Author Topic: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood  (Read 11792 times)

Offline michaelintp

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The theological basis for individual moral responsibility is explained by Miamonides (the Rambam) in his work Mishnah Torah:

Teshuvah [Repentence/Return] - Chapter Five

Halacha 1

Free will is granted to all men. If one desires to turn himself to the path of good and be righteous, the choice is his. Should he desire to turn to the path of evil and be wicked, the choice is his.

This is [the intent of] the Torah's statement (Genesis 3:22): "Behold, man has become unique as ourselves, knowing good and evil," i.e., the human species became singular in the world with no other species resembling it in the following quality: that man can, on his own initiative, with his knowledge and thought, know good and evil, and do what he desires. There is no one who can prevent him from doing good or bad. Accordingly, [there was a need to drive him from the Garden of Eden,] "lest he stretch out his hand [and take from the tree of life]."

Halacha 2

A person should not entertain the thesis held by the fools among the gentiles and the majority of the undeveloped among Israel that, at the time of a man's creation, The Holy One, blessed be He, decrees whether he will be righteous or wicked.

This is untrue. Each person is fit to be righteous like Moses, our teacher, or wicked, like Jeroboam. [Similarly,] he may be wise or foolish, merciful or cruel, miserly or generous, or [acquire] any other character traits. There is no one who compels him, sentences him, or leads him towards either of these two paths. Rather, he, on his own initiative and decision, tends to the path he chooses.

This was [implied by the prophet,] Jeremiah who stated [Eichah 3:38: "From the mouth of the Most High, neither evil or good come forth." Accordingly, it is the sinner, himself, who causes his own loss.

Therefore, it is proper for a person to cry and mourn for his sins and for what he has done to his soul, the evil consequences, he brought upon it. This is implied by the following verse [ibid.:39]: "Of what should a living man be aggrieved? [A man of his sins.]"

[The prophet] continues explaining, since free choice is in our hands and our own decision [is what prompts us to] commit all these wrongs, it is proper for us to repent and abandon our wickedness, for this choice is presently in our hand. This is implied by the following verse [ibid.:40]: "Let us search and examine our ways and return [to God]."

Halacha 3

This principle is a fundamental concept and a pillar [on which rests the totality] of the Torah and mitzvot as [Deuteronomy 30:15] states: "Behold, I have set before you today life [and good, death and evil]." Similarly, [Deuteronomy 11:26] states, "Behold, I have set before you today [the blessing and the curse]," implying that the choice is in your hands.

Any one of the deeds of men which a person desires to do, he may, whether good or evil. Therefore, [Deuteronomy 5:26] states:

"If only their hearts would always remain this way." From this, we can infer that the Creator does not compel or decree that people should do either good or bad. Rather, everything is left to their [own choice].

Halacha 4

Were God to decree that an individual would be righteous or wicked or that there would be a quality which draws a person by his essential nature to any particular path [of behavior], way of thinking, attributes, or deeds, as imagined by many of the fools [who believe] in astrology - how could He command us through [the words of] the prophets: "Do this," "Do not do this," "Improve your behavior," or "Do not follow after your wickedness?"

[According to their mistaken conception,] from the beginning of man's creation, it would be decreed upon him, or his nature would draw him, to a particular quality and he could not depart from it.

What place would there be for the entire Torah? According to which judgement or sense of justice would retribution be administered to the wicked or reward to the righteous? Shall the whole world's Judge not act justly!

A person should not wonder: How is it possible for one to do whatever he wants and be responsible for his own deeds? - Is it possible for anything to happen in this world without the permission and desire of its Creator as [Psalms 135:6] states: "Whatever God wishes, He has done in the heavens and in the earth?"

One must know that everything is done in accord with His will and, nevertheless, we are responsible for our deeds.

How is this [apparent contradiction] resolved? Just as the Creator desired that [the elements of] fire and wind rise upward and [those of] water and earth descend downward, that the heavenly spheres revolve in a circular orbit, and all the other creations of the world follow the nature which He desired for them, so too, He desired that man have free choice and be responsible for his deeds, without being pulled or forced. Rather, he, on his own initiative, with the knowledge which God has granted him, will do anything that man is able to do.

Therefore, he is judged according to his deeds. If he does good, he is treated with beneficence. If he does bad, he is treated harshly. This is implied by the prophets' statements: "This has been the doing of your hands” [Malachi 1:9]; "They also have chosen their own paths” [Isaiah 66:3].

