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Orthodox Judaism/Golden Rule - Ovadiah ben Avraham


I will give a talk with regard to "Golden Rule" statements in religious scripture and tradition. Researching when and where these statements are realised and actualised, what are their potential impact in conflict prevention and resolution, provided the participants are religious.

The following are two specific questions requiring your opinion to be used as a source for analysis. Your feedback and assistance will be greatly appreciated.

For reference:
- The positive form of Golden Rule is to “treat others as you want them to treat you”.
- The negative form of Golden Rule is to "do not treat others as you do not want them to treat you".
- The following is widely quoted as the Jewish Golden Rule: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire law: all the rest is commentary."  (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

Question 1: Do you consider Golden Rule statement to represent the core or starting point for Jewish religious tenets?  (Please answer Yes or No)

Question 2: Do you consider the remit of Golden Rule statement to be applicable to:

2.1)  Jews only. If so to what extend does it contribute or has the potential to contribute to indifference, divisiveness, and hostility towards non-Jews. Can you please use ratings in heading 3.


2.2) Jews and non-Jews. If so to what extent does it contribute or has the potential to contribute to affinity, unity and peace between Jews and non-Jews. Can you please use ratings in heading 3.


2.3) Different interpretation. Can you please comment.

3) Please specify the following numeric rating range for categories 2.1, 2.2

5 for Very great
4 for Great
3 for Moderate
2 for Little
1 for Very little
0 for None

Many thanks

Dear Peja,
I have changed this to public as there is no identifying information in your question and I hope others may learn from it as well.

Thank you for your kind question and all the best in your talk. You may already know the story but if not I think it will better help you understand the importance of this issue in Judaism. Rabbi Hillel was a first century (both BCE and CE-he died at 100 in 10 CE) rabbi who ran one of the two major schools of Jewish thought at the turn of the first century. He was approached by a Gentile who told him that he would convert to Judaism if Rabbi Hillel could explain his faith while he stood on one foot. That is when he gave the answer you quote: “What you find hateful to you, do not do to others. The rest is commentary, now go and study”.
Why Hillel chose the negative version and Jesus the positive one is unknown and open to speculation. One possibility is that Jews consider the negative commandments more passive and perhaps easier than the positive commandments which require certain actions. Rabbi Hillel was the more lenient of the schools at the time (in fact, Jesus sided with Hillel in all of his own rulings [i.e. “The Sabbath was made for man” rather than the other way round] save one--50 bonus points if you can tell me which one). Perhaps he felt making his golden rule a negative commandment would make it somewhat easier as a passive act is often easier than an active one (i.e. you’ve probably not murdered anyone today but did you keep the Sabbath as readily?).
Jesus (and John for that matter) preached the coming Kingdom (reign) of G-d. One who keeps the negative commandments is considered ‘clean’. Considering this term and its relationship to the leper and the camp or the people and the Temple, one might substitute ‘permissible’ in English. Whereas one who keeps the positive commandments is considered righteous. Even in our modern thought, the ‘Day of the L-rd’ or the messianic era will come about by our righteousness. So Jesus may have used the positive in his golden rule to indicate the same notion.
In any event, I suspect there are versions of the golden rule in just about every major and minor religion on the planet. So to answer your question, yes, this is the bedrock of our faith (5).
Unlike some faiths, we believe that one cannot have a relationship with the Almighty unless he strives to have a good relationship with his fellow man (all people, although clearly those of our own faith first). Some even say this relationship with man is more important than a relationship with G-d or the basis for which the latter can occur. The first 5 commandments tell us how our relationship with G-d is to take form and the second 5 how our relationship with man is to be. We believe (as do the Muslims) that G-d does not forgive sins between man and man until one attempts to make peace and restitution with the aggrieved party. No manner of blood or sacrifice can atone for the sins between men, only man’s forgiveness (or in the case that one cannot receive that forgiveness, honest attempts to do so and good works/charity). Perhaps this is why murder and adultery are two of the three sins that it is better to give up one’s life rather than do. Murder it is impossible and adultery unlikely that the aggrieved party can/would give his/her forgiveness.
All the best in your talk, I trust I have answered your questions to your satisfaction. Shalom!

"Religion is not here to comfort the afflicted but rather to afflict the comfortable"

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Ovadiah ben Avraham


Willing to answer and research general Halakhah questions in any field, including medical ethics. No synagogue or ritual type questions except by non-Jews looking for a brief summary.


Yeshiva and self-study

Jewish Spiritual Humanism

Doctorate Degree

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