – free from blemishes and negative behavior.
“I will never be rude to anyone, even one who was rude to me.”
Commandments Relating To Marriage – It should be mentioned, these commandments actually fall into Divine unfathomable decrees hence not the general gist of this book, nonetheless as is obvious, the basic premises are beneficial.
1. Do not have intercourse unless one is married.
In today’s age when people live together before marriage, people actually have far less experiences of marital intimacy and less pleasurable ones, for the mystique of intimacy in the healthy framework of a loving and committed marriage is not there.
“I will not have intercourse unless I am married!”
2. The husband’s basic duties to his wife according to the Bible are to provide food, clothing and to have intercourse with his wife as often as is pleasing to both of them.
“I will make my wife happy!”
3. A man and wife may only have marital relations when she is not a niddah. (Generally speaking, this would be from the onset of menstruation for approximately two weeks thereafter.)
“We will only have marital intimacy in the method advised by the Bible!”
4. Have children from one’s wife.
Specifically this refers to having one son and one daughter. It should also be mentioned that birth control may only be used with specific Rabbinical permission and people who only have two children lose out on the greatest blessing in life, namely, children.
Having children fulfills our obligation to create the future generation.
“Thank you G-d for the privilege to assist you in bringing a soul to earth.”
5. If unfortunately there is irreconcilable animosity, the husband may divorce his wife through a bill of divorce, as prescribed in Jewish law.
Divorce is frowned upon. In this day and age when over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, it is because the sanctity and holiness of marriage is not fully appreciated. G-d designs whom marries whom, and thus every effort should be made for reconciliation in order to procure a harmonious relationship. Please read my book “Kabbalah Love” for great marital techniques.
6. If someone divorced his wife and she subsequently remarried, she may not remarry him afterwards.
In general it is a good deed for a divorced couple to remarry (provided that the proviso above is not violated.)
7. The Torah is very clear that someone who does entice a woman into having intercourse with him before marriage is obligated to marry her.
Unfortunately this law has great relevance now when so many people do sleep together before marriage. It is the moral duty of the bachelor to marry his girlfriend as there is no question that most often the girlfriend desires marriage, children etc. which is her hope and the reason she chose her boyfriend.
“I will be a mentsh / decent human being.”
8. A Jew may only marry a Jewess.
As Judaism proscribes, that a Jew is born of a Jewish mother (except in the case of proper conversion) hence for a male to marry a gentile is to forfeit his four thousand year unbroken heritage as it cannot be passed on without a Jewish mother and conversely as studies show, for a Jewess to marry out of faith, though her children are one hundred percent Jewish, the chances of her heritage carrying on, unlikely.
We each have a soul mission to accomplish which we do by being the best member of our “tribe” possible.
“Thank you for allowing me to fulfill my destiny.”
9. A man may not lie carnally with another man.
Though there has been a mass propaganda whitewashing male intercourse, the Creator of mankind and guide of life states what is a true (not fleeting libidinal gratification) benefit.
Commandments relating to promises
1. Do not deny possessing an object that someone has given you to watch or hold for them.
As this person may not have proof, a person’s Yetzer Hara [evil inclination] may entice them to deny its existence and keep it for themselves.
2. Do not swear falsely, denying that you have received an object to watch or hold for someone.
3. Swear in G-d’s name honestly.
By keeping G-d’s name sacred, not only do we respect G-d, but we create a system whereby we know that someone is telling the truth, when they swear in G-d’s name.
4. Keep promises and pledges.
“By keeping my promises, I am a truthful person!”
5. Do not go back on your word (this includes, if you verbally make a commitment to do a good thing; despite the fact that you have not committed to someone in particular.)
6. If a person has a commitment to charity or a pledge that they undertook and they cannot keep it, they need to have the promise annulled, which can be facilitated by an Orthodox Rabbi or a Talmudic scholar.
Meditation when annulling a vow
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to keep the sanctity, sacredness, and honor of my words, by officially annulling my promise and not ignoring it.”
In the agricultural society of ancient Israel, the primary way of charity was through the giving of crops to the less fortunate, thus we find many commandments enabling the poor to receive sustenance. Although many of these commandments do not apply to us today, I have included some with mediations, for the morals and the ethics they teach are eternally valuable.