This concept was also implied by Solomon in his statement [Ecclesiastes 11:9]: "Young man, rejoice in your youth... but, know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment," i.e., know that you have the potential to do, but in the future, you will have to account for your deeds.

Halacha 5

One might ask: Since The Holy One, blessed be He, knows everything that will occur before it comes to pass, does He or does He not know whether a person will be righteous or wicked?

If He knows that he will be righteous, [it appears] impossible for him not to be righteous. However, if one would say that despite His knowledge that he would be righteous, it is possible for him to be wicked, then His knowledge would be incomplete.

Know that the resolution to this question [can be described as]: "Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea." Many great and fundamental principles and lofty concepts are dependent upon it. However, the statements that I will make must be known and understood [as a basis for the comprehension of this matter].

As explained in the second chapter of Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, The Holy One, blessed be He, does not know with a knowledge that is external from Him as do men, whose knowledge and selves are two [different entities]. Rather, He, may His name be praised, and His knowledge are one.

Human knowledge cannot comprehend this concept in its entirety for just as it is beyond the potential of man to comprehend and conceive the essential nature of the Creator, as [Exodus 33:20] states: "No man will perceive, Me and live," so, too, it is beyond man's potential to comprehend and conceive the Creator's knowledge. This was the intent of the prophet's [Isaiah 55:8] statements: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways, My ways."

Accordingly, we do not have the potential to conceive how The Holy One, blessed be He, knows all the creations and their deeds. However, this is known without any doubt: That man's actions are in his [own] hands and The Holy One, blessed be He, does not lead him [in a particular direction] or decree that he do anything.

This matter is known, not only as a tradition of faith, but also, through clear proofs from the words of wisdom. Consequently, the prophets taught that a person is judged for his deeds, according to his deeds - whether good or bad. This is a fundamental principle on which is dependent all the words of prophecy.
The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.

Tao Te Ching, Ch. 6

APEXABYSS

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2015, 04:28:35 am »
When I was a kid, I read a short-story titled, “The Blue Hotel” by author Stephen Crane. The story enriched me so profoundly that it literally changed my life & outlook.

Let me give a brief summary...

In the late 1800s- a ‘northern’ stranger arrives in a small town & checks into a quaint hotel. The stranger has preconceived notions about ‘southern’ small-town-folks as a bunch of “country-hicks.” The stranger believes, he’s surrounded by people of a lower social class. The owner & manager of the hotel quickly notices the stranger’s obvious prejudice & proceeds to comfort him with a few shots of whisky. The stranger gets drunk & instead of calming his nerves the alcohol gives him a false sense of superiority. The owner’s young son does not appreciate the stranger’s disrespectful/ arrogant behavior. Words are exchanged & the stranger easily beats-up the youngster. The stranger leaves the hotel into the snow-storm. He spots a red-light coming from the saloon & stumbles in. After whooping the youngster, the stranger thinks he‘s a “tough-guy.” He assumes, the stereotypical southerns are no match for his northern elitism.  Of course, he encounters trouble in the saloon & the story ends with his death.

Was the hotel owner to blame for serving him alcohol? Was the owner’s son to blame for aggressively confronting the stranger? Maybe, the cheating gambler in the saloon was to blame for taking advantage of a drunken-tourist? Or was the stranger a fool & can only blame his own actions & individual moral responsibility, like the thread topic would suggests??
     
What I took from the story was that in small & significant ways people, places & things (nouns) play a roll in our deeds or misdeeds (verbs). Influence? Have a drink! Smoke this! It won’t hurt? Temptation? Peer pressure? Intimidation? How about compliance or blind acceptance? Yes, the final-decision is ours. How much of our decision making is our own?

A current thread topic--“Your Child Is Acting Like An Asshole And It’s Your Fault”

God? God is lost in space! God’s ultimate goal is morality, humanity, charity, humility & wisdom not reverence & obedience. These goals are responsibilities for ourselves as individuals & especially our responsibility toward others. Right?

The moral of the story is layered. First - ignorance is the ultimate sin. Second- whether we like it or not, our beliefs & experiences are shared with others. Most importantly, we are not alone in our actions if we are not alone in this world.

