view counter
Measure For Measure
Fri, 02/28/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
Rabbi David Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe

"Jerusalem was destroyed," teaches the Talmud, “because judgments were rendered strictly upon the law of the Torah.” In other words, the quality of mercy was missing from the courts of the day. Untempered by humility and humanity, the law is destructive.

On the page where that statement is made (B.M. 30b), the Tosafot (medieval exegetes) ask how could that be, when we learn elsewhere (Yoma 9b) that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred? Their answer is that both contributed to the destruction.

We might understand the two to be related. When people feel hostile, they use the law not as a means of justice, but as a vehicle for punishment. Usually people quote the Torah with love, but sometimes they use it as a cudgel, to beat or even humiliate those whom they dislike or of whom they disapprove. Like all power, the power of knowledge can elevate or denigrate.

Each day, we too make the choice between rebuilding and destruction in our lives. Perhaps with an eye to history we can speak more gently, judge more kindly, and remember that our past holds lessons we would be wise to embrace.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.

Get The Jewish Week Newsletter

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

Comments

"a little knowledge is a dangerous thing"

Rabbi Wolpe Wrote

"Usually people quote the Torah with love, but sometimes they use it as a cudgel, to beat or even humiliate those whom they dislike or of whom they disapprove. Like all power, the power of knowledge can elevate or denigrate."

Surely this is true. That said, to go too far in the other direction is to confuse compassion with capitulation. In the Shemoneh Esrai AKA the Amidah prayer the very first Godly quality we can emulate is usually rendered as "Beneficial Loving Kindness." Is not Loving Kindness, by definition, beneficial? The sages wished to make it very clear that surely it is not. In fact the idea is the Amidah's number one priority to teach a person the key to a balanced life which also engenders a Jewish future.

Such a powerful message and yet so simple and short. May we all love others and show empathy to every neighbor!

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.