1. Leave the corner of one’s field for the poor.
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to help your people!”
2. To leave fallen stalks when sheathing for the poor.
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to help people!”
3. To leave “lonely” grapes on the vine for the poor (grapes which are not in clusters.)
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to assist others!”
4. To leave the clusters of grapes that haven fallen on the ground during harvesting for the poor.
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to nourish others!”
5. When sheathing or harvesting and one has cut a bundle in the field but left it there inadvertently; when one remembers about it later, one should leave it for the poor.
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to assist the less fortunate!”
6. To leave a tenth of the produce for the poor and the Levites. In this day and age one should give a tenth of income (after taxes) when possible, to a charitable institution. One’s tithe may also be used for their children’s Torah education which is also a commandment and is more expensive than secular education. People who give ten percent to charity report, that it only increases their annual income. Indeed our Sages have prophesized, “Give a tenth, in order to earn wealth.”
“Thank you G-d for sanctifying, elevating, and spiritualizing the money I earn, transforming it into a vehicle for goodness and kindness.”
11. Give charity and assistance to the poor according to one’s capabilities.
Meditation when giving charity
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to help whomever I can!”
12. Do not close your heart to the poor.
Life is a wheel, he who is on top one year, may be on the bottom the next and vice-versa, the clever man realizes that money that he gives to charity is stored in a heavenly vault and one day when he or his children or grandchildren may be in need, the vault will be opened for them. You get what you give.
“Thank you G-d for teaching me how to be humane!”
1. If you damage someone else’s property, purposefully or accidentally, you need to repay the full amount of the damage.
“Thank you for teaching me how to be an ethical and moral person!”
2. Do not steal (taking anything that belongs to someone else.)
“Thank you for teaching me how to be a good person!”
3. Be sure to have correct weighing machines (for example, people who weigh diamonds with the slightest mistake could cause damages of thousands of dollars. As weighing was the primary method of selling objects, like food, in the olden days, there are a few important laws relating to scrupulousness in this.)
4. Do not kidnap.
5. Do not steal (this refers to armed robbery as opposed to the previous stealing [law 2] which is done secretly.)
6. Do not rip people off. Pretend something is far more valuable than it really is.
7. Do not be jealous of an exclusive item that someone else has and consider how to take it from him (even by pressuring him/her to accept money for it.)
“Thank you G-d exclusively for what you have given me!”
8. Do not desire that which belongs to someone else (this does not refer to something that can be purchased, rather something which is unique like his house, position, painting etc.)
The way to achieve this is to know that everything that man has was given to them by G-d. It is impossible for one person to own a unique possession that another person has.
“Thank you G-d for what you have given me!”
9. Return what you stole.
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to reclaim my morality!”
1o. Do not ignore a lost object (try to find its owner if it is identifiable.)
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to make the owner of this lost object gratified!”
11. Return a lost object.
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to make someone else happy!”
12. Pay damages for hurting someone physically.
There are five levels of damages that need to be paid: 1. Medical expenses. 2. Lost work time. 3. For pain (deduced by a Rabbinical court based on how much the person would pay to not have that pain.) 4. For shame (depending on the status of the individual and the embarrassing manner of the harm). 5. For permanent disability (so if G-d-forbid a surgeon lost his hand, the total value of all the work which he is likely to do with that hand must be compensated.)
13. Do not murder.
14. If you are witnessing a crime scene where an attacker is about to shoot the victim it is a commandment to shoot (if possible) the attacker first.
15. Do not show any mercy towards the attacker (as mercy to a murder will cause the murder of the merciful (i.e. the victim.))
16. Do not watch another person drowning, getting attacked by a wild animal, or bad people, or know of a plot to harm a person and not inform them – when you can save the person.
17. Do not possess a dangerous object (such as a viscous dog or a rickety ladder).
“Thank you G-d for preventing me from feeling guilty over a wrongful injury or death!”
18. Create fences that protect people (such as a fence on a second floor patio, rooftop, around a pool etc.)
“Thank you G-d for preventing anyone to be injured (or worse) because of my property!”