“I’m no island...”
--Andre 3000 (Player’s Anthem)

   




« Last Edit: February 08, 2015, 05:29:19 am by APEXABYSS »

Offline michaelintp

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2015, 07:18:48 am »
God? God is lost in space! God’s ultimate goal is morality, humanity, charity, humility & wisdom not reverence & obedience. These goals are responsibilities for ourselves as individuals & especially our responsibility toward others. Right?

The reason I found the Rambam's discussion interesting is that it so parallels my own sense of personal moral responsibility (no surprise, I suppose).  While there may be influences that can affect a person's behavior, ultimately each person should be held morally responsible for his deeds, good or evil.  Without excuses.

As to God, and our role ... to be honest, it is very complex.  Absent God, I don't know where the source of morality comes from. Just whatever feels good?  Whatever the chunk of meat between our ears tells us at any given moment? Given our ability to err and rationalize just about anything, can we really place supreme confidence in our ability to go it alone?

Why be moral ... if we are just animals that eat, sh*t, copulate, reproduce, and die?  Sure, one can concoct sociological reasons why it is good for collective survival for people collectively to abide by basic standards of morality, but ... all that tells an individual is to appear to be moral while getting away with whatever he can without getting caught, or hang with a group that doesn't care.  So my first reaction is to say ... that our primary obligation is to be obedient to God.  With personal morality flowing from that. With good character traits like humility and kindness flowing from that. As well as the obligations (for a Jew) to keep kosher, observe Shabbat, and the like.

Of course the response is ... that's fine, except some folks are doing horrible things while claiming they are abiding by the dictates of God -- look at ISIS for example.  I also would be uncomfortable living in a society that actually imposed biblical punishments (even with all the caveats and limitations explained by the rabbis that make the most severe punishments almost impossible to impose). So ... it is actually complex, and I really don't have a coherent answer. Though fortunately, from a Jewish perspective, these issues are theoretical since only after Moshiach comes and the Sanhedrin is reestablished will this need to be addressed and at that time the mainstream view is that the world will be openly transformed with Godliness openly revealed for both Jews and non-Jews to see. God will no longer be "in exile."  And so, any issues would likely become moot, as humanity's perception of reality will be fundamentally changed.

So, where does this leave me?  I know I am supposed to abide by certain standards, ordained by God, and I try to do so (except when I don't).  :P

Oh, and yeh, the train accident scene was very cool, I thought, laying out the strange confluence of events that can produce a very dramatic result.  :)  I really liked that scene in the movie. I do understand why you posted it, but I don't believe it abnegates free will and personal moral responsibility for our deeds and attitudes.
The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.

Tao Te Ching, Ch. 6

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2015, 01:01:49 pm »
As to God, and our role ... to be honest, it is very complex.  Absent God, I don't know where the source of morality comes from. Just whatever feels good?  Whatever the chunk of meat between our ears tells us at any given moment? Given our ability to err and rationalize just about anything, can we really place supreme confidence in our ability to go it alone?
Here's my question (sincerely) - with God (whatever your conception of that is), aren't you required to use your brain/heart/spirit to discern God's will? So what really is the difference? Is it what feels right? In the eyes of whom?

As you point out, there have always been those who point to their religion to justify atrocities. It seems to me that the ability to err and rationalize applies to perceiving and carrying out God's will also.

Do any of us truly go it alone? How can anyone define themselves independently of the world and society they live in?
"No man is an island" and all.

So finally, is "individual responsibility" meaningful only in the context of service to others, i.e. a society? Responsible to whom after all?
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

Offline Battle

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2015, 12:14:04 pm »
Here's my question (sincerely) - with God (whatever your conception of that is), aren't you required to use your brain/heart/spirit to discern God's will? So what really is the difference? Is it what feels right? In the eyes of whom?

As you point out, there have always been those who point to their religion to justify atrocities. It seems to me that the ability to err and rationalize applies to perceiving and carrying out God's will also.

Do any of us truly go it alone? How can anyone define themselves independently of the world and society they live in?
"No man is an island" and all.


So finally, is "individual responsibility" meaningful only in the context of service to others, i.e. a society? Responsible to whom after all?


Carrying out the 'will of God' can wrest power from a relentless, sovereign country if the conditions are at the perpetrator's advantage.


