The ESSENCE of JUDAISM
Since I am teaching a class on Rabbinic Hebrew – I will be posting some short notes about Judaism and related matters. These will be duplicated on my Rabbinics blog.
Two thousand years ago, when a non-Jew asked Hillel, the leading Rabbi of his age, to define Judaism’s essence, the sage could have responded with a long oration on Jewish thought and law, and an insistence that it would be blasphemous to reduce so profound a system to a brief essence. Indeed, his contemporary, Shammai, furiously drove away a questioner with a builder’s rod. Hillel, however, responded to the man’s challenge: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary; now go and study” – a model statement that has defined Judaism’s essence ever since.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin – Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers (1994), xix-xx.
Note Jesus’ response to the scribe in Mark 12:28-31:
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”