19. Do not give bad advice to people.
We have a tendency to enjoy giving people advice – before we do ask yourself: “am I an expert in this field?” For there is no worse feeling than not only to not have helped someone seeking our help but leading them down a rotten road.
“Thank you G-d for not allowing me to feel guilty through harming someone through bad advice!”
20. Assist a traveler if they are in need of help, like their car broke down and they cannot fix it and you can help them.
21. Assist someone with their packages, like an old man who cannot put his groceries in the car.
22. If you can assist – remember the very fact you see something you can assist makes it a mission from G-d – it is forbidden to desist.
Commandments relating to one‘s possessions and honor
1. In general we may never take the law into our own hands – firstly we should try to comprise (the use of mediators is gaining popularity and is preferable to court.) Secondly if this fails we should go to court and rely on G-d.
2. Do not cheat someone in business.
The Talmud relates that the very first question that a person is asked when they come to heaven is, “Were you honest in business?”
3. One may not insult anyone.
“Thank you G-d for preventing me from one of the worst sins (evils) possible!”
Rentals, protecting objects, and working
1. The commandment is for the Jewish courts to rule on disputes arising from when A. rents an object from B. – or someone who hired another to watch an object and the object got stolen or lost.
2. One must pay a tradesman as soon as possible.
3. Do not delay paying the tradesman (for this is his livelihood and it is considered as if you have stolen his livelihood if you do not pay him immediately on completion of the job.)
4. A field worker may eat from the connected fruit of the tree or the vine (not from what has been picked already for the owner.)
5. A field worker must wait until after everything has been picked and only then eat from what is left on the tree.
6. A field worker may not collect food in a bag for himself (he may only eat on location).
7. One may not muzzle one’s animal (as it causes unnecessary pain to not allow the animal to eat when it is hungry; of-course this does not refer to a wild animal which one may never keep, as mentioned in the law relating to not possessing a dangerous object.)
8. The law relating to someone who kindly offers to watch someone else’s possessions for free. (For example, my friend is going on vacation and he gives me his computer to guard, I am only responsible to pay him for it if I was negligible and there was a theft somehow – like leaving the door to my home wide open or leaving it unattended in a public place. If however it was stolen (even if it was not an armed theft) but I have not been negligible (as it is just as protected as my own possessions) I do not have to pay him back.)
9. The Law relating to a person who borrows an object. (For example if I borrow a tape recorder from my friend I must always pay him back even if it was stolen in an armed robbery, for I was the one receiving all the benefit from borrowing the tape recorder and although it was out of my control, nevertheless my friend need not lose out because of the favor he did for me. If however the tape recorder simply packed up while I was using it (and I didn’t do anything wrong) then I need not pay him back, because the entire intention of borrowing the tape recorder was to use it.)
1. There is a specific Commandment to lend money to people in need. This is even greater than giving money to a person. For a person who is borrowing has not had the indignity of having to beg for money and people like to maintain their dignity, so by helping them maintain their dignity, G-d will help you maintain yours.
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to help someone maintain their dignity.”
2. If you know the person does not have the money to pay you back, you may not pain him by pressing him or even asking him for the money. Furthermore, you may not even appear before him (i.e. if you will meet walking along the street you should cross the street before you meet him) in order to prevent him being ashamed as he does not have the money to pay.
This is truly a very noble act, for which G-d will certainly bless someone in return.
“Thank you G-d for allowing me to help someone maintain their dignity.”
3. “Do not oppress you brother” means do not demand money from someone you lent money too but cannot repay it.
4. Do not forcibly take an object as collateral from someone who owes you money. In other words, if someone can pay you back but refuses to do so and you received a judgment against them, only a court appointed official could take the collateral but the lender could not barge into the borrower’s home and just take something, despite the fact the court might need to.
5. To return the collateral when the owner needs it. For example, to return a plow to a farmer daily for him to use it, for this is how he makes his living.
6. Do not delay in returning the collateral to the poor person when he needs it, like returning the pillow on time nightly, so he can sleep with it.