I can think of 2 instances in world history where carrying out the 'will of God' earned a certain group of people a free nation...
...and I don't mean free as in 'freedom' but free as in 'stolen':

Once in 1776 and the other in 1948.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2015, 03:49:05 pm by Battle »

Offline michaelintp

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2015, 12:10:08 am »
As to God, and our role ... to be honest, it is very complex.  Absent God, I don't know where the source of morality comes from. Just whatever feels good?  Whatever the chunk of meat between our ears tells us at any given moment? Given our ability to err and rationalize just about anything, can we really place supreme confidence in our ability to go it alone?
Here's my question (sincerely) - with God (whatever your conception of that is), aren't you required to use your brain/heart/spirit to discern God's will? So what really is the difference? Is it what feels right? In the eyes of whom?

As you point out, there have always been those who point to their religion to justify atrocities. It seems to me that the ability to err and rationalize applies to perceiving and carrying out God's will also.

Do any of us truly go it alone? How can anyone define themselves independently of the world and society they live in?
"No man is an island" and all.

So finally, is "individual responsibility" meaningful only in the context of service to others, i.e. a society? Responsible to whom after all?

Quick response:  Play the "Why?" Game.  Whatever answer you give, ask "Why?" While one can object to the Theological end-point ... the alternative is, I believe, to conclude that there is no "Why" and ... a rather miserable prognosis for the future.  I've concluded the two logical possibilities are absolute Nihilism or Divine Purpose.

So while we may need to rely on that chunk of meat between our ears, or as some would more grandly refer to as "the Intellect," to ask questions to their ultimate conclusions (or lack thereof), there is a practical difference.  Relying on the mind, heart, and groin to resolve every moral issue, on a case-by-case basis, is (I believe) more likely to lead to moral lapse, as the heart and groin are powerful motivators, and the mind as a powerful rationalizer.  In contrast, once you accept an entire religious framework that directs desirable conduct in all circumstances, the opportunity for case-by-case self-service is diminished. If one is serious about it.

Judaism is very much about right conduct. As evidenced by the Rambam's writings, such as the Mishnah Torah, the various Codes of Jewish Law, and the like.

That is, in general terms, my broad thinking on the topic.  ;)
The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.

Tao Te Ching, Ch. 6

APEXABYSS

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2015, 05:45:19 am »
Don’t let me Go-Hard... cuz, I will!

Whoa! I’ve worked diligently to honor the religious beliefs of others. But, if their doctrine, faith & teachings are solid, then it should stand-up, hold-up, show & prove against scrutiny. Scholars debate subjects using scholarship.  Let’s check-out...


Judges 18: 7- 10- 27
7. Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless...

10. When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.

27. And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire
.

We can mention ISIL (ISIS?- they playin’ name-games...) in the modern-day sense, but the Hebrews slaughtered a people that were “peaceful” & “dwelt careless”, because god ordained the land (that was already inhabited) for the Israelite inheritance? Geez, all I’m saying is religion hasn’t really been the source of morality.

Of course, this is in the Book of Judges. We know, Judges were the leaders (warrior prophets=  keyword-“warrior“) before the Hebrews had a king &/or centralized leadership, so... uh. I pray this too was allegory.
 
Judges 21:25
25. In those days, there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his eyes.



“The Talmud calls the Book of Judges, "the Book of the Straight."
Why? Because the ultimate goal of every Jew is to use his free will to work out what is wrong and right, using the Torah as a guide.”
~ Rabbi Ken Spiro- (Big-Ups to RKS)

See, here we go with the free-will! And, yet, peaceful people get smote & set-ablaze... in the name of g.o.d.. C’mon, man! I’m not being overly-critical. I think, religion tends to be “clique-ish” & creates separation. 



Also, props to Rabbi Wentworth Author Matthews. In 1930, (inspired by Marcus Garvey) he was the founder of the Israelite Rabbinical Academy in NYC, ordaining African-American rabbis. His legacy help create The Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation* {academy} in Chi-town, which is still, the largest Black Jewish community in the US. Happy Black History Month.

* The true & original word for church was/is Ecclesiastes (the 24 books of the Tanakh) meaning= the gathering or the congregation. Don’t say you’re going to church. Say, you’re going to the Ecclesiastes. The word “church” means- “circus!” Church comes from King James & he was condemned for replacing the original translation. 

 
Deuteronomy 23:7
7. You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land.


(Abhor- meaning= To regard with horror. To regard with extreme repugnance or aversion)

Isaiah 19:25
25.Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.


Why would the Hebrews follow god’s word to kill, but when god says NOT to abhor, we still get a constant blast of skewed media about the Hebrews in Egypt, like certain nameless films…?  Blessed be Egypt- my people?

