Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

The Demands of Interdependence

Rabbi Grossman’s distinction between actions we do because we wish to and those we do because we are commanded to is a vitally important one. Vice President Cheney famously asserted that conservation was a personal virtue–that is, a nice thing to do if you feel like but that’s really your own business.
What’s so striking about the Torah’s approach to the world is that there is no such thing as “our own business.” If you find your neighbor’s donkey wandering, you are required to seek out your neighbor to return it, (Ex. 23:4). If a neighboring town is full of idolaters, you are required to make war on it, (Deut. 13:12-16). If you find a body in a field, you are required to perform certain rites to expiate the sin, (Deut. 21:1-9).

The point is simply that the ancient Israelites recognized that we don’t act in a vacuum–we are inextricably connected to one another and to God. What any one person does may affect all of us. Ironically, globalization just proves the point that there is no such thing as a local issue (and if you haven’t already, check out this amazing article from the NY Times Magazine about what happens to our cell phones when we’re done with them). Our world and our environment is interconnected, and when deforestation or pollution happens anywhere in the world it affects all of us in the form of rising temperatures, rising ocean levels, and a decline in biodiversity.
The Torah tells us we can’t simply stick our heads in the sand and pretend that whatever is going on is someone else’s fault, someone else’s problem. Instead, it promulgated laws that placed responsibility for the greater good squarely on all our shoulders. We need to follow suit before it’s too late.

Comments read comments(6)
post a comment

posted January 26, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Conservation is really all of our responsibility–it’s the unity of all life!

report abuse


posted January 27, 2008 at 8:07 am

I hope your aren’t advocating that we make war on those who worship differently than us (idolators). The fact is, much of what is found in these ancient texts is violent, intolerant, and inapplicable to today’s world.

report abuse

Rabbi Gene Roper

posted January 28, 2008 at 10:59 am

We Are our brothers keeper, what ever our brother does effects us. And what ever we do effects our brother.
So If I want my brother to change, then I need to change myself.
If I want the world to change, I need to change myself.
If I see a twig in my brothers eye, I need to see the log in my eye.
Praise Adoni,
Rabbi Gene

report abuse

Rabbi Gene Roper

posted January 28, 2008 at 11:07 am

All That is in the word of G-d is relavent to today, tempered with the understanding of the ways of G-d. It does not mean that we are to make war upon the people, it means that we are to make war upon thier teachings and thier doctrines. Exposing Thier falseness, and thier deception which leds to the path of spiritual and physical destruction.
Glory to Adoni,
Rabbi Gene

report abuse


posted January 31, 2008 at 7:59 pm

NormH, are you replying to this blog post? Your response seems to be a complete non sequitur.

report abuse


posted January 31, 2008 at 8:47 pm

It seems that you did not read it very carefully. The author cited this passage as proof of our interdependence:
If a neighboring town is full of idolaters, you are required to make war on it, (Deut. 13:12-16).
How is this applicable to anything in a reasonable soceity today? This is America. You can worship (or not worship) as you choose. It’s none of your neighbor’s business.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.