7. Do not take collateral from a widow.
17. Do not take collateral from items that are used in making food like an oven.
8. Do not take interest. Even if a person wants to pay us interest we are forbidden to take any interest from them. (Though it is obviously a good deed to lend money interest free I believe the prohibition of taking interest applies only Jew to Jew.)
1. A person may not borrow with interest repayments (so as not to allow a Jew to transgress the Mitzvah to not lend with interest. However from a non-Jewish financial institution one may borrow / pay interest for they are not obligated not to charge you interest. In general, it is good advice to lower your interest payments.)
2. Do not assist in an interest bearing loans, as a witness, lawyer, etc. between Jewish people, as it is forbidden, as mentioned previously.
3. One may borrow with interest from a non-Jewish financial institution and lend with interest to a non-Jewish financial institution.
1. The Torah specifies the exact order of the most proper way to bequeath ones assets. After providing for ones wife, the first and best would be to divide equally between one’s children with the firstborn male son (if there is one) taking a double portion (as he bore the brunt of the parents expectations and also is usually like a father figure to the younger siblings. So if there were ten children the assets should be divided into eleven shares and the firstborn son should receive two shares and everyone else one share.) If there are no children it should go to the father of the deceased; if the father of the deceased has already died, it should go to the brothers or sisters of the deceased. If there are no brothers and sisters we continually search for a grandfather and his children (namely one’s uncles or aunts) and if they are not alive then one’s cousins and so we always go up a generation and find even a second or third cousin. It is clear, that the Torah’s view is, that one’s children should receive one’s financial success as it keeps G-d’s blessing in the family. Obviously charity is the most important contribution.
Laws relating to honoring parents
1. One may never curse, belittle, or disparage one’s parents.
We must be extra careful, for often we feel our parents should have done more; but if we actually think about what they have done for us, we realize how fortunate we are to have parents who care for us, shopped for us, fed us, protected us, etc.
2. One may never hit a parent.
3. Honor you parents. If one’s parents need financial assistance, then assist them to the best of your ability and serve them hand and foot. The story is told of a great Sage who saw in a vision that his portion in heaven would be with Nanes the butcher. He thought to himself, “How can it be that after dedicating my life to Torah I will only have a portion, the same as Nanes the butcher?!” He decided to discover who Nanes the butcher was. He searched for him all over Israel until he found him. “Tell me my son, is there any special Mitzvah you do?” “Well perhaps; I have elderly parents that are immobile. Every day I wash them, I feed them, I clothe them, and I take care of all their needs.” “How fortunate am I” said the great sage “that my portion of Heaven will be with you.”
4. Love and respect your parents; specifically, one does not sit in the designated chair which one’s parent sits in; one does not call their parents by their first name; and one should never contradict their parents, even if their parent is wrong.
5. A son should never take money from his parents without their permission.
1. Mourn the passing of relatives; (Although the length of mourning differs, for example, one year for parents, and a month for everyone else; There are seven days following burial called Shiva whereby everyone visits the mourner who remains home to offer them comfort.) The following are the people one must sit Shiva for (the seven day mourning period) a Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, and Wife.
1. A person should be buried preferably on the same day that they died, whenever possible.
1. We are forbidden from tattooing our skin.
2. “Do not lust after your heart and after your eyes.” In the words of the Sifri, “The phrase, ‘do not lust after your heart, and after your eyes,’ refers to immoral behavior, as in the verse ‘And Shimshon said to his father [take her for me, for she is fitting in my eyes].'” The word z’nus [translated above as, “immoral behavior”] includes pursuing physical pleasures and desires, and constantly thinking about them.
3. Do not usurp another’s business. Though it has become axiomatic of capitalism to the extent of unfortunately “laudable” to quash competition, however according to G-d, everyone has an obligation to not knowingly usurp another’s income.
4. Treat an employee with greater dignity than yourself. A person should treat an employee with more dignity even what they expect for themselves, as whenever a situation arises that can be difficult to self-esteem we must add in dignity.
After becoming cognizant that we unfortunately transgressed any of G-d’s commandments we need to firmly resolve after regretting the transgression to do what is right – furthermore we should say “I apologize G-d for having…..”
“Thank You for allowing me to reclaim my Divinity”