Bottomline- the origin of cultural & individual morality came out of Africa. Name a great African war or unethical/ immoral behavior (before any type of invasion, occupation & colonization)? Exactly! It didn’t really happen, because Africans lived with a code of conduct & ethics that expanded the entire continent. That code was to live in “harmony” & “alignment” with all things, including god. SOUL-POWER! Yes, Africa wins again.
 
It’s the teachings I have issues with & not the doctrine. The teachings lack genuine integrity.

Offline michaelintp

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2015, 09:05:53 pm »
The entire story of Michah, his idololtry, Dan's conquest of the undefended Layish, establishment of a priesthood and competing sanctuary, and so on, is not portrayed positively in the Book of Judges (Shoftim).  It is simply describing what happened.  Distorting the story by making it sound like the Scriptures are lauding this is, at best, terribly mistaken. When authors cite a story like this to vilify Jews and Judaism, it is much worse than a mere mistake. Apexabyss, I really have to conclude that some of the writers you have been exposed to are out-and-out antisemites.

For more info on this story see:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micah%27s_Idol

Also such references to events 3000 years ago, as though they represent contemporary Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative or Reform), while ignoring the rich analytic and ethical traditions of rabbinic Judaism over the past 2000 years is, at best, a terrible misrepresentation.

My intent in posting the Rambam was to raise the issues of free will and individual moral responsibility. And give as an example the thoughts of one of the most highly respected rabbinic scholars in our history. Curtis, your comments and question, and Apexabyss, your first comment, really get into the issues I raised. These are interesting issues.

I don't pretend to have all the answers, that's for sure. These are hard issues.  ;)


« Last Edit: February 09, 2015, 07:54:04 pm by michaelintp »
The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.

Tao Te Ching, Ch. 6

APEXABYSS

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2015, 09:41:08 pm »
Writers anti-semi...? Uh, I'm not goin' there. That was not the intention. I already stated it was from the Book of Judges, to explain how such events could take place.  Like you said, “on a case by case basis.” I used isolated comments from sources, as it relates to the topic of morality. I support the comment & not the commenter’s mentality.

My bad, if my examples are H.A.M.! Complete examination or vilification? I don’t have all the answers either. 

Offline Battle

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2015, 02:04:02 am »
Writers anti-semi...? Uh, I'm not goin' there. That was not the intention.




That's what you get for your informed opinion...
--- a dismissive remark from, perhaps, one of the most petty and stereo-typical of personalities on the internet.   
Don't you know that this creep has waited their entire lifetime to get the attention of people like us?

Dude, you are smarter than this.  Here's is your real individual responsibility:



APEXABYSS

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2015, 05:02:11 am »
Gracias amigo, Battle. I dig your “swag“, even if I can’t fully support your position or terminology. Please, sir, don’t go buck-wild! Turn-up! LOL! Seriously, we wanna be more careful. Let’s be the best. Remember, it’s a process. 

When you care about people, you can give a balanced critique. I hope to put things in its proper perspective without any misunderstanding. Let’s share views & discuss things we may need to consider. I trust the HEF as a counsel. Discussions are sometimes a form of counseling.   

I’m secure in my stance & information on religion, because I’ve had similar conversations ever since I was a teen. H.A.M.

Don’t let me Go-Hard... cuz, I will!

Whoa! I’ve worked diligently to honor the religious beliefs of others. But, if their doctrine, faith & teachings are solid, then it should stand-up, hold-up, show & prove against scrutiny. Scholars debate subjects using scholarship. 

Offline Battle

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2015, 06:25:37 am »
Gracias amigo, Battle. I dig your “swag“, even if I can’t fully support your position or terminology. Please, sir, don’t go buck-wild! Turn-up! LOL! Seriously, we wanna be more careful. Let’s be the best. Remember, it’s a process. 

When you care about people, you can give a balanced critique. I hope to put things in its proper perspective without any misunderstanding. Let’s share views & discuss things we may need to consider. I trust the HEF as a counsel. Discussions are sometimes a form of counseling.   

I’m secure in my stance & information on religion, because I’ve had similar conversations ever since I was a teen. H.A.M.

Don’t let me Go-Hard... cuz, I will!

Whoa! I’ve worked diligently to honor the religious beliefs of others. But, if their doctrine, faith & teachings are solid, then it should stand-up, hold-up, show & prove against scrutiny. Scholars debate subjects using scholarship. 




