[Milton-L] Re-send of question re Judaism

Harold Skulsky hskulsky at email.smith.edu
Tue Jul 25 18:01:18 EDT 2006

The story about the gentle teacher Hillel reducing all of the Law to a
commentary on the Golden Rule while standing on one foot (told among
other Hillel anecdotes in Talmud b. Shabbat 31a) is beset by
ambiguities. For one thing, it's unclear that the Golden Rule strictly
entails forgiveness to one's enemies. 

On the other hand, Hillel's aphorism is often taken as a paraphrase of
Lev. 19:18, "Love thy neighbor as [thou lovest] thyself." Then again (as
to forgiving enemies) it is not clear that the intended paradigm of
self-love (especially in a rabbinic context) entails forgiving oneself
one's trespasses against oneself rather than wanting to be done nothing
but justice for these among other trespasses.

On the other hand, forgiveness itself is beset by ambiguities; does it
mean remission of the just punishment for an offense? This will partly
depend on what is supposed to be involved in a just punishment.

And then again, there are many passages in which classical Rabbinic
teaching seems to countenance withholding love from one's enemies. But
then again, classic Rabbinic teaching is a hubbub of many voices. 

Jesus's  injunction to love one's enemies (Matt. 5:43) seems to be
beset by similar ambiguities. 

Exegetical modesty seems to dictate a non liquet.

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