>>>APEXABYSS

This character is earning money off of you.
You are not earning money from it.

Is it clear now?

Offline michaelintp

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2015, 02:27:07 pm »
Earning money off of posts on Reginald Hudlin's forum?  I wish. If only true, I would be a multi-millionaire by now!  Though "Honorary Wakandan" IS a close second!  ;D
The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.

Tao Te Ching, Ch. 6

Offline michaelintp

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2015, 11:30:49 pm »
As to Wentworth Arthur Matthew, interesting story:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wentworth_Arthur_Matthew

In some ways sounds like a variation of the Elijah Muhammad theme, only employing Judaism instead of Islam. 
The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.

Tao Te Ching, Ch. 6

Offline michaelintp

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Re: Individual Responsibility - Theological Basis for Moral Adulthood
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2015, 09:47:49 am »
Curtis, did you get what I was saying in response to your question?  I don't ask you to agree ... but I'd like to know if you understand where I'm coming from.  Can't ask for more than that.  :)

Apexabyss, as to what you quoted:
Judges 21:25
"In those days, there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his eyes."

As you said, Apexabyss, “The Talmud calls the Book of Judges, "the Book of the Straight."  Why? Because the ultimate goal of every Jew is to use his free will to work out what is wrong and right, using the Torah as a guide.

The problem is that when a person does "what is right in his eyes" he will often morally err, driven by self-interest, and even do terrible things. This is exactly my point. A person must use well-defined and regimented standards of moral conduct as a guide (for Jews the Torah), rather than just deciding case by case. Because what is "right" in the "eyes" of a person will often be driven by selfishness, ignoble feelings and desires. The spiritual guidance of a respected authority, a righteous king or rebbe, is often needed to avoid serious error.

As an aside, since it is not really directly relevant to the topic of this thread (free will, individual responsibility, and the Source of morality), it is important to understand the context of quoted verses. The other verses you mention have the following traditional understandings:

Devarim (Deuteronomy) Chapter 23:8 -

"You shall not despise the Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not despise an Egyptian, for you were a sojourner in his land."

This verse is describing who is allowed (after conversion) to marry a Jewish woman. The Egyptians and Edomites are being contrasted with Mamzerim (products of forbidden sexual relationships), Ammonites (who cruelly refused to provide bread and water to the Jews leaving Egypt) and Moabites (who sought to curse the Jews through Balaam and entice them to sin through lewdness).  Ammonites and Moabites are forever forbidden ("even to the tenth generation" means forever). The Edomite (descended from Yaakov's brother Esau) and Egyptian (whose people did take in the Jews in a time of famine even though they later did terrible things) are barred from marrying a Jewish woman for only two generations. Persons of other nations, in contrast, are permitted to convert and marry without restriction. (See Commentary of Rashi).

Regarding the second verse: Yeshayahu (Isaiah) Chapter 19 describes the Assyrian aggression, that resulted in the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Assyria's domination of Egypt, but with the miraculous saving of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) by God's hand. Verses 24 and 25 state:

"On that day Israel shall be a third to Egypt and to Assyria; a blessing in the midst of the land.  Which the Lord of Hosts blessed them (Israel), saying, 'Blessed is My people, Egypt and the work of My hands Assyria, and my heritage Israel.'"

According to Rashi (based on the mesorah), Yeshayahu is saying that Israel would be humbled between the two superpowers Egypt and Assyria, but that through the miracle that would be performed for Hizkiyyahu (Hezekiah), the king of Judah, Israel's name would be greatly magnified and be a blessing. God blesses "My people" which is a reference to the Jews Whom God chose [in] Egypt, and the mighty deeds He performed against Assyria, "and through those miracles they (the Jews) will repent and be as though I just made them anew and they will be My heritage, Israel."

Hizkiyyahu witnessed the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by Sargon's Assyrians in 720 BC and was king of Judah during the invasion and siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 BC. The righteous Hizkiyyahu enacted sweeping religious reforms, including a strict mandate for the sole worship of God and a prohibition on venerating other deities within the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Rashi's commentaries usually focus on the plain meaning of passages, based on the traditional understanding. This applies to the Tanach (Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings) and the Talmud.
The spirit of emptiness is immortal.
It is called the Great Mother
because it gives birth to Heaven and Earth.
It is like a vapor,
barely seen but always present.
Use it effortlessly.

Tao Te Ching, Ch. 6